Sunday, September 25, 2011

Daily Devotional Sunday 25th September

“So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised.” Hebrews 10:35-36 NIV
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Morning

"For I was ashamed to require of the king a band of soldiers and horsemen to help us against the enemy in the way: because we had spoken unto the king, saying, The hand of our God is upon all them for good that seek him; but his power and his wrath is against all them that forsake him."
Ezra 8:22

A convoy on many accounts would have been desirable for the pilgrim band, but a holy shame-facedness would not allow Ezra to seek one. He feared lest the heathen king should think his professions of faith in God to be mere hypocrisy, or imagine that the God of Israel was not able to preserve his own worshippers. He could not bring his mind to lean on an arm of flesh in a matter so evidently of the Lord, and therefore the caravan set out with no visible protection, guarded by him who is the sword and shield of his people. It is to be feared that few believers feel this holy jealousy for God; even those who in a measure walk by faith, occasionally mar the lustre of their life by craving aid from man. It is a most blessed thing to have no props and no buttresses, but to stand upright on the Rock of Ages, upheld by the Lord alone. Would any believers seek state endowments for their Church, if they remembered that the Lord is dishonoured by their asking Caesar's aid? as if the Lord could not supply the needs of his own cause! Should we run so hastily to friends and relations for assistance, if we remembered that the Lord is magnified by our implicit reliance upon his solitary arm? My soul, wait thou only upon God. "But," says one, "are not means to be used?" Assuredly they are; but our fault seldom lies in their neglect: far more frequently it springs out of foolishly believing in them instead of believing in God. Few run too far in neglecting the creature's arm; but very many sin greatly in making too much of it. Learn, dear reader, to glorify the Lord by leaving means untried, if by using them thou wouldst dishonour the name of the Lord.

Evening

"I sleep, but my heart waketh."
Song of Solomon 5:2

Paradoxes abound in Christian experience, and here is one--the spouse was asleep, and yet she was awake. He only can read the believer's riddle who has ploughed with the heifer of his experience. The two points in this evening's text are--a mournful sleepiness and a hopeful wakefulness. I sleep. Through sin that dwelleth in us we may become lax in holy duties, slothful in religious exercises, dull in spiritual joys, and altogether supine and careless. This is a shameful state for one in whom the quickening Spirit dwells; and it is dangerous to the highest degree. Even wise virgins sometimes slumber, but it is high time for all to shake off the bands of sloth. It is to be feared that many believers lose their strength as Samson lost his locks, while sleeping on the lap of carnal security. With a perishing world around us, to sleep is cruel; with eternity so near at hand, it is madness. Yet we are none of us so much awake as we should be; a few thunder-claps would do us all good, and it may be, unless we soon bestir ourselves, we shall have them in the form of war, or pestilence, or personal bereavements and losses. O that we may leave forever the couch of fleshly ease, and go forth with flaming torches to meet the coming Bridegroom! My heart waketh. This is a happy sign. Life is not extinct, though sadly smothered. When our renewed heart struggles against our natural heaviness, we should be grateful to sovereign grace for keeping a little vitality within the body of this death. Jesus will hear our hearts, will help our hearts, will visit our hearts; for the voice of the wakeful heart is really the voice of our Beloved, saying, "Open to me." Holy zeal will surely unbar the door.

"Oh lovely attitude! He stands

With melting heart and laden hands;

My soul forsakes her every sin;

And lets the heavenly stranger in."

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Today's reading: Song of Solomon 4-5, Galatians 3 (NIV)

View today's reading on Bible Gateway

Today's Old Testament reading: Song of Solomon 4-5

He

1 How beautiful you are, my darling!
Oh, how beautiful!
Your eyes behind your veil are doves.
Your hair is like a flock of goats
descending from the hills of Gilead.
2 Your teeth are like a flock of sheep just shorn,
coming up from the washing.
Each has its twin;
not one of them is alone.
3 Your lips are like a scarlet ribbon;
your mouth is lovely.
Your temples behind your veil
are like the halves of a pomegranate.
4 Your neck is like the tower of David,
built with courses of stone;
on it hang a thousand shields,
all of them shields of warriors.
5 Your breasts are like two fawns,
like twin fawns of a gazelle
that browse among the lilies.
6 Until the day breaks
and the shadows flee,
I will go to the mountain of myrrh
and to the hill of incense.
7 You are altogether beautiful, my darling;
there is no flaw in you....

...read the rest on Bible Gateway

Today's New Testament reading: Galatians 3

Faith or Works of the Law

1 You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified.2 I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by believing what you heard? 3 Are you so foolish? After beginning by means of the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by means of the flesh? 4Have you experienced so much in vain—if it really was in vain?5 So again I ask, does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you by the works of the law, or by your believing what you heard? 6 So also Abraham “believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.”

7 Understand, then, that those who have faith are children of Abraham. 8 Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: “All nations will be blessed through you.” 9 So those who rely on faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith....

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COUPLESenewsheader-Bibles-Sep2011

Conquering Regrets

Genesis 19:1-29

"Flee for your lives! Don't look back, and don't stop anywhere in the plain! Flee to the mountains or you will be swept away!"
Genesis 19:17

If only we hadn't married so soon. If only we had more money. If only I had married Jake instead of John. Regrets in marriage are damaging. They keep our eyes fixed on the rearview mirror instead of on the road ahead. While reviewing the past and assessing what we've learned through mistakes can be a healthy exercise, regretting the past only serves to fuel discontentment and impede growth.

When Dan and I decided to close a three-year-old business, I struggled with regret. I had used up all of our nest egg to pursue a business venture I had believed in. When the business failed, I regretted so many decisions I had made, especially not listening to Dan's advice along the way. My failure meant that we would be struggling financially again after having enjoyed several years of monetary comfort. Even though I knew God had walked us through this difficult time and taught us invaluable lessons, it was tempting to think, "If I hadn't tried to start that new business, we'd be financially set right now." Instead of keeping my eyes focused on God's plan for my life, I chose to get stuck in my tracks with if-only thinking.

Lot's wife had a similar problem. She and her husband were running for their lives from Sodom and Gomorrah, knowing that God had judged the culture they were living in and was about to decimate everything they had ever known. While Lot was running full steam ahead, his wife kept looking over her shoulder. Eventually, the distance between them became so great that Lot literally left his wife in the dust.

Regret is like that. We keep looking over our shoulder, wondering if what we've left behind might have been better than what we're moving toward. God's angel warned Lot and his wife not to look back, and it's a warning for us too.

If you routinely catch yourself starting a sentence with "If only," regret may be an issue you need to deal with. While dwelling on what might have been is never healthy, regret can be an important signal to stop and examine your emotions. For instance, if you catch yourself thinking, "If only I had married Jake instead of John," it may be time to evaluate why John isn't measuring up. In your private time with God, pray about the emotions you're experiencing. Perhaps you'll discover that your disappointment is springing from unmet needs. With these needs clarified, you can then have a forward-thinking conversation with your spouse about how to improve your relationship.

When I caught myself saying, "If only I hadn't tried to start this business," I realized that my fear of God's inability to meet our needs in the future was driving my regret. Once I discovered that, I could stop looking to the past and begin focusing on a vision for what God might accomplish in our future.
Marian V. Liautaud

Let's Talk

  • What, if any, regrets do either of us have in our lives?
  • What unmet need might those regrets indicate?
  • How might we use regrets to improve our relationship with each other? What do we need to entrust to God to move forward in our marriage?
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NIVCouplesbibleToday's reading is from the
NIV Couple's Devotional Bible
by Zondervan


Designed to help you build your relationship on the one foundation you can count on: God’s Word!


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Stewardship as a Response to Grace

This week's reading: Exodus 34:1-9

Why did Moses need new stone tablets "like the first ones"? Because Moses smashed to pieces the original tablets (see Ex 32:19). Exodus 32 describes how the people of Israel grew weary of waiting for Moses to come down from Mount Sinai; he had been gone for 40 days and 40 nights, and the people thought that Moses was dead or long gone. So Aaron, Moses' brother, led the people in idol worship, gluttony and, very likely, sexual immorality. When Moses came down from the mountain and saw what was happening, "his anger burned and he threw the tablets out of his hands, breaking them to pieces" (Ex 32:19). The words of God were destroyed.

But a few chapters later, we find God commanding Moses to make new tablets on which God would write the words that were on the first tablets. Can you imagine a greater act of mercy, love, forgiveness and grace? After all that had happened, God still desired to communicate with the Israelites.

Moses' response to the Lord's gracious action was worship (see Ex 34:8). Today our response to God's salvation should echo that of Moses. Yet when authors John and Sylvia Ronsvalle conducted a three-year study of money dynamics in the American church, they determined a surprising lack of correlation between grace and giving.

This area of theology, attempting to move from the law into a sense of the grace that ought to define financial giving patterns, has apparently been difficult for the church in the United States throughout its history. Robert Wood Lynn commented from his historical studies, "I don't think American Protestants have come close to a scriptural view of God's grace in stewardship. We are a law-ridden people, and the law is becoming more and more important as a means to move us. Why haven't we given more for 140 years? I don't think the American churches have been able to understand the full meaning of the gospel for this area of stewardship. We've been denying this for an awfully long time. It raises the whole fundamental meaning of the gospel. It is not only duties and obligations; it is also grace that can set us free. Then discipline can follow."

Lynn suggested that it is enormously difficult to talk about grace and the subject of financial stewardship, partly because it is so seldom talked about. "Grace is the central reality out of which we can begin to understand what we are to do with these resources. We have to get a conversation started on faith and money. We must not let this be interpreted as another spiritual assault where people are reminded they are selfish and greedy. We already know that. We need a setting in which we can talk about the meaning of money in our lives and discover how much it dominates our lives. We can use this as an occasion to understand again the whole meaning of the gospel. We cannot use grace in order to raise money. But rather we are going to the topic of grace to use this as an occasion to rethink what is the meaning of the gospel for this time."

Think About It

  • How has God shown grace to you?
  • How do you respond to God's grace?
  • What does God's grace have to do with your giving?

Pray About It

Lord, open my eyes to see your mercy and grace in my life. Then show me my appropriate response.


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Today's reading is from the
NIV Stewardship Study Bible
by Zondervan


Discover the remarkable privilege we have as stewards of God's design for life through the study of Scripture.


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