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John Calvin puts forward a very simple reason why love is the greatest gift: “Because faith and hope are our own: love is diffused among others.” In other words, faith and hope benefit the possessor, but love always benefits another. In John 13:34–35 Jesus says, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” Love always requires an “other” as an object; love cannot remain within itself, and that is part of what makes love the greatest gift.
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A good book to listen

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    • When You Open Your Bible, Labor to Listen

      Since the beginning, God has blessed his people by speaking to them. Humanity was only moments out of the dust of the earth when our Creator communicated with us: “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them. And God said to them . . .” (Gen. 1:27–28). Immediately after creating us, God came near to us. Near enough that we could hear him speak, learn his voice. We often read those words in Genesis without blinking an eye. We read the conversations God had with Abraham, Jacob, and Moses, fully believing the Lord personally spoke to each of them. But often our faith begins to waver when it comes to us. He spoke to them, but do we believe he speaks to us? Answering that question requires gut-level honesty from each of us. Amid all the trials and troubles this life brings, we can begin to believe God is far-off, distant, unconcerned, or silent. Yet this is far from true. God is speaking. To you. Right now. The only question is: Are you listening? God speaks through the Scriptures. Knowing his Word is a necessary component to hearing his voice. As you read, here are five ways to posture and position yourself to better hear God’s voice. 1. Read with Humility Humility opens our ears to hear God speak. As we read his Word, we humble ourselves in submission under his authority. We allow it to shape us, not demanding it change to fit cultural norms or our own perceived needs and desires. We approach God’s Word with plenty of room to ask questions and seek understanding. As we do, though, we must not be arrogant, critical, or casual. We must acknowledge our own need to “receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls” (James 1:21). 2. Read with Diligence Each of us is capable of reading and understanding Scripture, but it requires considerable effort. We learn to hear God’s voice as we gain insight into his will through consistent and careful examination of his Word. The learning curve is steep, but there’s a cumulative effect to the study of God’s Word. So keep at it. Patiently persist. Don’t “grow weary of doing good,” because “in due season we will reap” (Gal. 6:9). The more you read and study, the more you will understand and hopefully love. 3. Read with Expectation When we read the Bible, our first assumption must be that it speaks. More pointedly, we must assume God speaks to us exactly where we are. Through the determined study of his Word, expect God to teach, comfort, confront, strengthen, and transform you. “Without faith it is impossible to please him,” the author of Hebrews writes, “for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him” (Heb. 11:6). We faithfully read God’s Word when we expect him to speak. 4. Read to Listen You can’t hear if you don’t listen. Listening is required in the formation and maintenance of every human relationship. It’s equally important in forming and maintaining our relationship with God. When he created us as relational beings, he opened communication between us and himself as a mutual endeavor. Like any worthy pursuit, listening to God requires time, intentionality, and purpose. We must tune our ears to hear his voice in the pages of his Word (Mark 4:9). 5. Read with Prayer Hearing God speak is a spiritual endeavor. Any difficulty we have in hearing God’s voice, then, is much more a spiritual matter than an intellectual one. As we open our Bibles, we should pray over our time and efforts, knowing we can only hear by him by his grace and mercy. Like the Ephesian Christians, we need the help of the Holy Spirit: “I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him” (Eph. 1:16–17). In the Bible, God makes himself known, presently speaking to each of us. Open his Word with humility and diligence, eagerly listening to his voice. Pray for a willing, pliable, attentive heart—and then expect to hear him speak. View the full article

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    • The Old Testament Is Speaking. Listen.

      One of the greatest evangelical Old Testament scholars of the last century died in 2016. J. Alec Motyer was an Irish theologian, perhaps best known for his magisterial commentary The Prophecy of Isaiah (1993) and for editing The Bible Speaks Today commentary series. Though a world-renowned scholar, Motyer committed his life to teaching ordinary Christians to understand and love the Old Testament. And we certainly need his help. With the exception of a select number of psalms, a few passages in Isaiah, and a general outline of famous hero stories, our grasp of the Old Testament can be quite weak. Some have even said recently that the Old Testament is dying in certain churches. Why is this so? According to Motyer, we’ve lost the “voice” of the Old Testament. Knowing that most Christians find it more than a little daunting, Motyer’s newest book (published posthumously) distills the Old Testament’s message into several themes—history, religion, worship, prophecy, wisdom, and theology (the revelation of God). These six themes make up 6 Ways the Old Testament Speaks Today, originally published as A Scenic Route through the Old Testament (1994). The Old Testament Speaks Each chapter is an overview of a particular “voice” of the Old Testament (The Voice of History, The Voice of Religion, and so on). Each is also accompanied by one week of Bible readings with brief notes, along with the original daily readings and notes from the first edition in an appendix. Thus readers get an introductory chapter on a core theme in the Old Testament, accompanied by five weeks of daily Bible readings and expositional notes. This structure is particularly useful for daily devotions. The Voice of History is an overview of the narrative of the Old Testament with special attention to how God’s mighty acts and moral character ultimately makes the historical record reliable. The Voice of Religion focuses on the themes of presence and sacrifice, while the Voice of Worship emphasizes what it was like to be a believer in old-covenant times. The Voice of Prophecy is about the great foundational truths the prophets inherited and applied, and their forward-looking message. The Voice of Wisdom is “a tract for our times,” with observations of daily life that show Christians how to apply God’s wisdom in the world (112). Finally, the Voice of God is about God’s character—his holiness, justice, mercy, and love—which is a summation of the meaning of the divine name. Although I enjoy reading overviews of the core message of the Old Testament, the real value of Motyer’s book is his expositional comments on the daily readings. This is where the “voice” of the Old Testament really shines. In addition, Motyer often uses beautiful and sometimes humorous word pictures and illustrations in these comments—anything from comparing the Psalms to English and Australian postage stamps (56) to associating the pleasure of reading the Bible with modern advertisements of Bisto gravy (11). Here’s one from the final chapter on the Voice of God: Instead of Columbus “discovering America,” suppose the American Indians had journeyed east to tell us about themselves and about the marvelous land to the west where they lived. The Old Testament is like that: it is not the account of human voyage of discovery, searching for God, but of God coming to tell us about himself. (121) This quote and many others like it are just one of the reasons why I recommend 6 Ways the Old Testament Speaks Today. There are certain books I’ve read begrudgingly, thinking it might be a waste of time, only to be so edified I come away humbled and feeling a little ashamed. I admit that I approached this book with that attitude. But I’ve come away from reading it with a newfound appreciation for Motyer (a formidable Old Testament scholar), as well as a good book to recommend to other Christians. Knowing God Motyer writes, “the men and women of the Old Testament often put us to shame by the reality, the personal quality, the joy, the exuberance, and the knowledge of God that are so clear in their worship and song” (55). I think this is a good description of Motyer, too, who shares a contagious desire to know and understand the God of the Old Testament. Surprise and delight awaits us when we take up the Old Testament and listen to God speak. After all, a failure to understand the significance of the Old Testament is first and foremost a failure to understand God. As J. I. 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