Saturday, February 18, 2012

Daily Devotional Saturday 18th February

“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” Romans 8:35,37 NIV
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Morning and Evening by Charles Spurgeon

Morning

"Isaac dwelt by the well Lahai-roi."
Genesis 25:11

Hagar had once found deliverance there and Ishmael had drank from the water so graciously revealed by the God who liveth and seeth the sons of men; but this was a merely casual visit, such as worldlings pay to the Lord in times of need, when it serves their turn. They cry to him in trouble, but forsake him in prosperity. Isaac dwelt there, and made the well of the living and all-seeing God his constant source of supply. The usual tenor of a man's life, the dwelling of his soul, is the true test of his state. Perhaps the providential visitation experienced by Hagar struck Isaac's mind, and led him to revere the place; its mystical name endeared it to him; his frequent musings by its brim at eventide made him familiar with the well; his meeting Rebecca there had made his spirit feel at home near the spot; but best of all, the fact that he there enjoyed fellowship with the living God, had made him select that hallowed ground for his dwelling. Let us learn to live in the presence of the living God; let us pray the Holy Spirit that this day, and every other day, we may feel, "Thou God seest me." May the Lord Jehovah be as a well to us, delightful, comforting, unfailing, springing up unto eternal life. The bottle of the creature cracks and dries up, but the well of the Creator never fails; happy is he who dwells at the well, and so has abundant and constant supplies near at hand. The Lord has been a sure helper to others: his name is Shaddai, God All-sufficient; our hearts have often had most delightful intercourse with him; through him our soul has found her glorious Husband, the Lord Jesus; and in him this day we live, and move, and have our being; let us, then, dwell in closest fellowship with him. Glorious Lord, constrain us that we may never leave thee, but dwell by the well of the living God.

Evening

"Whereas the Lord was there."
Ezekiel 35:10

Edom's princes saw the whole country left desolate, and counted upon its easy conquest; but there was one great difficulty in their way--quite unknown to them--"The Lord was there;" and in his presence lay the special security of the chosen land. Whatever may be the machinations and devices of the enemies of God's people, there is still the same effectual barrier to thwart their design. The saints are God's heritage, and he is in the midst of them, and will protect his own. What comfort this assurance yields us in our troubles and spiritual conflicts! We are constantly opposed, and yet perpetually preserved! How often Satan shoots his arrows against our faith, but our faith defies the power of hell's fiery darts; they are not only turned aside, but they are quenched upon its shield, for "the Lord is there." Our good works are the subjects of Satan's attacks. A saint never yet had a virtue or a grace which was not the target for hellish bullets: whether it was hope bright and sparkling, or love warm and fervent, or patience all-enduring, or zeal flaming like coals of fire, the old enemy of everything that is good has tried to destroy it. The only reason why anything virtuous or lovely survives in us is this, "the Lord is there."

If the Lord be with us through life, we need not fear for our dying confidence; for when we come to die, we shall find that "the Lord is there;" where the billows are most tempestuous, and the water is most chill, we shall feel the bottom, and know that it is good: our feet shall stand upon the Rock of Ages when time is passing away. Beloved, from the first of a Christian's life to the last, the only reason why he does not perish is because "the Lord is there." When the God of everlasting love shall change and leave his elect to perish, then may the Church of God be destroyed; but not till then, because it is written, Jehovah Shammah, "The Lord is there."

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Today's reading: Leviticus 21-22, Matthew 28 (NIV)

View today's reading on Bible Gateway
Rules for Priests

1 The LORD said to Moses, “Speak to the priests, the sons of Aaron, and say to them: ‘A priest must not make himself ceremonially unclean for any of his people who die, 2 except for a close relative, such as his mother or father, his son or daughter, his brother, 3 or an unmarried sister who is dependent on him since she has no husband—for her he may make himself unclean. 4 He must not make himself unclean for people related to him by marriage, and so defile himself.

5 “‘Priests must not shave their heads or shave off the edges of their beards or cut their bodies. 6 They must be holy to their God and must not profane the name of their God. Because they present the food offerings to the LORD, the food of their God, they are to be holy.

7 “‘They must not marry women defiled by prostitution or divorced from their husbands, because priests are holy to their God. 8 Regard them as holy, because they offer up the food of your God. Consider them holy, because I the LORD am holy—I who make you holy.

9 “‘If a priest’s daughter defiles herself by becoming a prostitute, she disgraces her father; she must be burned in the fire.

10 “‘The high priest, the one among his brothers who has had the anointing oil poured on his head and who has been ordained to wear the priestly garments, must not let his hair become unkempt or tear his clothes. 11 He must not enter a place where there is a dead body. He must not make himself unclean, even for his father or mother, 12 nor leave the sanctuary of his God or desecrate it, because he has been dedicated by the anointing oil of his God. I am the LORD.

13 “‘The woman he marries must be a virgin. 14 He must not marry a widow, a divorced woman, or a woman defiled by prostitution, but only a virgin from his own people, 15 so that he will not defile his offspring among his people. I am the LORD, who makes him holy.’”

16 The LORD said to Moses, 17 “Say to Aaron: ‘For the generations to come none of your descendants who has a defect may come near to offer the food of his God. 18 No man who has any defect may come near: no man who is blind or lame, disfigured or deformed; 19 no man with a crippled foot or hand, 20 or who is a hunchback or a dwarf, or who has any eye defect, or who has festering or running sores or damaged testicles. 21 No descendant of Aaron the priest who has any defect is to come near to present the food offerings to the LORD. He has a defect; he must not come near to offer the food of his God. 22 He may eat the most holy food of his God, as well as the holy food; 23 yet because of his defect, he must not go near the curtain or approach the altar, and so desecrate my sanctuary. I am the LORD, who makes them holy.’”

24 So Moses told this to Aaron and his sons and to all the Israelites.

Leviticus 22

1 The LORD said to Moses, 2 “Tell Aaron and his sons to treat with respect the sacred offerings the Israelites consecrate to me, so they will not profane my holy name. I am the LORD.

3 “Say to them: ‘For the generations to come, if any of your descendants is ceremonially unclean and yet comes near the sacred offerings that the Israelites consecrate to the LORD, that person must be cut off from my presence. I am the LORD.

4 “‘If a descendant of Aaron has a defiling skin disease or a bodily discharge, he may not eat the sacred offerings until he is cleansed. He will also be unclean if he touches something defiled by a corpse or by anyone who has an emission of semen, 5 or if he touches any crawling thing that makes him unclean, or any person who makes him unclean, whatever the uncleanness may be. 6 The one who touches any such thing will be unclean till evening. He must not eat any of the sacred offerings unless he has bathed himself with water. 7 When the sun goes down, he will be clean, and after that he may eat the sacred offerings, for they are his food. 8 He must not eat anything found dead or torn by wild animals, and so become unclean through it. I am the LORD.

9 “‘The priests are to perform my service in such a way that they do not become guilty and die for treating it with contempt. I am the LORD, who makes them holy.

10 “‘No one outside a priest’s family may eat the sacred offering, nor may the guest of a priest or his hired worker eat it.11 But if a priest buys a slave with money, or if slaves are born in his household, they may eat his food. 12 If a priest’s daughter marries anyone other than a priest, she may not eat any of the sacred contributions. 13 But if a priest’s daughter becomes a widow or is divorced, yet has no children, and she returns to live in her father’s household as in her youth, she may eat her father’s food. No unauthorized person, however, may eat it.

14 “‘Anyone who eats a sacred offering by mistake must make restitution to the priest for the offering and add a fifth of the value to it. 15 The priests must not desecrate the sacred offerings the Israelites present to the LORD 16 by allowing them to eat the sacred offerings and so bring upon them guilt requiring payment. I am the LORD, who makes them holy.’”

Unacceptable Sacrifices

17 The LORD said to Moses, 18 “Speak to Aaron and his sons and to all the Israelites and say to them: ‘If any of you—whether an Israelite or a foreigner residing in Israel—presents a gift for a burnt offering to the LORD, either to fulfill a vow or as a freewill offering, 19 you must present a male without defect from the cattle, sheep or goats in order that it may be accepted on your behalf. 20 Do not bring anything with a defect, because it will not be accepted on your behalf. 21 When anyone brings from the herd or flock a fellowship offering to the LORD to fulfill a special vow or as a freewill offering, it must be without defect or blemish to be acceptable. 22 Do not offer to the LORD the blind, the injured or the maimed, or anything with warts or festering or running sores. Do not place any of these on the altar as a food offering presented to the LORD. 23 You may, however, present as a freewill offering an ox or a sheep that is deformed or stunted, but it will not be accepted in fulfillment of a vow. 24 You must not offer to the LORD an animal whose testicles are bruised, crushed, torn or cut. You must not do this in your own land, 25 and you must not accept such animals from the hand of a foreigner and offer them as the food of your God. They will not be accepted on your behalf, because they are deformed and have defects.’”

26 The LORD said to Moses, 27 “When a calf, a lamb or a goat is born, it is to remain with its mother for seven days. From the eighth day on, it will be acceptable as a food offering presented to the LORD. 28 Do not slaughter a cow or a sheep and its young on the same day.

29 “When you sacrifice a thank offering to the LORD, sacrifice it in such a way that it will be accepted on your behalf.30 It must be eaten that same day; leave none of it till morning. I am the LORD.

31 “Keep my commands and follow them. I am the LORD. 32Do not profane my holy name, for I must be acknowledged as holy by the Israelites. I am the LORD, who made you holy 33and who brought you out of Egypt to be your God. I am the LORD.”


Matthew 28

Jesus Has Risen

1 After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb.

2 There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. 3 His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. 4 The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men.

5 The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. 6 He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. 7 Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.’ Now I have told you.”

8 So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples. 9 Suddenly Jesus met them. “Greetings,” he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him. 10 Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.”

The Guards’ Report

11 While the women were on their way, some of the guards went into the city and reported to the chief priests everything that had happened. 12 When the chief priests had met with the elders and devised a plan, they gave the soldiers a large sum of money, 13 telling them, “You are to say, ‘His disciples came during the night and stole him away while we were asleep.’ 14 If this report gets to the governor, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.” 15 So the soldiers took the money and did as they were instructed. And this story has been widely circulated among the Jews to this very day.

The Great Commission

16 Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

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Lot [Lŏt]—concealed or myrrh. The son of Haran, Abraham’s brother, who accompanied Abraham from Mesopotamia to Canaan (Gen. 11:27,31; 12:4; 13:1).

The Man with a Worldly Mind

We deem it necessary to spend a little time with this character because we believe Lot to be a representative man. Perhaps there is no Bible figure who represents so many men of today as Lot of Sodom. Where you can find one Abraham, one Daniel or one Joshua you will find a thousand Lots.

Lot started out well. But he acquired riches and with his wealth came trouble. He and his uncle, Abraham, came out of Egypt with great possessions. Then came the strife among the herdsmen of both men. Lot could not pick a quarrel with his uncle, so he separated from him and made the greatest mistake of his life in doing so. If determined to have the well-watered plain, Lot should have asked Abraham to choose for him. But no, when he lifted up his eyes and saw the fruitful land, his decision was made.

The moments of solemn, decisive choice reveal the character of the two men involved. Lot’s choice was a bad and selfish one, ending in disaster. Abraham’s choice was lofty, unworldly, superior to all petty consideration. Although, as elder of the two, he had the undisputable right to precedence in the choice, Abraham behaved like the high-minded, noble-hearted gentleman he was and so left the choice to Lot. The meanness of Lot is seen in that he took the best. The crisis of that moment was decided by the tenor of Lot’s life. In spite of his general righteousness, Lot must have had a vein of great selfishness within.

In one of his unique speeches—The Subject of Salaries —Benjamin Franklin said, “There are two passions which have a powerful influence in the affairs of men. These are Ambitionand Avarice: the love of power and the love of money. Separately, each of these has great force in prompting man to action; but when united in view of the same object they have in many minds the most violent effects.” It was thus that Lot became “a bad lot.” In his choice ambition and avarice became one. Points to ponder are:

I. His wealth (Gen. 13:5). Lot had a house—Abraham was content with a tent ( Gen. 18:1; 19:3). Lot was no pilgrim (Heb. 11:13).

II. His choice ( Gen. 13:10, 11). Lot was guided by selfishness, and pitching his tent toward Sodom was soon living in it (Gen. 14:12).

III. His righteous soul (2 Pet. 2:8 ). Lot did many things that were inconsistent with his true character and that were dishonoring to God. He sat down with the ungodly. Yet he showed some good qualities. He entertained the angels—believed their message—endeavored to restrain the wicked Sodomites. His good, however, was mixed with evil.

IV. His loss (Gen. 19:17-28 ). Lot narrowly escaped judgment. He lost everything, his wife was turned into a pillar of salt, he lost his wealth, he sacrificed his influence, for the people of Sodom despised him, his relatives mocked him, his two daughters shamed him. Lot offered no prayer for Sodom and manifested no desire for the salvation of its people. His only concern was for his own safety, and angels delivered him.

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Persecution and Reward

Matthew 5:10-12 "Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. ...For your reward is great in heaven" ( vv. 11-12).

Our flesh may not like to hear it, but biblical Christianity does not promise to make our lives better, at least in the short term. Actually, Jesus tells us that following Him as Lord will bring us many trials and tribulations. This is His point in today's passage. In concluding the Beatitudes, the Savior declares "blessed" those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake (Matt. 5:10).

Jesus does not say if you are persecuted. Attacks from unrighteous people are inevitable for the Christian, not mere possibilities. In fact, persecution is such a part and parcel of serving Jesus that we should question our allegiance to Christ if we never face persecution for His sake. Darkness hates the light (John 3:20), and evil men hate those who embody the qualities described in the Beatitudes. How many peacemakers (Matt. 5:9 ), those who preach the Gospel of peace through Christ, are beaten, jailed, and killed every day? Are there not many who are called "losers" or "behind the times" because in pursuing righteousness (v. 6) they refrain from sexual relations until marriage? Paradoxically, to be the objects of such hatred is not the curse that we might think it to be; it is instead the greatest blessing. As we are oppressed for doing the right thing we are assured that the kingdom of heaven is ours (v. 10 ). However, harassment for reasons other than righteousness does not incur God's blessing. Persecution for righteousness' sake is not the same as trouble we get for disrespecting unbelievers. We may also have problems if we are less than scrupulous. John Chrysostom, the great fifth-century bishop of Constantinople, warns us not to expect blessing if we "are being reviled for something evil, and what is being said is true" (Homilies on the Gospel of Saint Matthew, 15.4).

Christ tells us we are blessed when we are reviled for His sake in Matthew 5:11 , thereby expanding upon the beatitude inverse 10. He draws a parallel between Himself and "righteousness' sake," offering the same essential reward to those who are oppressed for doing good and to those who are persecuted for serving Him. Plainly, Jesus is equating Himself with righteousness. To imitate Jesus, therefore, is to practice righteousness (1 Cor. 11:1).

Coram deo: Living before the face of God

Matthew Henry writes: "There is no evil so black and horrid, which, at one time or other, has not been said falsely against Christ's disciples and followers." Rejoice and be glad if you are being slandered for obeying Jesus, for great is your reward (Matt. 5:12). This passage also warns us against repeating things if we are uncertain of their truth. If God blesses His children when they are the subject of lies, will He not curse the liars?

For further study:

Proverbs 10:18-19

The Bible in a year:

Numbers 8-10

For the weekend:

Numbers 11-15

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

Subscribe to Tabletalk magazine and receive daily Bible studies & in depth articles from world class scholars for only $23 per per year! That's only $1.92 per month. And you can try it out for three months absolutely free! Bringing the best in biblical scholarship together with down-to-earth writing, Tabletalk helps you understand the Bible and apply it to daily living.

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February 17, 2012

Buddy Straps

Gwen Smith

Today's Truth

Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble. (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10, NLT)

Friend To Friend

Every family has one… that certain individual who gets injured and banged up more than their fair share. That person who spends the majority of your family's health care budget on their co-pay needs because, for whatever reason, accidents mysteriously, regularly and relentlessly hunt them down and throw a good bit of hurt on them. In our family, this person is my teenaged son, Preston.

We've been up, down and all around when it comes to Preston's breaks, bandages and bruises. So it was a bit old-hat to be sitting in a small examining room a few weeks ago, waiting to see the doctor about yet another injury. This one happened in gym class. Preston climbed up a rope, made it to the top, and then had the bright idea of letting go of the rope instead of scaling down safely. Brilliant. He broke his big toe… in the middle of basketball season. Nice.

The doctor looked over the x-rays and had good news for us: Preston only had a hairline fracture in his toe. It would heal quickly. He would be immobilized in a funky shoe for a week or two, and then he would be able to get back to playing basketball as soon as the pain subsided.

As we prepped to leave, the doctor told Preston that once he was able to put weight on his foot, he would need to use a "buddy strap." The strap would hold his broken toe snugly to the healthy toe right beside it for support. A nurse then handed my son a few black Velcro strips and explained that he should wear them to play basketball as soon as his pain was manageable. The support of the buddy straps would help him get back in the game quickly.

My eyebrows raised and my mind reeled as I pondered the similarities between buddy straps and friendships. There are a million times when my heart or circumstances are fractured. Each wound and challenge threatens to keep me immobilized both emotionally and spiritually. In those times, it always benefits me to first seek refuge in the stable arms of God and to then buddy-strap my heart to a few godly girlfriends. As the psalmist cried out, so I cry out:

For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him. He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be shaken (Psalm 62:5-6, ESV).

Then, after seeking God, as I ready myself to put one foot in front of another, my girlfriends rally as my buddy straps and provide prayer support, wisdom and encouragement. When one friend is weak because of life-fractures, it is a blessing for a strong and healthy friend to come along side to help her.

We need each other as Christian women. That's what Girlfriends in God is all about: women encouraging other women in faith and in life. When Sharon, Mary and I co-founded GiG, it was purposed to spur you toward the heart of God through devotions and conferences. In real life, we are buddy straps for each other. Our lives are filled with as many life-fractures as the next person… so we often rally to speak words of encouragement, truth and hope to one another. At times, we even speak correction. As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another (Proverbs 27:17).

Where does this find you today? Do you have some life-fractures and challenges? Are you the buddy strap to any of your friends who are struggling? Perhaps you've got both going on. If so, then praise God. Praise Him for trials – which can grow you in perseverance, character and hope (Romans 5:4) and for His provision of friends in your life that love you, challenge you and cheer you on through the hard times. And praise Him for the opportunity to be a buddy strap in return.

Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10, NLT).

Let's Pray

Dear Lord, thank You for giving me access to Your grace and strength through Your Son, Jesus Christ. You are my Strong Tower, my Refuge, my Shelter, my Help and my Hope. I am so grateful that when my days are filled with hurt and struggles that You are right beside me – and that You have blessed me with some buddy straps. Please help me encourage my friends toward your grace, hope and truth today.

In Jesus' name,

Amen.

Now It's Your Turn

Who are you a buddy strap to? Are you sensitive to the needs around you or do you not "have the time" to worry about other people's problems?

Think of three girlfriends in your life who have been your buddy straps, then pause to pray for each of them. Bless them today. Send a card or an email. Text them or post on their wall. Connect to say thanks.

Got a great buddy strap story? I'd love to hear about it! Swing by my facebook page today and leave a comment or a prayer request: www.facebook.com/GwenSmithMusic.

More From The Girlfriends

I love my girlfriends. They are total wild flowers in the bouquet of my life. When my children were young, Brad and I moved several times in just a few years. That made it hard for me to connect with other women. If you find yourself in a place where you need some women friends, I encourage you to contact the Women's Ministry Director at your church and let her know your need. Sharon, Mary and I truly love doing life with you and are blessed to encourage you through these devotions and at the conferences where we speak. We'd love to meet you and hug your neck in person! Check our website to see when one of the GiGs might be coming to an event near you.

Gwen's most recent CD, Uncluttered, is music that's purposed to sweep you away from life-noise and to focus your heart and mind on the one thing that matters: your relationship with Jesus Christ. You can find it on iTunes, or check out the CD SPECIALS going on now at http://gwensmith.net/store/specials.htm.

Seeking God?

Click here to find out more about

how to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

Girlfriends in God

P.O. Box 725

Matthews, NC 28106

info@girlfriendsingod.com
www.girlfriendsingod.com



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LeadershipBible-Header

Thomas Aquinas: Dumb Ox for the Ages

art_08_03_aquinas

Quote: "Hold firmly that our faith is identical with that of the ancients. Deny this, and you dissolve the unity of the Church."

Regarded today as the greatest theologian of the Middle Ages, Thomas Aquinas (c. 1224 – 1274) was viewed with skepticism in his own day. Born of nobility in a castle situated south of Rome, he was educated at a local Benedictine school from age five. At sixteen he entered the University of Naples, planning to become a Dominican monk. Horrified, his family kidnapped him, tempted him with a prostitute, and called on the archbishop of Naples for support. But after more than a year of captivity, they realized that their efforts failed. His mother intervened and helped her strong-willed son to escape. Still a teenager, he joined the Dominicans.

His brilliant mind impressed his superiors, who arranged to have him study in Cologne with Albertus Magnus, the greatest Dominican scholar of the day. During this time the hulking youth acquired the nickname, "Dumb Ox," but Albertus defended him, reportedly saying: "You call him 'a dumb ox,' but I declare before you that he will yet bellow so loud in doctrine that his voice will resound through the whole world." His influence on Aquinas was profound, and when Albertus transferred to Paris, Aquinas accompanied him. After completing his studies in Paris, Aquinas returned to Cologne to teach and write.

After teaching at Cologne, Aquinas relocated to the University of Paris, where he continued to pursue his education and teaching. Beginning in 1260 and until his death in 1274, he traveled throughout Europe, preaching and teaching and consulting. He performed service for the pope and for the Dominican Order. Amid his other duties, he wrote obsessively, his works eventually filling some twenty large volumes. His magnum opus was Summa Theologica, the most comprehensive treatise on theology ever written, acclaimed more for its sheer volume and breadth than for its originality. Not venturing into uncharted terrain, Aquinas cited authorities and sought to harmonize contrasting views.

Christian scholars would later come to cite Thomas Aquinas as "the theologian" as easily as Aquinas cited Aristotle as "the philosopher." More than presenting merely an objective encyclopedia of theological positions, Aquinas took a solid stance, and his work serves as a standard for correct doctrine. Because of his heavy dependence on Aristotle, Aquinas was strongly criticized after his death by other theologians, including William of Ockham and Duns Scotus, who recognized the inherent contradictions in revelation and reason.

Lofty matters of metaphysics comprise only a portion of Summa Theologica. Among down-to-earth matters included in his tome is a lengthy discussion of sex, specifically as it relates to sin. In discussing unnatural vice (masturbation, sodomy, and bestiality), Aquinas asks whether this is the greatest of such sins. His affirmative answer is not surprising in light of his marriage of theology and natural science. What is against nature is against God.

The range of topics that Aquinas addresses in his thousands of pages of writing is astounding. In fact, according to the testimony of one of his closest associates, he would sometimes dictate to three or four secretaries at a time on different subjects, from memory rather than from notes or manuscripts. When stumped on a particular theological conundrum, he would pause to go into deep meditation and prayer and then return to the topic with clarity.

Aquinas, who proved the existence of God with "Five Ways," found God most real in a vision. He had experienced visions earlier in life, but a vision near the end of his life affected him so profoundly that he set aside his writing. His closest aide pleaded with him to take up his pen again. "I cannot," he confided. "Such things have been revealed to me that what I have written seems but straw." The vision has physical consequences as well, causing some to speculate that he may have had a stroke or a mental breakdown. Some time later he was injured while riding a donkey and died soon after.

Recognized as a great scholar during his lifetime, Aquinas continued to be revered after his death. In 1323 he was canonized a saint by Pope John XXII. Then in 1879 Pope Leo XIII declared that his writings represent official Catholic teaching, though not so authoritative as to be above challenge.


If you enjoyed the above article, please take a minute to read about the book that it was adapted from:

ParadeofFaith-Bookcover

Parade of Faith: A Biographical History of the Christian Church

by Ruth A. Tucker
Buy the book!
The story of Christianity centers on people whose lives have been transformed by the resurrected Lord. Tucker puts this front and center in a lively overview peppered with sidebars; historical "what if?" questions; sections on everyday life; drawings and illustrations; bibliographies for further reading.
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Glynnis Whitwer

February 17, 2012

Making the Most of Loneliness
Glynnis Whitwer

"I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master's business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you." John 15:15 (NIV)

My little boy sat facing the back of the couch. His head resting on his crossed arms. He stared out the window. His little head moved from left to right as he watched two neighbor boys race past on bikes, laughing at a shared joke.

I watched my second-grade-son from the kitchen door, drying my hands with a dishtowel. My shoulders drooped as Josh took a deep breath and let it out in a despairing sigh. Mirroring his sadness, my throat tightened and hot tears burned my eyes. Throwing the dishtowel into the sink, I quietly stepped to the couch and slipped down next to him. Without saying a word, I scooped him into my lap and enveloped his little frame with my arms.

His face nuzzled mine and our tears mixed together. I could almost feel the wishing and hoping pulse through his small body: Will they stop by my house? Will they invite me to play? A smothered sob escaped from my little boy who was trying valiantly to be "big."

Ever since our move to North Carolina earlier in the year, Joshua had trouble making friends. The playgroups were established, and my shy son was painfully on the outside. His little brothers were good companions at home, but that didn't replace friendships at school or in the neighborhood.

The loneliness was oppressive, and I felt it too. In fact, that period of my life was one of my darkest times. We all left life-long friends when we moved. Those friendships had been born of common experiences, and years spent together. They were effortless.

Now we faced unknown territory, not just geographically, but culturally and socially. This was a new world to us, and Josh felt it as painfully as I did. And yet, during that time, we all learned some things about God and ourselves that we wouldn't have learned had we stayed in Phoenix.

Although loneliness is painful, it isn't always a bad place to be for a time. C.S. Lewis said, "God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks to us in our conscience, but shouts in our pain: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world."

God definitely spoke to us in our loneliness. And I started wondering if perhaps there are times when God allows loneliness into our lives as an invitation to pursue Him as our closest friend. When our friends have left us, or we have left them, God reveals His presence in new ways. Tim Hansel, author of Through the Wilderness of Loneliness writes, "Loneliness is not a time of abandonment...it just feels that way. It's actually a time of encounter at new levels with the only One who can fill that empty place in our hearts."

God longs to fill our hearts with Himself. Yet we often try to fill the desires of our hearts with the things of this world. Yet those attempts to find replacements for God are fleeting and insubstantial, leaving us even lonelier than before.

As you or your child face a time of loneliness, take this opportunity to look to Jesus as a best friend. Jesus Himself calls us friends in John 15:15, "I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master's business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you" (NIV).

Even though we were designed for community, God has a purpose for loneliness. If we can learn from it, rather than resent it, I believe we'll find a life-long Friend who'll never leave us lonely.

Dear Lord, thank You being a friend who will never leave me. Sometimes the loneliness is overwhelming. Please be real to me today. I want to learn from this time of loneliness rather than resent it. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
When Your Child is Hurting by Glynnis Whitwer

Visit Glynnis' blog for more encouragement!

Are you lonely today? Click here to meet a Friend who will never leave you.

Reflect and Respond:
What characteristics does God display when He reveals Himself to us as a friend? What can I do to be a better friend to God?

I'll spend some time today sitting in the presence of Jesus, inviting Him to be real to me, and listen for His voice.

Power Verses:
Psalm 37:7a, "Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him...." (NIV)

Matthew 6:33, "But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well." (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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Persecution and Reward

Matthew 5:10-12

Matthew Henry writes: "There is no evil so black and horrid, which, at one time or other, has not been said falsely against Christ's disciples and followers." Rejoice and be glad if you are being slandered for obeying Jesus, for great is your reward (Matt. 5:12). This passage also warns us against repeating things if we are uncertain of their truth. If God blesses His children when they are the subject of lies, will He not curse the liars?

For further study:

Proverbs 10:18-19

The Bible in a year:

Numbers 8-10

For the weekend:

Numbers 11-15

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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Loving advice for anxious seekers

‘If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.’James 1:5

Suggested Further Reading: Isaiah 8:16–22

When a man is really under concern of soul, he is in a condition of considerable danger. Then it is that an artful false teacher may get hold of him, and beguile him into heresy. Hence the text does not say, ‘If any man lack wisdom, let him ask his priest;’ that is about the worst thing he can do; for he who sets himself up for a priest, is either a deceiver or deceived. ‘Let him ask of God;’ that is the advice of the Scripture. We are all so ready to go to books, to go to men, to go to ceremonies, to anything except to God. Man will worship God with his eyes, and his arms, and his knees, and his mouth—with anything but his heart—and we are all of us anxious, more or less, until we are renewed by grace, to get off the heart-worship of God. Juan de Valdes says that, ‘Just as an ignorant man takes a crucifix and says, “This crucifix will help me to think of Christ”, so he bows before it and never does think of Christ at all, but stops short at the crucifix; so,’ says he, ‘the learned man takes his book and says, “This book will teach me the mysteries of the kingdom”, but instead of giving his thoughts to the mysteries of godliness, he reads his book mechanically and stops at the book, instead of meditating and diving into the truth.’ It is the action of the mind that God accepts; it is the thought communing with him; it is the soul coming into contact with the soul of God; it is spirit-worship which the Lord accepts. Consequently, the text does not say, ‘Let him ask books,’ nor ‘ask priests,’ but, ‘let him ask of God.’ Above all, do not let the seeker ask of himself and follow his own imaginings and feelings. All human guides are bad, but you yourself will be your own worst guide. ‘Let him ask of God.’

For meditation: Whom or what do you see as your go-between in your dealings with God? The only mediator he will accept between you and him is the one he has appointed himself—the second Person of the Godhead, the man Christ Jesus (1 Timothy 2:5 ). In his name we can ‘ask of God’ directly (John 14:13–14; 15:16; 16:23–24).

Sermon no. 735
17 February (1867)

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None but Jesus

“He that believeth on him is not condemned.” John 3:18

Suggested Further Reading: Acts 15:5-11

When I stand at the foot of the cross, I do not believe in Christ because I have got good feelings, but I believe in him whether I have good feelings or not.

“Just as I am, without one plea,
But that Thy blood was shed for me,
And that Thou bidd’st me come to Thee,
O Lamb of God, I come.”

Mr Roger, Mr Sheppard, Mr Flavell, and several excellent divines, in the Puritan age, and especially Richard Baxter, used to give descriptions of what a man must feel before he may dare to come to Christ. Now, I say in the language of good Mr Fenner, another of those divines, who said he was but a babe in grace when compared with them—“I dare to say it, that all this is not Scriptural. Sinners do feel these things before they come, but they do not come on the ground of having felt it; they come on the ground of being sinners, and on no other ground whatever.” The gate of Mercy is opened, and over the door it is written, “This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.” Between that word “save” and the next word “sinners,” there is no adjective. It does not say, “penitent sinners,” “awakened sinners,” “sensible sinners,” “grieving sinners,” or “alarmed sinners.” No, it only says, “sinners” and I know this, that when I come, I come to Christ today, for I feel it as much a necessity of my life to come to the cross of Christ today as it was to come ten years ago,—when I come to him, I dare not come as a conscious sinner or an awakened sinner, but I have to come still as a sinner with nothing in my hands.

For meditation : We have no more right to complicate the Gospel than we have to water it down. Feelings are good and proper, but Satan can use them not only to give false assurance of salvation, but also to make sinners feel too bad to obey the Gospel and come to Christ.

Sermon no. 361
17 February (1861)

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Myth: "I'm accountable only to myself."

Ecclesiastes 4:12

They said to bring a Bible, something I must have packed in the same box with my old Billy Joel cassettes that I haven't seen since my last move, so I had to buy one. Honestly, I was the last person who wanted to go on a singles' retreat-people I figured were such losers they had to form their own club. But I was desperate for something new. I didn't want to fall back to old habits and old relationships. So, I reluctantly signed up for the weekend retreat.

That first night we split into small groups after the speaker talked. The leader asked if we wanted to share something that was going on in our lives so the group could pray for us. I panicked and began scrambling for something I could say. Somehow I thought that "Please pray for me because I really, really want a drink right now" probably wouldn't go over well.

As people started opening up to each other, I was shocked. They weren't asking for prayer about trivial items. These people were real. Some of them were going through almost the exact same things I was experiencing. One guy shared that he and his girlfriend were struggling with sexual temptation. Another girl asked us to pray about some old friends from the party scene who were calling her again. When another person shared about being a recovering alcoholic, I was floored. When it came my turn, I eked out something lame about my job. I wasn't ready to open up just yet, but I believed them when they said they'd pray for me.

I've tried to live my life on my own, but I found out that I wasn't able to hold myself to much of anything for very long. The only person I had been answering to was myself. If I wanted to party until 3:00 a.m. and go to work hung over the next day, I did. If I saw a pair of stilettos, and it wasn't even close to payday, I charged them and wore them home from the store. I swore a million times that I was going to get out of debt, stop drinking so much, get to bed at a decent hour and maybe even go to church this Easter.

In reality, I couldn't even talk myself out of eating half a box of chocolate éclairs. I was out of control.

At this retreat, I realized that answering to myself just wasn't working. I was on course to self-destruct. Being accountable to other Christians was my first step on a long journey back to God.

-Carla

Thinking you can be accountable to yourself is like trying to kiss your own elbow. It's impossible to do. (Tried it, didn't you?) We may try calling the shots, but we aren't equipped to handle the responsibility of running our own lives. Life is not designed to work that way.

Accountable to God

Giving control over to God is to work ourselves out of a job. It means we begin to operate with one simple understanding: God is God; we are not. As the Israelites had to learn (and relearn), deciding to be accountable to God and answer to him makes life much less complicated. The Creator made us and even wrote the owner's manual for how our lives "run" best.

Accountable to Each Other

Knowing there will be many times when we want to squirm back onto the throne of our lives, our Creator also made us accountable to each other to help us do the right things. It's called community. Christians are instructed to "carry each other's burdens" and, by doing that, to build one another's resolve to remain under Christ's control (Galatians 6:2).

"Women's participation in small groups that met during the week for the purpose of prayer, Bible study or spiritual fellowship has risen to 26% in 2006, compared to 19% in 1996."

-Barna Research Group (2006)

"Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken."
Ecclesiastes 4:12

See also

Ecclesiastes 4:10; Ephesians 4:14-16; Hebrews 10:24-25
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