Seven Days of Devotion
The Weekly Word is a Collection of Devotionals to be read on the Day Listed and presented freely as a service to and for the Body of Christ and Believers throughout the World that We may Hear God Speak to us as the Spirit of God gives us ears to hear and eyes to see what God would have for us daily in relationship to Him.
A Profound Need for Love
A profound need to love and be loved lies at the very center of the human heart. Yet despite this obvious fact, the world clearly suffers from a shortage of love. In fact, our world screams for love.
Just look around. Everywhere you turn, you see the effects of people seeking love, desperately trying to fill their lives with something. When they cannot find true love, they turn to substitutes: drugs, sex, fame, fortune—anything to fill the hole in their soul.
“Chuck,” you may say, “I disagree. I think there is plenty of love in the world. I love my kids. I love my spouse. I try to love my neighbor. I am full of love. And I know many other people who are just like me.”
I understand. We are all in the process of trying to love—and in many cases, we really do show love to those around us. But the point is not: Do we love? but rather, do we love as God wants us to love? In other words, do we love with the love of God in Christ? Sure, we love our family, yes, we love our friends; and at times, we might even love our neighbor. But many of us do not love as Jesus calls us to love—unconditionally, with grace, and influenced by the truth of God’s Word.
That is the kind of love our world craves. And that is the only kind of love that will satisfy our deepest longings.
Our core problem, I believe, is that we badly misunderstand love. We think it has its source in us. It does not. To truly understand and practice love, we need to begin by grasping the true source: God Himself. All true love depends on God as its Author and Conduit. Otherwise, true love will never flow.
Genuine love begins with God and His unchanging character. God is love. In fact, He loved us long before we loved anything. The very act of our loving begins with God—in both receiving His love and returning that love. Only then can we fully love others.
This means that if you truly want to love a person, you must first understand God’s love. Once you begin to grasp His love, you can begin to enthusiastically reflect it back to Him. And out of that delightful overflow, you can genuinely love others.
True love relies—at every point—upon God. Only then can love have its greatest effect in your life and in mine.- excerpted from Love The More Excellent Way by Chuck Smith
Apollos and the Google Effect
Teaching through Acts, I was recently impressed by this phrase used to describe Apollos from Alexandria: mighty in the Scriptures (Acts 18:24). It’s a remarkable compliment paid to Apollos, especially considering the circumstances.
From Acts 18:24-28, we know that Apollos was from Alexandria and that he was Jewish (yet he had name inspired by Greco-Roman culture, not Jewish culture). We know that he came from Alexandria to Ephesus, though perhaps not directly. We know that he was eloquent, that he had been instructed in the way of the Lord (Acts 18:25), and that he was passionate in what he both believed and taught – which he taught accurately (again, Acts 18:25). Add to all that, Luke tells us that Apollos was mighty in the Scriptures.
Here’s the strange part. Apollos had an effective ministry at the synagogue in Ephesus, teaching accurately, eloquently, passionately, and boldly. Yet, he knew only the baptism of John (Acts 18:25) needing and receiving the instruction of Aquila and Priscilla, whom Paul left in Ephesus as they accompanied him on his return to Antioch on his second missionary expedition. Aquila and Priscilla heard the passionate preaching of Apollos in the Ephesian synagogue and knew they should teach him more about the fullness of who Jesus is and what He did for us in His life, death, and resurrection.
Yet all those great things are noted in Acts 18:24-25 about Apollos before he had much depth of understanding regarding who Jesus is and what He did.
Therefore, “mighty in the Scriptures” refers more to the depth and passion of Apollos’ knowledge than it does the spread or breadth of his knowledge. We could say that Apollos didn’t know much, but what he knew, he knew it deeply and was fervently convinced of it.
It’s easy to think that our effectiveness in preaching, teaching, or serving God in other ways depends on how much we know about the Bible and theology. Many are hesitant to teach others (either one-on-one or groups) because they feel they don’t know enough. I believe the example of Apollos makes us think differently, suggesting that even if we don’t know much, if we know it deeply and passionately, we can be effective in teaching and reaching others.
I hope that no one misunderstands me – it is good to know more and more, and to gain a greater breadth of Biblical and theological knowledge. When Apollos knew more, he was even more effective for Jesus and His kingdom. Yet in our pursuit to know a little about many things, we shouldn’t neglect knowing some things deeply and passionately.
This is of special concern in our present day. We are in the midst of an information and technology revolution, and the effect of that revolution works against depth of belief and knowledge. Some researchers call it the Google Effect, noting how the popular search tool makes it easy to find information about countless things – yet makes little demand on either memory or deep thinking. With the mental muscles of memory and deep thinking not used, they become weaker and less effective.In this and many other ways, our culture works against deep Biblical thought that leads to passionate belief – the kind of things that make someone mighty in the Scriptures. So our call is to not be conformed to this world, but to be transformed by the renewing of our mind. We should be willing to make our mind and heart do the work that will make us mighty in the Scriptures.
We All Need Love
Our church, Calvary Chapel of Costa Mesa, has sent out missionaries to assist orphanages in Romania. While we preach the gospel there and disciple the people, do you know what is one of our primary reasons for going? It’s just to hold the infants. We want to cuddle them in our arms and love them.
Scientists tell us that an infant brain’s development depends upon touch and love. Children, like all of us, desire to be loved upon. Too little attention of this kind can result in a condition known as “failure to thrive.” If these infants do not get the love and touch they need, they become seriously at risk for lifelong mental and physical problems.
That’s why we send out teams to love and hold the babies.
It intrigues me that even babies have an inborn desire to be loved. Just as interesting is that many adults have a desire to love those babies in return. People simply want to love and be loved.
Clearly, the Lord has implanted this need for love deep within us. As human beings created in God’s image, we reflect Him who is love. The Bible describes love as a mutual exchange of giving and receiving—and we embrace this mutual exchange when we love God and love one another.
The wonderful reality of love is this: God so loved the world that He sent Jesus, His Son, to lay down His life on our behalf. And now He calls us, His people, to spend our days loving as Jesus would have us love, through the power of the Holy Spirit. That’s what love is all about.
If you ever want to approach God for anything, it is vitally important that you understand His character. If you do not know that God is merciful, then it will be difficult for you to ask Him for mercy. If you do not realize that He is gracious, then it will be difficult for you to ask Him for grace. Knowing the character of God gives you the rock-solid confidence to come to Him with joyful expectancy.
And here’s the great Bible truth about God’s character: He is love (1 John 4:8, 16). God’s love never fails! God has never stopped loving you. He does not love you when you are good and hate you when you are bad. God’s love for you remains constant and unchanging. It cannot fail. God continually pours out His love upon your life, for His love for you does not depend upon what you are, but upon Who He is.
And quite simply, “God is love.” That’s the place to begin.
I want to encourage you to gaze for a little while into the loving eyes of our heavenly Father. And then reflect that divine love back to the Source. Then, and only then, I challenge you to direct His love to the people around us—to those whom Jesus died to save.
Love is a magnificent and glorious truth of who God is. The Lord is our great example of love. And we fulfill His purpose for us when we become conduits of His love to those who desperately need it.
- excerpted from Love The More Excellent Way by Chuck Smith
An Eternal Covenant of Love
The apostle John tells us,
Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that God loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins (1 John 4:10).
God’s love for us is so great that He wants to spend eternity with us—not, “until death do us part,” but “until death unites us forever.”
On the night before His crucifixion, Jesus took a cup of wine and said to His disciples, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood, which is shed for you” (Luke 22:20). This new covenant is a love covenant. Because of God’s great love, Jesus gave His life for you. He took your sins, your guilt, your condemnation, your just desserts. He took the penalty and the wrath of God against you and your sin, and in its place He established God’s love covenant with you through His death.
And now God invites you to enter into that love covenant with Him. He wants you to become His child so that He can live His life through you. He wants others to know of His love through you.
Many parents, dads especially, like to live their lives through their sons. My dad was no exception. When I was just two years old, he put a glove in my hand and started throwing baseballs to me. By the time I was four, I could proficiently field any ball. Dad always seemed to be throwing footballs at me or shooting basketball hoops in the yard. In my teen years after I scored a touchdown, I could always hear my dad’s voice above the hundreds of fans yelling and cheering. He could out-yell them all! I’m told that he would bow to the people in the stands and say, “That’s my son.”
In a sense, my dad lived his life through his son, hoping that my achievements would exceed his. I knew he felt proud of me, his son, and gloried in the acclaim that came to me through my athletic exploits.
I think our heavenly Father feels much the same. At two special moments in the earthly life of Jesus, God took great pains to say, “That’s My boy!” At Jesus’ baptism, for example, a voice rang out from heaven:
“This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17). In other words, “Hey, folks—that’s My boy!” Again at the Mount of Transfiguration, God said, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Hear Him!” (Matthew 17:5).
Today, your Father God wants to live His life through you. As you enter into this covenant of love, it becomes possible for God to express His life—His nature, His desires, and His actions—through you. God wants your life to testify to Who He is. He wants you to do great exploits for Him. By entering into this love covenant with God, the Lord can begin to use you to reveal Himself to the world around you.
Through this love covenant, God agrees to provide for you and to take care of you. He pledges to watch over you, to keep you, to shield you and to protect you. The author of Psalm 91 begins by writing,
He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress; My God, in Him I will trust” (Psalm 91:1-2).
By the end of the psalm, God Himself starts speaking:
Because he has set his love upon Me, therefore I will deliver him; I will set him on high, because he has known My name. He shall call upon Me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him and honor him. With long life I will satisfy him, and show him My salvation (vv. 14-16).
That’s God describing what He’ll do for you when you enter into this love covenant with Him. All of these rich blessings and amazing benefits are yours when you “set your love upon Him.”
His Banner Over You
Several years ago we received an invitation to join the king of Tonga for a celebration of his birthday. We gathered with hundreds of others on a soccer field where we saw table after table—some 300 feet long—loaded with food. There had to be a quarter of a mile of savory dishes covering these tables—succulent pigs and all kinds of fruit, and too many culinary delights to number.
Each island group invited to the feast had a banner above its assigned table so that the guests could know where to sit. Soon we found our group and we sat down to enjoy a thoroughly memorable meal. I’ve never seen so much food! The king provided a fabulous royal banquet to celebrate his birthday. And as I sat there, I couldn’t help but think of a favorite Scripture from the Old Testament:
He brought me to the banqueting house, and his banner over me was love (Song of Solomon 2:4).
Have you ever entered a large banquet hall where a grand dinner was about to be served? Perhaps you saw thousands of settings but didn’t know where you were to sit. So you started searching to find the right place, but nothing looked promising. Finally you spotted a familiar banner across the hall and you made your way over to it. There you began looking on the table for your own nametag. When at last you found your place, you said, “There is my nametag. Here is where I sit.” And so you sat down and waited for the meal to begin.
Jesus has given you just such a special place. Can you see it? His banner over you is love. He loves you more than you can understand, more than you can know. His love for you is far better than unconditional. He loves you actively, personally, thoughtfully. And He does so knowing everything about you.
During courtship we often do our best to hide the truth about ourselves. We have come to love this person and we fear that if he or she knew the whole truth, the love would end. And so we go in with a bit of deceit.
Maybe he spills a soda on you and you say, “Oh, that’s all right. My, that doesn’t matter a bit. I can get it cleaned, no problem.” While inside you’re thinking, You clumsy oaf! What’s wrong with you? Or maybe he takes you out to McDonald’s for three nights in a row. You smile and say, “McDonald’s, how wonderful. I think that’s great! Yes, I like fries and Big Macs.” And you act so sweet. But beneath the smiles you’re thinking, You cheapskate, why don’t you take me someplace where they use plates?
We don’t dare reveal the truth, however, because we want this person to think we’re always sweet and smiling. We never get angry or upset. We always present ourselves as the very soul of graciousness.
Now, why do we engage in such deceit? We do so because we’re afraid that if this person knew the real truth, he or she might stop liking us. So we keep it up until the day we get married—and then what a shock we get as our beloved begins to express his or her real feelings and we learn the truth.Frankly, this is the wonderful thing about the love of Jesus. He knew the truth about you all the while! Before you ever enter His covenant of love, He already knows all there is to know about you—even things you don’t know yourself. He knows every one of your bad qualities—and loves you anyhow. He loves you despite your weaknesses. The Lord knows you backwards and forwards, inside and out, upside and down, and yet still He loves you. So He invites you to His banqueting table and His banner over you is love. He wishes to announce to the whole assembly, to the world, “This is the one I love. This is My beloved.”
Revelation on Revelation
Over the past few weeks, I have been meditating on the book of Revelation and finding myself unusually moved during my reading times. What I mean by "unusually" moved is that I have felt almost a part of the book as I've been reading it. Everything seemed to be clearer than usual this time through, and I found myself resonating with every word of that great prophecy.
I walked away with a greater sense of the absolute certainty of the things contained in the book. Whether it was the redeemed rejoicing around the throne of God; or the righteous judgments coming upon the obstinately unrepentant; or the two witnesses prophesying in Jerusalem for three-and-a-half years and then being slain by the beast, only to be raised by God three days later; or the gathering of the beast and the kings of the earth to make war with the Lamb; or the return of Christ when the beast and the false prophet are cast into the lake of fire, Satan is bound for a thousand years, and the saints live and reign with Christ on the earth; or the new heavens and new earth, the holy city the New Jerusalem coming down from God out of heaven; the walls of the city made up of precious stones, its gates made of pearl with the names of the twelve tribes of the Israel over each gate, the foundation stones engraved with the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb; the tree of life, the throne of God, and the Lamb, no temple or night for the Lord God and the Lamb are its temple and its light, no sin, no curse, no end to the glory! All of these great and glorious truths stirred me to want to shout out: “The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever!” (Rev. 11:15).
Occasionally over these past few weeks, I would share a few things with Cheryl that the Lord had impressed on me during my reading, and each time she would come back with some gem that she had picked up while doing an in-depth study of the book last year. As I finished the last two chapters, these words hit me so powerfully: “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End” (Rev. 21:6). What hit me strongly was the sureness of it all—the absolute truth of this last and greatest book of prophecy!
Sadly, many people have been discouraged from reading or studying Revelation. Some say it’s just too hard to understand. But the book itself tells us there is a blessing promised to those who read and hear it.
Granted, there are some challenging portions to the book, but the overall message is crystal clear: “‘Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.’ Then He who sat on the throne said, ‘Behold, I make all things new.’ And He said to me ‘Write for these words are true and faithful’” (Rev. 21:3-5).Are you anxious and worried about life? About your future? About the future? I know a great remedy: the book of Revelation! Take some time; read it, meditate on it, believe it, and receive God’s joy and peace as you get a look at the future from His perspective.
The Unconscious Ill-Equippin
The good Bible teaching that occurs in many churches is not enough to equip Christ following congregants to interact effectively with the world. In fact, I believe that some pastors are unconsciously hindering their flocks, and are, as a result, “ill-equipping” them for the work of ministry.
I recently heard a tremendous quote, and I will try to paraphrase. The speaker spoke of the American Church and said, “We are a subculture of a sub culture. We read each other’s book, we sing each other’s songs, and we scratch each other’s backs”.
I completely agree that the Body of Christ is a sub culture, and that each movement or denomination is a further sub culture, and finally, that each individual church within a movement or denomination is a sub, sub, sub culture. There is nothing wrong with that…to a point.
Each culture and sub culture has its own language. The lack of awareness that we (the Church) have regarding our sub, sub culture language is the thing that concerns me. What do we sound like to the world?
As followers of Jesus, we have been given the Great Commission, to “make disciples of all nations”. Most of the people in our churches understand and agree with that.
However, here is the rub. Here is the problem. The people in our churches often parrot the words they hear us pastors speak. If they hear us only speak “Christianese”, and our particular brand of “Christianese”, then that is how many of them will speak. They will seek to explain the eternal truths of God by using language that is familiar only to their sub, sub culture.
I believe that we who stand in the pulpit need to speak in the language of our culture and of the current generation. We do not need to descend into vulgar speaking or innuendo, but we need to communicate the truths of Jesus in ways that would make sense to any unbeliever walking in off the street.
The purpose for that is not just for the unbeliever who walks into our church. The bigger and perhaps more important purpose is that we will equip our churches to use words that the unbelieving world will recognize. Without telling them how to communicate the Gospel, we will be bestowing upon them a language, a vocabulary, and a communication style, whereby they will be unconsciously equipped to speak to an unbelieving world.
A word to those who preach and teach: Let us be careful to not use decades old “Christianese” simply because that is what we grew up on. May the younger generation of pastors not only use the Christian sub culture language of their generation. May we read and listen widely, that we may adopt the language of this generation, so that we might more effectively preach the Gospel, and equip our listeners to share the Gospel in a language that can be understood by the world around us.
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