Saturday, September 17, 2011

Daily Devotional Saturday 17th September

"Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom.” James 3:13 NIV
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Morning and Evening by Charles Spurgeon

Morning

"Partakers of the divine nature."
2 Peter 1:4

To be a partaker of the divine nature is not, of course, to become God. That cannot be. The essence of Deity is not to be participated in by the creature. Between the creature and the Creator there must ever be a gulf fixed in respect of essence; but as the first man Adam was made in the image of God, so we, by the renewal of the Holy Spirit, are in a yet diviner sense made in the image of the Most High, and are partakers of the divine nature. We are, by grace, made like God. "God is love"; we become love--"He that loveth is born of God." God is truth; we become true, and we love that which is true: God is good, and he makes us good by his grace, so that we become the pure in heart who shall see God. Moreover, we become partakers of the divine nature in even a higher sense than this--in fact, in as lofty a sense as can be conceived, short of our being absolutely divine. Do we not become members of the body of the divine person of Christ? Yes, the same blood which flows in the head flows in the hand: and the same life which quickens Christ quickens his people, for "Ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God." Nay, as if this were not enough, we are married unto Christ. He hath betrothed us unto himself in righteousness and in faithfulness, and he who is joined unto the Lord is one spirit. Oh! marvellous mystery! we look into it, but who shall understand it? One with Jesus--so one with him that the branch is not more one with the vine than we are a part of the Lord, our Saviour, and our Redeemer! While we rejoice in this, let us remember that those who are made partakers of the divine nature will manifest their high and holy relationship in their intercourse with others, and make it evident by their daily walk and conversation that they have escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. O for more divine holiness of life!

Evening

"Am I a sea, or a whale, that thou settest a watch over me?"
Job 7:12

This was a strange question for Job to ask of the Lord. He felt himself to be too insignificant to be so strictly watched and chastened, and he hoped that he was not so unruly as to need to be so restrained. The enquiry was natural from one surrounded with such insupportable miseries, but after all, it is capable of a very humbling answer. It is true man is not the sea, but he is even more troublesome and unruly. The sea obediently respects its boundary, and though it be but a belt of sand, it does not overleap the limit. Mighty as it is, it hears the divine hitherto, and when most raging with tempest it respects the word; but self-willed man defies heaven and oppresses earth, neither is there any end to this rebellious rage. The sea, obedient to the moon, ebbs and flows with ceaseless regularity, and thus renders an active as well as a passive obedience; but man, restless beyond his sphere, sleeps within the lines of duty, indolent where he should be active. He will neither come nor go at the divine command, but sullenly prefers to do what he should not, and to leave undone that which is required of him. Every drop in the ocean, every beaded bubble, and every yeasty foam-flake, every shell and pebble, feel the power of law, and yield or move at once. O that our nature were but one thousandth part as much conformed to the will of God! We call the sea fickle and false, but how constant it is! Since our fathers' days, and the old time before them, the sea is where it was, beating on the same cliffs to the same tune; we know where to find it, it forsakes not its bed, and changes not in its ceaseless boom; but where is man-vain, fickle man? Can the wise man guess by what folly he will next be seduced from his obedience? We need more watching than the billowy sea, and are far more rebellious. Lord, rule us for thine own glory. Amen.

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Today's reading: Proverbs 25-26, 2 Corinthians 9 (NIV)

View today's reading on Bible Gateway

Today's Old Testament reading: Proverbs 25-26

More Proverbs of Solomon

1 These are more proverbs of Solomon, compiled by the men of Hezekiah king of Judah:

2 It is the glory of God to conceal a matter;
to search out a matter is the glory of kings.
3 As the heavens are high and the earth is deep,
so the hearts of kings are unsearchable.

4 Remove the dross from the silver,
and a silversmith can produce a vessel;
5 remove wicked officials from the king's presence,
and his throne will be established through righteousness.

6 Do not exalt yourself in the king's presence,
and do not claim a place among his great men;
7 it is better for him to say to you, "Come up here,"
than for him to humiliate you before his nobles....

...read the rest on Bible Gateway

Today's New Testament reading: 2 Corinthians 9

1 There is no need for me to write to you about this service to the Lord's people. 2 For I know your eagerness to help, and I have been boasting about it to the Macedonians, telling them that since last year you in Achaia were ready to give; and your enthusiasm has stirred most of them to action. 3 But I am sending the brothers in order that our boasting about you in this matter should not prove hollow, but that you may be ready, as I said you would be. 4 For if any Macedonians come with me and find you unprepared, we-not to say anything about you-would be ashamed of having been so confident. 5 So I thought it necessary to urge the brothers to visit you in advance and finish the arrangements for the generous gift you had promised. Then it will be ready as a generous gift, not as one grudgingly given....

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Ananias

[Ănanī'as] - jehovah is gracious. This name is the Greek form of Hananiah, meaning, "Jehovah hath been gracious" from the Aramaic, meaning, "beautiful."

1. The disciple who conspired with his wife to deceive the apostles in regard to the value obtained for their property (Acts 5:1-6).

The Man Who Kept Back Part of the Price

How opposite Aquila and Priscilla are Ananias and Sapphira, both of whom agreed to a dishonest transaction! They were not compelled to sell their property but because of a recognized custom among the early Christian fraternity of having one common fund to draw upon, these two disciples wanted to maintain the appearance of self-denying liberality. There was no harm in keeping back part of the price - they might have kept back all. Their evil consisted in pretending to give all. Their lying was combined with hypocrisy. A certain part was retained, likely the greater part which would look more like the whole.

Peter, supernaturally endowed to detect and expose the fraud of Ananias and Sapphira, was their instrument of sudden death. Punishment was:

I. Prompt - it followed immediately the committal of sin.

II. Decisive - it marked the magnitude of sin.

III. Conspicuous - it was before many witnesses.

IV. Divine - it was not an act of Peter who simply reproved the two who, united in crime, were not separated in death (Ps. 19:13). It was God who punished them.

2. A godly disciple of Damascus to whom was made known the conversion of Saul of Tarsus ( Acts 9:10-17; 22:12), and who baptized Saul.

3. The high priest anointed by Herod (Acts 23:2; 24:1).

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September 16, 2011

"When There Is Nothing There"

Gwen Smith

Today's Truth

"Go and look toward the sea," he told his servant. And he went up and looked. "There is nothing there," he said. Seven times Elijah said, "Go back." The seventh time the servant reported, "A cloud as small as a man's hand is rising from the sea." (1 Kings 18:43-44, NIV)

Friend to Friend

I have a Christian girlfriend who is caught between faith and a hard place. Though she is a committed Christ-follower she struggles to believe God's promises and feels helpless to the circumstances of her trial. She prays - but wonders if God no longer listens to her. She daily looks for the light at the end of the trial-tunnel, yet sees none.

Have you been there? Are you, or is someone you love, there now? God's ways and timing are mysterious - no doubt. At times, His ways can even seem frustrating. But He is good. He graciously provides strength and hope when we call on Him... but waiting on God can be such a difficult spiritual discipline.

Time and time again in Scripture we are shown beautiful pictures of God's faithfulness to those who wait on Him and call on Him. Snapshots of God's faithfulness displayed in the life of Elijah are simply fascinating. (Pause to read chapters 17 and 18 of 1 Kings now.) Elijah was the most dramatic and famous of all Israel's prophets. God worked in and through him powerfully and miraculously, but even Elijah went through seasons of waiting and wondering - just like my friend. Just like each of us.

For years, Ahab (king of Israel) and his wife, Jezebel, had done evil in the eyes of the Lord. They worshiped Baal - an idol - instead of the one true God, which provoked the Lord to anger. Then God called Elijah to the scene. Elijah told Ahab, "As the Lord, the God of Israel, lives, whom I serve, there will be neither dew nor rain in the next few years except at my word." (1 Kings 17:1 ) As you can imagine, Ahab wasn't too happy about that 'word' and, in his fury, he wanted Elijah dead. God had other plans though. He directed and protected Elijah and provided for all his needs throughout the time of the drought.

In the third year, the Lord sent Elijah back to king Ahab, and a showdown of showdowns went down on Mount Carmel. Like a celestial boxing match with Baal and his false prophets in one corner and God and Elijah in the other, a battle began. The prophets of Baal took the first swing. They made a sacrifice to their god and cried out to him for hours to consume their offering with fire. Baal was silent and unresponsive because he was not real. Duh.

Elijah knew he served a powerful, living, and responsive God, so he advanced to the center of the ring and took his swings with confidence. He repaired the altar of God, prepared the sacrifice, and then prayed for God to reveal His deity by consuming the offering. God flexed His divine muscles and answered Elijah's prayers instantly with an all-consuming fire. Knock out!

After the showdown was over, God told Elijah to deliver a new message to King Ahab. "And Elijah said to Ahab, "Go, eat and drink, for there I the sound of a heavy rain." (1 Kings 18:41) So Ahab went to eat and Elijah went up to the top of Mount Carmel to look for evidence of God's rain-miracle.

"Go and look toward the sea," he told his servant. And he went up and looked.

"There is nothing there," he said.

Seven times Elijah said, "Go back."

The seventh time the servant reported, "A cloud as small as a man's hand is rising from the sea." (1 Kings 18:43-44)

What struck me as I studied this passage is the fact that Elijah didn't get his miracle right away this time. Could God have opened up the sky and poured out a storm immediately? You bet. Did He? No. Elijah had to wait. His servant had to look for the miracle...and look...and look...and look. Seven times.

Hallelujah! You and I aren't the only ones who have to wait, friend!! God's will is God's will. It bends for no man. Yet ours can bend to His and, as a result, we will find strength and peace - even in the waiting.

"Meanwhile, the sky grew black with clouds, the wind rose, a heavy rain came on..." (1 Kings 18:45a)

God moved. Once again, He was faithful. He can be no other way.

Now think about this. God used Elijah in really big ways. Elijah spoke on God's behalf, was God's front-line man in raising a dead child back to life in order to bless a widowed mother, and he was the lead character in a miraculous God-show that brought fire from heaven... consuming an offering and connecting the hearts of wandering people back to the heart of God. We're talking big God-stuff! Yet even Elijah experienced difficult situations and was forced to wait on God.

When discouragement sets in and you feel unheard - when you are forced to wait on God - when you find yourself caught between faith and a hard place - when there is nothing there... no evidence of God's miracle on the horizon - remember that God is faithful, powerful, and responsive. He has seen you through trials in the past and He will see you through trials in the future. Even in the challenges you face now, you are seen, you are heard, and He is able. "Look to the Lord and his strength; seek His face always." (Psalm 105:4)

Let's Pray

Dear Lord, I worship You, the One, true God! You are mighty and powerful; full of never-ending compassion and love. Please help me to see you when I face trials and to trust Your heart when circumstances discourage me."

In Jesus' Name I pray, Amen.

Now It's Your Turn

Write this verse out: "Look to the Lord and his strength; seek His face always." (Psalm 105:4) Keep it handy. Read it out loud. Memorize it.

Is there someone in your life who is in a period of waiting? Do something to encourage them today. If she is in a financial bind, consider writing a note and sending it with a gift card. If she is struggling with a strained marriage, a complicated job frustration, or a difficult parenting situation, reach out to her. Pray for her. If you know a single mom, consider helping her with her children. Allow God to encourage someone through you today.

More from the Girlfriends

Girlfriend - God placed a burden on my heart to encourage you today. I know this was very personal and timely for some of you. Let's meet on my facebook page to talk about it and pray through it together. www.Facebook.com/GwenSmithMusic

If this devotion resonated with you and if you would like to learn more about how your brokenness can be reworked into a picture of God's beauty, don't miss Gwen's book Broken into Beautiful. Every step of transformation begins with the heart of God. Broken into Beautiful will take you there. To order the book, go to Amazon or, for a signed copy, visit Gwen's website: www.gwensmith.net.

LOVE MUSIC? 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

info@girlfriendsingod.com

www.girlfriendsingod.com

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Tracie Miles

September 16, 2011

Your Thoughts Have Wheels
Tracie Miles

"For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he." Proverbs 23:7a(KJV)

The day started off just fine, but ended with confusion and tears. As a timid middle-schooler, I climbed the steps of my school bus eager to get home after a long afternoon.

Sitting quietly in my seat, all of a sudden I got this sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. Although my surroundings appeared to be the same, something was not right.

The bus was the normal sunshine yellow. The seats were standard black vinyl, displaying rips and tears from years of students. The floor was littered with the usual misplaced pencils, erasers and wadded-up papers. Yet, I felt out of place.

That's when I realized I did not know any of the kids sitting around me. And I had never seen the bus driver before. Frantically, I searched for anything familiar. My cheeks grew hot and my heart raced with panic as I realized I was on the wrong bus.

Although I WAS headed somewhere, it was NOT where I wanted to go.

I'd been distracted by conversations with friends, thoughts of sleepovers, and how much homework I had. My thoughts were not focused on where I was going. The actions that followed caused me to end up somewhere I did not want to be.

Thinking back on that day, I've considered how our thoughts determine a lot about the direction of our lives. Like my school bus, our thoughts will always take us somewhere, but it may not be somewhere we want to end up.

If we spend time thinking about how our boss does not appreciate us, our thoughts will take us straight to a bad attitude at work and possibly poor performance.

If we focus on how much we do for others and how little we feel appreciated, our thoughts will take us to a place of resentment, with lack of patience and love.

If we spend an entire day fuming over something our husband or kids did, and mentally practice the harsh words we plan to say to them, those thoughts will lead us into a place of arguments, hurt feelings and damaged relationships.

If we dwell on why God has allowed certain problems in our lives, we will transport ourselves into a state of insecurity and unhappiness as we stop trusting God.

If we focus our thoughts on money, career, success and pleasure, we will find ourselves in the land of the lost-feeling frustrated and discontent.

Our thoughts are powerful and require great self control. If we allow them to run rampant, focusing on things that lead us away from God, then we will wind up at a destination we would never deliberately choose.

In today's key verse, God shows us why we should choose carefully what we think about, because our thoughts determine who we are and how we live.

My childhood memory reminds me to consistently ask God to help me keep my mind on Him and on the thoughts He has for me. That way I can live according to His plans and with His perspective, seeking to be acutely aware of where my thoughts may lead me.

Our thoughts really do have wheels. Where are your thoughts taking you today?

Dear Lord, please help me take my thoughts captive, and focus on things that are pleasing to You. Please give me the desire to honor You and abide by Your Word in any area of my thoughts I am struggling to do so. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Do You Know Jesus?

Reinventing Your Rainbow by Tracie Miles

Visit Tracie's website for "5 Ways to Direct Your Thoughts in the Right Direction." Also, enter to win a journal as well as a signed copy of A Confident Heart by Renee Swope.

A Confident Heart: How to Stop Doubting Yourself & Live in the Security of God's Promises by Renee Swope.

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:
Make a list of all the negative or sinful thoughts you may have had lately. Ask God to help cleanse you of those emotions and start anew, with a fresh attitude and a positive, Godly perspective.

Reflections:
Have I been guarding and guiding my thoughts, or have my thoughts been leading me to a place I don't want to go?

Is there anything I need to remove from my thought life?

Power Verses:
Philippians 4:8, "Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable-if anything is excellent or praiseworthy-think about such things." (NIV)

Romans 12:2a, "Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind." (NIV)

Ephesians 4:23-24, "Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. Put on your new nature, created to be like God-truly righteous and holy." (NLT)

© 2011 by Tracie Miles. All rights reserved.

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

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LeadershipBible-Header

Perpetua and Felicitas: Faith Above Family

Perpetua_and_FelicitasVerse: Joel 2:28-29

Quote: "And we therefore, what we have heard and handled, declare also to you, brethren and little children, that as well you...may be reminded of them again to the glory of the Lord, as that you who know them by report may have communion with the blessed martyrs, and through them with the Lord Jesus Christ, to whom be glory and honour, for ever and ever. Amen."

(The Passion of the Holy Martyrs: Perpetua and Felicitas)

The year is 202. Emperor Septimus Severus issues a decree against conversion to Judaism or Christianity. All new converts in North Africa will be executed unless they publicly perform a sacrifice to him. Perpetua, her servant girl Felicitas, and three men who had not yet completed catechism could make a sacrifice to honor the head of state. But they refuse. They know there is a price to pay for professing Christ, rather than the emperor, as Lord. Dying a martyr's death is considered a glorious entry into heaven, but dealing with family members is pure anguish. Perpetua's husband, who is not mentioned in the account, had perhaps died or abandoned her due to her newfound faith. The painful testimony below begins after she and Felicitas and the men are confined to prison:

A few days after, the report went abroad that we were to be tried. Also my father returned from the city spent with weariness; and he came up to me to cast down my faith saying: "Have pity, daughter, on my grey hairs; have pity on your father, if I am worthy to be called father by you; if with these hands I have brought you unto this flower of youth and I have preferred you before all your brothers; give me not over to the reproach of men. Look upon your brothers; look upon your mother and mother's sister; look upon your son, who will not endure to live after you. Give up your resolution; do not destroy us all together."

Soon after, when a report goes out that this indeed is the execution day, Perpetua's father returns, this time bringing her infant son. "Perform the Sacrifice; have mercy on the child," he pleads. Then he steps forward to forcibly prevent her from laying down her life. At this point an officer begins beating the old man. The execution having been delayed, Perpetua begs to breastfeed her baby one more time.

In the meantime, Felicitas, now eight months pregnant, fears that the execution of Christians in the arena (by wild animals) might be carried out without her, for Roman law prohibits a pregnant woman from being put to death. Here she has a perfect opportunity to escape punishment - at least for a time - but she pleads with God to bring on labor pains. "After their prayer her pains came upon her," writes an observer. "So she was delivered of a daughter, whom a sister reared up to be her own daughter."

On the day of execution, before they are led to the arena, the five prisoners are baptized. That Perpetua might have been spared due to her social class and gender is false hope for her aging father. Together, she and Felicitas enter the arena.

But for the women the devil had made ready a most savage cow, prepared for this purpose against all custom; for even in this beast he would mock their sex. They were stripped. . . . The people shuddered, seeing one a tender girl, the other her breasts yet dropping from her late childbearing.

The men were brought into the arena first to be killed by wild animals - a bear, a leopard, and a boar. This spectacle is typically a real crowd-pleaser. But the gory torture of young women turns the frenzied spectators from cheering to jeering. They begin shouting, "Enough!" Perpetua is then taken to the gladiator to be beheaded. Whether due to hesitancy or to lack of skill, the first slash of his sword is not sufficiently severe. She cries out in pain, takes the gladiator's trembling hand, directs the sword to her neck, and it is over.

After this wave of persecution, there follows a half-century of relative peace. But such faith as seen in the arena that day was a testimony that sparks faith in others. Today Perpetua and Felicitas are commemorated as saints by Catholics, Anglicans, and Lutherans.


If you enjoyed the above article, please take a minute to read about the book that it was adapted from:

ParadeofFaith-Bookcover

Parade of Faith: A Biographical History of the Christian Church

by Ruth A. Tucker
Buy the book!
The story of Christianity centers on people whose lives have been transformed by the resurrected Lord. Tucker puts this front and center in a lively overview peppered with sidebars; historical "what if?" questions; sections on everyday life; drawings and illustrations; bibliographies for further reading.



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