Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Daily Devotional Wednesday 11th January

“But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.”” 1 Peter 1:15-16 NIV
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Morning and Evening by Charles Spurgeon

Morning

"There is laid up for me a crown of righteousness."
2 Timothy 4:8

Doubting one! thou hast often said, "I fear I shall never enter heaven." Fear not! all the people of God shall enter there. I love the quaint saying of a dying man, who exclaimed, "I have no fear of going home; I have sent all before me; God's finger is on the latch of my door, and I am ready for him to enter." "But," said one, "are you not afraid lest you should miss your inheritance?" "Nay," said he, "nay; there is one crown in heaven which the angel Gabriel could not wear, it will fit no head but mine. There is one throne in heaven which Paul the apostle could not fill; it was made for me, and I shall have it." O Christian, what a joyous thought! thy portion is secure; "there remaineth a rest." "But cannot I forfeit it?" No, it is entailed. If I be a child of God I shall not lose it. It is mine as securely as if I were there. Come with me, believer, and let us sit upon the top of Nebo, and view the goodly land, even Canaan. Seest thou that little river of death glistening in the sunlight, and across it dost thou see the pinnacles of the eternal city? Dost thou mark the pleasant country, and all its joyous inhabitants? Know, then, that if thou couldst fly across thou wouldst see written upon one of its many mansions, "This remaineth for such a one; preserved for him only. He shall be caught up to dwell forever with God." Poor doubting one, see the fair inheritance; it is thine. If thou believest in the Lord Jesus, if thou hast repented of sin, if thou hast been renewed in heart, thou art one of the Lord's people, and there is a place reserved for thee, a crown laid up for thee, a harp specially provided for thee. No one else shall have thy portion, it is reserved in heaven for thee, and thou shalt have it ere long, for there shall be no vacant thrones in glory when all the chosen are gathered in.

Evening

"In my flesh shall I see God."
Job 19:26

Mark the subject of Job's devout anticipation "I shall see God." He does not say, "I shall see the saints"--though doubtless that will be untold felicity--but, "I shall see God." It is not--"I shall see the pearly gates, I shall behold the walls of jasper, I shall gaze upon the crowns of gold," but "I shall see God." This is the sum and substance of heaven, this is the joyful hope of all believers. It is their delight to see him now in the ordinances by faith. They love to behold him in communion and in prayer; but there in heaven they shall have an open and unclouded vision, and thus seeing "him as he is," shall be made completely like him. Likeness to God--what can we wish for more? And a sight of God--what can we desire better? Some read the passage, "Yet, I shall see God in my flesh," and find here an allusion to Christ, as the "Word made flesh," and that glorious beholding of him which shall be the splendour of the latter days. Whether so or not it is certain that Christ shall be the object of our eternal vision; nor shall we ever want any joy beyond that of seeing him. Think not that this will be a narrow sphere for the mind to dwell in. It is but one source of delight, but that source is infinite. All his attributes shall be subjects for contemplation, and as he is infinite under each aspect, there is no fear of exhaustion. His works, his gifts, his love to us, and his glory in all his purposes, and in all his actions, these shall make a theme which will be ever new. The patriarch looked forward to this sight of God as a personal enjoyment. "Whom mine eye shall behold, and not another." Take realizing views of heaven's bliss; think what it will be to you. "Thine eyes shall see the King in his beauty." All earthly brightness fades and darkens as we gaze upon it, but here is a brightness which can never dim, a glory which can never fade--"I shall see God."

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Today's reading: Genesis 25-26, Matthew 8:1-17 (NIV)

View today's reading on Bible Gateway
The Death of Abraham

1 Abraham had taken another wife, whose name was Keturah. 2 She bore him Zimran, Jokshan, Medan, Midian, Ishbak and Shuah. 3 Jokshan was the father of Sheba and Dedan; the descendants of Dedan were the Ashurites, the Letushites and the Leummites. 4 The sons of Midian were Ephah, Epher, Hanok, Abida and Eldaah. All these were descendants of Keturah.

5 Abraham left everything he owned to Isaac. 6 But while he was still living, he gave gifts to the sons of his concubines and sent them away from his son Isaac to the land of the east.

7 Abraham lived a hundred and seventy-five years. 8 Then Abraham breathed his last and died at a good old age, an old man and full of years; and he was gathered to his people. 9 His sons Isaac and Ishmael buried him in the cave of Machpelah near Mamre, in the field of Ephron son of Zohar the Hittite, 10the field Abraham had bought from the Hittites. There Abraham was buried with his wife Sarah. 11 After Abraham’s death, God blessed his son Isaac, who then lived near Beer Lahai Roi.

Ishmael’s Sons

12 This is the account of the family line of Abraham’s son Ishmael, whom Sarah’s slave, Hagar the Egyptian, bore to Abraham.

13 These are the names of the sons of Ishmael, listed in the order of their birth: Nebaioth the firstborn of Ishmael, Kedar, Adbeel, Mibsam, 14 Mishma, Dumah, Massa, 15 Hadad, Tema, Jetur, Naphish and Kedemah. 16 These were the sons of Ishmael, and these are the names of the twelve tribal rulers according to their settlements and camps. 17 Ishmael lived a hundred and thirty-seven years. He breathed his last and died, and he was gathered to his people. 18 His descendants settled in the area from Havilah to Shur, near the eastern border of Egypt, as you go toward Ashur. And they lived in hostility toward all the tribes related to them.

Jacob and Esau

19 This is the account of the family line of Abraham’s son Isaac.

Abraham became the father of Isaac, 20 and Isaac was forty years old when he married Rebekah daughter of Bethuel the Aramean from Paddan Aram and sister of Laban the Aramean.

21 Isaac prayed to the LORD on behalf of his wife, because she was childless. The LORD answered his prayer, and his wife Rebekah became pregnant. 22 The babies jostled each other within her, and she said, “Why is this happening to me?” So she went to inquire of the LORD.

23 The LORD said to her,

“Two nations are in your womb,
and two peoples from within you will be separated;
one people will be stronger than the other,
and the older will serve the younger.”

24 When the time came for her to give birth, there were twin boys in her womb. 25 The first to come out was red, and his whole body was like a hairy garment; so they named him Esau.26 After this, his brother came out, with his hand grasping Esau’s heel; so he was named Jacob. Isaac was sixty years old when Rebekah gave birth to them.

27 The boys grew up, and Esau became a skillful hunter, a man of the open country, while Jacob was content to stay at home among the tents. 28 Isaac, who had a taste for wild game, loved Esau, but Rebekah loved Jacob.

29 Once when Jacob was cooking some stew, Esau came in from the open country, famished. 30 He said to Jacob, “Quick, let me have some of that red stew! I’m famished!” (That is why he was also called Edom.)

31 Jacob replied, “First sell me your birthright.”

32 “Look, I am about to die,” Esau said. “What good is the birthright to me?”

33 But Jacob said, “Swear to me first.” So he swore an oath to him, selling his birthright to Jacob.

34 Then Jacob gave Esau some bread and some lentil stew. He ate and drank, and then got up and left.

So Esau despised his birthright.

Genesis 26

Isaac and Abimelek

1 Now there was a famine in the land—besides the previous famine in Abraham’s time—and Isaac went to Abimelek king of the Philistines in Gerar. 2 The LORD appeared to Isaac and said, “Do not go down to Egypt; live in the land where I tell you to live. 3 Stay in this land for a while, and I will be with you and will bless you. For to you and your descendants I will give all these lands and will confirm the oath I swore to your father Abraham. 4 I will make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and will give them all these lands, and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, 5 because Abraham obeyed me and did everything I required of him, keeping my commands, my decrees and my instructions.” 6 So Isaac stayed in Gerar.

7 When the men of that place asked him about his wife, he said, “She is my sister,” because he was afraid to say, “She is my wife.” He thought, “The men of this place might kill me on account of Rebekah, because she is beautiful.”

8 When Isaac had been there a long time, Abimelek king of the Philistines looked down from a window and saw Isaac caressing his wife Rebekah. 9 So Abimelek summoned Isaac and said, “She is really your wife! Why did you say, ‘She is my sister’?”

Isaac answered him, “Because I thought I might lose my life on account of her.”

10 Then Abimelek said, “What is this you have done to us? One of the men might well have slept with your wife, and you would have brought guilt upon us.”

11 So Abimelek gave orders to all the people: “Anyone who harms this man or his wife shall surely be put to death.”

12 Isaac planted crops in that land and the same year reaped a hundredfold, because the LORD blessed him. 13 The man became rich, and his wealth continued to grow until he became very wealthy. 14 He had so many flocks and herds and servants that the Philistines envied him. 15 So all the wells that his father’s servants had dug in the time of his father Abraham, the Philistines stopped up, filling them with earth.

16 Then Abimelek said to Isaac, “Move away from us; you have become too powerful for us.”

17 So Isaac moved away from there and encamped in the Valley of Gerar, where he settled. 18 Isaac reopened the wells that had been dug in the time of his father Abraham, which the Philistines had stopped up after Abraham died, and he gave them the same names his father had given them.

19 Isaac’s servants dug in the valley and discovered a well of fresh water there. 20 But the herders of Gerar quarreled with those of Isaac and said, “The water is ours!” So he named the well Esek, because they disputed with him. 21 Then they dug another well, but they quarreled over that one also; so he named it Sitnah. 22 He moved on from there and dug another well, and no one quarreled over it. He named it Rehoboth, saying, “Now the LORD has given us room and we will flourish in the land.”

23 From there he went up to Beersheba. 24 That night the LORD appeared to him and said, “I am the God of your father Abraham. Do not be afraid, for I am with you; I will bless you and will increase the number of your descendants for the sake of my servant Abraham.”

25 Isaac built an altar there and called on the name of the LORD. There he pitched his tent, and there his servants dug a well.

26 Meanwhile, Abimelek had come to him from Gerar, with Ahuzzath his personal adviser and Phicol the commander of his forces. 27 Isaac asked them, “Why have you come to me, since you were hostile to me and sent me away?”

28 They answered, “We saw clearly that the LORD was with you; so we said, ‘There ought to be a sworn agreement between us’—between us and you. Let us make a treaty with you 29 that you will do us no harm, just as we did not harm you but always treated you well and sent you away peacefully. And now you are blessed by the LORD.”

30 Isaac then made a feast for them, and they ate and drank.31 Early the next morning the men swore an oath to each other. Then Isaac sent them on their way, and they went away peacefully.

32 That day Isaac’s servants came and told him about the well they had dug. They said, “We’ve found water!” 33 He called it Shibah, and to this day the name of the town has been Beersheba.

Jacob Takes Esau’s Blessing

34 When Esau was forty years old, he married Judith daughter of Beeri the Hittite, and also Basemath daughter of Elon the Hittite. 35 They were a source of grief to Isaac and Rebekah.


Matthew 8

Jesus Heals a Man With Leprosy

1 When Jesus came down from the mountainside, large crowds followed him. 2 A man with leprosy came and knelt before him and said, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.”

3 Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” Immediately he was cleansed of his leprosy. 4 Then Jesus said to him, “See that you don’t tell anyone. But go, show yourself to the priest and offer the gift Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.”

The Faith of the Centurion

5 When Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him, asking for help. 6 “Lord,” he said, “my servant lies at home paralyzed, suffering terribly.”

7 Jesus said to him, “Shall I come and heal him?”

8 The centurion replied, “Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed. 9 For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and that one, ‘Come,’ and he comes. I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”

10 When Jesus heard this, he was amazed and said to those following him, “Truly I tell you, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith. 11 I say to you that many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. 12But the subjects of the kingdom will be thrown outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

13 Then Jesus said to the centurion, “Go! Let it be done just as you believed it would.” And his servant was healed at that moment.

Jesus Heals Many

14 When Jesus came into Peter’s house, he saw Peter’s mother-in-law lying in bed with a fever. 15 He touched her hand and the fever left her, and she got up and began to wait on him.

16 When evening came, many who were demon-possessed were brought to him, and he drove out the spirits with a word and healed all the sick. 17 This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah:

“He took up our infirmities
and bore our diseases.”
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Magog [Mā'gŏg]—expansion orincrease of family. The second son of Japheth and founder of descendants occupying Magog, or Scythia (Gen. 10:2; 1 Chron. 1:5; Ezek. 38:2; 39:6;Rev. 20:8 ). The grandson of Noah was the father of those Josephus calls the “Magogites,” and those the Greeks call “Scythians.” When Ezekiel used the terms Gog and Magog, he used them in a historical sense of the future, referring to the Prince of the Northern Confederacy and his scope of rule, and they are thus literally to be understood. Gog is the symbolic designation for the future head of all nations embraced within the Northern Confederacy (Ezek. 38; 39 ). Magog is the symbolic territory covered. When the Apostle John uses the terms it is to describe the wicked on the earth at the close of Christ’s millennial reign, and is thus to be symbolically understood. Gog and Magog in the Book of Revelation are to be thought of in a moral, not a geographical sense (Rev. 20:8).
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A desperate case—how to meet it

‘Then came the disciples to Jesus apart, and said, Why could not we cast him out? And Jesus said unto them, Because of your unbelief: for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove: and nothing shall be impossible unto you. Howbeit this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting.’ Matthew 17:19–21

Suggested Further Reading: Matthew 6:16–18

There are those who watch unto prayer, wait before the Lord, seek his face, and exercise patience till they get an audience. Such disciples continue in their retirement until they have that experience of access for which they crave. And what is fasting for? That seems the difficult point. It is evidently accessory to the peculiar continuance in prayer, practised often by our Lord, and advised by him to his disciples. Not a kind of religious observance, in itself meritorious, but a habit, when associated with the exercise of prayer, unquestionably helpful. I am not sure whether we have not lost a very great blessing in the Christian church by giving up fasting. It was said there was superstition in it; but, as an old divine says, we had better have a spoonful of superstition than a basin full of gluttony. Martin Luther, whose body, like some others, was of a gross tendency, felt as some of us do, that in our flesh there dwelleth no good thing, in another sense than the apostle meant it; and he used to fast frequently. He says his flesh was wont to grumble dreadfully at abstinence, but fast he would, for he found that when he was fasting, it quickened his praying. There is a treatise by an old Puritan, called, ‘The soul-fattening institution of fasting.’ and he gives us his own experience that during a fast he has felt more intense eagerness of soul in prayer than he had ever done at any other time. Some of you, dear friends, may get to the boiling-point in prayer without fasting. I am sure that others cannot.

For meditation: Jesus said ‘when’ not ‘if you fast’ (Matthew 6:16). In Scripture, fasting seems to have been reserved for special times: disaster (Judges 20:26; 2 Samuel 1:12); danger (Ezra 8:23; Esther 4:3,16); disease (2 Samuel 12:21–23; Psalm 35:13) and decision ( Acts 13:2–3; 14:23). Are we missing out on something?

Sermon no. 549
10 January (1864)

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January 10, 2012

Coming Out of the Dark

Part 1

Mary Southerland

Today's Truth

I waited patiently for the LORD; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear and put their trust in the LORD (Psalm 40:1-3, NIV).

Friend to Friend

Florida is famous for its sinkholes. I personally find them fascinating since I grew up in Texas where most holes are made intentionally. As I studied these overnight wonders, an interesting explanation emerged. Scientists assert that sinkholes occur when the underground resources gradually dry up, causing the surface soil to lose its underlying support. Everything simply caves in -- forming an ugly pit.

Depression and sinkholes have a lot in common. Depression seems to overwhelm with a vicious suddenness when it is actually the result of a malignant and constant process. Inner resources are slowly depleted until one day there is nothing left. The world caves in and darkness reigns.

Depression is America's number one health problem. Someone once called it "a dark tunnel without a ray of light" while cartoonists portray it as a "little black cloud hovering overhead." I have a friend who says, "Some days you're the bug. Some days you're the windshield." Many believe depression is simply a spiritual problem while others insist it is an emotional and physical disorder. I think they are all right. Studies indicate that over half of all women and one out of three men struggle with depression on a regular basis. Because no one is immune to the darkness, we must learn to face it honestly, with emotional integrity.

That moment came for me in the spring of 1995 when I realized that something was drastically wrong. I was empty and completely exhausted. It seemed as if I had been living in the fast and furious lane forever. Overwhelmed, I mentally listed the demands on my life:

  • Serving as pastor's wife in a large and fast-growing church
  • Raising two young children
  • Maintaining a hectic speaking schedule
  • Directing the Women's Ministry of our church
  • Teaching a weekly and monthly Bible study
  • Counseling women in crisis
  • Playing the piano for three worship services
  • Teaching twenty piano and voice students

No wonder I was struggling. I was just plain tired. Being a perfectionist, I had always been very strong, driven to excel with little sympathy for weak people. Now I, the strong one, couldn't get out of bed. Getting dressed by the time my children returned from school meant it was a good day. The simplest decisions sent me into a panic and the thought of facing crowds was overwhelming. Many times, I walked to the front door of the church but couldn't go in. I felt guilty missing services but couldn't handle the sympathetic looks and questioning stares as I stood, weeping uncontrollably. I was paralyzed, imprisoned in a bottomless pit where loneliness and despair reigned, wreaking emotional havoc from their throne of darkness. I had no idea how I had gotten there and what was even more frightening was the fact that I had no idea how to escape. I did the only thing I could do. I cried out to God.

"I waited patiently for the LORD; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand." (Psalm 40:1-2, NIV)

With that single heart cry, my journey from darkness into light began. The first step was to recognize the factors that can trigger depression; a lack of replenishing relationships, various chemical imbalances, and a poor self-image, just to name a few. One of the most common and deadly factors is failure to deal with the past. The "mire" mentioned in Psalm 40:2 means "sediment at the bottom." When our children were small, we frequented the beach. Wading out into the ocean, they took turns pushing a beach ball under the water and counting to see who could hold the ball down for the longest time. Eventually their arms would tire, or the ball would escape their control, popping to the surface. The "mire" in our lives is like that beach ball. The "sediment" or "junk" that we have never dealt with settles at the bottom of our souls, randomly popping up until we run out of energy to keep it submerged. Eventually, this mire works its way to the surface, spilling ugliness and darkness into every part of life.

"Mire" comes in all shapes and sizes -- buried pain, unresolved anger, hidden sin or a devastating loss. I had never really dealt with my mother's death or faced some very painful parts of my past. As I looked back over my life, a startling realization came -- I had painted a picture in my heart and mind of how I wantedmy childhood to be, not how it really was . I had spent my whole life running from the past by filling the present with frenzied activity. In the following weeks and months, the Lord and I sifted through the enormous pile of "mire" that had settled into my spirit and life. Together we faced experiences that I had carefully locked away until they slammed into my heart and mind with breathtaking force and fresh pain; an alcoholic father, the trusted family doctor who molested me, times of loneliness and rejection, haunting failures, unreasonable fears that were never spoken. It seemed as if the flood of polluted memories would never end!

But God is good -- providing a defense mechanism for those experiences that are beyond our ability to face. He gently tucks them away until we are ready. When we bury pain alive, it keeps popping up at unexpected moments. Pain must be dealt with and buried ... dead! Freedom from the pit of darkness demands a confrontation of our past, straining every experience through the truth that "all" things work together for our good. The will of God admits no defeat and penalizes no one. We can allow our past to defeat us or empower us. Harnessing the power of the past is a compelling weapon in the war against darkness.

Let's Pray

Father, I am so tired and so afraid of the darkness in my life. Right now, I cry out to You. Please help me deal with the mud and mire in my past. Heal my heart and soul and mind. I want to trust You, Lord. I am no longer willing to be a prisoner of my past. Show me the sins I need to confess and turn away from. Heal the wounds that have hurt for so long. I lay my past at Your feet and ask You to make it a cornerstone for the new life I can have in You. I choose to believe You will work it all together for Your glory and my good.

In Jesus' name,

Amen.

Now It's Your Turn

Take a few minutes to think back over your life. Make a list of the "mire" that has settled in your heart and soul. Be specific. It may be a sin you need to confess or the pain of a broken relationship that needs to be healed. Ask God to show you the things in your past that have become footholds of darkness in your life today. Face each one. Deal with it and let it go.

Read Romans 8:28. What good things has God brought out of the pain in your past? Is your faith stronger? Have you been able to encourage others who have experienced that same pain?


More from the Girlfriends

Now is a great time to establish the habit of a daily quiet time. Let us help you get started. Get your copy of the Girlfriends in God new 12-week devotion book, Trusting God. You can use it for your personal study or why not form a GiG group and work through the book together?

Check out Mary's Weekly Online Bible Study, Light for the Journey and learn how to face and deal with fear in Mary's new study, When I Am Afraid, beginning January 16. Need a friend? Connect with Mary on Facebook or through email.

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The End of Exile

Matthew 2:16-18

Herod is one example of all those who have tried to destroy the Christ and His people. Though this evil king did much harm, he was in the end unable to thwart the plans of the Father for His Son. We too can be sure that even when the church suffers persecution at home and abroad, God's kingdom will never be overcome. Pray today for believers who are suffering for their faith that they will remember the Lord's victory and stand firm for His Gospel.

For further study:

Exodus 1:8-22

The Bible in a year:

Genesis 36-37

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

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Jesus' Family Tree

Joel R. Beeke

Genealogies are hardly spellbinding. Perhaps, like me, you are tempted to skip them in your Bible reading. Yet genealogies are a significant part of God's infallible Scriptures. They, too, are "profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness" ( 2 Tim. 3:16 kjv and hereafter).

Matthew's genealogy is a family tree of Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God incarnated as the Son of Man. Matthew wrote his gospel primarily to the Jews. Strictly speaking, the purpose of this genealogy is to prove to Jewish readers that Jesus of Nazareth as the seed of Abraham and the son of David was the long-awaited Messiah.

The genealogy further teaches us that Christ entered the stream of humanity for all people - Jews and Gentiles alike. The Creator became incarnate. He fully took on flesh, made Himself of no reputation, and humbled Himself, submitting to the death of the cross (Phil. 2:7-8). The mystery is that He took on human flesh and human nature and yet did not sin.

As a covenant document, Matthew's genealogy reveals the faithfulness of God in keeping His promises from generation to generation to Abraham and his seed, to Judah and his tribe, to David and his house, to the Hebrews bowed down under the yoke of bondage in Egypt, to the children of Israel dwelling in the land of promise, to the Jews languishing in captivity, and even to sinners of the Gentiles by nature. Likewise, it reveals God's mercy "unto all, and upon all them that believe," no matter how weak their faith may have been, or how greatly they have sinned against God, or how late in time they came to repentance and faith. A study of all the names in this genealogy confirms the Gospel promise that "whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved" (Acts 2:21).

Depravity is clearly evident in the genealogy of Matthew 1 . Christ's forefathers were deeply fallen descendants of Adam. If the genealogy listed only such heroes of faith as Abraham or King Asa, we might say, "What a noble ancestry!" But the genealogy of Jesus also includes Judah and Tamar, Rahab the harlot, David and Bathsheba, Joram and Manasseh. The Holy Spirit wants us to know that Jesus' family history includes wicked men, prostitutes, and other notorious sinners. The sinless Lord of glory was willing to descend from notably sinful forebears.

The Holy Spirit inspired Matthew to include Judah, Tamar, Rahab, Bathsheba, and Manasseh in Jesus' genealogy. He could have left their names out. After all, this list is not complete; several names, including at least three kings, are missing. The undesirables in Jesus' ancestry are included to show us that no sinner is beyond the saving reach of Jesus. Matthew records that, by divine command, His name was to be called Jesus - a contraction of "Jehovah saves" - "for he shall save his people from their sins" (Matt. 1:21 ). We learn from Jesus' genealogy, virgin birth, and saving name that He is able and willing to save sinners.

All of us, without exception, are depraved, corrupt, and full of wickedness. When the Spirit opens our eyes to this, we will confess, "I am no better than Rahab or Manasseh." We are all sons of fallen Adam - and heirs of corruption. Christ's genealogical register is a record of our guilt, our shame, our lost state, our origin, our humiliation. It raises the question, who can break the terrible cycle of sin? "Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?" (Rom. 7:24 ).

Thanks be to God, Jesus broke the repeating cycle of human sin by identifying with and saving wretched sinners like us. Jesus is not ashamed to have Rahab or Manasseh or any other sinners in His family tree. Likewise, He is not ashamed to receive us into His family. Out of love He rescues us, makes us holy and acceptable in God's sight, renews and transforms us, and will never let us fall away again and be lost to Him. "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners" (1 Tim. 1:15).

Christ became like us in all things but sin. His name is Immanuel, "God with us" ( Matt. 1:23 ). He was and is God the Son from eternity past, at every point in His earthly ministry, and unto eternity future. He was God even as He hung on the accursed cross and was broken as our substitute and atoning sacrifice. Having taken our sins upon Himself, He became a curse for us, and endured our punishment, so He is God for us. Having taken our nature upon Himself and having lived in the world as we must live, tempted at all points as we are, He is God with us. He understands and knows us; He humbled Himself so completely that He became both our Savior and our elder brother. Graciously He offers Himself to us and asks of us no more than that we believe in Him and seek Him with all our heart, soul, strength, and mind.

Dr. Joel R. Beeke is pastor of Heritage Netherlands Reformed Congregation and president and professor of systematic theology and homiletics at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

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

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Paul’s sermon before Felix

“And as he reasoned of righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come, Felix trembled, and answered, Go thy way for this time; when I have a convenient season, I will call for thee.” Acts 24:25

Suggested Further Reading: Acts 17:30-18:1

Felix, unhappy Felix! why is it that thou dost rise from thy judgment-seat? Is it that thou hast much business to do? Stop, Felix; let Paul speak to thee a minute longer. Thou hast business; but hast thou no business for thy soul? Stop, unhappy man! Art thou about again to be extortionate, again to make thy personal riches greater? Oh! stop: canst thou not spare another minute for thy poor soul? It is to live for ever: hast thou nought laid up for it—no hope in heaven, no blood of Christ, no pardon of sin, no sanctifying Spirit, no imputed righteousness? Ah! man, there will be a time when the business that seems so important to thee will prove to have been but a day-dream, a poor substitute for the solid realities thou hast forgotten. Dost thou reply, “Nay, the king has sent me an urgent commission; I must attend to Caesar.” Ah! Felix, but thou has a greater monarch than Caesar, there is one who is Emperor of heaven and Lord of earth: canst thou spare no time to attend to his commands? Before his presence Caesar is but a worm. Man! wilt thou obey the one, and wilt thou despise the other? Ah! no; I know what thou durst not say. Felix, thou art turning aside again to indulge in thy lascivious pleasures. Go, and Drusilla with thee! But stop! Darest thou do that, with that last word ringing in thy ears, “Judgment to come?” What! Wilt thou repeat that wanton dalliance that hath damned thee already, and wilt thou go again to stain thy hands in lust, and doubly damn thy spirit, after warnings heard and felt? O man! I could weep o’er thee.

For meditation: When you hear the Word of God preached, do you get impatient for the sermon to finish and forget about it as soon as you can? That can be a very dangerous habit. We need to act upon it there and then—receive, remember, repent (Revelation 3:3; Luke 8:18).

Sermon no. 171
10 January (1858)

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365 Days with C.H. Spurgeon, Vol. 1: A unique collection of 365 daily readings from sermons preached by Charles Haddon Spurgeon from his New Park Street Pulpit! Edited by Terence Peter Crosby.



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Lynn Cowell

January 10, 2012

Mean Girls
Lynn Cowell

"But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips." Colossians 3:8 (NIV)

Standing in line for the concert gave my family plenty of people-watching time. As girls and guys made their way to the back of the line, I pointed out all the immodest clothing. "Why would she wear those in public?" "Oh my! I can't believe she feels comfortable dressed like that!" I commented as one-by-one they passed us.

I must have shared quite a few of these statements because my oldest teenaged daughter finally said, "Mom, you are being mean!"

I felt so small. I hadn't thought I was being mean. I was simply pointing out to my girls how not to dress. But my daughter was right.

The truth is, my girls already know how not to dress; I have been teaching them since they were five. And now I was teaching them how to judge another woman. I was teaching them to be mean.

Since that night at the concert I've come to the conclusion that mean girls often come from mean mamas. When we point out other's flaws, we are modeling for our kids a judgmental heart. Instead, what we mamas need to demonstrate is compassion.

Our key verse today says we are to rid ourselves of slander, which means a scandalous remark. In fact, in the verses before and the verses that follow, it doesn't mention of any time when it is okay to slander others.

One way we are overcoming a mean spirit in our family is through accountability. When my girls are gossiping or putting another girl down, I gently point it out and my girls do the same for me.

At first, having my child call me out was a bit uncomfortable. But making this a family issue, rather than just me correcting my kids, is bringing us to a deeper level of kindness.

Like me, you may be surprised to discover just how often you say unkind things . If you watch each other's words, both you and your child will become more compassionate, less judgmental and a whole lot more careful about the words you say! It's working for me; I know it will work for you too!

Dear Lord, I want to rid myself of slander and in turn teach my children to do the same. Please cleanse my heart of judgment and help me to set a guard over my mouth. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

RelatedResources:
Looking for a way you can connect to your girl and learn about friendships together? His Revolutionary Love: Jesus' Radical Pursuit of You by Lynn Cowell is for girls ages 13-18. It is a great study for moms and daughters to bond over! There is a free leadership guide for it on her website!

Visit Lynn's website for a free family purity guide. Together you can honor God with your hearts, words and bodies!

Visit Lynn's website where she shares additional ways for you and your child to grow closer to God together! She's also giving away a copy of her book His Revolutionary Love as well as her CD "Building a Bridge to Your Child's Heart."

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:
In the next 24 hours, spy on yourself. Are your words building or breaking?

When you have a critical thought toward a person, intentionally look for a positive remark you can make about them.

Reflections:
My words are either building or breaking; none of them are benign.

Power Verses:
Romans 12:10, "Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves." (NIV)

© 2012 by Lynn Cowell. All rights reserved.

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



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Like father, like son

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Josh McDowell's son Sean is blazing new trails as an apologist to his generation. He offers great insights and advice in this interview about his life and ministry.

With such bestsellers as More Than a Carpenter and Evidence That Demands a Verdictin the 1970s, Josh McDowell sparked interest in Christian apologetics among both believers and spiritual seekers, creating a wave of popularity that has only increased over the decades. His son Sean (who, incidentally, was a seminary classmate with my son Kyle) is enthusiastic about training Christians and reaching seekers today.

Here's a Q&A in which Sean talks about growing up as a McDowell, the lessons he learned from his dad, the challenges of reaching his generation, and his new GodQuest apologetics curriculum, published by my friends at Outreach.

Your dad just celebrated fifty years of great ministry and is still going strong. As an apologist to a new generation, how is your approach similar - and different - to your father's?

One of the things I deeply respect about my dad is his effort to continually be effective and relevant. Even though he is 72, he is at the top of his game. His message is still filled with Biblical truth, but he's adapted the delivery for a new generation. One similarity between us is that we both use a variety of technological means to reach this generation (Facebook, Twitter, blogs, PowerPoint presentations, YouTube, etc.).

Read the rest at BibleGateway.com!

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Questions from readers:

  • Is there non-biblical evidence for the Bethlehem slaughter?
  • Will Christians be judged by God?
  • Why have you never tried peanut butter?

Q. Can you give any extra-Biblical insight into Matthew 2:16? A recent sermon I preached sparked interest. Thanks! - Christopher

A. This verse is part of a grisly scene painted by Matthew. Herod the Great, the kind of Judea, feeling threatened by the birth of a baby who he feared would eventually seize his throne, dispatches his troops to murder all the children under the age of two in Bethlehem. Warned by an angel, however, Joseph escapes to Egypt with Mary and Jesus. Only after Herod dies do they return to settle in Nazareth, the entire episode having fulfilled three ancient prophecies about the Messiah. (See Matthew 2:13-23).

You're asking whether there is any support outside the Bible for the slaughter at Bethlehem. The short answer: No. There's nothing in the writings of first century historian Josephus or other chroniclers of the ancient world. There's no archaeological support. There are no records of documents about this incident independent of the New Testament. So, is it credible to believe Matthew's account? Yes, I believe so. Let's look a little deeper.

First, the Gospel of Matthew has good credentials and should not be dismissed as a historical document just because it's included in the Bible. After all, it was written in the first century (between A.D. 50 and 80). Papias (writing about A.D. 125) and Irenaeus (writing about A.D. 180) affirm that the author was the disciple Matthew, who was also called Levi.

Read the rest of this answer and answers to the other questions!

Have a question? Drop me a line atAskLee@Leestrobel.com. We'll answer the ones with the broadest interest in upcoming newsletters.

Lee's Notes

• Do members of your church or small group shy away from sharing Christ with others because they fear being asked tough questions about their faith? Mark Mittelberg and I would like to come to your church or group via a live national simulcast on March 10 to train everyone to give biblically solid responses to the most common questions from non-believers. Joining us for The Questions Christians Hope No One Will Ask will be noted apologists Craig Hazen of Biola University and Douglas Groothuis of Denver Seminary.

We'll be dealing with such hot topics as why God allows so much suffering; whether a loving God sends people to hell; how we know God exists and that Jesus is his Son; whether the Bible is full of mythology and mistakes; why people should choose Christianity over other religions; and more. For more information, and to view a video in which Mark and I discuss the event, visitwww.incastevents.com/questions. And here's a special note: early registration pricing will be good through the end of this month.

• I'll be speaking at events in Florida, New Mexico, andTexas in the next few weeks; please check my schedule atwww.LeeStrobel.com and stop by if you're in the area. Also, if you're into Twitter, please follow me at @LeeStrobel. I'm finding Twitter is a great way to stay connected between newsletters!

• I'm thrilled that my first novel, The Ambition, hit #1 on Kindle's religion fiction bestsellers list over the Christmas holidays and that The Case for the Real Jesus was included among the Top 15 Apologetics Books at my favorite apologetics website: www.apologetics315.com.

Read the rest of Lee's Notes!

The drama of grace

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This three-minute clip from the film Les Miserables - where Bishop Myriel shows undeserved compassion to the thief Valjean - is a beautiful portrayal of what God's grace is like. No doubt you've read the book, seen the film, or experienced the musical - but still, it's worth taking a few minutes to view this and remind yourself of the wonders of grace.


Lee's Links: Suggested articles from the web
A podcast isn't a pastor
Podcasts can be helpful, but we shouldn't confuse them with pastoring.
Message of hope
R.C. Sproul’s moving words at his daughter-in-law’s memorial service.
E-Conversions
Is online evangelism producing real disciples of Christ?
1 in 4 Charismatic
New research shows 25% of Christians are charismatic or Pentecostal.
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Christ-Centered Learning - Anytime, Anywhere! Click here for more information about Christian University GlobalNet.

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Everything New - A Weeekly Devotional

GOD’S ATTRIBUTES: HE IS LOVE

[This message may be one that you will want to forward to people you know.]

The Scottish theologian P. T. Forsyth believed that there are really two overarching attributes of God: holiness and love. Put the pieces together (because God is a whole and complete reality), and you can speak of the “holy love” of God. His holiness is our assurance that he is different from the defilements of this world, and indeed, different from us, which contradicts any religious notion that God or the gods are just amplified versions of human nature.

But because God is love he is not separated from us. He is engaged, connected, involved. He is a God at work. Separate but not separated. Discriminating but not discriminatory. Hating evil but loving good. And, out of that love, he was willing to descend into this corrupt world in a great Incarnation and, in the person of Jesus, draw unholy people toward his holiness.

Amazing!

In 1 John 4 we find this clear, bold summary of the issue: “God is love.” It is a way of saying that this attribute is so central to who God is, this act is so essential to who we must be in God, that we can set our focus there and spend a lifetime asking God to help us understand and live in this reality. Who will ever tire of adoring a God who is love?

“Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.” (1 John 4:7-12).

God’s love has many faces. It is his mercy, which is his willingness to suspend judgment while there is hope for correction or salvation in our lives. It is his benevolence, which is his pattern of bringing blessings into our lives. And then, of course, there is grace. Grace is giving. For lack of a better word, it is God’s giving-ness. He gives and gives and gives. No one will ever change that, because love is who God is. And, because of love, God does not spoil us. He gives what we really need, which is not always what we think we need.

[Excerpt from Putting the Pieces Back Together: How Real Life and Real Faith Connect. Click for more.]

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Resources

About The Author - Mel Lawrenz serves as minister at large for Elmbrook Church and leads The Brook Network. Having been in pastoral ministry for thirty years, the last decade as senior pastor of Elmbrook, Mel seeks to help Christian leaders engage with each other. Mel is the author of eleven books, the most recent for church leaders, Whole Church: Leading from Fragmentation to Engagement.
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How did people mourn death in the Old Testament?

This week's reading: 2 Samuel 14:2

Feelings of grief were expressed freely, beginning immediately after a person died. Mourners ripped their clothes, tore out their hair, wore sackcloth instead of ordinary clothes, sprinkled dust and ashes on their heads, and removed all jewelry. They wept and wailed and stopped eating (see Ex 33:4; Mt 6:16-18). Later, the Israelites were not allowed to engage in such mourning practices of other cultures as shaving the head or cutting the body with knives (see Lev 19:28; Dt 14:1; Jer 16:6).

During a period of mourning, friends would come to the house and visit, perhaps providing musicians. A family might hire professional mourners to keep up loud weeping for hours or days (see Jer 9:17-18; Mt 9:23-24; Ac 9:39). Food was provided to the mourners. After the funeral, women would go to the grave early in the morning to pray, weep or chant prayers. The period of mourning varied, depending on the importance of the person who died. The Israelites mourned thirty days for Aaron (see Nu 20:29) but fasted only seven days for King Saul (see 1Sa 31:13).

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