Thursday, January 31, 2008

What Love Looks Like

My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth. - 1 John 3:18

This from Greg Laurie's Daily Devotions:

Have you ever felt like a spiritual failure? If so, then you're in good company. Even the apostle Peter felt that way after he denied the Lord.

When Jesus told the disciples they would abandon Him in His hour of need, Peter insisted that he never would. But Jesus said that Peter would deny Him three times before the rooster crowed that day. And he did.

Now, Peter finds himself in an awkward moment. Jesus was crucified and had risen on the third day. He suddenly appears to them at the Sea of Galilee. Before they knew it, Jesus was cooking breakfast for everyone with the fish He had just helped them catch. Maybe as they ate, Peter was remembering when, not all that long ago, he denied the Lord by the glow of another fire.

Eventually, the Lord breaks the silence. He asks Peter a series of questions, each with the same phrase: "Do you love Me?"

Peter had learned his lesson. Instead of boasting of his love for the Lord, he simply answers, "Yes Lord; You know that I love you" (John 21:15–17). In the original language, the word Peter used for "love" was phileo. It could be translated, "have an affection for."

At least Peter was being honest. We can talk all day about how much we love God, but never act on it. Peter eventually proved his love for the Lord. A leader in the early church and the writer of two New Testament epistles, he reportedly was crucified upside-down as a martyr for his faith.

How about you? Is your love for the Lord expressed more by your words than your actions?

The Gospel of John can be challenging reading, but in the hands of pastor Greg Laurie, it's the perfect material for daily devotional reflections. In the same accessible style that has made him a popular pastor, speaker, and television and radio host, Laurie shares stories and images of Jesus from the Gospel of John woven with additional Scriptures and anecdotes. The result is a ninety-day devotional that offers biblical substance and theological depth presented in clear, engaging language. Readers looking for devotional reading centered on Jesus will enjoy Laurie's blend of important spiritual substance and accessible narrative style. -

Where is Your Focus?

Then Peter, turning around, saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following. . . .Peter, seeing him, said to Jesus, "But Lord, what about this man?" - John 21:20-21

This from Henry Blackaby's 'Day by Day:'

The first thing you do after God speaks to you is critical. Jesus was telling Peter what type of ministry he would have and what type of death he would suffer (vv. 18–19). It was a sacred moment in Peter’s life, as his Lord pulled back the curtain to his future. His was not to be an easy life but a life ordained and blessed by his Lord and Master.

Rather than responding to what Jesus told him, Peter looked around at his fellow disciples. His glance fell upon John, the disciple whom Jesus loved. “But Lord, what about this man?” Peter asked. Peter had just been given the somber news of his future death. How natural to compare his assignment with that of the others! This is the great temptation of God’s servants: to compare our situation with that of others. Did God give my friend a larger house? Did God heal my friend’s loved one and not mine? Did God allow my friend to receive appreciation and praise for his work while I remain anonymous? Did God allow another Christian to remain close to her family while I am far removed from mine?

Jesus assigned Peter and John to walk two different paths, but both Peter and John have enriched our lives. Jesus knew how dangerous it is when a servant takes his eyes off the master to focus on a fellow servant. Where is your focus? Have you become more concerned with how God is treating someone else than you are with how He is relating to you?

Much of the ministry of Dr. Henry T. Blackaby flourished with the publication of Experiencing God. Go to Blackaby Ministries International to learn more.

Experiencing God: Knowing and Doing the Will of God

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

He Is Here to Help

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? - Romans 9:35

This from Billy Graham's 'Hope for Each Day:'

After His resurrection Jesus came to His disciples, meeting them between the garden with its empty tomb and the city with its mob still passionate with hate. He said to them, "Do not be afraid. Go and tell My brethren" (Matt. 28:10).

In the midst of a world filled with danger, hatred, and war, the words of our Lord Jesus Christ are just as relevant as when He spoke them. He still says to all who love Him, "Do not be afraid."

He comes to you in the hospital room or in the midst of a family tragedy. He comes to you in the midst of an unexpected business reversal or physical crisis. And He says, "Don't be afraid. I'm alive, and I'm here to help you. The Cross shows the depth of My power. Nothing can ever separate you from Me!"

In 'Hope for Each Day,' Billy Graham offers spiritual comfort to guide us through our daily lives. Graham is considered a national treasure and has counseled numerous political leaders and provided comfort in times of public crisis.

A Bright Light

Suddenly, there was a bright light in the cell, and an angel of the Lord stood before Peter. The angel tapped him on the side to awaken him and said, "Quick! Get up!" And the chains fell off his wrists. - Acts 12:7 NLT

In the late summer of 1994, I knew something was wrong. For a few days, my brain was trying to digest a court order given to me as the result of a driving under the influence arrest. I was to pay a fine and attend 20 Alcoholics Anonymous meetings for the offense.

Sometime between when that court order was in my hand and my first AA meeting in early September I had an awakening... a life changing one.

I counted my failures, the ones that really stung. I had just filed for a divorce in a marriage that lasted just half a year. Not long before that, I had filed a personal bankruptcy. However, it was another inventory item of my life that really convinced me that I had come to the end of myself: I was uncomfortable inside my own skin. Anxiety was drowning me.

That was three strikes against me I reckoned and it was time to face life somehow differently. I didn't know how to or what to change, but I knew something had to be done.

I had reasoned that the AA meetings couldn't hurt, maybe they were the beginning of a solution. Maybe attending the meetings were the starting point of finding what I could become. And maybe... just maybe, becoming someone that didn't hurt so bad inside.

The chains were beginning to fall off my wrists.

Continued: The Right Direction

Alexander is a writer in the online spiritual battlefield. You can also find him at The Scrooge Report.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

He Loves You With an Everlasting Love

As high as the sky is above the earth, so great is his love for those who respect him. - Psalm 103:11

This from Max Lucado's 'Grace for the Moment, Volume 2:'

The big news of the Bible is not that you love God but that God loves you; not that you can know God but that God already knows you! He tattooed your name on the palm of his hand. His thoughts of you outnumber the sand on the shore. You never leave his mind, escape his sight, flee his thoughts. He sees the worst of you and loves you still. Your sins of tomorrow and failings of the future will not surprise him; he sees them now. Every day and deed of your life has passed before his eyes and been calculated in his decision. He knows you better than you know you and has reached his verdict; he loves you still. No discovery will disillusion him; no rebellion will dissuade him. He loves you with an everlasting love.

'Experiencing God' by Henry Blackaby

Then the LORD said to Moses, "Go to the people and consecrate them today and tomorrow, and let them wash their clothes. And let them be ready for the third day. For on the third day the LORD will come down upon Mount Sinai in the sight of all the people. - Exodus 19:10-11

This from Henry Blackaby's Day by Day:

Meeting with God requires preparation. God is awesome and perfectly holy. Barging into His presence unprepared is an affront. When the children of Israel were to meet with Him, God commanded them first to take two full days to prepare. Once the people were ready, however, God spoke to them with thunder and lightning, with fire and smoke and the sound of loud trumpets (Exod. 19:16–25). It was through this encounter that God revealed such marvelous truths as the Ten Commandments, establishing the standard by which God expected His people to live.

You cannot spend day after day in the world without its affecting your mind and will and heart. It doesn’t take long to become disoriented to the ways of God. The world has a dulling effect on your spiritual sensibilities. God established the Sabbath so His people could take an entire day to refocus on Him and His will for them after spending six days in the world.

How do you prepare for your times of worship? What fills your mind the night before? Often the last thing you put into your mind at night is still on your mind the next morning. Genuine worship requires spiritual preparation. Your experiences of worship reflect your spiritual preparation. Prepare yourself now for your next encounter with God.

Much of the ministry of Dr. Henry T. Blackaby flourished with the publication of Experiencing God. Go to Blackaby Ministries International to learn more.

Experiencing God: Knowing and Doing the Will of God