Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Daily Devotional Wednesday 18th January

“Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life. And then I will be able to boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor in vain.” Philippians 2:14-16 NIV
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Morning and Evening by Charles Spurgeon

Morning

"And I looked, and, lo, a Lamb stood on the mount Sion."
Revelation 14:1

The apostle John was privileged to look within the gates of heaven, and in describing what he saw, he begins by saying, "I looked, and, lo, a Lamb!" This teaches us that the chief object of contemplation in the heavenly state is "the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sins of the world." Nothing else attracted the apostle's attention so much as the person of that Divine Being, who hath redeemed us by his blood. He is the theme of the songs of all glorified spirits and holy angels. Christian, here is joy for thee; thou hast looked, and thou hast seen the Lamb. Through thy tears thine eyes have seen the Lamb of God taking away thy sins. Rejoice, then. In a little while, when thine eyes shall have been wiped from tears, thou wilt see the same Lamb exalted on his throne. It is the joy of thy heart to hold daily fellowship with Jesus; thou shalt have the same joy to a higher degree in heaven; thou shalt enjoy the constant vision of his presence; thou shalt dwell with him forever. "I looked, and, lo, a Lamb!" Why, that Lamb is heaven itself; for as good Rutherford says, "Heaven and Christ are the same thing;" to be with Christ is to be in heaven, and to be in heaven is to be with Christ. That prisoner of the Lord very sweetly writes in one of his glowing letters--"O my Lord Jesus Christ, if I could be in heaven without thee, it would be a hell; and if I could be in hell, and have thee still, it would be a heaven to me, for thou art all the heaven I want." It is true, is it not, Christian? Does not thy soul say so?

"Not all the harps above

Can make a heavenly place,

If God his residence remove,

Or but conceal his face."

All thou needest to make thee blessed, supremely blessed, is "to be with Christ."

Evening

"And it came to pass in an eveningtide, that David arose from off his bed, and walked upon the roof of the king's house."
2 Samuel 11:2

At that hour David saw Bathsheba. We are never out of the reach of temptation. Both at home and abroad we are liable to meet with allurements to evil; the morning opens with peril, and the shades of evening find us still in jeopardy. They are well kept whom God keeps, but woe unto those who go forth into the world, or even dare to walk their own house unarmed. Those who think themselves secure are more exposed to danger than any others. The armour-bearer of Sin is Self-confidence.

David should have been engaged in fighting the Lord's battles, instead of which he tarried at Jerusalem, and gave himself up to luxurious repose, for he arose from his bed at eventide. Idleness and luxury are the devil's jackals, and find him abundant prey. In stagnant waters noxious creatures swarm, and neglected soil soon yields a dense tangle of weeds and briars. Oh for the constraining love of Jesus to keep us active and useful! When I see the King of Israel sluggishly leaving his couch at the close of the day, and falling at once into temptation, let me take warning, and set holy watchfulness to guard the door.

Is it possible that the king had mounted his housetop for retirement and devotion? If so, what a caution is given us to count no place, however secret, a sanctuary from sin! While our hearts are so like a tinder-box, and sparks so plentiful, we had need use all diligence in all places to prevent a blaze. Satan can climb housetops, and enter closets, and even if we could shut out that foul fiend, our own corruptions are enough to work our ruin unless grace prevent. Reader, beware of evening temptations. Be not secure. The sun is down but sin is up. We need a watchman for the night as well as a guardian for the day. O blessed Spirit, keep us from all evil this night. Amen.

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Today's reading: Genesis 41-42, Matthew 12:1-23 (NIV)

View today's reading on Bible Gateway
Pharaoh’s Dreams

1 When two full years had passed, Pharaoh had a dream: He was standing by the Nile, 2 when out of the river there came up seven cows, sleek and fat, and they grazed among the reeds. 3After them, seven other cows, ugly and gaunt, came up out of the Nile and stood beside those on the riverbank. 4 And the cows that were ugly and gaunt ate up the seven sleek, fat cows. Then Pharaoh woke up.

5 He fell asleep again and had a second dream: Seven heads of grain, healthy and good, were growing on a single stalk. 6After them, seven other heads of grain sprouted—thin and scorched by the east wind. 7 The thin heads of grain swallowed up the seven healthy, full heads. Then Pharaoh woke up; it had been a dream.

8 In the morning his mind was troubled, so he sent for all the magicians and wise men of Egypt. Pharaoh told them his dreams, but no one could interpret them for him.

9 Then the chief cupbearer said to Pharaoh, “Today I am reminded of my shortcomings. 10 Pharaoh was once angry with his servants, and he imprisoned me and the chief baker in the house of the captain of the guard. 11 Each of us had a dream the same night, and each dream had a meaning of its own. 12Now a young Hebrew was there with us, a servant of the captain of the guard. We told him our dreams, and he interpreted them for us, giving each man the interpretation of his dream. 13 And things turned out exactly as he interpreted them to us: I was restored to my position, and the other man was impaled.”

14 So Pharaoh sent for Joseph, and he was quickly brought from the dungeon. When he had shaved and changed his clothes, he came before Pharaoh.

15 Pharaoh said to Joseph, “I had a dream, and no one can interpret it. But I have heard it said of you that when you hear a dream you can interpret it.”

16 “I cannot do it,” Joseph replied to Pharaoh, “but God will give Pharaoh the answer he desires.”

17 Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, “In my dream I was standing on the bank of the Nile, 18 when out of the river there came up seven cows, fat and sleek, and they grazed among the reeds. 19 After them, seven other cows came up—scrawny and very ugly and lean. I had never seen such ugly cows in all the land of Egypt. 20 The lean, ugly cows ate up the seven fat cows that came up first. 21 But even after they ate them, no one could tell that they had done so; they looked just as ugly as before. Then I woke up.

22 “In my dream I saw seven heads of grain, full and good, growing on a single stalk. 23 After them, seven other heads sprouted—withered and thin and scorched by the east wind. 24The thin heads of grain swallowed up the seven good heads. I told this to the magicians, but none of them could explain it to me.”

25 Then Joseph said to Pharaoh, “The dreams of Pharaoh are one and the same. God has revealed to Pharaoh what he is about to do. 26 The seven good cows are seven years, and the seven good heads of grain are seven years; it is one and the same dream. 27 The seven lean, ugly cows that came up afterward are seven years, and so are the seven worthless heads of grain scorched by the east wind: They are seven years of famine.

28 “It is just as I said to Pharaoh: God has shown Pharaoh what he is about to do. 29 Seven years of great abundance are coming throughout the land of Egypt, 30 but seven years of famine will follow them. Then all the abundance in Egypt will be forgotten, and the famine will ravage the land. 31 The abundance in the land will not be remembered, because the famine that follows it will be so severe. 32 The reason the dream was given to Pharaoh in two forms is that the matter has been firmly decided by God, and God will do it soon.

33 “And now let Pharaoh look for a discerning and wise man and put him in charge of the land of Egypt. 34 Let Pharaoh appoint commissioners over the land to take a fifth of the harvest of Egypt during the seven years of abundance. 35 They should collect all the food of these good years that are coming and store up the grain under the authority of Pharaoh, to be kept in the cities for food. 36 This food should be held in reserve for the country, to be used during the seven years of famine that will come upon Egypt, so that the country may not be ruined by the famine.”

37 The plan seemed good to Pharaoh and to all his officials.38 So Pharaoh asked them, “Can we find anyone like this man, one in whom is the spirit of God?”

39 Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Since God has made all this known to you, there is no one so discerning and wise as you. 40 You shall be in charge of my palace, and all my people are to submit to your orders. Only with respect to the throne will I be greater than you.”

Joseph in Charge of Egypt

41 So Pharaoh said to Joseph, “I hereby put you in charge of the whole land of Egypt.” 42 Then Pharaoh took his signet ring from his finger and put it on Joseph’s finger. He dressed him in robes of fine linen and put a gold chain around his neck. 43 He had him ride in a chariot as his second-in-command, and people shouted before him, “Make way!” Thus he put him in charge of the whole land of Egypt.

44 Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, “I am Pharaoh, but without your word no one will lift hand or foot in all Egypt.” 45 Pharaoh gave Joseph the name Zaphenath-Paneah and gave him Asenath daughter of Potiphera, priest of On, to be his wife. And Joseph went throughout the land of Egypt.

46 Joseph was thirty years old when he entered the service of Pharaoh king of Egypt. And Joseph went out from Pharaoh’s presence and traveled throughout Egypt. 47 During the seven years of abundance the land produced plentifully. 48 Joseph collected all the food produced in those seven years of abundance in Egypt and stored it in the cities. In each city he put the food grown in the fields surrounding it. 49 Joseph stored up huge quantities of grain, like the sand of the sea; it was so much that he stopped keeping records because it was beyond measure.

50 Before the years of famine came, two sons were born to Joseph by Asenath daughter of Potiphera, priest of On. 51Joseph named his firstborn Manasseh and said, “It is because God has made me forget all my trouble and all my father’s household.” 52 The second son he named Ephraim and said, “It is because God has made me fruitful in the land of my suffering.”

53 The seven years of abundance in Egypt came to an end,54 and the seven years of famine began, just as Joseph had said. There was famine in all the other lands, but in the whole land of Egypt there was food. 55 When all Egypt began to feel the famine, the people cried to Pharaoh for food. Then Pharaoh told all the Egyptians, “Go to Joseph and do what he tells you.”

56 When the famine had spread over the whole country, Joseph opened all the storehouses and sold grain to the Egyptians, for the famine was severe throughout Egypt. 57 And all the world came to Egypt to buy grain from Joseph, because the famine was severe everywhere.

Genesis 42

Joseph’s Brothers Go to Egypt

1 When Jacob learned that there was grain in Egypt, he said to his sons, “Why do you just keep looking at each other?” 2 He continued, “I have heard that there is grain in Egypt. Go down there and buy some for us, so that we may live and not die.”

3 Then ten of Joseph’s brothers went down to buy grain from Egypt. 4 But Jacob did not send Benjamin, Joseph’s brother, with the others, because he was afraid that harm might come to him. 5 So Israel’s sons were among those who went to buy grain, for there was famine in the land of Canaan also.

6 Now Joseph was the governor of the land, the person who sold grain to all its people. So when Joseph’s brothers arrived, they bowed down to him with their faces to the ground. 7 As soon as Joseph saw his brothers, he recognized them, but he pretended to be a stranger and spoke harshly to them. “Where do you come from?” he asked.

“From the land of Canaan,” they replied, “to buy food.”

8 Although Joseph recognized his brothers, they did not recognize him. 9 Then he remembered his dreams about them and said to them, “You are spies! You have come to see where our land is unprotected.”

10 “No, my lord,” they answered. “Your servants have come to buy food. 11 We are all the sons of one man. Your servants are honest men, not spies.”

12 “No!” he said to them. “You have come to see where our land is unprotected.”

13 But they replied, “Your servants were twelve brothers, the sons of one man, who lives in the land of Canaan. The youngest is now with our father, and one is no more.”

14 Joseph said to them, “It is just as I told you: You are spies! 15 And this is how you will be tested: As surely as Pharaoh lives, you will not leave this place unless your youngest brother comes here. 16 Send one of your number to get your brother; the rest of you will be kept in prison, so that your words may be tested to see if you are telling the truth. If you are not, then as surely as Pharaoh lives, you are spies!” 17And he put them all in custody for three days.

18 On the third day, Joseph said to them, “Do this and you will live, for I fear God: 19 If you are honest men, let one of your brothers stay here in prison, while the rest of you go and take grain back for your starving households. 20 But you must bring your youngest brother to me, so that your words may be verified and that you may not die.” This they proceeded to do.

21 They said to one another, “Surely we are being punished because of our brother. We saw how distressed he was when he pleaded with us for his life, but we would not listen; that’s why this distress has come on us.”

22 Reuben replied, “Didn’t I tell you not to sin against the boy? But you wouldn’t listen! Now we must give an accounting for his blood.” 23 They did not realize that Joseph could understand them, since he was using an interpreter.

24 He turned away from them and began to weep, but then came back and spoke to them again. He had Simeon taken from them and bound before their eyes.

25 Joseph gave orders to fill their bags with grain, to put each man’s silver back in his sack, and to give them provisions for their journey. After this was done for them, 26 they loaded their grain on their donkeys and left.

27 At the place where they stopped for the night one of them opened his sack to get feed for his donkey, and he saw his silver in the mouth of his sack. 28 “My silver has been returned,” he said to his brothers. “Here it is in my sack.”

Their hearts sank and they turned to each other trembling and said, “What is this that God has done to us?”

29 When they came to their father Jacob in the land of Canaan, they told him all that had happened to them. They said, 30 “The man who is lord over the land spoke harshly to us and treated us as though we were spying on the land. 31 But we said to him, ‘We are honest men; we are not spies. 32 We were twelve brothers, sons of one father. One is no more, and the youngest is now with our father in Canaan.’

33 “Then the man who is lord over the land said to us, ‘This is how I will know whether you are honest men: Leave one of your brothers here with me, and take food for your starving households and go. 34 But bring your youngest brother to me so I will know that you are not spies but honest men. Then I will give your brother back to you, and you can trade in the land.’”

35 As they were emptying their sacks, there in each man’s sack was his pouch of silver! When they and their father saw the money pouches, they were frightened. 36 Their father Jacob said to them, “You have deprived me of my children. Joseph is no more and Simeon is no more, and now you want to take Benjamin. Everything is against me!”

37 Then Reuben said to his father, “You may put both of my sons to death if I do not bring him back to you. Entrust him to my care, and I will bring him back.”

38 But Jacob said, “My son will not go down there with you; his brother is dead and he is the only one left. If harm comes to him on the journey you are taking, you will bring my gray head down to the grave in sorrow.”


Matthew 12

Jesus Is Lord of the Sabbath

1 At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry and began to pick some heads of grain and eat them. 2 When the Pharisees saw this, they said to him, “Look! Your disciples are doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath.”

3 He answered, “Haven’t you read what David did when he and his companions were hungry? 4 He entered the house of God, and he and his companions ate the consecrated bread—which was not lawful for them to do, but only for the priests. 5Or haven’t you read in the Law that the priests on Sabbath duty in the temple desecrate the Sabbath and yet are innocent? 6 I tell you that something greater than the temple is here. 7 If you had known what these words mean, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the innocent. 8 For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.”

9 Going on from that place, he went into their synagogue, 10and a man with a shriveled hand was there. Looking for a reason to bring charges against Jesus, they asked him, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?”

11 He said to them, “If any of you has a sheep and it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will you not take hold of it and lift it out?12 How much more valuable is a person than a sheep! Therefore it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.”

13 Then he said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” So he stretched it out and it was completely restored, just as sound as the other. 14 But the Pharisees went out and plotted how they might kill Jesus.

God’s Chosen Servant

15 Aware of this, Jesus withdrew from that place. A large crowd followed him, and he healed all who were ill. 16 He warned them not to tell others about him. 17 This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah:

18 “Here is my servant whom I have chosen,
the one I love, in whom I delight;
I will put my Spirit on him,
and he will proclaim justice to the nations.
19 He will not quarrel or cry out;
no one will hear his voice in the streets.
20 A bruised reed he will not break,
and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out,
till he has brought justice through to victory.
21 In his name the nations will put their hope.”

Jesus and Beelzebul

22 Then they brought him a demon-possessed man who was blind and mute, and Jesus healed him, so that he could both talk and see. 23 All the people were astonished and said, “Could this be the Son of David?”

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Asher [Ăsh'ûr]—happy. The eighth son of Jacob and second of Zilpah, Leah’s maid and progenitor of a tribe (Gen. 30:13, 35:26; 49:20; Deut. 33:24, 25). The New Testament form is Aser (Luke 2:36; Rev. 7:6). Asher was the founder of the Asherites (Num. 1:13; Judg. 1:32). Also the name of a town east of Shechem (Josh. 17:7).

The Man with Shoes of Iron and Brass

In the blessings of Jacob and Moses, Asher is described as being not only acceptable to his brethren, but as one blessed of God with royal dainties or bountiful supplies. Of all the tribes of Israel the tribe of Asher has the least eventful history. It never produced a great warrior, judge, king or counselor. The land of Asher was as uneventful as the tribe itself. No great battles were fought there in Israel’s time.

I. Asher and his bounties. Asher was the tribe of rich pastures. Asher dwelt in the midst of plenty and being willing to share what he had, was most acceptable to his brethren. Dipping the foot in oil may refer to the olive-trees, so plentiful in that thickly wooded part of Palestine. Acre, the port and town given to Asher, has been regarded as the key of Palestine, and as oil has been recently discovered near by, perhaps the fatness of the prophecies of Jacob and Moses is about to be realized to the full.

II. Asher and his female representative. No other tribe of Israel is represented in Scripture by a woman. One member of the tribe, a widow, represents the individual history of the tribe. “One Anna, a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher” (Luke 2:36-38). It was Anna who confessed Christ, at His birth, on the part of Israel.

III. Asher and his love of ease. The chief defect in the character of Asher was his unwillingness to drive out the Canaanites. He was content to dwell among them. The command was to utterly drive them out and make no terms with them. “Live and let live,” seems to have been Asher’s policy. Asher’s rich bounties had an enervating effect upon the tribe. The people were conspicuous by their absence during the war with Sisera (Judg. 5:17). Apart from Anna, none of the tribe appear to have been eminent for prowess or piety. Prosperity resulted in ease and declension.

IV. Asher and the promise of endurance. Completing the blessing of Moses was a wonderful promise of endurance for the days of pilgrimage. “Thy shoes shall be iron and brass, and as thy days so shall thy strength be.” The words for shoes and strength are peculiar to this verse, and are found nowhere else in the Bible. Many guesses have been made as to the true meaning of these words. Such a promise was well understood by those who, as they journeyed through the great and terrible wilderness had raiment that waxed not old upon them and feet that did not swell. Anna is a fitting illustration of the promised endurance, seeing that she was long past eighty years of age when she saw the Saviour.

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January 17, 2012

The Power of Forgiveness

Part 1

Mary Southerland

Today's Truth

The LORD said to me again, 'Go, show your love to a woman loved by someone else, who has been unfaithful to you. In the same way the LORD loves the people of Israel, even though they worship other gods and love to eat the raisin cakes.' So I bought her for six ounces of silver and ten bushels of barley. Then I told her, 'You must wait for me for many days. You must not be a prostitute, and you must not have sexual relations with any other man. I will act the same way toward you.' In the same way Israel will live many days without a king or leader, without sacrifices or holy stone pillars, and without the holy vest or an idol. After this, the people of Israel will return to the LORD their God and follow him and the king from David's family. In the last days, they will turn in fear to the LORD, and he will bless them (Hosea 3:1-5, NCV).

Friend to Friend

True love is strong, unconditional - God's love - a love that we cannot understand or explain in human terms. The life of the Old Testament prophet, Hosea, powerfully illustrates this kind of love. Hosea was married to Gomer and together they had three children. Gomer was unfaithful to Hosea, betraying the covenant of marriage. Hosea had every right to walk away, but love that never fails calls us up to higher choices that are beyond human reasoning. Supernatural choices demand supernatural action and sacrifice.

Hosea 3:2 "So I bought her for six ounces of silver and ten bushels of barley" (NCV).

Think about it. Hosea was the one who had been wronged and humiliated. Yes, he was the one following God but he was also the one called to sacrifice. We misunderstand the full meaning of sacrifice, thinking it is only a decision to "give up" self-centered rights, hoarded resources or the freedom to walk away. Sacrifice is a mirror reflecting our own pride and sin, calling us to lay down all sense of human justice or fairness in order for God to work in and through us to love others. What sacrifices did God call Hosea to make?

Hosea had to sacrifice his pride.

The phrase "loved by another," suggests Gomer was owned by a family friend or fellow citizen. She may have been sleeping with one or more of Hosea's friends or, at the very least, one of his neighbors. Hosea had to swallow his pride and go to her in love and forgiveness. Now let me just tell you that if I had been the one going to find Gomer, I would have been more likely to snatch her up by the hair and drag her home in front of as many people as possible to prove she could not get away with what she was doing. Better yet, I would have said, "Good riddance. You can keep her!" I am certain I could find many who would agree with my plan of punishment and revenge. It seems to me that Hosea stood to gain very little but lose a great deal by choosing to respond as he did. Hosea was called on to sacrifice everything to redeem a woman who did not deserve sacrifice or redemption. Jesus did the same thing for us when He died on the cross. He now calls us to respond with that same God-like heart attitude of redemption.

Hosea had to sacrifice his rights.

Gomer broke the covenant of marriage. Don't miss this pivotal truth. Biblically, Hosea had every justification to divorce Gomer. He could have tossed her out and turned her children against her, stripping her life of every good thing. Hosea could have destroyed Gomer, and no one would have blamed him. Instead, Hosea rose to a higher place when he laid down his anger, hurt and the right to retaliate or seek revenge. It doesn't stop there.

Hosea took the initiative and went to her. Matthew describes a forgiveness we find hard to understand. "So if you are standing before the altar in the Temple, offering a sacrifice to God, and you suddenly remember that someone has something against you, leave your sacrifice there beside the altar. Go and be reconciled to that person. Then come and offer your sacrifice to God" (Matthew 5:23 , NLT). Notice what this verse says. If we know someone has something against us and we refuse to deal with it, nothing we do or say will count in Kingdom work. God always seeks restoration and reconciliation and commands us to look past what seems like a logical reaction to the highest obedience we can offer.

There is one more very important step in learning to truly forgive. Don't miss the rest of Hosea and Gomer's story in Thursday's devotion.

Let's Pray

Father, I am so tired of holding on to the pain in my life. I want to forgive those who have hurt me and learn how to let go of the pain and walk on. Today, I lay down my pride and my rights. I will not seek revenge or retaliation. Instead, I choose to love my enemies and bless those who have harmed me. Please give me the strength and power to honor you as I step out in obedience.

In Jesus' name,

Amen.

Now It's Your Turn

Read and meditate on the following verses:

Matthew 5:23-24 (NLT) "So if you are standing before the altar in the Temple, offering a sacrifice to God, and you suddenly remember that someone has something against you ... leave your sacrifice there beside the altar. Go and be reconciled to that person. Then come and offer your sacrifice to God."

Make a list of the sins in your life that need the forgiveness of God. Ask God to forgive you for each one. If you have sinned against someone else, be willing to take the first step of reconciliation. If someone has sinned against you, forgive them and go to them in love, seeking restoration. Consider the following questions and answer them honestly.

What are the rewards of forgiveness?

What are the barriers to forgiveness in my heart?

What are the things for which I cannot forgive myself?

What does that indicate about my understanding of true forgiveness?

More from the Girlfriends

Be sure to check out the FREE MP3s on Mary's website.

Need help with forgiving those who have hurt you? Mary'sE-Bible Study, The Power of Forgiveness offers practical steps you can take to truly forgive.

Need help getting the Word of God into your life? Check out Mary's Weekly Online Bible Study, When I Am Afraid, to learn how to face, deal with and surrender your fears to God.

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Search the Scriptures

“To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.” Isaiah 8:20

Suggested Further Reading: Acts 17:10-15

I teach that all men by nature are lost by Adam’s fall. See whether that is true or not. I hold that men have so gone astray that no man either will or can come to Christ except the Father draw him. If I am wrong, find me out. I believe that God, before all worlds, chose to himself a people, whom no man can number, for whom the Saviour died, to whom the Holy Spirit is given, and who will infallibly be saved. You may dislike that doctrine; I do not care: see if it is not in the Bible. See if it does not there declare that we are “elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father,” and so on. I believe that every child of God must assuredly be brought by converting grace from the ruins of the fall, and must assuredly be “kept by the power of God, through faith, unto salvation,” beyond the hazard of ever totally falling away. If I am wrong there, get your Bibles out, and refute me in your own houses. I hold it to be a fact that every man who is converted will lead a holy life, and yet at the same time will put no dependence on his holy life, but trust only in the blood and righteousness of Jesus Christ. And I hold, that every man that believes, is in duty bound to be immersed. I hold the baptism of infants to be a lie and a heresy; but I claim for that great ordinance of God, Believer’s Baptism, that it should have the examination of Scripture. I hold, that to none but believers may immersion be given, and that all believers are in duty bound to be immersed. If I am wrong, well and good; do not believe me; but if I am right, obey the Word with reverence. I will have no error, even upon a point which some men think to be unimportant; for a grain of truth is a diamond, and a grain of error may be of serious consequence to us, to our injury and hurt. I hold, then, that none but believers have any right to the Lord’s Supper; that it is wrong to offer the Lord’s Supper indiscriminately to all, and that none but Christians have a right either to the doctrines, the benefits, or the ordinances of God’s house. If these things are not so, condemn me as you please; but if the Bible is with me, your condemnation is of no avail.

For meditation: This is how to use these daily readings—according to the Bible, Spurgeon must have made some mistakes (James 3:1,2).

Sermon no. 172
17 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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With Spirit and Fire

Matthew 3:11-12

The purifying work of the Holy Spirit commences in the believer when he first turns to Christ. Sometimes the Spirit works on us in the fire of adversity, through which the Lord promises to take us for His good purposes ( Isa. 43:1-7). When we face trials in our lives we have an opportunity to prove our faith and reliance on God. If you face trouble this day, consider how the Lord may be using it to purify your soul.

For further study:

Deut. 4:32-40

The Bible in a year:

Exodus 2-4

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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With Spirit and Fire

Matthew 3:11-12 "I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I.... He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire" ( v. 11)

John Calvin looked to John the Baptist's condemnation of the Pharisees and Sadducees as an example of how the church should deal with those especially hard in heart. He comments on Matthew 3:7-10 that "those whose habits of uttering falsehood to God, and of deceiving themselves, lead them to hold out hypocrisy and pretension, instead of the reality, ought to be urged, with greater sharpness than other men, to true repentance." At times only strong confrontation will rescue the soul of a professing believer who has grown complacent and presumed upon the Lord's grace (18:15-20; James 5:19-20).

Matthew 3:7-10 is clear that the Sadducees and Pharisees needed such upbraiding. These Jewish leaders during the Lord's earthly ministry were often at odds because of their conflicting theological opinions. The party of the Sadducees was a kind of priestly aristocracy not against conforming to Roman customs and law. They also denied the bodily resurrection of God's people, but the idea that they accepted only the five books of Moses as Scripture is probably mistaken. Like the Pharisees, they submitted to the entire Old Testament. On the other hand, the Pharisees added the oral law - traditions that people followed as a guide to the Torah, that is, the Scriptures. The Pharisees were not priests but scholars who affirmed the resurrection and were popular with the people. Despite their disagreements, both groups united against John and later, Jesus. After all, "the enemy of my enemy is my friend." Both groups had seats on the Sanhedrin, the ruling council of the Jews, and many of them apparently felt that Abrahamic descent guaranteed them a place in the kingdom (v. 9).

It is one thing to reject John the Baptist, but quite another to deny the One whom he precedes. John promises in today's passage that the Messiah will baptize not just with water but with the Spirit and fire ( v. 11), an image with double meaning. The long awaited flame of the Holy Spirit will purify the soul and eventually remove all corruption from those who submit to the Son of David (Isa. 1:24-26). But those who continue in their rejection of this king will find only a fiery destruction (Isa. 66:15-16; Matt. 3:12).

Coram deo: Living before the face of God

The purifying work of the Holy Spirit commences in the believer when he first turns to Christ. Sometimes the Spirit works on us in the fire of adversity, through which the Lord promises to take us for His good purposes (Isa. 43:1-7 ). When we face trials in our lives we have an opportunity to prove our faith and reliance on God. If you face trouble this day, consider how the Lord may be using it to purify your soul.

For further study:

Deut. 4:32-40

The Bible in a year:

Exodus 2-4

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

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Winnowing time

‘What is the chaff to the wheat? saith the Lord.’ Jeremiah 23:28

Suggested Further Reading: Jude 1–4

Watch and pray, as a Christian church, each one of you as members of it, that we may not be allowed to flatter ourselves with a nominal increase, unless it be a real increase from God, for ‘what is the chaff to the wheat?’ Suppose the report should be that there are so many added to the church, but suppose that they are not added to the Lord now, nor found in Christ hereafter? We have done these people serious damage by, as it were, endorsing their pretensions to Christianity when they have no real claim to it. We may have helped their delusion, we may have rocked the cradle of delusive slumber into which they have fallen, and out of which they will never wake until they open their eyes in hell. ‘What is the chaff to the wheat?’ I wish that such a text as this would go whistling through some of the churches! I would like to hear of its being preached from every pulpit in London, and I would pray the Holy Spirit to apply it to the conscience of every hearer. Your admission into the church by infant sprinkling, or by confirmation, or by the right hand of fellowship, or by believers’ immersion, all go for nothing unless you have been admitted into union with Christ. Your sitting at the Lord’s table; coming often to holy communion; being found regularly occupying your place in public worship; joining in the solemn hymn; bending with others in earnest prayers—these things are all nothing, and less than nothing and mockery, unless your heart has been renewed. Unless you have the Spirit of Christ you are none of his. ‘Ye must be born again.’

For meditation: Those who are members of local churches without being members of Christ’s body have been placed in a position of extremely dangerous false assurance and are unequally yoked with converted church members. It is kinder and wiser to refuse to admit such to membership rather than to give them the benefit of the doubt. A challenge to their false hopes will probably do more to bring them to their spiritual senses ( Acts 8:13–24).

Sermon no. 862
17 January (1867)

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Glynnis Whitwer

January 17, 2012

She Stands Alone
Glynnis Whitwer

"Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain." 1 Corinthians 15:58 (NIV)

I wiped beads of sweat from my forehead as I pushed the shopping cart towards my car. Unloading my groceries as fast as I could, I hopped in my car, hoping for quick relief. But the triple digit temperatures had seeped inside. Blasting the air conditioning, I pulled out of the parking lot on to a back street. That's when I saw her. Standing alone.

A petite figure stood on the sidewalk in front of a brick building. A black covering draped her head, leading to a black dress, black hose and sturdy black shoes. Though she faced the building, I could see she held a Bible. Her head bent over the cradled book as she stood in the sweltering heat. Alone.

It took but a moment to pass her, but the image of her standing alone branded into my brain. Oh, I've seen people standing alone in front of buildings. But this wasn't just any building. This wasn't a bank or a restaurant. There was no bus stop in front. The women entering this building were broken, and weren't going in for healing.

And on that hot summer afternoon one woman stood alone praying for them and the children they carried.

She stood alone for what she believed God told her to do that day. In the heat. Facing discomfort, odd looks and probably some derisive comments. Some might say her sacrifice made no difference. We'll never know.

We'll never know whose plans were changed by her prayers, by her willingness to stand alone.

Moments before I saw her, all I thought about was getting out of the heat. But her conviction challenged me to ask:For what cause am I willing to stand alone?

The sight of her touched me deeply because I know the exhaustion of battle fatigue. I've sat in frustration rather than standing firm. I know what weary feels like when it seems my efforts aren't making a significant difference. I've felt cornered rather than like a conqueror.

Some days, I'm tired of standing for what I believe in. I think others would stand taller, or with less exhaustion. They'd deal with discouragement better than me. They'd show mercy where I show frustration. Maybe someone else could ... maybe they should ... take over for me.

That's when the image of this humble woman comes to mind. And the Lord says to me:

You just think she's standing alone. She's not. I'm right next to her. And I'll be right next to you. Keep standing.

So I breathe in and breathe out. I picture the precious sister standing in front of the building. Only this time, she's not alone. In my mind I see Jesus standing beside her.

And on my own street, in my own life, in my own home, facing my own calling, wondering if I'm making any difference, I determine to stand another day. For a cause I believe in ... for the cause of Christ ... wherever He calls me to stand.

Dear Lord, thank You for reminding me that when I think I'm standing alone, I'm not. Thank You for being my hope in difficult times, and holding me up when I want to sit this one out. Help me to remember You are a very present help in times of trouble. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Do You Know Him?

P31 Woman magazine

Visit Glynnis' blog where she'll share a bit more of a challenge she personally faces in her own life.

I Used to Be So Organized by Glynnis Whitwer

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!

Reflect and Respond:
Have I ever been tempted to give up on something because it seems too overwhelming? What difference would it make if I knew Jesus was standing right beside me?

Identify an area of your life where you have given up or want to. Perhaps you've stopped praying, or inviting, or asking to talk with someone. Commit to do one thing this week to move forward in this area. This could be pray for five minutes, invite once more or ask again.

Power Verses:
Romans 14:7, "For none of us lives for ourselves alone, and none of us dies for ourselves alone." (NIV)

Isaiah 41:10, "So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand." (NIV)

© 2012 by Glynnis Whitwer. All rights reserved.

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

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Everything New - A Weeekly Devotional

GOD’S ATTRIBUTES: HE IS TRUE

If God were great but not good, he would manipulate, deceive, and just plain lie. But because he is good, he is true and he is truthful. When we say that God is true, it is so much more than saying he is accurate (like a bank statement being true or a newspaper report being precise).

Truth as a personal attribute means faithfulness. It means being consistent within oneself, and in harmony with reality. When any of the biblical authors talked about “the true God” they were saying, the Creator of heaven and earth is steady and faithful. He does not change the rules of life. All things hold together as they are “trued” to him who is true. He will always reflect reality to us, and so his words of comfort are not mere sentimental rhetoric, and his words of confrontation are not a sour disposition expressed. There is no one more true than God.

It is why Jesus said: “Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent” (John 17:3).

It is all about knowing God. The last ten devotionals in the Everything New series have focussed on some of the attributes of God (see them all here). They include big words, landmark words: Holiness. Righteousness. Justice. Love. Truth. But they are not mere words, and not just theological bookmarkers.

They are themes that rise up out of almost every page of the Bible. They are God’s way of saying to you and to me that he is great, but that he is also good. His moral excellence and purity is who he is. This is why we long for something better in our own lives–to be different from what we are today (more holy), to get things right in life, to receive love and to extend it, to be faithful.

God’s majesty alone ought to interest us in knowing him. But it is a good thing if we also pursue him because of his goodness, which is always a picture of how we are to live. That’s what it means to be made in the image of God. Some of his attributes, especially these attributes of goodness, are the intended shape of our human lives. And others, like omniscience and omnipresence and omnipotence, are left to God alone.

The most remarkable thing is this: there is a God and he wants us to know him. When we feel discouraged, or wounded, or confused, or lost–God speaks to us. It is equally important for us to know that when life is going well and we have no signifiant problems, we need to connect with God, otherwise pride and self-confidence will be our downfall. At all times and under all circumstances, he is the God who is great and good. And he is the one who says, “I am making everything new.”

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

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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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Can believers fall away?

This week's reading: Luke 8:13

It would seem so, according to this verse. But some see another possibility: that this verse looks at how people appear, rather than their true spiritual condition. They suggest the appearance of falling away (that is, turning away from the faith entirely and decisively) reveals that the person never had true faith.

Others, however, say it's possible to believe for a while. They say the New Testament warns believers to persevere in their faith-a warning different from that given to unbelievers. They say God gives people a free will-something they still have when they commit to Christ.

The debate goes on, so it is perhaps best to emphasize what both sides agree on: In the end those who believe will be saved, and only the seed that bears fruit will reach its goal.

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