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Love Promotes Unity

 

Promoting Unity

The Lord hates . . . one who sows discord among brethren. —Proverbs 6:16,19

The language of Proverbs 6:16-19 is strong. In the citing of seven things the Lord hates, sowing “discord among brethren” makes the list. The reason for naming this sin is that it spoils the unity that Christ desires for His followers (John 17:21-22).

Those who sow discord may not initially set out to create divisions. They may be preoccupied instead with their personal needs or the interests of a group they belong to (James 4:1-10). Consider how Lot’s herdsmen argued with those of Abraham (Gen. 13:1-18); Christ’s disciples argued about personal preeminence (Luke 9:46); and divisive groups in the church at Corinth elevated party factions above the unity of the Spirit (1 Cor. 3:1-7).

So what is the best way to promote unity? It begins with the transformation of the heart. When we adopt the mind of Christ, we develop an attitude of humility and we focus on service toward others (Phil. 2:5-11). Only in Him can we access the power to “look out not only for [our] own interests, but also for the interests of others” (v.4). Soon the needs and hopes of others become more important to us than our own.

With growing bonds of love among us, we find discord replaced with joy and unity (see Ps. 133:1).

Like a mighty army moves the church of God;
Brothers, we are treading where the saints have trod.
We are not divided, all one body we—
One in hope and doctrine, one in charity. —Baring-Gould
We can accomplish more together than we can alone.

 

March 23

Belief, Not Understanding

“Said I not unto thee, that, if thou wouldest believe, thou shouldest see the glory of God?” (John 11:40).

Mary and Martha could not understand what their Lord was doing. Both of them said to Him, “Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died.” Back of it all, we seem to read their thought: “Lord, we do not understand why you have stayed away so long. We do not understand how you could let death come to the man whom you loved. We do not understand how you could let sorrow and suffering ravage our lives when your presence might have stayed it all. Why did you not come? It is too late now, for already he has been dead four days!”

And to it all Jesus had but one great truth: “You may not understand; but I tell you if you believe, you will see.”

Abraham could not understand why God should ask the sacrifice of the boy; but he trusted. And he saw the glory of God in his restoration to his love. Moses could not understand why God should keep him forty years in the wilderness, but he trusted; and he saw when God called him to lead forth Israel from bondage.

Joseph could not understand the cruelty of his brethren, the false witness of a perfidious woman, and the long years of an unjust imprisonment; but he trusted, and he saw at last the glory of God in it all.

Jacob could not understand the strange providence which permitted the same Joseph to be torn from his father’s love, but he saw the glory of God when he looked into the face of that same Joseph as the viceroy of a great king, and the preserver of his own life and the lives of a great nation.

And so, perhaps in your life. You say, “I do not understand why God let my dear one be taken. I do not understand why affliction has been permitted to smite me. I do not understand the devious paths by which the Lord is leading me. I do not understand why plans and purposes that seemed good to my eyes should be baffled. I do not understand why blessings I so much need are so long delayed.

Friend, you do not have to understand all God’s ways with you. God does not expect you to understand them. You do not expect your child to understand, only believe. Some day you will see the glory of God in the things which you do not understand.
–J. H. McC

“If we could push ajar the gates of life,
And stand within, and all God’s working see,
We might interpret all this doubt and strife,
And for each mystery could find a key.

“But not today. Then be content, poor heart;
God’s plans, like lilies pure and white, unfold.
We must not tear the close-shut leaves apart–
Time will reveal the calyxes of gold.

“And if, through patient toil, we reach the land
Where tired feet, with sandals loosed, may rest,
When we shall clearly know and understand,
I think that we shall say, ‘God knew best.”‘

Am I Carnally Minded?

From: My Utmost For His Highest

Where there are envy, strife, and divisions among you, are you not carnal . . . ? —1 Corinthians 3:3

The natural man, or unbeliever, knows nothing about carnality. The desires of the flesh warring against the Spirit, and the Spirit warring against the flesh, which began at rebirth, are what produce carnality and the awareness of it. But Paul said, “Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh” (Galatians 5:16). In other words, carnality will disappear.

Are you quarrelsome and easily upset over small things? Do you think that no one who is a Christian is ever like that? Paul said they are, and he connected these attitudes with carnality. Is there a truth in the Bible that instantly awakens a spirit of malice or resentment in you? If so, that is proof that you are still carnal. If the process of sanctification is continuing in your life, there will be no trace of that kind of spirit remaining.

If the Spirit of God detects anything in you that is wrong, He doesn’t ask you to make it right; He only asks you to accept the light of truth, and then He will make it right. A child of the light will confess sin instantly and stand completely open before God. But a child of the darkness will say, “Oh, I can explain that.” When the light shines and the Spirit brings conviction of sin, be a child of the light. Confess your wrongdoing, and God will deal with it. If, however, you try to vindicate yourself, you prove yourself to be a child of the darkness.

What is the proof that carnality has gone? Never deceive yourself; when carnality is gone you will know it-it is the most real thing you can imagine. And God will see to it that you have a number of opportunities to prove to yourself the miracle of His grace. The proof is in a very practical test. You will find yourself saying, “If this had happened before, I would have had the spirit of resentment!” And you will never cease to be the most amazed person on earth at what God has done for you on the inside.

Get Strength From God

 

The Cost of Sanctification

From: My Utmost For His Highest

May the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely . . . —1 Thessalonians 5:23

When we pray, asking God to sanctify us, are we prepared to measure up to what that really means? We take the word sanctification much too lightly. Are we prepared to pay the cost of sanctification? The cost will be a deep restriction of all our earthly concerns, and an extensive cultivation of all our godly concerns. Sanctification means to be intensely focused on God’s point of view. It means to secure and to keep all the strength of our body, soul, and spirit for God’s purpose alone. Are we really prepared for God to perform in us everything for which He separated us? And after He has done His work, are we then prepared to separate ourselves to God just as Jesus did? “For their sakes I sanctify Myself . . .” (John 17:19). The reason some of us have not entered into the experience of sanctification is that we have not realized the meaning of sanctification from God’s perspective. Sanctification means being made one with Jesus so that the nature that controlled Him will control us. Are we really prepared for what that will cost? It will cost absolutely everything in us which is not of God.

Are we prepared to be caught up into the full meaning of Paul’s prayer in this verse? Are we prepared to say, “Lord, make me, a sinner saved by grace, as holy as You can”? Jesus prayed that we might be one with Him, just as He is one with the Father (see John 17:21-23). The resounding evidence of the Holy Spirit in a person’s life is the unmistakable family likeness to Jesus Christ, and the freedom from everything which is not like Him. Are we prepared to set ourselves apart for the Holy Spirit’s work in us?

Jesus Is Coming Soon

 

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Coming Soon!

“Surely I am coming quickly.” —Revelation 22:20

A “COMING SOON!” announcement often precedes future events in entertainment and sports, or the launch of the latest technology. The goal is to create anticipation and excitement for what is going to happen, even though it may be months away.

While reading the book of Revelation, I was impressed with the “coming soon” sense of immediacy permeating the entire book. Rather than saying, “Someday, in the far distant future, Jesus Christ is going to return to earth,” the text is filled with phrases like “things which must shortly take place” (1:1) and “the time is near” (v.3). Three times in the final chapter, the Lord says, “I am coming quickly” (Rev. 22:7,12,20). Other versions translate this phrase as, “I’m coming soon,” “I’m coming speedily,” and “I’m on My way!”

How can this be—since 2,000 years have elapsed since these words were written? “Quickly” doesn’t seem appropriate for our experience of time.

Rather than focusing on a date for His return, the Lord is urging us to set our hearts on His promise that will be fulfilled. We are called to live for Him in this present age “looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13).

Live as if Christ is coming back today.

Insight

As with today’s text, 2 Peter 3:1-10 deals with Jesus’ imminent return. Peter explains that “the Lord is not slack concerning His promise . . . but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (v.9).

Your Faithful Friend?

From: Get more strength.org.
“For great is your love, reaching to the heavens; your faithfulness reaches to the skies” Psalm 57:10Junior high school can be one long intensive seminar on drama in relationships. I am convinced that any psychological malfunction in my life today is directly traceable to those two years of school. Okay, maybe it’s not quite that dramatic, but junior high did teach me a little about fickle friendships.

I was minding my own business when one of Nancy’s friends came up to me and announced, “Hey, did you know that Nancy likes you?” To be honest, I had never given Nancy a second thought until that moment, but suddenly I was intrigued. My male ego was suddenly stirred and I liked the idea of being liked! So I passed my message back through the string of friends that had conveyed the message to me. That is, of course, how junior high romance works. I told my friend, who told another friend, who told Nancy’s friend, who then passed the message back to her.

“Joe says that he likes you too!”

But by the time my message got back to Nancy, she no longer liked me! For the first time I was singed by the fickle flames of romance.

A lot of our friendships are like that, aren’t they? We look back across the landscape of life and see different friends popping up here and there—our buddies from junior high, the girl we took to the prom in high school, the college roommates, the co-worker from the cubicle next to us. We realize quickly that many of those friendships, often consumingly important at the time, fade into dim memories leaving us thinking, “I wonder what happened to…”

Even more disconcerting is realizing how fickle we are in friendships. In honest moments, we could list the people we no longer get in touch with, or the phone calls we don’t return. In life, solid, faithful-to-the-core friendships are few and far between.

I wonder if you and I bring that same dynamic into our relationship with Jesus? When we first meet Jesus, He is everything to us! But as time wears on, we tend to drift away. When was the last time He heard from you? When was the last time you sat down to hear His voice and fellowship with Him?  As the old saying goes: ”If God seems far away, guess who moved!” You may have gone on to other interests, but thankfully He hasn’t lost interest in you. He, more than anyone else, remains there waiting for you as your faithful friend!

The psalmist often sings of God’s undying love for us. And I need to tell you that it’s not the kind of love that rides on emotions or favors. It is an expression of God’s enduring, rock-solid commitment to you as His beloved, and it is often linked, as it is here in Psalm 57:10, with His unfailing faithfulness. In fact, the psalmist literally cannot get his mind around the extensiveness of God’s love and faithfulness, conceding finally that God’s love “reaches to the heavens” and His faithfulness “reaches to the skies.” In other words, it is without limit and without end.

So when you receive word that God loves you, please know that it is not a junior high school fickle, fleeting kind of love. It is a life-changing, eternally satisfying offer of a fulfilling friendship with your Creator. Today He stands knocking at your door wanting to come in and spend some quality time with you (Revelation 3:20). Go ahead, open the door of your heart—it’s your faithful friend!

A Story Of Compassion

 

The Compassionate Young Boy

By:  Emmanuel Aghado

“Once upon a time, in a small village in Kenya, there lived a young boy with his step family. Due to the scarcity of water in the village, the young boy awoke early every morning, carried his pot and headed for the stream with the aim of fetching water for himself and his step family. Sadly for him, he alone had this task as a routine every morning and evening to fetch water froma distant stream while his step siblings were given other lenient tasks or even none. Yet, the young boy bore no grudge against his step family, loved them and carried out his task, diligently.
On his way back from the stream, he met an old man resting under a tree who beggedfor water to quench his thirst and he gave the old man. He met an elderly woman who begged for water and he gave the woman. This happens almost every time as he comes back from the stream; meeting peoplewho beg for thirst, yet he gave them despite his step mother’s torture on him for fetching half-filled pots that wouldn’t even be enough for the family.
One day, he couldn’t bear the torture from his step mum, so heswore never to give anyone water, but on his way back, he met a strange looking man who begged him for water. The strange man lay by the road sidewith an injury. The young boy remembered his vow – never to give anyone water – but contemplated for a moment and then gave the strange man some water.
When he got home, his step mum noticed the half-filled pots, and again pounced on him – this time with more cruelty. As she was beating this young boy, there was a knock on the door. It was the wounded strange man – a mail deliverer. Apparently, he came from the town with a letterfor the young boy. A letter containing a scholarship with additional cash gift for the young boy and would have died on the way if not for the boy’s help.
They say there is love in sharing…they say where there is love there is life. Your everyday good deeds are never in vain for they shall return to you even when you’re not expecting it.”

Values.Com.,The Compassionate Boy, By:  Emmanuel Aghado

Work Hard For God

Still Working

“Well done, good and faithful servant.” —Matthew 25:23
Bible in a Year:
Joshua 7-9; Luke 1:21-38

Vivian and Don are in their mid-90s and have been married more than 70 years. Recently Vivian suffered a setback when she broke her hip. This has been additionally difficult because for several years both Don and Vivian have been saddened by the realization that they are no longer strong enough to be active in the life and work of their church.

However, Vivian and Don are still hard at work for the Lord: They are prayer warriors. While they may not always be physically present and visible in the life of their church, they are faithful “behind the scenes” in their service for Him.

The parable of the talents in Matthew 25 reminds us that we must use the “talents” God has given us wisely. All of us have God-given skills and abilities at various levels—and we must not bury, unused, what God has given us.

It is not only in our years of strength that God will use us, but also in our youth and age, as well as in our sickness and weakness. Vivian and Don continue to serve by praying. And like them, we honor our Savior by using our skills—“each according to his own ability” (v.15) to serve Him who is worthy.

Lord, You have done so much for me. Please show
me what I can do to serve You—to honor You with
the abilities You have provided. May my life be a
living sacrifice of love and action for Your honor.
God can use you at any age—if you are willing.

Identified or Simply Interested?

From:  My Utmost For HIs HIghest

I have been crucified with Christ . . . —Galatians 2:20

The inescapable spiritual need each of us has is the need to sign the death certificate of our sin nature. I must take my emotional opinions and intellectual beliefs and be willing to turn them into a moral verdict against the nature of sin; that is, against any claim I have to my right to myself. Paul said, “I have been crucified with Christ . . . .” He did not say, “I have made a determination to imitate Jesus Christ,” or, “I will really make an effort to follow Him”-but-”I have beenidentified with Him in His death.” Once I reach this moral decision and act on it, all that Christ accomplished for me on the Cross is accomplished inme. My unrestrained commitment of myself to God gives the Holy Spirit the opportunity to grant to me the holiness of Jesus Christ.

“. . . it is no longer I who live . . . .” My individuality remains, but my primary motivation for living and the nature that rules me are radically changed. I have the same human body, but the old satanic right to myself has been destroyed.

“. . . and the life which I now live in the flesh,” not the life which I long to live or even pray that I live, but the life I now live in my mortal flesh-the life which others can see, “I live by faith in the Son of God . . . .” This faith was not Paul’s own faith in Jesus Christ, but the faith the Son God had given to him (see Ephesians 2:8). It is no longer a faith in faith, but a faith that transcends all imaginable limits-a faith that comes only from the Son of God.

Pass On Your Faith

 

Passing on Faith and Truth

The converted slave trader, John Newton, who became a beloved minister of the gospel and encouraged Wilberforce in his fight against the slave trade, whispered as he lay dying, “My memory is nearly gone, but I remember two things, that I am a great sinner and that Christ is a great Saviour.”


That irrepressible Cornish Christian, Billy Bray, came downstairs for the last time on Friday, 22 May 1868. To one of his old friends, who asked a few hours before his death if he had any fear of death, or of being lost, he said, “What! Me fear death! Me lost! Why, my Saviour conquered death. If I were to go down to hell, I would shout ‘Glory, glory to my blessed Jesus’ until I made the bottomless pit ring again, and the miserable old Satan would say, ‘Billy, Billy, this is no place for you: get you back.’ Then up to heaven I should go, shouting ‘Glory! Glory! Praise the Lord!’

A little later he said “Glory!” which was his last word. [26]


Christian missionary Geoffrey Bull was held captive by communists for three years at the time of the Chinese invasion of Tibet. He experienced constant interrogation and threat of execution. Later he wrote: “I pictured in my mind’s eye that last morning as I was led out to die. Should I preach, should I pray or should I sing? I decided I would sing. I went over in my mind some of the songs of Zion and then chose this great chorus, determined that by His grace these would be my last words before I saw Him face to face.

Some golden daybreak Jesus will come;
Some golden daybreak, battles all won,
He’ll shout the victory, break through the blue
Some golden daybreak for me, for you. [27]


A Greek named Aristides, in AD 125 wrote to a friend about the new religion called Christianity: “If any righteous man from among the Christians passes from this world, they rejoice and offer thanks to God, and they escort his body with songs and thanksgivings as if he were setting out from one place to another nearby.


“Live in Christ, live in Christ,” said the dying Scottish Reformer, John Knox, “and you need not fear the death of the flesh.”


Those at the bedside of the influential New England preacher Jonathan Edwards, thought he had passed from the realms of consciousness. They began to lament the sad loss to the church, only to be stopped by a memorable final sentence: “Trust in God and you need not fear.”


Richard Williams, medical missionary to Patagonia, wrote as he lay huddled up in the hull of his little boat, dying of scurvy and starvation:

Should anything prevent my ever adding to this, let my beloved ones at home rest assured that I was happy, beyond all expression, the night I wrote these lines, and would not have exchanged situations with any man living. Let them also be assured that my hopes were full and blooming with immortality, that Heaven and Love and Christ, which mean one and the same divine thing, were my soul; that the hope of glory filled my whole heart with joy and gladness; and that to me to live is Christ and to die is gain. [28]


Allen Gardiner was the last of the survivors of the seven missionaries who perished of starvation on Terra del Fuego when their relief ship failed to arrive. His final diary entry read, “Great and marvellous are the loving kindnesses of my gracious God.”


Among my favourite stories of those who have faced martyrdom for their faith in Christ are some about the Scottish Covenanters who were executed between the restoration of Charles II and the accession of William III. I have include several of their stories as typical of saints down the ages who have given their lives for their faith. They are particularly relevant in this twenty-first century when, according to researcher David Barrett, something like 160,000 people are killed annually because of their Christian beliefs. These examples are taken from the book Fair Sunshine by Jock Purves.29

The day before Donald Cargill was executed in 1681, a friend took a written testimony from him in which he wrote:

This is the most joyful day that ever I saw in my pilgrimage on earth. My joy is now begun which I see shall never be interrupted…this day I am to seal with my blood all the truths that ever I preached…

From: christianity.co.nz