Thursday, July 28, 2011

Daily Devotional Thursday 28th July

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us,”Hebrews 12:1 NIV
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Morning and Evening by Charles Spurgeon

Morning

"Exceeding great and precious promises."
2 Peter 1:4

If you would know experimentally the preciousness of the promises, and enjoy them in your own heart, meditate much upon them. There are promises which are like grapes in the wine-press; if you will tread them the juice will flow. Thinking over the hallowed words will often be the prelude to their fulfilment. While you are musing upon them, the boon which you are seeking will insensibly come to you. Many a Christian who has thirsted for the promise has found the favour which it ensured gently distilling into his soul even while he has been considering the divine record; and he has rejoiced that ever he was led to lay the promise near his heart.

But besides meditating upon the promises, seek in thy soul to receive them as being the very words of God. Speak to thy soul thus, "If I were dealing with a man's promise, I should carefully consider the ability and the character of the man who had covenanted with me. So with the promise of God; my eye must not be so much fixed upon the greatness of the mercy--that may stagger me; as upon the greatness of the promiser--that will cheer me. My soul, it is God, even thy God, God that cannot lie, who speaks to thee. This word of his which thou art now considering is as true as his own existence. He is a God unchangeable. He has not altered the thing which has gone out of his mouth, nor called back one single consolatory sentence. Nor doth he lack any power; it is the God that made the heavens and the earth who has spoken thus. Nor can he fail in wisdom as to the time when he will bestow the favours, for he knoweth when it is best to give and when better to withhold. Therefore, seeing that it is the word of a God so true, so immutable, so powerful, so wise, I will and must believe the promise." If we thus meditate upon the promises, and consider the Promiser, we shall experience their sweetness, and obtain their fulfilment.

Evening

"Who shall lay anything to the charge of God's elect?"
Romans 8:33

Most blessed challenge! How unanswerable it is! Every sin of the elect was laid upon the great Champion of our salvation, and by the atonement carried away. There is no sin in God's book against his people: he seeth no sin in Jacob, neither iniquity in Israel; they are justified in Christ forever. When the guilt of sin was taken away, the punishment of sin was removed. For the Christian there is no stroke from God's angry hand--nay, not so much as a single frown of punitive justice. The believer may be chastised by his Father, but God the Judge has nothing to say to the Christian, except "I have absolved thee: thou art acquitted." For the Christian there is no penal death in this world, much less any second death. He is completely freed from all the punishment as well as the guilt of sin, and the power of sin is removed too. It may stand in our way, and agitate us with perpetual warfare; but sin is a conquered foe to every soul in union with Jesus. There is no sin which a Christian cannot overcome if he will only rely upon his God to do it. They who wear the white robe in heaven overcame through the blood of the Lamb, and we may do the same. No lust is too mighty, no besetting sin too strongly entrenched; we can overcome through the power of Christ. Do believe it, Christian, that thy sin is a condemned thing. It may kick and struggle, but it is doomed to die. God has written condemnation across its brow. Christ has crucified it, "nailing it to his cross." Go now and mortify it, and the Lord help you to live to his praise, for sin with all its guilt, shame, and fear, is gone.

"Here's pardon for transgressions past,

It matters not how black their cast;

And, O my soul, with wonder view,

For sins to come here's pardon too."

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Today's reading: Psalm 43-45, Acts 27:27-44 (NIV)

View today's reading on Bible Gateway

Today's Old Testament reading: Psalm 43-45

1 Vindicate me, my God,
and plead my cause
against an unfaithful nation.
Rescue me from those who are
deceitful and wicked.
2 You are God my stronghold.
Why have you rejected me?
Why must I go about mourning,
oppressed by the enemy?
3 Send me your light and your faithful care,
let them lead me;
let them bring me to your holy mountain,
to the place where you dwell.
4 Then I will go to the altar of God,
to God, my joy and my delight.
I will praise you with the lyre,
O God, my God.

...read the rest on Bible Gateway

Today's New Testament reading: Acts 27:27-44

The Shipwreck

27 On the fourteenth night we were still being driven across the Adriatic Sea, when about midnight the sailors sensed they were approaching land. 28 They took soundings and found that the water was a hundred and twenty feet deep. A short time later they took soundings again and found it was ninety feetdeep. 29 Fearing that we would be dashed against the rocks, they dropped four anchors from the stern and prayed for daylight. 30 In an attempt to escape from the ship, the sailors let the lifeboat down into the sea, pretending they were going to lower some anchors from the bow. 31 Then Paul said to the centurion and the soldiers, "Unless these men stay with the ship, you cannot be saved." 32 So the soldiers cut the ropes that held the lifeboat and let it drift away....

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John

[Jŏhn] - jehovah hath been gracious.

  1. A kinsman of Annas the High Priest (Acts 4:6).
  2. A son of Mary, sister of Barnabas, and surnamed Mark (Acts 12:12, 25; 13:5, 13; 15:37). See MARK.
  3. The son of Zacharias and Elisabeth, who appeared as the forerunner of Christ, and who was beheaded by Herod ( Matt. 3:1, 4, 13).

The Man Who Was Plain But Powerful

With the appearance of John the Baptist we have the burial of the Old Dispensation and the emergence of the New. We seem to see his rugged figure standing with arms outstretched, as with one hand he takes the Old Testament, and with the other holds the New, and who, through his ministry, makes the transition from Law to Grace. He was the foreclosure of the old and the forerunner of the new. Perhaps we can helpfully gather the witness of John around these salient features:

I. His parentage. John came as the child of promise and was born in a city of Judah when his parents were old, and his mother long past conception (Luke 1:7, 13, 39). His parents were of priestly descent, his mother being a kinswoman of Mary the mother of our Lord (Luke 1:36).

II. His ascetic affinities. John, as a man of the desert, knew what it was to practice self-denial (Matt. 3:4 ). A Nazarite from his birth, he developed self-reliance and spiritual strength as he communed with God in the desert solitudes he loved (Luke 1:15). He was a plain man in every way, akin to Elijah whom many took him for.

He was plain of dress. He dressed simply, his raiment consisting of camel's hair, that is, either a robe of camel's skin or cloth woven from camel's hair. What a humble habit compared with the luxurious robes of soft wool worn by the fashionable and great of his time!

He was plain of food . No sumptuous dishes for this Elijah-like prophet. It was on rough food he thrived. Vegetable honey exuding from fig-trees and palms, and edible locusts, classed among the flying, creeping things the Israelites were allowed to eat (Lev. 11:22), formed his diet (Matt. 3:4). John the Baptist could subscribe to the words of a devout Englishman of a past century:

I shall be spare of sleep, sparer of diet, and sparest of time that, when the days for eating, drinking, clothing, and sleeping shall be no more, I may eat of my Saviour's hidden manna, drink of the new wine in my Father's kingdom, and inherit that rest which remaineth for the people of my God for ever and ever.

He was plain of speech. Living near to nature, he heard God's voice in solitude as well as in Scripture. Familiar with the Old Testament, he made frequent use of its picturesque language (Luke 3:17; Isa. 66:24; with Amos 9:6 ). After his sojourn in the desert, brooding over the need and peril of his time, he came forth to speak of barren trees fit only for burning - vipers fleeing before the flaming scrub. John saw in his desert surroundings much that symbolized his nation's calamity and which lent color to his solemn warnings of impending doom.

There is a great deal we would like to say about this man sent from God who had the privilege of acting as the forerunner and then as the baptizer of Jesus, who said of him that he was greater than a prophet. Space, however, forbids a full exposition of this mighty character in the Bible's portrait gallery. The preacher might be able to expand the following features: his self-denial (Matt. 3:4); courage (Matt. 3:7; 14:4); powerful preaching (Mark 1:5); humility ( Mark 1:7); holiness (Mark 6:20); burning zeal (John 5:35); honor (Matt. 11:11); ministry of witness (John 10:41); preparatory work (Matt. 11:10); testimony ( John 1:29-36); results (Matt. 9:14); death ( Matt. 14:10), of which Spurgeon said, "John was the first Baptist Minister to lose his head through dancing."

4. John, the son of Zebedee and Salome, the fisherman who became the beloved disciple, The Apostle of Love.

The Man Whom Jesus Loved

This younger brother of James has the rare distinction of being known as "the disciple whom Jesus loved." The original of his name means, "whom Jehovah loves" and John's experience corresponded to his name. From the many references to this honored disciple we can gather these facts:

He was a native of Bethsaida in Galilee.

His godly parents were probably cousins of Christ, and John was their youngest son.

His mother followed Christ, ministered unto Him, was at the Cross and among those who went to anoint the body of Christ with sweet spices.

His father was a fisherman owning his own vessel and prosperous enough to hire servants.

John himself was also a successful fisherman.

He was called to discipleship while plying his nets.

He was the youngest of the disciples, the Benjamin among the Twelve.

He was one of the select triumvirate, Christ's inner cabinet of three, Peter and James being the other two.

He was surnamed by Christ as a son of "Boanerges" because of his prophetic zeal and resolution to witness for Christ.

He was treated by Christ with greater familiarity than the others enjoyed.

He sat next to Christ at the Last Supper.

He was intrusted with the care of the mother of Jesus.

He died when he was almost one hundred years of age.

He wrote the gospel and three epistles bearing his name, and also the Book of Revelation. How true are Wesley's words of John the Beloved:

A Caesar's title less my envy moves

Than to be styled the man whom Jesus loves;

What charms, what beauties in his face did shine

Reflected ever from the face divine.

From manifold references in the four gospels, the Acts and Revelation, the preacher can develop these traits in John's character: his natural energy (Mark 3:17); his intolerance (Mark 9:38); his vindictiveness (Luke 9:54); his ambition (Mark 10:35-37); his eagerness to learn ( John 13:23; I John 2:9); his sympathy (John 19:26); his love (1 John 4:7-21).

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P31Header
Renee Swope

July 27, 2011

Measuring Up
Renee Swope

"When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise."2 Corinthians 10:12b (NIV)

Do you ever compare yourself to others and feel like you don't quite measure up? Maybe you think you're not as smart, capable, personable, or as godly as they are.

It is so easy to think that if we had more or knew more, we'd be secure. But the truth is, even people who "have it all" still struggle with feelings of insecurity. The Bible opens with the story of a woman who had everything, but it wasn't enough (Genesis 2).

God had established Eve's worth as His child and the crown of His creation. He also gave Eve every woman's desire: intimacy, beauty, security, significance, and purpose. Yet Satan conjured up feelings of insecurity by getting Eve to take her eyes off what she had and focus on what she didn't have.

Boy, can I relate. Like Eve, I've heard Satan's whispers telling me I'm not all I could be - or should be. One day I was reading her story in Genesis 2 and I noticed that his questions and suggestions were intended to plant seeds of doubt in Eve's heart. He wanted her to doubt God and herself.

The enemy's whispers tempted Eve to try to "be" more and "have" more by seeking significance apart from God's provision. He convinced her something was missing in her life and that the forbidden fruit would make her be "like God."

It was a foolish comparison, but all comparisons are. Yet don't we do it all the time? If only I was like her...if only I had a house like hers, a husband like hers, a job like hers...if only my children behaved like hers...If only _______, then I'd feel significant, satisfied and secure.

In today's key verse, Paul warns us that those who "measure themselves by themselves, and compare themselves with themselves, are not wise" (2 Cor. 10:12NIV). Comparison will always leave us feeling like we don't measure up. We can try to do more and be more, yet it's never enough.

If only Eve had focused on who she was and what she had as a child of God. If only we could too.

Yet Satan wants us to focus on our flaws and feelings of inadequacy, then exhaust our energy figuring out how to hide them. But we don't have to go along with his schemes. Instead we can recognize his lies, refute his temptations with truth, and focus on God's acceptance, security, and significance. Then we can thank God for His provision and His promises that remind us of who we are in Him:

I am accepted...
Ephesians 1:3-8 I have been chosen by God and adopted as His child.
Colossians 1:13-14 I have been redeemed and forgiven of all my sins.
Colossians 2:9-10 I am complete in Christ.

I am secure...
Romans 8:28 I am assured that God works for my good in all circumstances.
Romans 8:31-39 I am free from condemnation. I can't be separated from God's love.
Philippians1:6 I am confident God will complete the good work He started in me.

I am significant...
Ephesians 2:10 I am God's workmanship.
Ephesians 3:12 I may approach God with freedom and confidence.
Philippians 4:13 I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me.

Lord, thank You that in Christ I'm accepted, secure and significant. When I'm tempted to find my significance and security apart from Your provision and promises, help me recognize Satan's lies, refuse his temptations and stand firm in my faith. Remind me that such confidence as this is mine through Christ - not that I am competent in myself to claim anything for myself, but competence comes from Him. In Jesus' Name, Amen. (see 1 Peter 5:9; 2Corinthians 3:4-5)

Related Resources:
This devotion is taken in part from chapter 6 of Renee Swope's book: A Confident Heart: How to Stop Doubting Yourself & Live in the Security of God's Promises. To find out more or order your copy, click here.

Visit Renee's new website for a wonderful list of "Our Identity in Christ" Bible verses and enter to win her"Contagious Confidence" give-away!

Application Steps:
When you're tempted to use the measuring stick of comparison - be sure to measure UP by focusing upward on Christ - whose you are and who you are in HIM!

Reflections:
"The more you reaffirm who you are in Christ, the more your behavior (and beliefs) will begin to reflect your true identity!" Dr. Neil T. Anderson

Power Verses:
1 Peter 5:9, "Stand firm against him [the devil], and be strong in your faith. Remember that your Christian brothers and sisters all over the world are going through the same kind of suffering you are. (NLT)

2 Corinthians 3:4-5, "Such confidence we have through Christ before God. Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God." (NIV)

© 2011 by Renee Swope. All rights reserved.

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

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July 27, 2011

The Fiery Furnace

Sharon Jaynes

Today's Truth

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze (Isaiah 43:2 NIV).

Friend To Friend

One of the most beautiful pictures of trusting in the sovereignty of God is in the story of three young Jewish men: Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. These three lads refused to bow to King Nebuchadnezzar's idol. The punishment for such rebellion against the king was death in a fiery furnace. When the young men were taken before the king just before facing death, they respectfully explained:

The God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up. (Daniel 3:17-18)

That is a faith that's real - truly tried by fire. God can deliver me, but if He chooses not to, I'll serve Him anyway. God can heal me, but if He doesn't, I love Him regardless.

The young men were thrown into the furnace. Their refusal to bow to the King's request infuriated Nebuchadnezzar. He ordered the furnace heated seven times hotter than usual and commanded some of the strongest soldiers in his army to tie the young men up and toss them into the flames. The flames were so hot, the soldiers who took the bound boys to the furnace died in its heat. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego walked into the flames and the King stood by to watch.

"Didn't we throw three men in the furnace," the King asked in amazement.

"Look, I see four men walking around in the fire, unbound and unharmed, and the fourth looks like a son of the gods" (Daniel 3:25).

That was enough for the king to have a change of heart. He ordered the door opened, and the three young men walked out of that furnace without a singed hair on their heads or a hint of smoke on their clothes!

We can be sure of this, my friend - when walking through the fiery trials of life, we are never alone. Jesus is right there with us all the way. A little smoke and fire doesn't bother Him one little bit.

Let's Pray

Dear Lord, thank You that I never have to walk through the fiery trials of life alone. You promised that You will never leave me, and I cling to that truth today. Also, thank You for sending friends to walk through the flames with me! They are some of my most treasured gifts. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Now It's Your Turn

Describe one of the fiery trials in your life that you have had to walk through?

How was God's presence manifested in the "flames?"

Do you have a friend who needs someone to walk through a fiery trial with her?

Do you desire to have friends like the three young men in this story? If so, ask God to send you one or two friends with a strong faith with whom you can lock arms.

Gwen, Mary and I are so thankful that you have allowed us to walk through life with you. You are a blessing!

More From The Girlfriends

Fiery trials come in all shapes and sizes with varying degrees of heat. But no matter what the trial, there is always a lesson to be learned. God can use it for good (Romans 8:28). Let's not waste our sorrows, but turn them around and use them for good! To learn more on how to do just that see Sharon's book,Your Scars are Beautiful to God: Finding Peace and Purpose in the Hurts of Your Past.

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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Midsummer greetings from Bible Gateway! Here's the latest news:

How Do We Know Jesus Is the Messiah?

Who did Jesus claim to be, and how can we know if those claims are true? Christians believe that Jesus is God's son and that he saves us from sin--but what's the evidence on which that belief is based? What does the Bible really teach about Jesus?

Whether you're a Christian, a skeptic, or anywhere in between, these are important questions that need answering. And to help you find the answers, we're excited to announce a new series of free email reflections: Investigating the Bible. Every week,Investigating the Bible will ask and answer a new "tough question" about Jesus Christ, using material from the NIV Case for Christ Study Bible . Each reflection is written by author and apologist Lee Strobel, a former atheist who set out to collect all the evidence about Jesus Christ--and who now shares that evidence with anyone else searching for answers.

If you've ever had questions or doubts about Jesus' claims,Investigating the Bible will equip you with everything you need to decide for yourself--by examining each piece of Biblical evidence for Jesus' claims, you'll see what Jesus said about himself, what his actions demonstrated about him, and how all of that fits into the Bible's prophecies about the Messiah.

Investigating the Bible begins tomorrow; sign up now!

Get to Know Your Bible Better

You've probably noticed that we're adding a lot of email newsletters and devotionals lately. You may have also noticed that many of these newsletters complement each other quite nicely. If the new Investigating the Bible newsletter interests you, check out these other resources as well:
  • Investigating Faith : also written by Lee Strobel, this newsletter explores the reasons for faith in Christ. In each issue, Lee answers tough faith questions from readers and shares his own insights into Christianity and apologetics.
  • Insights for Students: Biblical insights and wisdom written especially for students (but relevant to anyone who wants to understand the Bible better).
  • The Heart of the Story: a series of video reflections by Randy Frazee about the challenge of Biblical illiteracy in the church... and the ways you can get to know your Bible as never before.
You can sign up for any or all of these at our Newsletters pagealong with Investigating the Bible.

That's all for this week. Thanks, as always, for your continued support of Bible Gateway!

Sincerely,
the Bible Gateway team
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The Crash: Rebellion, nakedness, hiding and shame

Read Genesis 3

Genesis 3:3: But God did say, "You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die."

"The Fall" theologians call it, but the event this chapter describes is really more like a crash. Although Adam and Eve have everything a person could want in Paradise, still a thought nags at them: Are we somehow missing out? Is God keeping something from us? Like all of us, they cannot resist the temptation to reach out for what lies beyond them.

Said journalist and author G.K. Chesterton, "There is only one doctrine that can be empirically verified: the doctrine of original sin." Genesis gives few details about the first sin. Many people mistakenly assume sex is involved, but something far more basic is at stake. God has labeled one tree, just one, off-limits. The real issue is, Who will set the rules-humans or God? Adam and Eve decide in favor of themselves, and the world has never been the same.

The underlying message of Genesis goes against some common assumptions about human history. According to these chapters, the world and humanity have not been gradually evolving toward a better and better state. On the contrary, long ago we wrecked against the rocks of our own pride and stubbornness.

Nobody, including God, has been satisfied with human beings since that time. Though created good, humans disobeyed God right from the beginning, and we've been suffering the consequences ever since. Genesis helps us understand why the universe is so strikingly lovely, yet so terribly tragic. It is lovely because God made it. It is tragic because he trusted it to us-and we failed.

Did God Really Say?

Adam and Eve react to their sin as anyone reacts to sin. They rationalize, try to explain themselves and look for someone else to take the blame. The author of Genesis pointedly notes that they also feel the need to hide. They hide from each other by making coverings for themselves because they sense, for the first time, a feeling of shame about being naked. Perhaps the greatest change of all occurs in their relationship with God. Previously, they had walked and talked freely with God in the garden, much as one would with a friend. Now, when they hear God's voice, they hide.

The three questions God asks Adam and Eve apply to anyone in hiding: (1) Where are you? (And why are you hiding from me?) (2) Who told you that you were naked? (And why did you believe somebody else, not me?) (3) What is this that you have done? (And are you ready to take responsibility for it?)

Genesis 3 tells of other profound changes that affect the world because the creatures choose their own way rather than their Creator's: suffering multiplies, work becomes harder, and a new word-death-enters human vocabulary. Perfection is spoiled forever. All wars, all violence, all broken relationships, all grief and sadness trace back to this one monumental day in the Garden of Eden.

Life Question

Have you ever felt hemmed in or stifled by one of God's commands? How have you responded to this feeling?


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