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Just about everywhere we turn, someone is talking about love. In fact, it may very well be the most popular thing in our culture — we just love to talk about love, yet never before has love been more exploited, nor has it ever been more distorted. Love has become a meaningless word. And instead of standing firm in love, many Christians have been duped by the world’s definition of love, which proclaims self rather than sacrifice.

According to the world, we love in order to be loved. According to the Word, we love because God first loved us. Whereas the world falls in love, God’s people are established in love. The love that we possess, however, is not a fleeting whim that comes and goes with every mood and circumstance; rather, it is a love that is beyond ourselves. Our love, true love, has meaning, meaning that cannot be stripped away by any thing, any one, or any feeling. Our love cannot be shaken because it is grounded not in self but in sacrifice.

Jesus said, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lays down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). In His once-for-all sacrifice, Jesus Christ demonstrated true love, the true love of God. By this great demonstration of love, love has been defined, and no worldly deception can seduce it. 

~Burk Parsons in “Love is in the Air

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No human being was ever meant to be the source of personal joy and contentment for someone else. Your spouse, your friends, and your children cannot be the sources of your identity. When you seek to define who you are through those relationships, you are asking another sinner to be your personal messiah, to give you the inward rest of soul that only God can give.

Only when I have sought my identity in the proper place (in my relationship with God) am I able to put you in the proper place as well. When I relate to you knowing that I am God’s child and the recipient of his grace, I am able to serve and love you.

However, if I am seeking to get identity from you, I will watch you too closely. I will become acutely aware of your weaknesses and failures. I will become overly critical, frustrated, and angry. I will be angry not because you are a sinner, but because you have failed to deliver the one thing I seek from you: identity.

When I remember that Christ has given me everything I need to be the person he has designed me to be, I am free to serve and love you. When I know who I am, I am free to be humble, gentle, patient, forbearing and loving as we navigate the inevitable messiness of relationships.

~Timothy S. Lane and Paul David Tripp in Heart of the Matter, p. 45

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Make daily time for reading God’s Word your highest priority. Maybe this story will help you understand why reading the Bible cultivates beauty.

When I was in Israel, a foremost exporter of diamonds, I learned that one step in the process of diamond production is polishing the gem. A diamond is never released to the marketplace until the person assigned to polish it can see the image of his own face reflected in the jewel.

Well, dear one, you are a diamond in the rough, and you gain the power of character—you begin to more clearly reflect your heavenly Father’s face—as His Holy Word smooths and polishes your character. As you spend time gazing into God’s Word, the light of His truth brightens your motivation to live your life for His glory.

When you read the Word of the Lord, He uses it to scrub and scour away your fears, your laziness, your doubts, and your sinful ways. God uses His Word to transform you into a woman of divine power who more brilliantly reflects His beauty

~Elizabeth George in Beautiful in God’s Eyes, p. 17

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“If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame” (Prov. 18:13). It is arrogant to answer before you hear. Humility does not presume that it knows precisely what a person is asking until the questioner has finished asking the question.

How many times have I jumped to a wrong conclusion by starting to formulate my answer before I heard the whole question! Often it is the last word in the question that turns the whole thing around and makes you realize that the questioner is not asking what you thought he was.

It is rude to answer a half-asked question. Rude is a useful word for Christians. It means “ill-mannered, discourteous.” The New Testament word for it is aschēmonei. It is used in 1 Corinthians 13:5, where modern versions translate it, “Love is not rude…”

Not answering a question before you hear it all honors and respects the person asking the question. It treats the person as though his words really matter. It is belittling to another to presume to be able to finish his question before he does.

Proverbs 18:13 says it is our “folly” to answer before we hear. That is, it will make us a fool. One reason for this is that almost all premature answers are based on thinking we know all we need to know. But that is “foolish.” Our attitude should be: What can I learn from this question? The fool thinks he knows all he needs to know.

~John Piper in “Listening Before Answering

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If we were sitting across the table from each other, you could tell me what’s stealing your peace right now without having to think hard. You may be grieving a loss that never settles far from your conscious thoughts. You may be crying yourself to sleep at night over a situation with a son or daughter that is beyond your ability to control…

We know that we can and should pray about these matters. But praying is not all that we can and should do. “Do not be anxious about anything,” the apostle Paul wrote, “but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:6-7).

To put it even more simply: In every situation… prayer plus thanksgiving equals peace.

When prayer teams up with gratitude, when we open our eyes wide enough to see God’s mercies even in the midst of our pain, and when we exercise faith and give Him thanks even when we can’t see those mercies, He meets us with His indescribable peace. It’s a promise.

~Nancy Leigh DeMoss in “Gratitude Is a Choice

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Whom will I worship? A well-known sufferer was the apostle Paul. His troubles were often caused by other people, but he realized that God authored these sufferings to allow him to walk in the footsteps of Jesus and his sufferings.

Among the more difficult trials was one he called his “thorn in the flesh” (2 Corinthians 12:7). Although we never learn the precise nature of this malady, Paul identified at least three causes: his own pride, a messenger from Satan, and God–three causes for one hardship.

Instead of teaching us how to identify the causes of suffering, Scripture directs us to the God who knows all things and is fully trustworthy. In other words, Scripture doesn’t give us knowledge so that we will have intellectual mastery of certain events; it gives us knowledge so that we would know and trust God.

Somehow, turning to God and trusting him with the mysteries of suffering is the answer to the problem of suffering. You might be able to discern some obvious causes of suffering, and knowing those causes might help alleviate the pain. But all suffering is intended to train us to fix our eyes on the true God.

Therefore, regardless of the causes, suffering is an opportunity to answer the deepest and most important of all questions: Whom will I trust? Whom will I worship?

~Edward T. Welch in Heart of the Matter

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Worry is a failure to understand God’s priority, [Luke 12] verses 22 and 23. “He said to His disciples, ‘For this reason I say to you, do not be anxious for your life as to what you shall eat nor for your body as to what you shall put on, for life is more than food and the body more than clothing.’”

Now here’s the point: God didn’t create you just to survive. God didn’t create you just to have you eat and wear clothes so that you can make it. God did not create you to fulfill some physical goal, or objective, or purpose or design.

Your life is far more than eating. Your life is far more than clothing. You must understand the divine priority…if you belong to God and you are in His Kingdom, He has a plan and a purpose for your life. That’s the reason you live. And as long as God has a plan for your life, He will feed you and clothe you until the plan is complete. So what is there to worry about?

There is really no place for worry and no place for fear, and no place for anxiety if you understand that the priority with God is far more than just surviving, it’s far more than making it through the winter, it’s far more than getting at least one or two meals a day, far more than that.

God’s purpose in giving you life, God’s purpose in giving you a body is not material, it’s not physical, and it’s not earthly, it is immaterial, spiritual and heavenly. We were made for His glory.

We were made to serve His glory, to serve His purpose, to honor Him, to bring attention to Him, to proclaim the gospel, to live out Christ and the power of the Spirit in the world. And as long as that’s the divine priority…for us, He will sustain us to the end of His purpose.

~John MacArthur inAnxiety-Free Living, Part 2

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God’s continuing presence is a shield against overwhelming temptation. Any time Satan wants to get to a believer, he has to go through God. First Corinthians 10:13 says, “No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able endure it.”

God is present personally and individually with every believer to defend him against temptation he can’t handle.

That God is present everywhere ought to motivate us to obey Him more carefully. When we sin, whether it is a sin of thought or a sin of words or a sin of actions, it is done in the presence of God. Psalm 90 is a prayer of Moses, and in verse 8, Moses acknowledges the implications of God’s omnipresence with regard to our sin: “You have placed our iniquities before You, our secret sins in the light of your presence.”

In other words, when we sin, it is as if we ascended beyond the clouds, came into the throne room of God, walked up to the foot of the throne of God and committed the sin right before His face. That is a sobering thought.

~John MacArthur in Worship: The Ultimate Priority

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I remember when I was much younger in the faith, I got into an argument with an older Christian friend named Don. I can’t even remember what the argument was about, but I know I raked him over the coals.

He called me on it, and said, “Joni, that’s no way for a follower of Jesus to talk.” And I shot back at him, “What, do you expect me to weigh every word?” And he said, “Yes, yes I do.” What’s more, the Holy Spirit expects you to weigh every word before you say it.

Now, looking back so many years later, my friend Don was right. 100% right, he was. It’s why the book of James devotes almost an entire chapter to the tongue and how we use it. What’s more, Romans chapter 14 says that each of us will one day give an account for himself before the Lord.

So are you responsible for every little thing you say? My friend Don would say yes. And so would Scripture.

~Joni Eareckson Tada inYour Words Count

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Is it true that God is love to me as a Christian? And does the love of God mean all that has been said? If so, certain questions arise.

Why do I ever grumble and show discontent and resentment at the circumstances in which God has placed me?

Why am I ever distrustful, fearful, or depressed?

Why do I ever allow myself to grow cool, formal and halfhearted in the service of the God who loves me so?

Why do I ever allow my loyalties to be divided, so that God has not all my heart?

John wrote that “God is love” in order to make an ethical point, “Since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another” (1 Jn 4:11). Could an observer learn from the quality and degree of love that I show to others–my wife? my husband? my family? my neighbors? people at church? people at work? –anything at all about the greatness of God’s love to me?

Meditate upon these things. Examine yourself.

~J.I. Packer in Knowing God

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What comes to mind when I say the word “father”?

…If you’ve been wounded by a father or another man that you’ve trusted, you may find it hard to trust God. Can I tell you that God is unlike any man you’ve ever known? Even the best earthly father is only a pale reflection of Him.

We need to look to the Scripture for an accurate picture of God. In God’s Word we see a heavenly Father who’s compassionate, merciful, and tender toward His children; a Father who loves to give good gifts to His children; a Father who disciplines His children, but never rejects them.

Regardless of what kind of earthly father you may have had, if you’re a child of God, you have a heavenly Father who loves you dearly and can be totally trusted.

~Nancy Leigh DeMoss inJust Like My Father

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Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity. —Hebrews 2:14 

When we are hurting, if there is one thing that eases our pain or grief, it is this: We want someone to understand. We want somebody to really identify with us, to have some idea of what we’re enduring. 

It is certainly like that for me. I hate feeling alone and alienated in those dark times when my paralysis seems overwhelming. On my really rough days, it helps to remember what the Bible tells us about Jesus identifying with us in our sufferings. It says that He was tested and tried in every way like us. That helps!

When it comes to suffering, the Lord Jesus has gone ahead of us, and has intimate, experiential, first-hand knowledge of the pain, the weight, the frustration, and the struggle. He appreciates. He understands. He connects. 

But it works both ways! Not only does Christ identify with us in our suffering, we identify with Him in His suffering. He identifies with us, and we identify with Him. He appreciates all that it means to be human, and we appreciate all that His divine grace supplies. Through suffering, He participates in our humanity; through suffering, we participate in His divinity

So why do we struggle so to escape our suffering? Why do we look so desperately for release? I suppose this is why I’m not earnestly seeking to be healed and raised up out of this wheelchair. I see this trial of mine as a window into the heart of Jesus. Suffering is a connecting point between my Savior and me. And when I see His great love on the cross, it gives me courage to take up my cross and follow Him.  

~Joni Eareckson Tada in “The Price of Identifying,” October 11 Daily Devotional

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We may be tempted to verbally attack an unpleasant person in order to show that we are right. But even though she may indeed be much in the wrong, we are called to remember that being right is not the most important thing. As Christians, being loving is the most important thing. God cares that we have a holy heart and reflect his character in this world.

One day, the Righteous Judge will reveal to us the truth—for he is Truth. Every wrong will be righted. Between now and that day, God’s grace enables us to focus less on defending ourselves or our position and more on testifying to God’s mercy and greatness.

Being treated rudely is stressful. Often we do not know why God allows tension in our relationships. But one day it will all become clear and what will have mattered is this: Did we love God? Did we love others? Did we focus on being right, or did we walk in mercy, grace, and love?

~Tara Klena Barthel and Judy Dabler in Peacemaking Women

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There is no doubt that the Devil despises Godward praise. We have some reason to believe that at one time, before pride caused him to lose his position, he may have been one of the “worship leaders” in heaven and therefore is particularly repulsed and repelled when God’s people praise Him with singing and musical instruments. 

When I talk with a woman who is struggling with chronic discouragement or depression, I often ask two questions: (1) Are you memorizing Scripture? and (2) Are you singing to the Lord?

I’m not suggesting that these are magic “pills” that will make every emotional struggle go away, but I have found these two means of grace to be extremely effective at recalibrating my heart and restoring inner peace.

I have often experienced fresh springs of God’s grace as I have exercised faith in singing to Him in praise and thanksgiving…Occasionally I am crying so hard I can scarcely get the words out. But as I sing to the Lord, my heart and mind are re-tethered to His goodness and love, and invariably, the cloud begins to lift. In fact, I sing until the cloud lifts.

~Nancy Leigh DeMoss in Choosing Gratitude

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“I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances…” Philippians 4:11 

Will I ever be happy again? It’s all I could think of after I got out of the hospital and wheeled through the front door of my home. Doorways were too narrow and sinks were too high. I sat at the dining room table, my knees hitting the edge. A plate of food was placed in front of me, but my hands remained limp in my lap. Someone else—at least for the first few months—fed me. I felt confined and trapped

My confinement forced me to look at another captive. The apostle Paul had seen the inside of more than one small room from which there was no escape. For over two years, he was shifted from “pillar to post” until finally he arrived in Rome where he remained under house arrest. When Paul wrote to thank the church in Philippi for their concern, he reassured them with the words of today’s verse.

Paul became my example in my own “prison;” I learned—and am still learning—the secret of being content. The apostle writes about this secret in Philippians 4:13, “I can do everything through him who gives me strength.” Contentment in confinement has an internal quietness of heart that gladly submits to God in all circumstances

~Joni Eareckson Tada in “Confined Contentment,” October 3 Daily Devotional

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