Meditation–PRAYING FOR OTHERS

Jesus set a difficult standard for us to emulate: He prayed for his executioners. He calls on us to love (care for) our enemies and pray for those who would harm us. We are to pray for their hearts, asking the Holy Spirit to exchange hearts of stone for hearts of flesh. Most of us pray daily for the health and safety of our family and friends, but how often do we engage in earnest prayer for those we despise? Gulp. Not often.

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“But Jesus was saying, ‘Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.'”  Luke 23:34 (NASB)

“But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”  Matthew 5:44 (NIV)


THE LORD CALLS US TO PRAY FOR OTHERS.

Most of us find it very easy to pray for others … as long as it involves praying for our families and those closest to us.

Prayers abound to the heavenly throne for wives and husbands, sons and daughters, mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, and the closest of our friends and neighbors.53. man-power-of-prayer

The Bible also tells us to pray for those who are physically sick, mentally unbalanced, emotional distraught, and spiritually lost. We do that, too.

However, there’s more.

We’re also to pray for those we don’t like, and those who don’t like us. We’re even to pray for our government leaders (1 Timothy 2:1-2), both those we admire … and those we don’t.

Oh, yes, we are.

Remember that on two occasions David could have killed King Saul, who was trying to kill him, but he refused to kill Saul because Saul was “the Lord’s anointed” (1 Samuel 24:6; 26:9). While most of us never face life and death choices from our government, we do face many annoying circumstances.

The Bible is clear we are to offer prayer for our elected and appointed officials at all levels of government, regardless of whether we like them.  (see Romans 13:1-2; 1 Peter 2:13-14)

It is very hard to extend God’s grace to those we despise.

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RECENTLY, I TRIED PUTTING THOSE WORDS into practice by listing some political figures I find loathsome.

The commandment to pray for others is far wider than the political arena, but this, I figured, was a good place to start. God knew my list before I compiled it, so I just acknowledged to Him in prayer what He already knew was in my heart.

I gritted my teeth praying for the lowest of the low, but when I was done, I knew I had to keep doing it. God wants to change me; He wants to change my heart; and He does that through our prayers.

God tells us to pray for those officials’ health and safety, for their well-being, and most of all for their salvation. It is God’s grace that gives us the grace to care for others and desire their comfort.

47.Changed HeartsIn those moments, God is more likely to answer our prayers by changing our hearts than He is in changing the hearts of a rude government official or a politician who opposes our wishes, but we don’t know for sure.

He could be doing both. God’s timing is not our timing. Besides, our attention spans are short, so we drift away, while He remains present.

The Bible is clear that we must be diligent in lifting prayer for those God places in our paths. James, the half-brother of Jesus, said it this way in James 5:16b (NIV):

“The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” 

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THERE IS EARTHLY COMFORT, and there is heavenly comfort. We enjoy more or less earthly comfort at different times in our lives as well as in relation to others.

But the earthly comfort is transitory; the heavenly comfort is permanent.

The Bible says, “So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”  2 Corinthians 4:18 (BSB)

Or this, “Store up for yourselves treasures in heaven where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves don’t break in and steal.”  Matthew 6:20 (CSB)

Jesus said we will experience many troubles in our lives, but God is our refuge (see John 16:33; Psalms 46:1). In Him, we find solace. He, and He alone, takes us through the storm.

We are to share that solace with others, both those we love and those we do not love, those we know intimately and those we’ve just heard about, those who directly impact our lives and those who impact us tangentially.

When we feel overwhelmed by it all, by the sheer vastness of prayer requests and the awesome responsibility of caring for the lives and souls of others, let us recall the encouraging words of the apostle Paul in Galatians 6:9a (ESV):

“Let us not grow weary of doing good.”


PRAYER

Our Heavenly and merciful Father, we confess that all too often we fail to consider the 68. Holy_Bible_Crossneeds of those around us, especially of those we don’t know well or don’t like. Our Savior set the example for us when He prayed for those who drove the nails into his hands and feet. At this time, as our nation has elected a new government at federal, state, and local levels, we raise prayer for those elected — and those appointed — to carry out Your will. Soften our hearts, O Lord, when we resist Your command to pray for those we dislike and those who cause us harm. May Your will be done. In the mighty name of Jesus, we pray. AMEN


QUESTIONS:

1. Has God placed someone in your life who needs your prayer support? Are you reluctant to offer that support because (a) it’s none of your business, (b) you feel inadequate to the challenge, (c) the person hasn’t asked?

2. Being serious in your self-appraisal, do you really believe God will listen to your prayer and grant your request, or do you think (a) God is too busy managing the universe, (b) you aren’t important enough (or good enough) for God to care about, (c) the person you should pray for is not a believer?

3. Whatever your answers to the above questions, can you take a moment and ask God to fix the problem you see: in your heart, in the other person’s life? Can you ask God to show you how much He cares for you?


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


 

Meditation–WE NEED JESUS IF WE WANT LIFE

Jesus made it clear in His earthly ministry that our salvation was a free gift of God in response to our faith, and that we must be “born again” to experience Heaven. Left out of the equation was rejection of God’s message, failure to believe in His saving grace, and our attempts to earn salvation through our good works. We are totally dependent on the Lord Jesus for our eternal life. When we accept that truth, we give all of the glory to God, which is where all the glory belongs.

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“Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.” 1 John 5:12 (NIV)

Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.” John 3:3 (NIV)


WE NEED TO BE SURE WE HAVE JESUS IN OUR LIVES.

It’s really that simple.

Jesus … and no other.

Pastor Louie Giglio, in his book ~Goliath Must Fall: Winning the Battle Against Your Giants~, lays it out this way:

“Yet this kind of belief is more than simply mentally ascribing to something as true. It’s putting all your trust in Jesus to be all he says he can be in your life.”

Have you done that? Have you come to grips with the single most important decision you can make in your life, whether you have latched onto a saving relationship with the Creator of the universe, the King of kings and Lord of lords, the Savior of the world?

72.Jesus_TeachesHave you told him, “I believe”?

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JESUS ILLUSTRATED THIS POINT one day with His disciples. After asking them about the chatter in town as to who men (and women) thought He was, He drilled down to the essential question for all of our lives:

“Who do you say I am?” (Matthew 16:15 NCV)

The Bible tells us that Simon Peter immediately gave the correct answer: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” (Matthew 16:16 NCV)

Later, another one of Jesus’ disciples, Judas Iscariot, gave a different answer: “What are you willing to give me if I deliver him over to you?” (Matthew 26:15 NIV)

Those two answers are polar opposites, and yet they represent the totality of possible answers:

“You are who you say you are” … or … “You aren’t.”

“I will follow you” … or  … “I won’t.”

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GOD’S WORD TELLS US that He gives life to those who believe in Him and follow Him, but that those who do not believe will not be rewarded with the abundance that God intended for everyone.

Here are just two examples, one each from the Old Testament and the New Testament:

“Today I ask heaven and earth to be witnesses. I am offering you life or death, blessings or curse. Now, choose life! Then you and you children may live.” (Deuteronomy 30:19 NCV)

“A thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I have come so that they may have life and have it in abundance.” (John 10:10 CSB)

Is there a greater shame in all of life than that many of God’s creatures — men and women fashioned in His image — willingly choose to have little or nothing to do with Him?

In Noah’s day, they were wicked and thought only of evil (Genesis 6:5).

In Jesus’ day, they called out to Roman authorities: “Crucify him!” (Luke 23:21)

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HAS ANYTHING CHANGED?69.Love_God

What about today?

Today, God’s people are called “bigots” for calling out sin among the populace.

No, that does not mean that all of God’s believers are without sin — only Jesus holds that honor — but God’s believers are called to turn from sinful ways and show their good works before men that men will give the glory to God (Matt. 5:16; Titus 2:7).

Remember the prophet Amos’s litany to the ancient Israel? He called out their sin and God’s response to their continued sin. You can read it in Amos, Chapter 4. God kept saying, “Yet you have not returned to me.”

As a people individually and collectively, we have failed to “return to [God]” with the obedience and humility to which we are called. If we do, the Lord has promised to hear that prayer:

“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)

For those who do not believe, there will be judgment (2 Thessalonians 2:12). For those who do believe, there will be life (Romans 8:1).

Our Lord said it this way in John 3:36 (NET):

“The one who believes in the Son has eternal life. The one who rejects the Son will not see life, but God’s wrath remains on him.”


PRAYER

Father God, maker of heaven and earth, please hear our prayer of repentance. We need 44. Cross_on_Bibleyour love and grace to experience life with all the abundance You intended when You created us. Forgive us, O Lord, for our sinful ways, for our disobedience, for our unbelief. Turn our hearts toward You and toward life. We pray in the mighty name of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior. Amen


QUESTIONS:
  1. What does being “born again” mean to you? Does the Lord’s use of that phrase in John 3:3 mean something special to you? Does it sound different coming from Him than from someone else — a family member, neighbor, pastor or Bible teacher? Can you take Jesus’ statement at face value and believe Him when He says you must be “born again” to experience life?
  2. Do you believe you have turned from your sinful ways, the natural ways we tend to act because sin is in our hearts? Do you base you answer on your personal effort or are you dependent on the Holy Spirit living within you? Do you accept that your salvation is determined solely by God’s grace and not by your works?
  3. Do you see a difference between “head knowledge” and “true faith” when it comes to salvation? Do you understand that simply knowing that Jesus is Lord is not enough to be saved? Can you ask Him into your heart now?

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

 

 

Meditation — LIVING BY FAITH, NOT REASON

God’s promises to mankind are based on His good provision but require our acceptance. Why? Because He graciously gave us the gift of free will. That means we can accept — or reject — life. We cannot reason our way into salvation, where we take control, connect the dots, and conclude that salvation is possible and that we possess the means to attain it. It is a matter of faith, where we place our total confidence in the Lord to provide for our needs. Because we cannot attain salvation on our own, we also cannot lose it on our own. God keeps us for His glory.

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“For we walk by faith, not by sight.” 2 Corinthians 5:7 (CSB)

“Now faith is being sure of what we hope for, being convinced of what we do not see.” Hebrews 11:1 (NET)

WE COME TO GOD T56. Prayer-Partners-menHROUGH FAITH, NOT THROUGH REASON.

Our sinful natures and finite minds cannot combine to produce within us a saving power apart from the grace of God. It is His will that we may be reconciled to Him. It is not of our own doing, that we might boast (Ephesians 2:8-9).

LET’S SEE HOW THIS WORKS.

A man (or woman, if you’re a woman) comes into your life and asks for some help. He (or she) is struggling with life and thinks you might be able to help. Why? Well, because you’re a bit older, more mature, more settled in your life, which is a good indicator that you may have experienced whatever it is that he (or she) is going through now and lived to tell about it.

So you set up shop, share a cup of coffee and a Danish, and sit back to listen to this person’s tales of woe.

You say: “Do you have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ?”

Other person says: “?”

He (or she) is stumped.

He (or she) mumbles something about going to church or having spent a couple of weeks one summer at church camp and, then 20 years ago, memorized a few verses before his (or her) grandmother got sick … and, basically, that’s it.

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NO MATTER HOW HARD YOU TRY, you’re unable to get this person to acknowledge, beyond some lame comment, that he (or she) even has a need for such a personal relationship, assuming that such a thing actually exists.

72.Family_Bible_StudyThe Bible is clear that such a thing actually does exist and that we are ~commanded~ by God to seek it. He promises this: “You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.” — Jeremiah 29:13 (ESV)

Yes, God draws us to Him first (John 6:44), but we have the privilege — and responsibility — to respond through faith (Ephesians 2:8).

Jesus said to store up for ourselves “treasures in heaven” (Matt. 6:20), not in this world, because our heavenly treasures are under God’s faithful keeping and will not be tarnished or broken or lost. They will be ours forever.

We then pray with our young charge and exhort him (or her) to begin praying to Jesus Christ to ask that He would intervene in their lives and show them where they have 15 minutes a day they weren’t aware of to spend in prayer and Bible reading. You say that if he (or she) is sincere in that prayer, Jesus will deliver.

You remind them of what the Bible says: “So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” — 2 Corinthians 4:18 (NIV).

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AS YOU PART FOR THE DAY and watch this child of God drift away, you raise a silent prayer on their behalf, asking God to give them eyes to see and ears to hear. You know that if he (or she) does not turn to the Heavenly Father, whatever difficulty they may be facing will not end well.

If, however, this person does turn to the Lord, then he (or she) can lay claim to God’s promises to be with them and protect them through the storms of life (John 10:10).


PRAYER

O LORD, our merciful and majestic Redeemer, our Creator and Sustainer,  our Savior, we 44. Cross_on_Biblethank You for the opportunities You give us to reach out to others when they are in need, when they come to us for help. Lord, may we always point them to You, to Your sustaining grace, to Your everlasting love, to Your merciful justice. We pray also, O Lord, that as they ask You in prayer for time in their day to spend personally and intimately with You, that You will shower them with time and desire and so change their lives. In Jesus’ powerful name we pray. AMEN


QUESTIONS:

1. Do you find it difficult, if not impossible, to find a regular time each day for prayer and Bible reading? Do you think it’s even necessary to spend time alone with God every day? Would you feel comfortable asking God to find the time for you, or do you think He’s way too busy with more important stuff?

2. Why do you think it might be a good idea to hear from God’s Word each day and enter into prayer with Him regularly? Do you believe He intervenes in human affairs and longs to intervene in your life?

3. Are you uncomfortable with the idea that our response to God’s gift of salvation is a matter of faith and not of reason? Do you see that faith means we’re placing all of the burden on God, whereas reason means we are the ones who have earned salvation?


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


 

Meditation–GOD’S SAVING GRACE

God created a perfect earth—the Garden of Eden—and placed His most treasured creation—a man and a woman—in that Garden to glorify Him in fellowship, but through their disobedience, sin entered the world. God intervened in human affairs to reclaim us. He did this as an act of unmerited favor—called “Grace”—and, for that reason, we sing praises. When we compare our sin-filled lives against God’s glorious standard, we clearly see that salvation is a gift from God.

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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?


“But people are counted as righteous, not because of their work, but because of their faith in God who forgives sinners.”  Romans 4:5 (NLT)

“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.” Ephesians 2:8 (ESV)


WHEN WE DIE, WE WILL MEET JESUS.

The Bible is clear that every knee will bow and every tongue confess that He is the Lord (Phil. 2:10-11; Romans 4:11, etc.).

J13.God's Saving GraceFor unbelievers, that moment will be a terrifying one, in the words of Pastor Francis Chan, but for believers, it will be a moment of exquisite pleasure, when the Creator of life welcomes us into His Kingdom.

He will apportion heavenly rewards based on our merit, and Jesus was clear that every stray word we utter will be judged, that He sees into our hearts and knows our motives.

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BY THAT ACCOUNTING, I surely will be found wanting. In even the best of moments, I have botched my end of it by uttering an inappropriate comment or feeling an ungracious thought.

Those around me sometimes notice, often don’t, but He takes note and will remember.

It pains me to think of Jesus smiling to see me, reaching His hand out to embrace me, and then whispering into my ear, “I love you, but too often you  let me down. You came up short. I couldn’t count on you to finish the job. Nevertheless, enter my rest.”

One anonymous Christian writer, expressing dismay with his own sordid condition, praised God this way:

“Yes, I’m a Christian. Yes, I can be the biggest hypocrite ever. I backslide. I stumble. I fall. I stray onto the wrong path. But God is working in me. I may be a mess, but I’m His mess.”  —Anon

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SOMETIMES IN MY WALK with Christ, I need to feel the pain of my sin, for it’s only by feeling the weight of my transgressions that I can gain even the glimmer of what J13.Gracesalvation means or the sacrifice our God made when at the right time “while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8 NIV).

The Bible says, “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)

It is so true that we humans do not merit salvation based on our good works — not our actions, not our thoughts, not our words, not even the unspoken feelings in our hearts — none of which could pass a merit test, even with a healthy dose of leniency thrown in.

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HOW GRACIOUS AND LOVING our God is to see all of that mess, all of that sin, all of that wickedness and still love us so much that He would allow His Son to be sacrificed for our redemption.

He did not do this just for our sakes, as an act of divine magnanimity. He did it for His glory, to demonstrate that He alone is God and there is no other. That act of self-glorification, which in humans is hubris beyond the pale, in the realm of the Almighty is our certain seal of redemption — that trait is what guarantees our future in Paradise.

He alone is God, and there is no other.


PRAYER

68. Holy_Bible_CrossLORD, you are great and powerful. You have glory, victory, and honor. “Everything in heaven and on earth belongs to you. The kingdom belongs to you, LORD; you are the ruler over everything.”1  You told us since the dawn of human history, “I, and I alone, am God.”2  For LORD, it is Your Holy Spirit that seals our hearts and souls “for the day of redemption.”3  Thank You, LORD Jesus. Amen

1. 1 Chronicles 29:11 (NCV) / 2. Deuteronomy 32:39a (GNT) / 3. Ephesians 4:30b (NIV)


QUESTIONS

1. How would you describe God’s gift of grace in your life? Have you claimed that gift for yourself or is this not something that interests you?

2. Can you see how salvation is an unmerited gift from God, that you cannot earn God’s favor because of your sin nature, or do you think that, based on the people around you, you’re basically a good person and God certainly knows it?

3. Does *salvation by grace* sound  like a secure thing, or is it too tenuous for you? Can you lay claim to God’s guarantee that salvation comes from your repentance and acceptance of His saving grace?


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


 

Meditation–SEEING GOD CLEARLY

We long to see God. The Bible says God talked to Adam and Eve and walked on the earth with them, but when sin entered the world through their disobedience, man’s relationship with God was altered. Moses begged to see God (Exodus 33:18), but God told him that no one could see His face and live (v. 20). God has placed eternity in our hearts (Ecclesiastes 3:11) and promises a golden future when He again will “walk among” His people (2 Corinthians 6:16). Until then, our hope is to believe in what we cannot see (Hebrews 11:1) for He has promised to be with us in Spirit (John 14:16).


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“Then Moses said, “‘Please let me see your glory.'”  Exodus 33:18 (GWT)

“For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face.”  1 Corinthians 13:12 (ESV)

“Whenever a person turns to the Lord, the veil is removed.”  2 Corinthians 3:17 (CSB)

GOD HAS REVEALED HIMSELF TO MANKIND.

All of nature — from the vastness of the universe to the complexity of our bodies, from the perfect positioning of our planet to sustain life to the unseen world of nano-technology — screams the presence of an intelligent source of life, affirming that our existence is not mere chance.58. Holy-Spirit-Shines

Paul tells us, “For since the creation of the world his invisible attributes — his eternal power and divine nature — have been clearly seen, because they are understood through what has ben made.” — Romans 1:20 (NET)

Not only that, but God, Himself, put on human form and came to earth as a man in the person of Jesus, whose life was foretold by the prophets and recorded in Scripture.

All of the prophecies pointing to the First Coming of Jesus were fulfilled.

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THE PROPHECIES ALSO STATE there will be a Second Coming, and many of the events that must take place before that time, including the reestablishment of Israel as a country, which occurred in 1948, have taken place or are occurring.

While it is true that we, as mere mortals, cannot hope to understand the mind of the Almighty, we can take solace that He has assured us that He will be with us through the storms of life and that, if we persevere, we will spend eternity in His presence.

68.Woman_Praising_GodThe Bible says, “The Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” — 2 Corinthians 3:17 (NCV)

Do idols belong in the temple of God? We are the temple of the living God, as God himself says, “I will live with these people and walk among them. I will be their God, and they will be my people.” 2 Corinthians 6:16 (CEV)

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SOMETHING AMAZING IS HAPPENING.

The God of the universe reveals Himself to us through His creation and through His written word, plus He broke into human history by sending His Son, Jesus Christ, to redeem our souls … and He promises to return.

He also created us with a desire to know Him. Those who do not believe in  the one true God often fill that void by creating their own religion, with their own rituals, spirits, and beliefs.

This amazing story of God creating us with a desire to know Him, and His decision to reveal Himself to us, is what prompted the psalmist to proclaim: “LORD, our Lord, how magnificent is your name through the earth!” — Psalms 8:9 (CSB).


PRAYER

O Lord, who was and is and is to come, have mercy on us when out of our pride and ignorance, we doubt You or wonder where You  are or even if You are real and care about 68. Holy_Bible_Crossus. You have placed eternity in our hearts and a desire to know You. Throughout the ages, men have created their own gods, sensing the need to worship. Often — too often — when confronted with the reality of the one true God, they reject that truth, preferring to embrace a lie. Lord, may we never make that mistake. May we come to know the one true triune God, who self-exists beyond time. Lord, You have told us that when the Holy Spirit is present in our hearts and lives, there is freedom. Please give us that freedom, both today and forever. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen


QUESTIONS: 

1. Are you convinced that God, as revealed in the Bible, is the one true God and that His creation testifies to His existence? Can you believe that He created mankind in His image?

2. Do you hunger to know God, to see Him and feel His presence in your life, or do you see Him as a detached being who seldom, if ever, intervenes in human affairs?   

3. Do you believe that Jesus is who He said He is, the Son of God and Son of Man and that He will fulfill His promise to return to earth, this time not as a baby but as God, with all of the heavenly glory that is His?

Would you like us at LoveAndGrace to pray for you?

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