Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Daily Devotional Wednesday 28th September

“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” Matthew 6:33 NIV
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Morning and Evening by Charles Spurgeon

Morning

"Happy art thou, O Israel; who is like unto thee, O people saved by the Lord!"
Deuteronomy 33:29

He who affirms that Christianity makes men miserable, is himself an utter stranger to it. It were strange indeed, if it made us wretched, for see to what a position it exalts us! It makes us sons of God. Suppose you that God will give all the happiness to his enemies, and reserve all the mourning for his own family? Shall his foes have mirth and joy, and shall his home-born children inherit sorrow and wretchedness? Shall the sinner, who has no part in Christ, call himself rich in happiness, and shall we go mourning as if we were penniless beggars? No, we will rejoice in the Lord always, and glory in our inheritance, for we "have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but we have received the spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father." The rod of chastisement must rest upon us in our measure, but it worketh for us the comfortable fruits of righteousness; and therefore by the aid of the divine Comforter, we, the "people saved of the Lord," will joy in the God of our salvation. We are married unto Christ; and shall our great Bridegroom permit his spouse to linger in constant grief? Our hearts are knit unto him: we are his members, and though for awhile we may suffer as our Head once suffered, yet we are even now blessed with heavenly blessings in him. We have the earnest of our inheritance in the comforts of the Spirit, which are neither few nor small. Inheritors of joy forever, we have foretastes of our portion. There are streaks of the light of joy to herald our eternal sunrising. Our riches are beyond the sea; our city with firm foundations lies on the other side the river; gleams of glory from the spirit-world cheer our hearts, and urge us onward. Truly is it said of us, "Happy art thou, O Israel; who is like unto thee, O people saved by the Lord?"

Evening

"My Beloved put in his hand by the hole of the door, and my bowels were moved for him."
Song of Solomon 5:4

Knocking was not enough, for my heart was too full of sleep, too cold and ungrateful to arise and open the door, but the touch of his effectual grace has made my soul bestir itself. Oh, the longsuffering of my Beloved, to tarry when he found himself shut out, and me asleep upon the bed of sloth! Oh, the greatness of his patience, to knock and knock again, and to add his voice to his knockings, beseeching me to open to him! How could I have refused him! Base heart, blush and be confounded! But what greatest kindness of all is this, that he becomes his own porter and unbars the door himself. Thrice blessed is the hand which condescends to lift the latch and turn the key. Now I see that nothing but my Lord's own power can save such a naughty mass of wickedness as I am; ordinances fail, even the gospel has no effect upon me, till his hand is stretched out. Now, also, I perceive that his hand is good where all else is unsuccessful, he can open when nothing else will. Blessed be his name, I feel his gracious presence even now. Well may my bowels move for him, when I think of all that he has suffered for me, and of my ungenerous return. I have allowed my affections to wander. I have set up rivals. I have grieved him. Sweetest and dearest of all beloveds, I have treated thee as an unfaithful wife treats her husband. Oh, my cruel sins, my cruel self. What can I do? Tears are a poor show of my repentance, my whole heart boils with indignation at myself. Wretch that I am, to treat my Lord, my All in All, my exceeding great joy, as though he were a stranger. Jesus, thou forgivest freely, but this is not enough, prevent my unfaithfulness in the future. Kiss away these tears, and then purge my heart and bind it with sevenfold cords to thyself, never to wander more.

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Today's reading: Isaiah 3-4, Galatians 6 (NIV)

View today's reading on Bible Gateway

Today's Old Testament reading: Isaiah 3-4

Judgment on Jerusalem and Judah

1 See now, the Lord,
the LORD Almighty,
is about to take from Jerusalem and Judah
both supply and support:
all supplies of food and all supplies of water,
2 the hero and the warrior,
the judge and the prophet,
the diviner and the elder,
3 the captain of fifty and the man of rank,
the counselor, skilled craftsman and clever enchanter.

4 “I will make mere youths their officials;
children will rule over them.”

5 People will oppress each other—
man against man, neighbor against neighbor.
The young will rise up against the old,
the nobody against the honored....

...read the rest on Bible Gateway

Today's New Testament reading: Galatians 6

Doing Good to All

1 Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted. 2 Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.3 If anyone thinks they are something when they are not, they deceive themselves. 4 Each one should test their own actions. Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else, 5 for each one should carry their own load. 6 Nevertheless, the one who receives instruction in the word should share all good things with their instructor.

7 Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. 8 Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. 9 Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. 10 Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers....

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Abimelech

[Ăbĭm'elĕch] - father of the king.

1. A king of Gerar in the time of Abraham (Gen. 20; 21:22-32; 26:1-16, 26-31).

The Man Who Rebuked Another for Lying

Abimelech would have taken Sarah, Abraham's wife, into his harem, but learning that she was the wife of another, returned her uninjured. Abraham appears here in a bad light. He deceived Abimelech, but when found out was justly rebuked by the God-restrained Abimelech. Certainly the righteous should rebuke the ungodly ( 1 Tim. 5:20), but how sad it is when the ungodly have just reason for rebuking the righteous. What a degradation it was for Abraham, then, to be rebuked by a heathen king!

Abraham sought to palliate his deception by claiming that Sarah was actually his half sister, daughter of the same father but not the same mother (Gen. 20:12, 16).

A lie if half a truth

Is ever the worst of lies.

Abraham was the more blameworthy because he had done the same thing before ( Gen. 12) and had suffered much in the same way as upon this occasion. How grateful Abimelech was for the dream warning him of his danger! The covenant made with Abraham is somewhat significant -

I. It was proposed by Abimelech who, although knowing how Abraham had failed God, yet saw how favored he was of God (Gen. 21:22).

II. It revealed certain distrust of Abraham. Abimelech requested Abraham not to be tempted to sin in such a direction again (Gen. 21:23).

III. It was meant to secure Abraham's good will. The king desired the favor of the wandering pilgrim who had failed to act kingly. Abraham consented to the king's request (Gen. 21:24).

IV. It gave Abraham the opportunity of rebuking Abimelech. The matter of the stolen well had to be put right. Wrong had to be repudiated before a covenant could be agreed upon (Gen. 20:9; 21:23, 26).

V. It secured for Abraham the inheritance of Beer-sheba, "the well of oath," which possession the patriarch sanctified ( Gen. 21:27-33).

2. The son of Gideon by a concubine in Shechem who belonged to a leading Canaanite family (Judg. 8:30, 31; 9; 10:1).

The Man Who Was Bramble King

This Abimelech, who made the first attempt to set up a monarchy in Israel, is known as "The Bramble King." But his violent and ill-fated reign over Israel only lasted for three years. After the death of Gideon his father, Abimelech took seventy pieces of silver from his mother's people with which he hired vain and light persons to follow him. He slew seventy persons of his father's house. Jotham, the youngest son of Gideon, who is also called Jerubbaal, hid himself and when Abimelech was proclaimed king by the men of Shechem, he revealed himself and warned the Shechemites against Abimelech in a parable about trees, from whence he received his nickname as "Bramble King." What a tragic death this would-be king of Israel suffered (Judg. 9:53, 54)! A fitting end, surely, for one who sowed a Biblical city with salt (Judg. 9:45).

3. Son of Abiathar, the high priest in David's time (1 Chron. 18:16). Also known as Ahimlech.

4. A name given to Achish, King of Gath (according to Ellicott), to whom David fled (1 Sam. 21:10).

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Rachel Olsen

September 27, 2011

Why It's Not Meaningless
Rachel Olsen

"A person can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in their own toil. This too, I see, is from the hand of God, for without him, who can eat or find enjoyment?" Ecclesiastes 2:24-25 (NIV)

Is your work always fulfilling? Are your days endlessly satisfying?

I can almost hear you saying, "Um, no-not even close." Mine either.

I teach college students. I love learning and sharing what I've learned. I adore the smell of freshly sharpened pencils. I enjoy the honor and challenge of shaping the next generation.

What I don't much like are the hours of grading, or the occasional unmotivated student that make my best efforts feel wasted. My job has its perks, and its downsides. I'm sure yours does as well.

There's a prevailing notion in our culture that if we could just find the perfect job-our dream job-we'd have day after day of blissful purpose. But even the noblest task, the most glamorous profession, or the most acclaimed work has its frustrations.

King Solomon realized this and resented it. He grew to loathe life when his meals, his money and his work didn't prove endlessly satisfying (Ecc. 2:18). He was wise to realize no carnal, earthly or material thing will ever fully satiate us. No dinner party, employee-of-the month award, new home, relationship, merit raise, coffee drink or end-of-season clearance sale.

Solomon looked at life's inability to truly satisfy, and the fact that one day he'd be gone and his work may not be remembered, and decided all was vanity-all is meaningless here under the sun apart from God.

I found his book of Ecclesiastes perplexing with its "everything is meaningless" refrain. In it Solomon seemed to call everything life has to offer pointless. Something in my own spirit understood what he meant, yet also rebelled against the idea that life's pleasures and accomplishments are all for naught.

So I spent a year reading Ecclesiastes, seeking God's insight on this. I wanted to know how to approach work and leisure, how to view frustration and pleasure.

My driving goal became to craft a meaningful life that is pleasing to both me and God. I took cooking classes and learned to make delicious meals-I even learned to enjoy the effort involved in making them. I read novels as well as the Bible on my back patio. I invested myself anew in my teaching. I grew better at glorying in life's little pleasures, and letting them fortify me against discontent, depression, or worse, sin.

That year I discovered a divine secret. Today's key verse shows Solomon saw it too. The moments of enjoyment found in our work, our laughter, or even our daily food are sheer gifts from God.

Gifts to relish. Gifts that remind me-in a world often dark, cold and disappointing-that God is good.

These gifts don't offer continuous bliss-they punctuate days of toil and tears. They give me a taste of an afterlife that will exceed the earthly pleasures of a good meal, a tulip in bloom or a job well done.

These gifts satiate me over and over with-here's the key-gratitude to God. They not only gratify me when I enjoy them but they point me to a loving Creator who holds pleasures evermore in His right hand (Psalm 16:11).

That realization makes me enjoy the gift and the moment even more.

I find this gratitude deeply satisfying-it's pleasing to both me and God. So I eat, and drink, and take satisfaction in my work, for without Him there would be no enjoyment. And in them I can honor God with my pleasure.

Dear Lord, thank You for each and every source of enjoyment You provide in this life. Lord, every good and perfect gift comes down from Your hand, and I am grateful. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Visit Rachel's blog to win a copy of her book It's No Secret: Revealing Divine Truths Every Woman Should Know. Inside the pages you'll learn twelve more divine secrets.

It's No Secret: Revealing Divine Truths Every Woman Should Know

One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are by Ann Voskamp

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:
Do something today that gives you satisfaction. Then give God thanks.

Take pleasure in your work, no matter how mundane or demanding it is. Give thanks to God for the ability to work and to rest.

At your next meal, chew slowly. Taste the flavors. Feel the texture and temperature-and give thanks to God for your food, regardless how simple or gourmet.

Reflections:
Do I pause to open the gifts of enjoyment God affords me?

How often do I give Him thanks in return?

Power Verses:
Ecclesiastes 8:15, "So I commend the enjoyment of life, because there is nothing better for a person under the sun than to eat and drink and be glad. Then joy will accompany them in their toil all the days of the life God has given them under the sun." (NIV)

Psalm 34:8, "Taste and see that the LORD is good. Oh, the joys of those who take refuge in him!" (NLT)

© 2011 by Rachel Olsen. All rights reserved.

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

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September 27, 2011

I Feel Your Pain

Mary Southerland

Today's Truth

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God (2 Corinthians 1:3-4, NIV).

Friend to Friend

It was Easter Sunday, and I was sitting in the sanctuary waiting for the worship service to begin. Anticipating a large crowd, I arrived early to drop Jered off in the nursery, one of his favorite places to go since every nursery worker doted on him. As the choir filed in, a friend slipped into the pew beside me and said, "I think you need to go to the nursery. Something is wrong with Jered." Jumping up, I leapt over legs, toes, and pews as I raced to the church nursery and my son.

I was not prepared for what I saw. In a far corner, lying on his favorite red mat was Jered, staring at the ceiling, silent and rigid. As I bent over him, searching those beautiful blue eyes, huge tears slid down his chubby cheeks as he flew into my arms, sobbing. You have to understand - as a baby, Jered cried only when he was hungry, wet, or sick. He always seemed to be smiling, happy, and contented. Something was obviously very wrong. I kissed his forehead. No fever. I checked his diaper. Dry and clean. The snack box I had packed for him earlier that morning was empty. I had no idea what had broken my son's heart, but I certainly intended to find out.

Just then, Mrs. Giles, Jered's favorite nursery worker, drew me aside and said, "Let me tell you what happened. We had a new little girl in the nursery today. It was her first time in a church nursery - ever. When her parents left, she immediately began screaming and wouldn't stop. Jered came running and wrapped his arms around her, but she pushed him away. He then brought her his bottle, but she hurled it across the room and continued screaming. Desperate to help her, Jered then found his diaper bag and fished out Turtle.

Turtle was a small, green-and-blue stuffed turtle we had given Jered during a stay in the hospital when he was seriously ill with the croup. From the moment Jered saw Turtle, they were inseparable. He slept with Turtle clutched tightly in one hand, ate with Turtle sitting in his lap or on the table beside his plate, and carefully tucked Turtle in his diaper bag whenever we left the house. Turtle was his most precious possession and was an invaluable source of comfort to him.

Mrs. Giles continued, "I couldn't believe Jered was willing to give Turtle to a stranger, but he tried." The crying child took one look at Turtle and threw it in Jered's face. Stunned, he picked up Turtle, dusted it off, and lay down on the mat, refusing to move, the stuffed animal clutched tightly in his arms. Then I knew. I knew Jered couldn't stand to see the little girl in pain and was determined to help. When he couldn't, he retreated, waiting for someone else to help. That's compassion.

Compassion is not just sympathy. It is empathy. When it comes to dealing with difficult people, we mistakenly equate compassion with "fixing" them. Genuine compassion is first able to feel their pain. I believe one of the reasons we encounter and are commanded to deal with sandpaper people is because the more pain we experience, the more compassionate we will be. We must learn to use our pain in the right way, not lashing out, but looking within to share the pain of others. There is a choice in every pain, an opportunity in every trial. Pain makes us focus inward or outward. It makes us martyrs or merciful. The choice is ours.

I have a love-hate relationship with the Good Samaritan in the Bible. The Samaritan chose to use his pain and help an injured man. He understood the man's pain because of the pain in his own life. The Jews hated all Samaritans. The man lying on the road was a Jew. There was no logical reason for this Samaritan to rearrange his plans and spend his money to help this "enemy" or "sandpaper person" in need. But compassion doesn't look for reasons or search out limitations. It searches for opportunity. The Samaritan had a choice, just as we have a choice every time we are confronted with a need. We must adjust our thinking to understand that sandpaper people are needy people. We can either ignore the need, or we can meet the need by giving away part of the comfort God has given us when we have been in pain.

Galatians 6:2 (NLT) "Share each other's troubles and problems, and in this way obey the law of Christ."

If we can't prevent pain, we can at least lighten the load with compassion. Alan Redpath wrote, "You can never lighten the load unless you have first felt the pressure in your own soul." Compassion makes us willing to feel the pain of others, responding as if it were our own.

Let's Pray

Father, forgive me when I respond in anger to the difficult people in my life. I really want Your love to flow through me to each sandpaper person with whom I come in contact. Give me Your heart of compassion to feel their pain and then teach me how to look for ways to help ease that pain.

In Jesus' name,

Amen.

Now It's Your Turn

Read the story of the Good Samaritan found in Luke 10:31-37. How can you apply the same truths in your life that the Samaritan applied when taking care of the wounded man?

Wherever today finds you, look around for someone in need - someone who needs a touch of compassion in their life. Are you willing to let God use you to be "God with skin on" to that person?

More from the Girlfriends

Today's devotion is taken from Mary's book, Sandpaper People. 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.

Come as You Are is Mary's NEW Online Bible Study that begins September 26! The most common invitation offered by Jesus Christ is simply to "come." He doesn't ask us to fix what is wrong or expect us to clean up our lives. That is His responsibility. Jesus loves us just as we are and when we come to Him with a "yes" in our hearts, He lovingly transforms the broken places into beautiful scars of healing and new life.Enroll before October 1 and have access to all 2011 lessons. Need a friend? Connect with Mary on Facebook or throughemail.

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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Are proverbs iron-clad promises?

This week's reading: Proverbs 3:1-4

Proverbs are principles of right living and general descriptions of life's realities, rather than sure-fire promises or guarantees. For example, Proverbs 3:1 appears to promise a long life and prosperity to those who do not forget my teaching, but keep my commands in your heart. Yet some godly people live in poverty and die at a young age.

This proverb isn't offering immunity from illness, accidents or financial troubles. Rather, proverbs such as this point to a general principle, which if applied consistently to our lives, will save us from unnecessary pain and suffering. While we aren't guaranteed we'll never contract cancer or go broke, we can avoid the foolish choices that can prematurely cut our lives short or cause financial ruin.

While Proverbs observes the way life works time after time, exceptions to the general rules are evident in the books of Ecclesiastes and Job.

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Everything New - A Weeekly Devotional

GOD PULLED BACK THE CURTAIN

The so-called “special revelation” that God gives includes Jesus Christ himself, the Word that was from the beginning and was with God and was God. Jesus put it this way: “If you have seen me you have seen the Father.” The other major example of special revelation is the word of God in Scripture, the living testimony of truth given through people with the special calling of prophets and apostles. This is the way the book of Hebrews puts it: “In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets in many and various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son whom he appointed heir of all things and through whom he made the universe” (Hebrews 1:1-2).

The salient points are simple: God is real. God has spoken. We must listen.

We could philosophize about who God could be, and settle on the alternatives that seem most reasonable, but if God has spoken in the revealed word and in the Word made flesh, then doesn’t all other knowledge about him move to the margins of the page? The fingerprints of God may be evident in a spiral galaxy, in the wildflower petals of an Indian Paintbrush, and in the spiritual impulses that we experience, but what are fingerprints compared to Voice and Face? Give me the galaxies, for sure, but I will be able to know and adore and love a God who actually speaks.

There is a kind of “general revelation,” which the apostle Paul talks about in Romans when he writes, “Since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities-his eternal power and divine nature-have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made” (Romans 1:20). These and other biblical passages say that we as human beings have plenty of evidence that God exists and that he is powerful and superlative and beautiful as designer of the universe. But apparently this is not enough. Human beings easily turn away from the mere fingerprints of God with indifference. A fingerprint doesn’t call out to you, it can’t lead your life, and it does not embrace you when you need to be comforted.

So God spoke. He revealed. He pulled back the curtain, uncovering what was shrouded (“revelation” in the Bible means “an uncovering”). He spoke from heaven (that is, his realm of existence), but not by taking us up a ladder to heaven, but by extending heaven to earth in the person of Jesus.

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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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