Saturday, February 25, 2012

Daily Devotional Saturday 25th February

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” Jeremiah 29:11-13 NIV
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Morning and Evening by Charles Spurgeon

Morning

"I will cause the shower to come down in his season; there shall be showers of blessing."
Ezekiel 34:26

Here is sovereign mercy--"I will give them the shower in its season." Is it not sovereign, divine mercy?--for who can say, "I will give them showers," except God? There is only one voice which can speak to the clouds, and bid them beget the rain. Who sendeth down the rain upon the earth? Who scattereth the showers upon the green herb? Do not I, the Lord? So grace is the gift of God, and is not to be created by man. It is also needed grace. What would the ground do without showers? You may break the clods, you may sow your seeds, but what can you do without the rain? As absolutely needful is the divine blessing. In vain you labour, until God the plenteous shower bestows, and sends salvation down. Then, it is plenteous grace. "I will send them showers." It does not say, "I will send them drops," but "showers." So it is with grace. If God gives a blessing, he usually gives it in such a measure that there is not room enough to receive it. Plenteous grace! Ah! we want plenteous grace to keep us humble, to make us prayerful, to make us holy; plenteous grace to make us zealous, to preserve us through this life, and at last to land us in heaven. We cannot do without saturating showers of grace. Again, it is seasonable grace. "I will cause the shower to come down in his season." What is thy season this morning? Is it the season of drought? Then that is the season for showers. Is it a season of great heaviness and black clouds? Then that is the season for showers. "As thy days so shall thy strength be." And here is a varied blessing. "I will give thee showers of blessing." The word is in the plural. All kinds of blessings God will send. All God's blessings go together, like links in a golden chain. If he gives converting grace, he will also give comforting grace. He will send "showers of blessing." Look up today, O parched plant, and open thy leaves and flowers for a heavenly watering.

Evening

"O Lord of hosts, how long wilt thou not have mercy upon Jerusalem? ... And the Lord answered the angel ... with good words and comfortable words."
Zechariah 1:12-13

What a sweet answer to an anxious enquiry! This night let us rejoice in it. O Zion, there are good things in store for thee; thy time of travail shall soon be over; thy children shall be brought forth; thy captivity shall end. Bear patiently the rod for a season, and under the darkness still trust in God, for his love burneth towards thee. God loves the church with a love too deep for human imagination: he loves her with all his infinite heart. Therefore let her sons be of good courage; she cannot be far from prosperity to whom God speaketh "good words and comfortable words." What these comfortable words are the prophet goes on to tell us: "I am jealous for Jerusalem and for Zion with a great jealousy." The Lord loves his church so much that he cannot bear that she should go astray to others; and when she has done so, he cannot endure that she should suffer too much or too heavily. He will not have his enemies afflict her: he is displeased with them because they increase her misery. When God seems most to leave his church, his heart is warm towards her. History shows that whenever God uses a rod to chasten his servants, he always breaks it afterwards, as if he loathed the rod which gave his children pain. "Like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear him." God hath not forgotten us because he smites--his blows are no evidences of want of love. If this is true of his church collectively, it is of necessity true also of each individual member. You may fear that the Lord has passed you by, but it is not so: he who counts the stars, and calls them by their names, is in no danger of forgetting his own children. He knows your case as thoroughly as if you were the only creature he ever made, or the only saint he ever loved. Approach him and be at peace.

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Today's reading: Numbers 7-8, Mark 4:21-41 (NIV)

View today's reading on Bible Gateway
Offerings at the Dedication of the Tabernacle

1 When Moses finished setting up the tabernacle, he anointed and consecrated it and all its furnishings. He also anointed and consecrated the altar and all its utensils. 2 Then the leaders of Israel, the heads of families who were the tribal leaders in charge of those who were counted, made offerings. 3They brought as their gifts before the LORD six covered carts and twelve oxen—an ox from each leader and a cart from every two. These they presented before the tabernacle.

4 The LORD said to Moses, 5 “Accept these from them, that they may be used in the work at the tent of meeting. Give them to the Levites as each man’s work requires.”

6 So Moses took the carts and oxen and gave them to the Levites. 7 He gave two carts and four oxen to the Gershonites, as their work required, 8 and he gave four carts and eight oxen to the Merarites, as their work required. They were all under the direction of Ithamar son of Aaron, the priest. 9 But Moses did not give any to the Kohathites, because they were to carry on their shoulders the holy things, for which they were responsible.

10 When the altar was anointed, the leaders brought their offerings for its dedication and presented them before the altar.11 For the LORD had said to Moses, “Each day one leader is to bring his offering for the dedication of the altar.”

12 The one who brought his offering on the first day was Nahshon son of Amminadab of the tribe of Judah.

13 His offering was one silver plate weighing a hundred and thirty shekels and one silver sprinkling bowl weighing seventy shekels, both according to the sanctuary shekel, each filled with the finest flour mixed with olive oil as a grain offering; 14one gold dish weighing ten shekels, filled with incense; 15 one young bull, one ram and one male lamb a year old for a burnt offering; 16 one male goat for a sin offering; 17 and two oxen, five rams, five male goats and five male lambs a year old to be sacrificed as a fellowship offering. This was the offering of Nahshon son of Amminadab.

18 On the second day Nethanel son of Zuar, the leader of Issachar, brought his offering.

19 The offering he brought was one silver plate weighing a hundred and thirty shekels and one silver sprinkling bowl weighing seventy shekels, both according to the sanctuary shekel, each filled with the finest flour mixed with olive oil as a grain offering; 20 one gold dish weighing ten shekels, filled with incense; 21 one young bull, one ram and one male lamb a year old for a burnt offering; 22 one male goat for a sin offering; 23and two oxen, five rams, five male goats and five male lambs a year old to be sacrificed as a fellowship offering. This was the offering of Nethanel son of Zuar.

24 On the third day, Eliab son of Helon, the leader of the people of Zebulun, brought his offering.

25 His offering was one silver plate weighing a hundred and thirty shekels and one silver sprinkling bowl weighing seventy shekels, both according to the sanctuary shekel, each filled with the finest flour mixed with olive oil as a grain offering; 26one gold dish weighing ten shekels, filled with incense; 27 one young bull, one ram and one male lamb a year old for a burnt offering; 28 one male goat for a sin offering; 29 and two oxen, five rams, five male goats and five male lambs a year old to be sacrificed as a fellowship offering. This was the offering of Eliab son of Helon.

30 On the fourth day Elizur son of Shedeur, the leader of the people of Reuben, brought his offering.

31 His offering was one silver plate weighing a hundred and thirty shekels and one silver sprinkling bowl weighing seventy shekels, both according to the sanctuary shekel, each filled with the finest flour mixed with olive oil as a grain offering; 32one gold dish weighing ten shekels, filled with incense; 33 one young bull, one ram and one male lamb a year old for a burnt offering; 34 one male goat for a sin offering; 35 and two oxen, five rams, five male goats and five male lambs a year old to be sacrificed as a fellowship offering. This was the offering of Elizur son of Shedeur.

36 On the fifth day Shelumiel son of Zurishaddai, the leader of the people of Simeon, brought his offering.

37 His offering was one silver plate weighing a hundred and thirty shekels and one silver sprinkling bowl weighing seventy shekels, both according to the sanctuary shekel, each filled with the finest flour mixed with olive oil as a grain offering; 38one gold dish weighing ten shekels, filled with incense; 39 one young bull, one ram and one male lamb a year old for a burnt offering; 40 one male goat for a sin offering; 41 and two oxen, five rams, five male goats and five male lambs a year old to be sacrificed as a fellowship offering. This was the offering of Shelumiel son of Zurishaddai.

42 On the sixth day Eliasaph son of Deuel, the leader of the people of Gad, brought his offering.

43 His offering was one silver plate weighing a hundred and thirty shekels and one silver sprinkling bowl weighing seventy shekels, both according to the sanctuary shekel, each filled with the finest flour mixed with olive oil as a grain offering; 44one gold dish weighing ten shekels, filled with incense; 45 one young bull, one ram and one male lamb a year old for a burnt offering; 46 one male goat for a sin offering; 47 and two oxen, five rams, five male goats and five male lambs a year old to be sacrificed as a fellowship offering. This was the offering of Eliasaph son of Deuel.

48 On the seventh day Elishama son of Ammihud, the leader of the people of Ephraim, brought his offering.

49 His offering was one silver plate weighing a hundred and thirty shekels and one silver sprinkling bowl weighing seventy shekels, both according to the sanctuary shekel, each filled with the finest flour mixed with olive oil as a grain offering; 50one gold dish weighing ten shekels, filled with incense; 51 one young bull, one ram and one male lamb a year old for a burnt offering; 52 one male goat for a sin offering; 53 and two oxen, five rams, five male goats and five male lambs a year old to be sacrificed as a fellowship offering. This was the offering of Elishama son of Ammihud.

54 On the eighth day Gamaliel son of Pedahzur, the leader of the people of Manasseh, brought his offering.

55 His offering was one silver plate weighing a hundred and thirty shekels and one silver sprinkling bowl weighing seventy shekels, both according to the sanctuary shekel, each filled with the finest flour mixed with olive oil as a grain offering; 56one gold dish weighing ten shekels, filled with incense; 57 one young bull, one ram and one male lamb a year old for a burnt offering; 58 one male goat for a sin offering; 59 and two oxen, five rams, five male goats and five male lambs a year old to be sacrificed as a fellowship offering. This was the offering of Gamaliel son of Pedahzur.

60 On the ninth day Abidan son of Gideoni, the leader of the people of Benjamin, brought his offering.

61 His offering was one silver plate weighing a hundred and thirty shekels and one silver sprinkling bowl weighing seventy shekels, both according to the sanctuary shekel, each filled with the finest flour mixed with olive oil as a grain offering; 62one gold dish weighing ten shekels, filled with incense; 63 one young bull, one ram and one male lamb a year old for a burnt offering; 64 one male goat for a sin offering; 65 and two oxen, five rams, five male goats and five male lambs a year old to be sacrificed as a fellowship offering. This was the offering of Abidan son of Gideoni.

66 On the tenth day Ahiezer son of Ammishaddai, the leader of the people of Dan, brought his offering.

67 His offering was one silver plate weighing a hundred and thirty shekels and one silver sprinkling bowl weighing seventy shekels, both according to the sanctuary shekel, each filled with the finest flour mixed with olive oil as a grain offering; 68one gold dish weighing ten shekels, filled with incense; 69 one young bull, one ram and one male lamb a year old for a burnt offering; 70 one male goat for a sin offering; 71 and two oxen, five rams, five male goats and five male lambs a year old to be sacrificed as a fellowship offering. This was the offering of Ahiezer son of Ammishaddai.

72 On the eleventh day Pagiel son of Okran, the leader of the people of Asher, brought his offering.

73 His offering was one silver plate weighing a hundred and thirty shekels and one silver sprinkling bowl weighing seventy shekels, both according to the sanctuary shekel, each filled with the finest flour mixed with olive oil as a grain offering; 74one gold dish weighing ten shekels, filled with incense; 75 one young bull, one ram and one male lamb a year old for a burnt offering; 76 one male goat for a sin offering; 77 and two oxen, five rams, five male goats and five male lambs a year old to be sacrificed as a fellowship offering. This was the offering of Pagiel son of Okran.

78 On the twelfth day Ahira son of Enan, the leader of the people of Naphtali, brought his offering.

79 His offering was one silver plate weighing a hundred and thirty shekels and one silver sprinkling bowl weighing seventy shekels, both according to the sanctuary shekel, each filled with the finest flour mixed with olive oil as a grain offering; 80one gold dish weighing ten shekels, filled with incense; 81 one young bull, one ram and one male lamb a year old for a burnt offering; 82 one male goat for a sin offering; 83 and two oxen, five rams, five male goats and five male lambs a year old to be sacrificed as a fellowship offering. This was the offering of Ahira son of Enan.

84 These were the offerings of the Israelite leaders for the dedication of the altar when it was anointed: twelve silver plates, twelve silver sprinkling bowls and twelve gold dishes. 85Each silver plate weighed a hundred and thirty shekels, and each sprinkling bowl seventy shekels. Altogether, the silver dishes weighed two thousand four hundred shekels, according to the sanctuary shekel. 86 The twelve gold dishes filled with incense weighed ten shekels each, according to the sanctuary shekel. Altogether, the gold dishes weighed a hundred and twenty shekels. 87 The total number of animals for the burnt offering came to twelve young bulls, twelve rams and twelve male lambs a year old, together with their grain offering. Twelve male goats were used for the sin offering. 88 The total number of animals for the sacrifice of the fellowship offering came to twenty-four oxen, sixty rams, sixty male goats and sixty male lambs a year old. These were the offerings for the dedication of the altar after it was anointed.

89 When Moses entered the tent of meeting to speak with the LORD, he heard the voice speaking to him from between the two cherubim above the atonement cover on the ark of the covenant law. In this way the LORD spoke to him.

Numbers 8

Setting Up the Lamps

1 The LORD said to Moses, 2 “Speak to Aaron and say to him, ‘When you set up the lamps, see that all seven light up the area in front of the lampstand.’”

3 Aaron did so; he set up the lamps so that they faced forward on the lampstand, just as the LORD commanded Moses. 4 This is how the lampstand was made: It was made of hammered gold—from its base to its blossoms. The lampstand was made exactly like the pattern the LORD had shown Moses.

The Setting Apart of the Levites

5 The LORD said to Moses: 6 “Take the Levites from among all the Israelites and make them ceremonially clean. 7 To purify them, do this: Sprinkle the water of cleansing on them; then have them shave their whole bodies and wash their clothes. And so they will purify themselves. 8 Have them take a young bull with its grain offering of the finest flour mixed with olive oil; then you are to take a second young bull for a sin offering. 9Bring the Levites to the front of the tent of meeting and assemble the whole Israelite community. 10 You are to bring the Levites before the LORD, and the Israelites are to lay their hands on them. 11 Aaron is to present the Levites before the LORD as a wave offering from the Israelites, so that they may be ready to do the work of the LORD.

12 “Then the Levites are to lay their hands on the heads of the bulls, using one for a sin offering to the LORD and the other for a burnt offering, to make atonement for the Levites. 13 Have the Levites stand in front of Aaron and his sons and then present them as a wave offering to the LORD. 14 In this way you are to set the Levites apart from the other Israelites, and the Levites will be mine.

15 “After you have purified the Levites and presented them as a wave offering, they are to come to do their work at the tent of meeting. 16 They are the Israelites who are to be given wholly to me. I have taken them as my own in place of the firstborn, the first male offspring from every Israelite woman. 17 Every firstborn male in Israel, whether human or animal, is mine. When I struck down all the firstborn in Egypt, I set them apart for myself. 18 And I have taken the Levites in place of all the firstborn sons in Israel. 19 From among all the Israelites, I have given the Levites as gifts to Aaron and his sons to do the work at the tent of meeting on behalf of the Israelites and to make atonement for them so that no plague will strike the Israelites when they go near the sanctuary.”

20 Moses, Aaron and the whole Israelite community did with the Levites just as the LORD commanded Moses. 21 The Levites purified themselves and washed their clothes. Then Aaron presented them as a wave offering before the LORD and made atonement for them to purify them. 22 After that, the Levites came to do their work at the tent of meeting under the supervision of Aaron and his sons. They did with the Levites just as the LORD commanded Moses.

23 The LORD said to Moses, 24 “This applies to the Levites: Men twenty-five years old or more shall come to take part in the work at the tent of meeting, 25 but at the age of fifty, they must retire from their regular service and work no longer. 26They may assist their brothers in performing their duties at the tent of meeting, but they themselves must not do the work. This, then, is how you are to assign the responsibilities of the Levites.”


Mark 4

A Lamp on a Stand

21 He said to them, “Do you bring in a lamp to put it under a bowl or a bed? Instead, don’t you put it on its stand? 22 For whatever is hidden is meant to be disclosed, and whatever is concealed is meant to be brought out into the open. 23 If anyone has ears to hear, let them hear.”

24 “Consider carefully what you hear,” he continued. “With the measure you use, it will be measured to you—and even more.25 Whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them.”

The Parable of the Growing Seed

26 He also said, “This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground. 27 Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. 28 All by itself the soil produces grain—first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head. 29 As soon as the grain is ripe, he puts the sickle to it, because the harvest has come.”

The Parable of the Mustard Seed

30 Again he said, “What shall we say the kingdom of God is like, or what parable shall we use to describe it? 31 It is like a mustard seed, which is the smallest of all seeds on earth. 32Yet when planted, it grows and becomes the largest of all garden plants, with such big branches that the birds can perch in its shade.”

33 With many similar parables Jesus spoke the word to them, as much as they could understand. 34 He did not say anything to them without using a parable. But when he was alone with his own disciples, he explained everything.

Jesus Calms the Storm

35 That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.” 36 Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. 37 A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. 38Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”

39 He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.

40 He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”

41 They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!”

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Annas [Ăn'nas]—grace of jehovah. A Jewish high priest, the son of Seth, appointed to office in his thirty-seventh year by Quirinus, and who was in office when John the Baptist began his ministry (Luke 3:2; John 18:13, 24; Acts 4:6). Annas was an astute and powerful ecclesiastical statesman, who took part not only in the trial of Jesus, but also in those of Peter and John.
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Divorce and Adultery

Matthew 5:31-32

John Calvin reminds us that "the bond of marriage is too sacred to be dissolved at the will, or rather at the licentious pleasure, of men." Many issues can drive spouses to despair and contemplate an unbiblical divorce. That is why we must seek help for our marital troubles at the first sign of trouble. If you need counseling, make an appointment with your pastor today. If you know of another couple who is having problems, encourage them to seek counseling as well.

For further study:

Malachi 2:10-16

The Bible in a year:

Numbers 26-27

For the weekend:

Numbers 28-31

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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February 24, 2012

No More Nagging

Sharon Jaynes

Today's Truth

"The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective," (James 5:16 TNIV).

Friend to Friend

There are some verses in the Bible that I wish God had just left out. Here are a few of them:

  • A quarrelsome wife is like a constant dripping. (Proverbs 19:13)
  • A quarrelsome wife is like a constant dripping on a rainy day; restraining her is like restraining the wind or grasping oil with the hand. (Proverbs 27:15,16)
  • Better to live in a desert than with a quarrelsome and ill-tempered wife. (21:19)
  • Better to live on a corner of the roof than share a house with a quarrelsome wife. (Proverbs 25:24)

OK, that's about all I can take right now. When I wrote the book, Becoming the Woman of His Dreams, I surveyed and interviewed men about what they longed for in a wife. One thing that men repeatedly mentioned was their aversion to nagging. Drip, drip, drip. Webster defines nagging as to scold or find fault with repeatedly, to cause annoyance by scolding or repetition. Interestingly, a nag is also an inferior or aged horse. The best remedy to cure ourselves from being a nagging wife, or a nagging mother, or a nagging friend, is to become a praying woman. Jesus invites us to stop nagging our husbands (and others) and begin nagging God!

Here's what Jesus had to say:

"Suppose one of you has a friend, and he goes to him at midnight and says, `Friend, lend me three loaves of bread, because a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I have nothing to set before him.'

"Then the one inside answers, `Don't bother me. The door is already locked, and my children are with me in bed. I can't get up and give you anything.' I tell you, though he will not get up and give him the bread because he is his friend, yet because of the man's boldness he will get up and give him as much as he needs.

"So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened. (Luke 11:5-9).

In the Greek, the words ask, seek, and knock are present participle verbs. The more correct translation would read, ask and keep on asking, seek and keep on seeking, knock and keep on knocking. God invites us to be persistent in our prayers. We can give our worries and cares to God and leave it up to Him to do the rest. "Cast all your cares on the LORD and He will sustain you," (Psalms 55:22). "Cast all your anxiety on Him for He cares for you," (1 Peter 5:7). If you are married, remember, you don't want to be your husband's mother…you want to be the woman of his dreams.

Let's Pray

Dear Lord, I confess that sometimes I nag my husband…alright, maybe more than sometimes. But Lord, I am determining in my heart to stop nagging my husband and start being consistent and persistent in prayer. My husband is Your workmanship, not mine. Forgive me when I try to yank the paint brush from Your hand and create brushstrokes of my own. I pray that I can be the woman that he needs in order to become the man that You desire.

In Jesus' Name,

Amen.

Now It's Your Turn

What do you think a nag sounds like?

Do you ever nag your husband or other significant people in your life?

If there are things that you tend to nag your husband about, try this - write them down on a piece of paper, turn the list over to God, and then turn off the leaky faucet. Give it a try. You might be surprised!

Visit my Facebook page at www.facebook.com/sharonjaynes and tell me 1 leaky faucet comment you are going to turn off for good. Finish this sentence. "I'm not going to nag my husband (or friend, or parent, etc.) about __________ anymore. Instead I'm going to give it to God.

More from the Girlfriends

Nagging just seems to come natural for most of us girls. But God calls us to live super-naturally. If your marriage could use a bit of freshening up, take a look at Sharon's book, Becoming the Woman of His Dreams. And if it that little but powerful muscle called the tongue that needs an overhaul, see her book, The Power of a Woman's Words. It is up to us to turn off that leaky faucet for good!

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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The glorious right hand of the Lord

“And the Lord said unto Moses, Is the Lord’s hand waxed short? thou shalt see now whether my word shall come to pass unto thee or not.” Numbers 11:23

Suggested Further Reading: Luke 12:22-31

Which of his people have found the riches of his grace drained dry? Which of his children has had to mourn that the unsearchable riches of Christ had failed to supply his need? In grace, as well as in providence and nature, the unanimous verdict is that God is still Almighty, that he does as he wills, and fulfils all his promises and his counsels. How is it, then, that such a question as this ever came from the lips of God himself? Who suggested it? What suggested it? What could there have been that should lead him or any of his creatures to say,“Is the Lord’s hand waxed short?” We answer, there is but one creature that God has made that ever doubts him. The little birds doubt not: though they have no barn nor field, yet they sweetly sing at night as they go to their roosts, though they know not where tomorrow’s meal shall be found. The very cattle trust him; and even in days of drought, ye have seen them when they pant for thirst, how they expect the water; how the very first token of it makes them show in their very animal frame, by some dumb language, that they felt that God would not leave them to perish. The angels never doubt him, nor the devils either: devils believe and tremble. But it was left for man, the most favoured of all creatures, to mistrust his God. This high, this black, this infamous sin, of doubting the power and faithfulness of Jehovah, was reserved for the fallen race of rebellious Adam, and we alone, out of all the beings that God has ever fashioned, dishonour him by unbelief, and tarnish his honour by mistrust.

For meditation: Man is good at taming and training animals (James 3:7) but they still have a thing or two to teach him about God (2 Peter 2:15-16; Luke 12:24).

Sermon no. 363
24 February (1861)

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Rachel Olsen

February 24, 2012

Abigail's Choice
Rachel Olsen

"Haughtiness goes before destruction; humility precedes honor." Proverbs 18:12 (NLT)

Marriages were often arranged in Abigail's era, and I wonder if this was true of hers. On paper her husband Nabal seemed like a "catch." He was wealthy, a good provider, and he liked to have fun and throw parties. But behind the scenes his self-control and integrity was seriously lacking, causing those closest to him to suffer.

Here is what we know about Abigail's husband Nabal from the Bible in 1 Samuel chapter 25:1-41.

He is wealthy ó that's partly due to David's protection of his land and flocks. (vv. 2, 7-8)

He's crude, and mean in all his dealings. (vs. 3)

He sneers at guests who come in peace, and questions their character. (vv. 10-11)

He shouts insults. (vs.14)

He's stingy, not returning favors or repaying kindnesses showed him. (vv. 16, 21)

He is so temperamental that people dread talking to him. (vs. 17)

He thinks more highly of himself than he ought. (vs. 36)

He drinks too much. (vv. 36-37)

Basically, Nabal was a self-centered, ill-mannered guy who didn't recognize God's provision or blessings in his life. And if you read his story, you'll see he was foolish enough to insult the most powerful man around (King David) but more importantly, he was foolish enough to insult the one true God.

God let Nabal face the ultimate consequence of his character ó death (vv. 38-39).

Imagine yourself paired up in marriage to such a foolish, arrogant, sharp-tongued man as this. (I hope you have to imagine, and have not lived this.) How would you react towards him? What do you think living with him might do to your personality, or your character?

Might you grow depressed? Would you become withdrawn or timid? Would you nag him to do better? Would you grow bitter, angry and become argumentative back? Or, would you perhaps just "let yourself go" and decide not to care about anything?

Let's look at Nabal's wife Abigail, from that same passage in the Bible:

She is smart and sensible. (vs. 3)

People look to her for wisdom and leadership in times of trouble. (vv. 14, 17)

She is decisive and wastes no time worrying, pitying her situation, or fussing at those who cause her trouble ó instead she takes action to improve the situation. (vv. 18, 23)

She is generous, (vv. 18, 27) even willing to lay down her life for others. (vv. 22, 24)

She is humble (vv. 24, 41) and quick to ask forgiveness. (vs. 28)

She speaks eloquently and tactfully ó with a knowledge of God ó as she gives one of the longest speeches by a woman recorded in the Bible. (vv. 24-31)

She looks out for the well-being and reputation of others ó even Nabal's. (vv. 25, 31)

She trusts God, holds her tongue, and waits patiently for the right timing. (vv. 36-38)

Abigail has always been one of my favorite women in the Bible. She has it all ó wisdom, character, courage, faith, eloquence, graciousness. She possesses both inner and outer beauty. But her life with this man Nabal was no picnic, and that's really why I admire her.

How many times did Nabal get drunk and say or do something demeaning to her? Yet she chose not to let her spirit die. How many times did she wish for revenge, though not seek it? How many times did he berate her, yet she wasn't paralyzed by his insults?

How many times did his foolishness cost her greatly, or those she cared about? Yet she chose not to count the costs to herself when she put her life on the line to spare his life and the other men's.

Abigail's praiseworthy character ran deep, which tells me her reverence of God did as well.

After Nabal's death, she married King David and they had a son. David would have seven other wives in his lifetime, but only Abigail earned his complete respect. Only she had a positive influence on him.

Abigail challenges me to choose differently ó to be humble, wise and courageous. Her example teaches me that I can choose how I will allow my circumstances to shape my character. While Nabal's life clearly shows that haughtiness goes before destruction, Abigail's shows that choosing humility and wisdom allows God to shape my character and my circumstances. And it makes room for God to be glorified in both.

Dear Lord, today I humble myself before You. I confess my sins and ask You to help me develop and display the same wisdom and character as Abigail. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
If you enjoyed this devotion, you'll want to get a copy of Rachel's book It's No Secret: Revealing Divine Truths Every Woman Should Know.

The One Year Women of the Bible: Then and Now Reflections on Women of the Bible and Women Today

Visit Rachel's blog for more encouragement.

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 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:
Do your words and actions typically reflect haughtiness or humility?

Who is your "Nabal"? A boss? A parent? Your own sin-nature that combats your spirit?

In what circumstance or relationship can you choose wisdom, humility and courage this week?

Power Verses:
Proverbs 31:26, "She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue." (NIV)

Proverbs 15:33, "The fear of the Lord teaches a man wisdom; and humility comes before honor." (NIV 1984)

© 2012 by Rachel Olsen. All rights reserved.

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

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God—all in all

‘When he giveth quietness, who then can make trouble? and when he hideth his face, who then can behold him? whether it be done against a nation, or against a man only.’ Job 34:29

Suggested Further Reading: 2 Corinthians 10:1–5

If some of us were fallen asleep, and the faithful ones buried—if the Spirit of God were gone, you would say, ‘Well, we are still a large and influential congregation; we can afford to get a talented minister, money will do anything;’ and you would get the man of talents, and many other pretty things which we now count it our joy to do without. Then, if such were the case, all these vain attempts at grandeur would be unsuccessful, and this church would ere long become a scorn and a hissing, or else a mere log upon the water. Then it would be said, ‘We must change the management,’ and there would be this change and that change; but if the Lord were gone, what could you do? By what means could you ever make this church to revive again, or any other church? Alas! for the carnal, spasmodic efforts we have seen made in some churches! Prayer meetings badly attended, no conversions, but still they have said, ‘Well, it is imperative upon us to keep up a respectable appearance; we must collect the congregation by our singing, by our organ, or some other outward attraction:’ and angels might have wept as they saw the folly of men who sought anything except the Lord, who alone can make a house his temple; who alone can make a ministry to be a ministration of mercy; without whose presence the most solemn congregation is but as the herding of men in the market, and the most melodious songs but as the shoutings of those who make merry at a marriage. Without the Lord, our solemn days, our new moons, and our appointed feasts, are an abomination such as his soul hates.

For meditation: Attempts at ‘fearing the Lord’ with a combination of his ordinances and man-made outward attractions usually lead to the same conclusion—‘they fear not the Lord’ (2 Kings 17:27–34); yet someone in that position will still presume upon God’s blessing ( Judges 17:5–6,12–13). Is your church in danger?

Sermon no. 737
24 February (1867)

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Divorce and Adultery

Matthew 5:31-32 "Everyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of sexual immorality, makes her commit adultery. And whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery" ( v. 32).

Jesus, in the Sermon on the Mount, tells us that God wants not only right actions, but also a pure heart (Matt. 5:8). Refraining from murder and adultery does not exhaust those particular commandments; Exodus 20:13-14 also forbids lust and unjust anger ( Matt. 5:21-30). This is in line with the Old Testament, which says the Law must be followed in heart and in deed (Deut. 6:6; Ps. 37:31).

Jesus' corrections of the Pharisaic traditions are not an exposition of the Law that covers every single possible situation. For example, Christ says "everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment" ( Matt. 5:22), but He does not mean that anger is always evil, as He Himself will get angry (21:12-13) without sinning (1 Peter 2:22). Ungodly anger is what the injunction against murder forbids. We can (rarely) be righteously angry and yet not sin (Eph. 4:26).

This point helps us understand today's passage. Jesus does not give every possible ground for divorce when He allows it for "sexual immorality" (Matt. 5:31-32); desertion by an unbelieving spouse also makes divorce permissible (1 Cor. 7:12-16). Moreover, the Greek word for "sexual immorality" in today's passage (porneia ) covers all types of sexual misconduct, implying that some sexual sins besides extramarital affairs can be legitimate grounds for divorce. Yet Jesus is not allowing divorce for any instance of lust or sexual indiscretion. Otherwise, every lewd thought is just cause for divorce. Since no sinner has been fully pure in this area, every marriage would then be dissolvable, which clearly violates our Lord's high view of holy matrimony ( Matt. 19:1-12).

As with other complicated problems in the Christian life, we go to our pastors and elders to see if a particular form of porneia is legal grounds for divorce. God gives us the church to help us work through complex issues (Acts 15:1-35). Each marriage is different, and choosing the right course of action can be hard, but wise church leaders are to apply Scripture properly and give sound direction.

Divorce is often easier than working through marital problems and is appealing to our fallen nature. We must recognize this lest we adopt the world's practice of sanctioning divorces for reasons other than those God has given.

Coram deo: Living before the face of God

John Calvin reminds us that "the bond of marriage is too sacred to be dissolved at the will, or rather at the licentious pleasure, of men." Many issues can drive spouses to despair and contemplate an unbiblical divorce. That is why we must seek help for our marital troubles at the first sign of trouble. If you need counseling, make an appointment with your pastor today. If you know of another couple who is having problems, encourage them to seek counseling as well.

For further study:

Malachi 2:10-16

The Bible in a year:

Numbers 26-27

For the weekend:

Numbers 28-31

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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Bernard of Clairvaux: Preaching Christ Most Excellently

art_09_01_bernardQuote: "While I am in this life this more sublime philosophy will be mine — to know Jesus Christ, and Him crucified."

The most celebrated of the Cistercians monks and the leading reformer of the twelfth century, Bernard (1090 – 1153) was more than a monastic leader. He was a theologian, a papal confidant, a Crusader, and a hymn writer. Indeed, he was one of the few medieval Roman Catholics widely heralded by the Reformers. John Calvin regarded him as the premier proclaimer of truth in the centuries between Gregory the Great and the Reformation, and Martin Luther found him to be "superior to all the doctors in his sermons, even to Augustine himself, because he preaches Christ most excellently."

Born in a French castle, Bernard turns away from wealth and prestige to become a Cistercian monk in his early twenties. Like his six brothers and a sister, he is influenced by the deep faith of their mother, Aletha. According to his earliest biographer she, with her husband, "governed the household in the fear of God, devoting herself to deeds of mercy and rearing her children in strict discipline. . . . not so much for the glory of her husband as for that of God; for all the sons became monks and the daughter a nun."

Bernard's decision to become a monk, according to his biographer, occurs suddenly. Riding one day through a dense forest, he comes upon a roadside chapel, goes in, and prays. "From that hour . . . God had kindled [fire] in the heart of his servant." Bernard then seeks out a Cistercian monastery, bringing thirty men with him. His early life of luxury is behind him, and three years later he is commissioned to take twelve monks and start a new community. They march northward through deep forests to a valley near the headwaters of the River Aube. Here he and his followers build the Abbey of Clairvaux.

For the next thirty-four years Bernard ministers in this region, preaching, praying, and reaching out to those in need in the surrounding areas. So compelling are his recruitment efforts that women reportedly warn their husbands and lovers and sons to stay away from his monastery because he has magical powers for turning men into monks. The story of his sister Humbelina — the one sibling who had refused to enter the cloister — sheds light on his power. She is married with children, but Bernard is not moved by her maternal instincts. When she turns away from his demands, he refuses to speak with her. Eventually he breaks her will, and she consents to leave her family and spend the rest of her life in seclusion.

A celebrated traveling wonderworker, Bernard leaves behind testimonies of healings — particularly of young boys suffering a variety of afflictions who then join his band of recruits. On one occasion thirty young men who are healed or witness a healing follow him back to the monastery. By the middle of the twelfth century the Abbey of Clairvaux has some seven hundred monks and seventy daughter houses under his strict discipline — all secluded cloisters. When a monk leaves for a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, Bernard appeals to the pope, demanding that the monk be returned lest he encourage others to leave.

Yet for all his insistence on curbing the travel and curiosity of his monks, Bernard abides by no such rule for himself. Engaged in the most critical debates of the era, he is tireless in his efforts to end a church schism in 1130, and he becomes the attack dog in the campaign against Abelard. With the same intensity, he promotes the Second Crusade, launched in 1145. Before he becomes involved, there is little excitement for another long march east. But then he aims his evangelistic arrows at those needed to liberate the Holy Land. "I opened my mouth," he testifies, "and at once the Crusaders have multiplied to infinity."

Bernard spends a year traveling from town to town, appealing for troops. But the early news of Crusader defeats dampens his spirits. Surely, he reasons, God must be punishing the sins of the Crusaders. In the end, the Islamic armies prevail, and Jerusalem is taken. Despite setbacks, his popularity is high, and he is canonized a saint in 1174, barely two decades after his death.


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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He Is - Uncontainable

1 Kings 8:27-30

Solomon's temple was a breath-taking structure, yet he realized that even this magnificent building could not hold the uncontainable God. In awe Solomon acknowledged that not even the highest heaven could contain God. Even though God can't be contained by a building, he is always accessible. Nothing can restrain him from hearing the prayers of his people.

You don't have to go to a church, a chapel or a prayer room to pray to God. He does not limit your prayers to certain places or particular times. He is uncontainable. Wherever you go, he's there. Whatever you say, he's listening. When you cry out, he'll answer.

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Day 3

Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.

But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”

All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”).

When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife.

How have you obeyed God in your own life?

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Today's Lent reading: Matthew 7-9 (NIV)

View today's Lent reading on Bible Gateway
Judging Others
1 "Do not judge, or you too will be judged. 2 For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

3 "Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? 4 How can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye.

6 "Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.

Ask, Seek, Knock
7 "Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.

9 "Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? 11 If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! 12 So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.

The Narrow and Wide Gates
13 "Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. 14 But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.
True and False Prophets
15 "Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. 16 By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17 Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. 19Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.
True and False Disciples
21 "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?' 23Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'
The Wise and Foolish Builders
24 "Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. 26 But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash."

28 When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, 29 because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law.

Matthew 8

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

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

The Faith of the Centurion
5 When Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him, asking for help. 6 "Lord," he said, "my servant lies at home paralyzed, suffering terribly."

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

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

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

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

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

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

"He took up our infirmities
and bore our diseases."

The Cost of Following Jesus
18 When Jesus saw the crowd around him, he gave orders to cross to the other side of the lake. 19 Then a teacher of the law came to him and said, "Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go."

20 Jesus replied, "Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head."

21 Another disciple said to him, "Lord, first let me go and bury my father."

22 But Jesus told him, "Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead."

Jesus Calms the Storm
23 Then he got into the boat and his disciples followed him. 24Suddenly a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. 25 The disciples went and woke him, saying, "Lord, save us! We're going to drown!"

26 He replied, "You of little faith, why are you so afraid?" Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm.

27 The men were amazed and asked, "What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!"

Jesus Restores Two Demon-Possessed Men
28 When he arrived at the other side in the region of the Gadarenes, two demon-possessed men coming from the tombs met him. They were so violent that no one could pass that way.29 "What do you want with us, Son of God?" they shouted. "Have you come here to torture us before the appointed time?"

30 Some distance from them a large herd of pigs was feeding.31 The demons begged Jesus, "If you drive us out, send us into the herd of pigs."

32 He said to them, "Go!" So they came out and went into the pigs, and the whole herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and died in the water. 33 Those tending the pigs ran off, went into the town and reported all this, including what had happened to the demon-possessed men. 34 Then the whole town went out to meet Jesus. And when they saw him, they pleaded with him to leave their region.

Matthew 9

Jesus Forgives and Heals a Paralyzed Man
1 Jesus stepped into a boat, crossed over and came to his own town. 2 Some men brought to him a paralyzed man, lying on a mat. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the man,"Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven."

3 At this, some of the teachers of the law said to themselves, "This fellow is blaspheming!"

4 Knowing their thoughts, Jesus said, "Why do you entertain evil thoughts in your hearts? 5 Which is easier: to say, 'Your sins are forgiven,' or to say, 'Get up and walk'? 6 But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins." So he said to the paralyzed man, "Get up, take your mat and go home." 7 Then the man got up and went home. 8 When the crowd saw this, they were filled with awe; and they praised God, who had given such authority to man.

The Calling of Matthew
9 As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector's booth. "Follow me," he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him.

10 While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew's house, many tax collectors and sinners came and ate with him and his disciples. 11 When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, "Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?"

12 On hearing this, Jesus said, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. 13 But go and learn what this means: 'I desire mercy, not sacrifice.' For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners."

Jesus Questioned About Fasting
14 Then John's disciples came and asked him, "How is it that we and the Pharisees fast often, but your disciples do not fast?"

15 Jesus answered, "How can the guests of the bridegroom mourn while he is with them? The time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them; then they will fast.

16 "No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment, for the patch will pull away from the garment, making the tear worse. 17 Neither do people pour new wine into old wineskins. If they do, the skins will burst; the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved."

Jesus Raises a Dead Girl and Heals a Sick Woman
18 While he was saying this, a synagogue leader came and knelt before him and said, "My daughter has just died. But come and put your hand on her, and she will live." 19 Jesus got up and went with him, and so did his disciples.

20 Just then a woman who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak. 21 She said to herself, "If I only touch his cloak, I will be healed."

22 Jesus turned and saw her. "Take heart, daughter," he said,"your faith has healed you." And the woman was healed at that moment.

23 When Jesus entered the synagogue leader's house and saw the noisy crowd and people playing pipes, 24 he said, "Go away. The girl is not dead but asleep." But they laughed at him.25 After the crowd had been put outside, he went in and took the girl by the hand, and she got up. 26 News of this spread through all that region.

Jesus Heals the Blind and the Mute
27 As Jesus went on from there, two blind men followed him, calling out, "Have mercy on us, Son of David!"

28 When he had gone indoors, the blind men came to him, and he asked them, "Do you believe that I am able to do this?"

"Yes, Lord," they replied.

29 Then he touched their eyes and said, "According to your faith let it be done to you"; 30 and their sight was restored. Jesus warned them sternly, "See that no one knows about this." 31 But they went out and spread the news about him all over that region.

32 While they were going out, a man who was demon-possessed and could not talk was brought to Jesus. 33 And when the demon was driven out, the man who had been mute spoke. The crowd was amazed and said, "Nothing like this has ever been seen in Israel."

34 But the Pharisees said, "It is by the prince of demons that he drives out demons."

The Workers Are Few
35 Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. 36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 37 Then he said to his disciples, "The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. 38 Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field."
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The Easter season is often marked by spectacular displays of art and public worship--we might sing beautiful Easter hymns at church, attend moving Easter pageants, or participate in public acts of prayer, fasting, or devotion. Today's Scripture reading reminds us that in the midst of these outward displays, however appropriate they are, we are called to humility, self-sacrifice, reflection, and quiet suffering.

Today's Prayer

O Lord, who hast mercy upon all,
take away from me my sins,
and mercifully kindle in me
the fire of thy Holy Spirit.
Take away from me the heart of stone,
and give me a heart of flesh,
a heart to love and adore Thee,
a heart to delight in Thee,
to follow and enjoy Thee, for Christ's sake, Amen.
-- Ambrose of Milan, 4th century bishop

Today's Scripture Reading: Matthew 6:1-6,16-21
Teaching about Giving to the Needy
"Watch out! Don't do your good deeds publicly, to be admired by others, for you will lose the reward from your Father in heaven. 2 When you give to someone in need, don't do as the hypocrites do-blowing trumpets in the synagogues and streets to call attention to their acts of charity! I tell you the truth, they have received all the reward they will ever get. 3 But when you give to someone in need, don't let your left hand know what your right hand is doing. 4 Give your gifts in private, and your Father, who sees everything, will reward you.
Teaching about Prayer and Fasting
5 "When you pray, don't be like the hypocrites who love to pray publicly on street corners and in the synagogues where everyone can see them. I tell you the truth, that is all the reward they will ever get. 6 But when you pray, go away by yourself, shut the door behind you, and pray to your Father in private. Then your Father, who sees everything, will reward you.

16 "And when you fast, don't make it obvious, as the hypocrites do, for they try to look miserable and disheveled so people will admire them for their fasting. I tell you the truth, that is the only reward they will ever get. 17 But when you fast, comb your hair and wash your face. 18 Then no one will notice that you are fasting, except your Father, who knows what you do in private. And your Father, who sees everything, will reward you.

Teaching about Money and Possessions
19 "Don't store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal. 21Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.

Today's Quote

"When your heart is thus established in Christ, and you are an enemy of sin, out of love and not out of fear of punishment, Christ's sufferings should also be an example for your whole life, and you should meditate on the same in a different way.... If a day of sorrow or sickness weighs you down, think, how trifling that is compared with the thorns and nails of Christ. If you must do or leave undone what is distasteful to you: think,how Christ was led hither and thither, bound and a captive. Does pride attack you: behold, how your Lord was mocked and disgraced with murderers. Do unchastity and lust thrust themselves against you: think, how bitter it was for Christ to have his tender flesh torn, pierced and beaten again and again. Do hatred and envy war against you, or do you seek vengeance: remember how Christ with many tears and cries prayed for you and all his enemies, who indeed had more reason to seek revenge . If trouble or whatever adversity of body or soul afflict you, strengthen your heart and say: Ah, why then should I not also suffer a little since my Lord sweat blood in the garden because of anxiety and grief?

"One can thus find in Christ strength and comfort against all vice and bad habits.... And they are called true Christians who incorporate the life and name of Christ into their own life, as St. Paul says in Gal 5, 24: "And they that are of Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with the passions and the lusts thereof." For Christ's Passion must be dealt with not in words and a show, but in our lives and in truth.... But this kind of meditation is now out of use and very rare, although the Epistles of St. Paul and St. Peter are full of it. We have changed the essence into a mere show, and painted the meditation of Christ's sufferings only in letters and on walls." -- Martin Luther, "How to Contemplate Christ's Holy Sufferings"

Something to Think About

As Easter approaches, are your words and actions marked by humility? Whatever you're doing to prepare for Easter, are you doing it to honor Christ, or to be noticed by others?

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