Sunday, January 15, 2012

Daily Devotional Sunday 15th January

“Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.” 1 John 4:20-21 NIV
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Morning and Evening by Charles Spurgeon

Morning

"Mighty to save."
Isaiah 63:1

By the words "to save" we understand the whole of the great work of salvation, from the first holy desire onward to complete sanctification. The words are multum in parro: indeed, here is all mercy in one word. Christ is not only "mighty to save" those who repent, but he is able to make men repent. He will carry those to heaven who believe; but he is, moreover, mighty to give men new hearts and to work faith in them. He is mighty to make the man who hates holiness love it, and to constrain the despiser of his name to bend the knee before him. Nay, this is not all the meaning, for the divine power is equally seen in the after-work. The life of a believer is a series of miracles wrought by "the Mighty God." The bush burns, but is not consumed. He is mighty to keep his people holy after he has made them so, and to preserve them in his fear and love until he consummates their spiritual existence in heaven. Christ's might doth not lie in making a believer and then leaving him to shift for himself; but he who begins the good work carries it on; he who imparts the first germ of life in the dead soul, prolongs the divine existence, and strengthens it until it bursts asunder every bond of sin, and the soul leaps from earth, perfected in glory. Believer, here is encouragement. Art thou praying for some beloved one? Oh, give not up thy prayers, for Christ is "mighty to save." You are powerless to reclaim the rebel, but your Lord is Almighty. Lay hold on that mighty arm, and rouse it to put forth its strength. Does your own case trouble you? Fear not, for his strength is sufficient for you. Whether to begin with others, or to carry on the work in you, Jesus is "mighty to save;" the best proof of which lies in the fact that he has saved you. What a thousand mercies that you have not found him mighty to destroy!

Evening

"Beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me."
Matthew 14:30

Sinking times are praying times with the Lord's servants. Peter neglected prayer at starting upon his venturous journey, but when he began to sink his danger made him a suppliant, and his cry though late was not too late. In our hours of bodily pain and mental anguish, we find ourselves as naturally driven to prayer as the wreck is driven upon the shore by the waves. The fox hies to its hole for protection; the bird flies to the wood for shelter; and even so the tried believer hastens to the mercy seat for safety. Heaven's great harbour of refuge is All-prayer; thousands of weather-beaten vessels have found a haven there, and the moment a storm comes on, it is wise for us to make for it with all sail.

Short prayers are long enough. There were but three words in the petition which Peter gasped out, but they were sufficient for his purpose. Not length but strength is desirable. A sense of need is a mighty teacher of brevity. If our prayers had less of the tail feathers of pride and more wing they would be all the better. Verbiage is to devotion as chaff to the wheat. Precious things lie in small compass, and all that is real prayer in many a long address might have been uttered in a petition as short as that of Peter.

Our extremities are the Lord's opportunities. Immediately a keen sense of danger forces an anxious cry from us the ear of Jesus hears, and with him ear and heart go together, and the hand does not long linger. At the last moment we appeal to our Master, but his swift hand makes up for our delays by instant and effectual action. Are we nearly engulfed by the boisterous waters of affliction? Let us then lift up our souls unto our Saviour, and we may rest assured that he will not suffer us to perish. When we can do nothing Jesus can do all things; let us enlist his powerful aid upon our side, and all will be well.

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Today's reading: Genesis 33-35, Matthew 10:1-20 (NIV)

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Jacob Meets Esau

1 Jacob looked up and there was Esau, coming with his four hundred men; so he divided the children among Leah, Rachel and the two female servants. 2 He put the female servants and their children in front, Leah and her children next, and Rachel and Joseph in the rear. 3 He himself went on ahead and bowed down to the ground seven times as he approached his brother.

4 But Esau ran to meet Jacob and embraced him; he threw his arms around his neck and kissed him. And they wept. 5Then Esau looked up and saw the women and children. “Who are these with you?” he asked.

Jacob answered, “They are the children God has graciously given your servant.”

6 Then the female servants and their children approached and bowed down. 7 Next, Leah and her children came and bowed down. Last of all came Joseph and Rachel, and they too bowed down.

8 Esau asked, “What’s the meaning of all these flocks and herds I met?”

“To find favor in your eyes, my lord,” he said.

9 But Esau said, “I already have plenty, my brother. Keep what you have for yourself.”

10 “No, please!” said Jacob. “If I have found favor in your eyes, accept this gift from me. For to see your face is like seeing the face of God, now that you have received me favorably. 11 Please accept the present that was brought to you, for God has been gracious to me and I have all I need.” And because Jacob insisted, Esau accepted it.

12 Then Esau said, “Let us be on our way; I’ll accompany you.”

13 But Jacob said to him, “My lord knows that the children are tender and that I must care for the ewes and cows that are nursing their young. If they are driven hard just one day, all the animals will die. 14 So let my lord go on ahead of his servant, while I move along slowly at the pace of the flocks and herds before me and the pace of the children, until I come to my lord in Seir.”

15 Esau said, “Then let me leave some of my men with you.”

“But why do that?” Jacob asked. “Just let me find favor in the eyes of my lord.”

16 So that day Esau started on his way back to Seir. 17Jacob, however, went to Sukkoth, where he built a place for himself and made shelters for his livestock. That is why the place is called Sukkoth.

18 After Jacob came from Paddan Aram, he arrived safely at the city of Shechem in Canaan and camped within sight of the city. 19 For a hundred pieces of silver, he bought from the sons of Hamor, the father of Shechem, the plot of ground where he pitched his tent. 20 There he set up an altar and called it El Elohe Israel.

Genesis 34

Dinah and the Shechemites

1 Now Dinah, the daughter Leah had borne to Jacob, went out to visit the women of the land. 2 When Shechem son of Hamor the Hivite, the ruler of that area, saw her, he took her and raped her. 3 His heart was drawn to Dinah daughter of Jacob; he loved the young woman and spoke tenderly to her. 4And Shechem said to his father Hamor, “Get me this girl as my wife.”

5 When Jacob heard that his daughter Dinah had been defiled, his sons were in the fields with his livestock; so he did nothing about it until they came home.

6 Then Shechem’s father Hamor went out to talk with Jacob.7 Meanwhile, Jacob’s sons had come in from the fields as soon as they heard what had happened. They were shocked and furious, because Shechem had done an outrageous thing in Israel by sleeping with Jacob’s daughter—a thing that should not be done.

8 But Hamor said to them, “My son Shechem has his heart set on your daughter. Please give her to him as his wife. 9Intermarry with us; give us your daughters and take our daughters for yourselves. 10 You can settle among us; the land is open to you. Live in it, trade in it, and acquire property in it.”

11 Then Shechem said to Dinah’s father and brothers, “Let me find favor in your eyes, and I will give you whatever you ask. 12 Make the price for the bride and the gift I am to bring as great as you like, and I’ll pay whatever you ask me. Only give me the young woman as my wife.”

13 Because their sister Dinah had been defiled, Jacob’s sons replied deceitfully as they spoke to Shechem and his father Hamor. 14 They said to them, “We can’t do such a thing; we can’t give our sister to a man who is not circumcised. That would be a disgrace to us. 15 We will enter into an agreement with you on one condition only: that you become like us by circumcising all your males. 16 Then we will give you our daughters and take your daughters for ourselves. We’ll settle among you and become one people with you. 17 But if you will not agree to be circumcised, we’ll take our sister and go.”

18 Their proposal seemed good to Hamor and his son Shechem. 19 The young man, who was the most honored of all his father’s family, lost no time in doing what they said, because he was delighted with Jacob’s daughter. 20 So Hamor and his son Shechem went to the gate of their city to speak to the men of their city. 21 “These men are friendly toward us,” they said. “Let them live in our land and trade in it; the land has plenty of room for them. We can marry their daughters and they can marry ours. 22 But the men will agree to live with us as one people only on the condition that our males be circumcised, as they themselves are. 23 Won’t their livestock, their property and all their other animals become ours? So let us agree to their terms, and they will settle among us.”

24 All the men who went out of the city gate agreed with Hamor and his son Shechem, and every male in the city was circumcised.

25 Three days later, while all of them were still in pain, two of Jacob’s sons, Simeon and Levi, Dinah’s brothers, took their swords and attacked the unsuspecting city, killing every male.26 They put Hamor and his son Shechem to the sword and took Dinah from Shechem’s house and left. 27 The sons of Jacob came upon the dead bodies and looted the city where their sister had been defiled. 28 They seized their flocks and herds and donkeys and everything else of theirs in the city and out in the fields. 29 They carried off all their wealth and all their women and children, taking as plunder everything in the houses.

30 Then Jacob said to Simeon and Levi, “You have brought trouble on me by making me obnoxious to the Canaanites and Perizzites, the people living in this land. We are few in number, and if they join forces against me and attack me, I and my household will be destroyed.”

31 But they replied, “Should he have treated our sister like a prostitute?”

Genesis 35

Jacob Returns to Bethel

1 Then God said to Jacob, “Go up to Bethel and settle there, and build an altar there to God, who appeared to you when you were fleeing from your brother Esau.”

2 So Jacob said to his household and to all who were with him, “Get rid of the foreign gods you have with you, and purify yourselves and change your clothes. 3 Then come, let us go up to Bethel, where I will build an altar to God, who answered me in the day of my distress and who has been with me wherever I have gone.” 4 So they gave Jacob all the foreign gods they had and the rings in their ears, and Jacob buried them under the oak at Shechem. 5 Then they set out, and the terror of God fell on the towns all around them so that no one pursued them.

6 Jacob and all the people with him came to Luz (that is, Bethel) in the land of Canaan. 7 There he built an altar, and he called the place El Bethel, because it was there that God revealed himself to him when he was fleeing from his brother.

8 Now Deborah, Rebekah’s nurse, died and was buried under the oak outside Bethel. So it was named Allon Bakuth.

9 After Jacob returned from Paddan Aram, God appeared to him again and blessed him. 10 God said to him, “Your name is Jacob, but you will no longer be called Jacob; your name will be Israel.” So he named him Israel.

11 And God said to him, “I am God Almighty; be fruitful and increase in number. A nation and a community of nations will come from you, and kings will be among your descendants. 12The land I gave to Abraham and Isaac I also give to you, and I will give this land to your descendants after you.” 13 Then God went up from him at the place where he had talked with him.

14 Jacob set up a stone pillar at the place where God had talked with him, and he poured out a drink offering on it; he also poured oil on it. 15 Jacob called the place where God had talked with him Bethel.[n]

The Deaths of Rachel and Isaac

16 Then they moved on from Bethel. While they were still some distance from Ephrath, Rachel began to give birth and had great difficulty. 17 And as she was having great difficulty in childbirth, the midwife said to her, “Don’t despair, for you have another son.” 18 As she breathed her last—for she was dying—she named her son Ben-Oni. But his father named him Benjamin.

19 So Rachel died and was buried on the way to Ephrath (that is, Bethlehem). 20 Over her tomb Jacob set up a pillar, and to this day that pillar marks Rachel’s tomb.

21 Israel moved on again and pitched his tent beyond Migdal Eder. 22 While Israel was living in that region, Reuben went in and slept with his father’s concubine Bilhah, and Israel heard of it.

Jacob had twelve sons:

23 The sons of Leah:
Reuben the firstborn of Jacob,
Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar and Zebulun.

24 The sons of Rachel:
Joseph and Benjamin.

25 The sons of Rachel’s servant Bilhah:
Dan and Naphtali.

26 The sons of Leah’s servant Zilpah:
Gad and Asher.

These were the sons of Jacob, who were born to him in Paddan Aram.

27 Jacob came home to his father Isaac in Mamre, near Kiriath Arba (that is, Hebron), where Abraham and Isaac had stayed. 28 Isaac lived a hundred and eighty years. 29 Then he breathed his last and died and was gathered to his people, old and full of years. And his sons Esau and Jacob buried him.


Matthew 10

Jesus Sends Out the Twelve

1 Jesus called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out impure spirits and to heal every disease and sickness.

2 These are the names of the twelve apostles: first, Simon (who is called Peter) and his brother Andrew; James son of Zebedee, and his brother John; 3 Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; 4 Simon the Zealot and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.

5 These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: “Do not go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans. 6 Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel. 7 As you go, proclaim this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ 8 Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give.

9 “Do not get any gold or silver or copper to take with you in your belts— 10 no bag for the journey or extra shirt or sandals or a staff, for the worker is worth his keep. 11 Whatever town or village you enter, search there for some worthy person and stay at their house until you leave. 12 As you enter the home, give it your greeting. 13 If the home is deserving, let your peace rest on it; if it is not, let your peace return to you. 14 If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, leave that home or town and shake the dust off your feet. 15 Truly I tell you, it will be more bearable for Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town.

16 “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves. 17 Be on your guard; you will be handed over to the local councils and be flogged in the synagogues. 18 On my account you will be brought before governors and kings as witnesses to them and to the Gentiles. 19 But when they arrest you, do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say, 20 for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.

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Job's Hope

Job 19:21-29

"I know that my redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand on the earth."
Job 19:25

A teenager told me she thought her parents were about to divorce. She had heard her parents' nightly arguments and watched her mom turn away her tear-stained face when asked about the situation. The parents of many of this young woman's friends had divorced, so she assumed her parents were next.

The teen did not give me permission to talk to her parents about her fears. Yet I felt obligated to open a pastoral door for either the husband or the wife if it would allow them to get help and healing.

When an opportunity came to enter that home, I lingered in order to hint at the well-being of the marriage. Neither spouse did more than smile and spout platitudes, but a week later the husband called and said he wanted to talk.

He furtively slipped into my office. Any excuse to leave would have been welcome, but none presented itself. After moments of expansive quiet and several invitations to say what was on his mind, he finally began to talk.

He had always thought marriage would be wonderful, he said. His parents had been solid in their commitments, and his dating relationship with his wife had been marvelous. They had seemed to be a perfect match, sharing interests, passions and religious commitments.

But several years into their marriage, his wife was in an accident. She experienced a closed-head injury that altered her personality. She became suspicious, forgetful, impatient and abusive. What's more, she was an emotional chameleon. In public her negative symptoms disappeared. Even her sisters and parents had no idea of the ogre she could become. The husband's pleas for help were questioned and pushed aside. He felt very alone.

I listened as the hurting man wept, and I thought of Job, around whom unseen and unjust powers had swirled. Job was bewildered. So was this misunderstood husband. Neither man understood why bad things were happening. Each faced a murky future in an iffy marriage.

Yet I was amazed by this husband's testimony. When I asked him if he had considered divorce, he said, "Never! I made a vow and my wife needs to count on that, especially now. Even if she doesn't know that she needs me." He added, "I read about a note scratched into a basement in Paris during World War II: 'I believe in the sun even when it's not shining. I believe in love even when I can't feel it. I believe in God even when he is silent.'"

I was reminded of Job when he professed, "I know that my redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand on the earth." Though Job was unable to see how, he was confident that neither loss nor pain nor death itself could stymie God's care for him.

If we are believers, there is no lament we can sing that does not have an Easter refrain. Trials and torments and troubles are part of our lives here, but they are not the whole story. Christ rose from the dead, and because he lives, we too shall live.
Wayne Brouwer

Let's Talk

  • When have we felt plagued like Job? How has trouble affected our relationship?
  • When life was good, Job offered daily sacrifices for himself and his family (see Job 1:5). What habits are we developing in good times that will help us through the tough times?
  • Whom do we look to as models of endurance and hope? What have these people taught us? How might they serve as mentors?
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The sin of unbelief

“And that lord answered the man of God, and said, Now, behold, if the Lord should make windows in heaven, might such a thing be? And he said, Behold, thou shalt see it with thine eyes, but shalt not eat thereof.” 2 Kings 7:19

Suggested Further Reading: John 20:24-29

“Thou shalt shall see it with thine eyes, but shalt not eat thereof.” It is so often with God’s own saints. When they are unbelieving, they see the mercy with their eyes, but do not eat it. Now, here is corn in this land of Egypt, but there are some of God’s saints who come here on the Sabbath, and say, “I do not know whether the Lord will be with me or not.” Some of them say, “Well, the gospel is preached, but I do not know whether it will be successful.” They are always doubting and fearing. Listen to them when they get out of the chapel. “Well, did you get a good meal this morning?” “Nothing for me.” Of course not. Ye could see it with your eyes, but did not eat it, because you had no faith. If you had come up with faith, you would have had a morsel. I have found Christians, who have grown so very critical, that if the whole portion of the meat they are to have, in due season, is not cut up exactly into square pieces, and put upon some choice dish of porcelain, they cannot eat it. Then they ought to go without, until they are brought to their appetites. They will have some affliction, which will act like quinine upon them: they will be made to eat by means of bitters in their mouths; they will be put in prison for a day or two until their appetite returns, and then they will be glad to eat the most ordinary food, off the most common platter, or no platter at all. But the real reason why God’s people do not feed under a gospel ministry, is because they have not faith. If you believed, if you heard only one promise, that would be enough.

For meditation: The unbeliever needs to hear in order to believe (Romans 10:14); the believer needs to believe in order to hear.

Sermon no. 3
14 January (1855)

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The ravens’ cry

‘He giveth to the beast his food, and to the young ravens which cry.’ Psalm 147:9

Suggested Further Reading: Revelation 8:1–4

Never a sinner prays truly without Christ praying at the same time. You cannot see nor hear him, but never does Jesus stir the depths of your soul by his Spirit without his soul being stirred too. O sinner! your prayer when it comes before God is a very different thing from what it is when it issues forth from you. Sometimes poor people come to us with petitions which they wish to send to some company or great personage. They bring the petition and ask us to have it presented for them. It is very badly spelt, very strangely written, and we can but just make out what they mean; but still there is enough to let us know what they want. First of all we make out a fair copy for them, and then, having stated their case, we put our own name at the bottom, and if we have any interest, of course they get what they desire through the power of the name signed at the foot of the petition. This is just what the Lord Jesus Christ does with our poor prayers. He makes a fair copy of them, stamps them with the seal of his own atoning blood, puts his own name at the foot, and thus they go up to God’s throne. It is your prayer, but it is his prayer too, and it is the fact of its being his prayer that makes it prevail. Now, this is a sledgehammer argument: if the ravens prevail when they cry all alone, if their poor chattering brings them what they want of themselves, how much more shall the plaintive petitions of the poor trembling sinner prevail who can say, ‘For Jesus’ sake,’ and who can clench all his own arguments with the blessed plea, ‘The Lord Jesus Christ deserves it; O Lord, give it to me for his sake.’

For meditation: To say ‘For Jesus’ sake’ or ‘In Jesus’ name’ at the end of prayer is not supposed to be regarded as the done thing or as a magic formula. It is a humble confession that we do not deserve an audience with God, but a confident profession of faith in the only one who does (John 14:13–14;15:16; 16:23–24).

Sermon no. 672
14 January (1866)

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The Miracle of Multiplying Resources

Today's reading: John 6:1-14

The crowd had been following Jesus, so he went up on the mountain with his disciples. He knew what he was going to do. He was going to show them that he was the source, the giver and the essence of nourishment and blessing-both spiritual and physical. Theologian and author Henri J. M. Nouwen (1932-1996) points out that this is a story about gratitude.

This radical shift of vision, from looking at the loaves and fishes as scarce products from God which ask to be gratefully shared, is the movement from wreaking death to bringing forth life, the movement from fear to love. When the story ends, with the glorious statement that the disciples "[filled twelve baskets with the pieces of the five barley loaves left over by those who had eaten]," there is no doubt left that God's house is a house of abundance, not scarcity.

This event, like all of the miracle stories in the Gospels, is first of all about who Jesus is. Here he is the new Moses, the Messiah, again supplying manna in the wilderness. John makes this connection explicit as he goes on to recount Jesus' bread of life discourse. But in a non-Messianic-and, therefore, more indirect-sense, the story of the feeding of the five thousand also has something to teach about multiplying resources.

Holistic stewardship writer Guy L. Morrill (1873-1966) thinks that the principle of multiplying resources was not confined to the miracles Jesus performed with bread and fish, but is also active in the life of a steward. He says, "Money is a miracle because it increases when you give it away. There is a divine law in connection with our giving. Christ with a few loaves and fishes feeds thousands. When the woman of Zarephath responded to the request of Elijah, her scanty store became a bountiful sufficiency ... Perhaps you have never thought of the miracle of money before."

Expository preacher Stephen F. Olford (1918-2004) also calls the principle of multiplying resources a "miracle."

The miracle of giving is that it produces a ministry of giving. When God can trust his people with money, he sees to it that they always have plenty for themselves and more for others. So the apostle quotes Psalm 112:9 to support the divine principle: "[they have freely scattered their gifts ... in honor]." There is honor and reward where generosity has been exercised. God is no man's debtor. And we are fulfilled in the enrichment of usefulness in giving because he meets our requirements, multiplies our resources, and motivates our responsibility ... God alone is responsible for the measure in which these resources are multiplied, for the promise is clear and sure: he multiplies the seed that is sown.

Think About It

  • When you approach God, do you perceive him as a God of abundance or scarcity?
  • How does your answer affect your prayers?
  • When have you seen God perform miracles in your life?

Pray About It

God, thank you for your abundance and generosity to me. I pray that I will see you as you are: a God who delights in giving gifts to his children.

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