Christian Love Defined

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Hey TD!

I read this devotion from Tabletalk recently and thought I should pass it on to you. It’s based on a chapter of Scripture I memorized long ago and recite each week to this day. May it help you in your “love” life! – Arthur

John 15:12–13

“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.”

 

In an age when love is frequently lauded but often misunderstood, we must have a proper view of love. Modern culture bombards us with messages telling us that love is a mere feeling, that we will never disapprove of those whom we truly love, and that everything done in the name of love is right. But the Scriptures instruct us otherwise. God’s Word makes it clear that true love is costly.

Jesus, in today’s passage, emphasizes the cost of love. Having told us to abide in His love (John 15:1–11), Jesus begins to unfold what abiding in His love looks like. Love means loving others as Jesus has loved us, particularly in laying down our lives for our friends (vv. 12–13). Our Savior obviously makes an allusion here to His atoning death on the cross that turns away the wrath of God (Rom. 3:21–26), and this means we must first consider what laying down our lives for our friends does not entail. After all, none of us is the spotless Lamb of God sent to save sinners, so none of us can lay down our lives in exactly the same manner as Jesus. Christian theologians have long recognized this truth. Augustine of Hippo, for example, comments on it at length in a sermon on today’s passage.

We cannot love others as Jesus has loved us in the sense of atoning for their sin; however, there are other ways in which we can imitate the love of Christ. For example, Christ loved us so much that He was willing to leave His place of glory with the Father in order to pay for our sins on the cross (Phil. 2:5–11). We, likewise, can refuse to exploit our privileges in order to meet the needs of others. Furthermore, Jesus spent His life in service to others, healing the sick and teaching God’s truth. Similarly, we can spend our lives in service to others, helping even those who seem the least deserving of our assistance and pointing people to Christ.

Some of us may literally have to die in order to save another person’s life, but that will be rare. More likely, we will lay down our lives in a multitude of smaller ways. Parents can set aside their right to rest quietly after a hard day of work in order to spend time with their children. Employers, when appropriate, can refrain from giving overly harsh but deserved criticism of employees in order to work alongside them and help them improve. Retirees can give up part of the spare time they labored years to earn in order to volunteer at their churches. Whatever our station in life, we should look for ways to spend our lives for the sake of others.

 

CORAM DEO Living before the face of God

Christian love is costly, and it looks for ways to give of itself to others. Every day, there are little ways we can sacrifice some of our rights and privileges in order to love others, especially those in the body of Christ. Let us look this day to give up something in order to do good to another person.


FOR FURTHER STUDY
  • Ruth 4
  • Song of Solomon 8:6
  • Mark 14:3–9
  • 1 John 3:16–18
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Why I Read Proverbs Everyday

Hey TD!
I read this article last month and started implementing this practice in my own life (though I have missed some days along the way 😦 ). It’s been a good, practical input in my day that has helped sharpen the everyday-street-level outlook to my day.
I encourage you to consider this practice for yourself. It will help you hear from God, not just on the theological level, but on the day-to-day level of living. – Arthur

Why I read Proverbs every day

I PLAN TO CONTINUE THIS PRACTICE FOR THE REST OF MY LIFE, FOR I NEVER OUTGROW THE NEED FOR THE PRACTICAL WISDOM OF THIS DIVINELY-INSPIRED BOOK.

Proverbs has always been one of my favorite books. When as a young man it was called to my attention that there’s a chapter for each of the thirty-one days in a month, I began the habit of daily reading the chapter of Proverbs that corresponds with the day of the month. After doing so now for over forty years, I was astonished to realize that means I’ve read through the book of Proverbs more than five hundred times. And I plan to continue the practice for the rest of my life, for I never outgrow the need for the practical wisdom of this divinely-inspired book.

But I must admit there are places in the Proverbs where I’m sometimes tempted to think, “Why do I need to read this again?” When I come to chapter seven, for example, I’m so familiar with the story that I know exactly what’s going to happen when the foolish young man decides to walk down the street where the adulteress lurks. I want to say to the guy, “Don’t go down there this month! You’ve gone down there every month for forty years and it always ends badly. For once could you take a different route?” But every month he heads down there, and he always ends up “going down to the chambers of death” (7:27).

WHY READ IT AGAIN AND AGAIN?

Since I know the passage by heart, why read it again? Then a few years ago I awakened to the reality that when the beginnings of such temptations inevitably come my way, I’m never more than thirty days away from a fresh warning of the ruin that comes from yielding to seduction. I don’t think I’ll ever reach the point where I don’t need that warning—frequently.

“Let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall,” (1 Cor. 10:12).

Because of my love for the Proverbs and the perpetual value the wisdom of the book has been for my life, I wanted to instill its counsel early in the life of my daughter. So from the time she was very young, I began incorporating the book of Proverbs into our family worship routine.

A SIMPLE, EFFECTIVE EXERCISE

Here’s how I did it. In the beginning I would read a third of a chapter to her every night. During the first month of every quarter (that is, January, April, July, and October) I would read the first third of the chapter that corresponds with the day of the month. 

On the second month of each quarter I read the middle third of the chapter for the day. And on the last month of the quarter I read the last third of the chapter. So on January 1 I read Proverbs 1:1-11 (or thereabouts). On February I read Proverbs 1:12-22. And on March 1 I read Proverbs 1:23-33.

After a few years, I started reading half a chapter each night, alternating every other month. So on January 1 I read Proverbs 1:1-17 or so, and on February 1 I read Proverbs 1:18-33. Then when she was old enough, I began reading the entire chapter each evening, covering all of chapter one on the first of every month, all of chapter two on the second of each month, and so forth.

After these few minutes in the Proverbs, I would turn to wherever else we were reading in the Bible at that time.

Somewhere along the way I stumbled upon a practice that dramatically increased her listening and understanding. Before I started reading I said, “I want you to pick a verse to explain to me, and one for me to explain to you.” This made a huge difference. Often, of course, her explanation of a verse was off base or unclear. That gave me another occasion to make the Bible clearer to her. I commend this simple, but effective, exercise to you.

This article originally appeared at BiblicalSpirituality.org.

Don Whitney
Professor of Biblical Spirituality; Associate Dean of the School of Theology

Donald S. Whitney is professor of biblical spirituality and associate dean of the School of Theology at Southern Seminary. A longtime pastor and author of numerous books on the Christian life, he is also founder of The Center for Biblical Spirituality and is author of numerous books including Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life and Praying the Bible.

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In Critical Care

Carattini

Hey TD!

Here’s an insightful piece from our friend, RZIM’s Jill Carattini, managing editor of A Slice of Infinity. In classic Jill fashion, she shows us the eternal in our everyday lives. Enjoy! – Arthur

In Critical Care

by Jill Carattini

The “doorknob phenomenon” is an occurrence many physicians know well. Doctors can proceed meticulously through complete examinations and medical histories, taking care to hear a patient’s questions and concerns, but it is often in the last thirty seconds of the appointment that the most helpful information is revealed. When a doctor’s hand is on the doorknob, body halfway out the door, vital inquiries are often made; when a patient is nearly outside the office, crucial information is shared almost in passing. Many have speculated as to the reasons behind the doorknob phenomenon (which is perhaps not limited to the field of medicine), though a cure seems unlikely. Until then, words uttered on the threshold remain a valuable entity to the physician.

If I can speak on behalf of patients (perhaps I’ve been a perpetrator of the phenomenon myself), I would note that the doorway marks our last chance to be heard. Whatever the reason for not speaking up until that point—fear, discomfort, shame, denial—we know the criticalness of that moment. In thirty seconds, we will no longer be in the presence of one who might offer healing or hope or change. At the threshold between doctor’s office and daily life, the right words are imperative; time is of the essence.

One of the many names for God used by the writers of the Bible is the Great Physician. It is curious to think of how the doorknob phenomenon might apply. Perhaps there are times in prayer when the prayer feels as if we are moving down sterile lists of conditions and information. Work. Finances. Mom. Jack. Future. Of course, while bringing to God in prayer a laundry list of concerns with repeated perseverance is at times both necessary and helpful, perhaps there are also times when we have silenced the greater diagnosis with the words we have chosen to leave unspoken. Can a physician heal wounds we will not show, symptoms we will not mention?

Rembrandt, Beggars on the Doorstep of a House, 1648.

Thankfully, yes. The Great Physician can heal wounds one cannot even articulate. Scripture writers speak of a God who hears even our groanings too deep for words. On the other hand, choosing to leave out certain details is hardly helpful before any doctor. Can God begin the work that needs to be done if we won’t really come near as a patient? Is there a cure for those who do not seek it? Mercifully, there is a physician who seeks us.

The ancient prophet Jeremiah once cried, “Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there? No healing for the wound of my people?” Jeremiah lived during one of the most troublesome periods of Hebrew history. He stood on the threshold between a people sick with rebellion and despair and the great Physician to whom they refused to cry out in honesty.

“I have listened attentively,” the LORD declared, “but they do not say what is right. No one repents of his wickedness, saying, ‘What have I done?’ Each pursues his own course like a horse charging into battle.”(1) His words describe behavior a doctor likely recognizes. A patient who complains of a cough while a fatal wound is bleeding will neither find respite for the cough nor her unspoken pain, and of course, a good physician would not treat the cough until the bleeding has been stopped.

In Jeremiah’s day, as in our own, the promise of a quick and effortless remedy was cunningly presented in many ways. Of these “prophets of deceit” God declared, “They dress the wound of my people as though it were not serious. ‘Peace, peace,’ they say, when there is no peace.”(2) There are some promises that are quite easy to stand beside but crumble under the weight of us. To stand in honesty before a physician is more difficult. To stand in honesty with the greatest of Physicians is to submit to a kindness that may undo us. It is to ask to be made well, to be made new, to be made truly human by the Son with human hands, knowing that the way to my remedy rests in his own wounded hands.

The great Christmas hymn places before us this powerful resolution:

No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground
He comes to make His blessing flow
Far as the curse is found,
Far as the curse is found.(3)

The woundedness of humanity is serious: cries of injustice, the wounds of racism, despair and lament at cancers around us, the devastating marks of our own failings left shamefully upon others and ourselves. This cannot be bandaged as anything less than a mortal wound. But the threshold is now. Christ comes near. He weeps with us, ready to address the indications of our illness, imparting healing and kindness. In the coming of Christ, God offers a cure extending as far as the wound can ever fester.

Jill Carattini is managing editor of A Slice of Infinity at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Atlanta, Georgia.

(1) Jeremiah 8:6.
(2) Jeremiah 8:11.
(3) Isaac Watts, Joy to the World, 1719.

Are We Eating “Processed Religion”?

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That’s a good point, isn’t it, TD?

Yet, that seems to be something we are fighting each other about.  “TD is too intense, too long, too deep” et al are the cries of those who want TD studies to be lighter, simpler, and more bite-sized for easier consumption. But is that really what God wants from us? Is that what’s going to help get you through high school growing spiritually stronger each year? This is something we all at TD, both students and leaders alike, need to consider and pray through, and then act upon. I believe the following article brings some insight into the discussion. – Arthur

Some years ago, after watching a documentary that extols the virtues of juicing, I experimented with doing a juice fast. I started buying produce by the bushel and tried all sorts of juice recipes. My kitchen hummed with the sound of my juicer or my trusty Ninja blender.

It was fun for a while—a short while. The process was messy and time consuming, and cleaning the juicer was a pain. So I started buying bottled juice instead, but that was boring and expensive. I gave up before long.

One of the reasons I undertook the experiment had to do with taste. I’ve always been a picky eater, and I began to suspect that part of the reason for this had to do with what I had done to my ability to taste. I had subsisted for so long on processed, artificial food that I could not taste or appreciate more subtle (and natural) flavors. I had burned out my taste buds. So, I wanted to take some time when I was ingesting only natural foods in hopes that I could learn to appreciate real flavors.

Sometimes, when I survey the state of American Christianity, I am reminded of this reason for my juice fast. Many Christians are feeding themselves with the spiritual equivalent of processed food. It is processed religion: light shows and rock bands in place of reverent worship, self-help books masquerading as edification, and self-focused comedy shows presented as sermons.

Processed religion is often attractive. But it has been heavily refined in order to be highly palatable, so it provides only a short-term boost without much lasting nutrition. Like a sugar rush, it carries you on for a while, but it cannot sustain you over the long term. Even the best of it is spiritual milk, but we are called to move on to spiritual meat (1 Cor. 3:1–2; Heb. 5:12–14).

As I had burned out my taste buds on processed food, I fear that we are at risk of burning out our spiritual taste buds when we subsist on processed religion. We are called to “taste and see that the Lord is good” (Ps. 34:8), to “come to the waters,” and to “eat” (Isa. 55:1). But the flavors of biblical religion can be subtle, and they take time to appreciate. A quiet time of prayer, the solemnity of the Lord’s Supper, the gravity of a well-crafted, biblical sermon—these are the things that nourish our souls.

God has prescribed in His Word the things that will satisfy our spirits, because He knows better than we do what is good for us. He has provided for us the ordinary means of grace—the Word, the sacraments, and prayer—as the simple, methodical, steady diet that will allow us to grow in grace over time. When we come and eat and drink of the deep, fulfilling richness of God’s means of grace, we will be satisfied

When we concentrate on the God-ordained means of our spiritual nourishment, we can grow to appreciate them as the genuine food that they are, and we will want nothing else. And unlike my juice fast, they—and God—will not disappoint us.

“My Experience at SOS Saturdays” by Emily Wang

“Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” James 1:27

Hey TD!

This Saturday at SOS Saturday, we can do just that, visit orphans and widows! We will meet to visit the care center at 9:30 a.m. and the foster home at 12:30 p.m. Reach out to a TD leader for details!

Here’s what our own Emily has to say about her experience at SOS Saturdays:

My Experience at SOS Saturdays by Emily Wang

Greetings readers of the TD blog!

To start with an introduction, my name is Emily. I am thrilled to write about my experience at the SOS Saturdays, and perhaps even encourage you to come! SOS Saturdays are volunteer opportunities that usually occur every month. However, SOS Saturdays go beyond the sphere of the school definition of volunteer work. SOS Saturdays extend to service for those in need and the spread of God’s love.

I understand there are reasons hampering some readers from coming. Personally,  I was intimidated by SOS Saturdays. Even now, it would be a lie if I did not admit to my fear. With my minimal experience in interacting with people in addition to my awkwardness in social situations, SOS Saturdays that required communication with unfamiliar people was something out of my usual cup of tea. Yet through gradual workings, I came more frequently.

Truthfully, it is difficult to pinpoint the exact reason why I decided to come to the SOS Saturdays, as there are many. One reason being the theme of metamorphosis and the renewal of a person in Christ as I learn what it means to live for God and being a Christian. Although I am aware that I am not completely transformed, SOS Saturdays give some insight regarding the topic by serving others, which we are called to do.

The second reason is the wonderful encouragement that I have received from people at TD! I am grateful to be in a pleasant atmosphere. Hence, I encourage everyone who is reading this to experience SOS Saturday for themselves if they have not already! The experience is definitely a motivation in itself. Being able to bring a sprinkle of light and love to people who might not experience it everyday is something special.

Additionally, everyone was able to engage with a variety of people. Through interactions, we learn from each other, for every individual has their own story to share. In cases in which instigation of a conversion is difficult, it is still delightful to have others for company! After all, being able to bring cheerfulness in their routine lives by being a friend or transform someone’s world is a blessing especially if the transformation is through God.

From a recent personal experience, I was able to spend time reading the Bible with a residence at the care center. At first, I was hesitant to read for the Bible was in another language. Yet when we were reading, there was a connection that broke the language barrier.

Besides the care center, a visit that had impacted me was at the Union Rescue Mission. The environment was very unfamiliar. It was a world that I had never faced, so the it created discomfort and apprehension especially with my tendency to imagine the worst outcomes for a given situation. Looking back, that day challenged my willingness in carrying out the command to serve to people in need by the necessary disposal of my horrors and uneasiness. In such ways, SOS Saturdays confronted my fears and changed me to a better person in the continual process.

Once again, I recommend every reader to come! I am grateful for your audience, and I look forward to serving together in the future! Have a lovely day, afternoon, evening, or dawn! – Emily

How Evil is Tech?

 

Hey TD!

We all love and appreciate technology. Like anything that began as good, however, it’s easy to indulge and be owned by it. Was that the intention all along? Is tech as innocuous as we think? What is actually going on behind our screens? What’s the intention for us?

A while ago, my son, Nathaniel, sent this over to me. I thought it was an insightful read by New York Times Op-Ed columnist and political and cultural commentator, David Brooks. I’d be interested to know your thoughts. Feel free to comment. – Arthur

How Evil Is Tech?

Not long ago, tech was the coolest industry. Everybody wanted to work at Google, Facebook and Apple. But over the past year the mood has shifted.

Some now believe tech is like the tobacco industry — corporations that make billions of dollars peddling a destructive addiction. Some believe it is like the N.F.L. — something millions of people love, but which everybody knows leaves a trail of human wreckage in its wake.

Surely the people in tech — who generally want to make the world a better place — don’t want to go down this road. It will be interesting to see if they can take the actions necessary to prevent their companies from becoming social pariahs.

There are three main critiques of big tech.

The first is that it is destroying the young. Social media promises an end to loneliness but actually produces an increase in solitude and an intense awareness of social exclusion. Texting and other technologies give you more control over your social interactions but also lead to thinner interactions and less real engagement with the world.

As Jean Twenge has demonstrated in book and essay, since the spread of the smartphone, teens are much less likely to hang out with friends, they are less likely to date, they are less likely to work.

Eighth graders who spend 10 or more hours a week on social media are 56 percent more likely to say they are unhappy than those who spend less time. Eighth graders who are heavy users of social media increase their risk of depression by 27 percent. Teens who spend three or more hours a day on electronic devices are 35 percent more likely to have a risk factor for suicide, like making a plan for how to do it. Girls, especially hard hit, have experienced a 50 percent rise in depressive symptoms.

The second critique of the tech industry is that it is causing this addiction on purpose, to make money. Tech companies understand what causes dopamine surges in the brain and they lace their products with “hijacking techniques” that lure us in and create “compulsion loops.

Snapchat has Snapstreak, which rewards friends who snap each other every single day, thus encouraging addictive behavior. News feeds are structured as “bottomless bowls” so that one page view leads down to another and another and so on forever. Most social media sites create irregularly timed rewards; you have to check your device compulsively because you never know when a burst of social affirmation from a Facebook like may come.

The third critique is that Apple, Amazon, Google and Facebook are near monopolies that use their market power to invade the private lives of their users and impose unfair conditions on content creators and smaller competitors. The political assault on this front is gaining steam. The left is attacking tech companies because they are mammoth corporations; the right is attacking them because they are culturally progressive. Tech will have few defenders on the national scene.

Obviously, the smart play would be for the tech industry to get out in front and clean up its own pollution. There are activists like Tristan Harris of Time Well Spent, who is trying to move the tech world in the right directions. There are even some good engineering responses. I use an app called Moment to track and control my phone usage.

The big breakthrough will come when tech executives clearly acknowledge the central truth: Their technologies are extremely useful for the tasks and pleasures that require shallower forms of consciousness, but they often crowd out and destroy the deeper forms of consciousness people need to thrive.

Online is a place for human contact but not intimacy. Online is a place for information but not reflection. It gives you the first stereotypical thought about a person or a situation, but it’s hard to carve out time and space for the third, 15th and 43rd thought.

Online is a place for exploration but discourages cohesion. It grabs control of your attention and scatters it across a vast range of diverting things. But we are happiest when we have brought our lives to a point, when we have focused attention and will on one thing, wholeheartedly with all our might.

Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel wrote that we take a break from the distractions of the world not as a rest to give us more strength to dive back in, but as the climax of living. “The seventh day is a palace in time which we build. It is made of soul, joy and reticence,” he said. By cutting off work and technology we enter a different state of consciousness, a different dimension of time and a different atmosphere, a “mine where the spirit’s precious metal can be found.”

Imagine if instead of claiming to offer us the best things in life, tech merely saw itself as providing efficiency devices. Its innovations can save us time on lower-level tasks so we can get offline and there experience the best things in life.

Imagine if tech pitched itself that way. That would be an amazing show of realism and, especially, humility, which these days is the ultimate and most disruptive technology.

8 Worst Body Language Mistakes/Tips For Non-Verbal Communication Skills

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Hey TD!

Both the guys and the girls groups had tremendous times at T&T Night.  Not only did we discuss issues, but we began learning little nuances that go a long way towards not only fulfilling the bottom-line big-picture practical duties of becoming future men and women of God, but also the manner in which we learn to fulfill those roles.

At church, often times, we focus on what to say to people; we don’t spend enough time on how we say it … including our body language. While we want to make sure we don’t use learned external mannerisms as ways to portray ourselves or to manipulate how people think of us, we don’t want to go to the other extreme and not pay any attention to what our mannerisms may communicate to others.

When I saw this list from learnex, I immediately knew this would be useful for us at TD, as many of us can be … hmmm, let’s be honest … underwhelming … in the vibe we give and the impression we leave. Some of it may indeed be that we really don’t care much about the vibe we give people. For those of you who fall into that category, that needs to change. However, for others, it’s not that you don’t care; rather, it’s that you don’t know what needs to be adjusted or how to do it.

So, for the sake of continuing conversation with those around you – both outside and inside the church – check out these body language mistakes and see where you could improve (I’ve edited, added to, and adjusted some parts for conciseness and clarity):

Eye contact

The first one is avoiding eye contact.  When you are not looking into the person’s eye, it shows that you’re either nervous or not confident about yourself … and you’re being a little disrespectful. So you definitely don’t want to show these emotions. You’re probably just nervous, but making eye contact is extremely important.

Slouching

When you slouch in front of people while talking with them, it shows you’re not confident, have poor self-esteem, and don’t have the energy for them. It conveys that you’re bored talking with them.

Hand-shake

Make sure that you give a firm but warm handshake to the people that you meet because it’s a sign of  … of confidence and engagement. When you give a poor or weak handshake, it shows that you are least interested in shaking hands or dealing with that person. A very aggressive, very firm handshake is also not acceptable.

Arms folded

Folded arms can possibly show that you’re nervous, not confident, or uninterested. If you lean back with your arms folded, it could give off the impression that you are skeptical or wanting to keep your distance.

Frowning & Scowling

Frowning and scowling while conversing with someone may give the vibe that you have already jumped to a conclusion and made a negative judgment before knowing the context and considering all the facts. This could make someone more reticent to share openly and freely.

Invading Privacy & Space

There are people who love to invade others’ space. For example, you’re at your workplace and your co-worker comes in and just sticks around you way too much and you don’t want that. You want him or her to maintain distance. There are people who treat your possessions or your space as if it’s their own. They may be crossing personal boundaries. It’s important to maintain your boundaries when you are talking to a person or hanging around them. You want to maintain the appropriate space and distance commensurate with your relationship – not too close and not too far.

Fidgeting

Fidgeting with an item in your hand, with your hair, or constantly moving are signs of nervousness and being uncomfortable in the conversation, which can lead the one you’re speaking with to become uncomfortable conversing with you as well.

Glancing at the clock/checking your phone

Glancing at the clock or checking your phone during a conversation gives the impression that you can’t wait for this conversation to be over or that the person you’re speaking with isn’t very important to you. You may have legitimate reasons to look at your watch or the clock, or you to check your phone – maybe you have another appointment afterwards and you don’t want to be late, or you are expecting an important text; just make sure you communicate that with the person you’re with, so you don’t leave them wondering and feeling unimportant.


1 Cor. 10:31 implores us, “Whether then you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” This includes working on glorifying God in the way that you converse with others; loving others enough to work on communicating with them considerately and with care. It’s something for all of us to consider, including me. Let’s keep working on it! – Arthur