A Prisoner of Love

“I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you…”
EPHESIANS 4:1 ESV

To be the prisoner of the Lord means that we accept the sentence of death and are resigned to our fate. We are not the Lord’s prisoner if we are still protesting our innocence. If we do not agree with the Lord that Self is worthy of death then we unnecessarily delay the inevitable.

If we must take up the Cross and be crucified, it is better to submit ourselves to it as Christ did, giving up our spirit into the Father’s hands, and bowing our head in peace. So let us drink the Cup that the Father gives us. If we struggle and protest, like the two thieves, then we only prolong our agony, and the soldiers must come and break our legs. Either way, the Cross means death. The sooner we surrender to it, the sooner we find Resurrection.

Source: Embrace the Cross by Chip Brogden

Transformed by Jesus

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Acts 4:1–37

When women kindly ask me to sign their copies of my books, I sometimes write, “To Susan the Beautiful!”

“Oh, no!” Susan (or Kathy or Linda) will protest, turning red. “I’m not beautiful.”

“Sure you are,” I insist, as I add my signature. “It says so right in the Bible.” As further proof, I jot down “Psalm 149:4” and encourage them to look it up. You see, it’s God’s gift of salvation that makes us truly beautiful, inside and out. Nothing transforms a woman’s appearance more than being covered from head to toe in the grace of God’s Son.

I know this beautifying process is legitimate because I’ve seen it happen again and again. When women come to know the Lord in a real and personal way, their frown lines begin to soften. A sparkle appears in their eyes, and a radiance falls over their countenance.

We have proven scientifically that such physical changes occur when we fall in love: glowing skin, sparkling eyes, increased heart rate. And for some of us, similar improvements take place when we’re expecting a child. Conventional wisdom says that “all brides are beautiful” and “pregnant women glow.” It’s chemical, hormonal, and very real.

Why not at the spiritual level too? When you allow the Lord to fill your heart with his boundless love, it shows on the outside. This beauty has nothing to do with cosmetics or plastic surgery. On the contrary, it’s an inside job: A heart full of love produces a face full of joy.

When I stepped into a church for the first time as an adult, I was amazed to see pew after pew of attractive women. Is this a requirement of membership? I wondered. Maybe they’re all Mary Kay consultants!

Soon I learned the happy truth: Such beauty is a gift from God. Unlike lipstick and blush, which seldom last longer than a few hours, spiritual beauty is timeless. It literally pours out of your pores and alters your appearance in a most appealing way. People will think you’ve had a face-lift, when in fact you’ve had a faith-lift.

—Liz Curtis Higgs

Reflection

  1. Why were people so astounded by Peter and John’s courage?
  2. Based on your knowledge of the Bible, what had happened to transform them so radically?
  3. How have you experienced a “faith-lift” since walking with Christ? How does it reflect outwardly?

Acts 4:13
When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.

Related Readings

Psalm 149:1–9; Isaiah 61:1–3; 1 Corinthians 1:26–31

The Purpose of Your Trial

“His mother said to the servants, ‘Whatever He says to you, do it.’”
JOHN 2:5

If only we would heed this advice from Mary. To be sure she has learned this in years gone by. Through many experiences she has at last learned where to go. Her automatic reflex now is to go to Jesus and lay the problem at His feet: “They have no wine.” That is all. In this relationship she makes no demands, she does not even ask Him outright to do something. He knows what she means. It is an understanding that is borne out of relationship.

This, brothers and sisters, is the whole purpose for the trial you find yourself in. It may be that you have no oil, no bread, no fish, or no wine. Whatever the situation, bring your problem to the Lord of Infinite Supply, and do whatever He says to do. He wishes to reveal His glory in you. He longs to see His Power displayed through your weakness. The very thing you see as a problem is really an opportunity to see Jesus in a depth you cannot otherwise see.

Source: Lord of All by Chip Brogden

LOVE IS ETERNALLY GREAT

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1 Corinthians 13:13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. (NIVUK)
This chapter (1 Corinthians 13) is well known for its description of love but often quoted out of context. Although it is often used at weddings, that was not the reason that Paul wrote it. He was dealing with a church which has been proudly squabbling about which spiritual gift was the greatest (and by implication which of them was the greatest). They assumed that the most spectacular gifts were superior, but failed to see that the gifts glorified the giver more than the receiver.

So Paul patiently explained that their motive mattered more than what they achieved; and that the use of any of God’s gifts without genuine love, invalidated their service or ministry. The ‘excellent way’ of using the gifts (1 Corinthians 12:31b) was with the same kind of self-sacrificial love that Jesus demonstrated. Love therefore endures because God is eternal and God is love.

Faith and hope also persist through eternity. ‘Faith’ is trust based on love: it is a decision to commit oneself into the hands of another. If we know that those hands are full of love for us, trust is not a complicated decision; it is just the next step. ‘Hope’ is the confidence that all we have invested in God will be safe and lead to a glorious conclusion. But if we are not confident that He loves us, then hope, (eternal and confident hope) will fade, if indeed it ever started.

Love is the unstoppable natural expression of God’s character. It is the basis for faith and hope; and therefore it is superior to both of them. Discussions about faith or hope are meaningless without a confidence that God loves us. Likewise, spiritual ministry is valueless unless we love those we serve. As Jesus said, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:37-40). Do you love like that?

Prayer: Loving Lord. Thank You for loving me and calling me to return to Your love. Forgive me when I have assumed that the value in my service is according to what I have done, rather than on how much I love You. Please give me a fresh desire to serve sacrificially because I love You so much. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.
Word@Work

The Wedding Guest

 

John 2:1–11

Years ago when Johnny Carson was the host of The Tonight Show, he interviewed an eight-year-old boy. The young man was asked to appear because he had rescued two friends from a coal mine outside his hometown in West Virginia. As Johnny questioned the boy, it became apparent to him and the audience that the young man was a Christian. So Johnny asked him if he attended Sunday school. When the boy said he did, Johnny asked, “What are you learning in Sunday school?” “Last week our lesson was about when Jesus went to a wedding and turned water into wine.” The audience roared, but Johnny tried to keep a straight face. Then he said, “And what did you learn from that story?” The boy squirmed in his chair. It was apparent he hadn’t thought about this. But then he lifted up his face and said, “If you’re going to have a wedding, make sure you invite Jesus!”

Jesus’ first miracle occurred at a wedding he’d been invited to. It clearly announced his nature, showing that he came to bring joy to his people. God delights in his children. Our joy pleases him. When we celebrate, he celebrates with us.

The hosts of the wedding celebration would have been embarrassed if the wine had run dry. Knowing this, Jesus’ mother turned to the One who can turn sorrow into gladness. Jesus quietly worked behind the scenes to turn the water into wine. When the banquet master tasted the wine, he was surprised that it was better than what had been served at first.

When we invite Jesus into every aspect of our lives, he can exchange our past pain for present comfort and turn our deep sorrow into divine delight. He can take old wounds and turn them into fresh wisdom. He can turn stale, old thoughts into new ideas and creative ways to solve our problems. He can take a cold silence and turn it once again into a warm conversation. If we just ask, he can take those things that we are ashamed of and cast them into a sea of forgetfulness, allowing us to experience true and deep joy. He does not save the best for last, he saves the best for now.

Those who drew the water knew the secret: Jesus has the power to change things. Just imagine what he can change if you only issue the invitation. He’s the guest who can never stay too long.

Reflection

  1. How has Jesus changed difficult circumstances for you in the past?
  2. What would you exchange right now if you could—gladness for mourning, praise for despair, beauty for ashes? Invite Jesus to work a divine exchange for you as only he can.
  3. Who will you share the knowledge of the joy of the Lord with today?

John 2:9
The master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine. He did not realize where it had come from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew.

Related Readings

Isaiah 61:1–3; 65:17–25; Revelation 21:5

The Secret of Victory

“I am the light of the world.”
JOHN 8:12

Many people write to me and ask how to deal with this thing or that, how to get the victory here or there. May I say that it does not matter what your need is, or what your problem is, the Answer is the same. Victory is a Man, not an experience. If you must fail a hundred, a thousand, or a million times in order to learn that lesson then it is worth it.

It does not matter whether you understand it, agree with it, believe it, or see it yet. Indeed, everything else seems to say the opposite. But you will see, just as I have seen, that Victory, Grace, Strength, Peace, Love, Light, and Life are not “things,” they are Christ, and having the Man, you have everything the Man is.

Source: Lord of All by Chip Brogden

Nothing Impossible With God

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“The things which are impossible
with men are possible with God.”
LUKE 18:27

Once God has determined to do something, is there anything, or anyone, that can resist Him? Is man more powerful than God, or does it only seem that way sometimes? It does appear that God, in His infinite wisdom and loving-kindness and patience, chooses to delay the fulfillment of His Will. Man can try to withstand it, the devil can rebel against it, and by collaborating with man can even appear to hinder and prevent it temporarily – but in the end, God will have His Will.

Let no one mistake God’s longsuffering for any inability to bring about His desire and accomplish His Purpose. His plan is unavoidable and irresistible.

Source: The Irresistible Kingdom by Chip Brogd