Saturday, January 14, 2012

Daily Devotional Saturday 14th January

“that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.” 2 Corinthians 5:19-20 NIV
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Morning and Evening by Charles Spurgeon

Morning

"Jehoshaphat made ships of Tharshish to go to Ophir for gold: but they went not; for the ships were broken at Ezion-geber"
1 Kings 22:48

Solomon's ships had returned in safety, but Jehoshaphat's vessels never reached the land of gold. Providence prospers one, and frustrates the desires of another, in the same business and at the same spot, yet the Great Ruler is as good and wise at one time as another. May we have grace today, in the remembrance of this text, to bless the Lord for ships broken at Ezion-geber, as well as for vessels freighted with temporal blessings; let us not envy the more successful, nor murmur at our losses as though we were singularly and specially tried. Like Jehoshaphat, we may be precious in the Lord's sight, although our schemes end in disappointment.

The secret cause of Jehoshaphat's loss is well worthy of notice, for it is the root of very much of the suffering of the Lord's people; it was his alliance with a sinful family, his fellowship with sinners. In 2 Ch. 20:37, we are told that the Lord sent a prophet to declare, "Because thou hast joined thyself with Ahaziah, the Lord hath broken thy works." This was a fatherly chastisement, which appears to have been blest to him; for in the verse which succeeds our morning's text we find him refusing to allow his servants to sail in the same vessels with those of the wicked king. Would to God that Jehoshaphat's experience might be a warning to the rest of the Lord's people, to avoid being unequally yoked together with unbelievers! A life of misery is usually the lot of those who are united in marriage, or in any other way of their own choosing, with the men of the world. O for such love to Jesus that, like him, we may be holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners; for if it be not so with us, we may expect to hear it often said, "The Lord hath broken thy works."

Evening

"The iron did swim."
2 Kings 6:6

The axe-head seemed hopelessly lost, and as it was borrowed, the honour of the prophetic band was likely to be imperilled, and so the name of their God to be compromised. Contrary to all expectation, the iron was made to mount from the depth of the stream and to swim; for things impossible with man are possible with God. I knew a man in Christ but a few years ago who was called to undertake a work far exceeding his strength. It appeared so difficult as to involve absurdity in the bare idea of attempting it. Yet he was called thereto, and his faith rose with the occasion; God honoured his faith, unlooked-for aid was sent, and the iron did swim. Another of the Lord's family was in grievous financial straits, he was able to meet all claims, and much more if he could have realized a certain portion of his estate, but he was overtaken with a sudden pressure; he sought for friends in vain, but faith led him to the unfailing Helper, and lo, the trouble was averted, his footsteps were enlarged, and the iron did swim. A third had a sorrowful case of depravity to deal with. He had taught, reproved, warned, invited, and interceded, but all in vain. Old Adam was too strong for young Melancthon, the stubborn spirit would not relent. Then came an agony of prayer, and before long a blessed answer was sent from heaven. The hard heart was broken, the iron did swim.

Beloved reader, what is thy desperate case? What heavy matter hast thou in hand this evening? Bring it hither. The God of the prophets lives, and lives to help his saints. He will not suffer thee to lack any good thing. Believe thou in the Lord of hosts! Approach him pleading the name of Jesus, and the iron shall swim; thou too shalt see the finger of God working marvels for his people. According to thy faith be it unto thee, and yet again the iron shall swim.

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Today's reading: Genesis 31-32, Matthew 9:18-38 (NIV)

View today's reading on Bible Gateway
Jacob Flees From Laban

1 Jacob heard that Laban’s sons were saying, “Jacob has taken everything our father owned and has gained all this wealth from what belonged to our father.” 2 And Jacob noticed that Laban’s attitude toward him was not what it had been.

3 Then the LORD said to Jacob, “Go back to the land of your fathers and to your relatives, and I will be with you.”

4 So Jacob sent word to Rachel and Leah to come out to the fields where his flocks were. 5 He said to them, “I see that your father’s attitude toward me is not what it was before, but the God of my father has been with me. 6 You know that I’ve worked for your father with all my strength, 7 yet your father has cheated me by changing my wages ten times. However, God has not allowed him to harm me. 8 If he said, ‘The speckled ones will be your wages,’ then all the flocks gave birth to speckled young; and if he said, ‘The streaked ones will be your wages,’ then all the flocks bore streaked young. 9 So God has taken away your father’s livestock and has given them to me.

10 “In breeding season I once had a dream in which I looked up and saw that the male goats mating with the flock were streaked, speckled or spotted. 11 The angel of God said to me in the dream, ‘Jacob.’ I answered, ‘Here I am.’ 12 And he said, ‘Look up and see that all the male goats mating with the flock are streaked, speckled or spotted, for I have seen all that Laban has been doing to you. 13 I am the God of Bethel, where you anointed a pillar and where you made a vow to me. Now leave this land at once and go back to your native land.’”

14 Then Rachel and Leah replied, “Do we still have any share in the inheritance of our father’s estate? 15 Does he not regard us as foreigners? Not only has he sold us, but he has used up what was paid for us. 16 Surely all the wealth that God took away from our father belongs to us and our children. So do whatever God has told you.”

17 Then Jacob put his children and his wives on camels, 18and he drove all his livestock ahead of him, along with all the goods he had accumulated in Paddan Aram, to go to his father Isaac in the land of Canaan.

19 When Laban had gone to shear his sheep, Rachel stole her father’s household gods. 20 Moreover, Jacob deceived Laban the Aramean by not telling him he was running away. 21So he fled with all he had, crossed the Euphrates River, and headed for the hill country of Gilead.

Laban Pursues Jacob

22 On the third day Laban was told that Jacob had fled. 23Taking his relatives with him, he pursued Jacob for seven days and caught up with him in the hill country of Gilead. 24 Then God came to Laban the Aramean in a dream at night and said to him, “Be careful not to say anything to Jacob, either good or bad.”

25 Jacob had pitched his tent in the hill country of Gilead when Laban overtook him, and Laban and his relatives camped there too. 26 Then Laban said to Jacob, “What have you done? You’ve deceived me, and you’ve carried off my daughters like captives in war. 27 Why did you run off secretly and deceive me? Why didn’t you tell me, so I could send you away with joy and singing to the music of timbrels and harps? 28 You didn’t even let me kiss my grandchildren and my daughters goodbye. You have done a foolish thing. 29 I have the power to harm you; but last night the God of your father said to me, ‘Be careful not to say anything to Jacob, either good or bad.’ 30 Now you have gone off because you longed to return to your father’s household. But why did you steal my gods?”

31 Jacob answered Laban, “I was afraid, because I thought you would take your daughters away from me by force. 32 But if you find anyone who has your gods, that person shall not live. In the presence of our relatives, see for yourself whether there is anything of yours here with me; and if so, take it.” Now Jacob did not know that Rachel had stolen the gods.

33 So Laban went into Jacob’s tent and into Leah’s tent and into the tent of the two female servants, but he found nothing. After he came out of Leah’s tent, he entered Rachel’s tent. 34Now Rachel had taken the household gods and put them inside her camel’s saddle and was sitting on them. Laban searched through everything in the tent but found nothing.

35 Rachel said to her father, “Don’t be angry, my lord, that I cannot stand up in your presence; I’m having my period.” So he searched but could not find the household gods.

36 Jacob was angry and took Laban to task. “What is my crime?” he asked Laban. “How have I wronged you that you hunt me down? 37 Now that you have searched through all my goods, what have you found that belongs to your household? Put it here in front of your relatives and mine, and let them judge between the two of us.

38 “I have been with you for twenty years now. Your sheep and goats have not miscarried, nor have I eaten rams from your flocks. 39 I did not bring you animals torn by wild beasts; I bore the loss myself. And you demanded payment from me for whatever was stolen by day or night. 40 This was my situation: The heat consumed me in the daytime and the cold at night, and sleep fled from my eyes. 41 It was like this for the twenty years I was in your household. I worked for you fourteen years for your two daughters and six years for your flocks, and you changed my wages ten times. 42 If the God of my father, the God of Abraham and the Fear of Isaac, had not been with me, you would surely have sent me away empty-handed. But God has seen my hardship and the toil of my hands, and last night he rebuked you.”

43 Laban answered Jacob, “The women are my daughters, the children are my children, and the flocks are my flocks. All you see is mine. Yet what can I do today about these daughters of mine, or about the children they have borne? 44Come now, let’s make a covenant, you and I, and let it serve as a witness between us.”

45 So Jacob took a stone and set it up as a pillar. 46 He said to his relatives, “Gather some stones.” So they took stones and piled them in a heap, and they ate there by the heap. 47 Laban called it Jegar Sahadutha, and Jacob called it Galeed.

48 Laban said, “This heap is a witness between you and me today.” That is why it was called Galeed. 49 It was also called Mizpah, because he said, “May the LORD keep watch between you and me when we are away from each other. 50 If you mistreat my daughters or if you take any wives besides my daughters, even though no one is with us, remember that God is a witness between you and me.”

51 Laban also said to Jacob, “Here is this heap, and here is this pillar I have set up between you and me. 52 This heap is a witness, and this pillar is a witness, that I will not go past this heap to your side to harm you and that you will not go past this heap and pillar to my side to harm me. 53 May the God of Abraham and the God of Nahor, the God of their father, judge between us.”

So Jacob took an oath in the name of the Fear of his father Isaac. 54 He offered a sacrifice there in the hill country and invited his relatives to a meal. After they had eaten, they spent the night there.

55 Early the next morning Laban kissed his grandchildren and his daughters and blessed them. Then he left and returned home.

Genesis 32

Jacob Prepares to Meet Esau

1 Jacob also went on his way, and the angels of God met him. 2 When Jacob saw them, he said, “This is the camp of God!” So he named that place Mahanaim.

3 Jacob sent messengers ahead of him to his brother Esau in the land of Seir, the country of Edom. 4 He instructed them: “This is what you are to say to my lord Esau: ‘Your servant Jacob says, I have been staying with Laban and have remained there till now. 5 I have cattle and donkeys, sheep and goats, male and female servants. Now I am sending this message to my lord, that I may find favor in your eyes.’”

6 When the messengers returned to Jacob, they said, “We went to your brother Esau, and now he is coming to meet you, and four hundred men are with him.”

7 In great fear and distress Jacob divided the people who were with him into two groups, and the flocks and herds and camels as well. 8 He thought, “If Esau comes and attacks one group, the group that is left may escape.”

9 Then Jacob prayed, “O God of my father Abraham, God of my father Isaac, LORD, you who said to me, ‘Go back to your country and your relatives, and I will make you prosper,’ 10 I am unworthy of all the kindness and faithfulness you have shown your servant. I had only my staff when I crossed this Jordan, but now I have become two camps. 11 Save me, I pray, from the hand of my brother Esau, for I am afraid he will come and attack me, and also the mothers with their children.12 But you have said, ‘I will surely make you prosper and will make your descendants like the sand of the sea, which cannot be counted.’”

13 He spent the night there, and from what he had with him he selected a gift for his brother Esau: 14 two hundred female goats and twenty male goats, two hundred ewes and twenty rams, 15 thirty female camels with their young, forty cows and ten bulls, and twenty female donkeys and ten male donkeys. 16He put them in the care of his servants, each herd by itself, and said to his servants, “Go ahead of me, and keep some space between the herds.”

17 He instructed the one in the lead: “When my brother Esau meets you and asks, ‘Who do you belong to, and where are you going, and who owns all these animals in front of you?’ 18 then you are to say, ‘They belong to your servant Jacob. They are a gift sent to my lord Esau, and he is coming behind us.’”

19 He also instructed the second, the third and all the others who followed the herds: “You are to say the same thing to Esau when you meet him. 20 And be sure to say, ‘Your servant Jacob is coming behind us.’” For he thought, “I will pacify him with these gifts I am sending on ahead; later, when I see him, perhaps he will receive me.” 21 So Jacob’s gifts went on ahead of him, but he himself spent the night in the camp.

Jacob Wrestles With God

22 That night Jacob got up and took his two wives, his two female servants and his eleven sons and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. 23 After he had sent them across the stream, he sent over all his possessions. 24 So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak. 25 When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man. 26 Then the man said, “Let me go, for it is daybreak.”

But Jacob replied, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”

27 The man asked him, “What is your name?”

“Jacob,” he answered.

28 Then the man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome.”

29 Jacob said, “Please tell me your name.”

But he replied, “Why do you ask my name?” Then he blessed him there.

30 So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, “It is because I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared.”

31 The sun rose above him as he passed Peniel, and he was limping because of his hip. 32 Therefore to this day the Israelites do not eat the tendon attached to the socket of the hip, because the socket of Jacob’s hip was touched near the tendon.


Matthew 9

Jesus Raises a Dead Girl and Heals a Sick Woman

18 While he was saying this, a synagogue leader came and knelt before him and said, “My daughter has just died. But come and put your hand on her, and she will live.” 19 Jesus got up and went with him, and so did his disciples.

20 Just then a woman who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak. 21 She said to herself, “If I only touch his cloak, I will be healed.”

22 Jesus turned and saw her. “Take heart, daughter,” he said, “your faith has healed you.” And the woman was healed at that moment.

23 When Jesus entered the synagogue leader’s house and saw the noisy crowd and people playing pipes, 24 he said, “Go away. The girl is not dead but asleep.” But they laughed at him.25 After the crowd had been put outside, he went in and took the girl by the hand, and she got up. 26 News of this spread through all that region.

Jesus Heals the Blind and the Mute

27 As Jesus went on from there, two blind men followed him, calling out, “Have mercy on us, Son of David!”

28 When he had gone indoors, the blind men came to him, and he asked them, “Do you believe that I am able to do this?”

“Yes, Lord,” they replied.

29 Then he touched their eyes and said, “According to your faith let it be done to you”; 30 and their sight was restored. Jesus warned them sternly, “See that no one knows about this.” 31 But they went out and spread the news about him all over that region.

32 While they were going out, a man who was demon-possessed and could not talk was brought to Jesus. 33 And when the demon was driven out, the man who had been mute spoke. The crowd was amazed and said, “Nothing like this has ever been seen in Israel.”

34 But the Pharisees said, “It is by the prince of demons that he drives out demons.”

The Workers Are Few

35 Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. 36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 37 Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. 38 Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”

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Laban [Lā'ban]—white or glorious.The son of Bethuel and grandson of Nahor. Laban was the brother of Rebekah and father of Rachel and Leah. He lived in Padan-aram (Gen. 24:29, 50; 27:43; 28:2, 5).

The transactions between Laban and Jacob are well known, and speak of cunning on both sides. After twenty years Laban was reluctant to part with Jacob, whose presence was an assurance of divine blessing. “In character Laban is not pleasing,” says T. A. Moxon, “and seems to reflect in an exaggerated form the more repulsive traits in the character of his nephew, Jacob: yet he shows signs of generous impulses on more than one occasion, and especially at the final parting with Jacob.”

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John's Message and Baptism

Matthew 3:4-6

We will talk about the kingdom and its coming over the course of our study this year. For now, note that God's kingdom did not come with military force, as was popularly expected, but in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Though foretold by the prophets, many people missed this truth. Today, many churches expect the kingdom to come through programs, cultural savvy, and political legislation. May we never believe this falsehood.

For further study:

Psalm 103:19

The Bible in a year:

Genesis 42-43

For the weekend:

Genesis 44-49

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

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Portraits of Christ

“For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son.” Romans 8:29

Suggested Further Reading: 1 John 2:28-3:5

That image is so perfect I can never reach it. It is high as heaven, what can I know? It surpasses my thoughts, I cannot conceive the ideal, how, then, can I reach the fact? If I were to be like David I might hope it; if I were to be made like Josiah, or some of the ancient saints, I might think it possible; but to be like Christ, who is without spot or blemish, and the chief among ten thousand, and altogether lovely, I cannot hope it. I look, sir; I look, and look, and look again, till I turn away, tears filling my eyes, and I say, “Oh, it is presumption for such a fallen worm as I, to hope to be like Christ.” And did you know it, that while you were thus speaking, you were really getting the thing you thought to be impossible? Or did you know that, while you were gazing on Christ, you were using the only means which can be used to effect the divine purpose? And when you bowed before that image overawed, do you know it was because you began to be made like it? When I come to love the image of Christ, it is because I have some measure of likeness to it. It was said of Cicero’s works, if any man could read them with admiration, he must be in a degree an orator himself. And if any man can read the life of Christ, and really love it, methinks there must be somewhat—however little—that is Christ-like within himself. And if you as believers will look much at Christ, you will grow like him; you shall be transformed from glory to glory as by the image of the Lord.

For meditation: Getting to know Christ now is the process by which the Christian will become like Christ in the future. (Philippians 3:8,10,20,21 ). We may say “Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain unto it.” (Psalm 139:6), but the image of Christ in the believer is no more impossible to God than the conception of Christ in a virgin (Luke 1:37).

Sermon no. 355
13 January (1861)

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January 13, 2012

The Worship of Giving

Gwen Smith

Today's Truth

Act 4:32 (NIV) All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had.

Friend To Friend

"What's yours is mine, and what's mine is mine." My husband Brad and I used to joke that this was the unspoken motto of our kids when they were little. Toddlers have no qualms about grabbing a toy, snack, or any random item of interest from other people or pets. It's rare to see a child share her cherished possessions generously.

It can be hard for you and me to share too. Today's media bombards us with marketing campaigns that tell us we are the center of the universe. "You, you, you, you, you!" Time and time again we hear that this life is all about us. The more we have, the happier we'll be. The bigger that bank account, the more blessed the life. I sincerely hope that none of us actually buy these lies. They're dangerous deceptions.

We all have a sharing problem to some degree, don't we? Sometimes we don't want to share our time or our space. Sometimes we don't want to share our loved ones or our gifts. Sometimes we don't want to share our resources. Sometimes we just want to be left to ourselves and don't want to share anything!

God calls each of us to share. The early New Testament church shows us that generous living honors God and blesses others. In Acts 4:32-37; we see an amazing snapshot of generous giving in the early church. The believers were one in heart and mind. They were supernaturally unified to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and you could not find a needy person among them. What a model!

Giving wasn't political. It wasn't mandatory. It wasn't done begrudgingly.

"...They shared everything they had." (Acts 4:32)

"The disciples, each according to his ability, decided to provide help for the brothers living in Judea. This they did, sending their gift to the elders by Barnabas and Saul." (Acts 11:29-30)

"But just as you excel in everything - in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in your love for us - see that you also excel in this grace of giving...For if the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what he does not have." (I Corinthians 8:7,12)

The resources of the believers were God's, and they knew it. They placed what they had before the leaders in selfless acts of worship...for the glory of God and the provision of others. This principle is very important, but it's also very counter-cultural.

The Bible clearly reveals that true life, a blessed life, an abundant life, a purposed life, is, in fact, all about God. What we have, have given birth to, or hold onto is really not our own. It's just on loan to us for a breath of a moment by our more-than-generous Creator. Each day brings us new opportunities to be good stewards.

Let's face it; it's just not always easy or natural to be generous. Perhaps we have been taken advantage of or we've been hurt by another's deception. There are risks to giving.

The generous giving of the early church blessed the lives of their people. When we share what we have, God is honored and needs are met. The risks are worth taking.

I'm not suggesting a Robin Hood philosophy of "take from the rich and give to the poor." And I don't believe in the politics of communism or socialism. This principle of generous giving is Biblical. It's an act of worship to God. It matters to God, and it should matter to us.

We need to reject the toddler mentality of "what's mine is mine." God loves a cheerful giver. We are blessed to give. Tell God today: "Lord, what's mine is Yours. Use it for Your glory!"

Let's Pray

Dear Lord, thank You for this reminder from Your Word. You are amazingly lavish in Your love for me, and You have given me so much. All I have is Yours. Please help me to excel in the grace and worship of giving. Open my eyes to opportunities to bless others for Your glory.

In Jesus' Name,

Amen

Now It's Your Turn

How do you feel about your possessions?

Have you shared generously lately?

Is God bringing anyone to your mind that could use your help or generosity?

Read and meditate on 2 Corinthians 8:1-15

More from the Girlfriends

Hey friend. I know that this is a sensitive subject to some of you. Maybe your husband won't tithe. Perhaps you don't even know how you will pay your rent this month. God knows your heart. He loves you greatly. Remember, giving isn't always about money. We can give in many ways; service, an ear to listen, a shoulder to cry on, a dinner to a new mom, or time spent with an elderly friend. Now...go bless someone today!!

Gwen Smith is the author of Broken into Beautiful and a co-author of Trusting God, A Girlfriends in God Faith Adventure. Connect with her on Facebook atwww.facebook.com/GwenSmithMusic and Tweet with her atwww.twitter.com/GwenSmithMusic.

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Cheering words and solemn warnings

‘Say ye to the righteous, that it shall be well with him: for they shall eat the fruit of their doings.’ Isaiah 3:10

Suggested Further Reading: Psalm 37:16–40

‘Say ye to the righteous, that it shall be well with him,’ from the beginning of the year to the end of the year, from the rising of the sun unto the going down of the same, from the first gatherings of evening shadows until the day-star shines. It shall be well with him when, like Samuel, God calls him from the bed of his childhood; it shall be well with him when, like David in his old age, he is stayed up in the bed to conclude his life with a song of praise; it shall be well with him if, like Solomon, he shall abound in wealth, and well with him if like Lazarus he shall lie upon a dunghill and the dogs shall lick his sores; it shall be well with him, if like Job he washes his feet with oil and his steps with butter, if the princes are before him bowing their heads, and the great ones of the earth do him obeisance; but it shall be equally well with him if, like Job in his trial, he sits down to scrape himself with a potsherd, his children gone, his wife bidding him curse his God, his friends become miserable comforters to him, and himself left alone; it shall be well, always well. The text evidently means that it is well with the righteous at all times alike, and never otherwise than well; because no time is mentioned, no season is excluded, and all time is intended.

‘What cheering words are these!’Tis well when joys arise,
Their sweetness who can tell?’Tis well when sorrows flow,
In time, and to eternal days,’Tis well when darkness veils the skies,
’Tis with the righteous well.And strong temptations blow.’

For meditation: We become righteous only as the result of trusting in the Lord Jesus Christ and what he has done for us (Romans 5:19). It is bound to be well with the righteous at all times and in all circumstances because ‘He hath done all things well’ ( Mark 7:37).

Sermon no. 729
13 January (1867)

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Rachel Olsen

January 13, 2012

Being Perfect
Rachel Olsen

"Don't live under the control of your sinful nature. If you do, you will think about what your sinful nature wants. Live under the control of the Holy Spirit. If you do, you will think about what the Spirit wants. The way a sinful person thinks leads to death. But the mind controlled by the Spirit brings life and peace." Romans 8:5-6 (NIRV)

There's a moment I dread at the doctor's office. It's not putting on that tissue paper mistakenly called a "gown." It's not having my finger pricked - though I'm squeamish about blood. It's the moment right after the nurse finishes her questions, grabs her clip board, and announces the doctor will be in to see me shortly.

Pulling the door closed, she leaves me alone with it. I already know what it's going to say about me; I've read it before. It's going to tell me I don't measure up. I'm not reaching my potential. I don't equal my ideal. It's the chart that declares the perfect weight for my height - and I'm several pounds away.

It extends no mercy, offers no grace. It makes no allowances for how old I am, how many babies I've birthed, or that my husband can eat three plates of food every night without gaining an ounce. It demands perfection.

A few years ago I heard a verse that seemed to be the scriptural equivalent of the height/weight chart. A single verse to measure my worth against, and feed my expectations for perfection: "Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect." (Matthew 5:48, NIV 1984)

I figured this verse justified dressing my family in matching sweaters, in the middle of July, to take our Christmas card photo because I'd just gotten the perfect haircut. I figured it warranted pricey toothpaste because I drink coffee and tea, and it shows. And I figured it was my defense when I drove my family nuts about deep-cleaning the house because my new friend might stop by.

This verse helped me justify my quest for perfect photos, perfect teeth and a perfectly clean house. But it added to my disappointment, guilt and occasional loathing when my life, body or family didn't match my ideal notions. Rather than fostering contentment and satisfaction, it fueled self-criticism. Surely this is not what Jesus intended!

In the years since hearing that verse, I've embraced a core conviction that goes like this: If God created life, He alone gets to define it. This conviction drove me to find out what exactly Jesus meant by "be perfect."

'Perfect' used in the ancient Greek language in this verse means something a little different than Mr. Webster's definition. The Greek word here is teleos: "complete, full grown, developing."

The first two pieces of that definition indicate something already accomplished, while the third indicates an ongoing process.

So this perfection Jesus prescribes for us is already complete and yet still developing. Complete in Him; still at work in us. We're allowed to be a work-in-progress!

All parts of this definition, however, refer to maturity of character, rather than a flawless figure, immaculate home, or the faultless execution of a task. Jesus doesn't care so much if there's dust on our mantle, stains on our teeth or a scratch on our car. He isn't interested in how well our bedspread matches our curtains. He's interested in our spiritual maturity.

Jesus teaches that our worth is only found in reflecting His character. To graciously give and receive love. As John writes in 1 John 3:18-20, "Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth. This is how we know that we belong to the truth and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence: If our hearts condemn us, we know that God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything" (NIV).

Now that's good news for a recovering perfectionist.

Dear Lord, thank You for grace! Thank You for mercy! Thank You for empowering me to be like You as I submit to Your Word. And thank You for not caring about dust bunnies or stained shirts. Help me to care less about those things as well and focus my heart on You. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Come to Rachel's blog and leave a prayer request for victory over perfectionism.

If you enjoyed this devotion, you'll want to get a copy of Rachel's book It's No Secret: Revealing Divine Truths Every Woman Should Know.

When you purchase resources through Proverbs 31 Ministries, you touch eternity because your purchase supports the many areas of hope-giving ministry we provide at no cost. We simply can't compete with prices offered by huge online warehouses. Therefore, we are extremely grateful for each and every purchase you make with us. Thank you!

Application Steps:
Spend time reading through the gospels, noticing what concerned Jesus and what did not.

Reflections:
What surface-level thing(s) have I been worrying over lately?

If it's not about my character, I'm going to let it go as imperfect and rest in God's grace today.

Power Verses:
Philippians 3:8-9, "Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ and become one with him. I no longer count on my own righteousness through obeying the law; rather, I become righteous through faith in Christ. For God's way of making us right with himself depends on faith." (NLT)

© 2012 by Rachel Olsen. All rights reserved.

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

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John's Message and Baptism

Matthew 3:4-6 "Then Jerusalem and all Judea and all the region about the Jordan were going out to him, and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins" ( vv. 5-6).

John the Baptist heralds the king and His kingdom. Today, we will look at notions of the kingdom current in his day and the baptism John administers in preparation for its coming. According to Matthew, John says that "the kingdom of heaven is at hand" (v. 2 ). Of note is the phrase "the kingdom of heaven," the preferred name for the kingdom in the first gospel. In a few instances, Matthew uses "the kingdom of God," which is favored in the other Gospels. These phrases are synonymous, and Matthew's use of heaven is probably nothing more than a stylistic variance - a decision to use a different word that gives a slightly different emphasis. In this case,heaven points us to a kingdom not of this world.

The ancient Jews knew God was sovereign over all creation even if many did not submit to Him (Jer. 10:6-10 ). The kingdom of heaven refers not to the reality of this reign, but to its universal acknowledgment, especially as administered through God's chosen regent. Beginning with Abraham, who was promised kings as sons (Gen. 17:5-6), Scripture looks to the day in which all nations bow to Yahweh and willingly serve the Son of David, through whom the Lord exercises His dominion most visibly (Amos 9:11-15; Zech. 14:16). Different ideas as to how the kingdom will come are present in Judaism in the first century a.d. One popular view longs for a Messiah who will be a military ruler, thereby kicking Rome out of the Promised Land and setting Israel over all the nations.

Though John the Baptist knows the kingdom is at hand, it seems he is unclear as to the exact manner in which it will come (Matt. 11:1-19 ). However, John does understand that the Jews in his day are not ready for the kingdom. In the first century, Gentile "sinners" are washed with water when they convert to Judaism, but Jews are rarely, if ever, baptized for the confession and forgiveness of sins (3:5-6). As John preaches in Judea, he calls upon even the covenant people of God to repent of their transgressions. He understands their lack of contrition is causing their troubles and knows that being a Jew outwardly is not enough to secure for oneself a place in the kingdom ( vv. 7-10). Needless to say, John's message is unpopular with those who find security in their ethnicity.

Coram deo: Living before the face of God

We will talk about the kingdom and its coming over the course of our study this year. For now, note that God's kingdom did not come with military force, as was popularly expected, but in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Though foretold by the prophets, many people missed this truth. Today, many churches expect the kingdom to come through programs, cultural savvy, and political legislation. May we never believe this falsehood.

For further study:

Psalm 103:19

The Bible in a year:

Genesis 42-43

For the weekend:

Genesis 44-49

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

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Emperor Charlemagne: Education, Women, and War

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Quote: "By the sword and the cross."

Like military leaders before him, Charlemagne (742 - 814) was a ruthless warrior bent on expanding his vast domains. Yet by all accounts he was a religious man who promoted and funded monasteries. The oldest son of Pippin III and grandson of Charles Martel, Charlemagne grew up in a military family that controlled a large portion of what is today Switzerland and France. His mother, Bertha, a daughter of royalty, brought prestige and lands to the marriage.

Little is known of his childhood but, according to his earliest biographer, his physical presence as an adult was unmistakable: "He was six feet four inches tall, and built to scale. He had beautiful white hair, animated eyes, a powerful nose . . . always stately and dignified." Disciplined in eating and drinking, his mealtime entertainment was not the usual fare of court jesters. Rather, an aide read aloud the best literature of the day. He was conversant in other languages, believing that "to have another language is to possess a second soul."

On his father's death in 668, when Charles is in his mid-twenties, he and his brother Carolman become co-heirs to the vast kingdom. When Carolman dies three years later, Charles becomes sole king of the Franks. His mother arranges a marriage with Desiderata, daughter of the king of the Lombards, for obvious political gain, but the marriage is annulled the following year. Charles then marries thirteen-year-old Hildegard, a duke's daughter. She bears him nine children, several of whom grow up to be their father's land-grabbing warriors. With Desiderata out of the way, Charles conquers the Lombards in northern Italy. From there he pushes the borders of his kingdom into what is today Spain, Hungary, and Germany. Ruthless as a commander, he reportedly executes more than four thousand Saxon prisoners in a single day.

Though Charles holds back invading Muslims, expansion is his forte, often through relatively peaceful means with little dismantling of local culture. Indeed, surrendering to his forces has positive effects. With a unified administration, local wars diminish, and commerce, farming, and education are vastly improved.

The turning point in Charlemagne's reign comes in 800. A year earlier Pope Leo III had appealed for protection. Having risen up through the ranks from the lower classes, Leo is scorned by Roman aristocrats and fears for his life. Charles uses the opportunity to boost his own standing. He comes to Saint Peter's Basilica on Christmas Day 800 to pray, and there the pope crowns him Holy Roman Emperor. Labeled "Charlemagne's Pope," Leo reigns until he dies in 816. Yet he stands his ground against the emperor on some matters, particularly when Charlemagne, motivated by expansionist aims, seeks to change the Nicene Creed by adding the filioque ("and the son"), a move considered heretical by the Eastern Church.

With wars yet to wage, Charlemagne reforms the realms already under his rule. Inaugurating the "Carolingian Renaissance," he courts scholars and encourages education across the empire. His court at Aachen becomes an impressive cultural and educational center. He creates a university town, drawing talent from all social levels and fostering a wide range of academic disciplines. Music, art, architecture, roads, bridges, and thermal baths add to the city's prestige.

But to the end of his life, Charlemagne the warrior is sending troops into battle, sometimes leading the charge himself. In 811, as he marches his men north to attack King Godefrid and his Norse army, he learns that the king has been murdered. The seventy-year-old Charlemagne turns back. It would be his last campaign. He dies in 814 with his son, Louis the Pious, succeeding him. His long reign of forty-seven years can be summed up in his own terms: "By the sword and the cross." Most of his subjects had known no other ruler. A monk penned lines that spoke for many:

From the lands where the sun rises to western shores, People are crying and wailing . . . stung with mourning and great worry . . . the young and old, glorious nobles, all lament the loss of their Caesar. . . . The world laments the death of Charles.


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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He Is A Refuge

Joshua 20:1-9

In ancient times people often sought personal revenge for a murder, even if the homicide was unintentional. So God provided a safe haven for those who killed someone accidentally-a city of refuge where the offender would be protected from the avenger until a trial could be held.

How often we need that place of refuge! Intentionally or not, we sin all the time. We harbor angry, murderous thoughts. We lash out with our words. We cut someone else down to build ourselves up. Thank God that he provides a safe haven for us-Jesus, our living city of refuge.

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