Thursday, March 15, 2012

Daily Devotional Thursday 15th March

“For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” 2 Peter 1:5-8 NIV
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Morning and Evening by Charles Spurgeon

Morning

"Be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus."
2 Timothy 2:1

Christ has grace without measure in himself, but he hath not retained it for himself. As the reservoir empties itself into the pipes, so hath Christ emptied out his grace for his people. "Of his fulness have all we received, and grace for grace." He seems only to have in order to dispense to us. He stands like the fountain, always flowing, but only running in order to supply the empty pitchers and the thirsty lips which draw nigh unto it. Like a tree, he bears sweet fruit, not to hang on boughs, but to be gathered by those who need. Grace, whether its work be to pardon, to cleanse, to preserve, to strengthen, to enlighten, to quicken, or to restore, is ever to be had from him freely and without price; nor is there one form of the work of grace which he has not bestowed upon his people. As the blood of the body, though flowing from the heart, belongs equally to every member, so the influences of grace are the inheritance of every saint united to the Lamb; and herein there is a sweet communion between Christ and his Church, inasmuch as they both receive the same grace. Christ is the head upon which the oil is first poured; but the same oil runs to the very skirts of the garments, so that the meanest saint has an unction of the same costly moisture as that which fell upon the head. This is true communion when the sap of grace flows from the stem to the branch, and when it is perceived that the stem itself is sustained by the very nourishment which feeds the branch. As we day by day receive grace from Jesus, and more constantly recognize it as coming from him, we shall behold him in communion with us, and enjoy the felicity of communion with him. Let us make daily use of our riches, and ever repair to him as to our own Lord in covenant, taking from him the supply of all we need with as much boldness as men take money from their own purse.

Evening

"He did it with all his heart and prospered."
2 Chronicles 31:21

This is no unusual occurrence; it is the general rule of the moral universe that those men prosper who do their work with all their hearts, while those are almost certain to fail who go to their labour leaving half their hearts behind them. God does not give harvests to idle men except harvests of thistles, nor is he pleased to send wealth to those who will not dig in the field to find its hid treasure. It is universally confessed that if a man would prosper, he must be diligent in business. It is the same in religion as it is in other things. If you would prosper in your work for Jesus, let it be heart work, and let it be done with all your heart. Put as much force, energy, heartiness, and earnestness into religion as ever you do into business, for it deserves far more. The Holy Spirit helps our infirmities, but he does not encourage our idleness; he loves active believers. Who are the most useful men in the Christian church? The men who do what they undertake for God with all their hearts. Who are the most successful Sabbath-school teachers? The most talented? No; the most zealous; the men whose hearts are on fire, those are the men who see their Lord riding forth prosperously in the majesty of his salvation. Whole-heartedness shows itself in perseverance; there may be failure at first, but the earnest worker will say, "It is the Lord's work, and it must be done; my Lord has bidden me do it, and in his strength I will accomplish it." Christian, art thou thus "with all thine heart" serving thy Master? Remember the earnestness of Jesus! Think what heart-work was his! He could say, "The zeal of thine house hath eaten me up." When he sweat great drops of blood, it was no light burden he had to carry upon those blessed shoulders; and when he poured out his heart, it was no weak effort he was making for the salvation of his people. Was Jesus in earnest, and are we lukewarm?

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Today's reading: Deuteronomy 22-24, Mark 14:1-26 (NIV)

View today's reading on Bible Gateway

1 If you see your fellow Israelite’s ox or sheep straying, do not ignore it but be sure to take it back to its owner. 2 If they do not live near you or if you do not know who owns it, take it home with you and keep it until they come looking for it. Then give it back. 3 Do the same if you find their donkey or cloak or anything else they have lost. Do not ignore it.

4 If you see your fellow Israelite’s donkey or ox fallen on the road, do not ignore it. Help the owner get it to its feet.

5 A woman must not wear men’s clothing, nor a man wear women’s clothing, for the LORD your God detests anyone who does this.

6 If you come across a bird’s nest beside the road, either in a tree or on the ground, and the mother is sitting on the young or on the eggs, do not take the mother with the young. 7 You may take the young, but be sure to let the mother go, so that it may go well with you and you may have a long life.

8 When you build a new house, make a parapet around your roof so that you may not bring the guilt of bloodshed on your house if someone falls from the roof.

9 Do not plant two kinds of seed in your vineyard; if you do, not only the crops you plant but also the fruit of the vineyard will be defiled.

10 Do not plow with an ox and a donkey yoked together.

11 Do not wear clothes of wool and linen woven together.

12 Make tassels on the four corners of the cloak you wear.

Marriage Violations

13 If a man takes a wife and, after sleeping with her, dislikes her 14 and slanders her and gives her a bad name, saying, “I married this woman, but when I approached her, I did not find proof of her virginity,” 15 then the young woman’s father and mother shall bring to the town elders at the gate proof that she was a virgin. 16 Her father will say to the elders, “I gave my daughter in marriage to this man, but he dislikes her. 17 Now he has slandered her and said, ‘I did not find your daughter to be a virgin.’ But here is the proof of my daughter’s virginity.” Then her parents shall display the cloth before the elders of the town,18 and the elders shall take the man and punish him. 19 They shall fine him a hundred shekels of silver and give them to the young woman’s father, because this man has given an Israelite virgin a bad name. She shall continue to be his wife; he must not divorce her as long as he lives.

20 If, however, the charge is true and no proof of the young woman’s virginity can be found, 21 she shall be brought to the door of her father’s house and there the men of her town shall stone her to death. She has done an outrageous thing in Israel by being promiscuous while still in her father’s house. You must purge the evil from among you.

22 If a man is found sleeping with another man’s wife, both the man who slept with her and the woman must die. You must purge the evil from Israel.

23 If a man happens to meet in a town a virgin pledged to be married and he sleeps with her, 24 you shall take both of them to the gate of that town and stone them to death—the young woman because she was in a town and did not scream for help, and the man because he violated another man’s wife. You must purge the evil from among you.

25 But if out in the country a man happens to meet a young woman pledged to be married and rapes her, only the man who has done this shall die. 26 Do nothing to the woman; she has committed no sin deserving death. This case is like that of someone who attacks and murders a neighbor, 27 for the man found the young woman out in the country, and though the betrothed woman screamed, there was no one to rescue her.

28 If a man happens to meet a virgin who is not pledged to be married and rapes her and they are discovered, 29 he shall pay her father fifty shekels of silver. He must marry the young woman, for he has violated her. He can never divorce her as long as he lives.

30 A man is not to marry his father’s wife; he must not dishonor his father’s bed.

Deuteronomy 23

Exclusion From the Assembly

1 No one who has been emasculated by crushing or cutting may enter the assembly of the LORD.

2 No one born of a forbidden marriage nor any of their descendants may enter the assembly of the LORD, not even in the tenth generation.

3 No Ammonite or Moabite or any of their descendants may enter the assembly of the LORD, not even in the tenth generation. 4 For they did not come to meet you with bread and water on your way when you came out of Egypt, and they hired Balaam son of Beor from Pethor in Aram Naharaim to pronounce a curse on you. 5 However, the LORD your God would not listen to Balaam but turned the curse into a blessing for you, because the LORD your God loves you. 6 Do not seek a treaty of friendship with them as long as you live.

7 Do not despise an Edomite, for the Edomites are related to you. Do not despise an Egyptian, because you resided as foreigners in their country. 8 The third generation of children born to them may enter the assembly of the LORD.

Uncleanness in the Camp

9 When you are encamped against your enemies, keep away from everything impure. 10 If one of your men is unclean because of a nocturnal emission, he is to go outside the camp and stay there. 11 But as evening approaches he is to wash himself, and at sunset he may return to the camp.

12 Designate a place outside the camp where you can go to relieve yourself. 13 As part of your equipment have something to dig with, and when you relieve yourself, dig a hole and cover up your excrement. 14 For the LORD your God moves about in your camp to protect you and to deliver your enemies to you. Your camp must be holy, so that he will not see among you anything indecent and turn away from you.

Miscellaneous Laws

15 If a slave has taken refuge with you, do not hand them over to their master. 16 Let them live among you wherever they like and in whatever town they choose. Do not oppress them.

17 No Israelite man or woman is to become a shrine prostitute. 18 You must not bring the earnings of a female prostitute or of a male prostitute into the house of the LORD your God to pay any vow, because the LORD your God detests them both.

19 Do not charge a fellow Israelite interest, whether on money or food or anything else that may earn interest. 20 You may charge a foreigner interest, but not a fellow Israelite, so that the LORD your God may bless you in everything you put your hand to in the land you are entering to possess.

21 If you make a vow to the LORD your God, do not be slow to pay it, for the LORD your God will certainly demand it of you and you will be guilty of sin. 22 But if you refrain from making a vow, you will not be guilty. 23 Whatever your lips utter you must be sure to do, because you made your vow freely to the LORD your God with your own mouth.

24 If you enter your neighbor’s vineyard, you may eat all the grapes you want, but do not put any in your basket. 25 If you enter your neighbor’s grainfield, you may pick kernels with your hands, but you must not put a sickle to their standing grain.

Deuteronomy 24

1 If a man marries a woman who becomes displeasing to him because he finds something indecent about her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce, gives it to her and sends her from his house, 2 and if after she leaves his house she becomes the wife of another man, 3 and her second husband dislikes her and writes her a certificate of divorce, gives it to her and sends her from his house, or if he dies, 4 then her first husband, who divorced her, is not allowed to marry her again after she has been defiled. That would be detestable in the eyes of the LORD. Do not bring sin upon the land the LORD your God is giving you as an inheritance.

5 If a man has recently married, he must not be sent to war or have any other duty laid on him. For one year he is to be free to stay at home and bring happiness to the wife he has married.

6 Do not take a pair of millstones—not even the upper one—as security for a debt, because that would be taking a person’s livelihood as security.

7 If someone is caught kidnapping a fellow Israelite and treating or selling them as a slave, the kidnapper must die. You must purge the evil from among you.

8 In cases of defiling skin diseases, be very careful to do exactly as the Levitical priests instruct you. You must follow carefully what I have commanded them. 9 Remember what the LORD your God did to Miriam along the way after you came out of Egypt.

10 When you make a loan of any kind to your neighbor, do not go into their house to get what is offered to you as a pledge. 11 Stay outside and let the neighbor to whom you are making the loan bring the pledge out to you. 12 If the neighbor is poor, do not go to sleep with their pledge in your possession.13 Return their cloak by sunset so that your neighbor may sleep in it. Then they will thank you, and it will be regarded as a righteous act in the sight of the LORD your God.

14 Do not take advantage of a hired worker who is poor and needy, whether that worker is a fellow Israelite or a foreigner residing in one of your towns. 15 Pay them their wages each day before sunset, because they are poor and are counting on it. Otherwise they may cry to the LORD against you, and you will be guilty of sin.

16 Parents are not to be put to death for their children, nor children put to death for their parents; each will die for their own sin.

17 Do not deprive the foreigner or the fatherless of justice, or take the cloak of the widow as a pledge. 18 Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and the LORD your God redeemed you from there. That is why I command you to do this.

19 When you are harvesting in your field and you overlook a sheaf, do not go back to get it. Leave it for the foreigner, the fatherless and the widow, so that the LORD your God may bless you in all the work of your hands. 20 When you beat the olives from your trees, do not go over the branches a second time. Leave what remains for the foreigner, the fatherless and the widow. 21 When you harvest the grapes in your vineyard, do not go over the vines again. Leave what remains for the foreigner, the fatherless and the widow. 22 Remember that you were slaves in Egypt. That is why I command you to do this.


Mark 14

Jesus Anointed at Bethany

1 Now the Passover and the Festival of Unleavened Bread were only two days away, and the chief priests and the teachers of the law were scheming to arrest Jesus secretly and kill him. 2 “But not during the festival,” they said, “or the people may riot.”

3 While he was in Bethany, reclining at the table in the home of Simon the Leper, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, made of pure nard. She broke the jar and poured the perfume on his head.

4 Some of those present were saying indignantly to one another, “Why this waste of perfume? 5 It could have been sold for more than a year’s wages and the money given to the poor.” And they rebuked her harshly.

6 “Leave her alone,” said Jesus. “Why are you bothering her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. 7 The poor you will always have with you, and you can help them any time you want. But you will not always have me. 8 She did what she could. She poured perfume on my body beforehand to prepare for my burial. 9 Truly I tell you, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.”

10 Then Judas Iscariot, one of the Twelve, went to the chief priests to betray Jesus to them. 11 They were delighted to hear this and promised to give him money. So he watched for an opportunity to hand him over.

The Last Supper

12 On the first day of the Festival of Unleavened Bread, when it was customary to sacrifice the Passover lamb, Jesus’ disciples asked him, “Where do you want us to go and make preparations for you to eat the Passover?”

13 So he sent two of his disciples, telling them, “Go into the city, and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him. 14 Say to the owner of the house he enters, ‘The Teacher asks: Where is my guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ 15 He will show you a large room upstairs, furnished and ready. Make preparations for us there.”

16 The disciples left, went into the city and found things just as Jesus had told them. So they prepared the Passover.

17 When evening came, Jesus arrived with the Twelve. 18While they were reclining at the table eating, he said, “Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me—one who is eating with me.”

19 They were saddened, and one by one they said to him, “Surely you don’t mean me?”

20 “It is one of the Twelve,” he replied, “one who dips bread into the bowl with me. 21 The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him. But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born.”

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

23 Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, and they all drank from it.

24 “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many,” he said to them. 25 “Truly I tell you, I will not drink again from the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.”

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

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Gog [Gŏg]—a roof or a mountain.
  1. A Reubenite, and grandson of Joel (1 Chron. 5:4).
  2. A prince of Rosh, Meshech and Tubal, and not the mystic character of Revelation 20:8-15. Who is this dominant figure Ezekiel pictures as leading a great host of Northern nations against Israel? Ezekiel 38:2, 3, 14, 16,18; 39:1, 11 are passages to be closely studied.

The Man of the Future

Gog is mentioned as the son of Shemaiah, in the line of Reuben, as above. Here in Ezekiel Gog appears as the chief prince of Meshech and Tubal, and is foretold as being defeated and five-sixths of his army destroyed as he comes up from “the north parts” and invades “the mountains of Israel.”

There are those who affirm that Gog merely represents a title of royal dignity, similar to the Egyptian word Pharaoh. It has also been suggested that as Ezekiel represents Gog as being accompanied in his invasion of the land of Israel by the Persians, Ethiopians, Libyans and others, that the term may be a general designation for all the enemies of Israel. Those who hold this theory find confirmation for it in Revelation 20:8-10 where Gog and Magog are linked together as if they were persons who seem to symbolize all the future foes of Israel. This may be the reason why various writers in the seventh century identified Gog with the Antichrist.

Historically , Gog may have been an actual ruler of a non-Semitic nation over against the north of Palestine and Asia Minor, Armenia, Syria or Scythia.

Prophetically, Gog is to be the chief prince, the fearsome force in the great Northern Confederacy in which Russia will play a prominent part.

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Micca Campbell

March 14, 2012

A Hope to Hold Onto
Micca Monda Campbell

"Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God." Psalm 42:11 (NIV 1984)

My husband is a bookkeeper for an industry that's been greatly affected by the economy. Every evening when Pat walks through our back door, I see worry across his brow and the weight of responsibility on his shoulders.

He's consumed with "what ifs." What if the company goes down? What if he can't find another job? What if he has to pull our children out of college, or sell the car or our home? Each month, as Pat closes the books, he grows deeper in despair. Sadly, he's not alone.

People everywhere are in crises. In the midst of massive layoffs, foreclosures and bank failures, many are losing hope. It's easy to give in to worry-for my husband, for me ... for you?

Hard times have not only shaken my hope, but they've allowed me to see I often misplace my hope. Sometimes, I experience disappointment because I have put my hope in material things, in money, a job and even in success.

But the apostle Paul had a different claim, "Hope in Christ does not disappoint."

That's good advice from a man who had many reasons to despair throughout his life. He often found himself hungry, naked, shipwrecked, beaten and imprisoned. Instead of losing all hope, Paul preached to his soul, like the Psalmist did in our key verse. They both chose to put hope in God alone. No matter the outcome, Paul was not disappointed.

In our lives, we may lose hope, but the God of all hope has not lost us. That's when it's especially important to cling tightly to the truth of 2 Corinthians 4:8, "We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair" (NIV 1984).

While trouble may surround us, we are not alone. When we feel hedged in by doubt, we can remember we have a Helper, Who is our great support. God is our hope. We don't have to be perplexed, uncertain or concerned about our future. He has promised to deliver us.

We experience deliverance from hopelessness by remembering Christ's counsel. "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" (John 16:33 NIV 1984). Jesus is saying that financial trouble will come, health will falter, children may rebel, and loved ones will die ... but He has overcome it all. Christ is bigger than any trouble you and I face.

Pat and I are learning to give up the illusion of a trouble-free life. In this fallen world, it's just not possible. Desiring a life unmarked by pain and problems is misplaced hope. God never promised we'd be happy and healthy. No. He promised if we would trust Him in the midst of adverse circumstances, we would not be disappointed. That, my friend, is a hope we can hold on to.

Dear Lord, I'm finished and done with putting my hope in people, things, and position. Today, I'm putting my hope in You alone. Even if my circumstances don't change, I will trust You to fill me with Your peace and provide the strength I need to make it. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
This devotion is from Micca's women's conference entitled, A Hope to Hold Onto. Click here if you'd like to find out more about bringing this message to your event.

An Untroubled Heart: Finding Faith that is Stronger than My Fears by Micca Campbell

Click here to sign up for a new online study of Micca's book, An Untroubled Heart, beginning March 25th with Melissa Taylor.

Visit Micca's blog for a chance to win a copy of her book,An Untroubled Heart.

Reflect and Respond:
Stop wishing and start expecting. To hope in the Lord is not like wishing for something. It's an expectation-something you can count on. In other words, we canexpect God, in His timing, to make good on His promises to us.

Has misplaced hope been a disappointment or benefit to you? What does God promise if you put your hope in Him?

Power Verses:
Romans 5:5, "And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us." (NIV 1984)

Psalm 119:116, "Sustain me according to your promise, and I will live; do not let my hopes be dashed." (NIV 1984)

© 2012 by Micca Campbell. All rights reserved.

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

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March 14, 2012
How to Avoid Bankruptcy
Mary Southerland

Today's Truth
Proverbs 25:28 "Like a city whose walls are broken down is a man who lacks self-control" (NIV).

Friend To Friend
It is not enough to acknowledge the presence of negative emotions or even understand why they exist. We must take action. If we don't, negative emotions will take control, a dangerous proposition for any woman. We must not only be able to manage negative emotions in our own lives, we must be able to react correctly to negative emotions produced by the sometimes abrasive behavior of those we call family and friend. The seeker watches carefully, curious to see what happens when the pressure is on.

So many women are imprisoned by feelings of inferiority and the results are always disastrous. Constructive criticism is perceived as an emotional attack. Jealousy burgeons as others receive the accolades we desperately crave. Decisions are made and a course of life is determined so that fragile egos are fed, excluding God's plan and purpose. Comparison reigns as a false idol attempting to validate worth and success. Inferiority crosses over to pride and sin reigns.

On the other hand, we can put negative emotions to work in our lives. Every woman knows that emotions can be like runaway horses. You are trampled by a friend with a hidden agenda, kicked in the gut by a family member, thrown by the lies of a trusted co-worker or crushed by a lack of integrity and character in those in authority over you. Emotions can easily stampede out of control and into sin.

The success of emotional integrity lies in the one who holds the reins. We must constantly choose to surrender every emotion to the supernatural control of God because when we do, the Holy Spirit empowers that choice, produces control and transforms emotional bondage into emotional freedom. Learning to control anger is a crucial life lesson and one that we need to master.

The people around us want to see what happens when life pushes our buttons or squeezes our emotions. While God created us with the capacity for emotions, it is our responsibility to control them instead of allowing them to control us. When Jesus saw money-changers desecrating the temple of God, He was furious! Yet, He modeled the right way to harness emotions and use them for good. I have heard many Bible teachers and preachers attempt to soften the response of Jesus, but the truth is - He was irate! I can almost see His face shrouded in plain old fury as He contemplated His options. If I had been in His place, I can tell you that those wicked men would have been toast! But before Jesus faced the intruders, He stepped aside to braid a whip - not because He had completed "Whip Braiding 101", but because He was taking the time to harness His emotions. Jesus then used that harnessed anger to drive the money-changers out of the temple, correcting a wrong. We choose where to invest every ounce of emotional energy we possess. Like Jesus, we must learn to invest wisely, in order to reap the benefits of healthy emotions, harnessed and trained by godly discipline.

Emotional bankruptcy is too often responsible for the destruction of a life. We must intentionally monitor emotional withdrawals and the impact they will have on our lives. There are certainly emotional withdrawals that are good, right and ordained by God. I will never forget the night we found a broken and defeated young pastor standing at our front door. With tears streaming down his face, John told us that his wife was having an affair and wanted a divorce. Certain that his ministry was doomed, this precious and gifted servant poured out his pain and defeat. For months, Dan and I ministered to this stellar young man, loving him, encouraging him, making him part of our family while he tried desperately to save his marriage.

When it became clear that his wife was determined to leave him, we repeatedly assured John that God would once again use him for Kingdom work. Today, that once broken young man is married to a beautiful, godly woman who adores him and has two incredible children. The church he now pastors is exploding in growth, changing lives and impacting the world for Jesus Christ! The time and energy we poured into David was a worthy emotional investment, to say the least, and one of our greatest blessings in ministry.

However, some emotional deposits are not good, right, healthy or God-ordained! Life is jam-packed with lifeless places in which to invest emotional energy. There are those who look to us to be their faithful savior or always available crisis manager. That job belongs to God alone!

We all know about bounced checks. For the life of me, I cannot figure out why banks don't adopt my obviously superior philosophy about checking accounts. It goes something like this, "As long as there are checks, there is money." Sadly, my current bank is rather narrow-minded in this area, so the reality is that my checks will bounce when our bank account is overdrawn and out of balance. The same is true in life.

We constantly need to check our emotional balance, guarding the emotional withdrawals we allow and diligently making consistent emotional deposits. Prayer, solitude, Bible study, friendships, service, accountability and a guarded thought life are just a few of the deposits that can make the difference between emotional health and emotional bankruptcy. Emotional imbalance occurs when we operate in our own strength, doing our "own thing" instead of wholly depending upon God and living in the parameters of His will. When we abandon all that we are to His strength, purpose and power, the Father deposits everything we need to accomplish every good work He created us to do.

Let's Pray
Father, I praise You for giving me the gift of emotions. Help me learn how to manage and control those emotions so that they are assets instead of liabilities. I want to become a godly woman of discipline but I can't even start that journey without your power. I choose to spend time in Your Word and in prayer. I submit my emotions to You and ask that You use them in my life for Your glory. And may others see and know You are God.
In Jesus' name,
Amen.

Now it's Your Turn
Take a few minutes to make a list of the top five emotional responses common in your life. What one of these emotions do you experience the most?

Beside each emotion, write one habit you can incorporate into your life that will enable you to control that emotion.

Identify the activities, relationships or habits that drain you instead of replenish you. Eliminate those that are negative.

Keep an emotional diary for 5 days. Record any emotional outbursts and the reason behind those outbursts. Surrender each emotion to the power of God.

  1. More from the Girlfriends

Since God created us with the capacity for emotions, He has a plan for those emotions. And since God never guides where He cannot provide, our emotional integrity is dependent on our obedience to God's plan. Sounds simple, doesn't it? Not! The best way to be ready for emotional struggles is to get ready and stay that way. Make the choice before you have to. And know we are right there with you … walking the same path in pursuit of emotional integrity.

Need help? Check out Mary's MP3, Getting Good at Being You and learn how to manage emotions, instead of allowing them to manage you.

Join other women across the world in Mary's Online Bible Study, Light for the Journey. When I Am Afraid is the current series and will help you learn how to face and deal with your fears.

Need a friend? Connect with Mary on Face book or through email. She loves hearing what God is doing in your life!

And if you don't have our new book, Trusting God, get it today and start a new faith adventure in your life.


Seeking God?
Click here to find out more about
how to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

G.I.G.
Girlfriends in God, Inc.
P.O. Box 725
Matthews, North Carolina 28106

www.girlfriendsingod.com

info@girlfriendsingod.com

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A Narrow Gate; a Hard Way

Matthew 7:13-14 "For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few" (v. 14).

Good preachers typically offer an application of the content they have delivered in their sermons. Often, an exhortation is given and the congregation is called to make a decision based on what they have heard. People need to be encouraged to act after God's Word has been delivered. Once we have heard what the Lord demands of us, we will be held responsible if we do not obey.

Pastors follow the model of Jesus at the conclusion of the Sermon on the Mount when they call upon their flocks to make a decision. In today's passage, our Savior makes final application of all that He has said in Matthew 5:1-7:12. Now that we know what He demands of us, we must choose to follow Him. Ultimately, 7:13-27 shows us we have only two options. We will either follow Christ wholeheartedly or we will go down the path of destruction. There can be no half-hearted commitment to Jesus; if we are not on the narrow road of discipleship, then we are on the wide road to eternal damnation ( vv. 13-14).

This call to decide does not mean we are able to choose the right path before we become Christians. Salvation is by grace through faith, a gift to God's people chosen from the foundation of the world (Eph. 2:8-9). However, those whom the Father transforms by grace inevitably choose to serve Christ. Good works, including our confession of Jesus and our obedience to His commands, follow necessarily from a changed heart ( v. 10). Moreover, we still need this grace even after it first sets us on the true way of Christ in our conversion. We must daily turn to the cross and seek Christ in order that we might finish the race. Our Creator gives more grace to all who humble themselves, admit their weaknesses, and ask for strength (James 4:6-10 ). As Matthew Henry writes: "We can neither go in, or go on, without the assistance of divine grace; but it is as true that grace is freely offered, and shall not be lacking to those who seek it and submit to it."

Our Lord echoes the great prophets and leaders of Israel when He calls us to choose the narrow path of godliness (for example, Josh. 24:14-15). Lest we apostatize as the nation of Israel did, let us commit ourselves each day, by His grace and Spirit, to live out the kingdom ethic as Jesus has commanded.

Coram deo: Living before the face of God

Matthew Henry summarizes Jesus' teaching in today's passage: "We must endure hardship, must wrestle and be in agony, must watch in all things, and walk with care and circumspection. We must go through much tribulation." Christ's way is narrow and we dare not pretend otherwise. As we share the Gospel, let us tell people that following Jesus means we abandon our agenda for His. Following Him means a reorientation of life, one that might make others hate us.

For further study:

Deut. 30:11-20

The Bible in a year:

Joshua 3-4

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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The solar eclipse

“I form the light, and create darkness.” Isaiah 45:7

Suggested Further Reading: Ecclesiastes 1:1-10

Since God has made the ecliptic, or the circle, the great rule of nature, it is impossible but that eclipses should occur. Now, did you ever notice that in providence the circle is God’s rule still. The earth is here to-day; it will be in the same place this day next year; it will go round the circle; it gets no further. It is just so in providence. God began the circle of his providence in Eden. That is where he will end. There was a paradise on earth, when God began his providential dealings with mankind; there will be a paradise at the end. It is the same with your providence. Naked you came forth from your mother’s womb, and naked you must return to the earth. It is a circle. Where God has begun, there will he end; and as God has taken the rule of the circle in providence, as well as in nature, eclipses must be sure to occur. Moving in the predestined orbit of divine wisdom, the eclipse is absolutely and imperatively necessary in God’s plan of government. Troubles must come; afflictions must befall; it must needs be that for a season you should be in heaviness, through manifold temptations. But I have said, that eclipses must also occur in grace, and it is so. God’s rule in grace is still the circle. Man was originally pure and holy; that is what God’s grace will make him at last. He was pure when he was made by God in the garden. That is what God shall make him, when he comes to fashion him like unto his own glorious image, and present him complete in heaven. We begin our piety by denying the world, by being full of love to God; we often decline in grace, and God will bring us back to the state in which we were when we first began.

For meditation: This sermon was occasioned by the anticipation of the solar eclipse on the following day. Meditate on the significance of the most important solar eclipse in all history. Remember this was not an astronomical eclipse, since it occurred at Passover—full moon (Luke 23:44-46)!

Sermon no. 183
14 March (1858)

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A Narrow Gate; a Hard Way

Matthew 7:13-14

Matthew Henry summarizes Jesus' teaching in today's passage: "We must endure hardship, must wrestle and be in agony, must watch in all things, and walk with care and circumspection. We must go through much tribulation." Christ's way is narrow and we dare not pretend otherwise. As we share the Gospel, let us tell people that following Jesus means we abandon our agenda for His. Following Him means a reorientation of life, one that might make others hate us.

For further study:

Deut. 30:11-20

The Bible in a year:

Joshua 3-4

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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Present privilege and future favour

‘The eternal God is thy refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms: and he shall thrust out the enemy from before thee; and shall say, Destroy them.’ Deuteronomy 33:27

Suggested Further Reading: Hebrews 13:8,20–21

I wish you to notice those two words which are the pith of the text. ‘The eternal God,’ ‘everlasting arms.’ The eternal God.’ Here is antiquity. The God who was before all worlds is for ever my God. O how I love that word ‘eternal;’ but, brethren and sisters, there are some people who do not believe in an eternalGod, at any rate they do not believe in him as being theirs eternally. They do not believe that they belonged to Christ before they were born; they have a notion that they only had God to be theirs when they believed on him for the first time. They do not believe in covenant settlements, and eternal decrees, and the ancient purposes of the Most High; but let me say that for comfort, there is no thought more full of sweetness than that of an eternal God engaged in Christ Jesus to his people; to love, and bless, and save them all. One who has made them the distinguished objects of his discriminating regard from all eternity, it is the eternal God. And then there are the ‘everlasting arms,’ arms that will never flag, arms that will never grow weary, arms that will never lose their strength. Then put the two words ‘eternal’ and ‘everlasting’ together, and they remind us of another sweet word—unchangeability. An everlasting God that faints not, neither is weary, that changes not, and turns not from his promise, such is the God we delight to adore and to use as our eternal shelter, our dwelling-place, and our support.

For meditation: Each person of the Trinity is eternal; it should be no surprise that the eternal God has secured an eternal salvation for all who believe ( 1 Timothy 1:16–17; Hebrews 9:12,14–15; 13:8,20). Knowing the eternal God is life eternal (John 17:3). What right have we to question this?

Sermon no. 624
14 March (Preached 22 March 1865)

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Appointment with Destiny: Betrayal in a quiet garden

Today's reading: Matthew 26

Matthew 26:39 "My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will."

In a stroke of bitter irony, the intimate scene of the Last Supper butts up against the brutal scene of betrayal in Gethsemane. The ordeal begins with Jesus praying in a quiet, cool grove of olive trees, with three of his disciples waiting sleepily outside. Inside the garden, all is peaceful; outside, the forces of hell are on the loose.

An armed mob makes its way toward the garden to seize and torture Jesus. He feels afraid and abandoned. Lying facedown on the ground, he prays for some way out. The future of the human race-more, the universe-comes down to this one weeping figure whose "sweat [is] like drops of blood falling to the ground" (Luke 22:44).

Blustery Peter is prepared to fight evil in the traditional way-by force. When he hacks off a guard's ear, however, Jesus stops the violence and performs, notably, his final miracle: He heals the guard (see Luke 22:50-51).

No Rescue Plan

Although Jesus has the power to defend himself-he could dispatch squadrons of angels to fight his battles-he will not use it. When the disciples realize that they can expect no last-minute rescue operations from the invisible world, they all flee. Fear extinguishes their last flicker of hope. If Jesus will not protect himself, how will he protect them?

Matthew's account of what transpires in Gethsemane and before the Sanhedrin shows that, in an odd inversion, the "victim" dominates all that takes place. Jesus-not Judas, not the mob and not the high priest-acts like the one truly in control. "Are you then the Son of God?" the chief priests demand. Jesus finally answers, simply, "You say that I am" (Luke 22:70).

That single admission condemns Jesus to death, for the members of the Sanhedrin have a different expectation of the Messiah. They want a conqueror to set them free by force. Jesus knows that only one thing-his death-will truly set them free. For that reason he has come to Earth.

Life Question

How would you respond if your life were threatened because you were a follower of Christ?

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At Issue - Stress

Psalms 46:1-3, 10

Things in life often fall apart all at once. Name your crisis du jour. You have a bitter fight with your husband or boyfriend-and it seems as if a piece of your secure life falls at your feet. Layoffs threaten your job-another chunk drops. Your single mom breaks her hip-yet another piece falls. When life is crashing down around you, do you work even harder to hold it together? Try a different approach: Be still. Find comfort and strength in God, and stop trying so hard to fix everything. No matter how many pieces fall, you will have God's inner peace.

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Day 22

Jesus and his disciples went on to the villages around Caesarea Philippi. On the way he asked them, “Who do people say I am?”

They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.”

“But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”

Peter answered, “You are the Messiah.”

Jesus warned them not to tell anyone about him.

He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again. He spoke plainly about this, and Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him.

But when Jesus turned and looked at his disciples, he rebuked Peter. “Get behind me, Satan!” he said. “You do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.”

Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.”

After six days Jesus took with him Peter, James and John the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light.

Two men, Moses and Elijah, appeared in glorious splendor, talking with Jesus. They spoke about his departure, which he was about to bring to fulfillment at Jerusalem.

Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” (He did not know what to say, they were so frightened.)

While he was still speaking, a bright cloud covered them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!”

When the disciples heard this, they fell facedown to the ground, terrified. But Jesus came and touched them. “Get up,” he said. “Don’t be afraid.” When they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus.

As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus gave them orders not to tell anyone what they had seen until the Son of Man had risen from the dead. They kept the matter to themselves, discussing what “rising from the dead” meant.

When they came to the other disciples, they saw a large crowd around them and the teachers of the law arguing with them. As soon as all the people saw Jesus, they were overwhelmed with wonder and ran to greet him.

They left that place and passed through Galilee. Jesus did not want anyone to know where they were, because he was teaching his disciples. He said to them, “The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men. They will kill him, and after three days he will rise.” But they did not understand what he meant and were afraid to ask him about it.

How would you respond to someone who asked, "Who is Jesus?"

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Today's Lent reading: Luke 1-3 (NIV)

View today's Lent reading on Bible Gateway

1
Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, 2 just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. 3 With this in mind, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I too decided to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, 4 so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught. 5 In the time of Herod king of Judea there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly division of Abijah; his wife Elizabeth was also a descendant of Aaron. 6 Both of them were righteous in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commands and decrees blamelessly. 7 But they were childless because Elizabeth was not able to conceive, and they were both very old.

8 Once when Zechariah’s division was on duty and he was serving as priest before God, 9 he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to go into the temple of the Lord and burn incense. 10 And when the time for the burning of incense came, all the assembled worshipers were praying outside.

11 Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. 12 When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear. 13 But the angel said to him: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him John. 14 He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, 15 for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before he is born. 16 He will bring back many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. 17 And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”

18 Zechariah asked the angel, “How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.”

19 The angel said to him, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news. 20 And now you will be silent and not able to speak until the day this happens, because you did not believe my words, which will come true at their appointed time.”

21 Meanwhile, the people were waiting for Zechariah and wondering why he stayed so long in the temple. 22 When he came out, he could not speak to them. They realized he had seen a vision in the temple, for he kept making signs to them but remained unable to speak.

23 When his time of service was completed, he returned home.24 After this his wife Elizabeth became pregnant and for five months remained in seclusion. 25 “The Lord has done this for me,” she said. “In these days he has shown his favor and taken away my disgrace among the people.”

26 In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, 27 to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”

29 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30 But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. 31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus.32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”

34 “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”

35 The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. 36 Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. 37For no word from God will ever fail.”

38 “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.

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!” 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.

57 When it was time for Elizabeth to have her baby, she gave birth to a son. 58 Her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown her great mercy, and they shared her joy.

59 On the eighth day they came to circumcise the child, and they were going to name him after his father Zechariah, 60 but his mother spoke up and said, “No! He is to be called John.”

61 They said to her, “There is no one among your relatives who has that name.”

62 Then they made signs to his father, to find out what he would like to name the child. 63 He asked for a writing tablet, and to everyone’s astonishment he wrote, “His name is John.”64 Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue set free, and he began to speak, praising God. 65 All the neighbors were filled with awe, and throughout the hill country of Judea people were talking about all these things. 66 Everyone who heard this wondered about it, asking, “What then is this child going to be?” For the Lord’s hand was with him.

67 His father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied:

68 “Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel,
because he has come to his people and redeemed them.
69 He has raised up a horn of salvation for us
in the house of his servant David
70 (as he said through his holy prophets of long ago),
71 salvation from our enemies
and from the hand of all who hate us—
72 to show mercy to our ancestors
and to remember his holy covenant,
73 the oath he swore to our father Abraham:
74 to rescue us from the hand of our enemies,
and to enable us to serve him without fear
75 in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.

76 And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High;
for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him,
77 to give his people the knowledge of salvation
through the forgiveness of their sins,
78 because of the tender mercy of our God,
by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven
79 to shine on those living in darkness
and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the path of peace.”

80 And the child grew and became strong in spirit; and he lived in the wilderness until he appeared publicly to Israel.

Luke 2

1 In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. 2 (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) 3 And everyone went to their own town to register.

4 So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. 5 He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. 6 While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, 7 and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.

8 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

21 On the eighth day, when it was time to circumcise the child, he was named Jesus, the name the angel had given him before he was conceived.

22 When the time came for the purification rites required by the Law of Moses, Joseph and Mary took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord 23 (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male is to be consecrated to the Lord”),24 and to offer a sacrifice in keeping with what is said in the Law of the Lord: “a pair of doves or two young pigeons.”

25 Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was on him. 26 It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. 27 Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, 28 Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying:

29 “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised,
you may now dismiss your servant in peace.
30 For my eyes have seen your salvation,
31 which you have prepared in the sight of all nations:
32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
and the glory of your people Israel.”

33 The child’s father and mother marveled at what was said about him. 34 Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, 35so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”

36 There was also a prophet, Anna, the daughter of Penuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, 37 and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. 38 Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.

39 When Joseph and Mary had done everything required by the Law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee to their own town of Nazareth. 40 And the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was on him.

41 Every year Jesus’ parents went to Jerusalem for the Festival of the Passover. 42 When he was twelve years old, they went up to the festival, according to the custom. 43 After the festival was over, while his parents were returning home, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but they were unaware of it. 44 Thinking he was in their company, they traveled on for a day. Then they began looking for him among their relatives and friends. 45 When they did not find him, they went back to Jerusalem to look for him. 46 After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. 47Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers. 48 When his parents saw him, they were astonished. His mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you.”

49 “Why were you searching for me?” he asked. “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” 50 But they did not understand what he was saying to them.

51 Then he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. But his mother treasured all these things in her heart.52 And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.

Luke 3

1 In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar—when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, Herod tetrarch of Galilee, his brother Philip tetrarch of Iturea and Traconitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene— 2 during the high-priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness. 3 He went into all the country around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 4 As it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet:

“A voice of one calling in the wilderness,
‘Prepare the way for the Lord,
make straight paths for him.
5 Every valley shall be filled in,
every mountain and hill made low.
The crooked roads shall become straight,
the rough ways smooth.
6 And all people will see God’s salvation.’”

7 John said to the crowds coming out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? 8 Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. 9 The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.”

10 “What should we do then?” the crowd asked.

11 John answered, “Anyone who has two shirts should share with the one who has none, and anyone who has food should do the same.”

12 Even tax collectors came to be baptized. “Teacher,” they asked, “what should we do?”

13 “Don’t collect any more than you are required to,” he told them.

14 Then some soldiers asked him, “And what should we do?”

He replied, “Don’t extort money and don’t accuse people falsely—be content with your pay.”

15 The people were waiting expectantly and were all wondering in their hearts if John might possibly be the Messiah. 16 John answered them all, “I baptize you with water. But one who is more powerful than I will come, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 17 His winnowing fork is in his hand to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” 18 And with many other words John exhorted the people and proclaimed the good news to them.

19 But when John rebuked Herod the tetrarch because of his marriage to Herodias, his brother’s wife, and all the other evil things he had done, 20 Herod added this to them all: He locked John up in prison.

21 When all the people were being baptized, Jesus was baptized too. And as he was praying, heaven was opened 22and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”

23 Now Jesus himself was about thirty years old when he began his ministry. He was the son, so it was thought, of Joseph,

the son of Heli, 24 the son of Matthat,

the son of Levi, the son of Melki,

the son of Jannai, the son of Joseph,

25 the son of Mattathias, the son of Amos,

the son of Nahum, the son of Esli,

the son of Naggai, 26 the son of Maath,

the son of Mattathias, the son of Semein,

the son of Josek, the son of Joda,

27 the son of Joanan, the son of Rhesa,

the son of Zerubbabel, the son of Shealtiel,

the son of Neri, 28 the son of Melki,

the son of Addi, the son of Cosam,

the son of Elmadam, the son of Er,

29 the son of Joshua, the son of Eliezer,

the son of Jorim, the son of Matthat,

the son of Levi, 30 the son of Simeon,

the son of Judah, the son of Joseph,

the son of Jonam, the son of Eliakim,

31 the son of Melea, the son of Menna,

the son of Mattatha, the son of Nathan,

the son of David, 32 the son of Jesse,

the son of Obed, the son of Boaz,

the son of Salmon, the son of Nahshon,

33 the son of Amminadab, the son of Ram,

the son of Hezron, the son of Perez,

the son of Judah, 34 the son of Jacob,

the son of Isaac, the son of Abraham,

the son of Terah, the son of Nahor,

35 the son of Serug, the son of Reu,

the son of Peleg, the son of Eber,

the son of Shelah, 36 the son of Cainan,

the son of Arphaxad, the son of Shem,

the son of Noah, the son of Lamech,

37 the son of Methuselah, the son of Enoch,

the son of Jared, the son of Mahalalel,

the son of Kenan, 38 the son of Enosh,

the son of Seth, the son of Adam,

the son of God.

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Lent=Devotions-Header
Today's Prayer

Almighty God, we were lost from the beginning, when it pleased you to extend your hand and restore us to salvation for your Son's sake. Although we daily run headlong to our own ruin, we pray that our continual sin will not provoke you into withdrawing your mercy from us.... Through your Spirit, destroy the wickedness of our heart and restore us to a sound mind. -- John Calvin, adapted from his Commentary on Hosea

Today's Scripture Reading: Exodus 20:1-17

1 And God spoke all these words:

2 "I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.

3 "You shall have no other gods before me.

4 "You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. 5 You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, 6 but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.

7 "You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.

8 "Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. 11 For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.

12 "Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you.

13 "You shall not murder.

14 "You shall not commit adultery.

15 "You shall not steal.

16 "You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.

17 "You shall not covet your neighbor's house. You shall not covet your neighbor's wife, or his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor."

Today's Quote

"The Law is that word by which God teaches what we shall do, as for instance, the Ten Commandments. Now, if human nature is not aided by God's grace, it is impossible to keep the law, for the reason that man since the fall of Adam in Paradise is depraved and full of sinful desires, so that he cannot from his heart's desire find pleasure in the law, which fact we all experience in ourselves. For no one lives who does not prefer that there were no law, and everyone feels and knows in himself that it is difficult to lead a pious life and do good, and, on the other hand, that it is easy to lead a wicked life and to do evil. But this difficulty or unwillingness to do the good is the reason we do not keep the Law of God. For whatever is done with aversion and unwillingness is considered by God as not done at all. Thus the Law of God convicts us, even by our own experience, that by nature we are evil, disobedient, lovers of sin, and hostile to God's laws." -- Martin Luther, sermon on Matthew 11:2-10, #19

Something to Think About

It is common in many churches to periodically read the Ten Commandments during worship services. What relevance do the Ten Commandments--delivered to Israel thousands of years ago--hold for Christians today? Why are they significant to the Easter story?

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