Saturday, October 29, 2011

Daily Devotional Saturday 29th October

“For, “All people are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of the Lord endures forever.” And this is the word that was preached to you.” 1 Peter 1:24-25 NIV
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Morning and Evening by Charles Spurgeon

Morning

"I have chosen you out of the world."
John 15:19

Here is distinguishing grace and discriminating regard; for some are made the special objects of divine affection. Do not be afraid to dwell upon this high doctrine of election. When your mind is most heavy and depressed, you will find it to be a bottle of richest cordial. Those who doubt the doctrines of grace, or who cast them into the shade, miss the richest clusters of Eshcol; they lose the wines on the lees well refined, the fat things full of marrow. There is no balm in Gilead comparable to it. If the honey in Jonathan's wood when but touched enlightened the eyes, this is honey which will enlighten your heart to love and learn the mysteries of the kingdom of God. Eat, and fear not a surfeit; live upon this choice dainty, and fear not that it will be too delicate a diet. Meat from the King's table will hurt none of his courtiers. Desire to have your mind enlarged, that you may comprehend more and more the eternal, everlasting, discriminating love of God. When you have mounted as high as election, tarry on its sister mount, the covenant of grace. Covenant engagements are the munitions of stupendous rock behind which we lie entrenched; covenant engagements with the surety, Christ Jesus, are the quiet resting-places of trembling spirits.

"His oath, his covenant, his blood,

Support me in the raging flood;

When every earthly prop gives way,

This still is all my strength and stay."

If Jesus undertook to bring me to glory, and if the Father promised that he would give me to the Son to be a part of the infinite reward of the travail of his soul; then, my soul, till God himself shall be unfaithful, till Jesus shall cease to be the truth, thou art safe. When David danced before the ark, he told Michal that election made him do so. Come, my soul, exult before the God of grace and leap for joy of heart.

Evening

"His head is as the most fine gold, his locks are bushy, and black as a raven."
Song of Solomon 5:11

Comparisons all fail to set forth the Lord Jesus, but the spouse uses the best within her reach. By the head of Jesus we may understand his deity, "for the head of Christ is God" and then the ingot of purest gold is the best conceivable metaphor, but all too poor to describe one so precious, so pure, so dear, so glorious. Jesus is not a grain of gold, but a vast globe of it, a priceless mass of treasure such as earth and heaven cannot excel. The creatures are mere iron and clay, they all shall perish like wood, hay, and stubble, but the ever living Head of the creation of God shall shine on forever and ever. In him is no mixture, nor smallest taint of alloy. He is forever infinitely holy and altogether divine. The bushy locks depict his manly vigour. There is nothing effeminate in our Beloved. He is the manliest of men. Bold as a lion, laborious as an ox, swift as an eagle. Every conceivable and inconceivable beauty is to be found in him, though once he was despised and rejected of men.

"His head the finest gold;

With secret sweet perfume,

His curled locks hang all as black

As any raven's plume."

The glory of his head is not shorn away, he is eternally crowned with peerless majesty. The black hair indicates youthful freshness, for Jesus has the dew of his youth upon him. Others grow languid with age, but he is forever a Priest as was Melchizedek; others come and go, but he abides as God upon his throne, world without end. We will behold him tonight and adore him. Angels are gazing upon him--his redeemed must not turn away their eyes from him. Where else is there such a Beloved? O for an hour's fellowship with him! Away, ye intruding cares! Jesus draws me, and I run after him.

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Today's reading: Jeremiah 15-17, 2 Timothy 2 (NIV)

View today's reading on Bible Gateway

Today's Old Testament reading: Jeremiah 15-17

1 Then the LORD said to me: “Even if Moses and Samuel were to stand before me, my heart would not go out to this people. Send them away from my presence! Let them go! 2And if they ask you, ‘Where shall we go?’ tell them, ‘This is what the LORD says:

“‘Those destined for death, to death;
those for the sword, to the sword;
those for starvation, to starvation;
those for captivity, to captivity.’

3 “I will send four kinds of destroyers against them,” declares the LORD, “the sword to kill and the dogs to drag away and the birds and the wild animals to devour and destroy. 4 I will make them abhorrent to all the kingdoms of the earth because of what Manasseh son of Hezekiah king of Judah did in Jerusalem.

5 “Who will have pity on you, Jerusalem?
Who will mourn for you?
Who will stop to ask how you are?
6 You have rejected me,” declares the LORD.
“You keep on backsliding.
So I will reach out and destroy you;
I am tired of holding back.
7 I will winnow them with a winnowing fork
at the city gates of the land.
I will bring bereavement and destruction on my people,
for they have not changed their ways.
8 I will make their widows more numerous
than the sand of the sea.
At midday I will bring a destroyer
against the mothers of their young men;
suddenly I will bring down on them
anguish and terror....

...read the rest on Bible Gateway

Today's New Testament reading: 2 Timothy 2

The Appeal Renewed

1 You then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. 2 And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others. 3 Join with me in suffering, like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. 4 No one serving as a soldier gets entangled in civilian affairs, but rather tries to please his commanding officer. 5 Similarly, anyone who competes as an athlete does not receive the victor’s crown except by competing according to the rules. 6 The hardworking farmer should be the first to receive a share of the crops. 7Reflect on what I am saying, for the Lord will give you insight into all this.

8 Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, descended from David. This is my gospel, 9 for which I am suffering even to the point of being chained like a criminal. But God’s word is not chained. 10 Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they too may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory.

11 Here is a trustworthy saying:

If we died with him,
we will also live with him;
12 if we endure,
we will also reign with him.
If we disown him,
he will also disown us;
13 if we are faithless,
he remains faithful,
for he cannot disown himself.

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Ahab

[Ā'hăb] - father's brother.

1. The son of Omri, and his successor as the seventh king of Israel (1 Kings 16:28-33).

The Man Who Wanted Another's Vineyard

Ahab was an able and energetic warrior. His victories over the Syrians pushed the borders of his kingdom to the border of Damascus. Great renown became his, also great wealth indicated by the ivory palace he built for himself (1 Kings 21:1; 22:39 ). Success, however, made him greedy for still more. Not since Solomon's time had a king been so victorious as Ahab, and what was a little matter like Naboth's vineyard to one who had grasped so much? With his wealth, Ahab bought all he wanted. One tenant, however, could not be bought out. Sentiment, affection and tender memories were more to Naboth than all the king's money.

Ahab could not say "All is mine" until the vineyard on his estate was his. First of all, there was no flaw in Ahab's advances. A fair price and richer land were offered Naboth. The sin came after Naboth's refusal to sell, because of a thousand sacred ties. Ahab sinned in not entering into a poorer man's feelings. Naboth was not obstinate. His vineyard was a sacred heritage, a precious tradition. If we are to be Christlike we must be considerate of others.

Ahab's next fault was that of making an awful grievance of his disappointment. He acted like a spoiled child and in a sulky fit told of failure to secure the vineyard to Jezebel, his strong-minded wife. Ahab and Jezebel are the Macbeth and Lady Macbeth of this inspired story. Ahab played into his wife's hands, and those hands were eager to shed blood.

Points for possible expansion are:

I. Ahab established idolatry. He was a dangerous innovator and a patron of foreign gods (1 Kings 16:31-33; 21:26).

II. He was a weak-minded man, lacking moral fiber and righteousness ( 1 Kings 21:4).

III. He was the tool of his cruel, avaricious wife (1 Kings 21:7, 25).

IV. His doom, along with that of Jezebel, was foretold by Elijah (1 Kings 21:22) and by Micaiah (1 Kings 22:28).

2. The name of the false prophet who was in Babylon during the exile, and was roasted in the fire by Nebuchadnezzar (Jer. 29:21-23).

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October 28, 2011

Fresh Hope for the Journey

Part 1

Mary Southerland

Today's Truth

I waited patiently for the LORD; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. (Psalm 40:1-3, NIV).

Friend to Friend

I had almost forgotten what it felt like to wake up at the bottom of that deep, ugly pit called clinical depression. The darkness has been an all too familiar companion for most of my life. Over the years, I tried just about everything to soothe the pain in my heart and mind - things like success in ministry, the approval of others, perfectionism, doing good things, and food - to name a few.

In 1995, the bottom fell out of my life and I spent two long years climbing out of that pit of darkness. I even wrote a book, "Hope in the Midst of Depression" that describes the painful but healing journey that totally and completely changed who I was and what I would become in the years ahead. God absolutely "re-defined" me and gave me a "new song" to sing as He opened doors for me speak to women across the world about how to find hope in the midst of depression. I have often said, "I would go through that pit experience again tomorrow because of what God has done in my life through it." I really meant those words. I just didn't think that "tomorrow" would come. But it has. So what do I do now?

I go back to the place where it all began - to the place of complete brokenness - and remember. Evidently, I have forgotten some of truths God taught me in the darkness. I have surrendered right priorities to the wrong plan and failed to hear God's voice above all others.

Depression may not be the problem you are facing, but the hard times will come and the darkness will find each one of us. At some point in life, we all will face some kind of pit. It may be a pit that we have dug with our own hands of wrong choices or it could be a pit that has been uniquely designed for us by the enemy. But a pit is a pit - a place of paralyzing fear and numbing doubt that is constantly fed by our human frailty and desperate attempts to escape the darkness.

Over the next two days, we will explore four steps we can take in order to find fresh hope and new freedom from the darkness. Let's get started!

Step 1: Identify the purpose of the pit.

I recently underwent what I thought was going to be a simple medical procedure, but when I woke up in recovery, I knew I was in trouble. According to the doctor, the surgery went great but she had not expected to find so much scar tissue and repair work to do and I certainly had not expected to experience the level of pain, soreness and inability to function that overwhelmed me. I was basically helpless. I had given myself a whole ten days to recuperate but it was brutally obvious that recuperation was going to be a long time coming. In fact, those ten days I had so generously carved out of my schedule turned into months of painful and slow recovery. I could feel myself sliding into that familiar pit of darkness.

You see, I have a problem with pride. It has always been extremely hard for me to accept help. I was raised to be strong and independent. When anyone asked what they could do to help out during my recovery, I automatically responded with, "I am fine. I will let you know if I need anything." Fortunately, my family and friends ignored that absurd assertion and stepped right over my pride as they brought meals, cleaned house, did laundry, assumed my teaching and speaking responsibilities and kept our infant grandson while our daughter attended school three days a week. I could not even get out of bed or go downstairs without help - and I did not like it one bit! In fact, I was furious!

Just like a tiny flame can turn into a raging fire, unresolved anger can turn into depression. As I began to work through my own anger and frustration, one purpose of this particular pit quickly emerged as God reminded me of a truth I often share but fail to practice. We were created to need God and each other. It is so easy to slide into a pattern of thinking much like the prideful toddler who announces, "I do it myself!"

We can't! And the good news is that we don't have to! Lay down your pride, girlfriend, and let fresh hope fill your life.

Let's Pray

Father, I cannot deal with the darkness and climb out of this pit in my own strength. I recognize my human frailty. I am desperate without You and I choose to trust You and rest in Your sufficiency. Make me more like Jesus and teach me the truths You have for me in this pit.

In Jesus' name,

Amen.

Now It's Your Turn

Pits can bring life to a screeching halt, demanding that we change our perspective of living and examine our priorities in light of that new perspective. Read 1 Peter 1:6. Compare your perspective to the one described in this verse.

Pits make us face and admit our weaknesses and come to the conclusion that we cannot live life in our own strength. Read 2 Corinthians 12:10. Make a list of your weaknesses and struggles and thank God for each one. Celebrate the power of God's grace in your life.

Pits can strengthen our faith if we allow them to. Read 2 Corinthians 12:9. How has God's power helped you face and deal with the darkness?

More from the Girlfriends

One of the reasons that "Girlfriends in God" exists is because Sharon, Gwen and I recognize our desperate need for God and for the friendships of other women who are seeking Him as well. We really do want to be "God with skin on" in your life.

Need help learning how to study the Bible? Check out Mary's E-Book Bible Studies that you can download for your personal use and/or for a small group study. Are you or someone you love battling the darkness? Get Mary's book,Hope in the Midst of Depression, and discover how God delivered her from the pit of depression.

Mary's weekly online Bible study, Light for the Journey, is a great Bible study tool as well. Check it out! The current topic isCome As You Are.

Need a friend? Connect with Mary on Face book or throughemail. She loves hearing what God is doing in your life!

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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P31Header
Wendy Blight

October 28, 2011

A Divine Interruption
Wendy Blight

"The word of the LORD came to Jonah...." Jonah 1:1(NIV)

I couldn't wait to spend the whole afternoon alone. My husband was mountain biking and both of our children had plans for the day. All I could think of was the fact I would spend hours by myself...no one asking for anything...no one needing me. It was going to be a glorious day!

But then it happened. My daughter came bursting through the door saying she forgot she had a project due the next day. She needed me to take her here and rush there to purchase items she needed to complete it. Soon it became our project.

Frustration rose up within me with every step of the way. My words were few and short. I was clearly irritated and did not hesitate showing it. She was interrupting my plans.

Jonah experienced an unwelcome interruption, too. Jonah was a prophet to the Northern Kingdom of Israel. He was popular, successful, and highly respected. Then one day it happened. "The word of the LORD came to Jonah."(Jonah 1:1 NIV) and God interrupted his life of comfort with a command to leave his beloved country and people to preach-not to God's people-but to one of their most hated enemies.

God's call would take Jonah's life down a completely different path than the life he currently enjoyed. Jonah felt angry and frustrated...the same way I did when my daughter came bursting into the house...the same way we all do when an interruption disrupts our lives whether it be an adult child coming back home to live, an unexpected pregnancy, a job loss, a startling diagnosis or an unforeseen move.

Jonah was frustrated to such an extreme that he not only disobeyed God's instruction, he ran in the opposite direction to get as far away from God as he could.

If only Jonah could have seen the end of the story. He would have seen that this "divine" interruption was an invitation to participate in one of the more miraculous events in history, an opportunity to be part of God's eternal plan for His Kingdom.

Eventually Jonah obeyed, and God used him to bring about the revival of an entire nation of people. Jonah spoke only eight words, "Forty days from now Nineveh will be destroyed" (Jonah 3:4 NLT), and within 24 hours the people of Nineveh repented and turned from their wickedness! Some scholars believe this to be the greatest revival in human history.

Jonah's story helps me redefine "interruptions." In fact, it has made me examine every interruption to see if God's hand is in it...if there is something divine in which He is inviting me to partake.

Just a few weeks ago, we took our daughter to college. I would give anything to have that divine interruption back...to have an entire afternoon to shop with her and spend time working on a project together.

How might Jonah's story help you see the interruptions in your life differently? Join me today in trusting God with His plan, accepting His divine invitation to experience Him and be part of His plans in ways you may not expect. Will you yield your plan for His today?

Heavenly Father, thank You that You have a plan for my life...a plan to prosper and not to harm me...a plan to give me hope and a future. Thank You that You allow divine interruptions in my life to draw me back into that plan if I ever wonder away or get too comfortable with where I am. Please give me eyes to see and a heart to respond to each and every divine interruption. Enable me through the power of Your Holy Spirit to obey. Amen.

Related Resources:
Do You Know Jesus?

Hidden Joy in a Dark Corner: The Transforming Power of God's Story by Wendy Blight

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

Visit Wendy's blog to learn more about her online Bible study on the book of Hebrews.

When you purchase resources through Proverbs 31 Ministries, your purchase supports many areas of ministry we provide at no cost. Therefore, we are extremely grateful for each and every purchase you make with us!

Application Steps:
Is there a divine interruption in your life God is using to bring you into His plan? How will you respond?

Reflections:
Read the book of Jonah (only four chapters) and discover how God brought Jonah back on track with His plan.

Power Verses:
Jeremiah 29:11, "'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the LORD, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'" (NIV)

Jonah 3:4-5, "Jonah began by going a day's journey into the city, proclaiming, 'Forty more days and Nineveh will be overthrown.' The Ninevites believed God. A fast was proclaimed, and all of them, from the greatest to the least, put on sackcloth." (NIV)

"The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged." Deuteronomy 31:8 (NIV)

© 2011 by Wendy Blight. All rights reserved.

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

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LeadershipBible-Header

Constantine: A Questionably Christian Emperor

art_03_05_constantineQuote: "Conquer by this."

Emperor Constantine (c. 272 – 327) was the first Christian emperor. Or was he? Whether he was a sincere believer or only used religion as a talisman or as a way to unite his empire has been debated for centuries. The historian Eusebius records the story of Constantine's vision of a cross in the noon-day sky, one of the most well-known conversion accounts in Christian literature — if it is indeed a conversion account.

The date is October 28, 312. The setting is the ancient stone Milvian Bridge that spans the Tiber River near the gate of Rome. Constantine is nervous. His troops are outnumbered by the army of Maxentius stationed behind the walls of Rome with enough provisions to withstand a long siege. The prospects of winning are not good for the pagan general. Then at noon he sees a cross above the sun with the words "Conquer by this."

Why Maxentius came out of town to do open battle with his adversary is a mystery to military experts. In the end, due to his poor strategy or to the intervention of God, the victory belongs to Constantine, paving the way for him to become the sole emperor of both East and West.

As a Christian emperor, Constantine gets high marks for the Edict of Milan in 313 that secures toleration of Christianity and ends the persecution that began with Nero. But while ending persecution from pagans he disregards the Christian pacifist tradition and inaugurates a long history of Christian fratricide. He sends troops to North Africa to attack the Donatists, a breakaway sect of Christian purists.

Constantine's sins also include murder — and not merely murder of his distant enemies. He arranges the murder even of his son and one of his wives. His Christian credentials are found wanting in other matters as well. Before he professed to follow the Christian God, he was partial to the sun god, a god who continued to be in good standing with him long after his cross-above-the-sun vision. His coins featured the sun god on one side and the name of Christ on the other. Thus Sunday, so-called by Constantine, was on his orders set aside as the day of worship.

Constantine's delayed baptism also throws a damper on any claim to his saintliness. Apparently fearing the sacrament would not take because of his wicked ways, he postpones it until he is on his deathbed in 337. Then he contacts Bishop Eusebius of Nicomedia to officiate. Setting aside his imperial purple garb, he dresses in white and rests on a white sofa to symbolize his new spiritual status. That Eusebius is an Arian is one final snub by the emperor to Athanasius and orthodoxy in the Western church. In an effort to rectify the matter, however, an apocryphal account was later circulated that falsely claims that Constantine was baptized in Rome by Pope Sylvester. The end for Constantine comes, according to Eusebius, at "about the time of the midday sun," reminiscent of the vision a quarter-century earlier — symbolism fitting an emperor.

Constantine's life illustrates the malevolence and messiness of this era — an era that set the stage for orthodox faith for the ensuing centuries. Saintly heroes were in short supply. Sin and shame had free reign, then as now.


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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Myth: "I'll never be free from my past."

Today's reading: John 8:36

I feel as if I've lived two or three different lives. And if any one of those past lives ever catches up with me, then everything I can safely call my own today is gone-my reputation as a leader at work, a successful marriage, loving family-my past threatens all of it. I fear someone, somewhere will claim to know what I'm "really like." Only I'm not that person anymore. Not perfect, but thank God not what I used to be. I truly believe I've changed and am growing into the person Christ wants me to be.

But that person still carries a secret burden. As bright as her future is, she's never free from her past.

I'm never free from the haunting accusations surrounding yesterday's mistakes that may ambush me today. Imaginary scenarios and entire conversations play out in my head. They sneak into my thoughts with crafty subtlety. Sometimes when I tuck my baby girl under the covers for the night and she whispers, "I love you, Mommy," I want so much to enjoy the moment and soak in her affection. But a faint, persistent voice inside tells me, "You don't deserve her, you know. Not after what you've done ..."

And when I meet someone that I genuinely like, whose friendship I really enjoy, the thought inevitably traipses through my head that if she knew my past, she wouldn't think so highly of me.

When my boss compliments me at a meeting for my "innovative leadership," I beam with a sense of accomplishment. Until I begin to remember all my failures.

It sounds hypocritical to say I believe Jesus has forgiven my past. I do believe. I just want to know, will I ever be free from it?

-Karen

Have you ever felt like you're the only one with something to hide? That sense of isolation magnifies your feelings of guilt. Satan wants you to feel alone, crippled by a false sense of guilt. Yet the truth is that every person on earth has a "past"-even those we consider "Mother Teresa" types who seemingly never did anything wrong. The book of Genesis describes how we inherited a sinful nature. Adam and Eve instilled a sinful nature into the entire human race (see Romans 5:12,17).

However, we must understand and accept that we are free from the penalty of our past because we trust Christ's sacrifice as the ultimate and final payment for sin (see Hebrews 7:27 ). Even so, sometimes the pain of our past comes calling. Many women have an emotional disposition or personality type that lends itself to dwelling on bitter memories. Our adversary, the devil, often misuses this sensitivity to accuse and discourage us. He tempts our thoughts with guilt over past deeds. He calls into question the penalty of our past as if it is somehow unpaid-an outstanding debt he convinces us we must pay ourselves. We respond to his perverse persuasion by feeling as if we don't deserve the love of family or friends, much less God's love. After what you've done? Who are you kidding? This is the language of lies-a familiar tongue to anyone who longs to be free from a shameful past.

Satan tries to slip the chains of guilt back on our shoulders. And sometimes we again pick up those old familiar chains-our guilt feels so comfortable that we revert to it out of habit. But Christ has set us free! He paid the FULL penalty for our sins. Every wrong thought, word or action-all paid for.

Don't believe the lie. God set you free; Christ died that you would be free-but you must choose to live that way.

"Christ's call on our lives is a call to liberty. Freedom is the cornerstone of Christianity."

-Brennan Manning

"So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed."
John 8:36

See also: Romans 8:1-4; 2 Corinthians 5:17; Galatians 5:1
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