In Our Daily Bread’s devotional reading for today the subject was on how we must demonstrate our faith. We must be ready to give an answer for why we behave differently than the world.
When suffering and hardships come our way, how do we respond? Do we respond with a Christlike attitude? Or do we fall apart?
When people ask us why we are “different” we must be ready to give them an answer and we must do it respectfully and gently.
But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect. Keeping a clear conscience so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. For it is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil. For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit.
1 Peter 3:15-18
People must be able to see a difference in how we act when hardships arise in our life. If not, if we fall apart, how will they see Jesus? If they see us act one way in church and then a completely different way when bad things happen, our testimony is ruined.
I love Jesus with all my heart. I strive daily to please Him in all I say and do. I mess up, yes I’m human, but thankfully I have a God who is a God of second and third chances….and fourth and fifth chances, etc. He is always willing to forgive and loves me and you so much.
Like I’ve said before, He longs to have a relationship with you. Won’t you come to Him?
Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen
1 John 4:20
Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil. Cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves…….Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.
Romans 12:9-10, 14
We’re going to encounter some people in life who are just hard to love. Maybe they are constantly complaining about life. Maybe they live in a state of anger all the time. Perhaps they just hate life. Perhaps they have hurt you in some way and loving them just seems impossible.
1 John 3:15 tells us that
Anyone who hates a brother or sister is a murderer and you know that no murderer has eternal life residing in him.
Jesus calls us to love everyone! Including our enemies! Including those who persecute us! Including those who are unlovable!
I’m going to be honest here. I struggle with loving a particular person in my life. This person has hurt me and has hurt others way too many times to count. Loving this person just seems impossible! They MAKE it impossible! But the longer I continue to harbor ill feeling towards them, the longer I am hurting myself. The longer I continue in my “inability” to love this person, the longer I’m straying away from God.
So this is something I am struggling to work on but if I just give this struggle to God, I can start to love this person. Because with God, ALL things are possible!
1 John 4:8 reminds us “Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.”
God is love!
God loves us! And can’t we be unlovable from time to time? Yet God loves us despite that! I know that *I* can be unlovable at times. Yet God still loves me. His love is merciful! It’s faithful! It’s unconditional!
But you, Lord are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness.
With God’s help, we can love those who seem incapable of being loved.
Is there someone in your life who makes it difficult to love them?
12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.
I touched on forgiveness back in December but I decided to come back to this topic as it can be very touchy.
Forgiveness can be hard. I know this. I have struggled with this. We all have at one point or another. But we are required to forgive! Just as the Lord forgave us we are required to forgive.
I’m doing a forgiveness reading plan on the YouVersion App as part of my devotions this week and came across this quote:
God freely forgives us and gives us eternal life. But he also expects us to extend that same mercy to others, with strict warnings to us if we don’t. A life of judgement, condemnation and unforgiveness is a prison.
Refusing to forgive someone puts us in prison! A prison full of anger and bitterness! We must be willing to forgive! To let go of the anger and bitterness and move forward.
Yes, I know. Some hurts are hard to move on from. But the longer a person stays unwilling to forgive, the longer it will control us. And the longer it controls us, the longer the anger and bitterness remain, causing us to hurt others.
And as the saying goes, “Hurt people HURT people!” We tend to take the hurt we’ve been dealt and lash out towards others. Sometimes these people haven’t even done anything to us but they happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Holding a grudge toward the person who hurt you just isn’t right. It isn’t what God wants from us. He wants us to “let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor and evil speaking be put away from you with all malice. And be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another even as God in Christ forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:31:32)
Groeschel opens up the chapter with a story from his past regarding the time he met a young woman in college. As he got to know her, he grew more attracted to her and did what he could to impress her. Six months after meeting her, he proposed and 19 years later they are still together and happy as can be.
He uses that story to talk to us about how they know each other. However,
…despite how completely we know each other–even after nearly two decades–our intimacy continues to grow. We’re constantly learning how to connect and communicate deeply.
Believing Versus Knowing
Belief isn’t the same as personal knowledge
Groeschel continues by explaining the different levels of intimacy when it comes to knowing God.
“Some of us know God by reputation”
We know a little bit about God–we’ve gone to church a few times, heard the Bible stories. We may even have a favorite Bible verse.
This knowledge is only secondhand, however
“Some of us know God in our memories.”
“We’ve experienced his goodness, grace and love in the past.
“Some of us know God intimately.”
Right here, right now. It is THIS kind of loving knowledge that “God promises when we seek Him”
As we continue to seek God, we’ll grow to know him more and more intimately. When we hear God’s voice, we’ll recognize it instantly.
Not Knowing God
Believing God isn’t all He wants from us
In the book of James, it tells us that even the “demons believe in God, and yet they tremble because they know that they’re relationally separated from Him.”
Groeschel tells us there is more to being a Christian than just believing in God. We must experience God’s love. We must know him intimately.
He explains that growing up, he and his family were what you would call “cultural Christians.” They would go to church on Christmas and Easter. They’d help people in need. They donated canned goods to food drives. They’d pray at Thanksgiving meals.
But that was the extent of it. They knew about God. They didn’t know Him. And because Groeschel didn’t know God, he lived according to his own rules. He did what he wanted, not what God wanted. He didn’t have an intimate relationship with God.
In 1 John 2:3-4, it says,
We know that we have come to know him if we obey his commands. The man who says “I know him” but does not do what he commands is a liar and the truth is not in him.”
Harsh, right? Not according to Groeschel. He prefers to think of it as “straightforward and honest.” It is “truthfully spoken by someone who truly cares and wants what’s best for us.
We are created to be living examples of God’s love to a hurting world.
Knowing God can lead to positive lifestyle, but the reverse isn’t true.
Our outward actions alone don’t prove that we enjoy an inward relationship with God.
Groeschel urges us to make an effort to get to know God.
“God is interested not only in our actions but also in our hearts–in particular our attitude toward him.”
We can look good on the outside, make is seem like we love God but if our hearts aren’t there, if our hearts aren’t in the right place then when life is over, Jesus will say to us “I never knew you. Away from me, you evil doers.” (Matthew 7:23)
Not Knowing God Well
In this section, Groeschel writes about when Paul wrote his letter to the Galatians. They had experienced the real, living God but had “recently become trapped in legalism.”
In other words they fell back into their old ways. “They knew God but not well enough to avoid getting sucked back into a life based in the law, rather than in love. In Galatians 4:8-9, it says “Formerly, when you did not know God, you were slaves to those who by nature are not gods. But now that you know God—or rather are known by God—how is it that you are turning aback to those weak and miserable forces? Do you wish to be enslaved by them all over again.”
“In the 21st century, we would be wise to ask ourselves, ‘Is this us too?'”
Do you “sort of” know God?
Knowing God Intimately
Then there are those who “know God intimately and serve Him with their whole hearts.”
The psalmist, David, describes in Psalm 63:1-4 his relationship with God. In fact, he says that his experience of knowing the personal God creates a deeper longing for even more intimate knowledge of God.
David writes in the psalm “O God, you are my God” Did you catch that? David calls God “HIS God.” David continues to write, “Earnestly I seek you; I thirst for you, my whole being longs for you.
What is David saying? He’s saying that there is absolutely nothing in this world that can satisfy him. Only GOD can totally satisfy.
Groeschel poses the question, “Have you ever felt that kind of love for someone? Now imagine that with God. Imagine that kind of love
Verse 3 says, “Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you.” Better than life? He’s saying ‘If I had the choice–either keep God’s love and see my mortal body die, or lose His love and live–I would choose to die.
Matthew 16:26 says, “What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?”
Or how about Philippians 1:21, “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.”
What kind of love do you have for God?
It’s All in the Name
What do you call God?
If you know God, you are likely to be far more specific with him and the words you use will reflect your accurate understanding of him.
There are many, many, many names for God.
He’s known as Savior, Healer, Comforter, Fortress, Rock, Strength, Provider, Friend, etc. The list can go on and on.
The Best is Ahead
Groeschel writes that it’s time to “be honest with yourself and with God.
“Do you know Him? If so, how well?
“Has God transformed you? Are you different because of Him? If not, perhaps you’re a Christian Atheist.”
But guess what? God loves you so much and earnestly wants a relationship with you.
If you don’t know Him, you can! “Getting to know God is not difficult and it isn’t about a bunch of rules. Yes, God wants your obedience, but he wants your heart even more.
He says over and over again that if you seek Him, you will find Him.
How do you find God? By reading your Bible. He’s there. Pray. He’s there.
“As you get to know him better, you will change……Instead of living for yourself and for the moment, you’ll live for Christ and for eternity. Your heart will begin to break for the reasons and causes that break God’s heart.
“Get to know God. When you do, you will never be the same.
There was another school shooting today in Texas. My heart breaks for those who have lost loved ones.
WHEN WILL ALL OF THIS MADNESS STOP????
Well according to the Bible, it won’t end until Christ comes back. We live in a fallen world and it continues on its downward spiral into more evil each and every day.
While we do not know the day nor the hour in which Christ comes back, He does give some signs to look out for:
3 As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately. “Tell us,” they said, “when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?”
4 Jesus answered: “Watch out that no one deceives you.5 For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Messiah,’ and will deceive many.6 You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come.7 Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places.8 All these are the beginning of birth pains.
9 “Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me.10 At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other,11 and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people.12 Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold,13 but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.14 And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.
Why does evil even exist? Simply put, because of Adam and Eve’s fall in the Garden of Eden. The very second Eve took that bite, sin entered the world. The very moment that forbidden fruit touched their lips, it gave birth to a world of sin. Changing the world forever.
(Call me crazy but I’d like a word with Eve when I get to heaven! She had it made! She just HAD to eat that fruit! Thanks a lot, Eve!)
Because of Adam and Eve’s disobedience, the lives of future generations became cursed. Women would now face the excruciating pain of childbirth. Men would experience a lifetime of hard labor.
All because curiosity got the best of them. All because they gave in to Satan’s lies and deceitfulness.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that as long as we live in this fallen world, tragedies are going to happen. Sin has overtaken this world and will remain until Christ comes back for His children. All we must do is persevere to the end. Remain faithful to Him. Fight the good fight. Finish the race.
7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.8 Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.
2 Timothy 4:7-8
I long for His appearing…..don’t you? I’m so ready to see Him, to spend eternity with Him.