Sunday, February 19, 2012

Daily Devotional Sunday 19th February

“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:38-39NIV
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Morning and Evening by Charles Spurgeon

Morning

"Shew me wherefore thou contendest with me."
Job 10:2

Perhaps, O tried soul, the Lord is doing this to develop thy graces. There are some of thy graces which would never be discovered if it were not for thy trials. Dost thou not know that thy faith never looks so grand in summer weather as it does in winter? Love is too often like a glow-worm, showing but little light except it be in the midst of surrounding darkness. Hope itself is like a star--not to be seen in the sunshine of prosperity, and only to be discovered in the night of adversity. Afflictions are often the black foils in which God doth set the jewels of his children's graces, to make them shine the better. It was but a little while ago that on thy knees thou wast saying, "Lord, I fear I have no faith: let me know that I have faith." Was not this really, though perhaps unconsciously, praying for trials?--for how canst thou know that thou hast faith until thy faith is exercised? Depend upon it, God often sends us trials that our graces may be discovered, and that we may be certified of their existence. Besides, it is not merely discovery, real growth in grace is the result of sanctified trials. God often takes away our comforts and our privileges in order to make us better Christians. He trains his soldiers, not in tents of ease and luxury, but by turning them out and using them to forced marches and hard service. He makes them ford through streams, and swim through rivers, and climb mountains, and walk many a long mile with heavy knapsacks of sorrow on their backs. Well, Christian, may not this account for the troubles through which thou art passing? Is not the Lord bringing out your graces, and making them grow? Is not this the reason why he is contending with you?

"Trials make the promise sweet;

Trials give new life to prayer;

Trials bring me to his feet,

Lay me low, and keep me there."

Evening

"Father, I have sinned."
Luke 15:18

It is quite certain that those whom Christ has washed in his precious blood need not make a confession of sin, as culprits or criminals, before God the Judge, for Christ has forever taken away all their sins in a legal sense, so that they no longer stand where they can be condemned, but are once for all accepted in the Beloved; but having become children, and offending as children, ought they not every day to go before their heavenly Father and confess their sin, and acknowledge their iniquity in that character? Nature teaches that it is the duty of erring children to make a confession to their earthly father, and the grace of God in the heart teaches us that we, as Christians, owe the same duty to our heavenly Father. We daily offend, and ought not to rest without daily pardon. For, supposing that my trespasses against my Father are not at once taken to him to be washed away by the cleansing power of the Lord Jesus, what will be the consequence? If I have not sought forgiveness and been washed from these offences against my Father, I shall feel at a distance from him; I shall doubt his love to me; I shall tremble at him; I shall be afraid to pray to him: I shall grow like the prodigal, who, although still a child, was yet far off from his father. But if, with a child's sorrow at offending so gracious and loving a Parent, I go to him and tell him all, and rest not till I realize that I am forgiven, then I shall feel a holy love to my Father, and shall go through my Christian career, not only as saved, but as one enjoying present peace in God through Jesus Christ my Lord. There is a wide distinction between confessing sin as a culprit, and confessing sin as a child. The Father's bosom is the place for penitent confessions. We have been cleansed once for all, but our feet still need to be washed from the defilement of our daily walk as children of God.

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Today's reading: Leviticus 23-24, Mark 1:1-22 (NIV)

View today's reading on Bible Gateway
The Appointed Festivals

1 The LORD said to Moses, 2 “Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘These are my appointed festivals, the appointed festivals of the LORD, which you are to proclaim as sacred assemblies.

The Sabbath

3 “‘There are six days when you may work, but the seventh day is a day of sabbath rest, a day of sacred assembly. You are not to do any work; wherever you live, it is a sabbath to the LORD.

The Passover and the Festival of Unleavened Bread

4 “‘These are the LORD’s appointed festivals, the sacred assemblies you are to proclaim at their appointed times: 5 The LORD’s Passover begins at twilight on the fourteenth day of the first month. 6 On the fifteenth day of that month the LORD’s Festival of Unleavened Bread begins; for seven days you must eat bread made without yeast. 7 On the first day hold a sacred assembly and do no regular work. 8 For seven days present a food offering to the LORD. And on the seventh day hold a sacred assembly and do no regular work.’”

Offering the Firstfruits

9 The LORD said to Moses, 10 “Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘When you enter the land I am going to give you and you reap its harvest, bring to the priest a sheaf of the first grain you harvest. 11 He is to wave the sheaf before the LORD so it will be accepted on your behalf; the priest is to wave it on the day after the Sabbath. 12 On the day you wave the sheaf, you must sacrifice as a burnt offering to the LORD a lamb a year old without defect, 13 together with its grain offering of two-tenths of an ephah of the finest flour mixed with olive oil—a food offering presented to the LORD, a pleasing aroma—and its drink offering of a quarter of a hin of wine. 14 You must not eat any bread, or roasted or new grain, until the very day you bring this offering to your God. This is to be a lasting ordinance for the generations to come, wherever you live.

The Festival of Weeks

15 “‘From the day after the Sabbath, the day you brought the sheaf of the wave offering, count off seven full weeks. 16 Count off fifty days up to the day after the seventh Sabbath, and then present an offering of new grain to the LORD. 17 From wherever you live, bring two loaves made of two-tenths of an ephah of the finest flour, baked with yeast, as a wave offering of firstfruits to the LORD. 18 Present with this bread seven male lambs, each a year old and without defect, one young bull and two rams. They will be a burnt offering to the LORD, together with their grain offerings and drink offerings—a food offering, an aroma pleasing to the LORD. 19 Then sacrifice one male goat for a sin offering and two lambs, each a year old, for a fellowship offering. 20 The priest is to wave the two lambs before the LORD as a wave offering, together with the bread of the firstfruits. They are a sacred offering to the LORD for the priest. 21 On that same day you are to proclaim a sacred assembly and do no regular work. This is to be a lasting ordinance for the generations to come, wherever you live.

22 “‘When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Leave them for the poor and for the foreigner residing among you. I am the LORD your God.’”

The Festival of Trumpets

23 The LORD said to Moses, 24 “Say to the Israelites: ‘On the first day of the seventh month you are to have a day of sabbath rest, a sacred assembly commemorated with trumpet blasts. 25 Do no regular work, but present a food offering to the LORD.’”

The Day of Atonement

26 The LORD said to Moses, 27 “The tenth day of this seventh month is the Day of Atonement. Hold a sacred assembly and deny yourselves, and present a food offering to the LORD. 28 Do not do any work on that day, because it is the Day of Atonement, when atonement is made for you before the LORD your God. 29 Those who do not deny themselves on that day must be cut off from their people. 30 I will destroy from among their people anyone who does any work on that day. 31You shall do no work at all. This is to be a lasting ordinance for the generations to come, wherever you live. 32 It is a day of sabbath rest for you, and you must deny yourselves. From the evening of the ninth day of the month until the following evening you are to observe your sabbath.”

The Festival of Tabernacles

33 The LORD said to Moses, 34 “Say to the Israelites: ‘On the fifteenth day of the seventh month the LORD’s Festival of Tabernacles begins, and it lasts for seven days. 35 The first day is a sacred assembly; do no regular work. 36 For seven days present food offerings to the LORD, and on the eighth day hold a sacred assembly and present a food offering to the LORD. It is the closing special assembly; do no regular work.

37 (“‘These are the LORD’s appointed festivals, which you are to proclaim as sacred assemblies for bringing food offerings to the LORD—the burnt offerings and grain offerings, sacrifices and drink offerings required for each day. 38 These offerings are in addition to those for the LORD’s Sabbaths and in addition to your gifts and whatever you have vowed and all the freewill offerings you give to the LORD.)

39 “‘So beginning with the fifteenth day of the seventh month, after you have gathered the crops of the land, celebrate the festival to the LORD for seven days; the first day is a day of sabbath rest, and the eighth day also is a day of sabbath rest.40 On the first day you are to take branches from luxuriant trees—from palms, willows and other leafy trees—and rejoice before the LORD your God for seven days. 41 Celebrate this as a festival to the LORD for seven days each year. This is to be a lasting ordinance for the generations to come; celebrate it in the seventh month. 42 Live in temporary shelters for seven days: All native-born Israelites are to live in such shelters 43 so your descendants will know that I had the Israelites live in temporary shelters when I brought them out of Egypt. I am the LORD your God.’”

44 So Moses announced to the Israelites the appointed festivals of the LORD.

Leviticus 24

Olive Oil and Bread Set Before the LORD

1 The LORD said to Moses, 2 “Command the Israelites to bring you clear oil of pressed olives for the light so that the lamps may be kept burning continually. 3 Outside the curtain that shields the ark of the covenant law in the tent of meeting, Aaron is to tend the lamps before the LORD from evening till morning, continually. This is to be a lasting ordinance for the generations to come. 4 The lamps on the pure gold lampstand before the LORD must be tended continually.

5 “Take the finest flour and bake twelve loaves of bread, using two-tenths of an ephah for each loaf. 6 Arrange them in two stacks, six in each stack, on the table of pure gold before the LORD. 7 By each stack put some pure incense as a memorial portion to represent the bread and to be a food offering presented to the LORD. 8 This bread is to be set out before the LORD regularly, Sabbath after Sabbath, on behalf of the Israelites, as a lasting covenant. 9 It belongs to Aaron and his sons, who are to eat it in the sanctuary area, because it is a most holy part of their perpetual share of the food offerings presented to the LORD.”

A Blasphemer Put to Death

10 Now the son of an Israelite mother and an Egyptian father went out among the Israelites, and a fight broke out in the camp between him and an Israelite. 11 The son of the Israelite woman blasphemed the Name with a curse; so they brought him to Moses. (His mother’s name was Shelomith, the daughter of Dibri the Danite.) 12 They put him in custody until the will of the LORD should be made clear to them.

13 Then the LORD said to Moses: 14 “Take the blasphemer outside the camp. All those who heard him are to lay their hands on his head, and the entire assembly is to stone him. 15Say to the Israelites: ‘Anyone who curses their God will be held responsible; 16 anyone who blasphemes the name of the LORD is to be put to death. The entire assembly must stone them. Whether foreigner or native-born, when they blaspheme the Name they are to be put to death.

17 “‘Anyone who takes the life of a human being is to be put to death. 18 Anyone who takes the life of someone’s animal must make restitution—life for life. 19 Anyone who injures their neighbor is to be injured in the same manner: 20 fracture for fracture, eye for eye, tooth for tooth. The one who has inflicted the injury must suffer the same injury. 21 Whoever kills an animal must make restitution, but whoever kills a human being is to be put to death. 22 You are to have the same law for the foreigner and the native-born. I am the LORD your God.’”

23 Then Moses spoke to the Israelites, and they took the blasphemer outside the camp and stoned him. The Israelites did as the LORD commanded Moses.


Mark 1

John the Baptist Prepares the Way

1 The beginning of the good news about Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God, 2 as it is written in Isaiah the prophet:

“I will send my messenger ahead of you,
who will prepare your way”—
3 “a voice of one calling in the wilderness,
‘Prepare the way for the Lord,
make straight paths for him.’”

4 And so John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 5The whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem went out to him. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River. 6 John wore clothing made of camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. 7 And this was his message: “After me comes the one more powerful than I, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. 8 I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

The Baptism and Testing of Jesus

9 At that time Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10 Just as Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. 11 And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”

12 At once the Spirit sent him out into the wilderness, 13 and he was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan. He was with the wild animals, and angels attended him.

Jesus Announces the Good News

14 After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. 15 “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!”

Jesus Calls His First Disciples

16 As Jesus walked beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. 17 “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” 18 At once they left their nets and followed him.

19 When he had gone a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John in a boat, preparing their nets. 20Without delay he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men and followed him.

Jesus Drives Out an Impure Spirit

21 They went to Capernaum, and when the Sabbath came, Jesus went into the synagogue and began to teach. 22 The people were amazed at his teaching, because he taught them as one who had authority, not as the teachers of the law.

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When Excuses Won't Do

Judges 6:1-27

"Pardon me, my lord," Gideon replied, "but how can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family."
Judges 6:15

Isn't God amazing? Throughout the Bible he patiently works with complainers, self-doubters and rebels. And not only that, but God also works his plan through truly weak people, like Gideon-or like a man and woman in marriage.

Gideon had good reason to fear an assignment from God to deliver the children of Israel from the oppression of the Midianites. His faith and his clan were weak, and the Israelites were mixing Baal worship with God worship. Even just talking to the Lord must have struck fear in Gideon's heart: Didn't he also deserve to be punished for failing to worship God with his whole heart?

Gideon thought his conversation with God was all about him. But, as we find out, Gideon came to realize he was just a player in God's story, and God was the One with the power to save Israel. God patiently worked with Gideon to remove his doubts and to make him aware that God alone was his strength, telling him in verse 16, "I will be with you."

So how do we complainers, self-doubters and rebels respond when we encounter God's assignments in our married life? The first challenge is that there are two of us for God to deal with. Since God established the marriage covenant, he's not inclined to undermine it by leading a husband and wife in different directions.

When my husband Grey and I were ending a one-year overseas mission assignment, the director of the mission agency challenged us to return as career workers. Grey was game, but I was unwilling to commit because I didn't want to take on the challenge of raising financial support. We had funded one year of mission work with our own savings, but relying on God to lead people to support us caused me great anxiety.

While Grey stayed steady in his commitment to return to the mission field, I, like Gideon, whined about it and then asked God for a sign. When the first sign came (I encouraged Grey to look for a job in the United States, but all those career doors closed), I asked for another sign. Gideon-like, I was setting up my own fleece experiments.

This time God's response was unmistakable. People started giving to us. Check after check finally brought me to the conclusion that God wanted to use us, ordinary people, to do his work overseas. We were nothing special, but raising support went well. We went back to the field for nine more years.

Gideon's story, and the whole Bible, is full of principles we can apply to our lives today. Each day of marriage we can recall God's blessings to us, be assured that he is with us-even in our weaknesses-and believe that he has work for us to do.
Mary Ann Jeffreys

Let's Talk

  • What are some methods God uses to lead our decision making in marriage?
  • How do we distinguish God's leading from our own desires and goals?
  • When we sense God leading each of us in different directions, how can we come to agreement?
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Man’s thoughts and God’s thoughts

‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.’ Isaiah 55:8–9

Suggested Further Reading: Hebrews 10:1–18

There is an idea in the mind of many of you that the plan of just trusting in Christ, and being pardoned on the spot, is too simple to be safe. You want a plan which involves a host of Latin and Greek and all kinds of thing; you want a long palaver of baptism, confirmation, confession, and I know not what; but the gospel is, ‘Trust Jesus, and live.’ ‘Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.’ It is too simple, you think, to be safe. Now, it is a well-known fact that the simplest remedies are the most potent and safe; and certainly, the simplest rules in mechanics are just those upon which the greatest engineers erect their most wonderful constructions. The moment you get to complexity you get into a snarl, and are on the brink of weakness. Simplicity, how solid it is! See the old-fashioned plan of putting a plank across the village brook—that was the old way of making a bridge. Well, then, somebody came in and invented an arch—a grand invention, certainly, but not in all cases suitable. The Menai tubular bridge is nothing more than the old plan of a plank thrown across the brook, and more and more great engineers revert to simplicities. When man grows wisest, he comes back to where he was when he started. I suppose that a swan sailing across a lake gave to the navigator the best possible model of a vessel, to which navigation will always have to keep close if it would keep close to the true and beautiful. Now, as in nature simplicity is strength, so is it certainly in grace. Trust Christ and live!

For meditation: Pride makes us reluctant to accept a salvation which affords us no personal credit or glory (2 Kings 5:9–14). Are you rejecting God’s free gift of forgiveness in Christ and complicating your life with wasted efforts, which will never result in a satisfactory conclusion (Isaiah 55:1–2)?

Sermon no. 676
18 February (1866)

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Spiritual liberty

“Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.” 2 Corinthians 3:17

Suggested Further Reading: Isaiah 53:1-6

Do you understand how it is that the very guilt of the sinner is taken away? Here I stand today a guilty and condemned traitor; Christ comes for my salvation, he bids me leave my cell. “I will stand where you are; I will be your substitute; I will be the sinner; all your guilt is to be imputed to me; I will die for it, I will suffer for it; I will have your sins.” Then stripping himself of his robes, he says, “There, put them on; you shall be considered as if you were Christ; you shall be the righteous one. I will take your place, you take mine.” Then he casts around me a glorious robe of perfect righteousness; and when I behold it, I exclaim, “Strangely, my soul, art thou arrayed”, with my elder brother’s garments on. Jesus Christ’s crown is on my head, his spotless robes are round my loins, and his golden sandals are the shoes of my feet. And now is there any sin? The sin is on Christ; the righteousness is on me. Ask for the sinner, Justice! Let the voice of Justice cry, “Bring forth the sinner!” The sinner is brought. Who does the executioner lead forth? It is the incarnate Son of God. True, he did not commit the sin; he was without fault; but it is imputed to him: he stands in the sinner’s place. Now justice cries, “Bring forth the righteous, the perfectly righteous.” Whom do I see? Lo, the Church is brought; each believer is brought. Justice says, “Are these perfectly righteous?” “Yes they are. What Christ did is theirs; what they did is laid on Christ; his righteousness is theirs; their sins are his.”

For meditation: The substitutionary atonement of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:21; 1 Peter 2:24; 3:18). Are you a beneficiary?

Sermon no. 9
18 February (1855)

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Our Portion

Today's reading: Lamentations 3:1-24

The economic imagery in this passage demonstrates the critical connection that exists between faith and finances (cf.Mt 6:21 ). After reflecting on his own poverty in Lamentations 3:17, the poet turns his attention to God, his "portion" (La 3:24). The term portion in ancient Israel carried an economic significance easily lost on modern readers. The word has its origin in the distribution of the promised land among the 12 tribes as their inheritance from God. For an ancient Israelite, the totality of life, economic status and social security were tied to the land God had given him.

The priests received no inheritance of land. Instead, God said to Aaron, "I am your share [portion] and your inheritance" (Nu 18:20). This is the same share the writer of Lamentations claims for himself, depending absolutely on God for his safety and security. He does not overlook the fact that human beings find security in possessions. God, after all, gave us the desire to possess, and the writer is not ashamed to appeal to that desire. But instead of merely refusing to trust in resources and possessions as his refuge, the poet relocates his resources by clinging to God as his chosen portion.

How do we claim God as our portion and eternal security? According to Jesus, we can relocate our wealth by sharing with the needy. This is how we store up for ourselves lasting treasures in heaven (see Mt 6:19-21; Lk 12:32-34; 1Ti 6:17-19).

"Can you say with John Wesley, 'I value all things only by the price they will bring in eternity?'" challenges National Christian Foundation cofounder Terry A. Parker. "Do you get excited about investing the time, talent, and resources God has given you this day, so on that day you will hear Him say, 'Well done good and faithful servant?'"

In the words of John Nunes, a pastor, theologian and the president of a denominational relief agency, "As God's redeemed people, we have the calling-and opportunity-to be openhanded and tenderhearted toward those in need, not hard-hearted and tightfisted ..." Nunes continues, "David Belasic suggests that God is favorably biased toward the poor, toward those who are suffering, toward those who have been shattered by the vicissitudes of life. God cares. His people care too."

"Many Christians are going to be ashamed to face the Lord and explain why they hoarded money while others went hungry," predicts Christian financial stewardship leader Larry Burkett (1939-2003). "Once commitment has been made to a disciplined lifestyle, regardless of the available income, the danger of greed and its by-products is significantly reduced."

Think About It

  • What changes in your life when you make God your portion (your security and inheritance)?
  • How will you feel when you face God and think back about the times you had opportunity to give to others and didn't?
  • What can you do to share with others today?

Act on It

When you get to heaven, you'll be accountable for your financial decisions. Do something today that will alleviate the pain of another person. And then know that heaven is rejoicing with you.

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