22 JUN: LEARNING TO LOVE

Follow the way of love. 1 Corinthians 14:1

READ 1 CORINTHIANS 13

Love does more than make “the world go round,” as an old song says. It also makes us immensely vulnerable. From time to time, we may say to ourselves: “Why love when others do not show appreciation?” or “Why love and open myself up to hurt?” But the apostle Paul gives a clear and simple reason to pursue love: “These three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. Follow the way of love” (1 Corinthians 13:13–14:1).

“Love is an activity, the essential activity of God himself,” writes Bible commentator C. K. Barrett, “and when men love either Him or their fellow-men, they are doing (however imperfectly) what God does.” And God is pleased when we act like Him.

To begin following the way of love, think about how you might live out the characteristics listed in 1 Corinthians 13:4–7. For example, how can I show my child the same patience God shows me? How can I show kindness and respect for my parents? What does it mean to look out for the interests of others when I am at work? When something good happens to my friend, do I rejoice with her or am I envious?

As we “follow the way of love,” we’ll find ourselves often turning to God, the source of love, and to Jesus, the greatest example of love. Only then will we gain a deeper knowledge of what true love is and find the strength to love others like God loves us. 

REFLECT & PRAY 

God, thank You that You are love and that You love me so much. Help me to love others the way Jesus showed us so that the whole world will know I am Your child.

Love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 1 John 4:7

 

21 JUN: HOPE FOR RENEWAL

[You] have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him. — Colossians 3:10

READ COLOSSIANS 3:8-17

Over the centuries, many attempts have been made to restore damaged and time-worn masterpieces of art. While some of these efforts have skillfully preserved the original work of artists, others have actually damaged many works of genius, including ancient Greek statues and at least two paintings by da Vinci. In Paul’s letter to the Christians at Colosse, he described a restoration process that is impossible in the world of art. It’s a restoration of God’s people.

Paul wrote, “You have put off the old man with his deeds, and have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him” (Colossians 3:9-10). This is no attempt at renovating the work of a deceased artist. It is a spiritual renewal from the living God who created us and gave us new life in His Son, Jesus Christ. His forgiveness brightens the colors of our lives while His grace sharpens the lines of His purpose for us.

The canvas of our lives is in the skilled hands of our Lord who knows who and what He designed us to be. No matter how sin-damaged and dirty we may be, there is hope for renewal and restoration. The Master Artist is alive and at work within us.

REFLECT & PRAY 

Praise, my soul, the King of heaven, To His feet thy tribute bring; Ransomed, healed, restored, forgiven, Evermore His praises sing. 

Jesus specializes in restoration.

 

20 JUN: OUR FATHER

A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling. Psalm 68:5

READ ROMANS 8:12–17

The scene belonged on a funny Father’s Day card. As a dad muscled a lawn mower ahead of him with one hand, he expertly towed a child’s wagon behind him with the other. In the wagon sat his three-year-old daughter, delighted at the noisy tour of their yard. This might not be the safest choice, but who says men can’t multitask?

If you had a good dad, a scene like that can invoke fantastic memories. But for many, “Dad” is an incomplete concept. Where are we to turn if our fathers are gone, or if they fail us, or even if they wound us?

King David certainly had his shortcomings as a father, but he understood the paternal nature of God. “A father to the fatherless,” he wrote, “a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling. God sets the lonely in families” (Psalm 68:5–6). The apostle Paul expanded on that idea: “The Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship.” Then, using the Aramaic word for father—a term young children would use for their dad—Paul added, “By him we cry, ‘Abba, Father’ ” (Romans 8:15). This is the same word Jesus used when He prayed in anguish to His Father the night He was betrayed (Mark 14:36).

What a privilege to come to God using the same intimate term for “father” that Jesus used! Our Abba Father welcomes into His family anyone who will turn to Him. 

REFLECT & PRAY 

Heavenly Father, I want to be part of Your family. I believe that Your only Son Jesus died for my sins. Please forgive me and help me live a life that pleases You.

A good father reflects the love of the heavenly Father.

 

19 JUN: SPIRITUAL VICTORY

Everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. 1 John 5:4

READ 1 JOHN 5:1–13

Each year on June 18 the great Battle of Waterloo is recalled in what is now Belgium. On that day in 1815, Napoleon’s French army was defeated by a multinational force commanded by the Duke of Wellington. Since then, the phrase “to meet your Waterloo” has come to mean “to be defeated by someone who is too strong for you or by a problem that is too difficult for you.”

When it comes to our spiritual lives, some people feel that ultimate failure is inevitable and it’s only a matter of time until each of us will “meet our Waterloo.” But John refuted that pessimistic view when he wrote to followers of Jesus: “Everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith” (1 John 5:4).

John weaves this theme of spiritual victory throughout his first letter as he urges us not to love the things this world offers, which will soon fade away (2:15–17). Instead, we are to love and please God, “And this is what he promised us—eternal life” (verse 25).

While we may have ups and downs in life, and even some battles that feel like defeats, the ultimate victory is ours in Christ as we trust in His power. 

REFLECT & PRAY 

Lord Jesus, Your ultimate victory in this fallen world is assured, and You ask us to share in it each day of our lives. By Your grace, enable us to overcome the world through faith and obedience to You.

When it comes to problems, the way out is to trust God on the way through.

 

18 JUN: MARATHON READING

They read from the Book of the Law of God, making it clear and giving the meaning so that the people understood what was being read. Nehemiah 8:8

READ NEHEMIAH 8:1–8

When the sun came up on the first day of the seventh month in 444 bc, Ezra started reading the law of Moses (what we know as the first five books of the Bible). Standing on a platform in front of the people in Jerusalem, he read it straight through for the next six hours.

Men, women, and children had gathered at the entrance to the city known as the Water Gate to observe the Festival of Trumpets—one of the feasts prescribed for them by God. As they listened, four reactions stand out.

They stood up in reverence for the Book of the Law (Nehemiah 8:5). They praised God by lifting their hands and saying “Amen.” They bowed down in humble worship (verse 6). Then they listened carefully as the Scriptures were both read and explained to them (verse 8). What an amazing day as the book that “the Lord had commanded for Israel” (verse 1) was read aloud inside Jerusalem’s newly rebuilt walls!

Ezra’s marathon reading session can remind us that God’s words to us are still meant to be a source of praise, worship, and learning. When we open the Bible and learn more about Christ, let’s praise God, worship Him, and seek to discover what He is saying to us now. 

REFLECT & PRAY 

Lord, thank You for this amazing book we call the Bible. Thank You for inspiring its creation by the writers You chose to pen its words. Thank You for preserving this book through the ages so we can learn Your people’s story and the good news of Your love.

The goal of Bible study is not just learning but living.

 

17 JUN: KEEP CALM AND CARRY ON

We are the servants of the God of heaven and earth. — Ezra 5:11

READ EZRA 5:7-17

“Keep calm and call mom.” “Keep calm and eat bacon.” “Keep calm and put the kettle on.” These sayings originate from the phrase: “Keep Calm and Carry On.” This message first appeared in Great Britain as World War II began in 1939. British officials printed it on posters designed to offset panic and discouragement during the war.

Having returned to the land of Israel after a time of captivity, the Israelites had to overcome their own fear and enemy interference as they began to rebuild the temple (Ezra 3:3). Once they finished the foundation, their opponents “hired counselors against them to frustrate their purpose” (4:5). Israel’s enemies also wrote accusing letters to government officials and successfully delayed the project (verses 6,24). Despite this, King Darius eventually issued a decree that allowed them to complete the temple (6:12-14).

When we are engaged in God’s work and we encounter setbacks, we can calmly carry on because, like the Israelites, “We are the servants of the God of heaven and earth” (5:11). Obstacles and delays may discourage us, but we can rest in Jesus’ promise: “I will build my church, and all the powers of hell will not conquer it” (Matthew 16:18). It is God’s power that enables His work, not our own. 

REFLECT & PRAY 

Thou art our life, by which alone we live, And all our substance and our strength receive. Sustain us by Thy faith and by Thy power, And give us strength in every trying hour.

God’s Spirit gives the power to our witness.

 

16 JUN: LANGUAGE WE UNDERSTAND

 

A crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard their own language being spoken. Acts 2:6

READ ACTS 2:1–12

Walking in some part of North London neighborhoods, one could hear snatches of conversation in many languages—Polish, Japanese, Hindi, Croatian, and Italian, to name a few. This diversity feels like a taste of heaven, yet not everyone who hears can understand what they’re saying. Stepping into the Russian café or the Polish market one could hear the different accents and sounds, I sometimes reflect on how wonderful it must have been on the day of Pentecost when people of many nations could understand what the disciples were saying.

On that day, pilgrims gathered together in Jerusalem to celebrate the festival of the harvest. The Holy Spirit rested on the believers so that when they spoke, the hearers (who had come from all over the known world) could understand them in their own languages (Acts 2:5–6). What a miracle that these strangers from different lands could understand the praises to God in their own tongues! Many were spurred on to find out more about Jesus.

We may not speak or understand many languages, but we know that the Holy Spirit equips us to connect with people in other ways. Amazingly, we are God’s hands and feet—and mouth—to further His mission. Today, how might we—with the Spirit’s help—reach out to someone unlike us? 

REFLECT & PRAY 

Lord, give us eyes to see those around us as You see them. Give us ears to hear their stories; give us hearts to share Your love. 

Love is the language everybody understands.