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?

 

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.

Praising the Lord in Our Grief

How do we comprehend the arrogance of humans, whose lives are but a wisp of smoke, who rebel against the eternal truths set by a loving and all-knowing Creator, a self-existing Creator who lives outside the dimensions of time and space? Yet, when troubles come, and they will in this life, He is our only refuge, our only solid ground. How marvelous it is to know the Creator as friend and savior, to walk with Him through this life as He prepares us for eternity with Him.

Job said, “I was born with nothing, and I will die with nothing. The Lord gave, and now he has taken away. May his name be praised!” (Job 1:21 GNT)

As you know, we count as blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy. (James 5:11 NIV)

Praise the LORD, because he heard my prayer for help. (Psalms 28:6 NCV)

Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. (1 Thessalonians 5:18 NIV)

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MANY OF US KNOW THE STORY behind the Christian song, “Praise You In This Storm,” by Casting Crowns. It’s the story of a young girl who loved the Lord Jesus, but her life on earth was cut short by a painful battle with cancer.

The band’s lead singer and chief songwriter Mark Hall talks about praying with the 60. Sick-Young-Girlfamily for Erin’s health only to face repeated heartache. He wrote  the song for her. It begins: “I was sure by now, God,/that you would have reached down/And wiped our tears away,/Stepped in and saved the day.”

It didn’t work out that way. Erin left her earthly mother and father for the loving arms of her Lord. While Erin was at peace, those left behind grieved, yet, as children of the living God, they knew without doubt that He felt their pain.

The closing words of the song express this faith: “And though my heart is torn/I will praise you in this storm.”

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IN THE GOSPEL OF LUKE, CHAPTER 18, JESUS shares with His disciples what the NIV headnote calls “The Parable of the Persistent Widow.”

Luke prefaces the story with these words: “Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up.” (v. 1)

The point of His story is that prayer is not a one-time thing, a one-off request to the Great Genie in the Sky who then snaps His divine fingers to bring our wish to us, no matter how noble the request or selfless it might seem.

60. Faith-in-Jesus-ChristJesus emphasizes this point when He ends His story with this question: “However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?” (v. 8)

Jesus was assuring us in the parable that the Father loves His creation and longs to do good things for us, but what He wants more than fulfilling our Christmas wish list is to grow our characters to be more Christ-like, and that is a process that takes a lifetime.

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THE APOSTLE PAUL acknowledged that by saying we should take “joy” in our troubles, “because we know that these troubles produce patience. And patience produces character.” (Romans 5:3-4 NCV)

James, the half-brother of Jesus, echoed that thought when he encouraged us to “Count it all joy, my brothers [and sisters], when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.” (James 1:2-3 ESV).

“Steadfastness” is another word for “character,” or “faith in God,” which is God’s goal for our lives.

Finally, the apostle Peter encouraged his readers, who were facing persecution, to remain strong in their faith. “The purpose of these troubles,” he said, “is to test your faith as fire tests how genuine gold is. Your faith is more precious than gold, and by passing the test, it gives praise, glory, and honor to God.” (1 Peter 1:7 GW)

How important is our faith to the issues of “prayer” and “troubles”?

Listen to the writer of Hebrews, who sums it up this way: “Without faith it is impossible to please God.” (Hebrews 11:6 NIV)

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HOW, THEN, ARE WE TO PRAY?

Seriously, how can we really give thanks when we’re hurting, when a loved one is suffering, when we’re feeling down, lost, confused — when quitting looks like the only reasonable way out.

60. Depravity-GenicideOne of the great strengths of the Bible is that the LORD allows so many  passages showing human weakness, evil, cunning, disobedience, and irreverence. We know the reason why: He’s showing us how we appear to Him, not the wonderful exemplary individuals we see ourselves to be. We also are to see how desperately we need a Savior.

The writer of Psalm 107, for example, lists several items of distress, where people were “hungry and thirsty,” or were “prisoners suffering in iron chains,” or “became fools through their rebellious ways,” or “reeled and staggered like drunken men.”

In each case, the writer assures us, “they cried out to the LORD in their trouble.” What was the LORD’s response? “He saved them from their distress.” (all quotes from NIV)

Yes, Jesus became man and walked among us, feeling what we feel. In one passage, the Bible says, “Jesus wept.” (John 11:35 ESV)

There’s another story Jesus told, where the punch line was yet more assurance of God’s mercy: “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!” (Matthew 7:11 NASB)

These are just a few of the many biblical examples demonstrating the LORD’s amazing patience, love, and mercy with His creation.

That does not mean He will make all the pain go away immediately — or, even at all — in this world. It means only that He walks with us if we allow Him, and our reward will be a blessed eternity with Him.

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YOU JUST KNEW THIS MEDITATION would circle back to “faith.”

The whole point of God’s goodness — His love, His mercy, His forgiveness — is to teach us to depend on Him, to believe in Him, to rely on Him to walk us through the storms of our lives.60. Faith

It was never about healing in the moment. The moment vanishes like a wisp of smoke.

It was never about our happiness. Temporal joy vanishes quickly.

It was never about our satisfaction. We don’t know what’s good for us.

It was always about God remaking us in His image to become the men and women He purposed us to be.

The prophet Jeremiah says God has a plan for our lives. For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord. They are plans for good and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11 TLB)

The psalmist tell us that God knew us even before we were born. “You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb.” (Psalm 139:13 NLT)

Our role is to believe and to go to the LORD in prayer, even when, as in the song by Casting Crowns, He hasn’t taken our pain away.

As difficult as it may seem, He calls us to find the joy in all circumstances when we cast our cares at His feet.

“Give thanks in everything,” the apostle Paul tells us in 1 Thessalonians 5:18 (CSB), “for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

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44. Cross_on_BiblePRAYER: Our gracious and merciful Heavenly Father, Your love for us is greater than we can fathom. Your joy in our growth is more than we can imagine. Your sadness at our rebellion would break our hearts if we had even the smallest portion of understanding. Occasionally, we see glimpses of Your majesty, and we’re in awe. LORD, love us and hold onto us. Keep us against Your bosom through the storms of our lives and deliver us onto the peaceful shores of Paradise. We pray in the Master’s name. Amen

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QUESTIONS:

  1. Do you find it easy to give thanks to God for His many blessings in the midst of your pain? Do you see that He might have a plan that is for your good even though it eludes your understanding? Can you believe that?
  2. When you pray for healing, do you expect an immediate response? What is it? Healing? Or do you think He might be growing your faith?
  3. How do you comfort someone in their pain when you fight your own doubts? Can you be authentic with them?
  4. Do you pray for God’s will to be done, even while telling Him your wants and desires?
  5. Is this a hard lesson for you to learn? Do you struggle with this? How do you handle the struggle? Do you seek His help?