Thankful Prayer for God’s Love

This is another of my devotionals published in an anthology titled Anytime Prayers for Everyday PeopleIt is included in the section titled Prayers of Praise and Thanksgiving.

When I want to thank God
for His love . . .

God’s love will continue forever.
—Psalm 52:1 NCV

This is what real love is: It is not our love for God;
it is God’s love for us in sending his Son to be
the way to take away our sins.
—1 John 4:10 NCV 

Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good;
his love endures forever.
—Psalm 118:29

[Jesus said] God so loved the world that he gave
his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him
shall not perish but have eternal life.
—John 3:16

We love Him because He first loved us.
—1 John 4:19 NKJV

. . . I will pray.

Loving Father,

I don’t get it, Lord—why You love me, that is. I look myself over, and frankly, I must not be seeing what You see. I can’t understand it. But I’ve decided that I don’t need to understand it. Why, even the nature and logic of love between human beings is seldom knowable. That’s why I’ve determined just to accept it, to let Your love cover me, change me, energize me, make me special.

I’ve read in the Bible that You love me so much that You allowed Your Son, Jesus Christ, to accept the punishment for my sins. I can’t imagine giving up one of my children for anyone—even You. I guess that’s why You’re God and I’m just a mortal human being created in Your image and loved for Your own reasons.

Thank You, Father, for Your great love for me . . . and I want You to know that Your love won’t be scorned. I love You in return. With all of my human strength, I love You. With all of my human determination, I pledge my love to You. I don’t deserve Your love, Father, but You do deserve mine. I give it freely.

Amen.

God does not love us because we are valuable.
We are valuable because God loves us.

—Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen


[From Anytime Prayers for Everyday People. Copyright © 2006 Bordon-Winters LLC]

The Bible: The Word of God

This article was originally written in 1951 and was republished in the March 2019 issue of Decision Magazine.

The Bible: The Word of God

By Billy Graham

This article was originally written in 1951.

The Bible is being discussed today more than ever before. Some people want to get rid of it completely. Some want to keep it just as literature. And many, believing it to be God’s Word, want to live by it. Does the Bible have anything to say to us?

THE CONSTITUTION OF OUR FAITH

The United States has a constitutional form of government. A number of men, after long argument and debate, drew up the Constitution and submitted it to the 13 Federated States for ratification. The presupposition of these framers of the Constitution was that law was absolute.

People in the United States were to be free, for they were to know what the law required and also what the law could not do. They were to know their rights, their privileges and their limitations. No judge was to be unfair but was to judge cases as the law required.

People found that if they knew the law and kept it, they would be truly free. They knew where they stood, for constitutional law made it clear.

The Bible is the constitution of Christianity. Just as the United States Constitution is not of any private interpretation, neither is the Bible of any private interpretation. Just as the Constitution includes all who live under its stated domain, without exception, so the Bible includes all who live under its stated domain, without exception.

God’s laws for the spiritual world are found in the Bible. Whatever else there may be that tells us of God, it is more clearly told in the Bible.

Nature in her laws tells of God, but the message tells us nothing of the love and grace of God. Conscience, in our inmost being, tells us of God, but the message is fragmented. The only place we can find a clear, unmistakable message is in the Word of God, which we call the Bible. 

True Christianity finds all of its doctrines in the Bible; true Christianity does not deny any part of the Bible; true Christianity does not add anything to the Bible. For many centuries the Bible has been the most available book on the earth. It has no hidden purpose. It cannot be destroyed.

The Bible has a magnificent heritage. It has 66 books, written over a period of 1,600 years by more than 30 writers, and yet the message is the same throughout—so clearly that the 66 books are actually one book.

The message, in every part, is straightforward. No writer changed his message to put his friends in a better light. The sins of small and great alike are frankly admitted, and life is presented as it actually is.

THE CENTER OF CONTROVERSY

The Bible has been the anvil upon which the critics have worn out their hammers. Critics claim the Bible is full of forgery, fiction and unfulfilled prophecy, but the findings of archaeology have corroborated rather than denied the Biblical data.

Our faith, which is not dependent upon human knowledge and scientific advance, has nevertheless presented a magnificent case at the “bar of knowledge.”

How many times we have heard someone say, “Why, the Bible contradicts itself!” Very few who make that statement have used the family Bible for more than a storage place for pressed flowers.

The first requirement placed upon critics is that they read carefully every chapter of the Bible. They ought also to know something about how we got our Bible, the miracle of its writing. Biblical history is fascinating and makes us appreciate the Book that has been preserved for us to this day.

If you are setting yourself up as a critic, it is your responsibility to read and know both sides of the question. It is significant that very few Bible critics have bothered themselves to read the literature available on the defense of the Bible, much less the Bible itself.

The Bible will always be the center of controversy.

Read the rest here.

A Recipe for Love from Ephesians 4

Sharing today from Dayspring.

A Recipe for Love from Ephesians 4

By Melody

Every day is the perfect time of year to talk about love, but Valentine’s Day likely sparks more “love” talk than any other. We’re bombarded with advice on how to find love—and keep it—from every friend, family member, and even strangers. Wouldn’t it be easier if we had a specific recipe for love—a foolproof way to bring love into our lives?

And on that topic, doesn’t it feel like we get so many mixed messages? I mean, what is love, really? Sometimes it feels like it’s all hearts and flowers and heart-shaped candy boxes, oohs-and-ahhs and isn’t-he-so-cute and cartoon princes rescuing damsels in distress and romantic movies with violins swelling as the couples run toward each other in slow motion with arms open wide and… Oh! My. Gracious.

Sometimes it can feel a little superficial, like the recipe for finding and expressing love ranges from sitting idly awaiting our white knight to presenting our loved one an annual box of chocolates. Searching for love can be overwhelming, and expressing love may seem complex.

So, let’s look for a better understanding of love. And let’s go to the source of love—God—and consult the Word for the true “recipe” for expressing love. After all, God is love, so it’s only natural we look to him for love advice.

Read the rest here.

Heavenly Gift Shop

Heavenly Gift Shop

By Pat Knight

God is the purveyor of His own gift shop where the selections are so monumental one stands in awe of His inventory. From His voluminous supply, He fills a shopping basket of spiritual gifts for each of us.

First, He chooses an ample amount of peace. In this frantic world, peace of mind is paramount. Jesus promised, “‘I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give’” (John 14:2, NLT). When we experience peace amidst adversity, harmony prevails. “Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Jesus Christ” (Philippians 4:7, NLT). Inner tranquility permeates our thoughts and actions when our faith is founded in Jesus. Our peace is so complete, we rejoice during trials, assured that God abundantly bathes our souls with His all-encompassing comfort.

“Those who promote peace have joy” (Proverbs 12:20). The two gifts of peace and joy complement one another. We are commanded to “Rejoice in the Lord always.” (Philippians 4:4). What spiritual freedom is available when we abandon worry for inner buoyant confidence. “We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance” (Romans 5:3, NLT). With joy prevalent in our lives, our character is strengthened, whatever the circumstances. We abandon worry for inner contentment. What spiritual freedom defines our lives when we rejoice and thank God for His perfect plan, orchestrated in His precise timing of each detail. “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28). 

In God’s gift shop, love swirls in abundance. Who can perceive God’s unconditional love, the kind that sent Jesus to the cross to die for our sins? God delights in lavishing His children with similar sacrificial love, awash in His love that naturally extends to others. That is God’s way; He never instructs us to hoard His gifts for our exclusive use, but commands that we share for everyone’s benefit. “Let us love one another because love comes from God” (1 John 4:7). God’s love will never suffer extinction.

Each day God showers us with a fresh amount of love and compassion. We may wonder if we possess an adequate amount of love or if we will utilize it in all the right situations. “God is love; whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him” (1 John 4:16). God’s love abides with believers, constantly proliferating in our lives. An infinite supply of peace, joy, and love have been selected for us at God’s spiritual gift shop for immediate delivery to our hearts.

God adds gentleness, a priceless gift. During crucial life encounters, gentleness is often difficult to summon.

Be completely humble and gentle;
be patient, bearing with one another in love”
(Ephesians 4:2).

Mildness and tenderness are components of gentleness. He supplies copious amounts of gentleness and expects us to apply it liberally. We all prefer delicate handling with tenderness that speaks of Christ Himself. His nail-scarred hands are the very ones that surround us with a soothing approach. We are encouraged to emulate Jesus’ attribute of humility and meekness.

God is the consummate gentleman, never intruding in our affairs without request. Once we convert the control of our hearts and minds to God, He will exhibit the perfect amount of gentle help and understanding.

Gentleness and self-control are often spoken together. “Like a city whose walls are broken down, is a man who lacks self-control” (Proverbs 25:28). The goal of a follower of Christ is to be in control of emotions, speech, and actions at all times. His personal attributes establish the perfect example for us to follow so that others may see Jesus living in us. He desires that the light of His presence shines through our lives in all that we do or say. Managing our behavior is only possible when we first relinquish control to God. Gentleness is the result of our intimate walk with Christ.

God includes a plentiful measure of kindness for you by setting the example: “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other just as in Christ God forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32). Tenderness and goodwill are both expressions of kindness, producing thoughtful deeds toward others. When shared, kindness takes root and grows, producing hope and delight in the recipient, goodwill in the giver. Whenever his gifts are dispensed, God is promoted. Kindness shared permits us to observe God’s qualities at work in our lives. Let kindness proliferate, spreading in a contagious, feverish manner! “I am the Lord, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight,’ declares the Lord” (Jeremiah 9:24b).

Goodness could easily be overlooked in the gift shop, so common it tends to ring hollow from frequent good intentions. In a world saturated with sin and evil, God promotes excellence of character, reliability, and righteousness, all wrapped up in a package of goodness. Jesus personified goodness when He walked the earth. “How great is your goodness, which you have stored up for those who fear you” (Psalm 31:19). 

Faithfulness is an affluent quality of God which He desires for all of His children to develop. “Great is your faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:23b), confirms God’s immeasurable trustworthiness. We can depend upon our heavenly Father’s great love and compassion extended to us new every morning. “Your love, Lord, reaches to the heavens, your faithfulness to the skies” (Psalm 36:5), encompassing the entire realm of human existence. As we experience God’s unmitigated faithfulness, we yearn to appropriate loyalty in our spiritual lives. “Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful” (Hebrews 10:23). Our Lord maintains dominion over all creation. His promises are magnificent and secure; His gifts sufficient and supreme.

No funds are exchanged in God’s gift shop. All of the His selections are sent special delivery from heaven straight to our hearts, triumphantly immersing believers in a life cycle of victorious living, For the Lord takes delight in his people; he crowns the humble with victory. Let his faithful people rejoice in his honor and sing for joy” (Psalm 149:4-5).

Redefine Happiness

Redefine Happiness

by Joni Eareckson Tada

And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.
Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings,
because we know that suffering produces perseverance;
perseverance, character; and character, hope.
—Romans 5:2-4

Some people are never going to be happy.

I’m not being cynical, because the very folks about whom I’m speaking would agree. They would be the first to say that they are in a dead-end marriage, that they see no end to the constant irritation of their supervisor at work, that they will never lose those ugly twenty-five pounds. Life, to them, seems to be a never-ending drudgery of the same, sad routine.

Are you this way? Does happiness, like a butterfly, almost flutter within reach but just when you think you have grasped it… it’s gone? Or perhaps you feel your marriage is okay, and your job is acceptable. Yet you feel as though something’s missing. Perhaps you think this is real happiness.

Well, life is hard. For some, it is downright hard. Unhappiness seems to be here to stay. But it doesn’t have to be this way, because the answer is not to get rid of unhappiness but to find a new definition for it.

My friend Elisabeth Elliot has suggested that we redefine happiness as duty and honor, sacrifice and faithfulness, commitment and service. Happiness is fleeting and elusive, but joy is an overflow of the perseverance and hope that comes from demonstrating faithful sacrifice and committed service.

Lord of Joy, will You help me redefine happiness in my life? You promise joy in the midst of our suffering, so please let me know Your joy today as I persevere in faithful service and as I demonstrate true commitment in my tasks. Give me Your smile, let me feel Your peace dancing in my heart. That, for me, will be true joy.


Taken from Diamonds in the Dust. Copyright © 1993 by Joni Eareckson Tada. Published in Print by Zondervan, Grand Rapids.

All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible: New International Version.

Love Song

We were treated to a spontaneous mini-concert by our two-year-old grandson, whose full repertoire consisted of “Jesus Loves Me.” He belted out the chorus with vigor and quality. If one of us attempted to sing along, he abruptly fell silent until we ceased. He indicated in non-verbal terms that he intended to perform solo.Then he resumed the lyrics, never missing a word.

The words of the song are simple, yet profound; personal, yet universal; gentle, yet powerful. Little did our grandson appreciate the joy and heart-warming belief he conveyed in his memorized lyrics, booming out the Good News of the Gospel. Jesus heard the succinct but sincere words of “Jesus Loves Me” and acknowledged the love the words generated in our grandson’s heart. If there is no doubt in a toddler’s mind regarding the unconditional love of God, why would any of us harbor skepticism?

Throughout God’s Word we are presented with substantial evidence of God’s love: “Love comes from God” (1 John 4:7), explains the source of love. “God is love” (1 John 4:8), condenses one of the most powerful messages in the Bible.

“For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16), states the purpose of God’s love. His faithful love endures forever” (Psalm 118:1b, NLT), describes the eternal nature of our Lord’s love.

“One day some parents brought their children to Jesus so he could touch and bless them. But the disciples scolded the parents for bothering him. When Jesus saw what was happening, he was angry with his disciples. He said to them, ‘Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them!’ Then he took the children in his arms and placed his hands on their heads and blessed them” (Mark 10:13-14; 16, NLT).

If Jesus had appeared, our grandson would have eagerly run into His open arms. Children of all ages readily believe God. They do not require long explanations; just a statement of the love of God from trustworthy adults is convincing enough for them. Children love Jesus because Jesus first loved them. God simplifies, removing cobwebs and confusion. Young children readily understand simple, direct explanations and commands, for their faith has not yet been sullied by deceptions of the world. God instructs us to mirror the faith of children who possess uncomplicated, unpretentious faith.

There was another young boy who expressed his love in a tangible manner. One day when Jesus withdrew by boat to a solitary place to pray, multitudes of people who anticipated his next stop walked ahead of Him on land, “When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick” (Matthew 14:14). All through the day, Jesus ministered to the people, offering healing to body and soul. As evening approached, the disciples suggested their Master send the crowds away. Instead, Jesus commanded His disciples to feed the multitudes in the remote countryside. When Jesus’ disciples returned to Him after checking the crowd for any remnants of food, they had found only five barley loaves of bread and two fish, donated by a boy in the listening throng.

We have no knowledge of the boy whose lunch was used in Jesus’ miracle to feed thousands of hungry, attentive followers. Had he been sent from his home that morning to accomplish an errand, but intrigued by the crowds, he fell into the rank and file of those pursuing Jesus? When the disciples circulated among the people asking for any available food, the boy offered his own lunch. In a time when many people went hungry, the gift of food for Jesus’ use displayed phenomenal generosity.

The little boy who contributed his lunch of bread and fish, gave it up willingly. The loaves were small, like individual dinner rolls. The fish were also diminutive, perhaps a smoked or a pickled variety, like herring, a delicacy for lunch.

God had already planned to use the boy’s meal to feed the entire multitude of five thousand men plus women and children, who would minimally total about 15,000 people. Jesus’ disciple, Andrew, took the boy’s small lunch to Jesus. “Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted. He did the same with the fish. When they all had enough to eat, he said to his disciples, ‘gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted’. So they gathered them and filled twelve baskets with the pieces of the five barley loaves left over by those who had eaten” (John 6:10-13).

If we allow God to use our availability and material possessions, as the little boy demonstrated, we may also be used as catalysts for a miracle. Imagine the thrill and amazement on the face of that boy who watched as Jesus multiplied his meager lunch to feed the masses. Fascinated by Jesus’ miracle, he then participated in the picnic created from his personal lunch donation. What a story he would tell his family when he finally arrived home later that day!

Jesus loves and respects boys and girls, and they know it. “‘I tell you the truth: anyone who will not receive the Kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it’” (Luke 18:17); a severe warning, encouraging us to simplify our faith enough for a child to understand. Though Jesus’ disciples initially displayed doubt, they learned a new level of uncomplicated faith displayed by a child. Jesus commands all of us to emulate the frank openness of a child’s faith.

The miracles Jesus accomplished aroused anger and hatred among the Jewish rulers and teachers of the law. When they “saw the wonderful things he did and the children shouting in the temple courts, ‘Hosanna to the Son of David,’ they were indignant” (Matthew 21:15). When those same rulers asked Jesus if he could hear what the children were saying about him, Jesus replied, “‘From the lips of children and infants you, Lord, have called forth your praise’” (Matthew 21:16). Jesus acknowledged praise from children. They were His ardent supporters; they knew they were loved, professing their faith as they enthusiastically sang about their Savior in the temple courts.

Envision the children clasping hands, dancing around the courtyard in a circle, singing exuberant worship songs to Jesus. If you listen intently, there will arise above the crowd an angelic voice singing, “Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so. Little ones to Him belong. We are weak, but He is strong.” Suddenly Jesus’ attention will be focused compassionately on our grandson, the little boy with unsurpassed love for Christ, the one who treasures his adoration and praise.

What Is It Like To Enjoy God?

Sharing today from Desiring God.

What Is It Like To Enjoy God?

By John Piper

The enjoyment of God is the enjoyment of a Person — not just the enjoyment of a thing, or an idea, or a pattern of actions, or a mysterious force. The ultimate joy of God’s creatures is joy in a Person — joy in God.

This is exactly why Jesus died. The apostle Peter says, “Christ suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God” (1 Peter 3:18). To God. The Person. What makes eternal life desirable is not just that it lasts forever, but that it is knowing and enjoying an infinitely satisfying Person. And he is also a Person who, in his human nature, died so that he could be known and enjoyed.

Enjoy the Person

But how do we come to know the Person? We come to know him by his actions, his ideas revealed in his word — things that he has made as pointers and foretastes of himself.

“In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him” (1 John 4:9). We know the love of the Person by the action of the Person. We know the power of the Person by the action of his creation of the universe (Romans 1:18–20). We know the wisdom of the Person by his purposeful providence in history (Romans 11:33–36). We know the justice and righteousness of the Person by the punishment of sin in the death of Jesus (Romans 3:24–26). We know the faithfulness of the Person by the keeping of his promises (2 Corinthians 1:20). We know the compassion and patience of the Person because we know Jesus Christ who said, “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9).

So as you meditate on the perfect work of your God, let Scripture compel you to enjoy the Person:

  • Rejoice in the Lord always. (Philippians 4:4)
  • Delight yourself in the Lord. (Psalm 37:4)
  • Be glad in the Lord. (Psalm 32:11)
  • In your presence there is fullness of joy. (Psalm 16:11)
  • The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup. (Psalm 16:5)
  • As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. (Psalm 42:1–2)
  • I stretch out my hands to you; my soul thirsts for you like a parched land. (Psalm 143:6)
  • We rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation (Romans 5:11).

Enjoy His Gifts

And the same is true with things and human experiences. God gives them to us to reveal more of his character, essence, and unsurpassed worth.

Read the rest here.