Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Daily Devotional Tuesday 3rd January

“Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” Psalm 90:12 NIV
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Morning and Evening by Charles Spurgeon

Morning

"Continue in prayer."
Colossians 4:2

It is interesting to remark how large a portion of Sacred Writ is occupied with the subject of prayer, either in furnishing examples, enforcing precepts, or pronouncing promises. We scarcely open the Bible before we read, "Then began men to call upon the name of the Lord;" and just as we are about to close the volume, the "Amen" of an earnest supplication meets our ear. Instances are plentiful. Here we find a wrestling Jacob--there a Daniel who prayed three times a day--and a David who with all his heart called upon his God. On the mountain we see Elias; in the dungeon Paul and Silas. We have multitudes of commands, and myriads of promises. What does this teach us, but the sacred importance and necessity of prayer? We may be certain that whatever God has made prominent in his Word, he intended to be conspicuous in our lives. If he has said much about prayer, it is because he knows we have much need of it. So deep are our necessities, that until we are in heaven we must not cease to pray. Dost thou want nothing? Then, I fear thou dost not know thy poverty. Hast thou no mercy to ask of God? Then, may the Lord's mercy show thee thy misery! A prayerless soul is a Christless soul. Prayer is the lisping of the believing infant, the shout of the fighting believer, the requiem of the dying saint falling asleep in Jesus. It is the breath, the watchword, the comfort, the strength, the honour of a Christian. If thou be a child of God, thou wilt seek thy Father's face, and live in thy Father's love. Pray that this year thou mayst be holy, humble, zealous, and patient; have closer communion with Christ, and enter oftener into the banqueting-house of his love. Pray that thou mayst be an example and a blessing unto others, and that thou mayst live more to the glory of thy Master. The motto for this year must be, "Continue in prayer."

Evening

"Let the people renew their strength."
Isaiah 41:1

All things on earth need to be renewed. No created thing continueth by itself. "Thou renewest the face of the year," was the Psalmist's utterance. Even the trees, which wear not themselves with care, nor shorten their lives with labour, must drink of the rain of heaven and suck from the hidden treasures of the soil. The cedars of Lebanon, which God has planted, only live because day by day they are full of sap fresh drawn from the earth. Neither can man's life be sustained without renewal from God. As it is necessary to repair the waste of the body by the frequent meal, so we must repair the waste of the soul by feeding upon the Book of God, or by listening to the preached Word, or by the soul-fattening table of the ordinances. How depressed are our graces when means are neglected! What poor starvelings some saints are who live without the diligent use of the Word of God and secret prayer! If our piety can live without God it is not of divine creating; it is but a dream; for if God had begotten it, it would wait upon him as the flowers wait upon the dew. Without constant restoration we are not ready for the perpetual assaults of hell, or the stern afflictions of heaven, or even for the strifes within. When the whirlwind shall be loosed, woe to the tree that hath not sucked up fresh sap, and grasped the rock with many intertwisted roots. When tempests arise, woe to the mariners that have not strengthened their mast, nor cast their anchor, nor sought the haven. If we suffer the good to grow weaker, the evil will surely gather strength and struggle desperately for the mastery over us; and so, perhaps, a painful desolation, and a lamentable disgrace may follow. Let us draw near to the footstool of divine mercy in humble entreaty, and we shall realize the fulfilment of the promise, "They that wait on the Lord shall renew their strength."

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Today's reading: Genesis 4-6, Matthew 2 (NIV)

View today's reading on Bible Gateway
Cain and Abel

1 Adam made love to his wife Eve, and she became pregnant and gave birth to Cain. She said, “With the help of the LORD I have brought forth a man.” 2 Later she gave birth to his brother Abel.

Now Abel kept flocks, and Cain worked the soil. 3 In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the LORD. 4 And Abel also brought an offering—fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The LORD looked with favor on Abel and his offering, 5 but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast.

6 Then the LORD said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? 7 If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.”

8 Now Cain said to his brother Abel, “Let’s go out to the field.” While they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him.

9 Then the LORD said to Cain, “Where is your brother Abel?”

“I don’t know,” he replied. “Am I my brother’s keeper?”

10 The LORD said, “What have you done? Listen! Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground. 11 Now you are under a curse and driven from the ground, which opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. 12 When you work the ground, it will no longer yield its crops for you. You will be a restless wanderer on the earth.”

13 Cain said to the LORD, “My punishment is more than I can bear. 14 Today you are driving me from the land, and I will be hidden from your presence; I will be a restless wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will kill me.”

15 But the LORD said to him, “Not so; anyone who kills Cain will suffer vengeance seven times over.” Then the LORD put a mark on Cain so that no one who found him would kill him. 16So Cain went out from the LORD’s presence and lived in the land of Nod, east of Eden.

17 Cain made love to his wife, and she became pregnant and gave birth to Enoch. Cain was then building a city, and he named it after his son Enoch. 18 To Enoch was born Irad, and Irad was the father of Mehujael, and Mehujael was the father of Methushael, and Methushael was the father of Lamech.

19 Lamech married two women, one named Adah and the other Zillah. 20 Adah gave birth to Jabal; he was the father of those who live in tents and raise livestock. 21 His brother’s name was Jubal; he was the father of all who play stringed instruments and pipes. 22 Zillah also had a son, Tubal-Cain, who forged all kinds of tools out of bronze and iron. Tubal-Cain’s sister was Naamah.

23 Lamech said to his wives,

“Adah and Zillah, listen to me;
wives of Lamech, hear my words.
I have killed a man for wounding me,
a young man for injuring me.
24 If Cain is avenged seven times,
then Lamech seventy-seven times.”

25 Adam made love to his wife again, and she gave birth to a son and named him Seth, saying, “God has granted me another child in place of Abel, since Cain killed him.” 26 Seth also had a son, and he named him Enosh.

At that time people began to call on the name of the LORD.

Genesis 5

From Adam to Noah

1 This is the written account of Adam’s family line.

When God created mankind, he made them in the likeness of God. 2 He created them male and female and blessed them. And he named them “Mankind” when they were created.

3 When Adam had lived 130 years, he had a son in his own likeness, in his own image; and he named him Seth. 4 After Seth was born, Adam lived 800 years and had other sons and daughters. 5 Altogether, Adam lived a total of 930 years, and then he died.

6 When Seth had lived 105 years, he became the father of Enosh. 7 After he became the father of Enosh, Seth lived 807 years and had other sons and daughters. 8 Altogether, Seth lived a total of 912 years, and then he died.

9 When Enosh had lived 90 years, he became the father of Kenan. 10 After he became the father of Kenan, Enosh lived 815 years and had other sons and daughters. 11 Altogether, Enosh lived a total of 905 years, and then he died.

12 When Kenan had lived 70 years, he became the father of Mahalalel. 13 After he became the father of Mahalalel, Kenan lived 840 years and had other sons and daughters. 14Altogether, Kenan lived a total of 910 years, and then he died.

15 When Mahalalel had lived 65 years, he became the father of Jared. 16 After he became the father of Jared, Mahalalel lived 830 years and had other sons and daughters. 17Altogether, Mahalalel lived a total of 895 years, and then he died.

18 When Jared had lived 162 years, he became the father of Enoch. 19 After he became the father of Enoch, Jared lived 800 years and had other sons and daughters. 20 Altogether, Jared lived a total of 962 years, and then he died.

21 When Enoch had lived 65 years, he became the father of Methuselah. 22 After he became the father of Methuselah, Enoch walked faithfully with God 300 years and had other sons and daughters. 23 Altogether, Enoch lived a total of 365 years.24 Enoch walked faithfully with God; then he was no more, because God took him away.

25 When Methuselah had lived 187 years, he became the father of Lamech. 26 After he became the father of Lamech, Methuselah lived 782 years and had other sons and daughters.27 Altogether, Methuselah lived a total of 969 years, and then he died.

28 When Lamech had lived 182 years, he had a son. 29 He named him Noah and said, “He will comfort us in the labor and painful toil of our hands caused by the ground the LORD has cursed.” 30 After Noah was born, Lamech lived 595 years and had other sons and daughters. 31 Altogether, Lamech lived a total of 777 years, and then he died.

32 After Noah was 500 years old, he became the father of Shem, Ham and Japheth.

Genesis 6

Wickedness in the World

1 When human beings began to increase in number on the earth and daughters were born to them, 2 the sons of God saw that the daughters of humans were beautiful, and they married any of them they chose. 3 Then the LORD said, “My Spirit will not contend with humans forever, for they are mortal; their days will be a hundred and twenty years.”

4 The Nephilim were on the earth in those days—and also afterward—when the sons of God went to the daughters of humans and had children by them. They were the heroes of old, men of renown.

5 The LORD saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time. 6 The LORD regretted that he had made human beings on the earth, and his heart was deeply troubled. 7 So the LORD said, “I will wipe from the face of the earth the human race I have created—and with them the animals, the birds and the creatures that move along the ground—for I regret that I have made them.” 8But Noah found favor in the eyes of the LORD.

Noah and the Flood

9 This is the account of Noah and his family.

Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked faithfully with God. 10 Noah had three sons: Shem, Ham and Japheth.

11 Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight and was full of violence. 12 God saw how corrupt the earth had become, for all the people on earth had corrupted their ways. 13 So God said to Noah, “I am going to put an end to all people, for the earth is filled with violence because of them. I am surely going to destroy both them and the earth. 14 So make yourself an ark of cypress wood; make rooms in it and coat it with pitch inside and out. 15 This is how you are to build it: The ark is to be three hundred cubits long, fifty cubits wide and thirty cubits high. 16Make a roof for it, leaving below the roof an opening one cubit high all around. Put a door in the side of the ark and make lower, middle and upper decks. 17 I am going to bring floodwaters on the earth to destroy all life under the heavens, every creature that has the breath of life in it. Everything on earth will perish. 18 But I will establish my covenant with you, and you will enter the ark—you and your sons and your wife and your sons’ wives with you. 19 You are to bring into the ark two of all living creatures, male and female, to keep them alive with you. 20 Two of every kind of bird, of every kind of animal and of every kind of creature that moves along the ground will come to you to be kept alive. 21 You are to take every kind of food that is to be eaten and store it away as food for you and for them.”

22 Noah did everything just as God commanded him.


Matthew 2

The Magi Visit the Messiah

1 After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem 2and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”

3 When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. 4 When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born. 5 “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written:

6 “‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for out of you will come a ruler
who will shepherd my people Israel.’”

7 Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. 8 He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.”

9 After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. 11 On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. 12 And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.

The Escape to Egypt

13 When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up,” he said, “take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.”

14 So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, 15 where he stayed until the death of Herod. And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: “Out of Egypt I called my son.”

16 When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi. 17Then what was said through the prophet Jeremiah was fulfilled:

18 “A voice is heard in Ramah,
weeping and great mourning,
Rachel weeping for her children
and refusing to be comforted,
because they are no more.”

The Return to Nazareth

19 After Herod died, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt 20 and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who were trying to take the child’s life are dead.”

21 So he got up, took the child and his mother and went to the land of Israel. 22 But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning in Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. Having been warned in a dream, he withdrew to the district of Galilee, 23 and he went and lived in a town called Nazareth. So was fulfilled what was said through the prophets, that he would be called a Nazarene.

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Delilah

The Woman Who Betrayed Her Husband for Silver

Scripture ReferencesJudges 16:4-21 (Read Proverbs 5)

Name Meaning —Delilah is a sweet-sounding name which any vain woman would covet, for it means “delicate” or “dainty one.” Because of the foul deed of which Delilah was guilty, no other female in Scripture appears with such a tarnished name. In fact, it is rare indeed to find a woman bearing this name.

Family Connections—The Bible gives us no knowledge of her parentage and background save that she came from the valley of Sorek which extended from near Jerusalem to the Mediterranean, and which entrance was beautiful with rare flowers perfuming the air with sweet odors.

The record of Delilah, the heartless wrecker of a mighty man, is given in eighteen verses; and the description of Samson’s betrayal, fall, bondage and death is one of the most graphic in the Bible. We cannot, of course, write of Delilah without mentioning Samson. What a contrast they present, and how symbolic they are of characters in the world today! Samson was physically strong but morally weak. Although able to rend a lion, he could not fight his lusts. He could break his bonds, but not his habits. He could conquer Philistines but not his passions. Delilah was a woman who used her personal charm to lure a man to his spiritual and physical destruction, and she stands out as one of the lowest, meanest women of the Bible—the female Judas of the Old Testament.

This Philistine courtesan was a woman of unholy persistence and devilish deceit, who had personal charm, mental ability, self-command, and nerve, but who used all her qualities for one purpose &--;money. She and womanly honor and love had never met, for behind her beautiful face was a heart as dark as hell, and full of viperous treachery. “Her supreme wickedness lay not in betraying Samson to his enemies but in causing him to break faith with his ideals.” Shakespeare might well have had Delilah in mind when he wrote—

O Nature! What hadst thou to do in Hell,

When thou didst bower the spirit of a fiend

In mortal Paradise of such sweet flesh.

Deluding Samson into believing she really loved him, Delilah sold him to blindness, bondage and death. The ease with which she betrayed her husband revealed that she belonged to the enemies of God’s people, the people of whom Samson was the recognized leader at that time. The Philistines did not like Samson around because he was the champion of Israel and as such interfered with their practices. Therefore he must be got rid of, and in Delilah, the Philistine prostitute, the Philistines had one who was willing to be bribed to act as their agent. She had one purpose and that was to secure money, and had no qualms of conscience to trifle with love for the sake of wealth. Thus, as Kuyper expresses it, “All the while she kept a police force quartered in her rooms and awaited the moment in which she could surrender her lover into his enemies' hands.”

Samson became a traitor to himself because he could not resist a woman’s charm. First one woman and then another took advantage of this deep-seated weakness and basic sin of his, and Delilah was the most effective in destroying him. She remains as a warning to all men to beware of the charm and wiles of a wicked, scheming woman. As one unknown writer puts it—

The women of the Bible pass before the imagaination in the vision of antiquity, like pure and radiant stars, their frailties scarcely more than the wing of a transparent cloud upon these beautiful spheres. Delilah rises suddenly from darkness, as a glorious meteor, describes an arc of romantic and fatal light, and goes down in a horizon of awful gloom.

The lords of the Philistines offered an enormous sum as a bribe, namely, 1,100 pieces of silver. Jesus was sold by Judas for only 30 pieces of silver. Such a fortune was no small temptation to Delilah, and sharing her tempters' passion for revenge, she set about, in a subtle way, to earn the price of blood. She tried four times in her cunning, evil way to get Samson to reveal the secret of his supernatural power. The first three times Samson humorously lied in answering Delilah’s question by enumerating the green withs or twigs, the new ropes, and the weaving of the hair. Thrice deceived, Delilah the enchantress employed her final weapon—tears . Sobbing, she said, “How canst thou say I love thee, when thine heart is not with me? Thou hast mocked me these three times, and hast not told me wherein thy great strength lieth.”

Samson was conquered. A weeping woman melted his heart, and he confessed the truth of his Nazarite vow, and how, if shorn of his long hair, his strength would depart and he would become like any other normal man. Recognizing that the truth had been told, Delilah lulled Samson to sleep. As he slept, the waiting Philistines destroyed the sign of the vow, and when Samson awoke, although he tried to exert his power as before, he found it had deserted him. The rest of the tragic story belongs to Samson. His foes gouged out his eyes, bound him in fetters and in Gaza, where his God-given strength was manifested, he was made to grind corn. The spiritual Hercules had been reduced to the very depth of degradation. Samson knew that his bitter servitude was the result of his sin and could confess—

Myself my sepulchre, a moving grave.

Prison within prison,

Inseparably dark!

Nothing of all these evils hath befall'n me

But justly; I myself have brought them,

Sole author I, sole cause. If aught seems vile,

As vile hath been my folly.

But out of the depths Samson cried unto the Lord, and, as we read, his hair began to grow. Forsaken by all, there was One near at hand, and the God of grace restored unto His sinning and now repentant servant, the power he had lost. Samson’s extremity became God’s opportunity. While Samson was in prison, in the palace, three thousand Philistines gathered to honor their god Dagon for victory over their feared enemy. As hearts beat high and warm, with banquet wine and dance, the cry goes up to have blind Samson brought in to be made the butt of their jests and ridicule. A lad brings the giant in and places him between the pillars of the heathen temple where all eyes could see him. The mockery of the drunken crowd begins. They ask for a riddle and Samson acted one they did not expect. With his arms around the pillars, and deeply penitent for his sins, he prayed, “O Lord, remember me and give me strength only this once.”

Then shaking himself as of old, he threw his arms around the pillars, the massive temple tottered and the 3,000 Philistines, including the treacherous Delilah perished. It was a victory that cost Samson his own life, and we find that he slew more at his death than he had in the heyday of his power.

There is no evidence for John Milton’s idea that Delilah was deeply repentant for her crime against Samson, and visited him in prison imploring his forgiveness, or of his stern reply—

Out! out! hyena, these are thy wonted arts,

And arts of every woman false like thee;

To break all faith, all vows, deceive, betray.

Then as repentant, to submit, beseech

And reconcilement move with feigned remorse.

In his drama, Samson Agonistes , Milton goes on to describe Delilah’s further efforts to secure forgiveness and at last throws herself upon her reserved resource and pleads her love of country and the grateful esteem in which she will be held by her posterity. But a woman like Delilah did not know how to repent; and as Judas went out and hanged himself, so it would seem as if Delilah, gloating over the price received for Samson’s betrayal, died a terrible death when buried beneath the frightful ruins of the temple her husband’s restored, divine strength had caused.

What are the lessons to be gathered from Samson and Delilah, whose record Hollywood could not resist turning into a sexy movie with box-office appeal? The question may be asked, How can we learn any lesson from such an unpleasant story? Why is this sordid record to the last degree in the Bible? The reading of the man under a vow to God and of great physical strength and mental agility choosing a woman of no morals may be deemed unfit for inclusion in Holy Writ. Yet all Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and the writer of the Book of Judges was guided by the Spirit to set forth the details of the amorous life of Samson. Our answer is that the Bible would not be true to life and to its mission in the world if it did not hold up the mirror and reveal to us, in restrained language, workings of evil, and the boundless love and grace of God toward those whose lives are so bankrupt of virtues pleasing to Him. As the biography of humanity, the Bible is most up-to-date for us, as H. V. Morton reminds us—

The police courts are always telling the old story of Samson and Delilah. It comes up in a number of ingenious disguises, a theme capable of infinite variation, but the main motif throughout is that of a man who plunges deeper and deeper into his own lack of self-control until the moment arrives when, trapped and shorn of his strength he is blinded and branded.

This same writer goes on to say that Delilah vanished, as such women do, when her task was completed and she received a reward. Morton then relates a conversation he had with a criminal lawyer about the prosecution in a recent case when certain charges were brought against a man who ruined him. “It is simple,” said the lawyer. “A girl pretended to be in love with him and gave him away.”

“You mean his enemies bribed her?”

“Of course,” he said.

This incident, like the story of Delilah, needs no moralizing. The record is sufficient in itself. Delilah was not concerned about the weakness of Samson, but his strength. Once a man betrays his strength, he has no reserve, and courts disaster. A further lesson to be learned from the story before us is that true feminine charm and the appeal of love are gifts received from the Creator, and that when these fairest and most effective of gifts are misused or deliberately trifled with, divine retribution overtakes those who prostitute such gifts.

Another lesson to be gleaned from the ancient record before us is that of the folly of being unequally yoked. Samson married outside his own country, people and religion. Had Samson, hero of Israel, married an Israelitish maiden, the tragedy overtaking him would never have happened. But he took to wife a devotee of a heathen god which, for a judge of Israel, was against the divine decree, and he paid the fatal price of his action.

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Azariah [Ăzarī'ah]—jehovah is keeper or hath helped. The fact that there are almost thirty men bearing the name of Azariah is proof that it was a common name in Hebrew, especially in the family of Eleazar, whose name has a similar meaning, and is almost identical with Ezra, Zerahiah and Seraiah. See also Azariahu and Zacharias.

  1. The son of Zadok and a descendant of David’s high priest ( 1 Kings 4:2).
  2. The son of Nathan, ruler of Solomon’s officers (1 Kings 4:5).
  3. The son of Amaziah, who was made king of Judah after his father (2 Kings 14:21; 15:1-27; 1 Chron. 3:12).
  4. A man of Judah, of the family of Zerah and of the house of Ethan (1 Chron. 2:8).
  5. The son of Jehu and grandson of Obed, a Judahite ( 1 Chron. 2:38, 39).
  6. A son of Ahimaz and grandson of Zadok (1 Chron. 6:9).
  7. A son of Johanan and grandson of No. 6 who served in Solomon’s time ( 1 Chron. 6:10, 11).
  8. A son of Hilkiah, and father of Seraiah the high priest in Josiah’s reign (1 Chron. 6:13, 14; 9:11; Ezra 7:1).
  9. A Levite of the family of Kohath and an ancestor of Samuel the prophet (1 Chron. 6:36).
  10. A prophet, son of Obed, he encouraged Asa to persevere in his national religious revival ( 2 Chron. 15:1).
  11. A son of king Jehoshaphat (2 Chron. 21:2).
  12. Another son of the above (2 Chron. 21:2).
  13. Son of Jehoram (2 Chron. 22:6).
  14. The son of Jehoram and a captain who assisted in the overthrow of Athaliah and the elevation of Joash to the throne of Judah (2 Chron. 23:1).
  15. The son of Obed who also assisted in the above task (2 Chron. 23:1).
  16. The high priest who hindered Uzziah from burning incense on the altar ( 2 Chron. 26:17, 20).
  17. The son of Johanan and a chief of the tribe of Ephraim (2 Chron. 28:12).
  18. The father of Joel and a Kohathite (2 Chron. 29:12). He assisted in the purification of the Temple in Hezekiah’s time.
  19. The son of Jehalelel, a Merarite who also assisted in Hezekiah’s revival (2 Chron. 29:12).
  20. The chief priest of the house of Zadok in King Hezekiah’s time (2 Chron. 31:10, 13).
  21. The son of Meraioth , and an ancestor of Ezra (Ezra 7:3).
  22. The son of Maaseiah, of the family of Ananiah, who repaired a portion of the wall of Jerusalem (Neh. 3:23,24).
  23. An Israelite who returned with Zerubbabel ( Neh. 7:7). Name also given as Seraiah.
  24. One of the priests who explained the Law to the people as Ezra read it. Perhaps the same person as No. 22 (Neh. 8:7).
  25. Another priest who sealed the covenant (Neh. 10:2).
  26. A prince of Judah who joined in the procession with Nehemiah ( Neh. 12:33).
  27. A son of Hoshaiah and an opponent of Jeremiah whom he charged with false prophecies (Jer. 43:2).
  28. The Hebrew and original name of Abed-nego, who with Daniel and others was carried away captive to Babylon (Dan. 1:6, 7, 11, 19; 2:17).
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January 2, 2012

Be Still and Know

Sharon Jaynes

Today's Truth

In him we live and move and have our being, (Acts 17:28 NIV).

Friend to Friend

I pressed the send button on my latest manuscript, What God Really Thinks about Women. For twelve months I had spent night and day with Jesus and the women he encountered while he walked the earth. I was going to miss them. Miss walking in their sandals. Miss breathing their air. Miss crying their tears. Miss carrying their water jugs. And while I wasn't going to be in their lives and in their business every day, their imagined faces were etched in my mind and they had become part of me for eternity. But it was time to move on.

I grabbed a cup of coffee, snuggled up in my favorite overstuffed den chair, and opened my Bible in my lap. "OK, God," I began, "that project is finished and tied securely with a bow. So what do you want me to do now?"

I wondered if I should get into a Bible study group, take a class at the local seminary, or finally write those magazine articles I had been putting off. Should I start a small group, volunteer at a charity, or start a new book project? I asked the question and waited.

God surprised me. Acts 17:28 came to my mind. I believed He put it there. In him we live and move and have our being. Learn what that means, He seemed to say. Let's just spend time together. No agenda. No goal. No deadlines. I want to rekindle the romance. Will you let me?

His answer startled me. I hadn't even realized the fire had died down. Wasn't I working for Him? Wasn't I doing God's will? Wasn't I busy about my Father's business? And then I began to see what He meant. He began turning the lens of my mind's camera and the fuzzy image grew clear. I wondered how I had missed it before. In the middle of all my busyness for God, I had neglected my relationship with God.

I was made for goals, or so I thought. Sitting still wasn't in my nature, and perhaps that was what God was trying to tell me. My "nature" or natural bent of work was standing in the way of worship. My natural bent of activity for God was getting in the way of my communion with God. My daily routine of sanctioned quiet times was getting in the way of divine romance in which He wanted me to engage.

Like the men caught on the stormy Sea of Galilee, I felt I had been reeling in the waves for years - never in danger of truly sinking - just reeling from one rolling wave of work and deadlines to the next. But on this particular morning, I began to see the cast of characters in this Galilean scene in a different light. I was definitely in the scene, but I wasn't in the boat at all. I was the storm.

I love how Eugene Peterson describes Jesus' words to the wind and the waves as his friend stirred him from his sleep to calm the squall: "'Quiet! Settle down!'" The wind ran out of breath; the sea became smooth as glass."(Mark 4:39 The Message).

What does God really want from me? I've pondered that question since the day I first came to Christ. It was one of the two questions Saul asked when he met Jesus on the road to Damascus: "Who are you? What shall I do?" (Acts 22:8, 10).

I think I've made my relationship with Jesus far too difficult. I have spent so much time striving to get closer to the heart of God. And all the while God has been whispering to me, "Cease striving and know that I am God" (Psalm 46:10 NASB). "It's not that hard. Settle down. Be quiet."

And that is what Jesus was telling me that frosty January morning. But I realized I didn't really know how to be quiet andsettle down. I had never mastered the idea of "be still and know." I knew that God was God. It was the "be still" part that stumped me every time. Now don't get me wrong. I can be still for a few minutes, maybe even an hour if need be. But much longer than that and I'm undone. Restless spirit syndrome begins to shake my soul, and the urge to get up and get moving wrestles me from worship.

So on this January morning, as I share this with you, I'm asking...will you be still and know that He is God with me? For a moment?

God had a lot to show me in the year that followed that frosty morning. I'll be sharing what I learned from time to time as we go through 2012 together.

So Happy New Year! I look forward to linking arms and hearts in 2012.

Let's Pray

Dear Lord, Help me to learn what it means to live and move and have my being in You. Thank You for a New Year. I am excited to see what You have in store.

In Jesus' Name,

Amen.

Now It's Your Turn

How good are you at "be still and know that I am God?"

Have you ever felt God say those words to you?

Easy? Hard? What do you think stands in the way?

More from the Girlfriends

Are you ready to see yourself as God sees you this year? You are a chosen, dearly loved, child of God! Transformed! Totally new! To learn more about who you are, what you have, and where you are in Christ, see Sharon's book, Becoming Spiritually Beautiful and put on your holy glow!

Seeking God?

Click here to find out more about

how to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

Girlfriends in God

P.O. Box 725

Matthews, NC 28106

info@girlfriendsingod.com
www.girlfriendsingod.com

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Lysa TerKeurst

January 2, 2012

The Most Searched for Answer
Lysa TerKeurst

"Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved." Acts 4:12 (NIV)

Growing up I had a plan for how I could make my life good.

Get a good education. A good job. A good husband. A few good kids. A good house. A good flowerbed out front. And a good mini-van parked in the driveway.

Then life would be... good.

Eventually, I had all that good stuff. I was thankful for it all. I loved my family to pieces. The mini-van wasn't all I thought it would be, but I felt like an official mom driving it. So even that wound up being good.

But something inside me still felt hollow. A little off. A little lacking.

So, I reasoned I needed something else to do. Something where I could use my gifts and talents. And while these things were fun and satisfying on one level, they too fell short when it came to that deep place ringing with the echoes of empty.

Empty is a heavy load to bear. The mystery of wanting to be filled but not knowing how or what could fill the deep soul is a gnawing ache. A search that can seem both futile and shattering at times.

When you try and try, always feeling like the answer is just around the corner, and then it isn't, it can split your heart wide open and leak dry all your reserves.

It can make you feel unsatisfied and frustrated with everything. Even those you love. Maybe especially those you love.

So you fake a smile and keep putting one foot in front of the other. But eventually you stop peeking around the next corner hoping the answer is there. History tells you it isn't. And wrapped in that perception is the noose that strangles out all hope.

Sadly, this is where many women live.

I know this place because I lived there. I struggled there.

And I guess I'm just wondering if you or someone you love might be there as we begin another year. A New Year. It's tough when everything around you screams "Happy New Year!" and you feel anything but.

It quite honestly stinks.

So, I'm not going to pretend you'll suddenly feel super happy after reading this.

But what I can promise is a string of words that explains a lot. An answer that is sure and solid and true and full of the breathless wonder of a hope rediscovered.

"Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved," (Acts 4:13).

Salvation can't be found in a person.

Even a good husband - good children - a good friend makes a very poor God.

Salvation can't be found in anyone or anything else.

No education or job or house can save you.

There is no other.

Only Jesus.

And I'm not just talking about saying we're a Christian. Just following the rules and really following Jesus are two totally different things.

Going through the motions of religion won't ever satisfy. It's only when we bend down low, open our heart in complete surrender, and say, "Jesus, it's You. Only You. There is no other. There is no other possession or person or position that can ever fill the deep soul place shaped only for You."

This is my New Year's prayer this year. Though I've been saved for a long time, I want to recapture the essence of this "no other" reality.

And really live like this is true.

Because it is. True.

Dear Lord, forgive me for trying to fill the empty places of my soul with people, possessions and positions. I want to know what it means to have You, Lord, as the satisfier of the deep places meant only for You. Show me. Teach me. Lead me. And I will follow. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
If you're looking for a book to help you really get to know God in a deep and personal way, Lysa's Becoming More Than a Good Bible Study Girl would make the perfect resource for your personal or group Bible Study this year!

To learn more about the book or her DVD teaching series and accompanying Bible Study workbook, click here.

If you enjoy Lysa's devotions, be sure to sign up for notes of encouragement she sends out from her blog by clicking here. They are free and great for passing along to friends.

Come see the downloadable Freebies on Lysa's website! Encouraging articles for lots of situations to print and share with a friend!

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 wish we could, but 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:
Does something inside you feel hollow, off or lacking? Pray today that God will fill your empty places. Seek Him and acknowledge that only He can save you.

Reflections:
Salvation can't be found in anyone or anything else. There is no other. Only Jesus.

Power Verses:
Psalm 32:8, "I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you and watch over you." (NIV)

© 2012 by Lysa TerKeurst. All rights reserved.

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

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Personal Development: Character

READ 2 PETER 1:2-11

Let's not leave Peter quite yet. In fact, let's go back now to the passage we read last week and read it again. After our study of Peter's character, this passage should take on added significance. Here Peter tells his readers to constantly add the building blocks of character into his or her life. This process, Peter believed, provides the antidote to "the corruption in the world" (v. 4).

Chuck Swindoll wrote that God is "forever on a quest . . . The pattern he follows is set forth in Romans 8:29, where He promises to conform us to His Son's image. Another promise is stated in Philippians 1:6, where we're told He began His work in us, and He isn't about to stop . . . He is hammering, filing, chiseling, and shaping us! Peter's second letter goes so far as to list some of the things included in this quest (2 Peter 1:5-7). In a word . . . character.

"Character qualities in his children-that's God's relentless quest. His strobe light will continue to penetrate our darkness. He won't quit His quest until He completes His checklist. And when will that be? When we rest in peace . . . and not one day sooner. Only then will His mission be accomplished in us. We have him to thank for not giving up as we go through the process of developing character. Thanks, Lord" (pp. 14-15).*

Peter tells us that building character is the process by which we participate in the divine nature and escape corruption (v. 4) and that it keeps us from being ineffective and unproductive (v. 8). Swindoll assures us, based on God's Word, that God never stops assisting his children in the character building process.

*Taken from The Quest for Character by Charles R. Swindoll. Copyright © 1982 by Charles R. Swindoll Inc. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House.

This Week's Verse to Memorize MATTHEW 7:24-27

Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.

Character and Who God Is

How important is character to leadership? If a person has impressive skills but a defective character, should we promote or follow that person? Turn to Judges 9:1-15 for God's view of the character/competency question.

Character and Who I Am

How does a leader cultivate character? One thing is certain-it isn't developed overnight. Building character takes time and requires a teachable mindset. It involves the acquisition of wisdom.

Character and How It Works

Before leaving this crucial leadership topic, let's see what happens when character is lacking. Jacob's story is one that shows us how a person's character flaws can get him or her into trouble.

Character and What I Do

Our final study in character and leadership focuses on another passage that encourages us to develop strong spiritual characteristics. This message from the apostle Paul also carries with it a subtle message about the importance of mentoring and demonstrating a life of character to others. Read about it in Philippians 4:8-9.


jesusexperimentpaddedhandbookleadership150Handbook to Leadership: Leadership in the Image of God
by Kenneth Boa
Buy the Handbook!
The Handbook to Leadership includes: 52-Week Leadership Guide, Topical Leadership Guide, Leadership Character Studies, and Books of the Bible Leadership Guide.


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Good News for All Nations

Robert Rothwell

Writing for Tabletalk is a great honor. It is hard to put into words the privilege of having one's writing published alongside contributions from today's finest theologians and pastors. Those who worked on the magazine before us set a high standard, and by God's grace we hope that we can be faithful to their example.

This standard also makes writing for Tabletalk a great responsibility. We are called to be true to the legacy Dr. R.C. Sproul has set, a legacy of faithfulness to the biblical doctrines recovered during the Reformation. Our job is not to present teachings for the sake of increasing our readership; our task is to present truth, even if it is unpopular or unfashionable.

Of course, the demand that we be true to the Word of God is where we feel the heaviest weight. We lack the time and space to provide the most thorough examination of Scripture possible. No matter how many words we are allotted, we can always say more. The Bible is so rich that we must invariably choose to cover only a few aspects of the text. This means there is always something we cannot bring out in the exposition of a passage. It is always a challenge to decide what lesson from the text will most help our readers grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:18).

Sometimes I wonder if the gospel writers endured a similar struggle. After all, there is much from the life and teaching of Jesus that is not recorded in the New Testament (John 21:25). This information is not found in some document the Vatican is keeping under wraps, nor is it hidden in the paintings of Leonardo da Vinci. There is nothing unknown about our Savior that will one day reveal the Gospels as works of fiction. Despite their brevity, we can be confident that the Evangelists accurately summarize the life and mission of Jesus.

Still, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John were forced to choose what to write about the Christ, lest they work for a lifetime recording the Messiah's life only to die before completing their task. In some ways, it must have been hard for them to leave out certain events in Jesus' life, though they did have the Holy Spirit inspiring their efforts to produce what God most wants His church to know concerning His Son. And it is a testimony to the importance of our Savior and His work that the Spirit has given us four Gospels, each with its own particular insight into Jesus. One perspective alone would never do Him justice; a fourfold witness therefore helps us to understand His significance.

Matthew's inerrant account of our Lord's life and ministry is the subject of our study this year. Perhaps more clearly than the other three Gospels, the first evangelist (gospel writer) helps us see that in Jesus God keeps the promises He made to His old covenant people. It is a distinctly Jewish gospel, written to point Jews to their Messiah.

Yet, we must not miss Matthew's interest in Gentiles. From the very beginning, those who are not physical descendants of Abraham play important roles in the first gospel. The wise men (2:1-12 ) are obvious examples, but the mention of Rahab, Ruth, and Uriah in the Lord's genealogy (1:1-17) shows the evangelist's interest in Gentiles as well. The Holy Spirit, theoretically speaking, could have inspired Matthew to leave out these individuals. We can be saved regardless of whether or not we know who Jesus' ancestors were. But under divine guidance, the tax-collector turned apostle chose to list these persons, and there is a reason why God had him reveal this information.

To show us that Jesus fulfills the deepest and truest longings of the Gentiles seems to explain why the Father includes information about them in Matthew's gospel. Episodes in Christ's life, from the centurion who has more faith than many of Israel's sons (8:5-13 ) to the guards who call Jesus "the Son of God" (27:54), show us that our Lord's ministry is not limited to one nation alone. The parable of the tenants (21:33-46) presents the church, made up of faithful servants from both Israel and the Gentiles, as the community in which God keeps His promises to the Israelites of old. Matthew dispels any thought that the nations are an afterthought in the saving purposes of our Creator.

Again, humanly speaking, it would have been just as easy for the Spirit not to inspire Matthew to record these particular events and teachings. Yet, we Gentiles who trust Christ today should rejoice that this data was not left aside when this gospel was written. For in having Gentile concerns reflected in so Jewish a gospel, we are assured that we are God's true people in Christ and not second-class citizens in the kingdom. Matthew shows us that the Gospel is for all people, and for that we should be forever grateful.

Robert Rothwell is an associate editor ofTabletalk magazine. He is writing the daily studies on the gospel of Matthew in 2008.

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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An Angel Visits Joseph

Matthew 1:18-21

In mercy, Joseph did not call for the Law's harshest penalties on the wife he thought unfaithful (Deut. 22:13-21 ). Depending on the offense and its circumstances, while the church is always called to discipline, it is not always required to exact the harshest penalty. Applying God's Word rightly involves much prayer. Matthew Henry wrote: "Were there more of deliberation in our censures and judgments, there would be more of a mercy and moderation in them."

For further study:

Lamentations 3:58

The Bible in a year:

Genesis 17-19

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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Faith in perfection

“The Lord will perfect that which concerneth me: thy mercy, O Lord, endureth for ever: forsake not the works of thine own hands.” Psalm 138:8

Suggested Further Reading: Deuteronomy 31:1-8

There is yet another confession in the text—the Psalmist’s confession that all he has, he has from God. “Forsake not the works of thine own hands.” I will not, however, dwell upon it, but urge you who are believers to go home and cry aloud to God in prayer. Let this be a New Year’s day prayer. “Forsake not the work of thine hands. Father, forsake not thy little child, lest he die by the hand of the enemy. Shepherd, forsake not thy lamb, lest the wolves devour him. Great husbandman, forsake not thy little plant, lest the frost should nip it, and it should be destroyed. Forsake me not, O Lord now, and when I am old and grey headed, O Lord, forsake me not. Forsake me not in my joys, lest I curse God. Forsake me not in my sorrows, lest I murmur against him. Forsake me not in the day of my repentance, lest I lose the hope of pardon, and fall into despair; and forsake me not in the day of my strongest faith, lest my faith degenerate into presumption, and so I perish by my own hand.” Cry out to God, that he would not forsake you in your business, in your family; that he would not forsake you either upon your bed by night or in your business by day. And may God grant, when you and I shall come to the end of this year, we may have a good tale to tell concerning the faithfulness of God in having answered our prayers, and having fulfilled his promise.

For meditation : Do you open up every area of your life to the One who has promised never to forsake his people? Are there any aspects of your relationship with him which are not all that they should be (Malachi 1:6)?

Sermon no. 231
2 January (1859)

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A happy Christian

‘And the Lord shall guide thee continually, and satisfy thy soul in drought, and make fat thy bones: and thou shalt be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters fail not.’ Isaiah 58:11

Suggested Further Reading: Acts 16:6–15

Jehovah shall guide you continually. Notice the wordshall—‘The Lord shall guide thee.’ How certain this makes it! How sure it is that God will not forsake us! His precious ‘shalls’ and ‘wills’ are better than men’s oaths. ‘I will never leave thee nor forsake thee; I will never forsake thee.’ Then observe that adverb ‘continually’. We are not to be guided only sometimes, but we are to have a perpetual monitor; not occasionally to be left to our own understanding, and so to wander, but we are continually to hear the guiding voice of the Great Shepherd; and as we follow close at his heels we shall not err, but be led by a right way to a city to dwell in. You have been, perhaps, in a maze, and you know how difficult it is to find your way to the centre. But sometimes there is one perched aloft who sees the whole of the maze spread out before him like a map, and he calls out to you to turn either to the right or to the left, and if you attend to his directions you soon find the way. Even so the maze of life is only a maze to us, but God can see it all. He who rules over all, looks down upon it as men look down upon a map; and if we will but look to him, and if our communion be constantly kept up we shall never err, but we shall come to the goal of our hopes right speedily by following his voice.

For meditation: As in most mazes, we enter the Christian life through one door, the Lord Jesus Christ ( John 10:9) and head for one goal—heaven. But wrong paths leading to dead ends will be followed when we fail to obey our guide. We must then turn round, leave the wrong way and seek God for the right way i.e. repent. At times we may not know which path to take or may even find ourselves going round in circles, apparently getting nowhere. We then need to continue to walk by faith, always looking to God for guidance. He is the giver of repentance (2 Timothy 2:25) and faith ( Ephesians 2:8) at the start of and throughout the Christian life.

Sermon no. 736
2 January (Undated Sermon)

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Finding Sanctuary

2 Samuel 9:1-13

Claiming sanctuary in a church dates to Britain in AD 600. Though the practice was formally abandoned in the seventeenth century, people seeking asylum still flee to churches today, clinging to the idea that into God's house no violence may enter. Do you long for a place of sanctuary when you sense imminent judgment? Maybe you've told a lie and stand before the wronged party. Perhaps you're innocent, but face a relative's creditors. We can all relate to the desire to crawl underground and disappear. Prince Mephibosheth certainly trembled at what King David would do to him.

After all, Mephibosheth was the last survivor in the line of his grandfather King Saul. In ancient Eastern culture, that position usually meant death, especially because Saul had repeatedly attempted to murder David. But David had no intention of handing down a death sentence. Instead he offered Mephibosheth sanctuary in his own palace. Because of Mephibosheth's relationship to David's dear friend Jonathan, the king welcomed him as an honored guest at his own table.

We all long for sanctuary. Crippled by sin, we enter God's presence with death hanging over our heads. But when we accept Jesus Christ's offer of eternal friendship, we receive eternal sanctuary at the King's table. At this feast, we will be given white robes to wear, and we will bow down in praise and adoration before the Prince of Peace.

Does an invitation to the King's palace fill you with fear or excitement? You may think that everything about you-your background, your body's condition, your emotional state, your past sins-should keep you away from the King's table. But none of that matters to God. Regardless of how unworthy you feel, you can know that you have been made worthy because you are a child of God.

Today, as you ponder the surprise of finding sanctuary instead of judgment, consider how you will live like a guest who carries an invitation to the King's table. Awake each day in anticipation of Christ's royal summons and walk tall, nurturing a longing for the day when you will sit before the King at the wedding supper of the Lamb.

Reflection

  1. Think about sitting at the King's table. What does this mean to you?
  2. Read Matthew 22:1-14. What is the invitation? Is there anything that keeps you from fully accepting God's gift of grace? If so, what is it?
  3. Read Revelation 7:9-17. What is your reaction to this passage?

2 Samuel 9:7-8
"Don't be afraid," David said to him, "for I will surely show you kindness for the sake of your father Jonathan. I will restore to you all the land that belonged to your grandfather Saul, and you will always eat at my table." Mephibosheth bowed down and said, "What is your servant, that you should notice a dead dog like me?"

Related Readings

1 Samuel 20:12-17 ; 2 Samuel 4:4

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