Friday, March 23, 2012

Daily Devotional Friday 23rd March

“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.”Ephesians 6:10-11 NIV
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Morning and Evening by Charles Spurgeon

Morning

"His sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground."
Luke 22:44

The mental pressure arising from our Lord's struggle with temptation, so forced his frame to an unnatural excitement, that his pores sent forth great drops of blood which fell down to the ground. This proves how tremendous must have been the weight of sin when it was able to crush the Saviour so that he distilled great drops of blood! This demonstrates the mighty power of his love. It is a very pretty observation of old Isaac Ambrose that the gum which exudes from the tree without cutting is always the best. This precious camphire-tree yielded most sweet spices when it was wounded under the knotty whips, and when it was pierced by the nails on the cross; but see, it giveth forth its best spice when there is no whip, no nail, no wound. This sets forth the voluntariness of Christ's sufferings, since without a lance the blood flowed freely. No need to put on the leech, or apply the knife; it flows spontaneously. No need for the rulers to cry, "Spring up, O well;" of itself it flows in crimson torrents. If men suffer great pain of mind apparently the blood rushes to the heart. The cheeks are pale; a fainting fit comes on; the blood has gone inward as if to nourish the inner man while passing through its trial. But see our Saviour in his agony; he is so utterly oblivious of self, that instead of his agony driving his blood to the heart to nourish himself, it drives it outward to bedew the earth. The agony of Christ, inasmuch as it pours him out upon the ground, pictures the fulness of the offering which he made for men.

Do we not perceive how intense must have been the wrestling through which he passed, and will we not hear its voice to us? "Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin." Behold the great Apostle and High Priest of our profession, and sweat even to blood rather than yield to the great tempter of your souls.

Evening

"I tell you that, if these should hold their peace, the stones would immediately cry out."
Luke 19:40

But could the stones cry out? Assuredly they could if he who opens the mouth of the dumb should bid them lift up their voice. Certainly if they were to speak, they would have much to testify in praise of him who created them by the word of his power; they could extol the wisdom and power of their Maker who called them into being. Shall not we speak well of him who made us anew, and out of stones raised up children unto Abraham? The old rocks could tell of chaos and order, and the handiwork of God in successive stages of creation's drama; and cannot we talk of God's decrees, of God's great work in ancient times, in all that he did for his church in the days of old? If the stones were to speak, they could tell of their breaker, how he took them from the quarry, and made them fit for the temple, and cannot we tell of our glorious Breaker, who broke our hearts with the hammer of his word, that he might build us into his temple? If the stones should cry out they would magnify their builder, who polished them and fashioned them after the similitude of a palace; and shall not we talk of our Architect and Builder, who has put us in our place in the temple of the living God? If the stones could cry out, they might have a long, long story to tell by way of memorial, for many a time hath a great stone been rolled as a memorial before the Lord; and we too can testify of Ebenezers, stones of help, pillars of remembrance. The broken stones of the law cry out against us, but Christ himself, who has rolled away the stone from the door of the sepulchre, speaks for us. Stones might well cry out, but we will not let them: we will hush their noise with ours; we will break forth into sacred song, and bless the majesty of the Most High, all our days glorifying him who is called by Jacob the Shepherd and Stone of Israel.

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Today's reading: Joshua 10-12, Luke 1:39-56 (NIV)

View today's reading on Bible Gateway
The Sun Stands Still

1 Now Adoni-Zedek king of Jerusalem heard that Joshua had taken Ai and totally destroyed it, doing to Ai and its king as he had done to Jericho and its king, and that the people of Gibeon had made a treaty of peace with Israel and had become their allies. 2 He and his people were very much alarmed at this, because Gibeon was an important city, like one of the royal cities; it was larger than Ai, and all its men were good fighters.3 So Adoni-Zedek king of Jerusalem appealed to Hoham king of Hebron, Piram king of Jarmuth, Japhia king of Lachish and Debir king of Eglon. 4 “Come up and help me attack Gibeon,” he said, “because it has made peace with Joshua and the Israelites.”

5 Then the five kings of the Amorites—the kings of Jerusalem, Hebron, Jarmuth, Lachish and Eglon—joined forces. They moved up with all their troops and took up positions against Gibeon and attacked it.

6 The Gibeonites then sent word to Joshua in the camp at Gilgal: “Do not abandon your servants. Come up to us quickly and save us! Help us, because all the Amorite kings from the hill country have joined forces against us.”

7 So Joshua marched up from Gilgal with his entire army, including all the best fighting men. 8 The LORD said to Joshua, “Do not be afraid of them; I have given them into your hand. Not one of them will be able to withstand you.”

9 After an all-night march from Gilgal, Joshua took them by surprise. 10 The LORD threw them into confusion before Israel, so Joshua and the Israelites defeated them completely at Gibeon. Israel pursued them along the road going up to Beth Horon and cut them down all the way to Azekah and Makkedah. 11 As they fled before Israel on the road down from Beth Horon to Azekah, the LORD hurled large hailstones down on them, and more of them died from the hail than were killed by the swords of the Israelites.

12 On the day the LORD gave the Amorites over to Israel, Joshua said to the LORD in the presence of Israel:

“Sun, stand still over Gibeon,
and you, moon, over the Valley of Aijalon.”
13 So the sun stood still,
and the moon stopped,
till the nation avenged itself on its enemies,

as it is written in the Book of Jashar.

The sun stopped in the middle of the sky and delayed going down about a full day. 14 There has never been a day like it before or since, a day when the LORD listened to a human being. Surely the LORD was fighting for Israel!

15 Then Joshua returned with all Israel to the camp at Gilgal.

Five Amorite Kings Killed

16 Now the five kings had fled and hidden in the cave at Makkedah. 17 When Joshua was told that the five kings had been found hiding in the cave at Makkedah, 18 he said, “Roll large rocks up to the mouth of the cave, and post some men there to guard it. 19 But don’t stop; pursue your enemies! Attack them from the rear and don’t let them reach their cities, for the LORD your God has given them into your hand.”

20 So Joshua and the Israelites defeated them completely, but a few survivors managed to reach their fortified cities. 21The whole army then returned safely to Joshua in the camp at Makkedah, and no one uttered a word against the Israelites.

22 Joshua said, “Open the mouth of the cave and bring those five kings out to me.” 23 So they brought the five kings out of the cave—the kings of Jerusalem, Hebron, Jarmuth, Lachish and Eglon. 24 When they had brought these kings to Joshua, he summoned all the men of Israel and said to the army commanders who had come with him, “Come here and put your feet on the necks of these kings.” So they came forward and placed their feet on their necks.

25 Joshua said to them, “Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Be strong and courageous. This is what the LORD will do to all the enemies you are going to fight.” 26 Then Joshua put the kings to death and exposed their bodies on five poles, and they were left hanging on the poles until evening.

27 At sunset Joshua gave the order and they took them down from the poles and threw them into the cave where they had been hiding. At the mouth of the cave they placed large rocks, which are there to this day.

Southern Cities Conquered

28 That day Joshua took Makkedah. He put the city and its king to the sword and totally destroyed everyone in it. He left no survivors. And he did to the king of Makkedah as he had done to the king of Jericho.

29 Then Joshua and all Israel with him moved on from Makkedah to Libnah and attacked it. 30 The LORD also gave that city and its king into Israel’s hand. The city and everyone in it Joshua put to the sword. He left no survivors there. And he did to its king as he had done to the king of Jericho.

31 Then Joshua and all Israel with him moved on from Libnah to Lachish; he took up positions against it and attacked it. 32The LORD gave Lachish into Israel’s hands, and Joshua took it on the second day. The city and everyone in it he put to the sword, just as he had done to Libnah. 33 Meanwhile, Horam king of Gezer had come up to help Lachish, but Joshua defeated him and his army—until no survivors were left.

34 Then Joshua and all Israel with him moved on from Lachish to Eglon; they took up positions against it and attacked it. 35 They captured it that same day and put it to the sword and totally destroyed everyone in it, just as they had done to Lachish.

36 Then Joshua and all Israel with him went up from Eglon to Hebron and attacked it. 37 They took the city and put it to the sword, together with its king, its villages and everyone in it. They left no survivors. Just as at Eglon, they totally destroyed it and everyone in it.

38 Then Joshua and all Israel with him turned around and attacked Debir. 39 They took the city, its king and its villages, and put them to the sword. Everyone in it they totally destroyed. They left no survivors. They did to Debir and its king as they had done to Libnah and its king and to Hebron.

40 So Joshua subdued the whole region, including the hill country, the Negev, the western foothills and the mountain slopes, together with all their kings. He left no survivors. He totally destroyed all who breathed, just as the LORD, the God of Israel, had commanded. 41 Joshua subdued them from Kadesh Barnea to Gaza and from the whole region of Goshen to Gibeon. 42 All these kings and their lands Joshua conquered in one campaign, because the LORD, the God of Israel, fought for Israel.

43 Then Joshua returned with all Israel to the camp at Gilgal.

Joshua 11

Northern Kings Defeated

1 When Jabin king of Hazor heard of this, he sent word to Jobab king of Madon, to the kings of Shimron and Akshaph, 2and to the northern kings who were in the mountains, in the Arabah south of Kinnereth, in the western foothills and in Naphoth Dor on the west; 3 to the Canaanites in the east and west; to the Amorites, Hittites, Perizzites and Jebusites in the hill country; and to the Hivites below Hermon in the region of Mizpah. 4 They came out with all their troops and a large number of horses and chariots—a huge army, as numerous as the sand on the seashore. 5 All these kings joined forces and made camp together at the Waters of Merom to fight against Israel.

6 The LORD said to Joshua, “Do not be afraid of them, because by this time tomorrow I will hand all of them, slain, over to Israel. You are to hamstring their horses and burn their chariots.”

7 So Joshua and his whole army came against them suddenly at the Waters of Merom and attacked them, 8 and the LORD gave them into the hand of Israel. They defeated them and pursued them all the way to Greater Sidon, to Misrephoth Maim, and to the Valley of Mizpah on the east, until no survivors were left. 9 Joshua did to them as the LORD had directed: He hamstrung their horses and burned their chariots.

10 At that time Joshua turned back and captured Hazor and put its king to the sword. (Hazor had been the head of all these kingdoms.) 11 Everyone in it they put to the sword. They totally destroyed them, not sparing anyone that breathed, and he burned Hazor itself.

12 Joshua took all these royal cities and their kings and put them to the sword. He totally destroyed them, as Moses the servant of the LORD had commanded. 13 Yet Israel did not burn any of the cities built on their mounds—except Hazor, which Joshua burned. 14 The Israelites carried off for themselves all the plunder and livestock of these cities, but all the people they put to the sword until they completely destroyed them, not sparing anyone that breathed. 15 As the LORD commanded his servant Moses, so Moses commanded Joshua, and Joshua did it; he left nothing undone of all that the LORD commanded Moses.

16 So Joshua took this entire land: the hill country, all the Negev, the whole region of Goshen, the western foothills, the Arabah and the mountains of Israel with their foothills, 17 from Mount Halak, which rises toward Seir, to Baal Gad in the Valley of Lebanon below Mount Hermon. He captured all their kings and put them to death. 18 Joshua waged war against all these kings for a long time. 19 Except for the Hivites living in Gibeon, not one city made a treaty of peace with the Israelites, who took them all in battle. 20 For it was the LORD himself who hardened their hearts to wage war against Israel, so that he might destroy them totally, exterminating them without mercy, as the LORD had commanded Moses.

21 At that time Joshua went and destroyed the Anakites from the hill country: from Hebron, Debir and Anab, from all the hill country of Judah, and from all the hill country of Israel. Joshua totally destroyed them and their towns. 22 No Anakites were left in Israelite territory; only in Gaza, Gath and Ashdod did any survive.

23 So Joshua took the entire land, just as the LORD had directed Moses, and he gave it as an inheritance to Israel according to their tribal divisions. Then the land had rest from war.

Joshua 12

List of Defeated Kings

1 These are the kings of the land whom the Israelites had defeated and whose territory they took over east of the Jordan, from the Arnon Gorge to Mount Hermon, including all the eastern side of the Arabah:

2 Sihon king of the Amorites, who reigned in Heshbon.

He ruled from Aroer on the rim of the Arnon Gorge—from the middle of the gorge—to the Jabbok River, which is the border of the Ammonites. This included half of Gilead. 3 He also ruled over the eastern Arabah from the Sea of Galilee to the Sea of the Arabah (that is, the Dead Sea), to Beth Jeshimoth, and then southward below the slopes of Pisgah.

4 And the territory of Og king of Bashan, one of the last of the Rephaites, who reigned in Ashtaroth and Edrei.

5 He ruled over Mount Hermon, Salekah, all of Bashan to the border of the people of Geshur and Maakah, and half of Gilead to the border of Sihon king of Heshbon.

6 Moses, the servant of the LORD, and the Israelites conquered them. And Moses the servant of the LORD gave their land to the Reubenites, the Gadites and the half-tribe of Manasseh to be their possession.

7 Here is a list of the kings of the land that Joshua and the Israelites conquered on the west side of the Jordan, from Baal Gad in the Valley of Lebanon to Mount Halak, which rises toward Seir. Joshua gave their lands as an inheritance to the tribes of Israel according to their tribal divisions. 8 The lands included the hill country, the western foothills, the Arabah, the mountain slopes, the wilderness and the Negev. These were the lands of the Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites. These were the kings:

9 the king of Jericho one

the king of Ai (near Bethel) one

10 the king of Jerusalem one

the king of Hebron one

11 the king of Jarmuth one

the king of Lachish one

12 the king of Eglon one

the king of Gezer one

13 the king of Debir one

the king of Geder one

14 the king of Hormah one

the king of Arad one

15 the king of Libnah one

the king of Adullam one

16 the king of Makkedah one

the king of Bethel one

17 the king of Tappuah one

the king of Hepher one

18 the king of Aphek one

the king of Lasharon one

19 the king of Madon one

the king of Hazor one

20 the king of Shimron Meron one

the king of Akshaph one

21 the king of Taanach one

the king of Megiddo one

22 the king of Kedesh one

the king of Jokneam in Carmel one

23 the king of Dor (in Naphoth Dor) one

the king of Goyim in Gilgal one

24 the king of Tirzah one

thirty-one kings in all.


Luke 1

Mary Visits Elizabeth

39 At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, 40 where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth. 41 When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. 42 In a loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear!43 But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44 As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. 45 Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!”

Mary’s Song

46 And Mary said:

“My soul glorifies the Lord
47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
48 for he has been mindful
of the humble state of his servant.
From now on all generations will call me blessed,
49 for the Mighty One has done great things for me—
holy is his name.
50 His mercy extends to those who fear him,
from generation to generation.
51 He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;
he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.
52 He has brought down rulers from their thrones
but has lifted up the humble.
53 He has filled the hungry with good things
but has sent the rich away empty.
54 He has helped his servant Israel,
remembering to be merciful
55 to Abraham and his descendants forever,
just as he promised our ancestors.”

56 Mary stayed with Elizabeth for about three months and then returned home.

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Pilate [Pī'late]—one armed with a dart. The surname of the fifth Roman procurator of Judea, who was recalled by Tiberius and banished to Vienna, where tradition says he committed suicide in 41 a.d. (Matt. 27).

The Man Who Sinned Against Conscience

What a different story we would have had if Pilate had obeyed his own conscience and also had followed his wife’s intuition and advice. Pilate held office for some twelve years, and by his covetous and cruel government caused himself to be hated both by the Jews and Samaritans. His first name, Pontius, means, “belonging to the sea.”

What a man he was for shirking responsibilities! He turned Christ over to the Jewish authorities (John 18:31), and then to Herod (Luke 23:7 ). When Christ was returned to him, he proposed to inflict a minor penalty (Luke 23:22). When he could not silence the cry of the mob for the blood of Christ, he directed attention to Barabbas (Matt. 27:17), and when the die was cast, engaged in a hypocritical ceremony (Matt. 27:24).

Some authorities affirm that the name Pilate is from “Pilus,” a felt cap which was worn by a slave as an emblem of liberty.

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The elders before the throne

‘I saw four and twenty elders sitting clothed in white raiment; and they had on their heads crowns of gold…The four and twenty elders fall down before him that sat on the throne, and worship him that liveth for ever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying, Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power.’ Revelation 4:4,10–11

Suggested Further Reading: Romans 5:17–6:2

They who are Christ’s are kings. Take care that you wear your crown, by reigning over your lusts. Be a king in the midst of all that would lead you astray. Christ Jesus has broken the neck of your sin; put your foot upon it; keep it under; subdue it. In the world at large act a king’s part. If any would tempt you to betray Christ for gain, say, ‘How can I? I am a king. How shall I betray Christ?’ Let the nobility of your nature come out in your actings. Forgive in a royal manner, as a king can forgive. Be ready to give to others as God has helped you, as a king gives. Let your liberality of spirit be right royal. Let your actions never be mean, sneaking, cowardly, dastardly. Do the right thing, and defy the worst. Dare all your foes in the pursuit of that which is right, and let men see while they look upon you that there is a something under your homely appearance which they cannot understand. Men make a deal of fuss about the blood of the aristocracy; I dare say it is not very different from the blood of crossing-sweepers. But there is a great deal of difference between the lifeblood of the saints and the lifeblood of the proudest prince; for they who love Christ have fed upon his flesh, and have drunk of his blood, and have been made partakers of the divine nature. These are the royal ones; these are the aristocrats; these are the nobility, and all are mean beside. Christians, perhaps some of you have not reigned as kings during the last week. You have been either murmuring, like poor whining beggars, or you have been scraping, like dunghill rakers, with your covetousness, or you have been sinning, like idle boys in the street, who roll in the mire. You have not lived up to your kingship.

For meditation: Christians have a royal law to fulfil (James 2:8); in keeping with our position in Christ our response to temptation ought to be ‘Should such a man as I?…I will not.’ (Nehemiah 6:11)

Sermon no. 441
23 March (1862)

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Pragmatism

Luke 14:25-33

The corrupting influences of pragmatism are seen even in the church. "Seeker-sensitive" worship can increase attendance without ever seeing the congregation grow to maturity. Churches targeting specific ages or lifestyles might attract a lot of people from these groups and not minister to those who do not fit certain classifications. Beware of any ministry that emphasizes "what works" and do what you can to help your church avoid slipping into pragmatism.

For further study:

Prov. 19:20; 24:13-14

The Bible in a year:

Joshua 20-22

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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Pragmatism

Luke 14:25-33 "Which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it?" (v. 28).

While most of the philosophies that have shaped American culture are European in origin, pragmatism is at least one worldview that was born in the United States. Its assumptions lie at the heart of postmodernism, that catch-all term used to describe the views that dominate Western thinking in the first part of the twenty-first century.

Pragmatic philosophers are generally agnostic as to whether ultimate, transcendent truth even exists. Even if objective truth exists, they say, it cannot be known, nor is it even worth pursuing. Truth is therefore radically redefined. Traditionally, truth is regarded as that which corresponds to reality. However, truth in pragmatism is what "works."

This leads to relativism. What "works" for you is not necessarily what "works" for me. Christianity may make me a happier person; thus, it is true for me. Muslims find that Islam makes them happy, and so Islam is true for them since it "works" for them. Rational discussion, or an appeal to a final norm, cannot solve disagreements over what "works"; therefore, the group with the most power wins when pragmatism is wholly embraced. If homosexuality works for me, then I must gain power to silence those who, by convincing others that my behavior is unacceptable, can create cultural impediments that hinder my enjoyment. I will not try to debate those who disagree since there is no universal standard to which we can appeal.

Pragmatism usually looks for immediate solutions without considering whether the answers will work in the long haul. Perhaps the best example of this is the Social Security system in the United States. The problem of people not saving enough for retirement was "solved" by mandating contributions to a government-sponsored savings plan. No one seriously considered whether there would always be enough workers to support these benefits, and now the time is coming when Social Security will be unable to pay out what the government has promised. Jesus opposes this type of short-term thinking, calling us to count the long-term costs of following Him ( Luke 14:25-33).

Coram deo: Living before the face of God

The corrupting influences of pragmatism are seen even in the church. "Seeker-sensitive" worship can increase attendance without ever seeing the congregation grow to maturity. Churches targeting specific ages or lifestyles might attract a lot of people from these groups and not minister to those who do not fit certain classifications. Beware of any ministry that emphasizes "what works" and do what you can to help your church avoid slipping into pragmatism.

For further study:

Prov. 19:20; 24:13-14

The Bible in a year:

Joshua 20-22

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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A bottle in the smoke

“For I am become like a bottle in the smoke; yet do I not forget thy statutes.” Psalm 119:83

Suggested Further Reading: Job 1:13-22

Let me give a word of consolation. If you have been persecuted, and still hold fast by God’s word—if you have been afflicted, and still persevere in the knowledge of our Lord and Master, you have every reason to believe yourself a Christian. If under your trials and troubles you remain just what you were when at ease, you may then hope, and not only so, but steadfastly believe and be assured that you are a child of God. Some of you, however, are very much like Christians, when you hear sermons full of promises; when I preach to you about bruised reeds, or address you with the invitation, “Come unto me, all ye that labour;” but when I give you a smoky sermon—one which you cannot endure—if you then can say, guilty, weak, and helpless I may be, but still I fall into his arms; sinful I know I am, and I have grave cause for doubt, but still:

“There, there, unshaken will I rest,
Till this vile body dies;”

I know, poor, weak, and helpless though I am, that I have a rich Almighty Friend; if you can stand a little smoke, then you may believe yourself to be a child of God. But there are some fantastic people we know of, who are shocked with a very puff of smoke, they cannot endure it, they go out at once, just like rats out of the hold of a ship when they begin to smoke it; but if you can live in the smoke and say, “I feel it, and still can endure it,”—if you can stand a smoky sermon, and endure a smoky trial, and hold fast to God under a smoky persecution, then you have reason to believe that you are certainly a child of God.

For meditation : In the parable of the sower, the true believer is the one who hears the word and accepts it; those making a false profession are found out in time either as a result of troubles or of worldly success (Mark 4:16-20). Job passed both tests (Job 1).

Sermon no. 71
23 March (1856)

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March 22, 2012
Running to Win
Gwen Smith

Today's Truth
I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. (Philippians 3:12)

Friend To Friend
The year was 2008. The race started out like any other race: runners at the starting line, fans in the stands, excitement and anticipation thick in the air. But this race was a big one. An indoor track and field conference championship for the collegiate women's 600 meter run.

At the sound of the gun, the runners took off – each with a heart longing to win the race – each competing fiercely for the prize. Just three quick laps stood between the four athletes and their destinies. It was clear from the beginning, this race would be tight.

My family and I watched on an internet video as the long and lean runners vied for the lead. In unison, we gasped with horror when, as they began the final lap, one of the competitors caught the slightest edge of another runner's shoe and went crashing down onto the track. My heart sunk when she fell. I didn't know this fallen woman, but I do know what it feels like to fall and to have your hopes dissolve in a split second. I felt the despair of the crash with her.

The fans in the crowd all stood to their feet and rallied cries of encouragement to this young runner. The seconds that followed will be etched into my heart and mind forever. She could've walked off the track and everyone would've understood. She could've thrown in the towel and quit the race in humiliation. But she didn't quit. She got up and kept running. Now a full quarter-lap behind the other runners, this athlete fixed her eyes on the track before her and ran like the wind.

With just half a lap to go, this determined young woman overtook third place. Unbelievable. The crowd swelled with amazement. Then, just a hundred yards before the finish line, she inched up to the other two runners and – at the tape – leaned forward to win the race! No. Stinkin'. Way. The crowd went wild. My family went wild. What a race! What a fall! What a recovery! What a victory!

The next day, as I took my teenaged son to school, he and I had trouble connecting. I was frustrated with him; he was frustrated with me, and what I'd hoped would be a warm send off to a great day became an icy goodbye as he got out of the car. I felt like a loser-mom and lamented to God about it on the drive home. As I poured out my frustrations in prayer, the Lord reminded me of the race.

Like the young runner, I got tripped up on the shoes of another runner and fell down mid-race. Now, I had a choice. I could stew and lick my mama-wounds, allowing my disappointments to keep me from running, or I could call on the grace of the Lord, put one foot in front of another, and get back in the race. The writer of Hebrews talks about a cloud of witnesses that encourages others in faith, and as I prayed I could almost hear them cheering me on.

"Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God" (Hebrews 12:1-2).

Game. On.

I got back up. I chose to run again by asking the Lord for the grace and strength to finish the day strong in Him. By the time my son got home from school we had both cooled down. Grace ran before us. I asked him to forgive me for frustrating him and he did the same.

We all run. We all fall. Each day presents us with fresh opportunities to allow the mercy, strength and grace of God to intervene in our lives. When writing to the church of Philippi about the discipline of perseverance, the apostle Paul said this:

I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. All of us who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you. Only let us live up to what we have already attained. (Philippians 3:10-16)

So whatever you face today, friend, run. Run to win the prize. Run like the wind. And when you fall; don't throw in the towel, don't point fingers, don't stew, and don't quit. Get right back up and run again… in the mercy, strength and grace of God.

Let's Pray
Dear Lord,
Thanks for being a God of second chances and eternal grace! Please help me to run in your mercy and strength today.
In Jesus' Name,
Amen.

Now It's Your Turn
Grab your Bible and read the book of Philippians today. It's only four chapters long. You can do it! It will bless your socks off! If you don't have time to read the whole thing right now, then read a chapter a day for the next four days.

Look up Isaiah 40:28-31 and fill in the following blank spaces:
"Do you not know? Have you not heard? The LORD is the ­­­­______________ ______, the _______________ of the ends of the earth. He will not grow ________ or ___________, and his __________________ no one can fathom. He gives ________________ to the _______________and increases the ____________ of the ____________. Even youths grow _____________ and ____________, and young men _____________ and _____; but those who _________ in the LORD will ___________ their _____________. They will _________ on wings like eagles; they will _______ and not grow weary, they will ___________ and not be ______________."

More from the Girlfriends
Are you running to win? I encourage you to fix your eyes on Jesus and run hard in His grace today. Music often helps set my heart and affections on Him. My latest CD, Uncluttered, offers songs that are purposed to center your heart and mind on Christ. You can order a copy from my website or download songs from Uncluttered on iTunes.

Love changes everything. In her book, Broken Into Beautiful, Gwen Smith invites you to experience how God's love can change your life and bring strength and healing to your heart. He really can transform your life into something beautiful. To order the book, go to Amazon or, for a signed copy, order from Gwen's website: www.gwensmith.net.

Got Facebook? Connect with Gwen at www.facebook.com/GwenSmithMusic.

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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Lysa TerKeurst

March 22, 2012

Advice to Wives: Stop Praying
Lysa TerKeurst

"Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love." Ephesians 4:2 (NIV)

Irritated. Frustrated. Hurt.

Those were the words bumping around in my mind as I grabbed my Bible and sat down to do some sort of quiet time.

I felt like such a fake mindlessly scanning these words on thin pages. My heart wasn't connecting. My mind wasn't tuned in. All I could think about was the argument I'd had with my husband.

Why couldn't he see my point? Why didn't he understand? Why was he being so stubborn?

I closed my Bible and decided a much more productive thing to do with this situation would be to pray. That's what godly women do. And oh how spiritually sound I felt listing all the many things the Lord could do to fix my man- all that was wrong with him.

Sounds spiritual. However, it was anything but.

Suddenly in the middle of my prayer, all I could sense God saying was, "Stop."

Stop? Stop praying? Well, that certainly couldn't be from the Lord ... so I kept going.

But the word "stop" was pulsing through my mind with each beat of my heart. And deep down, I started to sense why.

God wasn't looking for me to be a "fix him" wife.

God was looking for me to be a "love him" wife.

I needed to stop praying. At least, I needed to stop praying the way I had been. Yes, there were things my husband needed to work on. But nothing good was happening when all I did was complain about him.

I needed to be a wife daring enough to ask God to reveal to me how to love him. And I needed to ask God where I was going wrongówhere I was being selfishówhere I needed to work.

When I shifted my focus on letting God change me, that's when I started to see real progress.

In this season of struggling through all of this, God taught me three powerful lessons:

1. Is this an irritation or an issue?

There is a big difference between an irritation and an issue. Identifying the difference helps me pick my battles. If this is just an irritation, maybe I need to practice being more flexible, patient or willing to extend grace?

2. Am I praying about or for my husband?

If I do sense something that needs to change, I need to pray for my husbandónot about him. Praying about him is just ranting. Praying for him means digging into God's Word and praying scriptures specific to his struggles. That's powerful! When we pray the WORD of God, we pray the WILL of God.

3. Where is my focus?

I'll never be able to control how another person acts and reacts, but I certainly can control how I act and react. My focus shouldn't be on having the right partner. My focus should be on being the right partner.

Slowly, as I shifted my heart in these areas, I saw such progress in our marriage. Do I still get irritated, frustrated and hurt? Of course.

But when I stopped trying to fix him, I was freed up to just love him. And love him more completely like Ephesians 4:2 reminds, "Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love." And loving him is so much more fun and realistic than fixing him!

Dear Lord, help me to focus on being the right partner. Shift my heart to reflect Yours Lord. Help me to put aside my pride so I can hear You whisper to my heart those things I can do to improve my marriage. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
If you've been looking for something to give your marriage a boost in creativity, connection, and communication don't miss Lysa's marriage books, Capture Her Heart for husbands and Capture His Heart for wives.

Read Lysa's free article today, "Jesus loves those in messy marriages."

Lysa is speaking in over 40 cities this year and she'd love to meet you! To check for a city near you, click here.

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:
If you do sense something that needs to change, pray for your husbandónot about him. Praying about him is just ranting. Praying for him means digging into God's Word and praying scriptures specific to his struggles.

Power Verse:
Ephesians 1:4, "For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. " (NIV)

© 2012 by Lysa TerKeurst. All rights reserved.

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

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Operating System

This week's reading: 1 Corinthians 2:1-16

Recommended Reading: Proverbs 1:1-7; 2:1-22; 4:1-27

Do you stay up on New Year's Eve to wait for the clock to strike midnight? If you do, you probably don't care that much about when the New Year begins in places like Fiji or Auckland, New Zealand. However, you probably cared a bit more on December 31, 1999, as TV cameras captured the stroke of midnight in those locations to see whether the world had avoided the Y2K disaster. As clocks struck 12:00, 12:01, 12:02 in each time zone around the world, we all breathed a collective sigh of relief that televisions still functioned, nuclear power plants hadn't failed and cars continued running.

Remember the craziness that preceded Y2K? Companies and governments spent billions of dollars to hire software programmers to pore over and correct millions of lines of computer code. All because of a looming catastrophe if computers were to misread the last two zeroes in the year 2000 as 1900.

Ironically, most of us have zero understanding of computer code. The apostle Paul said that wisdom is much the same way. Unless we have the Holy Spirit to help us know the language of God's wisdom, we won't really understand it. "The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit" (1 Corinthians 2:14). People who don't have the Holy Spirit dwelling within them quite naturally struggle to grasp spiritual wisdom-God's Word, his desires, his character, his values. In fact, God's wisdom often seems foolish to non-Christians. It's like a foreign language to them. But when people trust in Christ as Savior, God sends the Holy Spirit to dwell within them (see John 14:16-17). They can begin learning God's wisdom while the Holy Spirit helps them understand it.

If we believe that true wisdom comes only from God, where should we turn when we seek wisdom? Paul provides the answer: "'What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived-the things God has prepared for those who love him-these are the things God has revealed to us by his Spirit'" (1 Corinthians 2:9-10). In the Bible God speaks the language that drives us-our spiritual operating system. If we want to know God's wisdom so that we can process the joys and trials of everyday living, we need to turn often to God's Word and ask the Spirit to help us understand it.

To Take Away

  • Do you ever struggle to understand thoughts and concepts from the Bible? How do you think the Holy Spirit can help?
  • Are you growing in your understanding of God and spiritual truth? When was the last time you asked the Spirit to help you understand God's Word?
  • What practical steps can you take to grow in God's wisdom?

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Day 30

After Judas left, Jesus gave the disciples a glimpse of what was to come. He foreshadowed the fact that he was going to be “broken” and “poured out”—he was going to take humanity’s punishment for sin on himself.

While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is my body.”

Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you, I will not drink from this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.”

Jesus warned his disciples that he would be with them only a little while longer. He went on to comfort his confused followers.

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.”

Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?”

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.”

Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.”

Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you I do not speak on my own authority. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the works themselves. Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.

“If you love me, keep my commands. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever—the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.

“I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come.

“A time is coming and in fact has come when you will be scattered, each to your own home. You will leave me all alone. Yet I am not alone, for my Father is with me.

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

After Jesus said this, he looked toward heaven and prayed:

“Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you. For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him. Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do. And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began.

“Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world.

“Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me. I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.”

When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.

Why did Jesus have to die?

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Today's Lent reading: Luke 19-20 (NIV)

View today's Lent reading on Bible Gateway
Zacchaeus the Tax Collector

1 Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. 2 A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy. 3 He wanted to see who Jesus was, but because he was short he could not see over the crowd. 4So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way.

5 When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, "Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today." 6 So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly.

7 All the people saw this and began to mutter, "He has gone to be the guest of a sinner."

8 But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, "Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount."

9 Jesus said to him, "Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost."

The Parable of the Ten Minas

11 While they were listening to this, he went on to tell them a parable, because he was near Jerusalem and the people thought that the kingdom of God was going to appear at once.12 He said: "A man of noble birth went to a distant country to have himself appointed king and then to return. 13 So he called ten of his servants and gave them ten minas. 'Put this money to work,' he said, 'until I come back.'

14 "But his subjects hated him and sent a delegation after him to say, 'We don't want this man to be our king.'

15 "He was made king, however, and returned home. Then he sent for the servants to whom he had given the money, in order to find out what they had gained with it.

16 "The first one came and said, 'Sir, your mina has earned ten more.'

17 "'Well done, my good servant!' his master replied. 'Because you have been trustworthy in a very small matter, take charge of ten cities.'

18 "The second came and said, 'Sir, your mina has earned five more.'

19 "His master answered, 'You take charge of five cities.'

20 "Then another servant came and said, 'Sir, here is your mina; I have kept it laid away in a piece of cloth. 21 I was afraid of you, because you are a hard man. You take out what you did not put in and reap what you did not sow.'

22 "His master replied, 'I will judge you by your own words, you wicked servant! You knew, did you, that I am a hard man, taking out what I did not put in, and reaping what I did not sow?23 Why then didn't you put my money on deposit, so that when I came back, I could have collected it with interest?'

24 "Then he said to those standing by, 'Take his mina away from him and give it to the one who has ten minas.'

25 "'Sir,' they said, 'he already has ten!'

26 "He replied, 'I tell you that to everyone who has, more will be given, but as for the one who has nothing, even what they have will be taken away. 27 But those enemies of mine who did not want me to be king over them-bring them here and kill them in front of me.'"

Jesus Comes to Jerusalem as King

28 After Jesus had said this, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem. 29 As he approached Bethphage and Bethany at the hill called the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples, saying to them, 30 "Go to the village ahead of you, and as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. 31 If anyone asks you, 'Why are you untying it?' say, 'The Lord needs it.'"

32 Those who were sent ahead went and found it just as he had told them. 33 As they were untying the colt, its owners asked them, "Why are you untying the colt?"

34 They replied, "The Lord needs it."

35 They brought it to Jesus, threw their cloaks on the colt and put Jesus on it. 36 As he went along, people spread their cloaks on the road.

37 When he came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen:

38 "Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!"

"Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!"

39 Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, "Teacher, rebuke your disciples!"

40 "I tell you," he replied, "if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out."

41 As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it 42 and said, "If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace-but now it is hidden from your eyes. 43 The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side. 44 They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God's coming to you."

Jesus at the Temple

45 When Jesus entered the temple courts, he began to drive out those who were selling. 46 "It is written," he said to them, "'My house will be a house of prayer'; but you have made it 'a den of robbers.'"

47 Every day he was teaching at the temple. But the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the leaders among the people were trying to kill him. 48 Yet they could not find any way to do it, because all the people hung on his words.

Luke 20

The Authority of Jesus Questioned

1 One day as Jesus was teaching the people in the temple courts and proclaiming the good news, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, together with the elders, came up to him. 2"Tell us by what authority you are doing these things," they said. "Who gave you this authority?"

3 He replied, "I will also ask you a question. Tell me: 4 John's baptism-was it from heaven, or of human origin?"

5 They discussed it among themselves and said, "If we say, 'From heaven,' he will ask, 'Why didn't you believe him?' 6 But if we say, 'Of human origin,' all the people will stone us, because they are persuaded that John was a prophet."

7 So they answered, "We don't know where it was from."

8 Jesus said, "Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things."

The Parable of the Tenants

9 He went on to tell the people this parable: "A man planted a vineyard, rented it to some farmers and went away for a long time. 10 At harvest time he sent a servant to the tenants so they would give him some of the fruit of the vineyard. But the tenants beat him and sent him away empty-handed. 11 He sent another servant, but that one also they beat and treated shamefully and sent away empty-handed. 12 He sent still a third, and they wounded him and threw him out.

13 "Then the owner of the vineyard said, 'What shall I do? I will send my son, whom I love; perhaps they will respect him.'

14 "But when the tenants saw him, they talked the matter over. 'This is the heir,' they said. 'Let's kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.' 15 So they threw him out of the vineyard and killed him.

"What then will the owner of the vineyard do to them? 16 He will come and kill those tenants and give the vineyard to others."

When the people heard this, they said, "God forbid!"

17 Jesus looked directly at them and asked, "Then what is the meaning of that which is written:

"'The stone the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone'?

18 Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces; anyone on whom it falls will be crushed."

19 The teachers of the law and the chief priests looked for a way to arrest him immediately, because they knew he had spoken this parable against them. But they were afraid of the people.

Paying Taxes to Caesar

20 Keeping a close watch on him, they sent spies, who pretended to be sincere. They hoped to catch Jesus in something he said, so that they might hand him over to the power and authority of the governor. 21 So the spies questioned him: "Teacher, we know that you speak and teach what is right, and that you do not show partiality but teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. 22 Is it right for us to pay taxes to Caesar or not?"

23 He saw through their duplicity and said to them, 24 "Show me a denarius. Whose image and inscription are on it?"

"Caesar's," they replied.

25 He said to them, "Then give back to Caesar what is Caesar's, and to God what is God's."

26 They were unable to trap him in what he had said there in public. And astonished by his answer, they became silent.

The Resurrection and Marriage

27 Some of the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to Jesus with a question. 28 "Teacher," they said, "Moses wrote for us that if a man's brother dies and leaves a wife but no children, the man must marry the widow and raise up offspring for his brother. 29 Now there were seven brothers. The first one married a woman and died childless. 30 The second 31 and then the third married her, and in the same way the seven died, leaving no children. 32 Finally, the woman died too. 33 Now then, at the resurrection whose wife will she be, since the seven were married to her?"

34 Jesus replied, "The people of this age marry and are given in marriage. 35 But those who are considered worthy of taking part in the age to come and in the resurrection from the dead will neither marry nor be given in marriage, 36 and they can no longer die; for they are like the angels. They are God's children, since they are children of the resurrection. 37 But in the account of the burning bush, even Moses showed that the dead rise, for he calls the Lord 'the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.' 38 He is not the God of the dead, but of the living, for to him all are alive."

39 Some of the teachers of the law responded, "Well said, teacher!" 40 And no one dared to ask him any more questions.

Whose Son Is the Messiah?

41 Then Jesus said to them, "Why is it said that the Messiah is the son of David? 42 David himself declares in the Book of Psalms:

"'The Lord said to my Lord:
"Sit at my right hand
43 until I make your enemies
a footstool for your feet."'

44 David calls him 'Lord.' How then can he be his son?"

Warning Against the Teachers of the Law

45 While all the people were listening, Jesus said to his disciples, 46 "Beware of the teachers of the law. They like to walk around in flowing robes and love to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces and have the most important seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at banquets. 47They devour widows' houses and for a show make lengthy prayers. These men will be punished most severely."


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