Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Daily Devotional Wednesday 17th August

“Therefore, since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God.” 2 Corinthians 7:1 NIV
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Morning and Evening by Charles Spurgeon

Morning

"Give unto the Lord the glory due unto his name."
Psalm 29:2

God's glory is the result of his nature and acts. He is glorious in his character, for there is such a store of everything that is holy, and good, and lovely in God, that he must be glorious. The actions which flow from his character are also glorious; but while he intends that they should manifest to his creatures his goodness, and mercy, and justice, he is equally concerned that the glory associated with them should be given only to himself. Nor is there aught in ourselves in which we may glory; for who maketh us to differ from another? And what have we that we did not receive from the God of all grace? Then how careful ought we to be to walk humbly before the Lord! The moment we glorify ourselves, since there is room for one glory only in the universe, we set ourselves up as rivals to the Most High. Shall the insect of an hour glorify itself against the sun which warmed it into life? Shall the potsherd exalt itself above the man who fashioned it upon the wheel? Shall the dust of the desert strive with the whirlwind? Or the drops of the ocean struggle with the tempest? Give unto the Lord, all ye righteous, give unto the Lord glory and strength; give unto him the honour that is due unto his name. Yet it is, perhaps, one of the hardest struggles of the Christian life to learn this sentence--"Not unto us, not unto us, but unto thy name be glory." It is a lesson which God is ever teaching us, and teaching us sometimes by most painful discipline. Let a Christian begin to boast, "I can do all things," without adding "through Christ which strengtheneth me," and before long he will have to groan, "I can do nothing," and bemoan himself in the dust. When we do anything for the Lord, and he is pleased to accept of our doings, let us lay our crown at his feet, and exclaim, "Not I, but the grace of God which was with me!"

Evening

"Ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit."
Romans 8:23

Present possession is declared. At this present moment we have the first fruits of the Spirit. We have repentance, that gem of the first water; faith, that priceless pearl; hope, the heavenly emerald; and love, the glorious ruby. We are already made "new creatures in Christ Jesus," by the effectual working of God the Holy Ghost. This is called the firstfruit because it comes first. As the wave-sheaf was the first of the harvest, so the spiritual life, and all the graces which adorn that life, are the first operations of the Spirit of God in our souls. The firstfruits were the pledge of the harvest. As soon as the Israelite had plucked the first handful of ripe ears, he looked forward with glad anticipation to the time when the wain should creak beneath the sheaves. So, brethren, when God gives us things which are pure, lovely, and of good report, as the work of the Holy Spirit, these are to us the prognostics of the coming glory. The firstfruits were always holy to the Lord, and our new nature, with all its powers, is a consecrated thing. The new life is not ours that we should ascribe its excellence to our own merit; it is Christ's image and creation, and is ordained for his glory. But the firstfruits were not the harvest, and the works of the Spirit in us at this moment are not the consummation--the perfection is yet to come. We must not boast that we have attained, and so reckon the wave-sheaf to be all the produce of the year: we must hunger and thirst after righteousness, and pant for the day of full redemption. Dear reader, this evening open your mouth wide, and God will fill it. Let the boon in present possession excite in you a sacred avarice for more grace. Groan within yourself for higher degrees of consecration, and your Lord will grant them to you, for he is able to do exceeding abundantly above what we ask or even think.

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Today's reading: Psalm 94-96, Romans 15:14-33 (NIV)

View today's reading on Bible Gateway

Today's Old Testament reading: Psalm 94-96

1 The LORD is a God who avenges.
O God who avenges, shine forth.
2 Rise up, Judge of the earth;
pay back to the proud what they deserve.
3 How long, LORD, will the wicked,
how long will the wicked be jubilant?

4 They pour out arrogant words;
all the evildoers are full of boasting.
5 They crush your people, LORD;
they oppress your inheritance.
6 They slay the widow and the foreigner;
they murder the fatherless.
7 They say, "The LORD does not see;
the God of Jacob takes no notice."

...read the rest on Bible Gateway

Today's New Testament reading: Romans 15:14-33

Paul the Minister to the Gentiles

14 I myself am convinced, my brothers and sisters, that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with knowledge and competent to instruct one another. 15 Yet I have written you quite boldly on some points to remind you of them again, because of the grace God gave me 16 to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles. He gave me the priestly duty of proclaiming the gospel of God, so that the Gentiles might become an offering acceptable to God, sanctified by the Holy Spirit.

17 Therefore I glory in Christ Jesus in my service to God. 18 I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me in leading the Gentiles to obey God by what I have said and done- 19 by the power of signs and wonders, through the power of the Spirit of God. So from Jerusalem all the way around to Illyricum, I have fully proclaimed the gospel of Christ. 20 It has always been my ambition to preach the gospel where Christ was not known, so that I would not be building on someone else's foundation....

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Judas, Juda, Jude

[Jū'das] - praise of the lord.

1. The disciple surnamed Iscariot, who betrayed the Master and then hanged himself. He was the only one of the Twelve who was not a Galilean. He acted as treasurer of the apostolic band (John 6:71; 12:6; 13:26, 29).

The Man Who Was Guilty of a Horrible Crime

The Gospels represent the betrayal of Christ by Judas as a horrible, diabolical crime. And it stands out as the darkest deed in human history. The word "betray" is a remarkable one meaning "to deliver up." This is what Judas did - delivered up Jesus. Yet such a dastardly action was overruled, for Jesus was delivered by the determinate counsel of God.

Judas is a strange character and everything about his choice and conduct is mysterious. Why was he chosen? All we can say in answer is in the declaration, "that the scriptures might be fulfilled" (Matt. 26:56 ). The greater mystery is, why did Christ choose you and me to be His followers? Think of these features:

I. Judas'terrible crime was predicted (Ps. 109:5-8; Acts 1:16).

II. His cruel bargain was foretold (Zech. 11:12, 13).

III. He became a devil incarnate. "One of you is a devil." As Jesus became God-incarnate, Judas became the devil-incarnate.

IV. He is called "a son of perdition." Because the same designation is used of the Man of Sin, some writers feel that this grim figure will be Judas incarnate ( 2 Thess. 2:3).

V. He was a thief. He kept the bag which represented responsibility. Christ chose Judas as treasurer for the Twelve because of his commercial instinct and business acumen, but he prostituted his gift. His very endowment became a snare. A blessing was turned into a curse.

VI. He betrayed Christ with a kiss. The hatefulness of his crime reached its limit when he gave the enemies of Christ the symbol of affection. How wicked is the human heart - deceitful above all things!

VII. He was the recipient of divine patience. Why he persisted in following Christ we cannot say. All we can do is marvel at the love and patience of Christ as He bore with Judas for three years. He knew all along that this so-called disciple would betray Him, yet He kept the door open. Even when He met Judas after his contract with the foes of Christ, He greeted him as "friend." We would have scorned the traitor and hissed "enemy" or "traitor." Not so Christ, who is patient toward all men.

VIII. He went out to his own place (Acts 1:25 ). It was in self-excommunication. Christ did not excommunicate Judas - He only ratified the choice. Up to the last He gave Judas a chance to halt and turn from his wickedness. But when the die had been cast, Jesus said, "What thou doest, do quickly."

We leave our glimpse of the despicable man of the Bible with two lessons in mind:

The journey into sin gains momentum. We never know where a wrong path may end. Sin only needs opportunity to carry us to its utmost depths.

It is sadly possible to be associated with Jesus, to hear His gracious words, witness His wonderful works, yet refuse Him our heart's allegiance and be ultimately lost.

2. Half-brother of Jesus , brother of James and writer of the epistle known by his name (Matt. 13:55; Mark 6:3; Luke 6:16; Acts 1:13; Jude 1). See JUDE.

3. An apostle also known as Lebbeus or Thaddeus (John 14:22).

4. A Galilean who stirred up sedition shortly after the birth of Christ (Acts 5:37).

5. One with whom Paul lodged in the street called Straight (Acts 9:11).

6. The prophet surnamed Barsabas, sent with Silas to Antioch (Acts 15:22, 27).

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August 16, 2011

Paid in Full

Mary Southerland

Today's Truth

Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you(Colossians 3:13, NIV).

Friend To Friend

Do you remember the last words of Jesus as He hung on the cross? "It is finished!" The most literal translation would be "paid in full."

I will never forget paying off my very first car loan. After sending in my forty-eighth and final payment, I celebrated the fact that I finally owned my bright blue and ever-so-compact Chevrolet Vega - from bumper to bumper. There were those who said you couldn't drive a Vega - you had to wear it. Others described the bright color as strangely "unique." But to me, it was the most beautiful car in the world because it was mine. I quickly found other places to spend the once allocated car payment and went on with life - until the day I opened my mailbox to find the loan papers for my car. Stamped in big red letters across the document were the words, "Paid in full." I danced a jig right there in my driveway because I was finally free of that debt.

Part of forgiveness is releasing the person from the debt we think they owe us. Refusing to let go of the hurt and pain someone has caused in our lives will always rob us of our joy. Sometimes the best thing to do is to simply let something go and cut our losses instead of allowing the weight of an unpaid debt to deplete our mental and emotional energy. In other words, we can forgive the debt and free ourselves.

We decided it was time to sell one of our old junky cars. We had several from which to choose but this particular one was old, ugly and needed work. In the right hands, it might last a few more years. A man who worked for the church said he could fix the car and agreed to buy it. He and Dan worked out the terms. The man was to pay a certain amount each month until the car was paid for. No papers were signed because, after all, it was a business agreement between two ministers. Some lessons are learned the hard way. Dan gave him the car title and car keys. He gave us nothing. Not one penny.

Dan talked with the man several times. He always responded with the promise that he would make a payment soon. "Soon" never came. I was furious - not so much because of the money, although it would have come in very handy - but because this sandpaper man was taking advantage of my husband's giving heart and ticking me off in the process. I ranted and fumed for several days until Dan said, "Honey, I have decided to forgive the debt on that old car." Well, I decided not to, and my anger grew.

A few weeks later, the man quit his job at the church and went to work for a nearby grocery store - my grocery store. I soon learned that God has a sense of humor because almost every time I went to the store, the man was there. And every time I saw him, anger consumed my heart. I finally realized that this whole car situation was robbing my life of joy - until the day I decided to give him the car. It was the only thing I could do if I wanted peace.

I created a mental scene of my driving to the grocery store, handing the car keys to the man and saying, "Merry Christmas! Enjoy your new car." Now it wasn't Christmas and the car was far from new, but the plan worked. I forgave the debt in my heart and let it go. The most amazing thing happened. I was the one set free. From that day on, every time I saw the man, I waved and smiled. He began avoiding me, unable to look me in the eyes. Remember I told you that God has a sense of humor? A few weeks later, I saw the man driving a different car and learned from one of his co-workers that "his old car just up and died." Enough said.

Forgiving the debt is a deliberate choice that is made by an act of your will. You may not feel forgiving. It doesn't matter. Just do it and many times the feelings will follow that choice - other times they won't. Feelings are irrelevant but obedience is crucial. Do not base the validity of what you are doing on how you feel. Make the choice to forgive and then obey.

Someone once said: "We put our resentments in cold storage and then pull the switch to let them thaw out again. Our grudges are taken out to the lake of prayer to drown them and we end up giving them a swimming lesson. How often have we torn up the canceled note but hang on to the wastebasket that holds the pieces? This is not to say that human forgiveness does not occur; only that it is rare and that much that passes for forgiveness is often not so at all."

God is the One who heals painful memories. Forgiveness puts us in the correct posture for Him to do so in our lives. As I wrestled with the choice to forgive, I learned several life-changing truths:

If we make the choice to forgive, God will supply the forgiveness.

There should be no limit to our forgiveness because there is no limit to His.

Forgiveness is not a feeling or an emotion. Forgiveness is a deliberate choice.

Forgiveness is our greatest need and God's greatest gift.

While we cannot change the past, we can change our response to the past and dictate the power it has over us. If our greatest need had been information, God would have sent an educator. If our greatest need had been technology, God would have sent a scientist, but because our greatest need was and is forgiveness, God sent a Savior, Jesus Christ, who is calling us all to a higher place, a place of forgiveness. The choice is ours to make. Today, we can choose freedom by choosing to forgive.

Let's Pray

Father, I praise You for the love and forgiveness You so freely offer. I don't understand how You can love me when I am so unworthy of the sacrifice Jesus made on the cross. To think that He died for me rocks my world. Please give me the wisdom and strength to forgive those who have hurt me. I want my life to be a living illustration of Your unconditional love and unending forgiveness.

In Jesus' name,

Amen.

Now It's Your Turn

  • Make a list of the sins in your life that need the forgiveness of God. Ask God to forgive you for each one. If you have sinned against someone else, take the first step of reconciliation. If someone has sinned against you, forgive them and go to them in love, seeking restoration.
  • Consider the following questions and record your answers in your journal.
  • What are the rewards of forgiveness?
  • What are the barriers to forgiveness in your heart?
  • What are the things for which you cannot forgive yourself?
  • What does refusing to forgive yourself indicate about your understanding of true forgiveness?
  • Celebrate right now the power of forgiveness in your life.

More From The Girlfriends

One of the most powerful illustrations of God's love and forgiveness is found in the lives of Hosea and Gomer. Hear their story in Mary's MP3 download ... Love That Never Fails.

Looking for a Bible Study that is both practical and powerful? Check out Mary's E-Book Bible Studies. Each one includes a study guide that you can download for your personal use or for a small group study.

Be sure to check out Mary's weekly Online Bible Study: Stress Management 101. Enroll now and have access to all 2011 lessons. Need a friend? Connect with Mary on Facebook or through email.

Seeking God?

Click here to find out more about

how to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

Girlfriends in God

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info@girlfriendsingod.com
www.girlfriendsingod.com

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P31Header
Luann Prater

August 16, 2011

Greater Love
Luann Prater

"Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends." John 15:13 (NIV)

I'm a killer. Yes, you read that right. I'm laying it out there and admitting it. Although, it's probably not what you think ... I've been a friendship-killer for much of my life.

I've wondered if it is from my dysfunctional home life as a kid. We moved annually, which meant a different school every year until I was a teenager. For an extremely shy girl this was terrifying. Dread and cold sweats came the night before I had to face another new classroom, new stares, new whispers and new giggles.

The layers built up; I figured it didn't really matter if classmates liked me because I probably wouldn't be there long anyway. Occasionally I would open up just a bit. Then Mom would say, "Pack up," and along with the boxes, my heart would seal up too.

It just hurt too much to hope that friendships could ever last. I was certain they couldn't, so I killed them before they ever developed deep. End it now before I'm too invested, was my mindset.

Maybe you know exactly what I'm talking about. We can fool ourselves into thinking that we don't need to open up and risk the pain of rejection or the devastation of potential loss.

Girlfriend, let me tell you what I discovered. The apostle John paints a portrait of a warm, real Jesus. Through that portrait Jesus reached out to me. He came into my heart and at that moment the love of the Savior began changing my life. I now have a greater love. I have found the same living water that Jesus offered to the woman at the well in the gospel of John.

It's been a spring welling up to eternal life! And I've discovered that when you begin to live that effervescent life, it becomes contagious! The joy that bubbles up from the inside cannot be hidden. Others are drawn to you and wonder how you can have joy in all circumstances.

And then it happens. Friendships develop. The old me would shut down, walk away or sabotage a relationship. I just didn't think I had what it takes to keep a friendship alive and healthy. And I don't, but God does. The new me embraces friends!

Maybe you've struggled with friendships. God crossed our paths today on purpose. He is asking us to take a risk. Let your guard down and love, as He loved us.

Dear Lord, thank You for loving me and teaching me how to welcome friends into my life with a greater love. Open my mind to see beyond myself today and take the risk of relationships built on You. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Do You Know Him?

Visit Luann's blog and Encouragement Café!

When a Woman Meets Jesus: Finding the Love Every Woman Longs For by Dorothy Valcarcel

God's Purpose for Every Woman a Proverbs 31 Ministries Devotional Book

Application Steps:
Read John 4. Ask God to open your heart to His greater love. Slip on your God goggles and look for hurting hearts around you today.

Reflections:
What relationship does God want to grow in my heart?

When will I take the risk?

How can I reach out to someone with greater love today?

Power Verses:
Matthew 19:19b "...love your neighbor as yourself." (NIV)

Luke 6:27 "But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies and do good to those who hate you." (NIV)

© 2011 by Luann Prater. 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

IT IS AMAZING TO BE HUMAN

So there is one person, with two aspects, but with many functions. Here is where we get a refined view of who we really are. The rich biblical vocabulary about human nature describes the dynamics of our inner life as being made in the image of God. Some passages describe our inner functions, and others emphasize a truth about what we are like.

The biblical word mind refers to the inner life, especially emphasizing our rational, cognitive, intellectual capabilities (Rom. 7:25; Col. 2:18). Heart (Rom.10:6, 8-10 , for instance) refers to the deep, inner core of our lives, where opinions and beliefs are formed, where we sense right and wrong, and where our love is centered. The Old and New Testament use of heart (unlike the English use which sometimes refers just to emotion) is inclusive of thought, emotion, and will. Just look for the word “heart” in some of the Psalms sometime, and you will see how Scripture points us to the core so that we will understand the deep place where our very selves are shaped. Will refers to the faculty of choice (Lk.22:42 ), and spirit is the word used to describe how human beings, unlike dogs and cats, salamanders and oak trees, are persons, made in the image of God, possessing morality, consciousness, creativity, and other godlike characteristics. And soul refers to the human person animated by the living power of God.

None of these are “parts” of the human being. One can no more separate human nature into different components than one can view the attributes of God as the constituent parts of his being.

So if someone were to ask you, “Who are you, really?” a biblical answer would be, “I am part of God’s creation, and I belong to a species that was uniquely shaped to bear the likeness of God. That is why have a sense of ought and ought not, and why I hope to grow in selfless love. That is why I am able to speak to others, why I imagine things that could be, and it is why I worship. I am a creature made of clay. I have a body that processes thousands of responses and reactions an hour, but that is also easily injured and made sick. One day this body will again become the dust of which it was made. But I also am spirit and soul. Inside there is a self-conscious, self-willing spiritual center. At this heart of myself I am constantly combining the thoughts that come to me from the outside, the voice of God’s Spirit speaking to me, and the things I’m telling myself. But mixed in there are also selfish and wicked motives that come from the inner spiritual fractures I was born with and which are amplified by external temptations.”

The biblical answer is not that I am a spirit trapped in a body, and one day when that body dies my true self will be liberated to coalesce with an eternal Spirit. (Those who have believed that over the centuries have thought that the spiritual self is the only true self and the body, like the rest of the physical universe, is a mass of troublesome dirt. This view holds that our spirits are sparks separated from the Divine Fire, that we bear in ourselves a bit of divinity. It also negates the value of God’s creation of physical things.)

No, I am not destined to become a ghost. Nor will I discover one day that I was God all along.

The soul is not, as some have proposed, a dreamy combination of commonly held feelings, thoughts, images, symbols, and memories that have produced the merely cultural phenomena of religions, myths, fantasies, and fairy tales. This view sees human beings as animals who have very vivid dreams and like to share them with each other.

No, the Bible depicts us as creatures almost too good to be true. And that makes the reality of sin and wickedness in our thoughts and deeds the greatest tragedy the world has ever seen.

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

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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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