We Need Others

Reading the Word

A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.(Proverbs 17:17, ESV)

Understanding and Applying the Word

An important observation to make in interpreting this proverb is that the first half and second half are using synonymous parallelism. This means that “friend” and “brother” are not being used to contrast against each other, but the two are being used to stress deep, intimate relationships. The proverb is saying that those we are in close relationship with, like a true friend or a family member, love us and support us in all situations, including times of adversity.

Going through difficult times is hard. Having someone close to you in those times can make all the difference. This is what true friendship and family support is designed to be like. It is also what our church relationships should provide. Do you have the close relationships that help you through times of adversity? Give thanks to God for those bonds. If you do not, pray that God would bring those people into your life and look to be that person for others.


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Love Is Better

Reading the Word

Better is a dinner of herbs where love is than a fattened ox and hatred with it.(Proverbs 15:17, ESV)

Understanding and Applying the Word

We live in a material world. Wealth and possessions and stuff is seen as the ultimate goal and the things that bring happiness and contentment. However, this is simply not true. As this proverbs points out, love is more important than stuff. You are better off with a meager existence (living on vegetables) that includes love than a rich one (living on the best cuts of meat) where love is lacking.

Do not fall for the lie that says that having a few more things will make you happy. Things are unfulfilling. It is love that brings happiness and contentment. We need to love others and know we are loved. Take the time to invest in relationships with others. Those investments will bring true happiness.


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Be Careful What You Say

James 35 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

James 3:3–6 (ESV)

3 If we put bits into the mouths of horses so that they obey us, we guide their whole bodies as well. 4 Look at the ships also: though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. 5 So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things.
How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! 6 And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell.

Understanding and Applying the Word

We really need to learn to guard our speech. Our words have a great power to do harm to others and ourselves. When we speak, there is always a response, even when words are not returned. We can hurt others or encourage them. We can gain the respect of others or lose it. We can gain a friend or lose one. The power of our words cannot be overstated.

We read James’ words about taming the tongue and we likely agree with him, but many of us fail to do anything about it. Of course, we may be careful in what we say face-to-face, but how many of us are guarded about what we say in our texts or emails? How guarded are we in our tweets or Facebook posts? How quick are we to share our thoughts or opinions without even thinking or caring about how those things will impact others? How often do we do those things because we are fully aware of how they will effect others? The words we type are no different than the words we speak. They have the power to do great good, but they also have the power to set the whole forest ablaze with the fire of hell.

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The Love of God at the Cross

Romans 58 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

Romans 5:6–11 (ESV)

6 For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— 8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. 11 More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

Understanding and Applying the Word

Take out a pen and piece of paper. Write down a list of people that you would be willing to sacrifice your comforts and freedoms for. Now, make a second list of the people you would even be willing to die for. Who is on that list? Family? Loved ones? How many of your enemies are on that list?

Consider this: Jesus Christ gave up his life for us while we were sinners. This means that he died for us while we were the enemies of God. Why would Christ die for his enemies? Because that is how much he loves us! He went to the cross to die because that is what was necessary for our salvation. Do not fail to see the love of God displayed at the cross. The Savior who died for us.

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If God Is For Us

Romans 831b [widescreen]

Reading the Word

Romans 8:31–39 (ESV)

31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? 33 Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 As it is written,

“For your sake we are being killed all the day long;
we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”

37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Understanding and Applying the Word

Are you fearful? Are you worried? Consider that God sent his Son into the world to die for you. He sent his Son to suffer on a cross so that you could be saved and have eternal life. He did this so you could be his child. That is how much he cares about you and the things going on in your life.

If God loves us enough to go through the great lengths he has gone through to save us and make us his own, there is nothing that we need to fear. We can be certain that our God’s eyes are never off of us and we are always in his care. There is nothing that can separate us from the love of God. And if God is for us, who (or what) can be against us?

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Love One Another

John 1512–13 [widescreen]

Shaped by the Word is a daily, Bible-reading devotional. I do not include supplemental material on Sundays, but I do post a suggested Scripture reading. Please be sure to subscribe to this page so you can follow along each day. Thanks for reading!

Reading the Word

John 15:12–17 (ESV)

12 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command you. 15 No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. 17 These things I command you, so that you will love one another.

Obedience from Love

sky sunset person silhouette

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Reading the Word

Psalm 119:1–3 (ESV)

1 Blessed are those whose way is blameless,
who walk in the law of the LORD!
2 Blessed are those who keep his testimonies,
who seek him with their whole heart,
3 who also do no wrong,
but walk in his ways!

Understanding and Applying the Word

Psalm 119 is the longest chapter in the entire Bible. It spends 176 verses telling of the goodness of God’s law and the blessings of keeping that law. The believer finds great benefit in living in obedience to God’s word. However, we must understand the type of obedience that this psalm, and the whole Bible, commends.

There are two ways to keep the word of God. The first is out of legalistic adherence. This is the person who obeys in order to earn blessing. Scripture makes it clear that no one will be saved through the keeping of the law because no one can keep it completely. In this case, the law is not a blessing, but a curse. The second way is obedience out of love. This is the person who understands the grace and mercy that has been shown to them by God and who loves the Lord and wants to obey, not to gain blessing, but as an act of love and devotion. Notice how Psalm 119 speaks of the obedient one who seeks the Lord “with their whole heart.” This is not legalistic obedience, but obedience from love. Our God has shown great love toward us and is worthy of our loving obedience.

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The Love of Christ

Ephesians 318–19 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

Ephesians 3:14–19 (ESV)

14 For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, 16 that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

Understanding and Applying the Word

When you pray for others, what do you pray for? The Apostle Paul records many prayers in his letters. In those prayers, he calls on God to work on behalf of fellow Christians. It would be a profitable study to take the time to look at those prayers in more detail. In today’s reading we find one of them.

Chief among Paul’s concern for his readers was that they would have a greater knowledge of the love of Christ. He wanted them to know the “breadth and length and height and depth” of it. What an amazing thing to comprehend! Our Savior gave his life for us. Why would he do such a thing? We did not deserve it. It is only explainable by love. Christ loves us with a greater and purer love than we have ever known. Let us pray that we would grow in our knowledge of that amazing love!

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Do You Love Me?

pexels-photo-134020.jpeg

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Reading the Word

John 21:15–19 (ESV)

15 When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” 16 He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” 17 He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep. 18 Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.” 19 (This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God.) And after saying this he said to him, “Follow me.”

Understanding and Applying the Word

This scene takes place after Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection. He went to Peter and asked him, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” There is discussion about what the word “these” refers to. Is Jesus asking Peter if he loves his fishing gear more than Jesus? After all, Peter had just returned to fishing. Is Jesus asking if Peter loves him more than he loves the other disciples? I believe Jesus was asking Peter if he loved Jesus more than the other disciples loved him.

Why would Jesus ask Peter this question? Remember, Peter had declared his unflinching devotion earlier. In John 13:37, Peter declared, “I will lay down my life for you!” Matthew 26:33 records that Peter said, “Even if they all fall away, I will not.” Peter had proclaimed his greater love, but he had failed to live up to it. He had run away when things got hard and left Jesus alone to be arrested and crucified. Peter was distraught over these events. In these verses, we see a loving and forgiving Jesus reminding Peter of these words, but also telling him that he was still one of his disciples and he still had valuable work for him to do. Jesus was telling Peter “I love you and forgive you and have much for you.”

We all fail our Lord. I hate to admit how often this is true for me. But we have a gracious Savior who is ready to forgive and restore us. Let us go to him, confess our failings, and go forward ready to serve him.

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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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