Thursday, February 09, 2012

Daily Devotional Thursday 9th February

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” Matthew 5:43-45 NIV
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Morning and Evening by Charles Spurgeon

Morning

"Thou shalt call his name Jesus."
Matthew 1:21

When a person is dear, everything connected with him becomes dear for his sake. Thus, so precious is the person of the Lord Jesus in the estimation of all true believers, that everything about him they consider to be inestimable beyond all price. "All thy garments smell of myrrh, and aloes, and cassia," said David, as if the very vestments of the Saviour were so sweetened by his person that he could not but love them. Certain it is, that there is not a spot where that hallowed foot hath trodden--there is not a word which those blessed lips have uttered--nor a thought which his loving Word has revealed--which is not to us precious beyond all price. And this is true of the names of Christ--they are all sweet in the believer's ear. Whether he be called the Husband of the Church, her Bridegroom, her Friend; whether he be styled the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world--the King, the Prophet, or the Priest--every title of our Master--Shiloh, Emmanuel, Wonderful, the Mighty Counsellor--every name is like the honeycomb dropping with honey, and luscious are the drops that distil from it. But if there be one name sweeter than another in the believer's ear, it is the name of Jesus. Jesus! it is the name which moves the harps of heaven to melody. Jesus! the life of all our joys. If there be one name more charming, more precious than another, it is this name. It is woven into the very warp and woof of our psalmody. Many of our hymns begin with it, and scarcely any, that are good for anything, end without it. It is the sum total of all delights. It is the music with which the bells of heaven ring; a song in a word; an ocean for comprehension, although a drop for brevity; a matchless oratorio in two syllables; a gathering up of the hallelujahs of eternity in five letters.

"Jesus, I love thy charming name,

'Tis music to mine ear."

Evening

"He shall save his people from their sins."
Matthew 1:21

Many persons, if they are asked what they understand by salvation, will reply, "Being saved from hell and taken to heaven." This is one result of salvation, but it is not one tithe of what is contained in that boon. It is true our Lord Jesus Christ does redeem all his people from the wrath to come; he saves them from the fearful condemnation which their sins had brought upon them; but his triumph is far more complete than this. He saves his people "from their sins." Oh! sweet deliverance from our worst foes. Where Christ works a saving work, he casts Satan from his throne, and will not let him be master any longer. No man is a true Christian if sin reigns in his mortal body. Sin will be in us--it will never be utterly expelled till the spirit enters glory; but it will never have dominion. There will be a striving for dominion--a lusting against the new law and the new spirit which God has implanted--but sin will never get the upper hand so as to be absolute monarch of our nature. Christ will be Master of the heart, and sin must be mortified. The Lion of the tribe of Judah shall prevail, and the dragon shall be cast out. Professor! is sin subdued in you? If your life is unholy your heart is unchanged, and if your heart is unchanged you are an unsaved person. If the Saviour has not sanctified you, renewed you, given you a hatred of sin and a love of holiness, he has done nothing in you of a saving character. The grace which does not make a man better than others is a worthless counterfeit. Christ saves his people, not in their sins, but from them. "Without holiness no man shall see the Lord." "Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity." If not saved from sin, how shall we hope to be counted among his people. Lord, save me now from all evil, and enable me to honour my Saviour.

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Today's reading: Leviticus 4-5, Matthew 24:29-51 (NIV)

View today's reading on Bible Gateway
The Sin Offering

1 The LORD said to Moses, 2 “Say to the Israelites: ‘When anyone sins unintentionally and does what is forbidden in any of the LORD’s commands—

3 “‘If the anointed priest sins, bringing guilt on the people, he must bring to the LORD a young bull without defect as a sin offering for the sin he has committed. 4 He is to present the bull at the entrance to the tent of meeting before the LORD. He is to lay his hand on its head and slaughter it there before the LORD.5 Then the anointed priest shall take some of the bull’s blood and carry it into the tent of meeting. 6 He is to dip his finger into the blood and sprinkle some of it seven times before the LORD, in front of the curtain of the sanctuary. 7 The priest shall then put some of the blood on the horns of the altar of fragrant incense that is before the LORD in the tent of meeting. The rest of the bull’s blood he shall pour out at the base of the altar of burnt offering at the entrance to the tent of meeting. 8 He shall remove all the fat from the bull of the sin offering—all the fat that is connected to the internal organs, 9 both kidneys with the fat on them near the loins, and the long lobe of the liver, which he will remove with the kidneys— 10 just as the fat is removed from the ox sacrificed as a fellowship offering. Then the priest shall burn them on the altar of burnt offering. 11 But the hide of the bull and all its flesh, as well as the head and legs, the internal organs and the intestines— 12 that is, all the rest of the bull—he must take outside the camp to a place ceremonially clean, where the ashes are thrown, and burn it there in a wood fire on the ash heap.

13 “‘If the whole Israelite community sins unintentionally and does what is forbidden in any of the LORD’s commands, even though the community is unaware of the matter, when they realize their guilt 14 and the sin they committed becomes known, the assembly must bring a young bull as a sin offering and present it before the tent of meeting. 15 The elders of the community are to lay their hands on the bull’s head before the LORD, and the bull shall be slaughtered before the LORD. 16Then the anointed priest is to take some of the bull’s blood into the tent of meeting. 17 He shall dip his finger into the blood and sprinkle it before the LORD seven times in front of the curtain.18 He is to put some of the blood on the horns of the altar that is before the LORD in the tent of meeting. The rest of the blood he shall pour out at the base of the altar of burnt offering at the entrance to the tent of meeting. 19 He shall remove all the fat from it and burn it on the altar, 20 and do with this bull just as he did with the bull for the sin offering. In this way the priest will make atonement for the community, and they will be forgiven.21 Then he shall take the bull outside the camp and burn it as he burned the first bull. This is the sin offering for the community.

22 “‘When a leader sins unintentionally and does what is forbidden in any of the commands of the LORD his God, when he realizes his guilt 23 and the sin he has committed becomes known, he must bring as his offering a male goat without defect. 24 He is to lay his hand on the goat’s head and slaughter it at the place where the burnt offering is slaughtered before the LORD. It is a sin offering. 25 Then the priest shall take some of the blood of the sin offering with his finger and put it on the horns of the altar of burnt offering and pour out the rest of the blood at the base of the altar. 26 He shall burn all the fat on the altar as he burned the fat of the fellowship offering. In this way the priest will make atonement for the leader’s sin, and he will be forgiven.

27 “‘If any member of the community sins unintentionally and does what is forbidden in any of the LORD’s commands, when they realize their guilt 28 and the sin they have committed becomes known, they must bring as their offering for the sin they committed a female goat without defect. 29 They are to lay their hand on the head of the sin offering and slaughter it at the place of the burnt offering. 30 Then the priest is to take some of the blood with his finger and put it on the horns of the altar of burnt offering and pour out the rest of the blood at the base of the altar. 31 They shall remove all the fat, just as the fat is removed from the fellowship offering, and the priest shall burn it on the altar as an aroma pleasing to the LORD. In this way the priest will make atonement for them, and they will be forgiven.

32 “‘If someone brings a lamb as their sin offering, they are to bring a female without defect. 33 They are to lay their hand on its head and slaughter it for a sin offering at the place where the burnt offering is slaughtered. 34 Then the priest shall take some of the blood of the sin offering with his finger and put it on the horns of the altar of burnt offering and pour out the rest of the blood at the base of the altar. 35 They shall remove all the fat, just as the fat is removed from the lamb of the fellowship offering, and the priest shall burn it on the altar on top of the food offerings presented to the LORD. In this way the priest will make atonement for them for the sin they have committed, and they will be forgiven.

Leviticus 5

1 “‘If anyone sins because they do not speak up when they hear a public charge to testify regarding something they have seen or learned about, they will be held responsible.

2 “‘If anyone becomes aware that they are guilty—if they unwittingly touch anything ceremonially unclean (whether the carcass of an unclean animal, wild or domestic, or of any unclean creature that moves along the ground) and they are unaware that they have become unclean, but then they come to realize their guilt; 3 or if they touch human uncleanness (anything that would make them unclean) even though they are unaware of it, but then they learn of it and realize their guilt; 4 or if anyone thoughtlessly takes an oath to do anything, whether good or evil (in any matter one might carelessly swear about) even though they are unaware of it, but then they learn of it and realize their guilt— 5 when anyone becomes aware that they are guilty in any of these matters, they must confess in what way they have sinned. 6 As a penalty for the sin they have committed, they must bring to the LORD a female lamb or goat from the flock as a sin offering; and the priest shall make atonement for them for their sin.

7 “‘Anyone who cannot afford a lamb is to bring two doves or two young pigeons to the LORD as a penalty for their sin—one for a sin offering and the other for a burnt offering. 8 They are to bring them to the priest, who shall first offer the one for the sin offering. He is to wring its head from its neck, not dividing it completely, 9 and is to splash some of the blood of the sin offering against the side of the altar; the rest of the blood must be drained out at the base of the altar. It is a sin offering. 10The priest shall then offer the other as a burnt offering in the prescribed way and make atonement for them for the sin they have committed, and they will be forgiven.

11 “‘If, however, they cannot afford two doves or two young pigeons, they are to bring as an offering for their sin a tenth of an ephah of the finest flour for a sin offering. They must not put olive oil or incense on it, because it is a sin offering. 12 They are to bring it to the priest, who shall take a handful of it as a memorial portion and burn it on the altar on top of the food offerings presented to the LORD. It is a sin offering. 13 In this way the priest will make atonement for them for any of these sins they have committed, and they will be forgiven. The rest of the offering will belong to the priest, as in the case of the grain offering.’”

The Guilt Offering

14 The LORD said to Moses: 15 “When anyone is unfaithful to the LORD by sinning unintentionally in regard to any of the LORD’s holy things, they are to bring to the LORD as a penalty a ram from the flock, one without defect and of the proper value in silver, according to the sanctuary shekel. It is a guilt offering.16 They must make restitution for what they have failed to do in regard to the holy things, pay an additional penalty of a fifth of its value and give it all to the priest. The priest will make atonement for them with the ram as a guilt offering, and they will be forgiven.

17 “If anyone sins and does what is forbidden in any of the LORD’s commands, even though they do not know it, they are guilty and will be held responsible. 18 They are to bring to the priest as a guilt offering a ram from the flock, one without defect and of the proper value. In this way the priest will make atonement for them for the wrong they have committed unintentionally, and they will be forgiven. 19 It is a guilt offering; they have been guilty of wrongdoing against the LORD.”


Matthew 24

29 “Immediately after the distress of those days

“‘the sun will be darkened,
and the moon will not give its light;
the stars will fall from the sky,
and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.’

30 “Then will appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven. And then all the peoples of the earth will mourn when they see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory. 31 And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other.

32 “Now learn this lesson from the fig tree: As soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. 33 Even so, when you see all these things, you know that it is near, right at the door. 34 Truly I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. 35 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.

The Day and Hour Unknown

36 “But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 37 As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. 38 For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; 39 and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. 40 Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. 41 Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left.

42 “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. 43 But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. 44 So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.

45 “Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom the master has put in charge of the servants in his household to give them their food at the proper time? 46 It will be good for that servant whose master finds him doing so when he returns.47 Truly I tell you, he will put him in charge of all his possessions. 48 But suppose that servant is wicked and says to himself, ‘My master is staying away a long time,’ 49 and he then begins to beat his fellow servants and to eat and drink with drunkards. 50 The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of.51 He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

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Jehoshaphat [Jēhŏsh'aphăt]—jehovah is judge.

  1. A recorder during the reigns of David and Solomon (2 Sam. 8:16; 1 Kings 4:3; 1 Chron. 18:15 ).
  2. One of Solomon’s purveyors(1 Kings 4:17).
  3. A son of Asa, king of Judah, who succeeded his father (1 Kings 15:24; 22).

The Man with a Good Record

Because he carried out the religious reforms of his father, history gives Jehoshaphat a good name. What a beautiful expression that is “ . . .he walked in the first ways of his father David”—meaning in the former or earlier ways of David, as contrasted with his later conduct. Because of his godward bent, “the Lord was with Jehoshaphat.” Negatively, he “sought not after Baalim.”

Here was a man who in every point was equally strong, a man of foresight, a man of reverence, a man of an honest heart, a man who felt that idolatry and true worship could not coexist in the same breast. He did not concern himself with “the doings of Israel.” His was a blessed, spiritual singularity. He laid down a clear program for himself, and followed it out with patient and faithful endeavor. He did not seek riches and honor. No wonder the Lord “established the kingdom in his hand”! Points for the preacher to develop are:

I. He was one of the best kings of Judah (1 Kings 15:24 ).

II. He had a godly father whose example he emulated (2 Chron. 14:2).

III. He developed a system of religious instruction for the people (2 Chron. 17:7-9).

IV. He commanded the judges to be just (2 Chron. 19:6-9).

V. He trusted God for victory in a crisis ( 2 Chron. 20).

VI. He manifested weakness in his alliance with wicked kings (1 Kings 22:1-36).

4. Son of Nimshi and father of Jehu, who conspired against Joram, son of king Ahab (2 Kings 9:2, 14).

5. One of the priests who assisted in bringing up the Ark from Obed-edom (1 Chron. 15:24). Also the name of a valley east of Jerusalem which figures in coming judgment (Joel 3:2, 12). See also Josaphat.

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Gethsemane

‘And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground.’ Luke 22:44

Suggested Further Reading: Mark 14:32–42

Behold the Saviour’s unutterable woe. The emotions of that dolorous night are expressed by several words in Scripture. John describes him as saying four days before his passion, ‘Now is my soul troubled;’ as he marked the gathering clouds he hardly knew where to turn himself, and cried out ‘What shall I say?’ Matthew writes of him, ‘he began to be sorrowful and very heavy.’ Upon the word ademonein translated ‘very heavy,’ Goodwin remarks that there was a distraction in the Saviour’s agony since the root of the word signifies ‘separated from the people—men in distraction, being separated from mankind.’ What a thought, my brethren, that our blessed Lord should be driven to the very verge of distraction by the intensity of his anguish. Matthew represents the Saviour himself as saying ‘My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death.’ Here the wordperilupos means encompassed, encircled, overwhelmed with grief. ‘He was plunged head and ears in sorrow and had no breathing-hole,’ is the strong expression of Goodwin. Mark records that he began to be sore amazed, and to be very heavy. In this case thambeisthai, with the prefix ek, shows extremity of amazement, like that of Moses when he did exceedingly fear and quake. Luke uses the strong language of my text—‘being in an agony.’ These expressions are quite sufficient to show that the grief of the Saviour was of the most extraordinary character, well justifying the prophetic exclamation ‘Behold and see if there be any sorrow like unto my sorrow which is done unto me.’

For meditation: The instruments we associate with the shedding of Christ’s blood were wielded by men—the scourge, crown of thorns, nails and spear (John 19:1–2,18,34 ). The fact that he sweat ‘great drops of blood’ in Gethsemane before any man could lay a finger on him gives us an important glimpse behind the scenes—his life was not taken from him by men; it was given by him for men (John 10:17–18).

Sermon no. 493
8 February (1863)

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How to Worship

John 4:1-45

Do you find Sunday morning worship to be a delight or dull and dreary? Do you spend the service thinking about all the things you could be doing if you were not at church? Take time today to repent for those times you have not devoted proper attention to the Lord in worship. Remember that He is truly present among us when we gather together (Matt. 18:20) and let that be a compelling motivation to delight in Him in the presence of His people.

For further study:

Exodus 32

The Bible in a year:

Leviticus 17

Coram Deo from TableTalk Magazine, Matthew Studies. Copyright © 2008 by Ligonier Ministries.

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

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Glynnis Whitwer

February 8, 2012

There are No Shortcuts
Glynnis Whitwer

"Laziness leads to a sagging roof; idleness leads to a leaky house." Ecclesiastes 10:18 (NLT)

Life for a boy is measured in milestones. The first time you wear "big boy" underwear. The first time you are tall enough to ride a roller coaster. And the first time you eat a Big Mac meal all by yourself. For my youngest son Robbie, the last milestone came at age six. And it also came with a life-message about the danger of shortcuts.

For a first grader, lunch in the cafeteria is a novelty. With two older brothers, Robbie knew it meant I would be joining him occasionally with a special lunch instead of his normal sandwich and fruit. He couldn't wait for his turn to have Mommy show up with lunch hidden in a paper bag, stamped with a familiar golden arch. The first time I did, he was thrilled.

Robbie majestically created a plate from the paper wrapping, dumped the fries onto the "plate," and sampled his soda. Like a king on his throne, he surveyed his lunch. Then Robbie dug in with abandon to his double-decker burger. And just as quickly, secret sauce started dripping down his little fingers.

He caught some with his tongue, but surplus sauce still oozed down his hands. I could see his shirt about to become a dining accessory, and started rustling through the bag and under wrappers. "Wait Robbie, I'm sure I brought some napkins," I said.

"It's okay Mommy," Robbie said raking his fingers through his hair. "My hair is a napkin." He grinned, thoroughly pleased with himself.

I stared. Speechless.

That was a teachable moment for me. You see, I didn't know I had to tell my children not to use their hair as a napkin. Now I know.

I learned something else from that experience. Convenience trumps correct almost every time when children are small. Which is why dirty clothes get dropped on the floor directly in front of the hamper. Or glasses get set on the counter above the dishwasher. Bad habits are easily formed, and it seems in our human nature to choose ease over diligence, quick over thorough.

Sadly, with enough choices like that, we end up with a life-culture of shallow rather than deep. Instead of pushing through to the next level of excellence, we settle. Instead of the few extra seconds it takes to find a napkin, we use our hair. And then we wonder why things aren't the way we wish they were.

I catch myself looking for the occasional short cut. But I've discovered there are no short cuts to anyplace worth going.

I'll never have a clean home unless I get to work on it. I'll never save money unless I shop smarter. I'll never be an excellent writer unless I sharpen my skills. I'll never be a great wife or mother unless I make it a priority. I will never wake up one day and find that my dreams have become a reality, unless I'm willing to do what it takes to make that happen.

Besides a good story, Robbie's "My hair is a napkin" experience is a great lesson. It reminds me that convenience isn't always best. Shortcuts don't always work. And I've still got a lot to learn about parenting and life.

Dear Lord, I praise You today for who You are. You are worthy of my best efforts. Forgive me when I try to take a shortcut in serving You. Help me to remember that Your way isn't always the easy way. But it's the best way. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
P31 Woman magazine offers monthly encouragement in living a God-honoring life.

When Your Child is Hurting by Glynnis Whitwer

Visit Glynnis' blog for more encouragement!

Reflect and Respond:
What is an area of my life that needs more work? What two things can I do this week to make small positive changes in that area?

What "shortcuts" have I taken in life that proved to be bad decisions?

Why are shortcuts seldom helpful when pursuing the dreams in our hearts?

Power Verses:
Proverbs 13:4, "The sluggard craves and gets nothing, but the desires of the diligent are fully satisfied." (NIV 1984)

Proverbs 31:27, "She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness." (NIV 1984)

© 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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Secret sins

“Cleanse thou me from secret faults.” Psalm 19:12

Suggested Further Reading: 2 Kings 5:15-27

You do not think there is any evil in a thing unless somebody sees it, do you? You feel that it is a very great sin if your master finds you out in robbing the till—but there is no sin if he should not discover it—none at all. And you, sir, you fancy it to be very great sin to play a trick in trade, in case you should be discovered and brought before the court; but to play a trick and never be discovered, that is all fair—do not say a word about it. “Mr Spurgeon, it is all business; you must not touch business; tricks that are not discovered, of course you are not to find fault with them.” The common measure of sin is the notoriety of it. But I do not believe in that. A sin is a sin, whether done in private or before the wide world. It is singular how men will measure guilt. A railway servant puts up a wrong signal, there is an accident; the man is tried, and severely reprimanded. The day before he put up the wrong signal, but there was no accident, and therefore no one accused him for his neglect. But it was just the same, accident or no accident, the accident did not make the guilt, it was the deed which made the guilt, not the notoriety nor yet the consequence of it. It was his business to have taken care—and he was as guilty the first time as he was the second, for he negligently exposed the lives of men. Do not measure sin by what other people say of it; but measure sin by what God says of it, and what your own conscience says of it. Now, I hold that secret sin, if anything, is the worst of sin; because secret sin implies that the man who commits it has atheism in his heart.

For meditation: “Be sure your sin will find you out” (Numbers 32:23)—one day God is going to reveal the secrets of men (Romans 2:16 ). There is a world of difference between being truly sorry for our sin itself and just feeling sorry for ourselves when we get found out (Hebrews 12:17).

Sermon no. 116
8 February (1857)

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February 8, 2012

A Balanced Life

Mary Southerland

Today's Truth

Now as they went on their way, he entered a certain village, where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet and listened to what he was saying. But Martha was distracted by her many tasks; so she came to him and asked, "Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me." But the Lord answered her, "Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her ( Luke 10:38-42, NRSV).

Then, six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus was who had been dead, whom He had raised from the dead. There they made Him a supper; and Martha served, but Lazarus was one of those who sat at the table with Him. Then Mary took a pound of very costly oil of spikenard, anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped His feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the oil (John 1:3, NRSV)

Friend to Friend

As I watched the movie "Twister" for the first time, I was reminded of the small Texas town where I grew up. Tornadoes were a common occurrence in Brownwood. In fact, we sometimes had "tornado drills" in order to prepare for the next storm. When ominous dark clouds began to gather and the possibility of tornadoes increased, warning sirens screamed through that quiet little town, sending every man, woman and child scurrying for safety. Our safe place was an old, musty storm cellar in the back yard where my family huddled until the "all clear" siren sounded.

Life is filled with storms and twisters – overcrowded schedules, impossible demands, unrealistic expectations, emotional bankruptcy, physical exhaustion and personality conflicts. Chaos often reigns, spinning emotions out of control. Frustration, confusion, stress, and darkness are all too familiar companions. During those turbulent times, my first reaction is to run and hide until the storm passes over, but I have come to two realizations; first, there will always be another storm and second, what I must do is learn how to prepare for stormsbefore they hit. Storm preparation begins with a balanced life.

Most women I know constantly struggle with this issue of balance. We find it difficult to set boundaries, fail to establish margins of time for the unplanned or unexpected, and unwittingly surrender our God ordained priorities to the empty, vain addiction of just "doing the next thing." Balance becomes a casualty of this ongoing battle. Frustration, failure and darkness prosper in an imbalanced life, thriving on the vacuum of clear purpose and sure direction. The pit of despair is a common destination for those who refuse to measure and balance the sometimes overwhelming demands of work, home, family, friends, and personal growth. Frenzy and confusing darkness will reign until a holy balance is firmly entrenched in its place. It is a balance only God can bring and is wonderfully illustrated through the lives of two women in the Bible, Mary and Martha. Mary and Martha present a profoundly simple but practical three-step plan for living a balanced life of power and purpose.

Now I have to admit that Martha is a girl after my own heart. A perfectionist and recognized by all who knew her as disciplined, strong-willed, energetic and practical, Martha seemed to know who she was and where she was going. Because of her leadership in the community, people listened when she spoke. Martha was single, financially secure and owned her own home which she shared with her sister, Mary, and their brother, Lazerus. They were a close family, living in a small town named Bethany located two miles from Jerusalem. Martha was a wonderful cook, her home clean and always in order. In fact, she might well have been considered the "Betty Crocker" of Bethany. Martha had the gift of hospitality and entertained often, freely welcoming friends as well as strangers into her home. Religious leaders, business executives, and virtually anyone in need, including her close friend, Jesus, knew they had an open invitation to this home. Martha seemed to be an intense woman with deep feelings and sure convictions. She loved truth and was quick to share her strong beliefs, the mark of an unwavering faith. Martha certainly had faults just as we do. I am convinced that, at times, she may have missed some of the higher moments of life because she was "too busy." Sound familiar?

Mary, the sister of Martha, is an entirely different story. Shelived for the higher moments in life. A free spirit and strong individualist, Mary probably saw little value in material wealth, a clean house, cooked meals and strict schedules. Nothing could compare to the cherished treasures of quiet, peace and freedom. I don't think Mary missed many of the "Kodak moments" of life. I suspect she was an avid learner who thrived on anything that compelled her to think and reflect. Mary was almost childlike in her hunger for truth - especially spiritual truth and like her sister, felt things deeply. Sometimes those feelings drove her to do things that others could not understand. For example, it was unusual for a woman to sit among men. But Mary did. She sat at the feet of Jesus while He taught His disciples. Lost in the wonder of hearing new truth, Mary seemed oblivious to her critics and did not appear to notice or even care what people around her thought. She found it easy to abandon herself to those she loved and thrived on the relationships in her life. Relationships with people like the man named Jesus. Mary was brave. To go against the "norm" by daring to be so different and perhaps even live in the shadow of her very successful and highly regarded sister took courage. Mary was human and imperfect. To some, she may have seemed lazy and flighty or even given the perception of being a procrastinator.

Mary is often considered the spiritual one while Martha is thought to be the not so spiritual one. We tend to look at their lives and say we should be like Mary. However, I want us to realize that the lives of both women offer invaluable life lessons and truths about balance. God is not the author of confusion nor does He create chaos, setting His children up to drown in the raging seas of darkness, burnout and exhaustion. We do a great job of that all on our own. But we can learn important lessons from Mary and Martha, apply them to our lives today, and experience a balance that will bring peace, purpose and power to our crazed world.

Let's Pray

Father, help me learn to cherish and make time to simply sit at Your feet and be in Your presence. At the same time, Lord, show me how to live a life of integrity in which I am a woman of my word. Teach me how to discipline my steps and invest my time in a way that pleases You and honors the plan You have for my life. Only You can bring a holy balance to my life as I surrender my agenda and every priority to Your perfect plan. I do that right now.

In Jesus' name,

Amen.

Now It's Your Turn

I encourage you to set aside time this week to spend in solitude. Examine your life in the light of balance. What priorities are obvious? What areas are out of balance? How has this imbalance affected your life? What changes do you need to make in order to live a balanced life of purpose?

More from the Girlfriends

Is your life balanced? If you are like me, you need all the help you can get in maintaining a balanced life. My E-Bible Study,Time: Friend or Foe, offers three important steps you can take in learning how to balance your time and your life.

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

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

Are you ready to begin a new faith adventure? Get a copy of our new book, Trusting God.

Seeking God?

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how to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

Girlfriends in God

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How to Worship

John 4:1-45 "God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth" (v. 24).

Worship is perhaps the most comprehensive of all the means of grace our Father has given to us. When we come together to praise our sovereign Lord, we have the privilege of engaging in Bible study by hearing the preached Word of God, praying as a corporate body, exercising stewardship as we give our tithes and offerings, and meeting with Christ as we partake in the sacraments.

Regrettably, too many churches today have forgotten the awesome privilege and sacred duty of worship, preferring to create "seeker-friendly" services that often cater more to our culture and its love of entertainment than to the adoration of our Creator. In the "seeker-sensitive" model, worship has become a means to attract the unchurched through the means of marketing with little regard as to whether such a model is proper for worshiping God. Yet Scripture is clear that the Lord does not view worship as something indifferent or subject to the fanciful whims of sinful men. God is the one who determines proper worship ( Lev. 10:1-3). Our fallenness makes us all prone to idolatry (Rom. 1:18-32), and none of us is above disobeying His commands against worshiping other gods and crafting false images of Him (Ex. 20:3-6 ). Most of us do not construct deities of wood and stone; our idolatry is much more sophisticated. We tend to make increasing the size of the congregation our chief priority. We like to proclaim to the world how "hip" and "with it" we Christians really are. We love to deny those attributes of God that make us uncomfortable.

Today's passage tells us that our Father desires those who will worship Him "in spirit and truth" (John 4:24 ). Worship in truth means worship that is structured according to His Word. We must praise the Lord revealed in Scripture, who is the embodiment of holiness and justice as well as love and mercy. The whole counsel of God must guide our worship of Him.

Worshiping the Lord in spirit means that we praise God with our whole being, taking delight in the opportunity to praise His name. Spending time preparing ourselves before we come to church will help us "enter his gates with thanksgiving" in our hearts and into "his courts with praise" (Ps. 100:4).

Coram deo: Living before the face of God

Do you find Sunday morning worship to be a delight or dull and dreary? Do you spend the service thinking about all the things you could be doing if you were not at church? Take time today to repent for those times you have not devoted proper attention to the Lord in worship. Remember that He is truly present among us when we gather together (Matt. 18:20) and let that be a compelling motivation to delight in Him in the presence of His people.

For further study:

Exodus 32

The Bible in a year:

Leviticus 17

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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At Issue - Suffering

Job 6:1-10

When Job's life fell apart, he asked the same questions human beings have asked for millennia: Why me? What did I do to deserve this? How could God allow this to happen to me? Maybe you're in Job's shoes-feeling abandoned, rejected and hopeless. Maybe you are demanding answers from God. But as Job discovered, knowing the God who created you is better than knowing the answers to all your questions. Because when you know and trust his love, you'll find the freedom and hope that will enable you to trust in God's control over all things, even your suffering.

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A Modern Peace Child: God spans the gulf

Today's reading: Romans 5

Romans 5:7-8 Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Don Richardson spent several frustrating years among the Sawi tribe in New Guinea. He had come from America as an anthropologist/missionary, hoping to bring the Christian message to a nearly stone-age tribe. But his message kept colliding with the tribe's unusual beliefs.

Christian values of love and forgiveness had no appeal to the Sawi, for they held up deceit as the highest virtue. They saw no reason to change their patterns of cruelty and cannibalism. In fact, when Richardson told them the story of Jesus, only one incident sparked their interest: the story of Judas's betrayal! To the Sawi, Judas was a genuine hero; he had shrewdly penetrated the trusted inner circle of disciples before turning against Jesus.

A Mysterious Ceremony

Every time Richardson tried to share Christ with the Sawi, the attempt miscarried. Finally, after watching the fourteenth bloody battle fought outside his home, Richardson reached the end of his patience. How could he ever break through to such violent people? He decided to leave New Guinea, despite the Sawi's pleas that he stay.

Just before Richardson left, the Sawi and their deadly enemies, the Haenam tribe, staged an elaborate ceremony in front of his home. It was their final effort to convince the missionary to stay.

The entire village gathered to watch the event. All were silent except the Sawi chief's wife. She screamed loudly as the chief seized their six-month-old baby from her arms and held him high in the air. The chief then carried his son to the enemy chief and gave him to his enemies. A member of the tribe explained to Richardson that the Haenam tribe would rename the baby and rear him as one of its own.

Breakthrough

Richardson knew that no Sawi could be fully trusted, since any action might be part of an elaborate deception. But that memorable day he learned of the one great exception: the peace child. A chief's giving his own son to his enemies-that profound, painful act would overcome all suspicion. By mutual agreement, as long as the peace child lived, no wars could be fought between the two tribes.

Something clicked in Don Richardson's mind as he watched the spectacle. At last he had found an analogy-a parallel story-built into the Sawi's culture that could convey the message of a forgiving God. He gathered members of the tribe around him and, with a pounding heart and dry throat, told them of God's peace child. God had sent his own Son, Jesus, to live among enemies, to make peace with humankind.

A Key Passage

Perhaps Paul felt that same pounding heart and dry throat as he presented in 11 concise verses, Romans 3:21-31, the meaning of God's offering of his peace child, Jesus. The first part of Romans spelled out the vast gulf between God and people. Now Paul describes how God spanned this gulf. Some have called this section "the central theological passage in the Bible."

After stating the facts, Paul backs them up with historical proofs in Romans 4 and 5. American politicians often defend their positions by appealing to founding fathers, men like George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. Similarly, Paul keeps his Jewish audience in mind. He supports his concepts by citing Abraham, Moses and even Adam.

Christ's death, says Paul, was not a new idea, an addition to the Old Testament law. Rather, it was the completion of the law, what the Old Testament implied and foreshadowed. Like the Sawi, the Jewish culture had its own "redemptive analogies"; and they all found true fulfillment in Jesus Christ.

Life Question

Have you ever felt far from God? Does Romans 3-5 say anything that might help during those times?

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