God Is Love So We Must Love

1 John 48 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

1 John 4:19–21 (ESV)

19 We love because he first loved us. 20 If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. 21 And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.

Understanding and Applying the Word

True love for God is accompanied by love for others. When we come into a right relationship with God, we are to grow in godliness. This means that we are to become more and more like our Lord. And God is love (1 John 4:8). It is incompatible to say that we love God, but refuse to be like him by loving others. Such an attitude and life only proves that we do not love the Lord nor do we know him.

As God’s people in this world, we are called to be his representatives. We are called to be like him so that others will know who he is and know what he is like. We are called to love others. God has shown his great love for all by sending his Son into the world to save us. We are called to be the ongoing presence of that love in the world today. Are you known for your love for others?

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With His Wounds We Are Healed

Isaiah 535 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

Isaiah 53:1–6 (ESV)

1 Who has believed what he has heard from us?
And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed?
2 For he grew up before him like a young plant,
and like a root out of dry ground;
he had no form or majesty that we should look at him,
and no beauty that we should desire him.
3 He was despised and rejected by men,
a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief;
and as one from whom men hide their faces
he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

4 Surely he has borne our griefs
and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken,
smitten by God, and afflicted.
5 But he was pierced for our transgressions;
he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with his wounds we are healed.
6 All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have turned—every one—to his own way;
and the LORD has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.

Understanding and Applying the Word

The Son of God came into the world to save mankind from our sin. Who would have imagined the way such a salvation would come? The King of kings and Lord of lords came as a humble servant to serve us. He gave up his high position and glory to become nothing for us. And as he came to show such great love for us, we rejected him and nailed him to a cross to crucify him.

When we look at the cross, we must never lose our sense of awe over what our Savior did for us. Such an amazing act of love! Jesus Christ gave his body to be beaten and torn until he died an agonizing death. As he hung on that cross, he bore our sins and took the punishment each one of us deserve. Through his suffering and death, those who repent and call out to him in faith, receive the healing we desperately need: freedom from sin and the gift of eternal life. So, as we look to the cross, let us celebrate our salvation, but let us not forget the great sacrifice that our salvation required.

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Who Are You in Private?

person standing near lake

Photo by Lukas Rychvalsky on Pexels.com

 

Reading the Word

Matthew 6:5–6 (ESV)

5 “And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 6 But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

Understanding and Applying the Word

It is amazing what we will do to bring attention to ourselves. It may be the way we dress. It may be the things we say, as we exaggerate the truth or make up complete lies. It may be any number of things. It may even be the way we practice our religion.

Jesus warned against the hypocrisy of some who used religion to draw attention to themselves. In particular, he spoke of those who liked to pray in public places so they would be seen. They wanted to be thought of as holy and devoted, but they were far from that in reality. Those who are truly devoted to the Lord are not interested in attention. They are interested only in their relationship with their Creator. Those who are truly devoted to the Lord will spend far greater time in private prayer where no one sees or knows than in public prayer. It is who we are and what we do when we are alone with no one watching that tells us what we really are.

Who are you when you are alone? Does your private life mirror your public life?

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We Can Be Friends with God

1 John 19 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

Psalm 25:11–15 (ESV)

11 For your name’s sake, O LORD,
pardon my guilt, for it is great.
12 Who is the man who fears the LORD?
Him will he instruct in the way that he should choose.
13 His soul shall abide in well-being,
and his offspring shall inherit the land.
14 The friendship of the LORD is for those who fear him,
and he makes known to them his covenant.
15 My eyes are ever toward the LORD,
for he will pluck my feet out of the net.

Understanding and Applying the Word

What is the story of Scripture? It is that mankind is separated from God because of sin. Our sin is rebellion against God and his will. Instead of bringing honor and glory to our Creator, we have rebelled and gone our own way. We have become the enemies of God.

Even in our rebellion, God still loves us. Though there is nothing we can do by our own power or means, God has made a way for our sins to be forgiven and for the barrier between us and him to be removed. We can be friends of God.

Our sin can be forgiven because of what Jesus Christ has done for us. He came into the world, lived a sinless life, and gave himself as a sacrifice for the sins of mankind. If we will repent of our sins and trust in the sacrifice of Christ on our behalf, we are promised that our sins are forgiven and that we will have eternal life with God.

Pardon my guilt, for it is great (repentance). The friendship of the LORD is for those who fear him (restoration). He will pluck my feet from out of the net (salvation). What a wonderful message for all of us!

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The Love of the Lord Never Ceases

Lamentations 322–23 [widescreen]

Thanks for reading Shaped by the Word! This is a daily, Bible-reading devotional. While I do not publish supplemental materials on Sundays, I do include a suggested Scripture reading. Be sure to subscribe so you can follow along every day!

Reading the Word

Lamentations 3:22–24 (ESV)

22 The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
23 they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
24 “The LORD is my portion,” says my soul,
“therefore I will hope in him.”

How Much Do You Love the Lord?

Deuteronomy 64–5 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

Deuteronomy 6:4–9 (ESV)

4 “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. 5 You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. 6 And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. 7 You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. 8 You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. 9 You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

Understanding and Applying the Word

Do you love the Lord? I am sure most of us would affirm that we do. But how much do we love him? Do we love him with all of our heart and with all of our soul and with all of our might? If we are honest, we probably do not. We have many other things that consume us and occupy our thoughts and affections. Those other things may even be good things, like our spouse or children or our work. It is not wrong for us to care deeply about these things and others, even love them, but we must not allow them to become our central love. That must be for God alone.

When our love for God is rightly central in our lives, all of our other devotions will fall into their proper place. Our love for God guides all of our other loves because we love the things the Lord loves and we love those things as he loves them. Let us turn our affections to him and let our love for God guide our lives.

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Taste and See that the Lord Is Good

Psalm 348 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

Psalm 34:8–10 (ESV)

8 Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good!
Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!
9 Oh, fear the LORD, you his saints,
for those who fear him have no lack!
10 The young lions suffer want and hunger;
but those who seek the LORD lack no good thing.

Understanding and Applying the Word

A friend of mine lost his wife just a few days ago. I attended the funeral service today. It was a beautiful tribute to a woman who loved the Lord, her husband, and her family and friends. She left a wonderful legacy.

In the service, I was touched by the words shared by her children and her husband. They expressed that they would miss her and that her absence would be hard. But they also expressed their confidence in where she is now and the hope they have in a future reunion. Their confidence and hope are present in the face of death because they know the Lord and they know he is good. This family has experienced God’s goodness in their lives as he has walked alongside them in the past. Now, they continue to trust in him as they walk into the future. Knowing the Lord does not mean that nothing bad will ever come our way. It will. However, knowing the Lord does mean that our God is with us and we can lean on him and his promises. Today was a wonderful reminder to me that God is good.

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Asking in Jesus’ Name

Praying Friends

Reading the Word

John 16:16–24 (ESV)

16 “A little while, and you will see me no longer; and again a little while, and you will see me.” 17 So some of his disciples said to one another, “What is this that he says to us, ‘A little while, and you will not see me, and again a little while, and you will see me’; and, ‘because I am going to the Father’?” 18 So they were saying, “What does he mean by ‘a little while’? We do not know what he is talking about.” 19 Jesus knew that they wanted to ask him, so he said to them, “Is this what you are asking yourselves, what I meant by saying, ‘A little while and you will not see me, and again a little while and you will see me’? 20 Truly, truly, I say to you, you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice. You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy. 21 When a woman is giving birth, she has sorrow because her hour has come, but when she has delivered the baby, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world. 22 So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you. 23 In that day you will ask nothing of me. Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you. 24 Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.

Understanding and Applying the Word

Jesus told his disciples about his coming crucifixion. He was going to die, but he was also going to be resurrected. The world would cheer Jesus’ death while the disciples mourned. However, the mourning would turn to joy when Jesus rose from the dead.

To encourage his followers, he assured them that they would not be abandoned. They could go to the Father knowing that he would answer their prayers. Jesus told them that whatever they asked “in my name” the Father would give to them. This does not mean that they simply needed to tack “in Jesus’ name” at the end of their prayers to make sure they were answered. Jesus’ words meant that when their prayers were in line with the will of Christ, those prayers would be answered. When we have learned to love and trust Jesus, it means we also trust his plans and purposes in all things. So praying “in Jesus’ name” becomes our desire because we want the same things he wants.

Jesus sits at the right hand of the Father and encourages us to pray, knowing that our prayers will be heard and answered when they are in his name. Let’s begin by asking him to conform our desires to reflect his will.

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The Promise Guaranteed

Ephesians 113–14 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

2 Corinthians 1:12–22 (ESV)

12 For our boast is this, the testimony of our conscience, that we behaved in the world with simplicity and godly sincerity, not by earthly wisdom but by the grace of God, and supremely so toward you. 13 For we are not writing to you anything other than what you read and understand and I hope you will fully understand— 14 just as you did partially understand us—that on the day of our Lord Jesus you will boast of us as we will boast of you.

15 Because I was sure of this, I wanted to come to you first, so that you might have a second experience of grace. 16 I wanted to visit you on my way to Macedonia, and to come back to you from Macedonia and have you send me on my way to Judea. 17 Was I vacillating when I wanted to do this? Do I make my plans according to the flesh, ready to say “Yes, yes” and “No, no” at the same time? 18 As surely as God is faithful, our word to you has not been Yes and No. 19 For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, whom we proclaimed among you, Silvanus and Timothy and I, was not Yes and No, but in him it is always Yes. 20 For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory. 21 And it is God who establishes us with you in Christ, and has anointed us, 22 and who has also put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.

Understanding and Applying the Word

I miss the old cartoons I watched when I was young. I loved Bugs Bunny and the Looney Tunes, Tom and Jerry, and Popeye the Sailor Man. My kids do not understand what they are missing. They know nothing of the power of eating your spinach!

Thinking of those old shows reminds me of the character Wimpy who used to always say “For a hamburger today, I will gladly pay you on Tuesday.” I always got the impression that Wimpy probably could not be trusted. His promises seemed empty.

How should we think of God’s promises to us? He has surely promised a wonderful future, but how do we know he will deliver? Well, God did not simply make a grand promise, but he has left us with a down payment. Paul writes that God has “put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.” The never-ending presence of the Spirit of God working in us is a constant reminder that God has not forgotten us. He is still at work and his promises will be fulfilled. Guaranteed!

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What Is Faith?

Hebrews 111 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

Hebrews 11:1–3 (ESV)

1 Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. 2 For by it the people of old received their commendation. 3 By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.

Understanding and Applying the Word

What is faith? If you have ever heard this question asked in a church setting, you have probably heard Hebrews 11:1 quoted in response. That is good, but what does Hebrews 11:1 mean? I do not think it means what many Christians think it means. It sure does not define “faith” the way the world defines it.

Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. The King James Version translates this verse as “the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” The world thinks that faith is just wishful thinking. It is something that we believe despite a lack of evidence or evidence to the contrary. That is not the biblical definition of faith. Faith is being convinced of things in the future based on the evidence of the past. Christians are sure of their future hope because of all that God has done in the past, especially in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Our faith is not wishful thinking. Our faith is firmly rooted in the historical acts of God and his promises about the future.

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