Friday, March 02, 2012

Daily Devotional Friday 2nd March

“Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” Psalm 73:25-26 NIV
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Morning and Evening by Charles Spurgeon

Morning

"But all the Israelites went down to the Philistines, to sharpen every man his share, and his coulter, and his axe, and his mattock."
1 Samuel 13:20

We are engaged in a great war with the Philistines of evil. Every weapon within our reach must be used. Preaching, teaching, praying, giving, all must be brought into action, and talents which have been thought too mean for service, must now be employed. Coulter, and axe, and mattock, may all be useful in slaying Philistines; rough tools may deal hard blows, and killing need not be elegantly done, so long as it is done effectually. Each moment of time, in season or out of season; each fragment of ability, educated or untutored; each opportunity, favourable or unfavourable, must be used, for our foes are many and our force but slender.

Most of our tools want sharpening; we need quickness of perception, tact, energy, promptness, in a word, complete adaptation for the Lord's work. Practical common sense is a very scarce thing among the conductors of Christian enterprises. We might learn from our enemies if we would, and so make the Philistines sharpen our weapons. This morning let us note enough to sharpen our zeal during this day by the aid of the Holy Spirit. See the energy of the Papists, how they compass sea and land to make one proselyte, are they to monopolize all the earnestness? Mark the heathen devotees, what tortures they endure in the service of their idols! are they alone to exhibit patience and self-sacrifice? Observe the prince of darkness, how persevering in his endeavours, how unabashed in his attempts, how daring in his plans, how thoughtful in his plots, how energetic in all! The devils are united as one man in their infamous rebellion, while we believers in Jesus are divided in our service of God, and scarcely ever work with unanimity. O that from Satan's infernal industry we may learn to go about like good Samaritans, seeking whom we may bless!

Evening

"Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ."
Ephesians 3:8

The apostle Paul felt it a great privilege to be allowed to preach the gospel. He did not look upon his calling as a drudgery, but he entered upon it with intense delight. Yet while Paul was thus thankful for his office, his success in it greatly humbled him. The fuller a vessel becomes, the deeper it sinks in the water. Idlers may indulge a fond conceit of their abilities, because they are untried; but the earnest worker soon learns his own weakness. If you seek humility, try hard work; if you would know your nothingness, attempt some great thing for Jesus. If you would feel how utterly powerless you are apart from the living God, attempt especially the great work of proclaiming the unsearchable riches of Christ, and you will know, as you never knew before, what a weak unworthy thing you are. Although the apostle thus knew and confessed his weakness, he was never perplexed as to the subject of his ministry. From his first sermon to his last, Paul preached Christ, and nothing but Christ. He lifted up the cross, and extolled the Son of God who bled thereon. Follow his example in all your personal efforts to spread the glad tidings of salvation, and let "Christ and him crucified" be your ever recurring theme. The Christian should be like those lovely spring flowers which, when the sun is shining, open their golden cups, as if saying, "Fill us with thy beams!" but when the sun is hidden behind a cloud, they close their cups and droop their heads. So should the Christian feel the sweet influence of Jesus; Jesus must be his sun, and he must be the flower which yields itself to the Sun of Righteousness. Oh! to speak of Christ alone, this is the subject which is both "seed for the sower, and bread for the eater." This is the live coal for the lip of the speaker, and the master-key to the heart of the hearer.

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Today's reading: Numbers 20-22, Mark 7:1-13 (NIV)

View today's reading on Bible Gateway

1 In the first month the whole Israelite community arrived at the Desert of Zin, and they stayed at Kadesh. There Miriam died and was buried.

2 Now there was no water for the community, and the people gathered in opposition to Moses and Aaron. 3 They quarreled with Moses and said, “If only we had died when our brothers fell dead before the LORD! 4 Why did you bring the LORD’s community into this wilderness, that we and our livestock should die here? 5 Why did you bring us up out of Egypt to this terrible place? It has no grain or figs, grapevines or pomegranates. And there is no water to drink!”

6 Moses and Aaron went from the assembly to the entrance to the tent of meeting and fell facedown, and the glory of the LORD appeared to them. 7 The LORD said to Moses, 8 “Take the staff, and you and your brother Aaron gather the assembly together. Speak to that rock before their eyes and it will pour out its water. You will bring water out of the rock for the community so they and their livestock can drink.”

9 So Moses took the staff from the LORD’s presence, just as he commanded him. 10 He and Aaron gathered the assembly together in front of the rock and Moses said to them, “Listen, you rebels, must we bring you water out of this rock?” 11 Then Moses raised his arm and struck the rock twice with his staff. Water gushed out, and the community and their livestock drank.

12 But the LORD said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not trust in me enough to honor me as holy in the sight of the Israelites, you will not bring this community into the land I give them.”

13 These were the waters of Meribah, where the Israelites quarreled with the LORD and where he was proved holy among them.

14 Moses sent messengers from Kadesh to the king of Edom, saying:

“This is what your brother Israel says: You know about all the hardships that have come on us. 15 Our ancestors went down into Egypt, and we lived there many years. The Egyptians mistreated us and our ancestors, 16 but when we cried out to the LORD, he heard our cry and sent an angel and brought us out of Egypt.

“Now we are here at Kadesh, a town on the edge of your territory. 17 Please let us pass through your country. We will not go through any field or vineyard, or drink water from any well. We will travel along the King’s Highway and not turn to the right or to the left until we have passed through your territory.”

18 But Edom answered:

“You may not pass through here; if you try, we will march out and attack you with the sword.”

19 The Israelites replied:

“We will go along the main road, and if we or our livestock drink any of your water, we will pay for it. We only want to pass through on foot—nothing else.”

20 Again they answered:

“You may not pass through.”

Then Edom came out against them with a large and powerful army. 21 Since Edom refused to let them go through their territory, Israel turned away from them.

22 The whole Israelite community set out from Kadesh and came to Mount Hor. 23 At Mount Hor, near the border of Edom, the LORD said to Moses and Aaron, 24 “Aaron will be gathered to his people. He will not enter the land I give the Israelites, because both of you rebelled against my command at the waters of Meribah. 25 Get Aaron and his son Eleazar and take them up Mount Hor. 26 Remove Aaron’s garments and put them on his son Eleazar, for Aaron will be gathered to his people; he will die there.”

27 Moses did as the LORD commanded: They went up Mount Hor in the sight of the whole community. 28 Moses removed Aaron’s garments and put them on his son Eleazar. And Aaron died there on top of the mountain. Then Moses and Eleazar came down from the mountain, 29 and when the whole community learned that Aaron had died, all the Israelites mourned for him thirty days.

Numbers 21

1 When the Canaanite king of Arad, who lived in the Negev, heard that Israel was coming along the road to Atharim, he attacked the Israelites and captured some of them. 2 Then Israel made this vow to the LORD: “If you will deliver these people into our hands, we will totally destroy their cities.” 3 The LORD listened to Israel’s plea and gave the Canaanites over to them. They completely destroyed them and their towns; so the place was named Hormah. 4 They traveled from Mount Hor along the route to the Red Sea, to go around Edom. But the people grew impatient on the way; 5 they spoke against God and against Moses, and said, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? There is no bread! There is no water! And we detest this miserable food!”

6 Then the LORD sent venomous snakes among them; they bit the people and many Israelites died. 7 The people came to Moses and said, “We sinned when we spoke against the LORD and against you. Pray that the LORD will take the snakes away from us.” So Moses prayed for the people.

8 The LORD said to Moses, “Make a snake and put it up on a pole; anyone who is bitten can look at it and live.” 9 So Moses made a bronze snake and put it up on a pole. Then when anyone was bitten by a snake and looked at the bronze snake, they lived.

10 The Israelites moved on and camped at Oboth. 11 Then they set out from Oboth and camped in Iye Abarim, in the wilderness that faces Moab toward the sunrise. 12 From there they moved on and camped in the Zered Valley. 13 They set out from there and camped alongside the Arnon, which is in the wilderness extending into Amorite territory. The Arnon is the border of Moab, between Moab and the Amorites. 14 That is why the Book of the Wars of the LORD says:

“. . . Zahab in Suphah and the ravines,
the Arnon 15 and the slopes of the ravines
that lead to the settlement of Ar
and lie along the border of Moab.”

16 From there they continued on to Beer, the well where the LORD said to Moses, “Gather the people together and I will give them water.”

17 Then Israel sang this song:

“Spring up, O well!
Sing about it,
18 about the well that the princes dug,
that the nobles of the people sank—
the nobles with scepters and staffs.”

Then they went from the wilderness to Mattanah, 19 from Mattanah to Nahaliel, from Nahaliel to Bamoth, 20 and from Bamoth to the valley in Moab where the top of Pisgah overlooks the wasteland.

21 Israel sent messengers to say to Sihon king of the Amorites:

22 “Let us pass through your country. We will not turn aside into any field or vineyard, or drink water from any well. We will travel along the King’s Highway until we have passed through your territory.”

23 But Sihon would not let Israel pass through his territory. He mustered his entire army and marched out into the wilderness against Israel. When he reached Jahaz, he fought with Israel.24 Israel, however, put him to the sword and took over his land from the Arnon to the Jabbok, but only as far as the Ammonites, because their border was fortified. 25 Israel captured all the cities of the Amorites and occupied them, including Heshbon and all its surrounding settlements. 26Heshbon was the city of Sihon king of the Amorites, who had fought against the former king of Moab and had taken from him all his land as far as the Arnon.

27 That is why the poets say:

“Come to Heshbon and let it be rebuilt;
let Sihon’s city be restored.

28 “Fire went out from Heshbon,
a blaze from the city of Sihon.
It consumed Ar of Moab,
the citizens of Arnon’s heights.
29 Woe to you, Moab!
You are destroyed, people of Chemosh!
He has given up his sons as fugitives
and his daughters as captives
to Sihon king of the Amorites.

30 “But we have overthrown them;
Heshbon’s dominion has been destroyed all the way to Dibon.
We have demolished them as far as Nophah,
which extends to Medeba.”

31 So Israel settled in the land of the Amorites.

32 After Moses had sent spies to Jazer, the Israelites captured its surrounding settlements and drove out the Amorites who were there. 33 Then they turned and went up along the road toward Bashan, and Og king of Bashan and his whole army marched out to meet them in battle at Edrei.

34 The LORD said to Moses, “Do not be afraid of him, for I have delivered him into your hands, along with his whole army and his land. Do to him what you did to Sihon king of the Amorites, who reigned in Heshbon.”

35 So they struck him down, together with his sons and his whole army, leaving them no survivors. And they took possession of his land.

Numbers 22

1 Then the Israelites traveled to the plains of Moab and camped along the Jordan across from Jericho.

2 Now Balak son of Zippor saw all that Israel had done to the Amorites, 3 and Moab was terrified because there were so many people. Indeed, Moab was filled with dread because of the Israelites.

4 The Moabites said to the elders of Midian, “This horde is going to lick up everything around us, as an ox licks up the grass of the field.”

So Balak son of Zippor, who was king of Moab at that time, 5sent messengers to summon Balaam son of Beor, who was at Pethor, near the Euphrates River, in his native land. Balak said:

“A people has come out of Egypt; they cover the face of the land and have settled next to me. 6 Now come and put a curse on these people, because they are too powerful for me. Perhaps then I will be able to defeat them and drive them out of the land. For I know that whoever you bless is blessed, and whoever you curse is cursed.”

7 The elders of Moab and Midian left, taking with them the fee for divination. When they came to Balaam, they told him what Balak had said.

8 “Spend the night here,” Balaam said to them, “and I will report back to you with the answer the LORD gives me.” So the Moabite officials stayed with him.

9 God came to Balaam and asked, “Who are these men with you?”

10 Balaam said to God, “Balak son of Zippor, king of Moab, sent me this message: 11 ‘A people that has come out of Egypt covers the face of the land. Now come and put a curse on them for me. Perhaps then I will be able to fight them and drive them away.’”

12 But God said to Balaam, “Do not go with them. You must not put a curse on those people, because they are blessed.”

13 The next morning Balaam got up and said to Balak’s officials, “Go back to your own country, for the LORD has refused to let me go with you.”

14 So the Moabite officials returned to Balak and said, “Balaam refused to come with us.”

15 Then Balak sent other officials, more numerous and more distinguished than the first. 16 They came to Balaam and said:

“This is what Balak son of Zippor says: Do not let anything keep you from coming to me, 17 because I will reward you handsomely and do whatever you say. Come and put a curse on these people for me.”

18 But Balaam answered them, “Even if Balak gave me all the silver and gold in his palace, I could not do anything great or small to go beyond the command of the LORD my God. 19 Now spend the night here so that I can find out what else the LORD will tell me.”

20 That night God came to Balaam and said, “Since these men have come to summon you, go with them, but do only what I tell you.”

21 Balaam got up in the morning, saddled his donkey and went with the Moabite officials. 22 But God was very angry when he went, and the angel of the LORD stood in the road to oppose him. Balaam was riding on his donkey, and his two servants were with him. 23 When the donkey saw the angel of the LORD standing in the road with a drawn sword in his hand, it turned off the road into a field. Balaam beat it to get it back on the road.

24 Then the angel of the LORD stood in a narrow path through the vineyards, with walls on both sides. 25 When the donkey saw the angel of the LORD, it pressed close to the wall, crushing Balaam’s foot against it. So he beat the donkey again.

26 Then the angel of the LORD moved on ahead and stood in a narrow place where there was no room to turn, either to the right or to the left. 27 When the donkey saw the angel of the LORD, it lay down under Balaam, and he was angry and beat it with his staff. 28 Then the LORD opened the donkey’s mouth, and it said to Balaam, “What have I done to you to make you beat me these three times?”

29 Balaam answered the donkey, “You have made a fool of me! If only I had a sword in my hand, I would kill you right now.”

30 The donkey said to Balaam, “Am I not your own donkey, which you have always ridden, to this day? Have I been in the habit of doing this to you?”

“No,” he said.

31 Then the LORD opened Balaam’s eyes, and he saw the angel of the LORD standing in the road with his sword drawn. So he bowed low and fell facedown.

32 The angel of the LORD asked him, “Why have you beaten your donkey these three times? I have come here to oppose you because your path is a reckless one before me. 33 The donkey saw me and turned away from me these three times. If it had not turned away, I would certainly have killed you by now, but I would have spared it.”

34 Balaam said to the angel of the LORD, “I have sinned. I did not realize you were standing in the road to oppose me. Now if you are displeased, I will go back.”

35 The angel of the LORD said to Balaam, “Go with the men, but speak only what I tell you.” So Balaam went with Balak’s officials.

36 When Balak heard that Balaam was coming, he went out to meet him at the Moabite town on the Arnon border, at the edge of his territory. 37 Balak said to Balaam, “Did I not send you an urgent summons? Why didn’t you come to me? Am I really not able to reward you?”

38 “Well, I have come to you now,” Balaam replied. “But I can’t say whatever I please. I must speak only what God puts in my mouth.”

39 Then Balaam went with Balak to Kiriath Huzoth. 40 Balak sacrificed cattle and sheep, and gave some to Balaam and the officials who were with him. 41 The next morning Balak took Balaam up to Bamoth Baal, and from there he could see the outskirts of the Israelite camp.

Mark 7:1-13

1 The Pharisees and some of the teachers of the law who had come from Jerusalem gathered around Jesus 2 and saw some of his disciples eating food with hands that were defiled, that is, unwashed. 3 (The Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they give their hands a ceremonial washing, holding to the tradition of the elders. 4 When they come from the marketplace they do not eat unless they wash. And they observe many other traditions, such as the washing of cups, pitchers and kettles.)

5 So the Pharisees and teachers of the law asked Jesus, “Why don’t your disciples live according to the tradition of the elders instead of eating their food with defiled hands?”

6 He replied, “Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written:

“‘These people honor me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me.
7 They worship me in vain;
their teachings are merely human rules.’

8 You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to human traditions.”

9 And he continued, “You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions! 10For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and mother,’ and, ‘Anyone who curses their father or mother is to be put to death.’ 11 But you say that if anyone declares that what might have been used to help their father or mother is Corban (that is, devoted to God)— 12 then you no longer let them do anything for their father or mother. 13 Thus you nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And you do many things like that.”

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Ahasuerus [Ăhăsū ē'rŭs]—king ormighty man.

  1. A Persian monarch, to whom accusations against the Jews were brought, bore this name (Ezra 4:6).
  2. It was also the name of a Median king, father of Darius (Dan. 9:1).
  3. A Persian king who became the husband of Esther ( Esther 1:2, 19).

The Man Whose Sleeplessness Saved a Nation

Two years after Queen Vashti was deposed, Esther the Jewess, and the ward of Mordecai, became the wife of Ahasuerus, and queen in Vashti’s place. Two years after Esther’s enthronement, wicked Haman prevailed upon the king to order the destruction of all the Jews in his empire, but the plan backfired. The king had a sleepless night, and robbed of slumber called for records carefully preserved in the royal archives. Reading of the plot to end his life, and of how Mordecai had informed the king, Ahasuerus felt that Mordecai was worthy of honor and reward. That sleepless night resulted in Mordecai’s promotion to high office, the exposure of Haman’s dark and devilish plot, the preservation of the Jewish nation and the hanging of Haman and his sons on the gallows Haman had prepared for Mordecai.

A character study on Ahasuerus could be worked out on his sensuality, fickleness, lack of forethought, despotism and cruelty.

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GiG Banner 2012 Big

March 1, 2012
What's Your Temperature?
Gwen Smith

Today's Truth
"Search Me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting." (Psalm 139:23-24, ESV)

Friend to Friend
I got a phone call in the middle of the day from my son Preston. He was calling from the nurse's office at the school. Here's how the conversation went:

"Hey, Mom. It's Preston. I'm not feeling well, and I have a temperature of 96.5. Can you come get me?"

"96.5 degrees?" I asked. "Honey, that's below normal! That doesn't sound right."

"I know," he said, "but I don't feel well. Can you please come pick me up?"

"Sure, honey. I'll be right there."

I chuckled the whole way to the school at what he had said. Surely he misread the thermometer! A normal temperature is 98.6. Something was off. I got to the school in a North Carolina minute and headed straight to the nurse's office. While Preston packed his bag to go home, I spoke privately to the school nurse. With a grin on her face, she explained to me that Preston was resistant to putting the thermometer under his tongue as she had instructed him to do. He wasn't comfortable with that. "So," she said, "he held the thermometer between his lips." The nurse and I exchanged amused glances as I thanked her for helping my son.

Although Preston knew something wasn't right with his body, the nurse didn't get an accurate temperature reading because he didn't place the thermometer deep enough into his mouth. He didn't let it probe past the surface of his lips.

Later that night, as I thought back on the day, the Lord spoke to my heart. I realized that I'm often as stubborn as Preston because there are many times when I resist having an accurate reading of my spiritual wellness taken. Times when I won't let Him probe past the surface of my heart, my actions, my attitudes, and my perspective - to allow God to reveal the accurate spiritual temperature of my life. Times when I'm not comfortable with deeper-level stuff… when I won't sit still to listen.

I was disturbed by that thought.

I needed to be disturbed by that thought. By that truth. Just because I've been a Christian for a long time does not mean that I'm always in perfect spiritual health. In fact, the more I learn about God's holiness through the Bible, the more I realize how much I need His grace and strength every minute of every day.

You might not "feel well" today. Perhaps you have spiritual indigestion from your marriage, your children, your friendships, your finances, your singleness, your conversations. You could be "sick" from the shows you watch, the internet relationships you've developed, the gossip or harsh words you allow to pass from your lips, the jealousy you feel in your heart. Maybe you haven't allowed your heart to be probed recently... you've been resistant because you don't like to feel uncomfortable, convicted or exposed.

The Bible tells us that the kindness of God leads us to repentance, and repentance leads us to restoration. To wellness and holiness in Christ. What's your spiritual temperature? Are you hot or cold? Is the flame of faith in your heart fading or raging? Have you sat still long enough lately to ask God to search your heart? It's time for an accurate reading, friend.

"For the eyes of the LORD range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him."2 Chronicles 16:9, NIV

Let's Pray
Holy Father, as the psalmist prayed, I ask that you would, "search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting" (Psalm 139:23-24, ESV).
In Jesus' Name,
Amen.

Now It's Your Turn
Take a spiritual inventory today. Spend a few moments considering your spiritual wellness. Ask God to probe your heart and reveal areas in your life that need to be made right as you answer the following questions:

  • What is your quiet time like?
  • Is God a top priority in your life?
  • Do you set aside time regularly to read your Bible?

Read John 15:1-11 and then write a prayer response.

Click here to LISTEN to a song called Restore that connects with this devotion beautifully.

More from the Girlfriends
The Bible tells us that God disciplines those He loves. I do realize that this devotion might have stepped on your toes today. Please know that Sharon, Mary and I are on the pruning table right there with you, and though we may not always love the sting of God's pruning, we can trust that it is for our growing and for His glory. Hope you take time for the deeper-level stuff today!

Are you ready to go deeper, but struggle to know how? Gwen's book, Broken Into Beautiful, can help you connect some faith dots. To grab a signed copy from her website CLICK HERE – or order Broken into Beautiful fromAmazon, Barnes & Noble or your favorite online retailer.

How did today's devotion connect with your heart? How were you challenged personally? Let's talk about it and pray through it on my Facebook page! Meet me 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 1, 2012

Unmet Longings
Lysa TerKeurst

"And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him." Hebrews 11:6 (NIV)

Have you ever wanted something so badly your heart ached with each thought of it? It seems life would be so much better if you had that.

There would be more happiness.

More contentment.

More fulfillment.

More satisfaction.

More peace.

We can envision ourself with this thing, this person, this opportunity. And all things are better. So, why doesn't God give us this longing of our heart?

Because He wants us to willingly release it to Him.

Ouch.

Not the answer we want. Why would God let the aching desire linger and not make things happen? He could. He's certainly able. But when He doesn't it seems unfair. Not good. Confusing.

It's easy to get down when we're constantly let down.

We hope this thing will happen... we'll meet this right person... we'll get this job... we'll finally be healed... we'll get that chance... we'll see that family member turn their life around. Time and again it doesn't happen. That's when it's easy to slip.

We can so easily slip into feeling a little distant from God because we feel hurt by God.

That's what happened when the man I thought I was going to marry told me he met someone else. That's what happened when I didn't get the job I was so certain was going to be the answer to all my financial problems. That's what happened when my son didn't get into the charter school we were so certain would have been perfect for him.

But, in each of these things, I eventually had to make a choice. I could either become consumed with my unmet longing or comforted by trusting God.

As an offering of trust, we must give up that which could so easily bring us down.

Not give up as in discouraged surrender. But give up as in placing this desire in the hand of God and saying, "Either way, I will see Your answer as the good answer and walk in trust."

Remember the Scriptures promise, He rewards those who honestly seek Him: "And without faith is it impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him." (Hebrews 11:6 NIV)

Sometimes I get so consumed with seeking my unmet longings, I don't earnestly seek Him. But then I miss out on His reward. And His reward is the only thing that will fill the void in my heart.

Yes, I still struggle with unmet desires.

But not as much today as I did yesterday.

And that is good. Not easy. But good.

Dear Lord, I sacrifice chasing this so I might more fully and with more focus chase You. I release this grip of desire. I praise You for who You are, what only You can bring, and how You will fill whatever gap this release might leave. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Click here to read Lysa's blog today about the three best choices you can make when you feel God isn't answering your prayers.

If this devotion resonated with you, Lysa's book Made to Crave is just what you need. It's not just for those struggling with their weight. It's for anyone who wants to learn to crave God more. Click here to order your copy!

This book can be a group Bible Study by using these life-changing resources: Made to Crave Participant's Guideand Made to Crave DVD teaching series, also by Lysa.

And if you already have the Made to Crave book, check out the just released 60 day Made to Crave Devotional

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:
Trust steps in and reminds us, we can't ever learn how to live real faith if we never need real faith.

Power Verses:
1 Timothy 6:12, "Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses." (NIV 1984)

Hebrews 11:1, "Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see." (NIV 1984)

© 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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Giving with Discretion

Matthew 6:1-4

Augustine says, "The praise of others need not even be sought by one who acts rightly" (Sermon on the Mount , 2.2.5). Keeping track of our giving is not inconsistent with the Lord's admonition that we do not let our right hand know what the left one is doing. Yet we are not to keep track so that we may show others just how good we are. As you give your money to the poor, ask yourself if you desire the praise of men more than God's commendation.

For further study:

Ruth 3

The Bible in a year:

Deuteronomy 2-4

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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Giving with Discretion

Matthew 6:1-4 "Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven" ( v. 1).

Society is apt to take notice whenever the wealthy establish a foundation for the sake of charitable giving. Such persons are lauded for their generosity and good work in giving to those in need. More often than not, these people seek this publicity, wanting us to know how open-handed they truly are.

The world pursues the accolades of men, but God's people are not to do the same. In fact, if we practice righteousness for the accolades of other people, Jesus tells us we have no reward from our Father in heaven ( Matt. 6:1). He applies this general principle to the three chief acts of Jewish piety - almsgiving, prayer, and fasting - beginning in today's passage with giving to the poor.

Our Savior warns us against sounding the trumpet when we give. In His own context He may be referring to the priestly blowing of the shofar (a ram's horn trumpet) whenever there is a great need in the community. When this happened in His day, there was often an ostentatious display of men closing up shop and running toward the temple to be the first ones seen responding to the call. Trumpet-shaped collection boxes where money could be deposited to help the poor were present at the temple in the first century a.d., and these may also be the basis for Christ's analogy in verses 2-4 . Coins thrown into these boxes might make a loud noise, announcing that a great gift has been given. In any case, our Lord's point is quite clear: Do not give in order to receive praise from men.

As Matthew Henry notes in his commentary, Jesus does not teach that it is always "unlawful to give alms when men see us." Sometimes the only way we can help others is in front of other people. In keeping with the perfect righteousness Jesus has described in Matthew 5, John Chrysostom reminds us that Christ "is not focusing simply on the outward act done but the inward intent" ( Homilies on the Gospel of Saint Matthew, 19.2). Just as under the old covenant (Deut. 15:11), Jesus assumes we will give to the poor, and this must be done in hopes for a reward from God, not from others (Matt. 6:4b). Let us do all we can to give our alms, but with the aim of caring so little for the praise of men that we are ourselves scarcely aware of our own generosity.

Coram deo: Living before the face of God

Augustine says, "The praise of others need not even be sought by one who acts rightly" (Sermon on the Mount, 2.2.5). Keeping track of our giving is not inconsistent with the Lord's admonition that we do not let our right hand know what the left one is doing. Yet we are not to keep track so that we may show others just how good we are. As you give your money to the poor, ask yourself if you desire the praise of men more than God's commendation.

For further study:

Ruth 3

The Bible in a year:

Deuteronomy 2-4

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

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The procession of sorrow

‘And they took Jesus, and led him away.’ John 19:16

Suggested Further Reading: John 15:18–21

I will not say it is because we are unfaithful to our Master that the world is more kind to us, but I half suspect it is, and it is very possible that if we were more thoroughly Christians the world would more heartily detest us, and if we would cleave more closely to Christ we might expect to receive more slander, more abuse, less tolerance, and less favour from men. You young believers, who have lately followed Christ, should father and mother forsake you, remember you were bidden to reckon upon it; should brothers and sisters deride, you must put this down as part of the cost of being a Christian. Godly working men, should your employers or your fellow-workers frown upon you; wives, should your husbands threaten to cast you out, remember, without the camp was Jesus’ place, and without the camp is yours. O you Christian men, who dream of trimming your sails to the wind, who seek to win the world’s favour, I do beseech you cease from a course so perilous. We are in the world, but we must never be of it; we are not to be secluded like monks in the cloister, but we are to be separated like Jews among Gentiles; men, but not of men; helping, aiding, befriending, teaching, comforting, instructing, but not sinning. The more manifestly there shall be a great gulf between the church and the world, the better shall it be for both; the better for the world, for it shall be thereby warned; the better for the church, for it shall be thereby preserved. Go then, like the Master, expecting to be abused, to wear an ill name, and to earn reproach; go, like him, without the camp.

For meditation: The doctrine that Christians can befriend and please both God and the world is not a biblical one (Galatians 1:10; James 4:4; 1 John 2:15 ). Are you trying to do the impossible?

Sermon no. 497
1 March (1863)

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Rahab’s faith

“By faith the harlot Rahab perished not with them that believed not, when she had received the spies with peace.” Hebrews 11:31

Suggested Further Reading: James 2:18-26

Rahab’s faith was a sanctifying faith. Did Rahab continue a harlot after she had faith? No, she did not. I do not believe she was a harlot at the time the men went to her house, though the name still stuck to her, as such ill names will; but I am sure she was not afterwards, for Salmon the prince of Judah married her, and her name is put down among the ancestors of our Lord Jesus Christ. She became after that a woman eminent for piety, walking in the fear of God. Now, you may have a dead faith which will ruin your soul. The faith that will save you is a faith which sanctifies. “Ah!” says the drunkard, “I like the gospel, sir; I believe in Christ:” then he will go over to the Blue Lion tonight, and get drunk. Sir, that is not the believing in Christ that is of any use. “Yes,” says another, “I believe in Christ;” and when he gets outside he will begin to talk lightly, frothy words, perhaps lascivious ones, and sin as before. Sir, you speak falsely; you do not believe in Christ. That faith which saves the soul is a real faith, and a real faith sanctifies men. It makes them say, “Lord, thou hast forgiven me my sins; I will sin no more. Thou hast been so merciful to me, I will renounce my guilt; so kindly hast thou treated me, so lovingly hast thou embraced me, Lord, I will serve thee till I die; and if thou wilt give me grace, and help me so to be, I will be as holy as thou art.” You cannot have faith, and yet live in sin. To believe is to be holy. The two things must go together. That faith is a dead faith, a corrupt faith, a rotten faith, which lives in sin that grace may abound. Rahab was a sanctified woman.

For meditation: Faith has to be seen to be believed (Joshua 2:17-21).

Sermon no. 119
1 March (1857)

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Can Jesus' Exorcisms Be Explained by Psychology?

Today's reading: Matthew 9:32-34

The Bible makes it clear that demons exist (see Deuteronomy 32:17; 1 Timothy 4:1; James 2:19), and even today we live in a society in which many people believe in angels. They know there are spiritual forces out there, and it's not too hard to conclude that some might be malevolent. Where you see God working, sometimes those forces are more active, and that's what was probably going on in Jesus' time.

On this topic psychologist Gary Collins says, "My friends in clinical work have said that sometimes they have seen this, and these are not people who are inclined to see a demon behind every problem. They tend to be skeptical. The psychiatrist M. Scott Peck wrote a bit about this kind of thing in his book People of the Lie.

"People who deny the existence of the supernatural will find some way, no matter how far-fetched, to explain a situation apart from the demonic," says Collins. "They'll keep giving medication, keep drugging the person, but he or she doesn't get better. There are cases that don't respond to normal medical or psychiatric treatment."

Some skeptics prefer to dismiss the supernatural and explain away Jesus' exorcisms as psychosomatic healings. To that Collins says, "Yes, that's possible in some cases, but again you have to look at the whole context. What about the man who was possessed and Jesus sent the demons into the pigs and the pigs ran off the cliff? What's going on if that was a psychosomatic situation? I think Jesus really did drive out demons, and I think some people do that today.

"At the same time, we shouldn't be too quick to jump to a demonic conclusion when faced with a recalcitrant problem. As C. S. Lewis put it, there are two equal and opposite errors we can fall into concerning demons: 'One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them. They themselves are equally pleased with both errors.'"

Our society today is caught up in "spirituality." That's a term that can mean almost anything, but it does recognize the supernatural. Twenty-five years ago the suggestion of demonic activity would have been immediately dismissed, but today many psychologists are beginning to recognize that maybe there are more things in heaven and on earth than our philosophies can account for.


Adapted from interview with Dr. Gary Collins.

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On the Campaign Trail

This week's reading: John 6:25-71

Recommended Reading: Jeremiah 23:9-40; 1 Corinthians 1:18-25; 2 Timothy 4:1-8

Jesus never ran for public office. Good thing, as he often violated the hidden rules for smooth-talking, get-along-with-everyone, slick politicians. In fact, some of the statements Jesus made would cause a campaign manager to pull out his hair in frustration.

Just imagine Jesus speaking on the campaign trail. "You have seen me and still you do not believe" (John 6:36). "This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled them" (John 6:65). "Very truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you" (John 6:53 ). None of these statements seem politically correct, do they? Certainly, none could serve as a catchy campaign slogan.

So why did Jesus say these things? Didn't he want people to follow him? Why would he deliberately say things to offend people and turn them away?

The simple conclusion seems to be that Jesus cared far more about the quality of his disciples than about their quantity. If he cared only about increasing the size of the crowds following him, he could easily have fed them more bread or performed more miracles. Or he could have toned down some of his "hard teaching" (John 6:60).

But Jesus already knew who didn't believe (see John 6:64). He knew that some of the people following him wanted only free food (see John 6:26) or a flashy sign from God (see John 6:30). Jesus didn't want preoccupied followers. He wanted disciples who would proclaim, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life" (John 6:68).

The same holds true today. Jesus wants us to follow him, but he still desires quality disciples. That level of commitment might mean living, saying and doing things that ruffle some feathers. As evangelist Billy Graham notes, "It is unnatural for Christianity to be popular."

To Take Away

  • Do you think of yourself as a "quality" follower of Jesus? Why or why not?
  • What "hard teachings" cause you to struggle with following Jesus?
  • What steps can you take to become a more devoted follower of Jesus?

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Day 9

Following the test in the wilderness, Jesus began his public ministry. John the Baptist continued to point to Jesus, claiming that everything God had promised centered on this one man. This was startling news to the religious elite, and John was asked to explain himself. Imagine skilled religious lawyers questioning this rough-hewn eccentric, a man without credentials or authorization. The interrogation began.

Now this was John’s testimony when the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem sent priests and Levites to ask him who he was. He did not fail to confess, but confessed freely, “I am not the Messiah.”

They asked him, “Then who are you? Are you Elijah?”

He said, “I am not.”

“Are you the Prophet?”

He answered, “No.”

Finally they said, “Who are you? Give us an answer to take back to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?”

John replied in the words of Isaiah the prophet, “I am the voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way for the Lord.’”

Now the Pharisees who had been sent questioned him, “Why then do you baptize if you are not the Messiah, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?”

“I baptize with water,” John replied, “but among you stands one you do not know. He is the one who comes after me, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie.”

This all happened at Bethany on the other side of the Jordan, where John was baptizing.

The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! This is the one I meant when I said, ‘A man who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’ I myself did not know him, but the reason I came baptizing with water was that he might be revealed to Israel.”

Then John gave this testimony: “I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on him. And I myself did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, ‘The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’ I have seen and I testify that this is God’s Chosen One.”

The next day John was there again with two of his disciples. When he saw Jesus passing by, he said, “Look, the Lamb of God!”

When the two disciples heard him say this, they followed Jesus. Turning around, Jesus saw them following and asked, “What do you want?”

They said, “Rabbi” (which means “Teacher”), “where are you staying?”

“Come,” he replied, “and you will see.”

So they went and saw where he was staying, and they spent that day with him. It was about four in the afternoon.

Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, was one of the two who heard what John had said and who had followed Jesus. The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him, “We have found the Messiah” (that is, the Christ). And he brought him to Jesus.

Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon son of John. You will be called Cephas” (which, when translated, is Peter).

The next day Jesus decided to leave for Galilee. Finding Philip, he said to him, “Follow me.”

Philip, like Andrew and Peter, was from the town of Bethsaida. Philip found Nathanael and told him, “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.”

“Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” Nathanael asked.

“Come and see,” said Philip.

When Jesus saw Nathanael approaching, he said of him, “Here truly is an Israelite in whom there is no deceit.”

“How do you know me?” Nathanael asked.

Jesus answered, “I saw you while you were still under the fig tree before Philip called you.”

Then Nathanael declared, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the king of Israel.”

Jesus said, “You believe because I told you I saw you under the fig tree. You will see greater things than that.” He then added, “Very truly I tell you, you will see ‘heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on’ the Son of Man.”

On the third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there, and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. When the wine was gone, Jesus’ mother said to him, “They have no more wine.”

“Woman, why do you involve me?” Jesus replied. “My hour has not yet come.”

His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”

Nearby stood six stone water jars, the kind used by the Jews for ceremonial washing, each holding from twenty to thirty gallons.

Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water”; so they filled them to the brim.

Then he told them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet.”

They did so, and the master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine. He did not realize where it had come from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew. Then he called the bridegroom aside and said, “Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now.”

What Jesus did here in Cana of Galilee was the first of the signs through which he revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.

How would you sum up the main message that Jesus had for the people that night?

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

View today's Lent reading on Bible Gateway
Divorce

1 When Jesus had finished saying these things, he left Galilee and went into the region of Judea to the other side of the Jordan. 2 Large crowds followed him, and he healed them there.

3 Some Pharisees came to him to test him. They asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?”

4 “Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ 5 and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? 6 So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”

7 “Why then,” they asked, “did Moses command that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away?”

8 Jesus replied, “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning. 9 I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.”

10 The disciples said to him, “If this is the situation between a husband and wife, it is better not to marry.”

11 Jesus replied, “Not everyone can accept this word, but only those to whom it has been given. 12 For there are eunuchs who were born that way, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by others—and there are those who choose to live like eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. The one who can accept this should accept it.”

The Little Children and Jesus

13 Then people brought little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them and pray for them. But the disciples rebuked them.

14 Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” 15 When he had placed his hands on them, he went on from there.

The Rich and the Kingdom of God

16 Just then a man came up to Jesus and asked, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?”

17 “Why do you ask me about what is good?” Jesus replied. “There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, keep the commandments.”

18 “Which ones?” he inquired.

Jesus replied, “‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony,19 honor your father and mother,’ and ‘love your neighbor as yourself.’”

20 “All these I have kept,” the young man said. “What do I still lack?”

21 Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

22 When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth.

23 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly I tell you, it is hard for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. 24Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”

25 When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and asked, “Who then can be saved?”

26 Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

27 Peter answered him, “We have left everything to follow you! What then will there be for us?”

28 Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. 29 And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life. 30 But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first.

Matthew 20

The Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard

1 “For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire workers for his vineyard. 2 He agreed to pay them a denarius for the day and sent them into his vineyard.

3 “About nine in the morning he went out and saw others standing in the marketplace doing nothing. 4 He told them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.’ 5 So they went.

“He went out again about noon and about three in the afternoon and did the same thing. 6 About five in the afternoon he went out and found still others standing around. He asked them, ‘Why have you been standing here all day long doing nothing?’

7 “‘Because no one has hired us,’ they answered.

“He said to them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard.’

8 “When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the workers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last ones hired and going on to the first.’

9 “The workers who were hired about five in the afternoon came and each received a denarius. 10 So when those came who were hired first, they expected to receive more. But each one of them also received a denarius. 11 When they received it, they began to grumble against the landowner. 12 ‘These who were hired last worked only one hour,’ they said, ‘and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the work and the heat of the day.’

13 “But he answered one of them, ‘I am not being unfair to you, friend. Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius? 14 Take your pay and go. I want to give the one who was hired last the same as I gave you. 15 Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?’

16 “So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”

Jesus Predicts His Death a Third Time

17 Now Jesus was going up to Jerusalem. On the way, he took the Twelve aside and said to them, 18 “We are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death 19 and will hand him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified. On the third day he will be raised to life!”

A Mother’s Request

20 Then the mother of Zebedee’s sons came to Jesus with her sons and, kneeling down, asked a favor of him.

21 “What is it you want?” he asked.

She said, “Grant that one of these two sons of mine may sit at your right and the other at your left in your kingdom.”

22 “You don’t know what you are asking,” Jesus said to them. “Can you drink the cup I am going to drink?”

“We can,” they answered.

23 Jesus said to them, “You will indeed drink from my cup, but to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant. These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared by my Father.”

24 When the ten heard about this, they were indignant with the two brothers. 25 Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. 26 Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— 28 just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Two Blind Men Receive Sight

29 As Jesus and his disciples were leaving Jericho, a large crowd followed him. 30 Two blind men were sitting by the roadside, and when they heard that Jesus was going by, they shouted, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us!”

31 The crowd rebuked them and told them to be quiet, but they shouted all the louder, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us!”

32 Jesus stopped and called them. “What do you want me to do for you?” he asked.

33 “Lord,” they answered, “we want our sight.”

34 Jesus had compassion on them and touched their eyes. Immediately they received their sight and followed him.


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