Thursday, June 30, 2011

Daily Devotional Thursday 30th June

“The LORD will vindicate me; your love, LORD, endures forever— do not abandon the works of your hands.” Psalm 138:8 NIV
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Morning and Evening by Charles Spurgeon

Morning

"Them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him."
1 Thessalonians 4:14

Let us not imagine that the soul sleeps in insensibility. "Today shalt thou be with me in paradise," is the whisper of Christ to every dying saint. They "sleep in Jesus," but their souls are before the throne of God, praising him day and night in his temple, singing hallelujahs to him who washed them from their sins in his blood. The body sleeps in its lonely bed of earth, beneath the coverlet of grass. But what is this sleep? The idea connected with sleep is "rest," and that is the thought which the Spirit of God would convey to us. Sleep makes each night a Sabbath for the day. Sleep shuts fast the door of the soul, and bids all intruders tarry for a while, that the life within may enter its summer garden of ease. The toil-worn believer quietly sleeps, as does the weary child when it slumbers on its mother's breast. Oh! happy they who die in the Lord; they rest from their labours, and their works do follow them. Their quiet repose shall never be broken until God shall rouse them to give them their full reward. Guarded by angel watchers, curtained by eternal mysteries, they sleep on, the inheritors of glory, till the fulness of time shall bring the fulness of redemption. What an awaking shall be theirs! They were laid in their last resting place, weary and worn, but such they shall not rise. They went to their rest with the furrowed brow, and the wasted features, but they wake up in beauty and glory. The shrivelled seed, so destitute of form and comeliness, rises from the dust a beauteous flower. The winter of the grave gives way to the spring of redemption and the summer of glory. Blessed is death, since it, through the divine power, disrobes us of this work-day garment, to clothe us with the wedding garment of incorruption. Blessed are those who "sleep in Jesus."

Evening

"Howbeit, in the business of the ambassadors of the princes of Babylon, who sent unto him to enquire of the wonder that was done in the land, God left him, to try him, that he might know all that was in his heart."
2 Chronicles 32:31

Hezekiah was growing so inwardly great, and priding himself so much upon the favour of God, that self-righteousness crept in, and through his carnal security, the grace of God was for a time, in its more active operations, withdrawn. Here is quite enough to account with the Babylonians; for if the grace of God should leave the best Christian, there is enough of sin in his heart to make him the worst of transgressors. If left to yourselves, you who are warmest for Christ would cool down like Laodicea into sickening lukewarmness: you who are sound in the faith would be white with the leprosy of false doctrine; you who now walk before the Lord in excellency and integrity would reel to and fro, and stagger with a drunkenness of evil passion. Like the moon, we borrow our light; bright as we are when grace shines on us, we are darkness itself when the Sun of Righteousness withdraws himself. Therefore let us cry to God never to leave us. "Lord, take not thy Holy Spirit from us! Withdraw not from us thine indwelling grace! Hast thou not said, I the Lord do keep it; I will water it every moment: lest any hurt it, I will keep it night and day'? Lord, keep us everywhere. Keep us when in the valley, that we murmur not against thy humbling hand; keep us when on the mountain, that we wax not giddy through being lifted up; keep us in youth, when our passions are strong; keep us in old age, when becoming conceited of our wisdom, we may therefore prove greater fools than the young and giddy; keep us when we come to die, lest, at the very last, we should deny thee! Keep us living, keep us dying, keep us labouring, keep us suffering, keep us fighting, keep us resting, keep us everywhere, for everywhere we need thee, O our God!"

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Ahilud

[Ahī'lud] - a brother of one born.

  1. The father of Jehoshaphat, the recorder under David and Solomon (2 Sam. 8:16; 20:24; 1 Kings 4:3; 1 Chron. 18:15).
  2. Father of Baana, one of Solomon's twelve purveyors (1 Kings 4:12).
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LeeStrobel-Newsletter-Header-Final
The Future of Faith

LeeheadshotDrew Dyck explores reasons why young people are leaving Christianity in alarming numbers. The results are sobering - but they need to be faced

Drew Dyck, the managing editor of Leadership Journal, has written an important book that investigates the exodus of young people from the faith. It's a topic we ignore at our own peril. In this provocative interview, Drew discusses some of his disturbing findings from Generation Ex-Christian: Why Young Adults are Leaving the Faith...and How to Bring Them Back.

What prompted you to write about young people who have left the faith? As I moved through my twenties, I started to see some of my friends leave the faith. These were people who had been active in my youth group, sang on the worship team, and were passionate about Jesus. That got my attention.

So I read up on the topic and learned that what I was witnessing in my circle of friends was not unique. Several recent studies seem to indicate that there's a strong tendency for this generation to fall away. I also wanted to get behind the statistics to the real-life young people who had walked away. So I tracked down dozens of them, mostly 20-somethings, who identified as "ex-Christians" and listened to their stories.

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Questions from readers:

  • How do Islam and Christianity differ?
  • Is the biblical Battle of Jericho a myth?
  • Is it wrong for Christians to drink alcohol?

Q. I understand that the Holy Qur'an and the Old Testament are very similar and that Allah is the same God a Christian follows. What separates Christian belief and Muslim belief? I will eventually seek it out myself, but I'm just now reading and learning the Holy Bible, so it would be sometime before I got to the point where I would know for myself. That is assuming you may know the answer. Thank you, Josh

A. Thanks for writing, Josh. I thought it would be helpful if I asked my friend N.A. Qureshi, M.D., to provide a response. Dr. Qureshi is a Muslim-turned-Christian and director of a new apologetics ministry called Creed 2:6, which is devoted to telling Muslims about the real Jesus. The ministry's website is www.Creed26.com. Here's his reply:

Dear Josh, This is a great question, one that more and more people are asking as we get increasingly acquainted with our Muslim neighbors in the US. And while it's good to find mutual beliefs we can use to relate to our Muslim friends, we should be careful not to go too far and assume common ground that isn't there.

The major doctrines of traditional Islam are encompassed in the "Articles of Faith." Five of these articles, found in 2:177 of the Qur'an, are more or less analogous to Christian doctrine: belief in one God, in angels, in the prophets of old (such as Noah, Abraham, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, etc.), in the divine inspiration of scriptures, and in a time of resurrection and judgment. In the same verse, Muslims are also urged to be consistent in prayer, steadfast through suffering, and charitable to family members and the poor. These teachings have strong parallels in the Christian life, and they offer a solid platform for building bridges to your Muslim neighbors.
Read the rest of this answer!

Have a question? Drop me a line atAskLee@Leestrobel.com. We'll answer the ones with the broadest interest in upcoming newsletters. Thanks to Sam Wall, former chief researcher for the Bible Answer Man radio show, who heads the "Ask Lee" response team.

Lee's Notes

• We're pleased to announce that Georges Houssney, who was born in Lebanon and has forty years of experience in reaching Muslims for Christ, will be participating in our national Unpacking Islam simulcast on Sunday evening, Sept. 11. Georges is president of Horizons International and is well-known for supervising the Bible's translation into modern Arabic and Kurdish. His book Engaging Islam is excellent. You can still sign up your church or small group to participate in the simulcast, which will clarify what Muslims really believe and how Christians can bring them the message of Christ. Stop by Incastevents for more information.

• Wow! Check out what Ane Mulligan of the influential website Novel Journey says about my daughter Alison's forthcoming novel Composing Amelia : "Alison Strobel keeps getting better and better. Composing Amelia is a novel I consider to be a lasting work of fiction. Within its pages, Strobel plumbs the depths of emotion in a subject fraught with prejudice and misinformation within the church. With characters your heart will embrace, it is a story of pride and depression without being depressive. From the first page until the last, I was caught up in Marcus and Amelia's world, unwilling to stop reading. A beautiful love story, you'll see God's grace through unconditional love. Alison Strobel is quickly proving she has what it takes to be a bestselling author, book after book. Novel Journey and I give it our highest recommendation. It is a 5-star must read. Bravo, Alison!" Way to go, sweetheart!

How a disabled child led family to Christ



God brought Greg and Kim Lucas to the end of their own strength so they could find their strength in him.


Lee's Links: Suggested articles from the web
Optimism versus pessimism
Fascinating survey of evangelical leaders finds pessimism about future is more widespread in U.S. and developed countries.
Religion news on the Internet
As newsrooms struggle to find new ways to cover religion in the face of downsizing, many turn to the Internet to fill gaps.
The state of Southern Baptists
Respected missiologist Ed Stetzer discusses why the country's largest denomination must move from decline to decision.
The faith of Stephen Colbert
Could this Comedy Central satirist, who often teaches beyond the laughs, really be the best thing going for U.S. Catholicism?
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Today's reading: Job 14-16, Acts 9:22-43 (NIV)

View today's reading on Bible Gateway

Today's Old Testament reading: Job 14-16

1 "Mortals, born of woman,
are of few days and full of trouble.
2 They spring up like flowers and wither away;
like fleeting shadows, they do not endure.
3 Do you fix your eye on them?
Will you bring them before you for judgment?
4 Who can bring what is pure from the impure?
No one!
5 A person's days are determined;
you have decreed the number of his months
and have set limits he cannot exceed.
6 So look away from him and let him alone,
till he has put in his time like a hired laborer.

...read the rest on Bible Gateway

Today's New Testament reading: Acts 9:22-43

22 Yet Saul grew more and more powerful and baffled the Jews living in Damascus by proving that Jesus is the Messiah.

23 After many days had gone by, there was a conspiracy among the Jews to kill him, 24 but Saul learned of their plan. Day and night they kept close watch on the city gates in order to kill him. 25 But his followers took him by night and lowered him in a basket through an opening in the wall....

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June 29, 2011

Removing the Mask and Becoming Real

Sharon Jaynes

Today's Truth

"Whether he is a sinner or not, I don't know. One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see!" (John 9:25 NIV).

Friend to Friend

I can still remember the Saturday night rituals at my house when I was six-years-old. My mother wound my sun-streaked ash blonde hair in what seemed like a hundred pink sponge rollers. She'd swipe her middle and pointer fingers through the sticky jar of blue Dippidy-Do, slather it on a swatch of hair, and then wind the sponge round and round. My "ouches" and winces were met with "be still" and "stop squirming."

Why did she put me through the torture and sentence me to a fitful night's sleep trying to find a comfortable spot to lay my head? Because the next day was Sunday and we were going to church lookin' good. On Sundays our family drove to church, many times fighting all the way, and walked through the pristine double doors of the church with smiles and platitudes.

"How are you?" the fellow parishioners asked.

"Fine," we mechanically replied. "And how are you?"

"Fine," thank you.

But we were anything but fine, and I imagine the folks on the pews beside us were anything but fine either.

My home was riddled with unhappiness. My father drank heavily, and Saturday nights were usually the worst. My mom was extremely unhappy. I was lonely and afraid. And my brother was just plain mad most of the time. But nobody knew. We hid it well.

What is it about church that makes us put on masks to cover up what is really going on inside? Forget the fig leaves. We've moved on to designer clothes, shiny cars, and smiling faces in order to attend the masquerade ball we call "church."

Why do we do it? Is it because we don't want to appear weak? Is it that we want to appear strong as the rock of Gibraltar even if a husband just lost his job, a son is flunking out of school, parents are dying with cancer, and a lump just surfaced while showering that very morning?

"How are you?"

"Fine, just fine. Praise the Lord."

Sometimes the church becomes our stage where we play "Let's Pretend." But as the audience applauds our performance, the Director's voice grows faintly dim.

There is a scene in C.S. Lewis's The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, that exemplifies what I think God longs for in the Body of Christ. The White Witch has turned many of the inhabitants of Narnia into stone statues. Then, in a valiant display of courage, Aslan, the lion Christ-like figure, pounces into the courtyard and breathes on each of the statues...bringing them back to life. Let's join in the party for just a moment...

"The courtyard looked no longer like a museum; it looked more like a zoo. Creatures were running after Aslan and dancing around him till he was almost hidden in the crowd. Instead of all that deadly white the courtyard was now a blaze of colors; glossy chestnut sides of centaurs, indigo horns of unicorns, dazzling plumage of birds, reddy-brown of foxes, dogs and satyrs, yellow stockings and crimson hoods of dwarfs; and the birch-girls in silver, and the beech-girls in fresh, transparent green, and the larch-girls in green so bright that it was almost yellow. And instead of the deadly silence the whole place rang with the sound of happy roarings, braying, yelpings, barkings, squealings, cooings, neighings, stampings, shouts, hurrahs, songs and laughter."

I fear that many of our churches have turned into the stone courtyard where everyone tries to blend in and conform to the image...not of Christ...but of what others expect from church-going-folks. However, we were never meant to be a gathering of identical statues, but of colorful, wildly wonderful individuals...real people...unmasked.

This week, let Aslan blow the spirit of truth on the stone places in your heart and turn you into "real."

Let's Pray

Dear Lord, I don't want to be fake. I want to be real. I don't want to wait until I am old and withered. I want to be real today! Help me to remove the mask of perfection and join the courtyard of the "happy roaring, braying, yelping, barking, squealing, cooing, neighing, stamping, singing and laughing creatures. May I never pretend to be other than I really am. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Now It's Your Turn

Psychologists say that we are mentally healthier when we have one or two people with whom we can be completely honest. Who are those people in your life?

If you do not have such a person, pray that God will send you one.

When we remove our masks and become real, it encourages others to do the same. Give it a try. The next time you are sharing with a friend, be honest about a struggle you are having and watch what happens.

So let me ask you. How are you doing today? Let's pray for each other. List your prayer requests on my Facebook page atwww.facebook.com/sharonjaynes, and then pray for the GiG before and after your entry. It would be extra special to tell her that you've prayed.

More From The Girlfriends

Today's devotion was taken from Sharon's book, Your Scars are Beautiful to God. This book is a wonderful resource for anyone who would like to learn more about the real power of your own personal story and how to share it with a hurting world. You'll turn your pain into purpose and your hurt into hope.

Seeking God?

Click here to find out more about

how to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

Girlfriends in God

P.O. Box 725

Matthews, NC 28106

info@girlfriendsingod.com
www.girlfriendsingod.com

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P31Header
Karen Ehman

June 29, 2011

Dead Weight
Karen Ehman

"Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you." James 1:21 (NIV)

Ever have a reoccurring bad attitude drain the life right out of you? It can cause your spirits to wither and your joy to die, leaving you limp and lifeless like a water-deprived plant.

I was feeling that way recently when I remembered something my husband's mom had taught me. She is famous for growing wonderful herbs and colorful perennials. In fact, her garden boasts an array of color from the first hint of spring until late fall.

One day I asked her to share her green-thumb secret. She explained that the secret to helping plants thrive is called "dead-heading." Here is how it is done: As soon as any beautiful blooms begin to whither, fade, or turn brown, they must be removed.

I've discovered it is a tedious, never-ending task. Just when I think I have removed every dried up blossom, the next day a dozen more appear. But if I want my flowers to keep blossoming, I have to dead-head daily because the deceased blooms sap nutrition and strength from the core of the plant. They rob the flowers of energy that could be used for new growth.

However, if the dead and debilitating weight is properly plucked, the stems will give gorgeous petals throughout the entire life of the plant.

As I pluck my dead flower heads, I am reminded of my life with Christ. There are places in my heart, thoughts in my mind, and actions in my will that stem from bad attitudes. And they are nothing but dead weight to my spiritual life.

Often these deep-rooted thought patterns and their companions - doubt, fear, wrong choices, old habits, nursed grudges, or current conflicts - threaten to choke our growth and prevent us from displaying the splendor God intends for us to show.

We start our day hopeful yet give in to the hurtful. Our self-doubts or judgments of others often take root in negative thoughts and counterproductive actions that not only have the potential to ruin our day, but also affect those around us. However, if we are intentional in nipping these at their first appearance, we will be more likely to experience new growth in our walk with Christ and health in our relationships.

Today's verse from James tells us to get rid of such issues and instead to humbly plant God's word deep in our hearts. So, instead of dwelling on a temptation in our thoughts and allowing it to morph into sin, we quietly focus our hearts on a truth from scripture such as "For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are - yet he did not sin." (Hebrews 5:14)

Dwelling on scripture empowers, rather than drains us. It is spiritual dead-heading at its finest. This switch in our thought pattern can save us from wrong choices, unhealthy relationships and self-inflicted heartbreak.

Could your heart use a dead-heading session? Are there faded blooms you have been carrying around that are sapping your spiritual energy and strength, causing heartache and tears? Get rid of the bad. Plant God's good Word in that spot instead. Then stand back - patiently now - and watch beautiful blooms begin to appear.

Dear Lord, I admit to You the faded flowers of my heart that I have been carrying around for much too long. Grant me courage to pluck them for good. Replace them with Your word planted seriously in my soul in an intentional manner. Let me drink deep of your bottomless nourishment so that the blooms You choose to grow and display in my life might point others to the Savior. In Jesus' Name, Amen

Related Resources:
For five tips on spiritual dead-heading & a chance to win a great gardening giveaway visit Karen's Blog.

A Confident Heart by Renee Swope

A Life That Says Welcome, Simple Ways to Open Your Heart & Home to Others by Karen Ehman

Do You Know Jesus?

Application Steps:
Gather some note cards, a pen, and colored markers. Get alone with the Master Gardener and ask Him honestly and earnestly to reveal those areas of your life that are sapping your strength and rendering you ineffective for His kingdom.

In your best grade-school attempt, draw some faded, brown flowers, one per card. Next to these lifeless blooms write something that has been sapping your spiritual strength and must be removed from your life. Now turn over each card and write a corresponding verse that helps combat these strength-sapping attitudes and behaviors. Decorate these sides, if you wish, with colorful flowers.

Reflections:
How does this spiritual dead weight my relationship with God? And with other people?

What part does bible study or scripture memory play in "dead-heading"?

Power Verses:
Psalm 40:11-13, "Do not withhold your mercy from me, O LORD; may your love and your truth always protect me. For troubles without number surround me; my sins have overtaken me, and I cannot see. They are more than the hairs of my head, and my heart fails within me. Be pleased, O LORD, to save me; O LORD, come quickly to help me." (NIV)

Psalm 66:18-19, "If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened; but God has surely listened and heard my voice in prayer." (NIV)

Psalm 119:10-11, "I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands. I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you." (NIV)

© 2011 by Karen Ehman. All rights reserved.

Proverbs 31 Ministries
616-G Matthews-Mint Hill Road
Matthews, NC 28105
www.Proverbs31.org

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Everything New - A Weeekly Devotional

PUTTING THE PIECES BACK TOGETHER

All the kings horses and all the kings men, couldn't put Humpty together again. -Nursery Rhyme

Life would be easier, wouldn't it, if all its pieces held together. If they always made sense. If nothing ever broke off. If no part were ever lost, or twisted, or detached.

Imagine life if you could glide smoothly through the day from one of your roles to the next: mother to wife to co-manager to next-door-neighbor to aunt to friend; or brother to supervisor to dad to son to church leader. Is there one person in there somewhere? Is it possible to live as the same person at home as at work, instead of civil Jekyll in public and monster Hyde when you're alone?

Imagine life if no one ever left, if illness never caused loved ones to drop from our lives, if the people we care about never died or deserted us.

Imagine life in Paradise. Eden was the wonderful opening chord of life, complete harmony with nothing in excess, nothing missing, nothing broken. But when that break did happen (and what an awful shattering sound it made), when human beings said, "we think we can do this on our own," all creation shuddered and cracks spread throughout.

Our only hope from then on was that someone, somewhere would help us put the pieces back together.

When the Bible says that "in him [that is, Christ], all things hold together," it is describing the fundamental structure of all reality. "All things" means all things. Go down to the level of the molecule, then the individual atom, and science will tell you that it is a mystery how atoms and their particles hold together. But they do. How is it that you put into your mouth meat and potatoes and vegetables, and they are broken apart, but you yourself don't break apart? Your body keeps reorganizing itself, growing, healing. The biological pieces keep coming together, with some interruptions for illness, until that last breath moves out across your lips and the spirit departs. Only then does your body return to dust.

The divine Christ puts the pieces back together because he put it all together the first time. "He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together" (Colossians 1:15-17).

Our only hope of surviving in a broken, disconnected, fractured world is the fact that God created everything according to a grand pattern. The very meaning of the word "creation" is taking pieces and making a whole. Heaven and earth do fit together, even though it oftentimes seems as if they are two different universes. God created the visible and the invisible as one reality, though now we so often choose to live merely as bodies without souls. Why, at creation, did it all hold together? Why are there patterns to the pieces? It is because "all things were created by him and for him."

Excerpt from Putting the Pieces Back Together: How Real Life and Real Faith Connect. Free DVD available now.

Resources

About The Author - Mel Lawrenz serves as minister at large for Elmbrook Church and leads The Brook Network. Having been in pastoral ministry for thirty years, the last decade as senior pastor of Elmbrook, Mel seeks to help Christian leaders engage with each other. Mel is the author of eleven books, the most recent for church leaders, Whole Church: Leading from Fragmentation to Engagement.


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