Charles Stanley – Supreme Love

 

1 Corinthians 13:1-3

There is no value or human expression of greater importance than love. Paul’s incomparable treatise on this subject in 1 Corinthians 13 is sandwiched between two chapters that deal with spiritual gifts. The Corinthians focused too much on their display of such gifts, so the apostle showed them the “more excellent way” (1 Corinthians 12:31). Interestingly, he made no attempt to define love but instead described its importance and expression.

The type of love Paul is talking about isn’t human in origin but, rather, comes from God—a part of His very nature. It’s unselfish, sacrificial love that acts on behalf of someone else. Since the Lord wants to transform our character into the image of His Son, this priority makes perfect sense. You see, whenever we display such selfless care for one another, that’s when we are the most like Christ.

The first three verses of this chapter issue us a warning. Without the motivation of love, all our good deeds—even service for the Lord—will profit us nothing. In God’s eyes, a loving spirit is more important than all our impressive words, knowledge, faith, generosity, and self-sacrifice. When we stand before Christ to be judged for our good works, those deeds done for selfish reasons will not be worthy of reward.

We are all blinded to some degree when it comes to our motives, so discerning why we serve God or do good deeds can be difficult. Pray to know your heart’s hidden intentions, and replace any self-centered motivations with His “more excellent way” of love. Then your works will be of eternal value.

Our Daily Bread — The School Of Pain

 

 

Read: Psalm 119:65-80
Bible in a Year: 1 Kings 21-22; Luke 23:26-56

I know, O Lord, that Your judgments are right, and that in faithfulness You have afflicted me. —Psalm 119:75

In his book The Problem of Pain, C. S. Lewis observes that “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” Suffering often helps us to redirect our focus. It shifts our thinking from immediate circumstances so we can listen to God concerning His work in our lives. Life as usual is replaced by a spiritual schoolroom.

In the Old Testament, we read how the psalmist maintained a teachable heart even during painful circumstances. He accepted them as orchestrated by God, and in submission he prayed, “In faithfulness You have afflicted me” (Ps. 119:75). Isaiah the prophet viewed suffering as a refining process: “Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace of affliction” (Isa. 48:10). And Job, despite his laments, learned about the sovereignty and greatness of God through his troubles (Job 40–42).

We are not alone in our experience of pain. God Himself took on human form and suffered greatly: “For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps” (1 Peter 2:21). The One with nail-scarred hands is near. He will comfort us and teach us in our suffering. —Dennis Fisher

Dear Lord, life is so hard sometimes. I confess that I don’t always see Your purpose in my trials. Help me to trust You, and teach me to become the person that You desire me to be.

We learn the lesson of trust in the school of trial.

INSIGHT: Psalm 119 speaks of the priority and sufficiency of God’s Word in the daily life of the believer. Here the psalmist admitted that he had strayed, but having been disciplined by God, he now resolved to “keep [His] Word” (v. 67).

Ravi Zacharias Ministry – Creative Sights

 

Roald Dahl is best known as a children’s author, particularly for his beloved Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, which celebrates fifty years this year. His zany plots, fantastic oddities, and unexpected endings make for stories memorable to both parent and child. In one particularly memorable passage for me as a child, Dahl shouts of what happens to children who sit in front of televisions to “loll and slop and lounge about, And stare until their eyes pop out.”(1) I remember hearing often that I shouldn’t watch excessive television; this was the first time I vividly considered what it might do to me (with the help of the Oompa Loompas):

IT ROTS THE SENSE IN THE HEAD!

IT KILLS IMAGINATION DEAD!

IT CLOGS AND CLUTTERS UP THE MIND!

IT MAKES A CHILD SO DULL AND BLIND

HE CAN NO LONGER UNDERSTAND

A FANTASY, A FAIRYLAND!

HIS BRAIN BECOMES AS SOFT AS CHEESE!

HIS POWERS OF THINKING RUST AND FREEZE!

HE CANNOT THINK — HE ONLY SEES!(2)

 

I was surprised to learn recently that Dahl’s first published story was neither zany nor imaginative in the sense he is known for. And yet, the paradoxical nature of sight still seems an invisible thread connecting his thoughts together. Dahl served in the Royal Air Force during World War II as a fighter pilot and intelligence officer. His first piece of published writing was an article in the Saturday Evening Post based on his flying experiences and a crash that left him with multiple injuries and months of blindness. He writes:

“This business of looking is the most important part of the fighter-pilot’s job. You’ve got to have a rubber neck and you’ve got to keep it moving the whole time from the moment you get into the air to the moment you arrive back at your base. If you don’t, you won’t last long. You turn slowly from the extreme left to the extreme right, glancing at your instruments as you go past; and then, looking up high, you turn back again from right to left to start all over again. Don’t start gazing into your cockpit, or, sure as eggs, you’ll get jumped sooner or later, and don’t start daydreaming or looking at the beautiful scenery—there’s no future in it.”(3)

In each case, Dahl describes seeing as a complicated business—and blindness, a fearsome consequence of looking after the wrong things.

Faith for me as a young person was something quite like Dahl’s description of the child whose eyes were popping out from starring. I was captivated by what the heavens demanded of me, the rules and disappointments I believed the God of Ideals listed for me ad nauseam. It was a vision that stole the senses and killed the imagination. God was exasperating, and faith, if it could be called that, was life-dulling. Still, I watched on with baited attention.

Mine wasn’t a startled awakening, yet over time, mercifully, the God I so badly wanted to please pulled the plug on the artificial images that seemed to play on a continual, blinding loop in my mind. Lifting my eyes to the human Son of God, the love of God in person stole the show.

This is not to say there is no temptation to gaze toward the many streaming screens of distraction that steal it back again. There are surely visions which when given too high a place of prominence or too much attention skew the view in ways that very much become blinding: a particular worry or a sense of despair, a negative experience fixated in my mind from the past, even an excited preoccupation with the future. Dahl’s description of trying to fly a plane and getting lost gazing at the cockpit is a vivid example to this end. It is not that these things are necessarily even false or wrong visions; there is just little future in staring at them exclusively.

Quite the reverse, there is a lot to look at in the vision of Jesus as vicarious human person, God in flesh like mine and yours and the broken bodies all around us. Jesus surely darts in and out of the scenes that captivate us, often on the sidelines, trying to grab our attention from lesser plots, showing us in flesh and blood what it means to be human. In a recent issue of Image journal, editor Greg Wolf describes the artist somewhat similarly, as “someone who is driven to go out to the margins of society in order to learn what the margins can teach those at the center.”(4) Dahl would no doubt find this an agreeable image, his use of the marginalized Oompa Loompas the strange helpers who bring Charlie and his eager followers to new visions of their own humanity. Jesus in these terms then is God at his most artistic, driven to the margins of humanity itself to show us who we are.

It is a common perception that religion, Christianity included, is a mind-numbing, humanity-stealing collection of rules and controlling stories. How startling then, zany and beautiful and wrenching, the discovery of one who so loves humanity that he lifts our eyes from less imaginative visions and shows us in flesh and blood, life and death, himself, his love, creation remade.

Jill Carattini is managing editor of A Slice of Infinity at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Atlanta, Georgia.

(1) Roald Dahl, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (New York: Penguin Books, 2007), 137.

(2) Ibid., 138.

(3) “Shot Down Over Libya,” Saturday Evening Post, August 1, 1942.

(4) Gregory Wolfe, “Editorial Statement: Art and Poverty,” Image, Issue 84, Spring 2015.

 

Alistair Begg – A New House

 

We abide in him. 1 John 4:13

Do you want a house for your soul? You may ask, “How much does it cost?” Something less than proud human nature would like to pay. It is without money and without price. But you would like to pay a respectable rent! You would love to do something to win Christ? Then you cannot have the house, for it is without price.

Will you take my Master’s house on a lease for all eternity, with nothing to pay for it, nothing but the rent of loving and serving Him forever? Will you take Jesus and dwell in Him? This house is furnished with all you want; it is filled with riches more than you can spend as long as you live. In this house you can have intimate communion with Christ and feast on His love; the tables are well-stocked with food for you to live on forever; in it, when weary, you can find rest with Jesus; and from it you have a view of heaven itself.

Will you have the house? If you are homeless, you will say, “I should like to have the house; but may I have it?” Yes; the key is, “Come to Jesus.” “But,” you say, “I am too shabby for such a house.” Never mind; there are garments inside. If you feel guilty and condemned, come; and though the house is too good for you, Christ will make you good enough for the house soon enough. He will wash you and cleanse you, and you will yet be able to sing, “We dwell in Him.”

Believer, your happiness will be multiplied in having such a dwelling-place! What a privilege for you to live in such a secure dwelling–a place of safety. And dwelling in Him, you have not only a perfect and secure house, but an everlasting one. When this world shall have melted like a dream, our house shall live and stand more imperishable than marble, more solid than granite, self-existent as God, for it is God Himself–“We abide in him.”

Devotional material is taken from “Morning and Evening,” written by C.H. Spurgeon, revised and updated by Alistair Begg.

Charles Spurgeon – Terrible convictions and gentle drawings

 

 “When I kept silence, my bones waxed old through my roaring all the day long. For day and night thy hand was heavy upon me: my moisture is turned into the drought of summer.” Psalm 32:3,4

Suggested Further Reading: Acts 16:11-34

I have met with at least a score of persons who found Christ and then mourned their sins more afterwards than they did before. Their convictions have been more terrible after they have known their interest in Christ than they were at first. They have seen the evil after they have escaped from it; they had been plucked out of the miry clay, and their feet set on a rock, and then afterwards they have seen more fully the depth of that horrible pit out of which they have been snatched. It is not true that all who are saved suffer these convictions and terrors; there are a considerable number who are drawn by the cords of love and the bands of a man. There are some who, like Lydia, have their hearts opened not by the crowbar of conviction, but by the picklock of divine grace. Sweetly drawn, almost silently enchanted by the loveliness of Jesus, they say, “Draw me, and I will run after thee.” And now you ask me the question—“Why has God brought me to himself in this gentle manner?” Again I say—there are some questions better unanswered than answered; God knows best the reason why he does not give you these terrors; leave that question with him. But I may tell you an anecdote. There was a man once who had never felt these terrors, and he thought within himself—“I never can believe I am a Christian unless I do.” So he prayed to God that he might feel them, and he did feel them, and what do you think is his testimony? He says, “Never, never do that, for the result was fearful in the extreme.” If he had but known what he was asking for, he would not have asked for anything so foolish.

For meditation: The important thing is not how we are brought to Christ, but that we are brought to Christ. The wind sometimes blows fiercely; sometimes it blows gently (John 3:8). But we should not presume upon God’s kindness, forbearance and patience—they lead us to repentance (Romans 2:4).

Sermon no. 313
6 May (1860)

John MacArthur – Gaining Spiritual Stability (Peter)

 

The twelve apostles included “Simon, who is called Peter” (Matt. 10:2).

Jesus can make an impulsive and vacillating Christian as stable as a rock.

The first disciple Matthew’s gospel names is “Simon, who is called Peter” (Matt. 10:2). He was a fisherman by trade but Jesus called him to be a fisher of men. John 1:40-42 records their first encounter: “One of the two who heard John [the Baptist] speak, and followed Him, was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. He found first his own brother Simon, and . . . brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him, and said, ‘You are Simon the son of John; you shall be called Cephas’ (which translated means Peter).”

“Peter” means “stone.” “Cephas” is its Aramaic equivalent. By nature Simon tended to be impulsive and vacillating. Apparently Jesus named him Peter as a reminder of his future role in the church, which would require spiritual strength and stability. Whenever Peter acted like a man of strength, Jesus called him by his new name. When he sinned, Jesus called him by his old name (e.g., John 21:15-17). In the gospel of John, Peter is called “Simon Peter” seventeen times. Perhaps John knew Peter so well he realized he was always drifting somewhere between sinful Simon and spiritual Peter.

For the next few days we will see how Jesus worked with Peter to transform him into a true spiritual rock. It was an amazing transformation, but not unlike what He desires to do in every believer’s life.

You might not have the same personality as Peter, but the Lord wants you to be a spiritual rock just the same. Peter himself wrote, “You also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1 Pet. 2:5). That occurs as you “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Pet. 3:18). Make that your continual aim.

Suggestions for Prayer; List the areas of your Christian walk that are inconsistent or vacillating. Make them a matter of earnest prayer, asking God for wisdom and grace as you begin to strengthen them.

For Further Study; First Peter was written to Christians in danger of severe persecution. Read that epistle, noting the keys to spiritual stability that Peter gives.

 

Joyce Meyer – You’re Never Too Old to Grow in Your Thinking

 

. . . whatever is true, whatever is worthy of reverence and is honorable and seemly, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely and lovable, whatever is kind and winsome and gracious, if there is any virtue and excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think on and weigh and take account of these things [flex your minds on them]. Philippians 4:8

Dr. Caroline Leaf, a leading brain scientist/learning specialist and committed Christian, notes in her teaching on the brain: “The Word and science believe that the mind and the brain are one.” The way you think is voluntary—you can control your thoughts. I want you to give your brain a new job and begin to teach your mind to work for you instead of against you.

One important way to do this is to make the intentional decision that you will begin to think positively. I realize your brain won’t be able to fulfill the new role completely overnight. You may be asking it to undergo a radical transformation, and that will take time. So give it a little grace, but determine that with your diligence and God’s help, your brain will go to work for you instead of against you and become a powerful, positive force in your life.

I like what Dr. Leaf says—that the human brain takes “eighteen years to grow and a lifetime to mature.” Don’t miss this point. Although every other organ in the body is fully formed when a person is born, and simply gets bigger as the body gets bigger, the brain actually takes a full eighteen years to be fully formed. After that, it continues to mature until the day a person dies. This means, no matter how old you are, your brain is still maturing. This is great news because it means you do not have to be stuck in any old or wrong thought patterns. Your brain is still maturing, so you can still mature in your thinking.

Trust in Him What comes to mind immediately when I ask: In what way(s) is your mind working against you? Remember, it takes a lifetime for your brain to mature. Trust that it’s never too late to change your mind!

Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – Christ Lives in Me

 

“I have been crucified with Christ: and I myself no longer live, but Christ lives in me. And the real life I now have within this body is a result of my trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me (Galatians 2:20).

After many years of working with thousands of Christians, I am convinced that a person cannot enjoy the supernatural life – which is a believer’s heritage in Christ – apart from the proper balance between Bible study, prayer and sharing Christ with others out of the overflow of an obedient, Spirit-filled life.

We need to be able not only to experience this great adventure with Christ ourselves, but also to share this good news with others.

A word of caution and reminder is in order at this point. We become spiritual and experience power from God and become fruitful in our witness as a result of faithand faith alone.

The Bible clearly teaches that “the just shall live by faith” Romans 1:17. However, it is equally important to know that good works are the result of faith – “trusting in the Son of God” – and unless there are “good works” there is not faith, for “faith without works is dead” (James 2:17).

Many Christians are confused on this point. They think of works (Bible study, prayer and other spiritual disciplines) as the meansto, rather than the resultsof, the life of faith. They spend much time in these activities, seeking God’s favor and blessing.

They may even attempt to witness for Christ and to obey the various commands of God, thinking that by these means they will achieve supernatural living. But they remain defeated, frustrated, powerless and fruitless.

As you are filled with the Holy Spirit – “Christ living in me” – and walk in His power by faith, the Bible becomes alive, prayer becomes vital, your witness becomes effective and obedience becomes a joy.

Bible Reading: Galatians 2:15-19

TODAY’S ACTION POINT: I will seek to remember that Christ lives in me, in the person of His indwelling Holy Spirit, and thus I have all I need for supernatural living, for victory and joy and peace.

Presidential Prayer Team; C.H. – Greatest Benefit

 

The coveted Nobel Prize is awarded each year to deserving recipients in physics, chemistry, peace, physiology or medicine, and literature. Alfred Nobel, in his will, specified the prizes are for those who have shown the “greatest benefit on mankind.” It honors those whose work blesses others.

I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you…so that you will be a blessing.

Genesis 12:2

Years before Nobel, God bestowed the greatest honor on Abraham by making a covenant with him. Abraham continually praised the Lord, and his Heavenly Father was listening. He awarded Abraham’s faith by promising to make a great nation through his descendants. Today’s passage shows how God made Abraham’s name great, so he would bless others. He will do the same with you.

God hears the praises from your lips and your heart. He listens to and sees His people. While you may not receive a Nobel Prize, your obedience will be noticed. “The Lord rewards every man for his righteousness and his faithfulness.” (I Samuel 26:23) Pray for Christian leaders in America to be a blessing to others, and share the good news of Christ with everyone – for Jesus is truly the greatest benefit to mankind.

Recommended Reading: Ephesians 2:1-10

Greg Laurie – It’s Just Our Nature

 

For the world offers only a craving for physical pleasure, a craving for everything we see, and pride in our achievements and possessions. These are not from the Father, but are from this world.—1 John 2:16

I read a news story awhile ago about a man who was hitchhiking across the county to write a memoir he planned to call The Kindness of America. He wanted to write about his adventures and the wonderful strangers who had reached out to him along the way. But while he was eating his lunch alongside U.S. Highway 2 in Montana, he was shot in the arm during a random drive-by attack. So much for the kindness of America.

It just goes to show that people are not basically good, as some would assert. If you believe that people are basically good, then you have more faith than I do. Because if history shows us nothing else, it shows us that people are basically bad.

Why is mankind the way it is? Why do we do the things we do? Why are we always fighting and warring and having conflict after conflict?

We read in 1 John 2:15–16, “Do not love this world nor the things it offers you, for when you love the world, you do not have the love of the Father in you. For the world offers only a craving for physical pleasure, a craving for everything we see, and pride in our achievements and possessions. These are not from the Father, but are from this world.”

We like to blame the Devil for everything and say, “The Devil made me do it.” Yes, the Devil can tempt you, but he needs cooperation. He needs to work with you, and you need to work with him.

The sinful things we do have nothing to do with logic; it’s just our nature to do them. It comes from within. And the faster we recognize we have a sinful nature, the better equipped we’ll be to fight temptation.

Max Lucado – The Lord is My Shepherd

 

We humans want to do things our way. Forget the easy way. Forget the common way. Forget the best way. Forget God’s way. We want to do things our way! And according to Isaiah 53:6 that is exactly our problem. “We all have wandered away like sheep; each of us has gone his own way.”

You wouldn’t think sheep would be obstinate. Of all God’s animals, the sheep is the least able to take care of himself. David said, “The Lord is my shepherd.” We wonder…couldn’t David have thought of a better metaphor? Sheep are dumb. Why didn’t he choose something other than sheep? How about, “The Lord is my King and I am his ambassador?” Everyone stops when the ambassador speaks. But who notices when God’s sheep show up? Only one person notices. The shepherd. And that is precisely David’s point!

From Traveling Light

C.S. Lewis Daily – Today’s Reading

 

Teachers will tell you that the laziest boy in the class is the one who works hardest in the end. They mean this. If you give two boys, say, a proposition in geometry to do, the one who is prepared to take trouble will try to understand it. The lazy boy will try to learn it by heart because, for the moment, that needs less effort. But six months later, when they are preparing for an exam, that lazy boy is doing hours and hours of miserable drudgery over things the other boy understands, and positively enjoys, in a few minutes. Laziness means more work in the long run. Or look at it this way. In a battle, or in mountain climbing, there is often one thing which it takes a lot of pluck to do; but it is also, in the long run, the safest thing to do. If you funk it, you will find yourself, hours later, in far worse danger. The cowardly thing is also the most dangerous thing.

It is like that here. The terrible thing, the almost impossible thing, is to hand over your whole self—all your wishes and precautions—to Christ. But it is far easier than what we are all trying to do instead. For what we are trying to do is to remain what we call ‘ourselves’, to keep personal happiness as our great aim in life, and yet at the same time be ‘good’. We are all trying to let our mind and heart go their own way — centred on money or pleasure or ambition—and hoping, in spite of this, to behave honestly and chastely and humbly. And that is exactly what Christ warned us you could not do. As He said, a thistle cannot produce figs. If I am a field that contains nothing but grass-seed, I cannot produce wheat. Cutting the grass may keep it short: but I shall still produce grass and no wheat. If I want to produce wheat, the change must go deeper than the surface. I must be ploughed up and re-sown.

From Mere Christianity

Compiled in A Year with C.S. Lewis

Night Light for Couples – Divine Decree

 

“God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8

We’ve talked about the powerful influence others have on the way we see ourselves. Yet we should always remember that true value is granted by the One who created us in the first place. There is no greater sense of self‐worth than knowing that He is acquainted with me personally; that He values me more than the possessions of the entire world; that He understands my fears and anxieties; that He reaches out to me when no one else cares; that He can turn my liabilities into assets and my emptiness into fullness; and that He has a place prepared for me—one where earthly pain and suffering will be but a dim memory.

Indeed, the Lord of the universe places so much value on us that He gave His life to save us. What a fantastic message of hope and encouragement for those who are broken and discouraged! This is self‐worth at its richest—dependent not on the whims of birth or physical attractiveness or social judgment, but on the decree of our loving Lord.

Just between us…

  • Do we base our self‐image on the Lord’s divine decree?
  • What is it that really makes you feel valuable?
  • Do I let you know often enough how much I value you?
  • How can I better show how much I appreciate you?
  • How can we remember that our worth as human beings is determined not by what we do or how we look or what we own, but by the fact that we are children of God?

Lord, we want so much to view ourselves and others from an eternal perspective. May we build our lives together on Your grand scheme, not on what is temporary and insignificant. Help us to live each day by the truth of Your divine decree. Amen.

From Night Light For Couples, by Dr. James & Shirley Dobson