Thursday, March 08, 2012

Daily Devotional Thursday 8th March

“Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” Psalm 139:23-24NIV
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Morning and Evening by Charles Spurgeon

Morning

"We must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God."
Acts 14:22

God's people have their trials. It was never designed by God, when he chose his people, that they should be an untried people. They were chosen in the furnace of affliction; they were never chosen to worldly peace and earthly joy. Freedom from sickness and the pains of mortality was never promised them; but when their Lord drew up the charter of privileges, he included chastisements amongst the things to which they should inevitably be heirs. Trials are a part of our lot; they were predestinated for us in Christ's last legacy. So surely as the stars are fashioned by his hands, and their orbits fixed by him, so surely are our trials allotted to us: he has ordained their season and their place, their intensity and the effect they shall have upon us. Good men must never expect to escape troubles; if they do, they will be disappointed, for none of their predecessors have been without them. Mark the patience of Job; remember Abraham, for he had his trials, and by his faith under them, he became the "Father of the faithful." Note well the biographies of all the patriarchs, prophets, apostles, and martyrs, and you shall discover none of those whom God made vessels of mercy, who were not made to pass through the fire of affliction. It is ordained of old that the cross of trouble should be engraved on every vessel of mercy, as the royal mark whereby the King's vessels of honour are distinguished. But although tribulation is thus the path of God's children, they have the comfort of knowing that their Master has traversed it before them; they have his presence and sympathy to cheer them, his grace to support them, and his example to teach them how to endure; and when they reach "the kingdom," it will more than make amends for the "much tribulation" through which they passed to enter it.

Evening

"She called his name Ben-oni (son of sorrow), but his father called him Benjamin (son of my right hand)."
Genesis 35:18

To every matter there is a bright as well as a dark side. Rachel was overwhelmed with the sorrow of her own travail and death; Jacob, though weeping the mother's loss, could see the mercy of the child's birth. It is well for us if, while the flesh mourns over trials, our faith triumphs in divine faithfulness. Samson's lion yielded honey, and so will our adversities, if rightly considered. The stormy sea feeds multitudes with its fishes; the wild wood blooms with beauteous flowerets; the stormy wind sweeps away the pestilence, and the biting frost loosens the soil. Dark clouds distil bright drops, and black earth grows gay flowers. A vein of good is to be found in every mine of evil. Sad hearts have peculiar skill in discovering the most disadvantageous point of view from which to gaze upon a trial; if there were only one slough in the world, they would soon be up to their necks in it, and if there were only one lion in the desert they would hear it roar. About us all there is a tinge of this wretched folly, and we are apt, at times, like Jacob, to cry, "All these things are against me." Faith's way of walking is to cast all care upon the Lord, and then to anticipate good results from the worst calamities. Like Gideon's men, she does not fret over the broken pitcher, but rejoices that the lamp blazes forth the more. Out of the rough oyster-shell of difficulty she extracts the rare pearl of honour, and from the deep ocean-caves of distress she uplifts the priceless coral of experience. When her flood of prosperity ebbs, she finds treasures hid in the sands; and when her sun of delight goes down, she turns her telescope of hope to the starry promises of heaven. When death itself appears, faith points to the light of resurrection beyond the grave, thus making our dying Ben-oni to be our living Benjamin.

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Today's reading: Deuteronomy 1-3; Mark 10:32-52 (NIV)

View today's reading on Bible Gateway
The Command to Leave Horeb

1 These are the words Moses spoke to all Israel in the wilderness east of the Jordan—that is, in the Arabah—opposite Suph, between Paran and Tophel, Laban, Hazeroth and Dizahab. 2 (It takes eleven days to go from Horeb to Kadesh Barnea by the Mount Seir road.)

3 In the fortieth year, on the first day of the eleventh month, Moses proclaimed to the Israelites all that the LORD had commanded him concerning them. 4 This was after he had defeated Sihon king of the Amorites, who reigned in Heshbon, and at Edrei had defeated Og king of Bashan, who reigned in Ashtaroth.

5 East of the Jordan in the territory of Moab, Moses began to expound this law, saying:

6 The LORD our God said to us at Horeb, “You have stayed long enough at this mountain. 7 Break camp and advance into the hill country of the Amorites; go to all the neighboring peoples in the Arabah, in the mountains, in the western foothills, in the Negev and along the coast, to the land of the Canaanites and to Lebanon, as far as the great river, the Euphrates. 8 See, I have given you this land. Go in and take possession of the land the LORD swore he would give to your fathers—to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob—and to their descendants after them.”

The Appointment of Leaders

9 At that time I said to you, “You are too heavy a burden for me to carry alone. 10 The LORD your God has increased your numbers so that today you are as numerous as the stars in the sky. 11 May the LORD, the God of your ancestors, increase you a thousand times and bless you as he has promised! 12But how can I bear your problems and your burdens and your disputes all by myself? 13 Choose some wise, understanding and respected men from each of your tribes, and I will set them over you.”

14 You answered me, “What you propose to do is good.”

15 So I took the leading men of your tribes, wise and respected men, and appointed them to have authority over you—as commanders of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties and of tens and as tribal officials. 16 And I charged your judges at that time, “Hear the disputes between your people and judge fairly, whether the case is between two Israelites or between an Israelite and a foreigner residing among you. 17 Do not show partiality in judging; hear both small and great alike. Do not be afraid of anyone, for judgment belongs to God. Bring me any case too hard for you, and I will hear it.” 18 And at that time I told you everything you were to do.

Spies Sent Out

19 Then, as the LORD our God commanded us, we set out from Horeb and went toward the hill country of the Amorites through all that vast and dreadful wilderness that you have seen, and so we reached Kadesh Barnea. 20 Then I said to you, “You have reached the hill country of the Amorites, which the LORD our God is giving us. 21 See, the LORD your God has given you the land. Go up and take possession of it as the LORD, the God of your ancestors, told you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”

22 Then all of you came to me and said, “Let us send men ahead to spy out the land for us and bring back a report about the route we are to take and the towns we will come to.”

23 The idea seemed good to me; so I selected twelve of you, one man from each tribe. 24 They left and went up into the hill country, and came to the Valley of Eshkol and explored it. 25Taking with them some of the fruit of the land, they brought it down to us and reported, “It is a good land that the LORD our God is giving us.”

Rebellion Against the LORD

26 But you were unwilling to go up; you rebelled against the command of the LORD your God. 27 You grumbled in your tents and said, “The LORD hates us; so he brought us out of Egypt to deliver us into the hands of the Amorites to destroy us. 28 Where can we go? Our brothers have made our hearts melt in fear. They say, ‘The people are stronger and taller than we are; the cities are large, with walls up to the sky. We even saw the Anakites there.’”

29 Then I said to you, “Do not be terrified; do not be afraid of them. 30 The LORD your God, who is going before you, will fight for you, as he did for you in Egypt, before your very eyes,31 and in the wilderness. There you saw how the LORD your God carried you, as a father carries his son, all the way you went until you reached this place.”

32 In spite of this, you did not trust in the LORD your God, 33who went ahead of you on your journey, in fire by night and in a cloud by day, to search out places for you to camp and to show you the way you should go.

34 When the LORD heard what you said, he was angry and solemnly swore: 35 “No one from this evil generation shall see the good land I swore to give your ancestors, 36 except Caleb son of Jephunneh. He will see it, and I will give him and his descendants the land he set his feet on, because he followed the LORD wholeheartedly.”

37 Because of you the LORD became angry with me also and said, “You shall not enter it, either. 38 But your assistant, Joshua son of Nun, will enter it. Encourage him, because he will lead Israel to inherit it. 39 And the little ones that you said would be taken captive, your children who do not yet know good from bad—they will enter the land. I will give it to them and they will take possession of it. 40 But as for you, turn around and set out toward the desert along the route to the Red Sea.”

41 Then you replied, “We have sinned against the LORD. We will go up and fight, as the LORD our God commanded us.” So every one of you put on his weapons, thinking it easy to go up into the hill country.

42 But the LORD said to me, “Tell them, ‘Do not go up and fight, because I will not be with you. You will be defeated by your enemies.’”

43 So I told you, but you would not listen. You rebelled against the LORD’s command and in your arrogance you marched up into the hill country. 44 The Amorites who lived in those hills came out against you; they chased you like a swarm of bees and beat you down from Seir all the way to Hormah. 45You came back and wept before the LORD, but he paid no attention to your weeping and turned a deaf ear to you. 46 And so you stayed in Kadesh many days—all the time you spent there.

Deuteronomy 2

Wanderings in the Wilderness

1 Then we turned back and set out toward the wilderness along the route to the Red Sea, as the LORD had directed me. For a long time we made our way around the hill country of Seir.

2 Then the LORD said to me, 3 “You have made your way around this hill country long enough; now turn north. 4 Give the people these orders: ‘You are about to pass through the territory of your relatives the descendants of Esau, who live in Seir. They will be afraid of you, but be very careful. 5 Do not provoke them to war, for I will not give you any of their land, not even enough to put your foot on. I have given Esau the hill country of Seir as his own. 6 You are to pay them in silver for the food you eat and the water you drink.’”

7 The LORD your God has blessed you in all the work of your hands. He has watched over your journey through this vast wilderness. These forty years the LORD your God has been with you, and you have not lacked anything.

8 So we went on past our relatives the descendants of Esau, who live in Seir. We turned from the Arabah road, which comes up from Elath and Ezion Geber, and traveled along the desert road of Moab.

9 Then the LORD said to me, “Do not harass the Moabites or provoke them to war, for I will not give you any part of their land. I have given Ar to the descendants of Lot as a possession.”

10 (The Emites used to live there—a people strong and numerous, and as tall as the Anakites. 11 Like the Anakites, they too were considered Rephaites, but the Moabites called them Emites. 12 Horites used to live in Seir, but the descendants of Esau drove them out. They destroyed the Horites from before them and settled in their place, just as Israel did in the land the LORD gave them as their possession.)

13 And the LORD said, “Now get up and cross the Zered Valley.” So we crossed the valley.

14 Thirty-eight years passed from the time we left Kadesh Barnea until we crossed the Zered Valley. By then, that entire generation of fighting men had perished from the camp, as the LORD had sworn to them. 15 The LORD’s hand was against them until he had completely eliminated them from the camp.

16 Now when the last of these fighting men among the people had died, 17 the LORD said to me, 18 “Today you are to pass by the region of Moab at Ar. 19 When you come to the Ammonites, do not harass them or provoke them to war, for I will not give you possession of any land belonging to the Ammonites. I have given it as a possession to the descendants of Lot.”

20 (That too was considered a land of the Rephaites, who used to live there; but the Ammonites called them Zamzummites. 21 They were a people strong and numerous, and as tall as the Anakites. The LORD destroyed them from before the Ammonites, who drove them out and settled in their place. 22 The LORD had done the same for the descendants of Esau, who lived in Seir, when he destroyed the Horites from before them. They drove them out and have lived in their place to this day. 23 And as for the Avvites who lived in villages as far as Gaza, the Caphtorites coming out from Caphtordestroyed them and settled in their place.)

Defeat of Sihon King of Heshbon

24 “Set out now and cross the Arnon Gorge. See, I have given into your hand Sihon the Amorite, king of Heshbon, and his country. Begin to take possession of it and engage him in battle. 25 This very day I will begin to put the terror and fear of you on all the nations under heaven. They will hear reports of you and will tremble and be in anguish because of you.”

26 From the Desert of Kedemoth I sent messengers to Sihon king of Heshbon offering peace and saying, 27 “Let us pass through your country. We will stay on the main road; we will not turn aside to the right or to the left. 28 Sell us food to eat and water to drink for their price in silver. Only let us pass through on foot— 29 as the descendants of Esau, who live in Seir, and the Moabites, who live in Ar, did for us—until we cross the Jordan into the land the LORD our God is giving us.” 30 But Sihon king of Heshbon refused to let us pass through. For the LORD your God had made his spirit stubborn and his heart obstinate in order to give him into your hands, as he has now done.

31 The LORD said to me, “See, I have begun to deliver Sihon and his country over to you. Now begin to conquer and possess his land.”

32 When Sihon and all his army came out to meet us in battle at Jahaz, 33 the LORD our God delivered him over to us and we struck him down, together with his sons and his whole army. 34At that time we took all his towns and completely destroyed them—men, women and children. We left no survivors. 35 But the livestock and the plunder from the towns we had captured we carried off for ourselves. 36 From Aroer on the rim of the Arnon Gorge, and from the town in the gorge, even as far as Gilead, not one town was too strong for us. The LORD our God gave us all of them. 37 But in accordance with the command of the LORD our God, you did not encroach on any of the land of the Ammonites, neither the land along the course of the Jabbok nor that around the towns in the hills.

Deuteronomy 3

Defeat of Og King of Bashan

1 Next we turned and went up along the road toward Bashan, and Og king of Bashan with his whole army marched out to meet us in battle at Edrei. 2 The LORD said to me, “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.”

3 So the LORD our God also gave into our hands Og king of Bashan and all his army. We struck them down, leaving no survivors. 4 At that time we took all his cities. There was not one of the sixty cities that we did not take from them—the whole region of Argob, Og’s kingdom in Bashan. 5 All these cities were fortified with high walls and with gates and bars, and there were also a great many unwalled villages. 6 We completely destroyed them, as we had done with Sihon king of Heshbon, destroying every city—men, women and children. 7But all the livestock and the plunder from their cities we carried off for ourselves.

8 So at that time we took from these two kings of the Amorites the territory east of the Jordan, from the Arnon Gorge as far as Mount Hermon. 9 (Hermon is called Sirion by the Sidonians; the Amorites call it Senir.) 10 We took all the towns on the plateau, and all Gilead, and all Bashan as far as Salekah and Edrei, towns of Og’s kingdom in Bashan. 11 (Og king of Bashan was the last of the Rephaites. His bed was decorated with iron and was more than nine cubits long and four cubits wide. It is still in Rabbah of the Ammonites.)

Division of the Land

12 Of the land that we took over at that time, I gave the Reubenites and the Gadites the territory north of Aroer by the Arnon Gorge, including half the hill country of Gilead, together with its towns. 13 The rest of Gilead and also all of Bashan, the kingdom of Og, I gave to the half-tribe of Manasseh. (The whole region of Argob in Bashan used to be known as a land of the Rephaites. 14 Jair, a descendant of Manasseh, took the whole region of Argob as far as the border of the Geshurites and the Maakathites; it was named after him, so that to this day Bashan is called Havvoth Jair.) 15 And I gave Gilead to Makir. 16 But to the Reubenites and the Gadites I gave the territory extending from Gilead down to the Arnon Gorge (the middle of the gorge being the border) and out to the Jabbok River, which is the border of the Ammonites. 17 Its western border was the Jordan in the Arabah, from Kinnereth to the Sea of the Arabah (that is, the Dead Sea), below the slopes of Pisgah.

18 I commanded you at that time: “The LORD your God has given you this land to take possession of it. But all your able-bodied men, armed for battle, must cross over ahead of the other Israelites. 19 However, your wives, your children and your livestock (I know you have much livestock) may stay in the towns I have given you, 20 until the LORD gives rest to your fellow Israelites as he has to you, and they too have taken over the land that the LORD your God is giving them across the Jordan. After that, each of you may go back to the possession I have given you.”

Moses Forbidden to Cross the Jordan

21 At that time I commanded Joshua: “You have seen with your own eyes all that the LORD your God has done to these two kings. The LORD will do the same to all the kingdoms over there where you are going. 22 Do not be afraid of them; the LORD your God himself will fight for you.”

23 At that time I pleaded with the LORD: 24 “Sovereign LORD, you have begun to show to your servant your greatness and your strong hand. For what god is there in heaven or on earth who can do the deeds and mighty works you do? 25 Let me go over and see the good land beyond the Jordan—that fine hill country and Lebanon.”

26 But because of you the LORD was angry with me and would not listen to me. “That is enough,” the LORD said. “Do not speak to me anymore about this matter. 27 Go up to the top of Pisgah and look west and north and south and east. Look at the land with your own eyes, since you are not going to cross this Jordan. 28 But commission Joshua, and encourage and strengthen him, for he will lead this people across and will cause them to inherit the land that you will see.” 29 So we stayed in the valley near Beth Peor.


Mark 10

Jesus Predicts His Death a Third Time

32 They were on their way up to Jerusalem, with Jesus leading the way, and the disciples were astonished, while those who followed were afraid. Again he took the Twelve aside and told them what was going to happen to him. 33 “We are going up to Jerusalem,” he said, “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 and will hand him over to the Gentiles,34 who will mock him and spit on him, flog him and kill him. Three days later he will rise.”

The Request of James and John

35 Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to him. “Teacher,” they said, “we want you to do for us whatever we ask.”

36 “What do you want me to do for you?” he asked.

37 They replied, “Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory.”

38 “You don’t know what you are asking,” Jesus said. “Can you drink the cup I drink or be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with?”

39 “We can,” they answered.

Jesus said to them, “You will drink the cup I drink and be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with, 40 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.”

41 When the ten heard about this, they became indignant with James and John. 42 Jesus called them together and said, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. 43 Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. 45 For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Blind Bartimaeus Receives His Sight

46 Then they came to Jericho. As Jesus and his disciples, together with a large crowd, were leaving the city, a blind man, Bartimaeus (which means “son of Timaeus”), was sitting by the roadside begging. 47 When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”

48 Many rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”

49 Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.”

So they called to the blind man, “Cheer up! On your feet! He’s calling you.” 50 Throwing his cloak aside, he jumped to his feet and came to Jesus.

51 “What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked him.

The blind man said, “Rabbi, I want to see.”

52 “Go,” said Jesus, “your faith has healed you.” Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road.

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Hezekiah [Hĕze kī'ah]—jehovah is strength or a strong support is jehovah. Also given as Hizkiah, Hizkijah, Ezekias.

1. Son and successor of Ahaz as king of Judah (2 Kings 16:20). He is referred to in well over one hundred references in 2 Kings, 1 and 2 Chronicles, Jeremiah, Hosea and Micah.

The Man Who Asked for Added Years

Hezekiah was one of the best kings who ever sat upon the throne of Judah, and is distinguished as the greatest in faith of all Judah’s kings (2 Kings 18:5). Sincere and devout, he was not a perfect man by any means, nor outstanding because of any brilliant gifts he possessed. This good king, however, is to be admired when one remembers his family background. Having such a wicked, apostate father as Ahaz, the wonder is that his son became the noble king he did. He had no pious training, but only a heritage of weakness in his moral fibre, for which God graciously made all fair allowance.

With Hezekiah’s ascent to the throne at the age of twenty-five there began a period of religious revival in which he was encouraged by the noblest and most eloquent of the Hebrew prophets, Isaiah, who knew how to carry his religion into his politics.

I. Hezekiah was a man who prayed about the difficulties and dangers overtaking him. What faith and confidence in God he revealed when he spread Sennacherib’s insolent letter before the Lord. Both Hezekiah and Isaiah defied mighty Assyria, God using one angel to slay one hundred and eighty-five thousand in the Assyrian camp.

The king knew how to pray about personal matters as well as military dangers. When smitten with a fatal illness, he turned his face to the wall and prayed. Isaiah, his friend and counselor, came to him with a message from God that he would not die but live. “I will add unto thy days fifteen years.” Hezekiah asked with all his heart that he might live, and God continued his life.

But the question arises, why did Hezekiah desire the removal of his illness and the continuation of his life? What object did he have in mind? Was the king anxious to live in order to promote the glory of God, or was he actuated by some personal motive? It is apparent that Hezekiah was afraid of death and loved life in itself. Death was not the same to Hezekiah as it was to Paul, who had a desire to depart, seeing death was far better than life.

At the time of his sickness, Hezekiah had no son, and this fact possibly added to his desire to live. Three years after his recovery Manasseh was born, who became a curse upon the earth and an abomination in the sight of the Lord. Here, then, was one of the results of Hezekiah’s answered prayer. It might have been better for Judah if Hezekiah had died without such an heir. Many prayers we offer are mistakes. God graciously grants our requests but “brings leanness to our souls” (Ps. 106:15). Perhaps Hezekiah’s sin began in his unwillingness to go to heaven when God sent for him ( 2 Kings 20:1-3).

II. Hezekiah’s simple faith in God was the source and secret of his strength. He believed God ruled among the armies of heaven and of earth. His faith was the intuitive perception that God was near—a real Personality and not a mere tendency making for righteousness. The loss of faith is ultimately the loss of moral power. One of the main lessons of Hezekiah’s life is, Have faith in God.

III. Hezekiah lost favor with God because of pride. After all the divine blessings showered upon him, he allowed his heart to be lifted up with pride. Vanity and self-sufficiency led the king astray. His heart became obsessed with his household treasures. He turned from God to goods. “Hezekiah rendered not again according to the benefit done unto him; for his heart was lifted up: therefore there was wrath upon him, and upon Judah and Jerusalem” (2 Chron. 32:24 , 25). Sin never ends with the person committing it.

The four crises Hezekiah faced were:

The crisis of choice, and he chose to forsake the idols of his father and purge the kingdom of idolatry (2 Chron. 28:23, 25; 2 Kings 18:22).

The crisis of invasion (2 Chron. 32:1-19). Prayer brought deliverance (2 Chron. 32:20 , 21).

The crisis of sickness. Obedience furnished the foundation of the king’s prayer for healing (Isa. 38:1-5).

The crisis of prosperity. Alas, Hezekiah manifested pride when he displayed his treasures to the ungodly (Isa. 39).

2. A son of Neariah and a descendant of the royal house of Judah ( 1 Chron. 3:23).

3. An ancestor of the prophet Zephaniah (Zeph. 1:1). Given in Common Version as Hizkiah.

4. An exile, descendant of Ater who returned from exile in Babylon (Ezra 2:16; Neh. 7:21).

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TT_devotionswithrc_ttlogo

Serving One Master Alone

Matthew 6:19-24 "No one can serve two masters, for he will either hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money" ( v. 24).

Christ's teaching is profoundly counter-cultural on many occasions, not in the sense that He calls us to despise all state authorities, but in the sense that His instruction goes completely against the natural, sinful inclinations of mankind. Jesus gives us this very kind of teaching in Matthew 6:19-24.

The Lord's Sermon on the Mount has thus far emphasized our need to serve God with whole-hearted devotion. Only those who are committed to Jesus in heart, soul, and mind can live the life depicted in this sermon, from enduring persecution for righteousness' sake (5:10) to being so focused on our Creator that we care not if others ever notice our fervent piety (6:1-18).

The love of money "competes" with the Lord for our allegiance in the United States today. We are surrounded by a culture that worships goods, which calls us to sacrifice our families and our faith on the altar of bigger and better homes, cars, and so on. As such, Christ's words in today's passage have a special bearing upon us. In the first place, striving after treasures on earth is foolish because these things do not last (vv. 19-21 ). Even if not destroyed by vermin, earthly goods can be stolen, and we cannot take them with us when we die. Only treasures in heaven, which we earn by our good deeds done before the Father, endure (1 Cor. 3:10-15). Our good works do not save us, but they are graciously given to us by God in order that we might have greater blessings in heaven.

Our Savior's warning against the love of money brackets His teaching on good eyes and bad ones (Matt. 6:22-23 ). This shows us that an unhealthy eye, one full of darkness, is a metaphor for an attitude of greed and covetousness. In fact, in Jesus' day, the rabbis described those who love money more than God as those with bad eyes. A healthy eye would then refer to one who is generous with his resources. Such persons reflect the Lord's own generosity and have light. By the Holy Spirit they see rightly and follow the straight path of righteousness.

Driving home His point that we must serve the Father alone, Christ tells us we "cannot serve God and money" (v. 24 ). If we try to follow both, we can do justice to neither. In fact, if we try to serve both, we are not serving God at all.

Coram deo: Living before the face of God

Money itself is not evil, for it is possible to be wealthy and serve God. However, it is all too easy for us to think we are serving God when we are really serving the "stuff" of this world. The Lord gives us possessions to enjoy, but the first and best of all that we own belongs to Him. Make sure that you are offering up the first and best of all you have and not giving unto God only after you have first blessed yourself.

For further study:

Proverbs 28:25

The Bible in a year:

Deuteronomy 20-22

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

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

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March 7, 2012
I Want it All!
Mary Southerland

Today's Truth
Give thanks to the God of gods. His love endures forever (Psalm 136:2, NIV).

Friend to Friend
I want it all. I want everything God has for me. However, I don't believe my life really reflects that attitude. I tend to settle for so much less than God's very best for my life.

You may have heard the story of the man who died and went to Heaven. He was met at the Pearly Gates by Saint Peter who welcomed the man and then said, "Let's take a look around Heaven and then I will show you to your new home." The man was stunned by the beauty and grandeur of Heaven and could hardly wait to see what his house looked like. Peter finally stopped in front of a beautiful mansion and said, "Here you are. This is your home in Heaven. How do you like it?" The man stared in awe at the place where he would spend eternity. "I can't wait to see what it looks like on the inside," the man exclaimed. Saint Peter took the man by the arm and said, "Let's take a look."

When Saint Peter opened the front door, the man gasped at the sight before him. Beautiful boxes of all shapes and sizes were stacked from the ceiling to the floor in every room. "I don't understand. What are all of these boxes doing here?" Saint Peter sadly smiled and said, "We will have them removed as soon as possible. These are all of the blessings we had waiting for you on earth – but you never asked for them. Now it's too late."

God longs to pour out His blessings on His children. We have somehow bought into the lie that we will receive good things from God by working harder, trying to be better or doing more good things. Girlfriend, that is from the pit and smells like smoke.

We are saved by God's grace and nothing we do or don't do will ever be good enough to earn the favor of God. In Ephesians the apostle Paul tells us that salvation is a gift – period.

Ephesians 2:8 (NIV) "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God … "

If we could earn salvation, it would simply be a salary for works we have done. We are saved through faith in God alone. Salvation and the blessings of God are His gifts to us. We simply receive them. And yet, we try to make the blessings of God seem almost impossible to experience. He is just waiting for us to seek Him … to listen for His voice … and then to follow Him.

Just imagine that today is your child's birthday. You have a wonderful party planned and have spent a lot of time picking out the perfect birthday gift. Do you expect your child to earn that gift by cleaning the house, doing the laundry, taking out the trash and completing every job on a very long list of chores you have prepared? Of course not! You simply want to delight in the joy on your child's face when he or she receives and opens that special gift.

I have received the gift of salvation as have many of you. We have surrendered our lives to Him and are seeking to follow Him. But I want everything He has planned for me – don't you? The good news is that God wants us to come to Him with "shameless audacity" and ask for His blessings.

Luke 11:5-10 T hen Jesus said to them, "Suppose you have a friend and you go to him at midnight and say, 'Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I have no food to offer him.' And suppose the one inside answers, 'Don't bother me. The door is already locked, and my children and I are in bed. I can't get up and give you anything.' I tell you, even though he will not get up and give you the bread because of friendship, yet because of your shameless audacity he will surely get up and give you as much as you need. So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.

Did you catch the mind-blowing truth in this passage of Scripture? The words "shameless audacity" jumped out at me for the first time as my husband preached a powerful message on this passage of Scripture. Don't miss this truth, girlfriend! God wants us to pray and live and breathe with the mindset that we want everything He has planned for us now and eternally! And we can come to Him with that shameless audacity – not because of anything we have done – but because of who He is and what He has planned for each one of us. He is God! He is our Lord and Savior and our Father who is just waiting to pour out His amazing blessings on His daughters. Why? Because He loves us! He adores us! We were created by God for God. As Max Lucado says, "If God had a refrigerator our pictures would be on it!"

Today, grab hold of the truth that in the eyes of God you are somebody special. You are planned and wanted. You belong. You are chosen. Come before Him and tell Him you want it all! Yes, you want everything He has planned for you! Now hold out your hands, girlfriend. God's highest and richest blessings for your life are on their way!

Let's Pray
Father, I am tired of settling for the meager leftovers this world has to offer. Forgive me for not being willing to step out in faith and seek You and the plan You have for my life. Lord, I really do want everything You have in store for me. Right now, I come to You in shameless audacity and ask that You pour those blessings into my life. I receive them from Your hand of mercy and grace and thank You in advance for what You are going to do in my life as I seek and follow You.
In Jesus' name,
Amen.

Now It's Your Turn
Read and memorize Ephesians 2:8 "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God." How would you define "grace" and "faith" as they apply to your life?

Read and memorize 2 Timothy 1:9 "He has saved us and called us to a holy life - not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time." What is God's purpose for your life?

Write out a prayer of commitment thanking God for His blessings in your life and for the blessings He has in store for you.

More from the Girlfriends
Need a friend? Connect with Mary on Facebook or through email. Be sure to check out the FREE MP3s on Mary's website.

Need a Bible Study? Check out the E-Bible Studies available in Mary's online store. Titles include, Anger Management, How to Find Your Missing Peace and Laugh More … Live Better. They are perfect for small group study as well as your own personal study.

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

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

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

Girlfriends in God
P.O. Box 725
Matthews, NC 28106

info@girlfriendsingod.com
www.girlfriendsingod.com


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Serving One Master Alone

Matthew 6:19-24

Money itself is not evil, for it is possible to be wealthy and serve God. However, it is all too easy for us to think we are serving God when we are really serving the "stuff" of this world. The Lord gives us possessions to enjoy, but the first and best of all that we own belongs to Him. Make sure that you are offering up the first and best of all you have and not giving unto God only after you have first blessed yourself.

For further study:

Proverbs 28:25

The Bible in a year:

Deuteronomy 20-22

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

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

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God’s will and man’s will

‘Whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.’ Revelation 22:17

Suggested Further Reading: 2 Timothy 2:8–19

Some brethren have altogether forgotten one order of truths, and then, in the next place, they have gone too far with others. We have all one blind eye, and too often we are like Nelson in the battle, we put the telescope to that blind eye, and then protest that we cannot see. I heard of one man who said he had read the Bible through thirty-four times, but could not see a word about election in it—he put the telescope to the blind eye. Many of us do that; we do not want to see a truth, and therefore we say we cannot see it. On the other hand, there are others who push a truth too far. ‘This is good; this is precious!’ say they, and then they think it is good for everything; as if it were the only truth in the world. You know how often things are injured by over-praise; how a good medicine, which really was a great boon for a certain disease, comes to be despised utterly by the physician, because a certain quack has praised it up as being a universal cure; so puffery [exaggeration] in doctrine leads to its dishonour. Truth has thus suffered on all sides; on the one hand brethren would not see all the truth, and on the other hand they magnified out of proportion that which they did see. You have seen those mirrors, those globes that are sometimes hung up in gardens; you walk up to them and you see your head ten times as large as your body, or you walk away and put yourself in another position, and then your feet are monstrous and the rest of your body is small; this is an ingenious toy, but I am sorry to say that many go to work with God’s truth upon the model of this toy; they magnify one capital truth, till it becomes monstrous; they minimise and speak little of another truth till it becomes altogether forgotten.

For meditation: Are any Biblical doctrines your pet favourites? Are there some you love to hate? Doctrinal balance depends on us believing ‘all scripture’ (2 Timothy 3:16) and accepting ‘all the counsel of God’ ( Acts 20:27) without picking and choosing as we like.

Sermon no. 442
7 March (Preached 30 March 1862)

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Samantha Reed

March 7, 2012

How Do I Let Peace Rule?
Samantha Reed

"Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts." Colossians 3:15 (NIV)

No more able are we to drive the rain back into the clouds by holding hands to the sky...

Or stretch a rainbow's colors wide by scurrying to grasp its tails...

Or force the tides to retreat by running at the sea...

No more capable of these feats are we, than to pursue and capture peace.

Peace.

That for which the world wars. Families crumble. People roam. That for which we compromise, and improvise, and televise: It's here... if only you race after it with your time, your money, your life.

But for all our chasing, we never lay hold of peace. Not until we reckon with these nine words that beckon a stillness. A truth that causes shoulders to fall and jaws to relax. This scripture tells us there's peace a' plenty, free for all.

"Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts" (Colossians 3:15 NIV).

If we're to find peace, we must become a pupil of He who is our Peace, Jesus Christ. He who is the Word. And this bit of Word, "Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts," is a fine educator.

This truth teaches us to slow down. Those two strong words, "let" and "rule" mean to "umpire" our hurried heart. So when circumstances crumble and we worriedly scramble to right them, we are taught to pause and call our heart to peace. How do we do this? Through intimate knowledge of He who is our Peace.

Christ is just, as Esther's courage and Haman's defeat reflects. (Esther 7)

Christ redeems, as Job's great loss and even greater gain assures. (Job 42:7-17)

Christ is trustworthy, as His promised resurrection proves. (Matthew 28:1-10)

Christ controls the storms, as calmed winds and waves attest. (Mark 4:35-41)

It will take time to teach our hearts to let peace rule. Umpires don't begin careers in the World Series. Indeed, umpires go through rigorous training and schooling. They must work for years in the minor leagues before even dreaming of the majors.

We too must set our heart and mind to learning. A good place to start is with the minors. Calling our hearts to peace when running late, dinner burns, scrapes and bruises happen, and fender benders occur. This is our practice and preparation for when the doctor calls, the pink slip is given, the papers are served, and the accusations fly.

We call our hearts to trust in He who is faithful to us in the small things, so we learn His character again and again. This gives our hearts the training needed to know He is trustworthy to us in the big things, the in-between things... everything.

Each call leads to another, which leads to an eventual place of surety. A place where the chase ends. And peace begins.

Dear Lord, You are our Peace. Teach me Your ways, direct me in Your truth. Help me relax my shoulders, loosen my tense jaw, calm my hurried heart. I want to know You more and more. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Do You Know Him?

Share the One who is Peace with a child in need throughCompassion International.

Click here to join Melissa Taylor's newest online Bible study of An Untroubled Heart by Micca Campbell

Visit Samantha's site for more about Him who is our peace and a give-away of An Untroubled Heart.

Reflect and Respond:
Do you tend to focus more on circumstances or on Jesus' power over the circumstances?

Memorize three verses about peace over the next three weeks. Call them out to your heart when trouble comes.

Power Verses:
Isaiah 26:3, "You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you." (NIV 1984)

Ephesians 2:14, "For he himself is our peace..." (NIV)

© 2012 by Samantha Reed. All rights reserved.

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

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Human inability

“No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him.” John 6:44

Suggested Further Reading: 1 Timothy 4:1-5

When man fell in the garden, manhood fell entirely; there was not one single pillar in the temple of manhood that stood erect. It is true, conscience was not destroyed. The pillar was not shattered; it fell, and it fell in one piece, and there it lies along, the mightiest remnant of God’s once perfect work in man. But that conscience is fallen, I am sure. Look at men. Who among them is the possessor of a “good conscience towards God,” but the regenerated man? Do you imagine that if men’s consciences always spoke loudly and clearly to them, they would live in the daily commission of acts, which are as opposed to the right as darkness is to light? No, beloved; conscience can tell me that I am a sinner, but conscience cannot make me feel that I am one. Conscience may tell me that such and such a thing is wrong, but how wrong it is conscience itself does not know. Did any man’s conscience, unenlightened by the Spirit, ever tell him that his sins deserved damnation? Or if conscience did do that, did it ever lead any man to feel an abhorrence of sin as sin? In fact, did conscience ever bring a man to such a self-renunciation, that he did totally abhor himself and all his works and come to Christ? No, conscience, although it is not dead, is ruined, its power is impaired, it has not that clearness of eye and that strength of hand, and that thunder of voice, which it had before the fall; but has ceased to a great degree, to exert its supremacy in the town of Mansoul. Then, beloved, it becomes necessary for this very reason, because conscience is depraved, that the Holy Spirit should step in, to show us our need of a Saviour, and draw us to the Lord Jesus Christ.

For meditation: Our consciences need to be cleansed by the blood of Christ, like every other part of our being (Titus 1:15;Hebrews 9:9, 14; 10:22). The Christian now has the ability to seek to maintain a good conscience (Acts 24:16; 1 Timothy 1:5,19; 1 Peter 3:16).

Sermon no. 182
7 March (1858)

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At Issue - Abuse

Psalms 3:3-4

He said you were worthless. He said you deserved everything he dished out. He said no one would believe you or take your side. Maybe he's still saying it. Whether he's your father, husband, boyfriend or boss-whoever he is-he's wrong. Listen to what God says. He knows the truth. He's on your side. He gives you his glory and says that makes you precious and valuable. He lifts up your head and tells you to look down to no one because of who you are in him. Won't you start listening to God instead?

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Legalism: Can we do anything to make God love us more?

Today's reading: Galatians 3

Galatians 3:3 Are you so foolish? After beginning by means of the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by means of the flesh?

On his first missionary journey, Paul learns to his surprise that non-Jews seem more receptive than Jews to the news about Jesus. He begins a policy that he comes to follow throughout his ministry career. He goes first to the synagogue and preaches among the Jews; if they reject him, he turns to the Gentiles.

Before his conversion Paul was a loyal and strict Jew, proud to be a "legalist." If a person could reach God by obeying the law, then he, a strict Pharisee, would have done it. In a twist of history, he gains a new reputation as "the Apostle to the Gentiles." As he sees God working among non-Jews, Paul becomes their champion.

This letter to the churches in Galatia (located in modern-day Turkey) dates from the time of the early Jew-Gentile controversy. Paul is emotionally worked up. In fact, he is downright furious at misguided attempts to shackle the church with Jewish legalism. Paul has felt the gust of freedom that comes after liberation from a set of confining laws, and he is not about to let that freedom slip away.

No Strings Attached

In the first paragraph of Galatians 3, Paul explodes with the full force of his passionate beliefs. He then proceeds to give a "Christian," rather than Jewish, interpretation of the Old Testament covenants with Abraham and Moses.

Galatians 3-4 draw sharp contrasts: a prisoner and a free man, a sheltered child and an adult. Don't act like a slave or a child, Paul says. Act like a privileged son, an heir to a great fortune! Galatians shatters the idea that God's love is conditioned upon how many rules we obey. Legalism is like a cage: It can only condemn people and lock them behind bars. As Paul points out, no one has perfectly kept all of God's laws, and all who try to do so ultimately fail (see Galatians 3:10-11).

Martin Luther said, "[Galatians is] my own little epistle. I have betrothed myself to it; it is my Katie von Bora [Luther's wife]." This little book proclaims that God has freely given his love to us with no strings attached. We should never get over the awesome shock of that truth, Galatians says.

Life Question

Some early Christians, like the people in Galatia, became obsessed with legalism. Others took their Christian freedom too far by refusing to follow anyone's rules. Which is the greater danger in your circle?

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Day 15

Again Jesus began to teach by the lake. The crowd that gathered around him was so large that he got into a boat and sat in it out on the lake, while all the people were along the shore at the water’s edge. He taught them many things by parables, and in his teaching said: “Listen! A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants, so that they did not bear grain. Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up, grew and produced a crop, some multiplying thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times.”

Then Jesus said, “Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.”

When he was alone, the Twelve and the others around him asked him about the parables. He told them, “The secret of the kingdom of God has been given to you. But to those on the outside everything is said in parables so that,

“‘they may be ever seeing but never perceiving,
and ever hearing but never understanding;
otherwise they might turn and be forgiven!’”

Then Jesus said to them, “Don’t you understand this parable? How then will you understand any parable? The farmer sows the word. Some people are like seed along the path, where the word is sown. As soon as they hear it, Satan comes and takes away the word that was sown in them. Others, like seed sown on rocky places, hear the word and at once receive it with joy. But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. Still others, like seed sown among thorns, hear the word; but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful. Others, like seed sown on good soil, hear the word, accept it, and produce a crop—some thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times what was sown.”

He said to them, “Do you bring in a lamp to put it under a bowl or a bed? Instead, don’t you put it on its stand? For whatever is hidden is meant to be disclosed, and whatever is concealed is meant to be brought out into the open. If anyone has ears to hear, let them hear.”

“Consider carefully what you hear,” he continued. “With the measure you use, it will be measured to you—and even more. Whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them.”

He also said, “This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground. Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. All by itself the soil produces grain—first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head. As soon as the grain is ripe, he puts the sickle to it, because the harvest has come.”

Again he said, “What shall we say the kingdom of God is like, or what parable shall we use to describe it? It is like a mustard seed, which is the smallest of all seeds on earth. Yet when planted, it grows and becomes the largest of all garden plants, with such big branches that the birds can perch in its shade.”

With many similar parables Jesus spoke the word to them, as much as they could understand. He did not say anything to them without using a parable. But when he was alone with his own disciples, he explained everything.

Why might Jesus have used parables as a way to teach people?

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

View today's Lent reading on Bible Gateway
John the Baptist Prepares the Way

1 The beginning of the good news about Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God, 2 as it is written in Isaiah the prophet:

“I will send my messenger ahead of you,
who will prepare your way”—
3 “a voice of one calling in the wilderness,
‘Prepare the way for the Lord,
make straight paths for him.’”

4 And so John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 5The whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem went out to him. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River. 6 John wore clothing made of camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. 7 And this was his message: “After me comes the one more powerful than I, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. 8 I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

The Baptism and Testing of Jesus

9 At that time Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10 Just as Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. 11 And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”

12 At once the Spirit sent him out into the wilderness, 13 and he was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan. He was with the wild animals, and angels attended him.

Jesus Announces the Good News

14 After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. 15 “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!”

Jesus Calls His First Disciples

16 As Jesus walked beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. 17 “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” 18 At once they left their nets and followed him.

19 When he had gone a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John in a boat, preparing their nets. 20Without delay he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men and followed him.

Jesus Drives Out an Impure Spirit

21 They went to Capernaum, and when the Sabbath came, Jesus went into the synagogue and began to teach. 22 The people were amazed at his teaching, because he taught them as one who had authority, not as the teachers of the law. 23Just then a man in their synagogue who was possessed by an impure spirit cried out, 24 “What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God!”

25 “Be quiet!” said Jesus sternly. “Come out of him!” 26 The impure spirit shook the man violently and came out of him with a shriek.

27 The people were all so amazed that they asked each other, “What is this? A new teaching—and with authority! He even gives orders to impure spirits and they obey him.” 28News about him spread quickly over the whole region of Galilee.

Jesus Heals Many

29 As soon as they left the synagogue, they went with James and John to the home of Simon and Andrew. 30 Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they immediately told Jesus about her. 31 So he went to her, took her hand and helped her up. The fever left her and she began to wait on them.

32 That evening after sunset the people brought to Jesus all the sick and demon-possessed. 33 The whole town gathered at the door, 34 and Jesus healed many who had various diseases. He also drove out many demons, but he would not let the demons speak because they knew who he was.

Jesus Prays in a Solitary Place

35 Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. 36 Simon and his companions went to look for him, 37and when they found him, they exclaimed: “Everyone is looking for you!”

38 Jesus replied, “Let us go somewhere else—to the nearby villages—so I can preach there also. That is why I have come.”39 So he traveled throughout Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and driving out demons.

Jesus Heals a Man With Leprosy

40 A man with leprosy came to him and begged him on his knees, “If you are willing, you can make me clean.”

41 Jesus was indignant. He reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” 42Immediately the leprosy left him and he was cleansed.

43 Jesus sent him away at once with a strong warning: 44“See that you don’t tell this to anyone. But go, show yourself to the priest and offer the sacrifices that Moses commanded for your cleansing, as a testimony to them.” 45 Instead he went out and began to talk freely, spreading the news. As a result, Jesus could no longer enter a town openly but stayed outside in lonely places. Yet the people still came to him from everywhere.

Mark 2

Jesus Forgives and Heals a Paralyzed Man

1 A few days later, when Jesus again entered Capernaum, the people heard that he had come home. 2 They gathered in such large numbers that there was no room left, not even outside the door, and he preached the word to them. 3 Some men came, bringing to him a paralyzed man, carried by four of them. 4 Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus by digging through it and then lowered the mat the man was lying on. 5 When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralyzed man, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”

6 Now some teachers of the law were sitting there, thinking to themselves, 7 “Why does this fellow talk like that? He’s blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?”

8 Immediately Jesus knew in his spirit that this was what they were thinking in their hearts, and he said to them, “Why are you thinking these things? 9 Which is easier: to say to this paralyzed man, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, take your mat and walk’? 10 But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” So he said to the man, 11 “I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.” 12 He got up, took his mat and walked out in full view of them all. This amazed everyone and they praised God, saying, “We have never seen anything like this!”

Jesus Calls Levi and Eats With Sinners

13 Once again Jesus went out beside the lake. A large crowd came to him, and he began to teach them. 14 As he walked along, he saw Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax collector’s booth. “Follow me,” Jesus told him, and Levi got up and followed him.

15 While Jesus was having dinner at Levi’s house, many tax collectors and sinners were eating with him and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. 16 When the teachers of the law who were Pharisees saw him eating with the sinners and tax collectors, they asked his disciples: “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?”

17 On hearing this, Jesus said to them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

Jesus Questioned About Fasting

18 Now John’s disciples and the Pharisees were fasting. Some people came and asked Jesus, “How is it that John’s disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees are fasting, but yours are not?”

19 Jesus answered, “How can the guests of the bridegroom fast while he is with them? They cannot, so long as they have him with them. 20 But the time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them, and on that day they will fast.

21 “No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment. Otherwise, the new piece will pull away from the old, making the tear worse. 22 And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the wine will burst the skins, and both the wine and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins.”

Jesus Is Lord of the Sabbath

23 One Sabbath Jesus was going through the grainfields, and as his disciples walked along, they began to pick some heads of grain. 24 The Pharisees said to him, “Look, why are they doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath?”

25 He answered, “Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry and in need? 26 In the days of Abiathar the high priest, he entered the house of God and ate the consecrated bread, which is lawful only for priests to eat. And he also gave some to his companions.”

27 Then he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. 28 So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.”

Mark 3

Jesus Heals on the Sabbath

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

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

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

Crowds Follow Jesus

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

Jesus Appoints the Twelve

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

Jesus Accused by His Family and by Teachers of the Law

20 Then Jesus entered a house, and again a crowd gathered, so that he and his disciples were not even able to eat. 21 When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, “He is out of his mind.”

22 And the teachers of the law who came down from Jerusalem said, “He is possessed by Beelzebul! By the prince of demons he is driving out demons.”

23 So Jesus called them over to him and began to speak to them in parables: “How can Satan drive out Satan? 24 If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. 25If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand. 26And if Satan opposes himself and is divided, he cannot stand; his end has come. 27 In fact, no one can enter a strong man’s house without first tying him up. Then he can plunder the strong man’s house. 28 Truly I tell you, people can be forgiven all their sins and every slander they utter, 29 but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; they are guilty of an eternal sin.”

30 He said this because they were saying, “He has an impure spirit.”

31 Then Jesus’ mother and brothers arrived. Standing outside, they sent someone in to call him. 32 A crowd was sitting around him, and they told him, “Your mother and brothers are outside looking for you.”

33 “Who are my mother and my brothers?” he asked.

34 Then he looked at those seated in a circle around him and said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! 35 Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.”

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Today's Prayer

O God, whose glory it is always to have mercy: Be gracious to all who have gone astray from your ways, and bring them again with penitent hearts and steadfast faith to embrace and hold fast the unchangeable truth of your Word, Jesus Christ your Son; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. - from the Book of Common Prayer

Today's Scripture Reading: Romans 8:31-39

31 What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all--how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? 33 Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. 34 Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died--more than that, who was raised to life--is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. 35Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36 As it is written:

"For your sake we face death all day long;
we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered."

37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Today's Quote

"When we go before God in prayer with a cold, dull heart, and in a lifeless and listless manner pray to him for eternal blessings... we should think of Christ's earnest prayers that he poured out to God, with tears and a bloody sweat. The consideration of it may well make us ashamed of our dull, lifeless prayers to God, [in which] we rather ask a denial than ask to be heard; for the language of such a manner of praying to God is that we do not look upon the benefit that we pray for as of any great importance, that we are indifferent whether God answers us or not. The example of Jacob in wrestling with God for the blessing should teach us earnestness in our prayers, but more especially the example of Jesus Christ, who wrestled with God in a bloody sweat. If we were sensible as Christ was of the great importance of those benefits that are of eternal consequence, our prayers to God for such benefits would be after another manner than now they are. Our souls also would with earnest labor and strife be engaged in this duty." -Jonathan Edwards, 18th century preacher and missionary

Something to Think About

Did you choose to give something up for Lent? Have you kept to that commitment? Whether or not you have, what has the experience taught you?

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