Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Daily Devotional Wednesday 22nd February

“The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not covet,” and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.”Romans 13:9-10 NIV
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Morning and Evening by Charles Spurgeon

Morning

"He hath said."
Hebrews 13:5

If we can only grasp these words by faith, we have an all-conquering weapon in our hand. What doubt will not be slain by this two-edged sword? What fear is there which shall not fall smitten with a deadly wound before this arrow from the bow of God's covenant? Will not the distresses of life and the pangs of death; will not the corruptions within, and the snares without; will not the trials from above, and the temptations from beneath, all seem but light afflictions, when we can hide ourselves beneath the bulwark of "He hath said"? Yes; whether for delight in our quietude, or for strength in our conflict, "He hath said" must be our daily resort. And this may teach us the extreme value of searching the Scriptures. There may be a promise in the Word which would exactly fit your case, but you may not know of it, and therefore you miss its comfort. You are like prisoners in a dungeon, and there may be one key in the bunch which would unlock the door, and you might be free; but if you will not look for it, you may remain a prisoner still, though liberty is so near at hand. There may be a potent medicine in the great pharmacopoeia of Scripture, and you may yet continue sick unless you will examine and search the Scriptures to discover what "He hath said." Should you not, besides reading the Bible, store your memories richly with the promises of God? You can recollect the sayings of great men; you treasure up the verses of renowned poets; ought you not to be profound in your knowledge of the words of God, so that you may be able to quote them readily when you would solve a difficulty, or overthrow a doubt? Since "He hath said" is the source of all wisdom, and the fountain of all comfort, let it dwell in you richly, as "A well of water, springing up unto everlasting life." So shall you grow healthy, strong, and happy in the divine life.

Evening

"Understandest thou what thou readest?"
Acts 8:30

We should be abler teachers of others, and less liable to be carried about by every wind of doctrine, if we sought to have a more intelligent understanding of the Word of God. As the Holy Ghost, the Author of the Scriptures is he who alone can enlighten us rightly to understand them, we should constantly ask his teaching, and his guidance into all truth. When the prophet Daniel would interpret Nebuchadnezzar's dream, what did he do? He set himself to earnest prayer that God would open up the vision. The apostle John, in his vision at Patmos, saw a book sealed with seven seals which none was found worthy to open, or so much as to look upon. The book was afterwards opened by the Lion of the tribe of Judah, who had prevailed to open it; but it is written first--"I wept much." The tears of John, which were his liquid prayers, were, so far as he was concerned, the sacred keys by which the folded book was opened. Therefore, if, for your own and others' profiting, you desire to be "filled with the knowledge of God's will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding," remember that prayer is your best means of study: like Daniel, you shall understand the dream, and the interpretation thereof, when you have sought unto God; and like John you shall see the seven seals of precious truth unloosed, after you have wept much. Stones are not broken, except by an earnest use of the hammer; and the stone-breaker must go down on his knees. Use the hammer of diligence, and let the knee of prayer be exercised, and there is not a stony doctrine in revelation which is useful for you to understand, which will not fly into shivers under the exercise of prayer and faith. You may force your way through anything with the leverage of prayer. Thoughts and reasonings are like the steel wedges which give a hold upon truth; but prayer is the lever, the prise which forces open the iron chest of sacred mystery, that we may get the treasure hidden within.

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Today's reading: Numbers 1-2, Mark 3:1-19 (NIV)

View today's reading on Bible Gateway
The Census

1 The LORD spoke to Moses in the tent of meeting in the Desert of Sinai on the first day of the second month of the second year after the Israelites came out of Egypt. He said: 2“Take a census of the whole Israelite community by their clans and families, listing every man by name, one by one. 3 You and Aaron are to count according to their divisions all the men in Israel who are twenty years old or more and able to serve in the army. 4 One man from each tribe, each of them the head of his family, is to help you. 5 These are the names of the men who are to assist you:

from Reuben, Elizur son of Shedeur;

6 from Simeon, Shelumiel son of Zurishaddai;

7 from Judah, Nahshon son of Amminadab;

8 from Issachar, Nethanel son of Zuar;

9 from Zebulun, Eliab son of Helon;

10 from the sons of Joseph:
from Ephraim, Elishama son of Ammihud;
from Manasseh, Gamaliel son of Pedahzur;

11 from Benjamin, Abidan son of Gideoni;

12 from Dan, Ahiezer son of Ammishaddai;

13 from Asher, Pagiel son of Okran;

14 from Gad, Eliasaph son of Deuel;

15 from Naphtali, Ahira son of Enan.”

16 These were the men appointed from the community, the leaders of their ancestral tribes. They were the heads of the clans of Israel.

17 Moses and Aaron took these men whose names had been specified, 18 and they called the whole community together on the first day of the second month. The people registered their ancestry by their clans and families, and the men twenty years old or more were listed by name, one by one, 19 as the LORD commanded Moses. And so he counted them in the Desert of Sinai:

20 From the descendants of Reuben the firstborn son of Israel:
All the men twenty years old or more who were able to serve in the army were listed by name, one by one, according to the records of their clans and families. 21 The number from the tribe of Reuben was 46,500.

22 From the descendants of Simeon:
All the men twenty years old or more who were able to serve in the army were counted and listed by name, one by one, according to the records of their clans and families. 23 The number from the tribe of Simeon was 59,300.

24 From the descendants of Gad:
All the men twenty years old or more who were able to serve in the army were listed by name, according to the records of their clans and families. 25 The number from the tribe of Gad was 45,650.

26 From the descendants of Judah:
All the men twenty years old or more who were able to serve in the army were listed by name, according to the records of their clans and families. 27 The number from the tribe of Judah was 74,600.

28 From the descendants of Issachar:
All the men twenty years old or more who were able to serve in the army were listed by name, according to the records of their clans and families. 29 The number from the tribe of Issachar was 54,400.

30 From the descendants of Zebulun:
All the men twenty years old or more who were able to serve in the army were listed by name, according to the records of their clans and families. 31 The number from the tribe of Zebulun was 57,400.

32 From the sons of Joseph:

From the descendants of Ephraim:
All the men twenty years old or more who were able to serve in the army were listed by name, according to the records of their clans and families. 33 The number from the tribe of Ephraim was 40,500.

34 From the descendants of Manasseh:
All the men twenty years old or more who were able to serve in the army were listed by name, according to the records of their clans and families. 35 The number from the tribe of Manasseh was 32,200.

36 From the descendants of Benjamin:
All the men twenty years old or more who were able to serve in the army were listed by name, according to the records of their clans and families. 37 The number from the tribe of Benjamin was 35,400.

38 From the descendants of Dan:
All the men twenty years old or more who were able to serve in the army were listed by name, according to the records of their clans and families. 39 The number from the tribe of Dan was 62,700.

40 From the descendants of Asher:
All the men twenty years old or more who were able to serve in the army were listed by name, according to the records of their clans and families. 41 The number from the tribe of Asher was 41,500.

42 From the descendants of Naphtali:
All the men twenty years old or more who were able to serve in the army were listed by name, according to the records of their clans and families. 43 The number from the tribe of Naphtali was 53,400.

44 These were the men counted by Moses and Aaron and the twelve leaders of Israel, each one representing his family. 45 All the Israelites twenty years old or more who were able to serve in Israel’s army were counted according to their families. 46 The total number was 603,550.

47 The ancestral tribe of the Levites, however, was not counted along with the others. 48 The LORD had said to Moses: 49 “You must not count the tribe of Levi or include them in the census of the other Israelites. 50 Instead, appoint the Levites to be in charge of the tabernacle of the covenant law—over all its furnishings and everything belonging to it. They are to carry the tabernacle and all its furnishings; they are to take care of it and encamp around it. 51 Whenever the tabernacle is to move, the Levites are to take it down, and whenever the tabernacle is to be set up, the Levites shall do it. Anyone else who approaches it is to be put to death. 52 The Israelites are to set up their tents by divisions, each of them in their own camp under their standard. 53 The Levites, however, are to set up their tents around the tabernacle of the covenant law so that my wrath will not fall on the Israelite community. The Levites are to be responsible for the care of the tabernacle of the covenant law.”

54 The Israelites did all this just as the LORD commanded Moses.

Numbers 2

The Arrangement of the Tribal Camps

1 The LORD said to Moses and Aaron: 2 “The Israelites are to camp around the tent of meeting some distance from it, each of them under their standard and holding the banners of their family.”

3 On the east, toward the sunrise, the divisions of the camp of Judah are to encamp under their standard. The leader of the people of Judah is Nahshon son of Amminadab. 4 His division numbers 74,600.

5 The tribe of Issachar will camp next to them. The leader of the people of Issachar is Nethanel son of Zuar. 6 His division numbers 54,400.

7 The tribe of Zebulun will be next. The leader of the people of Zebulun is Eliab son of Helon. 8 His division numbers 57,400.

9 All the men assigned to the camp of Judah, according to their divisions, number 186,400. They will set out first.

10 On the south will be the divisions of the camp of Reuben under their standard. The leader of the people of Reuben is Elizur son of Shedeur. 11 His division numbers 46,500.

12 The tribe of Simeon will camp next to them. The leader of the people of Simeon is Shelumiel son of Zurishaddai. 13 His division numbers 59,300.

14 The tribe of Gad will be next. The leader of the people of Gad is Eliasaph son of Deuel.[a] 15 His division numbers 45,650.

16 All the men assigned to the camp of Reuben, according to their divisions, number 151,450. They will set out second.

17 Then the tent of meeting and the camp of the Levites will set out in the middle of the camps. They will set out in the same order as they encamp, each in their own place under their standard.

18 On the west will be the divisions of the camp of Ephraim under their standard. The leader of the people of Ephraim is Elishama son of Ammihud. 19 His division numbers 40,500.

20 The tribe of Manasseh will be next to them. The leader of the people of Manasseh is Gamaliel son of Pedahzur. 21 His division numbers 32,200.

22 The tribe of Benjamin will be next. The leader of the people of Benjamin is Abidan son of Gideoni. 23 His division numbers 35,400.

24 All the men assigned to the camp of Ephraim, according to their divisions, number 108,100. They will set out third.

25 On the north will be the divisions of the camp of Dan under their standard. The leader of the people of Dan is Ahiezer son of Ammishaddai. 26 His division numbers 62,700.

27 The tribe of Asher will camp next to them. The leader of the people of Asher is Pagiel son of Okran. 28 His division numbers 41,500.

29 The tribe of Naphtali will be next. The leader of the people of Naphtali is Ahira son of Enan. 30 His division numbers 53,400.

31 All the men assigned to the camp of Dan number 157,600. They will set out last, under their standards.

32 These are the Israelites, counted according to their families. All the men in the camps, by their divisions, number 603,550. 33 The Levites, however, were not counted along with the other Israelites, as the LORD commanded Moses.

34 So the Israelites did everything the LORD commanded Moses; that is the way they encamped under their standards, and that is the way they set out, each of them with their clan and family.


Mark 3

Jesus Heals on the Sabbath

1 Another time Jesus went into the synagogue, and a man with a shriveled hand was there. 2 Some of them were looking for a reason to accuse Jesus, so they watched him closely to see if he would heal him on the Sabbath. 3 Jesus said to the man with the shriveled hand, “Stand up in front of everyone.”

4 Then Jesus asked them, “Which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?” But they remained silent.

5 He looked around at them in anger and, deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts, said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was completely restored. 6 Then the Pharisees went out and began to plot with the Herodians how they might kill Jesus.

Crowds Follow Jesus

7 Jesus withdrew with his disciples to the lake, and a large crowd from Galilee followed. 8 When they heard about all he was doing, many people came to him from Judea, Jerusalem, Idumea, and the regions across the Jordan and around Tyre and Sidon. 9 Because of the crowd he told his disciples to have a small boat ready for him, to keep the people from crowding him. 10 For he had healed many, so that those with diseases were pushing forward to touch him. 11 Whenever the impure spirits saw him, they fell down before him and cried out, “You are the Son of God.” 12 But he gave them strict orders not to tell others about him.

Jesus Appoints the Twelve

13 Jesus went up on a mountainside and called to him those he wanted, and they came to him. 14 He appointed twelve that they might be with him and that he might send them out to preach 15 and to have authority to drive out demons. 16 These are the twelve he appointed: Simon (to whom he gave the name Peter), 17 James son of Zebedee and his brother John (to them he gave the name Boanerges, which means “sons of thunder”),18 Andrew, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James son of Alphaeus, Thaddaeus, Simon the Zealot 19 and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.

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Rufus [Ro̅o̅'fus]—red.

  1. A son of Simon the Cyrenianwho was compelled to bear the Cross (Mark 15:21).
  2. A believer in Rome greeted by Paul as “the chosen in the Lord” together with “his mother and mine” (Rom. 16:13 ). Some writers feel that these two may have been the same persons. “Simon’s widow might have emigrated to Rome with her two sons, where they became people of eminence in the Church, and that this is the reason why the brothers are mentioned by Mark (15:21), who probably wrote in Rome” (Hastings Dictionary).
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T. Suzanne Eller

February 21, 2012

I Need Her
T. Suzanne Eller

"A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another." John 13:34(NIV)

The text message read: I don't care how busy you are, Suzie. Put me on your calendar. You need me.

Sometimes friendship gets last place in my life. My parents need me more than they once did. I have children and grandchildren in three states. I juggle ministry, relationships, and real life.

But my friend is right. I need her.

I love it when we get together over lunch. We laugh. We catch up with each other's life. Often, we find ourselves talking about God. We dig deep, asking questions, praying and encouraging each other.

So why do I let this really great friendship slide to last place?

In John 13, Jesus commands the disciples to love each other. Jesus didn't drop commandments lightly. There are only a few, rare instances in Scripture, but you see, He knew something they did not. They needed each other. One day soon He would return to Heaven. Though His love would always be with them, His physical presence would not. And hard times were ahead.

Persecution.

Suffering.

Mistreatment.

But it went even deeper than that. "As I have loved you, so you must love one another," He said.

What did that look like?

When Peter denied he ever knew Jesus as his beloved Savior, he stumbled from the scene weeping. Can you imagine how he felt?

To love Peter "as Jesus did" meant that his friends wouldn't give up on him. They would remind him of Jesus' love and forgiveness. They would point him toward redemption and grace.

C. S. Lewis, author and professor, said, "Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art... It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things that give value to survival."

We were never intended to live our faith in isolation. God and girlfriends are not just fun. They are needed. In good times. In hard times. When we are living with purpose. When we falter.

You may be reading this and thinking, I don't have a friend who texts or calls me. I wish I had a friend like that.If so, why not pray and ask God for one person you know who needs someone to reach out to them. Sometimes we have to be the friend we wish we had; taking the first steps toward the friendships we need.

I have made myself a promise today. I will work on this gift called friendship. I won't allow a week or a month to go by without a lunch date, or at the minimum a conversation. In fact, I just texted my friend: I don't care how busy I am, friend. Let's make a date. I need you.

Dear Lord, thank You for my friend. I get so busy that I put her last. Give me wisdom to know how to nurture this part of my life. Help me to love my friend the way You love me. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Do You Know Him?

Would you like to bring the message of this devotion to the women of your church? Click here to find out moreabout considering Suzie Eller as your next retreat / key note speaker.

Visit Suzie's blog to discover three things that get in the way of God and Girlfriend relationships.

God, Grace and Girlfriends by Mary Snyder

When you purchase resources through Proverbs 31 Ministries, you touch eternity because your purchase supports the many areas of hope-giving ministry we provide at no cost. We wish we could, but we simply can't compete with prices offered by huge online warehouses. Therefore, we are extremely grateful for each and every purchase you make with us. Thank you!

Reflect and Respond:
"One thing I know for sure: We were never created to go it alone...If we attempt to face life's complexities alone, our heart and hope will shrivel. God has created us for community-for belonging." Julie Barnhill, Exquisite Hope

Have you lost contact with a friend? Why not send her a note or call her? Set a date and a time to get together.

Power Verse:
Philippians 2:4, "Don't look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too." (NLT)

© 2012 by T. Suzanne Eller. All rights reserved.

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

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February 21, 2012

Sponge Theology

Mary Southerland

Today's Truth

A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of (Luke 6:45, NIV)

Friend to Friend

What is really inside will come spilling out for all to see when life puts the squeeze on us. My Mama used to say "What's down in the well comes up in the bucket." In other words, a crisis will usually reveal what is really in our hearts. It is easy to do and say the right things when life is calm and everything is going right, but what we say and do when chaos hits and the pressure is on tends to paint a more accurate picture of who we really are. It is kind of like sponge theology.

Suppose you have five sponges lying on your kitchen counter. Each member of your family has been cleaning different areas of your home, but the sponges all look the same. You are curious about what was cleaned but you can't tell just by looking at the sponges since they all look the same. So what do you do?

You squeeze each sponge to see what happens. As you squeeze the first sponge, brown cola comes pouring out. Someone must have cleaned the kitchen with that sponge. Upon squeezing the second sponge, you see blue tub and tile cleaner oozing out of the sponge which leads you to believe someone used that particular sponge to clean the bathroom. In the third sponge, you find motor oil and conclude your husband was using that sponge to clean the garage. The fourth sponge produces a puff of baby powder when it is squeezed. The baby's nursery was obviously cleaned with that sponge. Finally, the last sponge is dripping with floor wax which tells you someone used that particular sponge to clean the hall floor. As you lay the last sponge down, you look again at their similarity. They all look the same -- until they are squeezed.

We are a lot like sponges when it comes to our faith in God. We look and act as if God is Lord of our lives. We say all the right things to all the right people and do right things in order to prove we are right. But what is really inside? What do our hearts really look like?

When a crisis comes and the pressures of life squeeze us mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually, what comes out? Do we respond to that difficult person in anger or with patience and love? Does revenge spill out in ugly words to that person who has hurt us more times than we can count or do we take a breath and remember that God loves them and that hurt people tend to hurt people? Does the pain of unresolved sin flood our hearts and minds as guilt spills out of our heart with a vengeance?

Just like the sponge, we can only squeeze out what is put in. Fill your heart with the things of God. Stay in the Word each day. Spend time with faith builders who will encourage you in your faith. Seek God and His plan for your life. Pray about everything so that when life puts the squeeze on you – and it will – the very nature of God will come pouring out.

Let's Pray

Father, I want my faith to be more than just talk. I want it to be real and authentic, flowing from a heart set on You. Forgive me when I play religious games and pretend to be someone I am not. I am a sinner saved by Your grace. Teach me how to walk in that grace so that when the hard times come and the pressure is on, You come pouring out of my life.

In Jesus' name,

Amen.

Now It's Your Turn

Think back to the last time you were surprised by your reaction to a situation or a person. What does that tell you about the condition of your heart? Set aside time to spend alone with God. Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal any sin that needs to be faced and confessed. Give Him permission to purify your heart so that no matter what life throws at you, God will be honored by how you respond.

More from the Girlfriends

As a pastor's wife, I have talked with so many women who feel as if they were worthless, a freakish accident. Listen, my friend, you were planned and wanted by God. God is crazy about you and wants an intimate relationship with you. I pray that you will see yourself in the eyes of God, a chosen child. Need help? Check out one of Mary's MP3 downloads, Come as You Are to discover how to see yourself through the eyes of God.

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?

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 Fulfillment of the Law

Matthew 5:17-20

The distinction between the civil, ceremonial, and moral laws of the Mosaic code is not so clear on the pages of Scripture. Nevertheless, the distinction is a helpful tool for applying this law to our lives today. We study the Mosaic law to learn what God would have us do in Christ. This law has been written on our hearts thanks to the Holy Spirit, though we still certainly struggle doing it. Make sure to spend time each week in study of the law of God.

For further study:

Deuteronomy 6:4-9

The Bible in a year:

Numbers 19-20

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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Nothing but leaves

‘He found nothing but leaves.’ Mark 11:13

Suggested Further Reading: Romans 14:4–13

Some you meet with have a censorious tongue. What good people they must be; they can see the faults of other people so plainly! This church is not right, and the other is not right, and yonder preacher—well some people think him a very good man, but they do not. They can see the deficiencies in the various denominations, and they observe that very few really carry out Scripture as it should be carried out. They complain of want of love, and are the very people who create that want. Now if you will watch these very censorious people, the very faults they indicate in others, they are indulging in themselves; and while they are seeking to find out the mote in their brother’s eye, they have a beam in their own. These are the people who are indicated by this fig tree, for they ought, according to their own showing, taking them on their own ground, to be better than other people. If what they say be true, they are bright particular stars, and they ought to give special light to the world. They are such that even Jesus Christ himself might expect to receive fruit from them, but they are nothing but deceivers, with these high soarings and proud boastings; they are nothing after all but pretenders. Like Jezebel with her paint, which made her all the uglier, they would seem to be what they are not. As old Adam says, ‘They are candles with big wicks and no tallow, and when they go out they make a foul and nauseous smell.’ ‘They have summer sweating on their brow, and winter freezing in their hearts.’ You would think them the land of Goshen, but prove them the wilderness of sin. Let us search ourselves, lest such be the case with us.

For meditation: How would you react to hearing a tape-recording of yourself in full flow? God takes note of evil speech and the judging of others (Exodus 20:7; Matthew 7:1–2; 12:33–37; Romans 2:1–3). Colossians 4:6 tells us what the speech of a Christian should be like.

Sermon no. 555
21 February (1864)

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How to keep the heart

“The peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:7

Suggested Further Reading: Mark 4:35-41

Cast your troubles where you have cast your sins; you have cast your sins into the depth of the sea, there cast your troubles also. Never keep a trouble half an hour on your own mind before you tell it to God. As soon as the trouble comes, quick, the first thing, tell it to your Father. Remember, that the longer you take telling your trouble to God, the more your peace will be impaired. The longer the frost lasts, the more thick the ponds will be frozen. Your frost will last till you go to the sun; and when you go to God—the sun, then your frost will soon become a thaw, and your troubles will melt away. But do not be long, because the longer you are in waiting, the longer will your trouble be in thawing afterwards. Wait a long while till your trouble gets frozen thick and firm, and it will take many a day of prayer to get your trouble thawed again. Away to the throne as quick as ever you can. Do as the child did, when he ran and told his mother as soon as his little trouble happened to him; run and tell your Father the first moment you are in affliction. Do this in everything, in every little thing—“in everything by prayer and supplication” make known your wants unto God. Take your husband’s headache, take your children’s sicknesses, take all things, little family troubles as well as great commercial trials—take them all to God; pour them all out at once. And so by an obedient practice of this command in everything making known your wants unto God, you shall preserve that peace “which shall keep your heart and mind through Jesus Christ.”

For meditation: If the God of peace is with you (Philippians 4:9), you have open access to the peace of God—but check carefully all the conditions in Philippians 4:6.

Sermon no. 180
21 February (1858)

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The Blessings of Humility

Jerry Bridges

The two Christian character traits taught most frequently in the New Testament are love and humility. The classic passage on love is, of course, 1 Corinthians 13. The classic passage on humility, though it never uses the word, is Matthew 5:2-12, popularly known as the Beatitudes. And just as 1 Corinthians describes love, so the Beatitudes describe humility.

Jesus began His teaching with, "Blessed are the poor in spirit" (Matt. 5:3 ). The poor in spirit are those who have become convinced of their spiritual poverty. They see their continued sinfulness even as believers. In contrast to the self-righteous Pharisee who prayed, "God, I thank you that I am not like other men," they identify with the tax collector who cried out, "God, be merciful to me, a sinner!" (Luke 18:9-13). This is where humility begins, with a deep sense of our own continued sinfulness.

Jesus continued, "Blessed are those who mourn" ( Matt. 5:4). This second beatitude follows naturally the first. Those who see their continued sinfulness mourn over it. They long to see more progress in putting to death the persistent sins in their lives - even those "respectable" sins we so often tolerate in ourselves.

The third beatitude, "Blessed are the meek," (v. 5 ), arises out of the first two. Meekness is not weakness of character but strength of character. It is the attitude of one who, realizing his own spiritual poverty, acknowledges he deserves nothing from the hand of God or his fellow creatures. He does not become resentful under adverse providences of God or the mistreatments of other people. He believes God will work all things for his good, so he leaves his case with God.

"Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness" (v. 6 ). What causes believers to hunger and thirst for righteousness? It is a growing recognition of their own continued sinfulness, coupled with the glad realization that their sins are covered by the blood of Christ and that they are clothed with His righteousness. They deeply desire to be in their experience what they are in their standing before God. They long to be freed more and more from the persistent sin patterns in their lives and to see more of those gracious traits that the Bible calls "the fruit of the Spirit." The tension between what they desire to be and what they see themselves still to be produces a continual state of humility toward God and other people.

"Blessed are the merciful" (v. 7). Mercy in its most basic form denotes a sense of pity or compassion for those in some state of misery. But sometimes it stands for forgiveness, as when the tax collector prayed, "God, be merciful to me a sinner" (Luke 18:13). This is undoubtedly the sense in which Jesus used it here. The best description of this form of mercy is in the parable of the unforgiving servant ( Matt. 18:23-35). The master had pity on the servant who owed ten thousand talents and forgave him that tremendous debt. Shortly thereafter the servant encountered a fellow servant who owed him a hundred denarii (a paltry sum relative to that which he had owed) and refused to forgive. The master, when he heard about it, said, "You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?" ( vv. 32-33).

The merciful, then, are those who realize how much they have been forgiven, and they readily forgive those who sin against them. Mercifulness begins with humility, with a deep sense of one's own spiritual poverty coupled with a growing realization of how much one has been forgiven by God.

"Blessed are the pure in heart" (Matt. 5:8 ). To be pure in heart is to be free from defilement in the very core of our being. It does not mean sinless perfection, but it does mean one's life is characterized by a sincere desire for and an earnest effort to pursue that holiness without which no one will see the Lord (Heb. 12:14).

"Blessed are the peacemakers" (Matt. 5:9). A peacemaker seeks first to be at peace with others. As Paul wrote, "If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all" (Rom. 12:18). That means we take the initiative toward peace even when we have been wronged. Only when we have this attitude toward ourselves can we seek to be a peacemaker among others.

The person who seeks to live out these seven beatitudes will usually stand out in society. One would think that people would admire and appreciate those whose lives are characterized by these traits. But the opposite is often true. Society does not appreciate humility because it is so counter to their values. As a result you may be reviled and even persecuted, but in the end you will be blessed because "God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble" (James 4:6).

Dr. Jerry Bridges is an author and speaker, as well as a part-time staff member with The Navigators in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

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

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Everything New - A Weeekly Devotional

THE INAUGURATION OF MESSIAH

He shouldn't have gone out in the ice storm on that cold day in 1841 even for his own inauguration as President of the United States, and certainly not without hat or coat. And he shouldn't have given a ponderous 8,495-word inaugural address that took almost two hours to deliver. But sixty-eight-year-old Henry Harrison did, developed pneumonia, and died a month later, holding the term of that office for the shortest span in history. He accomplished nothing of what he aspired to in his address.

I have often wondered what it must be like to be inaugurated into some high office, say, that of Prime Minister or President, and to know that you had a limited amount of time in which to accomplish something of significance.

The inauguration of a President of the United States, for instance, is an opportunity for a whole nation, and other nations of interest, to take an accounting of all the problems that need to be fixed and the new initiatives to be taken. How would you prevent being overwhelmed by all that needed attention? Wouldn't high-minded words of lofty aspirations seem like so much wishful thinking?

Maybe that's why some inaugurations have been extraordinarily simple, such as Thomas Jefferson's talk before a few close friends indoors before he retired to Conrad's Tavern to eat his dinner alone. Or the party at the White House at Andrew Jackson's big day with common folks breaking crystal, muddying the carpets, and spitting tobacco juice on the floor.

George Washington's first inaugural address focused simply on two things: his own inadequacies for the task of presidential office and the importance of acknowledging the providence of God and the necessity of God's guidance for the future. His second inaugural address was just 135 words long and took two minutes to deliver.

One has to be careful what one promises to accomplish. Which makes Jesus' promises of what he would accomplish-salvation for human beings-stunning.

If christos, meaning Anointed One (messhiach, Messiah, in Hebrew), is an office of sorts, what was Jesus claiming to accomplish when he let people conclude that he was exactly that Anointed One?

The human race knew that he was coming. He simply had to, being the kind of God that he is. He is good, and he is great. He must have some escape route for us, some healing power for our misery.

To hear that "God became flesh" is at once one of the most shocking claims you will ever hear, and one of the most obvious. We knew that he was coming because he is a saving kind of God.

[Exerpt from Putting the Pieces Back Together: How Real Life and Real Faith Connect. Click for More.]

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About The Author - Mel Lawrenz serves as minister at large for Elmbrook Church and leads The Brook Network. Having been in pastoral ministry for thirty years, the last decade as senior pastor of Elmbrook, Mel seeks to help Christian leaders engage with each other. Mel is the author of eleven books, the most recent for church leaders, Whole Church: Leading from Fragmentation to Engagement.
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Should a wife submit to her husband if it violates her conscience?

This week's reading: Esther 1:12

Queen Vashti did the unthinkable. She refused a direct order from the king of Persia. Scripture gives no reason for Vashti's refusal to heed the king's summons. Most scholars speculate that she did not want to betray her dignity before the king's drunken guests. A few have suggested a political motive for Vashti's defiance. In any case, her disobedience posed a threat to the king's authority (see Est 1:16-18).

A Christian marriage is much different from the relationship between a king and queen in ancient Persia. All believers are commanded to "submit to one another out of reverence for Christ" (Eph 5:21). In the family, wives are to submit to their husbands, and husbands are to love their wives. Husband and wife together are to submit to Christ, who instructs their conscience and guides their understanding.

In all things the husband and wife should seek to honor Christ. This applies in decision making, as couples work hard to avoid violating one another's conscience and as they seek the good of the other person (see 1Co 10:23-33). Spouses should never entice one another to do wrong, but if that happens, each one's first obligation is to obey Christ.

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