Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Daily Devotional Wednesday 20th July

“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10 NIV
Morning and Evening by Charles Spurgeon


"The Lord our God hath shewed us his glory."
Deuteronomy 5:24

God's great design in all his works is the manifestation of his own glory. Any aim less than this were unworthy of himself. But how shall the glory of God be manifested to such fallen creatures as we are? Man's eye is not single, he has ever a side glance towards his own honour, has too high an estimate of his own powers, and so is not qualified to behold the glory of the Lord. It is clear, then, that self must stand out of the way, that there may be room for God to be exalted; and this is the reason why he bringeth his people ofttimes into straits and difficulties, that, being made conscious of their own folly and weakness, they may be fitted to behold the majesty of God when he comes forth to work their deliverance. He whose life is one even and smooth path, will see but little of the glory of the Lord, for he has few occasions of self-emptying, and hence, but little fitness for being filled with the revelation of God. They who navigate little streams and shallow creeks, know but little of the God of tempests; but they who "do business in great waters," these see his "wonders in the deep." Among the huge Atlantic-waves of bereavement, poverty, temptation, and reproach, we learn the power of Jehovah, because we feel the littleness of man. Thank God, then, if you have been led by a rough road: it is this which has given you your experience of God's greatness and lovingkindness. Your troubles have enriched you with a wealth of knowledge to be gained by no other means: your trials have been the cleft of the rock in which Jehovah has set you, as he did his servant Moses, that you might behold his glory as it passed by. Praise God that you have not been left to the darkness and ignorance which continued prosperity might have involved, but that in the great fight of affliction, you have been capacitated for the outshinings of his glory in his wonderful dealings with you.


"A bruised reed shall he not break, and smoking flax shall he not quench."
Matthew 12:20

What is weaker than the bruised reed or the smoking flax? A reed that groweth in the fen or marsh, let but the wild duck light upon it, and it snaps; let but the foot of man brush against it, and it is bruised and broken; every wind that flits across the river moves it to and fro. You can conceive of nothing more frail or brittle, or whose existence is more in jeopardy, than a bruised reed. Then look at the smoking flax--what is it? It has a spark within it, it is true, but it is almost smothered; an infant's breath might blow it out; nothing has a more precarious existence than its flame. Weak things are here described, yet Jesus says of them, "The smoking flax I will not quench; the bruised reed I will not break." Some of God's children are made strong to do mighty works for him; God has his Samsons here and there who can pull up Gaza's gates, and carry them to the top of the hill; he has a few mighties who are lion-like men, but the majority of his people are a timid, trembling race. They are like starlings, frightened at every passer by; a little fearful flock. If temptation comes, they are taken like birds in a snare; if trial threatens, they are ready to faint; their frail skiff is tossed up and down by every wave, they are drifted along like a sea bird on the crest of the billows--weak things, without strength, without wisdom, without foresight. Yet, weak as they are, and because they are so weak, they have this promise made specially to them. Herein is grace and graciousness! Herein is love and lovingkindness! How it opens to us the compassion of Jesus--so gentle, tender, considerate! We need never shrink back from his touch. We need never fear a harsh word from him; though he might well chide us for our weakness, he rebuketh not. Bruised reeds shall have no blows from him, and the smoking flax no damping frowns.


Today's reading: Psalm 23-25, Acts 21:18-40 (NIV)

View today's reading on Bible Gateway

Today's Old Testament reading: Psalm 23-25

A psalm of David.

1 The LORD is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
2 He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
3 he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths
for his name's sake.
4 Even though I walk
through the darkest valley,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me. the rest on Bible Gateway

Today's New Testament reading: Acts 21:18-40

18 The next day Paul and the rest of us went to see James, and all the elders were present. 19 Paul greeted them and reported in detail what God had done among the Gentiles through his ministry.

20 When they heard this, they praised God. Then they said to Paul: "You see, brother, how many thousands of Jews have believed, and all of them are zealous for the law. 21 They have been informed that you teach all the Jews who live among the Gentiles to turn away from Moses, telling them not to circumcise their children or live according to our customs. 22What shall we do? They will certainly hear that you have come,23 so do what we tell you. There are four men with us who have made a vow. 24 Take these men, join in their purification rites and pay their expenses, so that they can have their heads shaved. Then everyone will know there is no truth in these reports about you, but that you yourself are living in obedience to the law. 25 As for the Gentile believers, we have written to them our decision that they should abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality."



[Tī'tus] - honorable from "i honor."Titus was born of Gentile parents, and was a convert from heathenism. It is more than likely that Paul led him to Christ (Gal. 2:3; Titus 1:4).

The Man Who Refreshed His Master

There seemed to have been a peculiar bond of affection between Paul and his Grecian convert. How Paul loved him and appreciated his trusted companionship (2 Cor. 7:6, 13 )! What an inspiration he was to Paul on several of his journeys (Gal. 2:1, 3)! In 2 Corinthians Paul mentions Titus some nine times. Paul sent Titus to Corinth as his delegate. Paul anxiously awaited the return of Titus, and he refreshed the spirit of the apostle both by his presence and the good news he brought from Corinth (2 Cor. 2:12, 14).

In the precious epistle Paul sent to Titus, we learn more facts about the loving co-operation between these two noble men. When Paul was released from prison, Titus accompanied him on a visit to Crete, Paul leaving him there to assist the Church in a fourfold way:

I. Set in order things that were wanting.

II. Ordain elders in every city.

III. Avoid unprofitable discussion.

IV. Duly assert his authority (Titus 1:5; 2:1; 3:9, 15).

It may be that Paul sent his epistle to Titus by the hands of Zenas and Apollos (3:13 ), to assist him in the difficult task at Crete.

Paul then wanted Titus to join him for the winter in Nicopolis (3:12). Titus was with the apostle during part of his second imprisonment in Rome (2 Tim. 4:10). Both men were sustained in their arduous labors by "the blessed hope" (Titus 2:13).

A godly man of Corinth is spoken of as Titus Justus (Acts 18:7, RV). Titus himself is not mentioned directly in the Acts. Doubtless he was included in the "certain others" in Acts 15:2.

Everything New - A Weeekly Devotional


When I visited Esther in her tin shed in a Nairobi slum, I found myself talking to the person closest to Job in the Old Testament that I’d ever met. I didn’t know at that moment that she was within a couple of weeks of dying from AIDS.

This slum on the east side of the city is a cluster of huts and sheds made with odd-shaped pieces of corrugated sheet metal, or stacks of sharp black stones. Tens of thousands of people are crammed into this area. A meandering path takes you through the clusters of shacks and you step over the trickling streams of putrid open sewers. Children stare as you walk past. Adults give a glance and even a friendly greeting. My Kenyan host, Jane, who runs an amazing ministry of mercy for mothers with AIDS, led the way into the 6×8 foot shed that was Esther’s and her daughter’s home.

Reclining on her bed, and too thin and weak to do more than raise herself on one elbow, Esther greeted us with a smile. I sat on the corner of her daughter’s bed near a couple of pots and an alcohol stove on the ground. Jane had Esther flip through the yellowed plastic pages of a small picture album, which brought smiles to Esther’s face as she briefly identified who was in each picture. There was one of Esther on her wedding day, a tall and strikingly beautiful woman wearing the cleanest white and beaming the whitest smile, standing outside in the Nairboi sunshine. It was hard to believe this was the same person lying, emaciated, in that shack. A few pages over was a photo looking straight down on her husband’s wooden casket lowered halfway into his grave by men holding two ropes. He contracted HIV and developed AIDS first. Esther contracted the disease from him. Mercifully, their daughter has tested negative for HIV.

Esther’s arms were covered with sores. She blinked slowly and weakly; her voice was raspy. But she spoke of the good things with joy. I learned that even when she was quite sick, she had given her testimony in church, and that she never gave up loving the Christian songs she had led her whole life. The women, like Jane, who helped her get good nutrition and who were genuine friends were visible signs of God’s grace flowing amid the sewers. When she had been strong enough, Esther worked with the other HIV mothers in a small warehouse making beautiful rugs. Someone was helping her do something constructive while she had strength, instead of consigning her to the number of the cursed.

“Curse God, and die,” Job’s wife had told him when he was in a similar situation. Others do give up faith. But untold numbers reach the extremes that Esther did and cling to God right to the last moment. Those who choose atheism relinquish the only hope we have when all other hope is gone.

When we look at Scripture, the overarching truth we find is this: suffering is not the way things were meant to be, but God is moving things toward redemption.

There are numerous sources of suffering in the world. First of all is Satan’s destructive intent-that malevolent evil force at work in the world. It’s a voice that comes through the crafty serpent of Genesis 3: “Did God really say, you must not eat from any tree in the garden?” Untold suffering has happened in the world because people have chosen to succumb to temptation no matter the harm that may come to others. In the story of Job, Satan says that he has been “roaming through the earth and going back and forth in it,” the picture of a pure predator. The Bible teaches that there is an Evil One who has an interest in all human suffering. When the apostle Paul is talking about a “thorn in the flesh” that he had, which was most likely a physical impediment, he calls it a messenger of Satan. Paul asked God to take it away-a prayer that we are always permitted to pray. Three times he pleaded with God. And even this apostle, who knew more about the power of God and the reality of evil than most of us do, knew this pain might be taken away and might not.

He came to believe that God was giving grace in many other ways and that God’s power would be seen in his weakness.

That story can be told many times over. Some of the people with the strongest faith show that strength at the hour of their greatest weakness. That is why evil does not have the final word. Evil may delight in pain, but evil never cashes in on pain.

Excerpt from Putting the Pieces Back Together: How Real Life and Real Faith Connect. Complimentary DVDavailable now.



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.

July 19, 2011

The Power of Quiet
Gwen Smith

Today's Truth
The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul (Psalm 23:1-3, NIV).

Friend To Friend
There are times when laundry takes over my house. Piles build up, though I try to stay on top of them. Many of the clothes are clean and even folded, but not put away. That tricky put-away-part is always hard for me.

Then there are the socks. Oh, the socks! They burden me so!! I'm half tempted to believe that a great sock nation exists, and that sock-soldiers are on a secret mission to destroy my testimony by driving me crazy! Divide and conquer. That's what they do! Why can't socks just behave? Why can't they ever stay in pairs, and where am I supposed to put the socks that remain unmatched? (Insert dramatic sigh here...) Unmatched socks and folded-but-not-put-away-laundry tie me up in knots. I don't like to admit it, but sometimes days go by before I make the time to put them away.

Is it just me?

I've come to realize that my days can be a lot like my laundry situation. At times they get piled up with "busy." Sabbath gets squeezed out. Now, when I say Sabbath, I mean the priority of sitting before the Lord just to sit with Him ... quietly ... expectantly ... to listen. Though I do include God in my days and breathe prayers throughout, when I don't sit before the Lord - and exercise the spiritual discipline of being quiet before God - it seems that both old and new burdens can tie my heart into a frazzled knot.

It had been one of those weeks. Knots. Knots. Knots. Then I finally remembered the power of quiet. As I sat in the cool still of the morning with a hot mug of coffee in my hand and the warming presence of God in my soul, the burdens of my heart began to drift away. Direction came. Joy resounded. Mercy rained. Peace ... deep peace fell.

It was when the companion of God's Spirit had begun to transform my soul, my thoughts, my goals, and my day that I realized, as if I had slumbered half the week away ... this is where they go! This is where my burdens belong! The old ones that I've written about time and time again in my prayer journal and the new ones that are just beginning to unravel from my heart. This is where they go! I just needed to put my continuous stream of life-burdens away like the unending piles of laundry! Then ... order, soul order. Peace, compelling peace. Joy, divine joy. It all comes.

I sat in wonder. Still. In His presence. Convicted of my failure to remember the power of being quiet before the Lord. "Of course this is where they go. I knew that. I knew that! Lord, forgive me. Oh, how I'm thankful for your daily mercy showers."

Jesus tells all who believe that we should go to Him. "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light" (Matthew 11:28-30).

When our lives get too busy ... when the laundry piles up in our homes and the burdens pile up in our hearts, we often forget the power of quiet. The power of being still before God. The power of listening, expecting, soul-pouring ... receiving rest. His presence sorts souls and never leaves an unmatched burden. His presence never leaves and un-lifted burden. Hallelujah! What a Savior!

Take some time to power-down and be still before Him right now. Remember the power of quiet as you exchange your burdens for His peace.

Let's Pray
Dear Lord, Your mercy is fresh each day, and Your grace piles higher than all my laundry and all my heart-woes. Thank You, Lord! I'm here. Please align my heart to Yours. Quiet me with Your love, direction, and peace today.

In Jesus' Name I pray,

Now it's Your Turn

When is the last time you sat and were still before God - with no music playing, no TV on, etc.?

When we spend purposed time with the Lord, beautiful things happen. Look up Zephaniah 3:17 and fill in the blanks below:

"The LORD your God is _______ _________, he is mighty to save. 
He will take ___________ ______________in you, he will _____________ you with his ______________, he will _____________ over you with ________________."

More from the Girlfriends
Are you up for a personal GiG challenge? I challenge you to add a ten-minute "Sabbath" to your day for the next week. (I recommend you do it as soon as you wake up, but that's your call.) Simply sit before the Lord and let Him know you are there. You might want to start your time by reading a psalm and responding in prayer. Then be still. Just ten minutes a day for a week. Ready for the challenge? Let me know by telling me on my Facebook wall: Hope you will join me!

NEED SOME SOUL REST? Check out Gwen's new CD,Uncluttered. The songs of Uncluttered are purposed to sweep you away from life-noise and to focus your heart and mind on the one thing that matters: your relationship with Jesus Christ.

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

Tracie Miles

July 19, 2011

Following God's Blueprints
Tracie Miles

"The king took his place of authority beside the pillar and renewed the covenant in the Lord's presence. He pledged to obey the Lord by keeping all his commands, laws, and decrees with all his heart and soul." 2 Kings 23:3a (NLT)

Dozens of long sheets draped across the desk, falling over the side like a cascading waterfall of paper and ink. My general contractor husband was working diligently on another project bid, combing over every detail on each page.

I am always amazed by the size of a roll of blueprints. There are so many layers of papers, and countless instructions on every facet of constructing a building, from the underground foundation to the last shingle on the roof. If even one aspect of the blueprint is overlooked, tweaked, or ignored, the entire structure of the building is compromised.

Today I was thinking about the blueprints we've been given in God's Word. Every word of wisdom is meant to build us up to avoid sin and be rooted firmly in Christ.

The story of King Josiah in 2 Kings 21-23 shows the importance of this. King Josiah loved the Lord and desired to follow His plans; however, he strayed from God's blueprints and allowed sin in his kingdom.

One day, Josiah sent his secretary, Shaphan, to speak to the high priest about the restoration of the Temple. There, Shaphan learned the Book of Law, thought to be the original writings of Moses, now known as Deuteronomy, had been discovered in the Temple (22:8). This may have been hidden for its protection during the prior reigns of evil kings.

This book contained dire warnings of what would happen if God's people did not obey His law. Since the last documented reading of God's Word was 250 years earlier, it is possible that neither King Josiah, nor his people, had ever seen the Book of Law. But now Josiah had paper-and-ink proof that his people were doing things God instructed them not to do.

As Shaphan read God's "blueprints" outloud, Josiah became acutely aware the foundation of his nation was sinful. The king set out to rebuild a healthy spiritual foundation for himself and his kingdom by relying on God's blueprints found in His Word. He immediately removed and burned items and shrines from the Temple used to worship idols. He did away with idolatrous priests. He destroyed the living quarters of the prostitutes. And much more!

Like Josiah, I sometimes find myself following my own blueprints not based on God's instructions. Sin weakens my spiritual foundation and my ability to stand strong against things I know are not pleasing to God.

Perhaps sin has caused you to stray from God's blueprints for your life. Maybe a harmless flirtation turns into dinner that turns into an extramarital affair and the foundation of your marriage crumbles. Or maybe a word of gossip turns into slandering a friend's character and years of a solid friendship crumble. Or maybe...

It can be easy to conform to this world and ignore or forget God's instructions for daily living. I am thankful God shows through His Word how to build ourselves up to guard against sin. Reading my Bible each day helps me follow His blueprints and build a godly life.

God calls us to have tender and humble hearts toward His instructions, just like Josiah. When we do, our spiritual foundations are stronger, built on the Rock and His paper-and-ink truth.

Dear Lord, forgive me for trying to live by my own agenda, and forgetting to follow Your guidelines set forth for me in Your Word. Help me to hunger for Your instruction and to have the desire to live a life that glorifies You. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Do You Know Him?

Visit Tracie's blog for more encouragement on how to stand strong in your faith even if when it feels like you are standing alone.

Six Habits of Highly Effective Christians by Brian T. Anderson & Glynnis Whitwer

All Things Wise and Wonderful: Applying God's Wisdom in Everyday Life (E-Book) by Wendy Blight

When you purchase resources through Proverbs 31 Ministries, you touch eternity because your purchase supports the many areas of hope-giving ministry we provide at no cost. We wish we could, but we simply can't compete with prices offered by huge online warehouses. Therefore, we are extremely grateful for each and every purchase you make with us. Thank you!

Application Steps:
Recommit your life to Christ and ask God to give you a spiritual revelation for living.

If you want to know Jesus, click here.

Have I inadvertently, or purposefully, been ignoring God's blueprints for living?

Do my daily actions portray a life built on a strong foundation of faith?

Do I need to do any "house" cleaning?

Power Verses:
2 Kings 23:25, "Never before had there been a king like Josiah, who turned to the Lord with all his heart and soul and strength, obeying all the laws of Moses. And there has never been a king like him since." (NLT)

© 2011 by Tracie Miles. All rights reserved.

Proverbs 31 Ministries
616-G Matthews-Mint Hill Road
Matthews, NC 28105

Greetings from Bible Gateway! We've got a new email devotional launching this week, and a guest post from a beloved Christian author. Let's dive right in:

Get to Know Your Bible Better!

The Bible is the best-selling book of all time--statistically speaking, you probably have at least one copy of the Bible sitting on your bookshelf. Why, then, do so many Christians struggle to actually read and understand Scripture? Christians today increasingly find themselves caught up in a contradiction: we love and revere our Bibles, but we don't know what the Bible actually says.

If that describes your relationship to the Bible, or if it's a problem you see at work in your church, we've got a new email devotional to help: The Heart of the Story with Randy Frazee.

The Heart of the Story marks a new type of email devotional on Bible Gateway. Each weekly email contains a video message from Randy Frazee describing ways that you can truly get to know the Book at the center of your life. If you've always felt intimidated by the Bible, this is the devotional for you.

This new devotional is one that is close to our hearts at Bible Gateway--after all, our driving vision is to make the Word of God accessible to everyone. We hope The Heart of the Storybrings God's Word to life for you in a fresh and exciting way. The first newsletter goes out this week; sign up today!

The Three Obstacles to Bible Reading

What obstacles get in the way of your Bible reading? Philip Yancey and Tim Stafford wanted to find out why people weren't reading their Bibles. After three years of research, they identified three reasons that kept people from engaging with God's Word.

Philip Yancey was gracious enough to write a guest post at the Bible Gateway blog about these three obstacles, which were the impetus behind the creation of the NIV Student Bible and the Insights for Students newsletter. Stop by the blog to read Yancey's insights, and if you want to see how he addressed those obstacles, sign up for the Insights for Students newsletter.

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

the Bible Gateway team
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