Friday, January 06, 2012

Daily Devotional Friday 6th January

“Wash and make yourselves clean. Take your evil deeds out of my sight; stop doing wrong. Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow.” Isaiah 1:16-17 NIV
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Morning and Evening by Charles Spurgeon

Morning

"And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness."
Genesis 1:4

Light might well be good since it sprang from that fiat of goodness, "Let there be light." We who enjoy it should be more grateful for it than we are, and see more of God in it and by it. Light physical is said by Solomon to be sweet, but gospel light is infinitely more precious, for it reveals eternal things, and ministers to our immortal natures. When the Holy Spirit gives us spiritual light, and opens our eyes to behold the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ, we behold sin in its true colours, and ourselves in our real position; we see the Most Holy God as he reveals himself, the plan of mercy as he propounds it, and the world to come as the Word describes it. Spiritual light has many beams and prismatic colours, but whether they be knowledge, joy, holiness, or life, all are divinely good. If the light received be thus good, what must the essential light be, and how glorious must be the place where he reveals himself. O Lord, since light is so good, give us more of it, and more of thyself, the true light.

No sooner is there a good thing in the world, than a division is necessary. Light and darkness have no communion; God has divided them, let us not confound them. Sons of light must not have fellowship with deeds, doctrines, or deceits of darkness. The children of the day must be sober, honest, and bold in their Lord's work, leaving the works of darkness to those who shall dwell in it forever. Our Churches should by discipline divide the light from the darkness, and we should by our distinct separation from the world do the same. In judgment, in action, in hearing, in teaching, in association, we must discern between the precious and the vile, and maintain the great distinction which the Lord made upon the world's first day. O Lord Jesus, be thou our light throughout the whole of this day, for thy light is the light of men.

Evening

"And God saw the light."
Genesis 1:4

This morning we noticed the goodness of the light, and the Lord's dividing it from the darkness, we now note the special eye which the Lord had for the light. "God saw the light"--he looked at it with complacency, gazed upon it with pleasure, saw that it "was good." If the Lord has given you light, dear reader, he looks on that light with peculiar interest; for not only is it dear to him as his own handiwork, but because it is like himself, for "He is light." Pleasant it is to the believer to know that God's eye is thus tenderly observant of that work of grace which he has begun. He never loses sight of the treasure which he has placed in our earthen vessels. Sometimes we cannot see the light, but God always sees the light, and that is much better than our seeing it. Better for the judge to see my innocence than for me to think I see it. It is very comfortable for me to know that I am one of God's people--but whether I know it or not, if the Lord knows it, I am still safe. This is the foundation, "The Lord knoweth them that are his." You may be sighing and groaning because of inbred sin, and mourning over your darkness, yet the Lord sees "light" in your heart, for he has put it there, and all the cloudiness and gloom of your soul cannot conceal your light from his gracious eye. You may have sunk low in despondency, and even despair; but if your soul has any longing towards Christ, and if you are seeking to rest in his finished work, God sees the "light." He not only sees it, but he also preserves it in you. "I, the Lord, do keep it." This is a precious thought to those who, after anxious watching and guarding of themselves, feel their own powerlessness to do so. The light thus preserved by his grace, he will one day develop into the splendour of noonday, and the fulness of glory. The light within is the dawn of the eternal day.

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Today's reading: Genesis 13-15, Matthew 5:1-26 (NIV)

View today's reading on Bible Gateway
Abram and Lot Separate

1 So Abram went up from Egypt to the Negev, with his wife and everything he had, and Lot went with him. 2 Abram had become very wealthy in livestock and in silver and gold.

3 From the Negev he went from place to place until he came to Bethel, to the place between Bethel and Ai where his tent had been earlier 4 and where he had first built an altar. There Abram called on the name of the LORD.

5 Now Lot, who was moving about with Abram, also had flocks and herds and tents. 6 But the land could not support them while they stayed together, for their possessions were so great that they were not able to stay together. 7 And quarreling arose between Abram’s herders and Lot’s. The Canaanites and Perizzites were also living in the land at that time.

8 So Abram said to Lot, “Let’s not have any quarreling between you and me, or between your herders and mine, for we are close relatives. 9 Is not the whole land before you? Let’s part company. If you go to the left, I’ll go to the right; if you go to the right, I’ll go to the left.”

10 Lot looked around and saw that the whole plain of the Jordan toward Zoar was well watered, like the garden of the LORD, like the land of Egypt. (This was before the LORD destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah.) 11 So Lot chose for himself the whole plain of the Jordan and set out toward the east. The two men parted company: 12 Abram lived in the land of Canaan, while Lot lived among the cities of the plain and pitched his tents near Sodom. 13 Now the people of Sodom were wicked and were sinning greatly against the LORD.

14 The LORD said to Abram after Lot had parted from him, “Look around from where you are, to the north and south, to the east and west. 15 All the land that you see I will give to you and your offspring forever. 16 I will make your offspring like the dust of the earth, so that if anyone could count the dust, then your offspring could be counted. 17 Go, walk through the length and breadth of the land, for I am giving it to you.”

18 So Abram went to live near the great trees of Mamre at Hebron, where he pitched his tents. There he built an altar to the LORD.

Genesis 14

Abram Rescues Lot

1 At the time when Amraphel was king of Shinar, Arioch king of Ellasar, Kedorlaomer king of Elam and Tidal king of Goyim, 2these kings went to war against Bera king of Sodom, Birsha king of Gomorrah, Shinab king of Admah, Shemeber king of Zeboyim, and the king of Bela (that is, Zoar). 3 All these latter kings joined forces in the Valley of Siddim (that is, the Dead Sea Valley). 4 For twelve years they had been subject to Kedorlaomer, but in the thirteenth year they rebelled.

5 In the fourteenth year, Kedorlaomer and the kings allied with him went out and defeated the Rephaites in Ashteroth Karnaim, the Zuzites in Ham, the Emites in Shaveh Kiriathaim6 and the Horites in the hill country of Seir, as far as El Paran near the desert. 7 Then they turned back and went to En Mishpat (that is, Kadesh), and they conquered the whole territory of the Amalekites, as well as the Amorites who were living in Hazezon Tamar.

8 Then the king of Sodom, the king of Gomorrah, the king of Admah, the king of Zeboyim and the king of Bela (that is, Zoar) marched out and drew up their battle lines in the Valley of Siddim 9 against Kedorlaomer king of Elam, Tidal king of Goyim, Amraphel king of Shinar and Arioch king of Ellasar—four kings against five. 10 Now the Valley of Siddim was full of tar pits, and when the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah fled, some of the men fell into them and the rest fled to the hills. 11The four kings seized all the goods of Sodom and Gomorrah and all their food; then they went away. 12 They also carried off Abram’s nephew Lot and his possessions, since he was living in Sodom.

13 A man who had escaped came and reported this to Abram the Hebrew. Now Abram was living near the great trees of Mamre the Amorite, a brother of Eshkol and Aner, all of whom were allied with Abram. 14 When Abram heard that his relative had been taken captive, he called out the 318 trained men born in his household and went in pursuit as far as Dan. 15 During the night Abram divided his men to attack them and he routed them, pursuing them as far as Hobah, north of Damascus. 16He recovered all the goods and brought back his relative Lot and his possessions, together with the women and the other people.

17 After Abram returned from defeating Kedorlaomer and the kings allied with him, the king of Sodom came out to meet him in the Valley of Shaveh (that is, the King’s Valley).

18 Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. He was priest of God Most High, 19 and he blessed Abram, saying,

“Blessed be Abram by God Most High,
Creator of heaven and earth.
20 And praise be to God Most High,
who delivered your enemies into your hand.”

Then Abram gave him a tenth of everything.

21 The king of Sodom said to Abram, “Give me the people and keep the goods for yourself.”

22 But Abram said to the king of Sodom, “With raised hand I have sworn an oath to the LORD, God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth, 23 that I will accept nothing belonging to you, not even a thread or the strap of a sandal, so that you will never be able to say, ‘I made Abram rich.’ 24 I will accept nothing but what my men have eaten and the share that belongs to the men who went with me—to Aner, Eshkol and Mamre. Let them have their share.”

Genesis 15

The LORD’s Covenant With Abram

1 After this, the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision:

“Do not be afraid, Abram.
I am your shield,
your very great reward.”

2 But Abram said, “Sovereign LORD, what can you give me since I remain childless and the one who will inherit my estate is Eliezer of Damascus?” 3 And Abram said, “You have given me no children; so a servant in my household will be my heir.”

4 Then the word of the LORD came to him: “This man will not be your heir, but a son who is your own flesh and blood will be your heir.” 5 He took him outside and said, “Look up at the sky and count the stars—if indeed you can count them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.”

6 Abram believed the LORD, and he credited it to him as righteousness.

7 He also said to him, “I am the LORD, who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land to take possession of it.”

8 But Abram said, “Sovereign LORD, how can I know that I will gain possession of it?”

9 So the LORD said to him, “Bring me a heifer, a goat and a ram, each three years old, along with a dove and a young pigeon.”

10 Abram brought all these to him, cut them in two and arranged the halves opposite each other; the birds, however, he did not cut in half. 11 Then birds of prey came down on the carcasses, but Abram drove them away.

12 As the sun was setting, Abram fell into a deep sleep, and a thick and dreadful darkness came over him. 13 Then the LORD said to him, “Know for certain that for four hundred years your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own and that they will be enslaved and mistreated there. 14 But I will punish the nation they serve as slaves, and afterward they will come out with great possessions. 15 You, however, will go to your ancestors in peace and be buried at a good old age. 16 In the fourth generation your descendants will come back here, for the sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its full measure.”

17 When the sun had set and darkness had fallen, a smoking firepot with a blazing torch appeared and passed between the pieces. 18 On that day the LORD made a covenant with Abram and said, “To your descendants I give this land, from the Wadi of Egypt to the great river, the Euphrates— 19 the land of the Kenites, Kenizzites, Kadmonites, 20 Hittites, Perizzites, Rephaites, 21 Amorites, Canaanites, Girgashites and Jebusites.”


Matthew 5

Introduction to the Sermon on the Mount

1 Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, 2 and he began to teach them.

The Beatitudes

He said:

3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
5 Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.
6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.
7 Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
8 Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.
9 Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.
10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

11 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Salt and Light

13 “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.

14 “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.

The Fulfillment of the Law

17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. 19Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.20 For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.

Murder

21 “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ 22 But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.

23 “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, 24 leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.

25 “Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court. Do it while you are still together on the way, or your adversary may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you may be thrown into prison. 26 Truly I tell you, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny.

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Eliashib [Ĕlī'ashĭb]—god is requiteror god hath restored.

  1. A priest in David’s time from whom the eleventh priestly course took its name (1 Chron. 24:12).
  2. A son of Elioenai, descendant of Zerubbabel, a Judahite (1 Chron. 3:24).
  3. The high priest at the time of the rebuilding of the city wall (Neh. 3:1, 20, 21; 13:4, 7, 28).
  4. A Levite and singer who put away his foreign wife (Ezra 10:24).
  5. A son of Zattu who married a foreign wife (Ezra 10:27).
  6. A son of Bani who also married a foreign wife ( Ezra 10:26).
  7. An ancestor of Johanan who helped Ezra in the assembly of foreign wives (Ezra 10:6; Neh. 12:10, 22,23).
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January 5, 2012

Go for the Gold

Part 2

Mary Southerland

Today's Truth

Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take (Proverbs 3:5-6, NIV).

Friend to Friend

Someone once said that if God showed us every detail of our lives - all at one time - we would sit down and refuse to face another day. We were not created to be omniscient like God. He reveals our future to us in portions we can digest - like loving parents feeding their child only the type and amount of food that the child can handle.

Watching our daughter introduce solid foods to our six-month-old grandson was an intriguing process to watch. I'm not sure if it was the texture or taste that surprised Justus, but the faces he made when that new food was first placed in his little mouth were hilarious. When he liked the new food, his eyes got big and he grinned and made a big smacking sound as if to say, "Where have you been keeping this stuff?" However, a few foods elicited a very different reaction. He scrunched up his face, turned his head and promptly spat out the offending food. Danna quickly learned the art of mixing foods in a single bite and also learned the same food Justus refused to eat on Thursday was often consumed the next time she tried. God only reveals what we can understand, perceive, apply and digest at the time.

Attainable. Proverbs 16:3 "Commit to the LORD whatever you do, and your plans will succeed."


If you have seen the movie, "Miss Congeniality," you will remember when each contestant was asked about life goals. "I want to achieve world peace" was the popular answer. World peace is a great goal but not attainable by one person. Perhaps a better individual goal would be to make peace with your neighbor. I sometimes think we set life goals that are lofty and unattainable because then we really can't do anything to reach that goal. Reaching a life goal requires action. We are called by God to not only hear His Word but then to put it into practice - to do something about it through setting goals.

A goal should not be set to authenticate what you have already been doing or want to do. God created us to mature, to grow and change, not to stand on the sidelines of life. God wants us in the game and on the field of life. Godly goals will push us beyond where we are and what we are capable of. If no effort is required to reach the desired outcome, then it really isn't a goal. When I was in college, I sensed God leading me to take organ lessons. I had played the piano for years but, for some reason, suddenly wanted to play the organ as well. After a few months of lessons, I was asked to play the organ for a countywide crusade to be held at the convention center of the small town where I grew up. Hundreds of people would attend the crusade, and the guest speakers were well-known across the state. I was terrified but began to practice the organ every spare minute of every day. By the time the crusade came, I was able to play each song that was handed to me. It was definitely "a God-thing."

Sidebar: Ask a trusted friend to hold you accountable in each area where you want to improve, grow, or achieve. This should be a same-sexed friend from whom you can easily take criticism and who will feel comfortably pushing you a little when you aren't following through on your goals. When we involve others, we tend to feel a greater sense of responsibility and accountability. Run your plans and goals past other people. You don't want to do this with every goal and at every step along the way, but you should with big and important plans, especially if they impact other people.

Realistic. Hebrews 11:6 "And it is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to him must believe that God exists and that he rewards those who sincerely seek him."

It is easy to establish a goal that is totally unrealistic. In doing so, we are setting ourselves up to fail. I once set a goal to read and memorize at least two chapters of the Bible each week. Yes, it was a great goal but unrealistic for that season of my life. I had two small children and was directing the women's ministry of the church where my husband was the lead pastor, teaching a community Bible study, teaching 20 voice and piano students each week and had begun traveling and speaking for women's events. When I did not reach that goal, I beat myself up with guilt and God was not honored. A more realistic goal would have been to memorize a few verses each week.

At this point, it is good to brutally examine motives. Are the goals we are setting from God or from our own selfish desires? Do I want my relationship with God to grow or do I want others to think I am Godly? Consciously decide in light of Scripture which goals you will prioritize, or you will most likely end up surrendering to the "tyranny of the urgent" or just doing the next and easiest thing.

Timely. Ephesians 5:15-16 "Be very careful, then, how you live, not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil."

I have to have deadlines to achieve goals. When someone books me to speak for an event, I always ask them to give me a deadline for submitting handouts and slides, shipping resources, etc. I then record those deadlines on my personal calendar. If I don't, I often find myself scrambling to get books shipped in time for the event and end up paying extra postage or have to download slides onto a memory stick to take with me to the event. If you give yourself a deadline, you will get more done.

Write out a list of things that would need to change in your life in order for your goals to come true. Sometimes the only reason we don't accomplish our goals is that we don't have a written plan of what needs to be done. Without having the ability to review the goals regularly, we tend to lose our focus. Before we know it, a month or two has gone by, there is no progress, and we are frustrated that we are no closer to the realization of our goals.

Pray! Ask God to give you direction to create goals and help you to reach them. He has plans and purposes for our lives. Success and purpose come when we find out what they are and go after them wholeheartedly. Surround your goals and plans with prayer and ask the Lord to bless you as you work toward each one. We need to order our lives in a more conscious way. Set forward-focused, spiritually sound goals, and be delivered from the futility of a life with no purpose.

Let's Pray

Father, I want to follow Your plan for my life. Please lead me and guide me in Your ways. Give me Your wisdom and truth and show me the purpose for which I was created. I will seek You first in my life. I will trust You with my whole heart and do whatever You ask me to do.

In Jesus' name,

Amen.

Now It's Your Turn

Read and memorize Proverbs 3:5-6 (NIV) "Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take."

Record these verses in your journal.

Circle each action word.

In your own words, define the action words you circled.

How can you apply each directive to your daily life?

More from the Girlfriends

Need help getting the Word of God into your life? Check out Mary's Weekly Online Bible Study, Light for the Journey. The current topic is When I Am Afraid. Need a friend? Connect with Mary on Facebook or through email.

And be sure to get your copy of our new 12-week devotion book, Trusting God.

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A sermon for the week of prayer

“Continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving.”Colossians 4:2

Suggested Further Reading: Luke 18:1-8

Continue in prayer once more, because prayer is a great weapon of attack against the error and wickedness of the world. I see before me the strong bastions of the castle of sin. I note the host of men who have surrounded it. They have brought the battering-ram, they have dashed it many times against the gate; it has fallen with tremendous force against it, and you would have supposed that the timbers would be split asunder the first time. But they are staunch and strong; he who made them was a cunning architect, he who depends upon them for his protection is one who knew how to make the gate exceeding massive,—is one who knew the struggle full well which he would have to endure—prince of darkness as he is. If he knew of his defeat, yet well he knew how to guard against it if it were possible. But I see this ponderous battering-ram as it has been hurled with giant force again and again upon the gate, and how as often seemed to recoil before the massive bars. Many of the saints of God are ready to say, “Let us withdraw the instrument. Let us take away the besieging artillery, we shall never be able to storm this castle, we shall never effect an entrance.” Oh, be not craven, sirs, be not craven. The last time the battering-ram thundered in its course, I saw the timbers shake. The very gate did reel, and the posts did rock to and fro; see now they have moved the earth around their sockets. Hell is howling from within because it knows how soon its end must come. Now, Christian warriors, use your battering-rams once more, for the gates begin to shake, and the walls are tottering. They will reel, they will fall before long.

For meditation: Are your prayers stuck in defensive mode as you seek God’s protection? Does your prayer-life ever venture out on the attack? Remember the Saviour’s powerful promise that the gates of hell would be unable to stand up against the advance of his church (Matthew 16:18 ). May these words before a special week of prayer encourage us to continue in prayer all year round.

Sermon no. 354
5 January (Preached 6 January 1861)

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A psalm for the New Year

‘But grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen.’ 2 Peter 3:18

Suggested Further Reading: Philippians 3:8–16

My beloved brethren in the Lord Jesus, we must see to it that we ripen in the knowledge of him. O that this year we may know more of him in his divine nature, and in his human relationship to us; in his finished work, in his death, in his resurrection, in his present glorious intercession, and in his future royal advent. To know more of Christ in his work is, I think, a blessed means of enabling us to work more for Christ. We must study to know more of Christ also in his character—in that divine compound of every perfection, faith, zeal, deference to his Father’s will, courage, meekness and love. He was the Lion of the tribe of Judah, and yet the man upon whom the dove descended in the waters of baptism. Let us thirst to know him of whom even his enemies said, ‘Never man spake like this man,’ and his unrighteous judge said, ‘I find no fault in him.’ Above all, let us long to know Christ in his person. This year endeavour to make a better acquaintance with the crucified one. Study his hands and his feet; abide hard by the cross, and let the sponge, the vinegar and the nails, be subjects of your devout attention. This year seek to penetrate into his very heart, and to search those deep far-reaching caverns of his unknown love, that love which can never find a rival, and can never know a parallel. If you can add to this a knowledge of his sufferings, you will do well. O if you can grow in the knowledge of fellowship—if you shall this year drink of his cup, and be baptised with his baptism—if you shall this year abide in him and he in you—blessed shall you be.

For meditation: As a child the Lord Jesus Christ grew—in strength, in wisdom, in stature and in favour with God and man (Luke 2:40,52). Those who have become God’s children by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ need to do exactly the same.

Sermon no. 427
5 January (1862)

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Samantha Reed

January 5, 2012

A Hopeful Future
Samantha Reed

"Then Job replied to the LORD: 'I know that you can do all things; no plan of yours can be thwarted.' ...My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you." Job 42:12,5 (NIV 1984)

Sometimes I don't fully trust God has prepared good things. For me, for family, for friends, for others.

This past year was riddled with home foreclosures, loss of businesses, empty cupboards and gas tanks for those I love. They've faced suicide attempts, drug overdoses, passing of loved ones. Family and friends alike have endured marital affairs, children sentenced to jail, a second year of unemployment, cars breaking down, churches falling apart and the list goes on.

I'm not sure He can redeem the pain, recover what's lost, heal all that's broken. Can He truly fit the pieces of this past year into a hopeful future?

Right now, circumstances suggest otherwise. And if I rely on what circumstances currently imply, I'm apt to believe the answer is no, the Lord is not able.

But circumstances tell tales that are prone to change in a moment.

And the truth of the matter is: God never changes. His power to give a future and hope never change. His Word never changes. So when life weaves stories of doubt and hopelessness in God's authority over circumstances, I reread accounts of His faithfulness and redemption. I refer back to the Truth...

All the while Job's family, home, crops and health demolished...God was preparing to give him double of what was killed, stolen, lost and damaged.

The time Joseph was a slave and prisoner...God was planning for him to be second in command over Egypt.

When Ruth was a homeless, barren widow...God was creating a home in Boaz's heart for her to be a wife, and mother, and great, great, great-grandmother to His Son.

As Lazarus was bound in grave clothes...God was forming the breath that'd give him new life.

The moment David laid down in adultery...God was laying the groundwork for him to rise up in repentance.

Every time Saul crucified Christians...God saw Paul preaching the crucified Christ.

With each strike that Sarai beat Hagar with...God saw Sarah beating her jealousy, pride and doubt with the birth of Isaac.

When Esther was an orphaned girl shaking in fear for her life...God made a way for His daughter to shake a kingdom and save His people.

As Rahab welcomed men into the shelter of her bed...God saw her sheltering the spies on her roof.

When Peter lost faith and denied Christ...God saw him bringing many to faith as he proclaimed Christ.

As Moses killed an Egyptian with his hands...God saw him chiseling the Ten Commandments with those same hands.

At the time Mary saw Jesus die...God saw Jesus resurrected and seated on His heavenly throne!

No matter what the dire, dreary circumstances, God turned each into a hopeful future.

Our key verse assures us, none of His plans can be thwarted. Despite what is happening in life, these stories of redemption and hope speak the truth. God can and will reverse, restore, revive and renew. He sees beyond the present troubles and is sparking a fire to light up the future with hope.

As we begin this New Year, let's be on the lookout for His plans to come to pass. And trust Him that He can take any circumstance and use it for our good and His glory.

Dear Lord, I'm so grateful You not only see my future, but You've planned it. Thank You for Your faithfulness last year. And for recording these stories of lives You turned dreary pasts into hopeful futures. I ask that You do the same for my circumstances this New Year please. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Does pain from your past sometimes keep you from feeling hope for your future? Do you ever think: I can't do this. Things will never change. My life isn't going to get better. These are whispers of self-doubt that keep us from becoming the women God created us to be. Truth is, doubt and hope can't live in our hearts at the same time. We need to know that with God's help, change is possible, life can be different! If you're ready to find out how, join our online study of A Confident Heart, written by Renee Swope. It's a life-changing book! Find out more and sign up here.

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

Hop over to Samantha's blog for examples of prayers from Scripture that are related to your circumstances.

Application Steps:
Open the Word of God and search for truths of His power and good plans. Look up a similar circumstance to what you are going through. For example, if you've been treated unfairly, take heart with the story of Daniel thrown in the lion's den; struggling with infertility, find hope in Hannah's story; praying for family members to turn to the Lord, be encouraged through the prodigal son's redemption.

Click over to Samantha's blog for more examples of God's powerful truths in Scripture that can apply to your specific circumstances.

Reflections:
Despite what circumstances shout, God is always on my side and working on my behalf. Today, I'll take a moment to write out the many ways He was faithful to me last year.

Power Verses:
Genesis 50:19b-20a, "Don't be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good." (NIV)

Psalm 40:5, "Many, LORD my God, are the wonders you have done, the things you planned for us. None can compare with you; were I to speak and tell of your deeds, they would be too many to declare." (NIV)

© 2012 by Samantha Reed. All rights reserved.

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



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The Wise Men Rejoice

Matthew 2:7-10

The Father will ensure that His Son will be glorified despite all obstacles (John 12:23 ). Mary has been forced to give birth to the Messiah in a less than ideal setting (Luke 2:7). Herod, who lives under the Lord's covenant, is trying to kill Him (Matt. 2:16). Yet God has led foreigners to His promises to bow before His appointed king (vv. 1-12 ). Will we be like Herod and fail to glorify the Son with our lives, thereby provoking the Father to raise up others in our place?

For further study:

Psalm 72

The Bible in a year:

Genesis 25-26

Coram Deo from TableTalk Magazine, Matthew Studies. Copyright © 2008 by Ligonier Ministries.

Subscribe to Tabletalk magazine and receive daily Bible studies & in depth articles from world class scholars for only $23 per per year! That's only $1.92 per month. And you can try it out for three months absolutely free! Bringing the best in biblical scholarship together with down-to-earth writing, Tabletalk helps you understand the Bible and apply it to daily living.

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The Wise Men Rejoice

Matthew 2:7-10 "When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy" (v. 10).

Present among the figurines in the nativity crèches found everywhere at Christmastime are usually three regal men bearing gifts. As we know, these kings are supposed to represent the wise men.

Unfortunately, this depiction of the wise men takes liberties with the text. Matthew never tells us how many wise men come to see the Messiah. The tradition of three wise men probably comes from the three different gifts mentioned in Matthew 2:11. Moreover, the first gospel does not say the magi are kings. This idea goes back to the church father Tertullian (around 200a.d.) and is likely due to his reading of passages like Psalm 68:31 and Isaiah 49:7.

Who, then, are the wise men? Precise identification is difficult, but we do know they are "from the east" of Judea (Matt. 2:1 ). Persia, Babylon, and Arabia are all possible countries of origin, with Babylon the likeliest option since contact with its large Jewish community would have prompted the magi to come looking for a king in Jerusalem. The Greek term for "magi" (magoi) refers to a group interested in predicting the future via dream interpretation, magic, and other methods, such as astrology, which explains their interest in the star.

Apparently the star at first directs them only to Palestine, and they go to Jerusalem to find the child because the capital city is a logical first place to start searching for a newborn king. Herod calls the wise men to his court in today's passage and then sends them out to find the baby. We know that his desire to worship the Christ is a lie (vv. 7-8, 16 ), but the magi are ignorant of Herod's machinations, and they go forth in search of the child. After seeing Herod, the star leads them to where the child is living (v. 9). This prompts exceedingly great rejoicing (v. 10); seeing the star has confirmed their mission.

The wise men and their mission are highly significant. God promised Israel that their restoration and redemption after exile would be accompanied by an influx of Gentile nations into the covenant community ( Isa. 11:10). Though motivated partly by superstition, the wise men are the first Gentiles to seek out Jesus, and they serve to demonstrate that God fulfills all His promises.

Coram deo: Living before the face of God

The Father will ensure that His Son will be glorified despite all obstacles (John 12:23). Mary has been forced to give birth to the Messiah in a less than ideal setting ( Luke 2:7). Herod, who lives under the Lord's covenant, is trying to kill Him (Matt. 2:16). Yet God has led foreigners to His promises to bow before His appointed king (vv. 1-12). Will we be like Herod and fail to glorify the Son with our lives, thereby provoking the Father to raise up others in our place?

For further study:

Psalm 72

The Bible in a year:

Genesis 25-26

INTO the WORD daily Bible studies from TableTalk Magazine, Matthew Studies. Copyright © 2008 by Ligonier Ministries.

Subscribe to Tabletalk magazine and receive daily Bible studies & in depth articles from world class scholars for only $23 per per year! That's only $1.92 per month. And you can try it out for three months absolutely free! Bringing the best in biblical scholarship together with down-to-earth writing, Tabletalk helps you understand the Bible and apply it to daily living.

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Is Jesus Equal to God?

Today's reading: John 17:1-5

While John 17:5 and other verses point to Christ's deity, critics often highlight John 14:28, which reads, "The Father is greater than I." Was Jesus a lesser God? Was he equal to the Father, or was he some sort of junior God, possessing the attributes of deity and yet somehow failing to match the total sketch of the divine that the Old Testament provides?

John 17:5 is one of the many verses that clearly indicates that Jesus fully shared the divine attributes and as such is worthy of worship. As the Creator of the world, God was the First Cause of all creation. If the statement in this verse is true, how does John 14:28 affect its meaning?

Reading the context of John 14 makes a big difference in determining the correct meaning of John 14:28. In this chapter, the disciples were distressed because Jesus told them he was going away. Jesus says, "If you loved me, you would be glad that I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I" (John 14:28). That is to say, Jesus is returning to the glory that is properly his, so if they really know who he is and really love him properly, they will be glad that he's going back to the realm where he really is greater.

When you use a category like "greater," it doesn't have to mean ontologically greater. If someone says, "The president of the United States is greater than I," that person would not be saying that the president is an ontologically superior being. While it's true that the president is greater in military capability, political prowess and public acclaim, he's not more of a person than anyone else. We're all equal human beings.

Because of his ministry on Earth, Jesus was limited by the incarnation-he's going to the cross; he's going to die-but he's about to return to the Father and to the glory he had with the Father before the world began, as seen in verses like John 17:5.


Adapted from interview with Dr. D. A. Carson.

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Today's reading is from the
The Case for Christ Study Bible
by Zondervan


Investigate the Bible's most compelling claims: the existence of a compassionate God and the promise of eternal life through His Son, Jesus.


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Joseph: The Father of a Messiah

This week's reading: Matthew 1:16-2:23; Luke 1:26-2:52

But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, "Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins." (Matthew 1:20-21)

What was the most difficult part about being Jesus' earthly father?

There were times when I felt very common and not at all up to the task. Occasionally the weight and seriousness of the responsibility would fall on me, and I felt completely inadequate. I was inadequate. Who is worthy to raise the Son of God? I asked God daily for strength and wisdom.

After Jesus was born and you had to flee to Egypt, were you afraid?

Initially, yes, I was very afraid. After the alarming vision, there was this urgency in me. I felt as though Herod's guards were on their way, and if I didn't move quickly, then ... well, you know. But on our way to Egypt, I realized that God was directing the events here, not Herod or I. I said to myself, Wait a second. God knows the future. If something bad were going to happen, he would help us. I thought about the Israelites on their way out of Egypt, and if ever things started closing in around us to that degree, I knew we could be confident of a miracle.

How was your faith changed by that whole string of events surrounding the birth of Jesus?

It wasn't just my faith. This child upended my whole life. I was talking about this with Zechariah one time, about how we had our whole lives planned until God showed up. Everything about our lives changed. But what a joy!

You mentioned joy. Explain what you mean.

Most people, when they think of Jesus, think about his strong teachings or his miracles or maybe even his death. But when I think of him, my mind goes back to this time, right after he was born. He had just awakened, I was holding him and he was looking around. Very alert. And he looked up at me and with his little fingers grabbed my finger. They say babies that young don't smile, but he smiled, as if to say, "I'm glad to be here." You know, Mary witnessed his death, and Peter felt his forgiveness on the beach after the denial. Thomas touched the scars in his hands, and John even saw a vision of him coming back as King. But I held that baby before all that. And that's something I'll never forget.

Back to the Future

  • The course of Joseph's life was entirely redirected by God, and yet he reacted with grace and obedience. How difficult would it be for you to make massive life changes like Joseph? Why?
  • God entrusted the care of his Son Jesus to a man without much in the way of monetary resources. What does this show about God's view of wealth? Of parenting?
  • Joseph was a man of faith. What have you learned from Joseph's life that has strengthened your own faith?

Read Joseph's Story:

For more on Joseph, read Matthew 1:16-2:23; Luke 1:26-2:52.

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New Men's Devotional BibleToday's reading is from the
New Men's Devotional Bible
by Zondervan


The New Men's Devotional Biblehelps apply God's Word to a new generation of Christian men. It includes a full year of all-new devotions by well-known and not-so-well-known men of God.




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