Thursday, November 03, 2011

Daily Devotional Thursday 3rd November

“But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” 1 Peter 2:9 NIV
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Morning and Evening by Charles Spurgeon

Morning

"I am the Lord, I change not."
Malachi 3:6

It is well for us that, amidst all the variableness of life, there is One whom change cannot affect; One whose heart can never alter, and on whose brow mutability can make no furrows. All things else have changed--all things are changing. The sun itself grows dim with age; the world is waxing old; the folding up of the worn-out vesture has commenced; the heavens and earth must soon pass away; they shall perish, they shall wax old as doth a garment; but there is One who only hath immortality, of whose years there is no end, and in whose person there is no change. The delight which the mariner feels, when, after having been tossed about for many a day, he steps again upon the solid shore, is the satisfaction of a Christian when, amidst all the changes of this troublous life, he rests the foot of his faith upon this truth--"I am the Lord, I change not."

The stability which the anchor gives the ship when it has at last obtained a hold-fast, is like that which the Christian's hope affords him when it fixes itself upon this glorious truth. With God "is no variableness, neither shadow of turning." Whatever his attributes were of old, they are now; his power, his wisdom, his justice, his truth, are alike unchanged. He has ever been the refuge of his people, their stronghold in the day of trouble, and he is their sure Helper still. He is unchanged in his love. He has loved his people with "an everlasting love"; he loves them now as much as ever he did, and when all earthly things shall have melted in the last conflagration, his love will still wear the dew of its youth. Precious is the assurance that he changes not! The wheel of providence revolves, but its axle is eternal love.

"Death and change are busy ever,

Man decays, and ages move;

But his mercy waneth never;

God is wisdom, God is love."

Evening

"Horror hath taken hold upon me because of the wicked that forsake thy law."
Psalm 119:53

My soul, feelest thou this holy shuddering at the sins of others? for otherwise thou lackest inward holiness. David's cheeks were wet with rivers of waters because of prevailing unholiness, Jeremiah desired eyes like fountains that he might lament the iniquities of Israel, and Lot was vexed with the conversation of the men of Sodom. Those upon whom the mark was set in Ezekiel's vision, were those who sighed and cried for the abominations of Jerusalem. It cannot but grieve gracious souls to see what pains men take to go to hell. They know the evil of sin experimentally, and they are alarmed to see others flying like moths into its blaze. Sin makes the righteous shudder, because it violates a holy law, which it is to every man's highest interest to keep; it pulls down the pillars of the commonwealth. Sin in others horrifies a believer, because it puts him in mind of the baseness of his own heart: when he sees a transgressor he cries with the saint mentioned by Bernard, "He fell today, and I may fall to-morrow." Sin to a believer is horrible, because it crucified the Saviour; he sees in every iniquity the nails and spear. How can a saved soul behold that cursed kill-Christ sin without abhorrence? Say, my heart, dost thou sensibly join in all this? It is an awful thing to insult God to His face. The good God deserves better treatment, the great God claims it, the just God will have it, or repay His adversary to his face. An awakened heart trembles at the audacity of sin, and stands alarmed at the contemplation of its punishment. How monstrous a thing is rebellion! How direful a doom is prepared for the ungodly! My soul, never laugh at sin's fooleries, lest thou come to smile at sin itself. It is thine enemy, and thy Lord's enemy. View it with detestation, for so only canst thou evidence the possession of holiness, without which no man can see the Lord.

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Today's reading: Jeremiah 27-29, Titus 3 (NIV)

View today's reading on Bible Gateway

Today's Old Testament reading: Jeremiah 27-29

Judah to Serve Nebuchadnezzar

1 Early in the reign of Zedekiah son of Josiah king of Judah, this word came to Jeremiah from the LORD: 2 This is what the LORD said to me: “Make a yoke out of straps and crossbars and put it on your neck. 3 Then send word to the kings of Edom, Moab, Ammon, Tyre and Sidon through the envoys who have come to Jerusalem to Zedekiah king of Judah. 4 Give them a message for their masters and say, ‘This is what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says: “Tell this to your masters: 5 With my great power and outstretched arm I made the earth and its people and the animals that are on it, and I give it to anyone I please. 6 Now I will give all your countries into the hands of my servant Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon; I will make even the wild animals subject to him. 7 All nations will serve him and his son and his grandson until the time for his land comes; then many nations and great kings will subjugate him.

8 “‘“If, however, any nation or kingdom will not serve Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon or bow its neck under his yoke, I will punish that nation with the sword, famine and plague, declares the LORD, until I destroy it by his hand. 9 So do not listen to your prophets, your diviners, your interpreters of dreams, your mediums or your sorcerers who tell you, ‘You will not serve the king of Babylon.’ 10 They prophesy lies to you that will only serve to remove you far from your lands; I will banish you and you will perish. 11 But if any nation will bow its neck under the yoke of the king of Babylon and serve him, I will let that nation remain in its own land to till it and to live there, declares the LORD....”’”

...read the rest on Bible Gateway

Today's New Testament reading: Titus 3

Saved in Order to Do Good

1 Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, 2 to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and always to be gentle toward everyone.

3 At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. 4 But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, 5 he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, 6 whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. 8 This is a trustworthy saying. And I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good. These things are excellent and profitable for everyone.

9 But avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and arguments and quarrels about the law, because these are unprofitable and useless. 10 Warn a divisive person once, and then warn them a second time. After that, have nothing to do with them. 11 You may be sure that such people are warped and sinful; they are self-condemned....

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Naboth

[Nā'bŏth] - prominence. A Jezreelite of the tribe of Issachar, whom Jezebel, wife of Ahab, caused to be put to death to obtain his vineyard adjoining the palace (1 Kings 21; 2 Kings 9:21-26).

For this dastardly act doom was pronounced upon Ahab and his house by Elijah. "The murder of Naboth seems to have deeply impressed the popular mind," comments W. F. Boyd, "and the deaths of Joram and Jezebel near the spot were regarded as Divine retribution on the act."

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November 2, 2011

Are You Ready for the Holidays?

Mary Southerland

Today's Truth

So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen which were just as they had been told (Luke 2:16-20, NIV).

Friend to Friend

Are you ready for the holidays? For some people, that question spurs exciting thoughts of beautifully decorated tables filled with scrumptious meals, festive shopping trips, extended family time, brightly wrapped gifts under a tree ... the "Walton" kind of holiday. For others, the holiday season is a very difficult and dark time that is to be endured rather than enjoyed. According to the American Institute of Stress, more than 110 million Americans take medication for stress-related causes each week. During the holiday season, another one million people battle what experts refer to as the "holiday blues." I am very familiar with depression and the pain it holds and must constantly battle to stay out of that pit.

Depression is an emotional, mental, physical and spiritual disorder. Something is out of balance. We have buried some pain instead of confronting it. We have misplaced our trust and sought help from impotent sources. In order to deal with depression, we must first come to a place of total and complete surrender to God and His plan of healing - even if we cannot see or do not understand that plan. The bottom line of God's heart toward His children is always restoration and healing.

While I am not a big fan of television, I do enjoy watching a few select home improvement shows. On one particular program, an interior decorator and home owner were discussing a list of changes that needed to be made in order to update the home. "First, we have to do something about those windows," the decorator announced. I was surprised she had listed that task first - until I saw the house. The existing glass was not only an ugly shade of gold, but was thick and chunky as well. The windows let in no light and made it virtually impossible to see in or out. The result was a dark and isolated home. The distressed homeowner protested, "But I like my privacy. And if I thought anyone could see in, I would feel totally exposed." When it comes to dealing with depression, many people feel the same way.

We construct walls over which no one can climb because the cost of friendship is too high. We fill the windows of our soul with emotional excuses in order to avoid dealing with pain. The result is darkness, loneliness and missed opportunities for restoration. We don't want to understand depression or find the treasures of that darkness; we simply want to be rid of it. Many people try to understand and deal with depression on a surface level - refusing to face painful experiences, difficult relationships and, in general, the broken places where darkness lives. We look for the nearest exit, hoping to bypass transparency because the price is just too much to pay. Emotional integrity is an essential step to recognizing, understanding and dealing with depression. We must be real before we can be right, and until we are willing to risk being transparent, we can neither understand nor effectively deal with depression during the holidays or any other time of the year.

The holidays seem to tug at the masks we carefully hold in place or push the emotional buttons we desperately try to hide. The arrival of family members can resurrect painful issues that have never really been resolved. Financial pressure opens up like a sink hole waiting to steal our joy and destroy our peace. Schedules demand every ounce of energy and false expectations leave us empty and hollow. Before we realize it, the dark, slimy pit swallows us up. It is not supposed to be that way, girlfriend! Now is the time to do something about it!

Thanksgiving can be a time of praise if we choose to focus on the victories and joys we have experienced during the year then find ways to share that victory and joy with others. Christmas can be a true celebration of fresh starts and new beginnings - if we choose to focus on a tiny baby born in a manger, come to save us and give us true life. The darkness can be destroyed if we choose to face and deal with whatever it holds. Right now, get ready for the holidays by choosing an attitude of joy, by focusing your mind on the things of heaven - not earth - and by fixing your heart on Jesus Christ.

Let's Pray

Father, I want this holiday season to be one that is filled with light instead of darkness. Please help me discard my emotional masks and be real before You as well as with my family and friends. Give me the courage to be obedient to You in every holiday setting. Give me eyes to see those You bring into my life that need my encouragement because they are on the same journey. Father, prepare and enable me to make this holiday season an offering of praise to You.

In Jesus' name,

Amen.

Now It's Your Turn

Take a few moments to re-visit the holiday season from last year.

  • What was the best part of those holidays for you? Why?
  • List three changes you would like to make this year.
  • What is the first step you need to take to make those changes happen?

Read Luke 2:1-16. Answer the following questions after reading the Christmas story.

  • What was the attitude of Mary and Joseph as they traveled to Bethlehem?
  • How did the shepherds react to the news of Jesus' birth? What did they do?
  • How would you describe the emotions and thoughts of Mary? How can your choice to "ponder" on the miracles of Jesus' birth change your perspective of the holidays?

Write a letter of commitment to Jesus, asking Him to empower the choices you have made concerning this holiday season. Make a step-by-step plan or a list of "dos" and "don'ts" that will help you experience the best holiday season of your life. Include your family in making this plan and make the commitment to hold each other accountable.

More from the Girlfriends

Can you believe the holidays are just around the corner? If you need help learning how to prevent and control holiday stress, check out Mary's MP3 ... How to Have a Joy-Filled Christmas.

Need help learning how to study the Bible? Check out Mary'sE-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
Glynnis Whitwer

November 2, 2011

What I Don't Believe
Glynnis Whitwer

"Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says." James 1:22 (NIV)

Every parent knows the frustration of warning a child against something ... only to have him walk right into trouble, and suffer the consequences. "I told you so" doesn't bring as much pleasure as we might have thought.

When my first son started driving, he decided that speed "limits" were speed "suggestions." Friends told him just how far above the posted limits he could drive without getting a ticket, and he nudged past that. The police, however, have a different view of the rules. And my son learned that the cost of speeding isn't worth the few minutes gained or the momentary adrenaline rush.

My son deceived himself. He talked himself into believing the rules didn't apply to him. And for awhile he got away with it. But eventually the consequences caught up with him.

I'm not much different. I've been guilty of doing the same thing, only not with traffic rules. I've read Scripture and decided parts of God's Word didn't apply to me. I could not have been more wrong.

Growing up, I attended church faithfully and was taught from the Bible. But there were bits and pieces I ignored because they didn't seem relevant. Like honoring and submitting to my husband (Colossians 3:18). Or really forgiving someone who had offended me (Matthew 6:14-15). Or staying away from horoscopes (Isaiah 47:12-14).

It's not that I stomped my foot and demanded my own way. I simply ignored God's teaching, and quietly went about creating a faith based on my opinions and beliefs. Basically I created Christianity according to Glynnis.

Isn't it tempting to define God by our own understanding? It's so easy to say, "God would never ..." and then fill in the blank with how we think He should behave. Instead of checking that belief against the entire counsel of Scripture, we create a very safe and non-threatening God. We bring God down to our level, and forget His holiness.

James 1:22 says we deceive ourselves when we hear but don't obey God's Word. I don't know about you, but I don't like to be deceived - even by myself.

So what changed for me? I got honest and admitted this tendency to go my own way. I confessed that I didn't fully trust God's wisdom. Then I decided to accept God the way He is. It was a simple (not always easy) decision to trust that God's character is perfect, that His ways (not mine) are really best for me.

Choosing what I don't want to believe is dangerous. I might not get a ticket, but it has opened doors of consequences that took years to live through. But choosing Whom to believe is the wisest thing I've ever done.

Dear Lord, You are perfect and holy in all Your ways. Forgive me when I try to put You in a box, or make You into who I think You should be. Help me to accept that I won't understand everything this side of heaven, and that I should just trust You. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Are you ready to stop doing life on your terms? If so, you can make a decision today follow God. Click here for more: Do You Know Him?

Did Glynnis' comment about horoscopes surprise you? To hear why Glynnis stays away from astrology, visit her blog.

For help on finding more order and peace in your life God's way, check out Glynnis' newest book, I Used to Be So Organized.

When you purchase resources through Proverbs 31 Ministries, your purchase supports the many areas of hope-giving ministry we provide at no cost. We 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:
Identify one question you've had about the Bible, and commit this week to researching it. An easy way is to visitBiblegateway.com and do a search for a specific topic.

Reflections:
Our culture wants us to believe truth is relative. Can I identify one of God's truths that has commonly been denied?

How have I personally benefited by believing and obeying some of God's hard truths?

Power Verses:
2 Timothy 4:3, "For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear." (NIV)

1 Corinthians 2:3-5, "I came to you in weakness with great fear and trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit's power, so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God's power." (NIV)

© 2011 by Glynnis Whitwer. All rights reserved.

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

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LeeStrobel-Newsletter-Header-Final
The Influence of a Story

Here’s how one person’s testimony pointed me toward Christ – and why your story can do the same with others.

He was a hard-drinking, glue-sniffing, drug-abusing, hate-filled urban terrorist who had been in and out of the court system ever since he threw a hammer at someone’s head when he was eight years old. He rose to second-in-command of the Belaires, a vicious street gang that ruled parts of Chicago. And ironically, he became a significant influence in my journey toward Christ.

How did he do it? As you’ll see, Ron Bronski merely did something that anyone – even you or I – can emulate and which God can powerfully use as we reach out to others.

After various scrapes with the law, Ron got into big-time trouble when he was twenty-one. A member of a rival street gang brutally assaulted one of Ron’s friends, and Ron vowed revenge. Soon he tracked down the assailant’s brother, whose name was Gary. Ron thrust a gun in Gary’s chest – and quickly pulled the trigger.

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Questions from readers:
  • Are there ancient secular references to Jesus?
  • Whatever happened to Joseph?
Q. I have a friend who's a skeptic. He asked me why there aren't any references to Jesus in non-Christian writings from the ancient world. Can you help me with an answer? - Nadine

A. That's a great question, Nadine. Actually, there are several references to Jesus in ancient secular writings. Historian Edwin Yamauchi (Ph.D., Brandeis) discussed these in my interview with him for my book The Case for Christ. Specifically, he cites references by Josephus, Tacitus, Pliny the Younger, Thallus and others.

One of two references to Jesus by Josephus, a first-century Jewish historian who worked for the Romans, is controversial. However, Yamauchi argues persuasively that we can still confidently glean information about Jesus if we pare away Josephus' comments that are considered problematic. Historian Paul Maier recently wrote an article called Josephus and Jesus that does a great job of summarizing what this important historian wrote...

Read the rest of this answer and the answer to the other question!

Have a question? Drop me a line atAskLee@Leestrobel.com. We'll answer the ones with the broadest interest in upcoming newsletters. Thanks to Sam Wall, former chief researcher for the Bible Answer Man radio show, who heads the "Ask Lee" response team.

Lee's Notes

• My friend Sean McDowell (whose dad, Josh, recently celebrated 50 years of ministry!) has produced an excellent six-week study and set of books that deal with some of the most critical challenges facing people on their spiritual journey. In a world where spiritual confusion is increasing,GodQuest helps bring clarity and conviction. This is a terrific resource, published by Outreach, to help people develop a solid foundation for faith. I was glad to have contributed a short segment to the DVD that accompanies Sean’s course.

• “If I am asked to break the gospel and a gospel culture down into simple statements, I would borrow imagery from the man from Northern Ireland, from Belfast, C. S. Lewis. From The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, where we first meet the story of Aslan, we will find a few central themes about Aslan. It’s the story of Aslan, which is how Lewis told the Story of Jesus: Watch the Lion roam. Watch the Lion die on the Stone Table. Watch the Stone Table crack with new creation powers. Listen to the Lion’s Roar. Trust the Lion. Love the Lion. Live for the Lion.” – Scot McKnight in The King Jesus Gospel


Read the rest of Lee's Notes!

Is Jesus the only way to God?

Picture 6

In this short video, I summarize why it makes sense to believe Jesus is the only path to salvation and why Christians aren't being narrow-minded when they believe so. (Okay, yes, I was a little young when I did this particular video!)

Lee's Links: Suggested articles from the web
Singles aren't waiting
Why Christians are having premarital sex almost as much as non-Christians.
Shacking up
Interview concerning research into the negative effects of co-habitation.
Darwin challenge
Discovery of oldest fully aquatic whale throws monkey wrench into evolution.
Liberal Times?
Terry Mattingly examines recent statements from Bill Keller of the New York Times.
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At Issue - Conflict

Today's reading: Genesis 13:1-12

What do you do when you find yourself going head-to-head with a coworker, a friend or your husband? Some would advise: "Fight to get what's yours, to get what you deserve." But Abram demonstrates another way. It's the way of peace. This way involves looking out for the other person's interests and not just your own. It forces you to remember that everything in this world belongs to God. He'll make sure you get all that you need and more, so you can quit fighting for your "rightful" share.

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True Identity: The Bible for Women
by Zondervan


The Bible that helps you see yourself as God sees you! Find your true identity in Christ through your relationship with him.
trueidentitysmall

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Rome at Last: Paul finally makes it to the capital-in chains

Today's reading: Acts 28

Acts 28:23: He witnessed to them from morning till evening, explaining about the kingdom of God, and from the Law of Moses and from the Prophets he tried to persuade them about Jesus.

The future of the Gentile church depends in large measure on what happens to Paul, God's chosen Apostle to the Gentiles. The last few chapters of Acts portray a spiritual tug-of-war in which God turns apparent tragedy into good. Paul gets arrested; he's sent at last to Rome. The ship wrecks; they all survive. A poisonous snake bites Paul; he shakes it off and starts a healing ministry. The voyage ends at last in Rome.

Paul knows that if Christianity is to gain a foothold anywhere, it has to be in Rome. "All roads lead to Rome" is more than a figure of speech. Like a center of gravity, the city attracts all the roads of commerce, all the leaders and thinkers and fortune seekers of the empire. Political and military power fan out from Rome. It is the indisputable capital of the world.

House Arrest

Ironically, the greatest spokesman for the Christian faith arrives at his ultimate destination as a prisoner. Paul is exhausted, having just survived a harrowing shipwreck. No doubt the reputation he has gained on the voyage helps convince authorities to treat him leniently. He lives by himself under a kind of house arrest. A soldier is always present, possibly chained to the apostle.

Despite the circumstances, Paul keeps busy. During his very first week in Rome, he calls in Jewish leaders and explains to them the Christian "sect" everyone is talking about. Over the next months and years Paul gets hours of quiet solitude to work on fond letters to the churches he has left behind.

Unfinished Story

Paul can no longer choose his audience; they have to seek him. But boldly, in the heart of mighty Rome, he proclaims a new kingdom and a new king. Before long, some of Caesar's own household staff convert to the new faith. Christianity has made the journey and the transition from Jerusalem to Rome.

Luke breaks off the story with Paul's fate still undecided. Most scholars believe that Paul was released from this imprisonment and went on to take his message to new frontiers. Luke records nothing of these journeys and nothing about Paul's trial or sentencing. He ends with a single memory, frozen in time: Paul, confined to his house, preaching to all his visitors.

Life Question

  • Do you, like Paul, strive to make the best of bad situations?

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Today's reading is from the
NIV Student Bible
by Zondervan


A proven, common sense approach to studying the Scriptures appeals to high school and college readers (and students of all ages).


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