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

Burning Heart or Still Small Voice?

With Jeremiah, God’s voice was like fire in his bones; with Elijah, it was a quite whisper. God thundered from a cloud when Jesus was transfigured on the mountaintop, telling mankind, “Listen to him.” God speaks to us in many voices. If we don’t hear him, we’re not paying attention.

 

But if I say, “I will not remember Him Or speak anymore in His name,” Then in my heart it becomes like a burning fire Shut up in my bones; And I am weary of holding it in, And I cannot endure it. — Jeremiah 20:9 (NASB)

And after the earthquake a fire; but the LORD was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice. — 1 Kings 19:12 (KJV)

[A] bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my one dear Son, in whom I take great delight. Listen to him!” Matthew 17:5 (NET)

GOD’S VOICE.

What does that mean to you? Does He speak to us? If so, in what way?

It’s easy to pass this question off by saying, “Well, back in the Bible days, mayVoice of Godbe He talked to man, but that was then; this is now.”

Why wouldn’t He speak to us now?

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THE BIBLE GIVES US TWO DIFFERENT ACCOUNTS of God speaking to man. The first is Jeremiah. He was called the “weeping prophet” because he was so distressed by the increasingly bad news God called him to deliver to the Jewish people because of their unfaithfulness.

But whenever he tried to silence God’s voice, the Lord became more insistent, and our reluctant prophet felt a “burning fire” in his bones.

Elijah was another prophet of very high esteem. In fact, the Jewish Passover ceremony references his predicted return — an event Christians believe was fulfilled with the testimony of John the Baptist. In this account in 1 Kings, Elijah is hiding from the Jews because he fears they will kill him as they have the other prophets.

While God spoke to Jeremiah in the fire, the Bible is clear that He did not speak to Elijah in the same manner. “The Lord was not in the fire,” Scriptures tell us. But God did speak to Elijah, “in a still small voice.”

The “still small voice” comes from the King James Version. Other translations call it a “gentle whisper” (NLT), “low whisper” (ESV), or “soft whisper” (HCSB).Man Listening to God

So, which is it: a burning fire in our bones that’s impossible to ignore or a small, soft, gentle whisper almost beyond our hearing?

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IN MATTHEW’S ACCOUNT of Jesus’ earthly ministry, the Lord is direct in telling us to pay attention to His voice.

When Jesus took his three closest disciples up a mountain and was transfigured in heavenly aura before them, along with Elijah and Moses, the gospel writer Matthew tells us a bright cloud overshadowed the three men — Jesus and Elijah and Moses — and then, from out of the cloud, Almighty God Himself proclaimed of Jesus, “This is my one dear Son, in whom I take great delight.”

Then, unmistakably and most assuredly for us to take account of, He said, “Listen to him!” Matthew 17:5 (NET)

There’s no ambiguity there, is there? No wiggle room, no way to spin this event into a mere suggestion or wise saying. No, this was from the Creator himself. “Listen to him — my Son.”

With this moment on the mountain, we can be sure that God still speaks to us — and that He most assuredly wants us to listen. Listen, understand, take in, and obey.

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THE LORD HAS MORE WAYS to speak to mankind in modern days. There are more sophisticated communications devices, and, through advanced transportation modes, our globe is smaller than the ancient world.

Woman Listening to GodWe have Holy Writ translated into numerous English translations, plus translations into most of the world’s languages. Bible translators say Scripture has been made available in more than 2,500 languages, with another 1,500 or so, mostly minor languages or dialects, without a translation.

Add to that the numerous videos, podcasts, online sermons and commentaries, plus  Christian fellowship, and God finds many willing avenues to talk with us.

Perhaps no method is more intense or meaningful than our quiet devotion time, where we open our hearts and minds through prayer, then spend quality time reading a current and easy-to-follow translation of the Bible, followed by meditation on what we just read, and closing prayer.

We’re reminded in the book of James, a short how-to primer written by one of Jesus’ half-brothers, that we can ask God for wisdom. “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” James 1:5 (NIV)

When Solomon asked God for wisdom, we’re told in 1 Kings 5:12 (NIV): The Lord gave Solomon wisdom, just as he had promised him.”

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WE CAN BE SURE THAT GOD STILL SPEAKS to His people. Let’s just take two verses from the Bible — one from the Old Testament and one from the New Testament — to make the point clear.

In Genesis 1:27 (NIV), we’re told that God created us in His image: “So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.”

Then, in John 3:16 (NIV), we’re told that God loved these humans created in His image so much that, well, He was willing to let His own Son die on the Cross to pay for our sins and reconcile us to Him: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”Woman Hearing God

With all that was at stake, God creating us in His own image and God giving us His Son to reclaim us as His children when we went astray, how could we possibly assume that He has stopped talking to us?

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IF WE DON’T HEAR HIS VOICE, then we should ask ourselves this question: Have we stopped listening?

The psalmist answers that question this way: “Be still, and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10, NIV)

PRAYER: Our most heavenly Father, pour your love on us. Shower us with Your goodness, and speak to us. Whether You whisper at some times that we must pause to listen, or you set our very bones on fire with Your strong voice, show us that You haven’t stopped loving us, that You are with us, that You are calling us to follow You. Father, we ask this in Jesus’ Name. Amen

God’s People Complaining

The Lord is so gracious in His Word, that He devotes needed passages to remind His people that we are called to praise His Holy Name. Too often, caught in the net of our earthly desires, we grumble and complain over, really, little things. While I’m not proud of my whining, the Bible is clear that God loves me and is in charge of the situation.

Exodus 17:3-4 (NLT) “But tormented by thirst, they continued to argue with Moses. “Why did you bring us out of Egypt? Are you trying to kill us, our children, and our livestock with thirst?” Then Moses cried out to the LORD, “What should I do with these people? They are ready to stone me!”” 

Philippians 2:14 (NIV) “Do everything without grumbling or arguing.”

THE BIBLE TELLS US in the story of Exodus — where the Jewish people were led out of slavery by God’s mighty hand — that within two months they were grumbling. First, they complained they had no food (Exodus 16),  then they complained they had no water (Exodus 17).

thumb_IMG_0798_1024It’s easy for us as readers in the 21st Century to wonder how they could possibly doubt that God would rescue them from their every adversity and provide for their every need.

THAT’S NOT THE WHOLE STORY. Today, we can read the story and place ourselves in the position of the Israelites. God has blessed many of us in marvelous ways, but we often grumble.

I personally enjoy good health, a retirement with sufficient material resources, a new home with a paid-off mortgage, and a lovely woman to be my wife and join me in our walk with Christ and our retirement years. Yet, I still complain.

THE LORD HAS BLESSED ME RICHLY. He has promised to watch over me and lead me. He calls on me to trust him. When life presents its challenges, and I start to grumble, I need to stop and reflect for this is a moment when the Almighty is calling me to grow in my faith and in my character, both to enhance my earthly witness and to be prepared for an eternity in Glory.

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PRAYER: Our Heavenly Father, we are ashamed when we let our petty tribulations interfere with our faith walk, when we look in the rear view mirror and see a past more glorious than it was and through the windshield  and see a future dimly lit. Help us remember that this is the moment when we need to ask for God’s help, believing He will deliver us. Forgive us our complaining and our shortsightedness. We ask in Jesus’ name. Amen

 

 

Opposing Sin With Love

In a world with so much sin, so many broken lives, we can draw comfort from this one amazing fact: Jesus loves us and accepts us as we are. He calls us to turn from our brokenness and follow him, and He promises to redeem us to his glory. Amazing Love.

When Jesus stood up, He said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”

“No one, Lord,” she answered. “Neither do I condemn you,” said Jesus. “Go, and from now on do not sin anymore.” John 8:10-11 (HCSB)

JESUS CLEARLY TELLS US to love our neighbors as ourselves, but not to love our neighbor’s sin and certainly not to embrace it. The Lord showed mercy on the woman accused of adultery, which is sinful behavior, but he admonished her not to continue in her sin. Loving our neighbor means helping our neighbor through his or her struggle with sin, not by supporting our neighbor’s sinful behavior.

Today, we’re faced as a country with a cultural divide regarding homosexual or same-sex marriage.

The secular battle lines are drawn between political liberals who believe legally sanctioning “marriage” between two men or two women represents equality and freedom from oppression, that oppression being the bigotry of the majority heterosexual population. They reasonWoman Caught Adultery that the free-flowing love that one man or one woman may feel for a same-sex partner is no threat to their neighbors’ heterosexual marriage and that, after all, society should not be able to dictate their expression of love.

They are opposed by political conservatives who argue that marriage between two men or two women violates long-standing human experience in all parts of the world and, by so doing, upsets or discards received wisdom in favor of current prevailing passion. They say that tradition mandates continuing a marriage arrangement that works, regardless of the divorce rate, and scoff at providing tax breaks for those who want to experiment with settled practice.

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THERE IS A THIRD VIEW and one that too often is ignored: the view of Christ’s followers. For faith-based Christians, homosexual behavior is unnatural behavior contrary to God’s law and contrary to how He made us (Leviticus 18; Romans 1). He has warned us repeatedly from the writings of Moses and the prophets through the teachings of Jesus and the apostles to refrain from sexual immorality.

Such immorality, the Bible says, includes sex with children, the neighbor’s spouse, a close relative, the family pet, or a same-sex partner.

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THE BIBLE ALSO IS CLEAR that we are to love our neighbors and pray for them. Nowhere does it say we are to embrace their sinful behavior, condone it, or codify it into law, nor are we are called to look down upon our neighbor’s sin or rank-order their sin — we have enough sin in our own lives to atone for. All of us have fallen short of God’s glory and are in need of a Savior (Romans 3:23).

Love means joining hands and raising our eyes to the Lord, asking his forgiveness for our sins, and joining in fellowship with others to serve him. Some among us may struggle with homosexuality, some with alcohol addiction, some with lustful hearts or immodest dress, some with uncontrolled anger, but our Lord calls us into fellowship with him and one another to encourage each other (1 Thessalonians 5:11).

We long to hear our Lord say to us, as He said to the fallen woman, “Don’t continue in your sin, but I do not condemn you. I love you, and my mercy abounds.”

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PRAYER: Lord — Help us to see our neighbors they way you see them, as lost sheep in need of a Shepard. You call us to model Christ-like behavior by showing love for our neighbor but that love should manifest itself in helping our neighbor overcome sin, not in supporting our neighbor’s sinful behavior. We’re also called to refrain from judging our neighbor because we also sin. In the Name of Him who knew no sin.  Amen

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Juan 8:10-11 (EM) Entonces Jesús se enderezó y le preguntó: –Mujer, ¿dónde están? ¿Ninguno te ha condenado?
Y ella dijo: –Ninguno, Señor. Entonces Jesús le dijo: –Ni yo te condeno. Vete y desde ahora no peques más.

Rejoicing in God’s Grace

The Lord grants us his grace as a gift to us. He will not abandon us.


A Short Devotion on God’s Amazing Grace … and Our Response

Nehemiah 9:5 (ESV) “Stand up and bless the LORD your God from everlasting to everlasting. Blessed be your glorious name, which is exalted above all blessing and praise.”

Galatians 1:10 (GW) “Am I saying this now to win the approval of people or God? Am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be Christ’s servant.”


The Lord God wants us to take the narrow path that leads to life. He warns us that few will find this path and ensures us that (a) without Him we can do nothing and (b) He will be with  us always. Through Him, we can take the narrow path with confidence because He will light our path and guide our steps.

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“Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.” Psalm 119:105 (NIV)

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Prayer: O Lord, be our constant guide. Hold us close when trouble strikes us. Let us know that You will not abandon us but will lead us along the straight and narrow path — the one that leads to life. Amen


Regocijo en la fuerza de Dios

Nehemías 9:5 (DHH) «Levántense, alaben al Señor su Dios por siempre y siempre. ¡Alabado sea, con bendiciones y alabanzas, su alto y glorioso nombre!»

Gálatas 1:10 (DHH) Yo no busco la aprobación de los hombres, sino la aprobación de Dios. No busco quedar bien con los hombres. ¡Si yo quisiera quedar bien con los hombres, ya no sería un siervo de Cristo!

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Oración: Nuestro Señor, sea nuestra guía constante. Sostenemos a cerrar cuando los problemas nos llama la atención. Háganos saber que usted no nos abandonará, pero nos llevará por el camino recto y estrecho – el que lleva a la vida. Amén

God’s Grace Is Enough

THE BIBLE IS CLEAR that our salvation is not a product of our good works because none of us, except for Jesus Himself, is worthy. Instead of allowing us to be discouraged because of our unworthiness, the Lord gives us a magnificent gift: His grace is sufficient for our salvation.That means our good works come as a result of our salvation, not as a cause of it.
JESUS WILL WORK through our hearts to transform us into the men and women He wants us to be, and as He does a perfect work in us, we will respond more and more to his call.

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“Let us draw near … with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.” — Hebrews 10:22 (ESV)

 

OUR GOOD WORKS, then, will be a natural outpouring of our gratitude for his love for us, not an attempt to match an impossible standard.

THE LORD, through his work on the Cross, satisfied our debt.