Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Daily Devotional Wednesday 4th January

“For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age,”Titus 2:11-12 NIV
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Morning and Evening by Charles Spurgeon

Morning

"I will give thee for a covenant of the people."
Isaiah 49:8

Jesus Christ is himself the sum and substance of the covenant, and as one of its gifts. He is the property of every believer. Believer, canst thou estimate what thou hast gotten in Christ? "In him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily." Consider that word "God" and its infinity, and then meditate upon "perfect man" and all his beauty; for all that Christ, as God and man, ever had, or can have, is thine--out of pure free favour, passed over to thee to be thine entailed property forever. Our blessed Jesus, as God, is omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent. Will it not console you to know that all these great and glorious attributes are altogether yours? Has he power? That power is yours to support and strengthen you, to overcome your enemies, and to preserve you even to the end. Has he love? Well, there is not a drop of love in his heart which is not yours; you may dive into the immense ocean of his love, and you may say of it all, "It is mine." Hath he justice? It may seem a stern attribute, but even that is yours, for he will by his justice see to it that all which is promised to you in the covenant of grace shall be most certainly secured to you. And all that he has as perfect man is yours. As a perfect man the Father's delight was upon him. He stood accepted by the Most High. O believer, God's acceptance of Christ is thine acceptance; for knowest thou not that the love which the Father set on a perfect Christ, he sets on thee now? For all that Christ did is thine. That perfect righteousness which Jesus wrought out, when through his stainless life he kept the law and made it honourable, is thine, and is imputed to thee. Christ is in the covenant.

"My God, I am thine--what a comfort divine!

What a blessing to know that the Saviour is mine!

In the heavenly Lamb thrice happy I am,

And my heart it doth dance at the sound of his name."

Evening

"The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight."
Luke 3:4

The voice crying in the wilderness demanded a way for the Lord, a way prepared, and a way prepared in the wilderness. I would be attentive to the Master's proclamation, and give him a road into my heart, cast up by gracious operations, through the desert of my nature. The four directions in the text must have my serious attention.

Every valley must be exalted. Low and grovelling thoughts of God must be given up; doubting and despairing must be removed; and self-seeking and carnal delights must be forsaken. Across these deep valleys a glorious causeway of grace must be raised.

Every mountain and hill shall be laid low. Proud creature-sufficiency, and boastful self-righteousness, must be levelled, to make a highway for the King of kings. Divine fellowship is never vouchsafed to haughty, highminded sinners. The Lord hath respect unto the lowly, and visits the contrite in heart, but the lofty are an abomination unto him. My soul, beseech the Holy Spirit to set thee right in this respect.

The crooked shall be made straight. The wavering heart must have a straight path of decision for God and holiness marked out for it. Double-minded men are strangers to the God of truth. My soul, take heed that thou be in all things honest and true, as in the sight of the heart-searching God.

The rough places shall be made smooth. Stumbling-blocks of sin must be removed, and thorns and briers of rebellion must be uprooted. So great a visitor must not find miry ways and stony places when he comes to honour his favoured ones with his company. Oh that this evening the Lord may find in my heart a highway made ready by his grace, that he may make a triumphal progress through the utmost bounds of my soul, from the beginning of this year even to the end of it.

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Today's reading: Genesis 7-9, Matthew 3 (NIV)

View today's reading on Bible Gateway

Genesis 7

1 The LORD then said to Noah, “Go into the ark, you and your whole family, because I have found you righteous in this generation. 2 Take with you seven pairs of every kind of clean animal, a male and its mate, and one pair of every kind of unclean animal, a male and its mate, 3 and also seven pairs of every kind of bird, male and female, to keep their various kinds alive throughout the earth. 4 Seven days from now I will send rain on the earth for forty days and forty nights, and I will wipe from the face of the earth every living creature I have made.”

5 And Noah did all that the LORD commanded him.

6 Noah was six hundred years old when the floodwaters came on the earth. 7 And Noah and his sons and his wife and his sons’ wives entered the ark to escape the waters of the flood. 8Pairs of clean and unclean animals, of birds and of all creatures that move along the ground, 9 male and female, came to Noah and entered the ark, as God had commanded Noah. 10 And after the seven days the floodwaters came on the earth.

11 In the six hundredth year of Noah’s life, on the seventeenth day of the second month—on that day all the springs of the great deep burst forth, and the floodgates of the heavens were opened. 12 And rain fell on the earth forty days and forty nights.

13 On that very day Noah and his sons, Shem, Ham and Japheth, together with his wife and the wives of his three sons, entered the ark. 14 They had with them every wild animal according to its kind, all livestock according to their kinds, every creature that moves along the ground according to its kind and every bird according to its kind, everything with wings.15 Pairs of all creatures that have the breath of life in them came to Noah and entered the ark. 16 The animals going in were male and female of every living thing, as God had commanded Noah. Then the LORD shut him in.

17 For forty days the flood kept coming on the earth, and as the waters increased they lifted the ark high above the earth. 18The waters rose and increased greatly on the earth, and the ark floated on the surface of the water. 19 They rose greatly on the earth, and all the high mountains under the entire heavens were covered. 20 The waters rose and covered the mountains to a depth of more than fifteen cubits. 21 Every living thing that moved on land perished—birds, livestock, wild animals, all the creatures that swarm over the earth, and all mankind. 22Everything on dry land that had the breath of life in its nostrils died. 23 Every living thing on the face of the earth was wiped out; people and animals and the creatures that move along the ground and the birds were wiped from the earth. Only Noah was left, and those with him in the ark.

24 The waters flooded the earth for a hundred and fifty days.

Genesis 8

1 But God remembered Noah and all the wild animals and the livestock that were with him in the ark, and he sent a wind over the earth, and the waters receded. 2 Now the springs of the deep and the floodgates of the heavens had been closed, and the rain had stopped falling from the sky. 3 The water receded steadily from the earth. At the end of the hundred and fifty days the water had gone down, 4 and on the seventeenth day of the seventh month the ark came to rest on the mountains of Ararat.5 The waters continued to recede until the tenth month, and on the first day of the tenth month the tops of the mountains became visible.

6 After forty days Noah opened a window he had made in the ark 7 and sent out a raven, and it kept flying back and forth until the water had dried up from the earth. 8 Then he sent out a dove to see if the water had receded from the surface of the ground. 9 But the dove could find nowhere to perch because there was water over all the surface of the earth; so it returned to Noah in the ark. He reached out his hand and took the dove and brought it back to himself in the ark. 10 He waited seven more days and again sent out the dove from the ark. 11 When the dove returned to him in the evening, there in its beak was a freshly plucked olive leaf! Then Noah knew that the water had receded from the earth. 12 He waited seven more days and sent the dove out again, but this time it did not return to him.

13 By the first day of the first month of Noah’s six hundred and first year, the water had dried up from the earth. Noah then removed the covering from the ark and saw that the surface of the ground was dry. 14 By the twenty-seventh day of the second month the earth was completely dry.

15 Then God said to Noah, 16 “Come out of the ark, you and your wife and your sons and their wives. 17 Bring out every kind of living creature that is with you—the birds, the animals, and all the creatures that move along the ground—so they can multiply on the earth and be fruitful and increase in number on it.”

18 So Noah came out, together with his sons and his wife and his sons’ wives. 19 All the animals and all the creatures that move along the ground and all the birds—everything that moves on land—came out of the ark, one kind after another.

20 Then Noah built an altar to the LORD and, taking some of all the clean animals and clean birds, he sacrificed burnt offerings on it. 21 The LORD smelled the pleasing aroma and said in his heart: “Never again will I curse the ground because of humans, even though every inclination of the human heart is evil from childhood. And never again will I destroy all living creatures, as I have done.

22 “As long as the earth endures,
seedtime and harvest,
cold and heat,
summer and winter,
day and night
will never cease.”

Genesis 9

God’s Covenant With Noah

1 Then God blessed Noah and his sons, saying to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the earth. 2 The fear and dread of you will fall on all the beasts of the earth, and on all the birds in the sky, on every creature that moves along the ground, and on all the fish in the sea; they are given into your hands. 3 Everything that lives and moves about will be food for you. Just as I gave you the green plants, I now give you everything.

4 “But you must not eat meat that has its lifeblood still in it. 5And for your lifeblood I will surely demand an accounting. I will demand an accounting from every animal. And from each human being, too, I will demand an accounting for the life of another human being.

6 “Whoever sheds human blood,
by humans shall their blood be shed;
for in the image of God
has God made mankind.

7 As for you, be fruitful and increase in number; multiply on the earth and increase upon it.”

8 Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him: 9 “I now establish my covenant with you and with your descendants after you 10 and with every living creature that was with you—the birds, the livestock and all the wild animals, all those that came out of the ark with you—every living creature on earth. 11I establish my covenant with you: Never again will all life be destroyed by the waters of a flood; never again will there be a flood to destroy the earth.”

12 And God said, “This is the sign of the covenant I am making between me and you and every living creature with you, a covenant for all generations to come: 13 I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth. 14 Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds, 15 I will remember my covenant between me and you and all living creatures of every kind. Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life. 16 Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth.”

17 So God said to Noah, “This is the sign of the covenant I have established between me and all life on the earth.”

The Sons of Noah

18 The sons of Noah who came out of the ark were Shem, Ham and Japheth. (Ham was the father of Canaan.) 19 These were the three sons of Noah, and from them came the people who were scattered over the whole earth.

20 Noah, a man of the soil, proceeded to plant a vineyard. 21When he drank some of its wine, he became drunk and lay uncovered inside his tent. 22 Ham, the father of Canaan, saw his father naked and told his two brothers outside. 23 But Shem and Japheth took a garment and laid it across their shoulders; then they walked in backward and covered their father’s naked body. Their faces were turned the other way so that they would not see their father naked.

24 When Noah awoke from his wine and found out what his youngest son had done to him, 25 he said,

“Cursed be Canaan!
The lowest of slaves
will he be to his brothers.”

26 He also said,

“Praise be to the LORD, the God of Shem!
May Canaan be the slave of Shem.
27 May God extend Japheth’s territory;
may Japheth live in the tents of Shem,
and may Canaan be the slave of Japheth.”

28 After the flood Noah lived 350 years. 29 Noah lived a total of 950 years, and then he died.


Matthew 3

John the Baptist Prepares the Way

1 In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea 2 and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” 3 This is he who was spoken of through the prophet Isaiah:

“A voice of one calling in the wilderness,
‘Prepare the way for the Lord,
make straight paths for him.’”

4 John’s clothes were made of camel’s hair, and he had a leather belt around his waist. His food was locusts and wild honey. 5 People went out to him from Jerusalem and all Judea and the whole region of the Jordan. 6 Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River.

7 But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to where he was baptizing, he said to them: “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? 8Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. 9 And do not think you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. 10 The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.

11 “I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me comes one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 12 His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”

The Baptism of Jesus

13 Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John. 14 But John tried to deter him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?”

15 Jesus replied, “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.” Then John consented.

16 As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. 17And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”

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Abijah, Abiah, Abia [Ăbī'jah,Ăbī'ah, Ăbī' ă]—jehovah is my father orfather of the sea.

  1. A son of Jeroboam who died in his youth (1 Kings 14:1).
  2. A priest in David’s time who was head of the eighth course in Temple service (1 Chron. 24:10). See ABIAH.
  3. Son and successor of Rehoboam whose mother was Maachah, Absalom’s daughter (2 Chron. 11:20, 22;12:16; 13 ; 14:1). Called Abijam in 1 Kings 14:31. SeeABIA.
  4. A priest who sealed the covenant made by Nehemiah and the people to serve the Lord. As further references are encountered to this act, it will be borne in mind that it represented the re-dedication of the people to the worship and work of God after their return from the Babylonian captivity.
  5. Another priest who returned from exile. Perhaps the same person as the preceding Abijah (Neh. 12:1-4, 12-17). Also the name of the mother of Hezekiah, king of Judah (2 Chron. 29:1 ; she is also called Abi, 2 Kings 18:2).
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January 3, 2012

Go for the Gold

Part 1

Mary Southerland

Today's Truth

2 Corinthians 1:12 "Our conscience testifies that we have conducted ourselves in the world, and especially in our relations with you, in the holiness and sincerity that are from God. We have done so not according to worldly wisdom but according to God's grace."

Friend to Friend

I always look forward to watching the Winter Olympics and am always amazed by the amount of training the athletes are willing to invest in order to win a gold, silver or bronze medal. If Christians were willing to make the same kind of investment in running the race of life, I believe the world would be a vastly different place. How important you consider a race to be influences how hard you will run it and determines the goals you set in order to win that race. I believe every believer should have clear life goals based on clear spiritual goals which should be the most important goals of all. There is a close connection between spiritual goal-orientation and motivation and fulfillment in your Christian life. This is a big reason why so many Christians are unmotivated in their walks. If you want your relationship with God to be motivating, it has to be making progress, accomplishing something and steadily growing - which involves learning to set meaningful life goals.

In order to set meaningful life goals, it is important to remember that because we are children of God, we walk by faith - not by sight. The world's wisdom is often in direct opposition to the grace of God. In 2 Corinthians 1:12 the apostle Paul reminds us to keep our gaze on God, our glance on our circumstances and our path in His will. One of the most comforting thoughts about setting goals is that God is more concerned about my future than I am. When I stop to think about the fact that God has planned out every day of my life, setting goals becomes the daily quest of discovering that plan and choosing to follow it. I find great hope in the knowledge that even though I do not know every detail concerning my future, God does, and He has already made every provision for that plan. In other words, where God guides - He provides - which is why I can face each day with a confident expectation that God is sufficient and will bless my life as I seek His plan and set my life goals accordingly. Setting goals is the mark of a seeking heart that longs to please God and experience every blessing He has in store.

A friend once shared with me the idea of making life goals "S.M.A.R.T." Over the years, this idea has become a practical and powerful tool in learning how to set meaningful life goals. I hope it is helpful to you.

Specific. Psalm 139:16 "All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be."

Life goals must be specific. Determine precisely what your goals are. What have you always wanted to do but have never had the time or money? What would you do if money and time were not an issue? What do you want to accomplish in the next five years? What do you wish you had done in the last five years? What do you think God wants you to do that you are not doing?

Break each goal down into a series of smaller accomplishments that, when completed, would result in achieving your primary goal. When you break your goals into bite-sized pieces they don't seem to be quite as daunting.

By the way, celebrate each time you achieve one of your goals. Sharon Jaynes is a good friend and awesome partner in ministry. I will never forget the day Sharon walked into the office where we both worked, holding what looked like a new baby wrapped in a blanket. Since Sharon's son was in college at the time, you can say I was a little surprised - until she unfolded the blanket and said, "I just gave birth." Her "bundle" was actually the first copy of her new book and she was celebrating. I joined her in praising God for the goal she had set and met! Praise and celebration can help motivate you to achieve the next goal on your list.

Measurable. Luke 11:28 "Blessed are those who hear the word of God and obey it."

Can you tangibly show you met the goal? Goals must be specific to have life-changing value and you must be able to tell whether or not you have reached each goal. What specifically do you want to accomplish, and within what time frame? It is so easy to set ambiguous life goals. "I want to get more involved in my church" instead of "I will attend the 10:30worship service each week." I once set the goal of improving my prayer life but the first question that popped into my mind was, "How?" A better goal would have been to pray each morning for 10 minutes or recruit a prayer partner to pray with once a week.

Once a goal has been met, review the process of meeting that goal and determine what mistakes you could have avoided and what changes you should have made along the way. Ask God for wisdom as you plan and set specific goals. Involve Him every step of the way and be sure to chart your progress. Don't be afraid to make mid-course corrections as needed. We sometimes allow sin to influence the goals we set but if we submit each goal to God, He will guide us back onto the right path and lead us to re-evaluate each goal

Join me Thursday for the "rest of the story" on setting goals.

Let's Pray

I come to You today with a heart filled with praise and wonder. To think You created me in response to Your plan is an amazing thought, Lord. But I choose to believe it and celebrate it in my life today. Help me learn how to set life goals that will lead me in Your ways and help me fulfill the purpose for which I was created. Thank You, Lord.

In Jesus' name,

Amen.

Now It's Your Turn

Read and memorize Jeremiah 29:11. With that promise in your heart, begin to evaluate your life goals. Are they specific? Are they measurable? What changes do you need to make in order to set and meet the goals God has for your life? Record those changes below.

Specific goals. Psalm 139:16 "All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be."

__________

Measurable goals. Luke 11:28 "Blessed are those who hear the word of God and obey it."

__________

__________

More from the Girlfriends

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The immutability of Christ

“Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever.”Hebrews 13:8

Suggested Further Reading: Hebrews 1:5-13

It is well that there is one person who is the same. It is well that there is one stable rock amidst the changing billows of this sea of life; for how many and how grievous have been the changes of last year? How many of you who commenced in affluence, have by the panic, which has shaken nations, been reduced almost to poverty? How many of you, who in strong health marched into this place on the first Sabbath of last year, have had to come tottering here, feeling that the breath of man is in his nostrils, and wherein is he to be accounted of? Many of you came to this hall with a numerous family, leaning upon the arm of a choice and much loved friend. Alas! for love, if that were all, and nought beside, O earth! For you have buried those you loved the best. Some of you have come here childless, or widows, or fatherless, still weeping your recent affliction. Changes have taken place in your estate that have made your heart full of misery. Your cups of sweetness have been dashed with draughts of gall; your golden harvests have had tares cast into the midst of them, and you have had to reap the noxious weed along with the precious grain. Your much fine gold has become dim, and your glory has departed; the sweet feelings at the commencement of last year became bitter ones at the end. Your raptures and your ecstasies were turned into depression and forebodings. Alas! for our changes, and hallelujah to him that has no change.

For meditation: Change is part and parcel of everything in a fallen creation (Genesis 3:16-19). The Lord Jesus Christ is not part of creation, not even the very first part, but is Lord over all creation and not subject to any change. In him God’s children can look forward to glorious liberty from creation’s present bondage to decay (Romans 8:21-23).

Sermon no. 170
3 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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Immanuel

Matthew 1:22-25

The fulfillment of prophecy in Jesus can only be understood if we first understand the meaning and application of the prophetic word for its original audience. In this case, Jesus fulfills or "fills up" the word of Isaiah because He, as a Son brought forth by extraordinary means, is the sign of a greater curse or blessing depending on how we respond to the Gospel. Let us follow Him alone as Savior and Lord so that we may receive the greater blessing.

For further study:

Isaiah 11:1-10

The Bible in a year:

Genesis 20-22

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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Glynnis Whitwer

January 3, 2012

Living Clutter-free
Glynnis Whitwer

"It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery." Galatians 5:1 (NIV 1984)

My friend was desperate. I could hear it in her voice as she talked about her disorganized house. She was disgusted. Her husband was frustrated. Every day was a challenge to get the kids ready, find clean socks and cook dinner.

The chaos in her home was affecting her emotionally. She felt like she was falling apart. Why couldn't she get it together? she wondered. After all, she was an intelligent, educated woman.

She was also embarrassed. So when I told her I'd love to come over and help, she put me off. It wasn't a bother at all, I said. Second to finding a litter of kittens needing me to rescue them, I love helping friends organize something. Eventually I wore her down and we set a date.

Walking into her house that morning with a cup of coffee for her in one hand and some boxes to sort things in the other, I immediately realized organization wasn't her problem. Clutter was. There was no point trying to organize anything. We needed to uncover and reclaim her home.

She wasn't a hoarder. Life circumstances had converged and overwhelmed her. Plus, the amount of visual mess was draining her energy and causing confusion. She couldn't identify what to keep and what to let go. And she was afraid to file anything in case she couldn't find it later ... but that wasn't working either.

I could relate to my friend's situation. What happened to her happens to most of us at some time. In fact, if she had come by my house a few years before that, she would have seen a very cluttered home. At the time, my husband and I had three little boys. We were outnumbered and I couldn't keep up with everything.

I've discovered that in most loving and lively homes, there is going to be a lot of clutter. It can be a sign of activity, intelligence and curiosity. Books from the library, art projects and magazines speak of minds and hearts that long to explore and create. However, left untended, clutter becomes a prison. And that is where my friend was. She just needed someone to come and help her get out.

Together we were able to quickly sort through stacks and piles. We discarded broken toys and dishes, recycled loads of paper and identified what was important. We didn't get much "organizing" done that day, but we sure did lighten her load - physically and emotionally. That was just the jumpstart she needed to continue bringing order to her home and life.

My friend did the right thing in sharing her situation. By admitting she needed help, she was able to get unstuck. The clutter had rendered her frozen in indecision, which is what happens quickly. It becomes like a prison, affecting our schedules, finances, homes and sometimes even our relationships. And that is far from the life of freedom God desires for us.

Galatians 1:5 tells us that Christ came to set us free. Free from sin. Free from legalism. Free from judgment. Basically, free from whatever holds us back. Jesus frees us from all this so we are free to live a simple, alert life. A lighter life. One where our minds are clearer, our focus sharper, our priorities evident and lived-out. Truly it's a life of freedom.

It may seem like a harmless pile of paper, or just a stack of clothes needing mending. In reality every area of clutter in our lives can be a link in a chain, holding us back from freedom. It doesn't have to be that way. Will you join me today in embracing God's gift of ordered and clutter-free life? I might not be able to bring you coffee, but you've got my support.

Dear Lord, thank You for Your freedom...freely offered in every area of my life. Please show me areas of clutter I have, and ways to clean them up to best serve You and those around me. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Starting January 9th, Glynnis will be featuring a 15-Day Clutter-FREE Challenge on her blog. She'll be addressing ways to reduce the clutter in our minds, schedules, offices and homes. If you'd like to join her, visit her blog today for more information.

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!

Application Steps:
Is there an area of your life where clutter is holding you back from obeying God? What one thing can you do today to start addressing that clutter?

Reflections:
What are common reasons clutter builds up in my life?

How have I seen clutter affect me in negative ways? Consider all areas of life.

Power Verses:
Galatians 5:13, "You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love." (NIV)

1 Corinthians 4:2, "Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful." (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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Suffering and reigning with Jesus

‘If we suffer, we shall also reign with him: if we deny him, he also will deny us.’ 2 Timothy 2:12

Suggested Further Reading: Matthew 10:21–33

What must be the doom of those who deny Christ, when they reach another world? Perhaps some will appear with a sort of hope in their minds, and will come before the judge with ‘Lord, Lord, open to me.’ ‘Who art thou?’ saith he. ‘Lord, I once took the Lord’s Supper—Lord, I was a member of the church, but there came very hard times. My mother bade me give up religion; father was angry; trade went bad; I was so mocked at, I could not stand it. Lord, I fell among evil acquaintances and they tempted me—I could not resist. I was thy servant—I did love thee—I always had love towards thee in my heart, but I could not help it—I denied thee and went to the world again.’ What will Jesus say? ‘I know thee not, whence thou art.’ ‘But, Lord, I want thee to be my advocate.’ ‘I know thee not!’ ‘But, Lord, I cannot get into heaven unless thou shouldst open the gate—open it for me.’ ‘I do not know thee; I do not know thee.’ ‘But, Lord, my name was in the church book.’ ‘I know thee not—I deny thee.’ ‘But wilt thou not hear my cries?’ ‘Thou didst not hear mine—thou didst deny me, and I deny thee.’ ‘Lord, give me the lowest place in heaven, if I may but enter and escape from wrath to come.’ ‘No, thou wouldst not brook the lowest place on earth, and thou shalt not enjoy the lowest place here. Thou hadst thy choice, and thou didst choose evil. Keep to thy choice. Thou wast filthy, be thou filthy still. Thou wast unholy, be thou unholy still.’

For meditation: God’s time for us to reason with him about our sin and disobedience is now (Isaiah 1:18), not on the Day of Judgement. Spurgeon urges you to cry this day mightily unto God, ‘Lord, hold me fast, keep me, keep me. Help me to suffer with thee; but do not, do not let me deny thee, lest thou also shouldst deny me.’

Sermon no. 547
3 January (1864)

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Immanuel

Matthew 1:22-25 "This took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: 'Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name 'Immanuel'" ( vv. 22-23).

Liberals have long scrutinized Matthew 1:22-23 and the passage it quotes, Isaiah 7:14, leading them to deny the virgin birth. They say that since Isaiah uses almah, a Hebrew term literally translated as "maiden," he is not affirming the virgin birth. This argument has no merit, for almah almost always refers to a young woman who is also a virgin. Also, the Septuagint, an ancient Greek translation of the Old Testament, understands that Isaiah is talking about a virgin as it rendersalmah with parthenos, the normal Greek word for "virgin."

We wholeheartedly affirm the virgin birth of Jesus based on today's passage and Luke 1:26-38. But let us note that Matthew may not be reading Isaiah as has been often supposed. When we look at the word "fulfill" in Matthew 1:22-23, we tend to think Isaiah saw into the future and made a prediction that could only come true for Mary. However, Isaiah 7:14 would then have no meaning to its original readers, Israelites living centuries before Jesus.

The context of Isaiah 7:14 explains why Matthew cites this verse. When Ahaz reigned in Judah, Syria and Israel threatened to invade Judah if he would not join them against the Assyrian empire (v. 1). Yet this threat actually tempted Ahaz to seek aid from Assyria against these foes. God promised him protection if he did not join with Assyria, telling the king to ask for a sign to confirm His pledge (vv. 2-11 ). But Ahaz did not trust the Lord and would not ask for a sign. God gave Ahaz a sign anyway - a sign of cursing, not blessing! A child's birth would signify that God would use Assyria to judge faithless Judah (vv. 12-25).

By natural means, Isaiah and his wife - formerly the virgin maiden - would produce Maher-shalal-hash-baz (8:1-4), a sign of God's curse on those who trusted in an alliance with Assyria. ( vv. 5-22). And as the prophet warned, Ahaz would be humiliated in his deal with the Assyrian Empire (2 Chron. 28).

If this curse foretold by Isaiah came to pass, how can we escape the curse if we do not trust God when the sign is the very Son of God, born of a virgin? Just as Isaiah's son signified a curse on Judah's unbelief, so too does Jesus' miraculous birth signify disaster for those who do not submit to God's royal Son.

Coram deo: Living before the face of God

The fulfillment of prophecy in Jesus can only be understood if we first understand the meaning and application of the prophetic word for its original audience. In this case, Jesus fulfills or "fills up" the word of Isaiah because He, as a Son brought forth by extraordinary means, is the sign of a greater curse or blessing depending on how we respond to the Gospel. Let us follow Him alone as Savior and Lord so that we may receive the greater blessing.

For further study:

Isaiah 11:1-10

The Bible in a year:

Genesis 20-22

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

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Everything New - A Weeekly Devotional

STARTING THE NEW YEAR RIGHT

Hello, friends. Just a quick note: to start the new year right we have a free downloadable E-booklet for you called “Living a God-Filled Life” when you sign up as a new subscriber to my weekly article called The Brook Letter (sharing ideas, pursuing wisdom) [click HERE]. When life is difficult or easy, it is so important for us to seek “the God-filled life”!

And please consider reaching out to a few friends as we start this new year by forwarding this email to them so that they can join in as well.

Thanks!

Mel

January, the start of a new year, is a doorway for each of us.

In many doorways of the Roman Empire there was a depiction of a god with two faces pointing in opposite directions. Janus was the god of transitions. He looked ahead and he looked behind-to the past and the future. He was a kind of doorkeeper, a minder of the gate. And so our calendar's first month, January, is named after him. On January 1 of the new year we look behind, and we look ahead.
So what's on the other side of the doorway you're stepping through?

One day Jesus said: "I am the gate for the sheep.... whoever enters through me will be saved. He will come in and go out, and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full" (John 10).

In Jesus' day the shepherd tending a small flock would gather the sheep into a pen during the dangerous night hours and he himself would lay across the gate area, acting as a human door. And then the "door" would come open in the morning and the sheep could go out to pasture.

How we all need the protection of Jesus Christ! But here's something I think we frequently miss. Jesus' emphasis is not just on being a door that protects us from outside intruders, but a doorway designed to let us out into the wide world around us where there is a world of opportunity to make a difference.

Every day of this new year we will each need the protection of a secure door, and we will need doors to swing open so that we can move out into the mission and purposes of God for our lives. Jesus said he came so that we could have life, and have it to the full. Not just full of busyness and belongings-but full of purpose and hope.

We’d love to have you join us on Facebook or follow on Twitter.

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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 spirits be called from the dead?

This week's reading: 1 Samuel 28:12

Clearly, something supernatural happened in the house of the medium that night.

The woman saw "a ghostly figure coming up out of the earth." Traditionally a number of perplexing questions have swirled around this passage of Scripture. Was this woman actually able to bring someone up from the dead or was she an expert faker? Did Samuel actually appear or was this old man (see1Sa 28:14) a demon playing the role of Samuel? Did Samuel appear as a result of the medium's power or did God intervene and raise Samuel himself?

An element of mystery surrounds this story, and it would be presumptuous to claim that we have all the answers. This episode seems to affirm a realm beyond the ordinary physical world-a spiritual realm that can somehow interact with the world in which we live. Though the scientific mind-set of Western culture has numbed our sensitivity to the reality of spiritual forces, the Bible confirms the reality of the unseen world. InEphesians 6:10-18, Paul describes the Christian life as a kind of warfare, and he urges his readers to prepare to encounter an opponent not of flesh and blood but of spiritual forces of evil.

We need wisdom to know how to respond to the attacks of the enemy. Occult practices can both intrigue us and frighten us. While acknowledging the reality of the spiritual forces of evil and the deceitful practices of Satan, who "masquerades as an angel of light" (2Co 11:14), we are urged to resist him and stand firm in the faith (see 1Pe 5:9).

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