Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Daily Devotional Tuesday 20th March

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.”Galatians 5:22-23 NIV
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Morning and Evening by Charles Spurgeon

Morning

"My beloved."
Song of Solomon 2:8

This was a golden name which the ancient Church in her most joyous moments was wont to give to the Anointed of the Lord. When the time of the singing of birds was come, and the voice of the turtle was heard in her land, her love-note was sweeter than either, as she sang, "My beloved is mine and I am his: he feedeth among the lilies." Ever in her song of songs doth she call him by that delightful name, "My beloved!" Even in the long winter, when idolatry had withered the garden of the Lord, her prophets found space to lay aside the burden of the Lord for a little season, and to say, as Esaias did, "Now will I sing to my well-beloved a song of my beloved touching his vineyard." Though the saints had never seen his face, though as yet he was not made flesh, nor had dwelt among us, nor had man beheld his glory, yet he was the consolation of Israel, the hope and joy of all the chosen, the "beloved" of all those who were upright before the Most High. We, in the summer days of the Church, are also wont to speak of Christ as the best beloved of our soul, and to feel that he is very precious, the "chiefest among ten thousand, and the altogether lovely." So true is it that the Church loves Jesus, and claims him as her beloved, that the apostle dares to defy the whole universe to separate her from the love of Christ, and declares that neither persecutions, distress, affliction, peril, or the sword have been able to do it; nay, he joyously boasts, "In all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us."

O that we knew more of thee, thou ever precious one!

"My sole possession is thy love;

In earth beneath, or heaven above,

I have no other store;

And though with fervent suit I pray,

And importune thee day by day,

I ask thee nothing more."

Evening

"Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church."
Ephesians 5:25

What a golden example Christ gives to his disciples! Few masters could venture to say, "If you would practise my teaching, imitate my life;" but as the life of Jesus is the exact transcript of perfect virtue, he can point to himself as the paragon of holiness, as well as the teacher of it. The Christian should take nothing short of Christ for his model. Under no circumstances ought we to be content unless we reflect the grace which was in him. As a husband, the Christian is to look upon the portrait of Christ Jesus, and he is to paint according to that copy. The true Christian is to be such a husband as Christ was to his church. The love of a husband is special. The Lord Jesus cherishes for the church a peculiar affection, which is set upon her above the rest of mankind: "I pray for them, I pray not for the world." The elect church is the favourite of heaven, the treasure of Christ, the crown of his head, the bracelet of his arm, the breastplate of his heart, the very centre and core of his love. A husband should love his wife with a constant love, for thus Jesus loves his church. He does not vary in his affection. He may change in his display of affection, but the affection itself is still the same. A husband should love his wife with an enduring love, for nothing "shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord." A true husband loves his wife with a hearty love, fervent and intense. It is not mere lip-service. Ah! beloved, what more could Christ have done in proof of his love than he has done? Jesus has a delighted love towards his spouse: He prizes her affection, and delights in her with sweet complacence. Believer, you wonder at Jesus' love; you admire it--are you imitating it? In your domestic relationships is the rule and measure of your love--"even as Christ loved the church?"

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Today's reading: Joshua 1-3, Mark 16 (NIV)

View today's reading on Bible Gateway
Joshua Installed as Leader

1 After the death of Moses the servant of the LORD, the LORD said to Joshua son of Nun, Moses' aide: 2 "Moses my servant is dead. Now then, you and all these people, get ready to cross the Jordan River into the land I am about to give to them-to the Israelites. 3 I will give you every place where you set your foot, as I promised Moses. 4 Your territory will extend from the desert to Lebanon, and from the great river, the Euphrates-all the Hittite country-to the Mediterranean Sea in the west. 5 No one will be able to stand against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you. 6 Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their ancestors to give them.

7 "Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. 8Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. 9Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go."

10 So Joshua ordered the officers of the people: 11 "Go through the camp and tell the people, 'Get your provisions ready. Three days from now you will cross the Jordan here to go in and take possession of the land the LORD your God is giving you for your own.'"

12 But to the Reubenites, the Gadites and the half-tribe of Manasseh, Joshua said, 13 "Remember the command that Moses the servant of the LORD gave you after he said, 'The LORD your God will give you rest by giving you this land.' 14Your wives, your children and your livestock may stay in the land that Moses gave you east of the Jordan, but all your fighting men, ready for battle, must cross over ahead of your fellow Israelites. You are to help them 15 until the LORD gives them rest, as he has done for you, and until they too have taken possession of the land the LORD your God is giving them. After that, you may go back and occupy your own land, which Moses the servant of the LORD gave you east of the Jordan toward the sunrise."

16 Then they answered Joshua, "Whatever you have commanded us we will do, and wherever you send us we will go. 17 Just as we fully obeyed Moses, so we will obey you. Only may the LORD your God be with you as he was with Moses. 18 Whoever rebels against your word and does not obey it, whatever you may command them, will be put to death. Only be strong and courageous!"

Joshua 2

Rahab and the Spies

1 Then Joshua son of Nun secretly sent two spies from Shittim. "Go, look over the land," he said, "especially Jericho." So they went and entered the house of a prostitute named Rahab and stayed there.

2 The king of Jericho was told, "Look, some of the Israelites have come here tonight to spy out the land." 3 So the king of Jericho sent this message to Rahab: "Bring out the men who came to you and entered your house, because they have come to spy out the whole land."

4 But the woman had taken the two men and hidden them. She said, "Yes, the men came to me, but I did not know where they had come from. 5 At dusk, when it was time to close the city gate, they left. I don't know which way they went. Go after them quickly. You may catch up with them." 6 (But she had taken them up to the roof and hidden them under the stalks of flax she had laid out on the roof.) 7 So the men set out in pursuit of the spies on the road that leads to the fords of the Jordan, and as soon as the pursuers had gone out, the gate was shut.

8 Before the spies lay down for the night, she went up on the roof 9 and said to them, "I know that the LORD has given you this land and that a great fear of you has fallen on us, so that all who live in this country are melting in fear because of you.10 We have heard how the LORD dried up the water of the Red Sea for you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to Sihon and Og, the two kings of the Amorites east of the Jordan, whom you completely destroyed. 11 When we heard of it, our hearts melted in fear and everyone's courage failed because of you, for the LORD your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below.

12 "Now then, please swear to me by the LORD that you will show kindness to my family, because I have shown kindness to you. Give me a sure sign 13 that you will spare the lives of my father and mother, my brothers and sisters, and all who belong to them-and that you will save us from death."

14 "Our lives for your lives!" the men assured her. "If you don't tell what we are doing, we will treat you kindly and faithfully when the LORD gives us the land."

15 So she let them down by a rope through the window, for the house she lived in was part of the city wall. 16 She said to them, "Go to the hills so the pursuers will not find you. Hide yourselves there three days until they return, and then go on your way."

17 Now the men had said to her, "This oath you made us swear will not be binding on us 18 unless, when we enter the land, you have tied this scarlet cord in the window through which you let us down, and unless you have brought your father and mother, your brothers and all your family into your house.19 If any of them go outside your house into the street, their blood will be on their own heads; we will not be responsible. As for those who are in the house with you, their blood will be on our head if a hand is laid on them. 20 But if you tell what we are doing, we will be released from the oath you made us swear."

21 "Agreed," she replied. "Let it be as you say."

So she sent them away, and they departed. And she tied the scarlet cord in the window.

22 When they left, they went into the hills and stayed there three days, until the pursuers had searched all along the road and returned without finding them. 23 Then the two men started back. They went down out of the hills, forded the river and came to Joshua son of Nun and told him everything that had happened to them. 24 They said to Joshua, "The LORD has surely given the whole land into our hands; all the people are melting in fear because of us."

Joshua 3

Crossing the Jordan

1 Early in the morning Joshua and all the Israelites set out from Shittim and went to the Jordan, where they camped before crossing over. 2 After three days the officers went throughout the camp, 3 giving orders to the people: "When you see the ark of the covenant of the LORD your God, and the Levitical priests carrying it, you are to move out from your positions and follow it. 4 Then you will know which way to go, since you have never been this way before. But keep a distance of about two thousand cubits between you and the ark; do not go near it."

5 Joshua told the people, "Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the LORD will do amazing things among you."

6 Joshua said to the priests, "Take up the ark of the covenant and pass on ahead of the people." So they took it up and went ahead of them.

7 And the LORD said to Joshua, "Today I will begin to exalt you in the eyes of all Israel, so they may know that I am with you as I was with Moses. 8 Tell the priests who carry the ark of the covenant: 'When you reach the edge of the Jordan's waters, go and stand in the river.'"

9 Joshua said to the Israelites, "Come here and listen to the words of the LORD your God. 10 This is how you will know that the living God is among you and that he will certainly drive out before you the Canaanites, Hittites, Hivites, Perizzites, Girgashites, Amorites and Jebusites. 11 See, the ark of the covenant of the Lord of all the earth will go into the Jordan ahead of you. 12 Now then, choose twelve men from the tribes of Israel, one from each tribe. 13 And as soon as the priests who carry the ark of the LORD-the Lord of all the earth-set foot in the Jordan, its waters flowing downstream will be cut off and stand up in a heap."

14 So when the people broke camp to cross the Jordan, the priests carrying the ark of the covenant went ahead of them. 15Now the Jordan is at flood stage all during harvest. Yet as soon as the priests who carried the ark reached the Jordan and their feet touched the water's edge, 16 the water from upstream stopped flowing. It piled up in a heap a great distance away, at a town called Adam in the vicinity of Zarethan, while the water flowing down to the Sea of the Arabah (that is, the Dead Sea) was completely cut off. So the people crossed over opposite Jericho. 17 The priests who carried the ark of the covenant of the LORD stopped in the middle of the Jordan and stood on dry ground, while all Israel passed by until the whole nation had completed the crossing on dry ground.


Mark 16

Jesus Has Risen

1 When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go to anoint Jesus' body. 2 Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they were on their way to the tomb 3and they asked each other, "Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?"

4 But when they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away. 5 As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed.

6 "Don't be alarmed," he said. "You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him. 7 But go, tell his disciples and Peter, 'He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.'"

8 Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid.

[The earliest manuscripts and some other ancient witnesses do not have verses 9-20.]

9 When Jesus rose early on the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had driven seven demons. 10 She went and told those who had been with him and who were mourning and weeping. 11 When they heard that Jesus was alive and that she had seen him, they did not believe it.

12 Afterward Jesus appeared in a different form to two of them while they were walking in the country. 13 These returned and reported it to the rest; but they did not believe them either.

14 Later Jesus appeared to the Eleven as they were eating; he rebuked them for their lack of faith and their stubborn refusal to believe those who had seen him after he had risen.

15 He said to them, "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. 16 Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. 17And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; 18 they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well."

19 After the Lord Jesus had spoken to them, he was taken up into heaven and he sat at the right hand of God. 20 Then the disciples went out and preached everywhere, and the Lord worked with them and confirmed his word by the signs that accompanied it.

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Lamech [Lā'mech]—overthrower, a strong young man or who is stuck.

  1. A son of Methusael of the race of Cain, who had two wives, Adah and Zillah. It is not difficult to trace in the moral character of Lamech a close resemblance to Cain. We can detect the same haughty spirit, the same self-confidence, the same disregard of human life, the same absence of reverence for God. His address to his wives is that of one who glories in his self-strength and vigor ( Gen. 4:18, 19, 23,24).
  2. A son of Methuselah , and father of Noah. This antediluvian was of the race of Seth (Gen. 5:26-31) and an ancestor of Christ (Luke 3:36).
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Rebekah, Rebecca

The Woman Whose Favoritism Brought Sorrow

Scripture ReferencesGenesis 22:23; 24; 25:20-28; 26:6-35; 27;28:5; 29:12; 35:8; 49:31; Romans 9:6-16

Name Meaning —Rebekah is another name with an animal connection. Although not belonging to any animal in particular, it has reference to animals of a limited class and in a peculiar condition. The name means a “tie rope for animals” or “a noose” in such a rope. Its root is found in a noun meaning a “hitching place” or “stall” and is connected with a “tied-up calf or lamb,” a young animal peculiarly choice and fat. Applied to a female, the figure suggests her beauty by means of which men are snared or bound. Thus another meaning of Rebekah is that of “captivating.” If, then, Rebekah means “a noosed cord,” the loop was firmly around Isaac’s neck. When Isaac took her as his bride he forgot his grief for his dead mother, and lived happily with his wife for twenty years during which time they had no children.

Family Connections—Rebekah is first mentioned in the genealogy of the descendants of Nahor, Abraham’s brother (Genesis 22:20-24 ). When the pilgrims set out from the Ur of the Chaldees, Nahor was one of the party, and settled down at Charran where Terah, his father, died. Among Nahor’s sons was Bethuel who, by an unknown wife, became the father of Rebekah, the sister of Laban. Rebekah married Isaac the son of Abraham, by whom she had two sons, Esau and Jacob.

The story of Isaac and Rebekah as a love lyric full of romance and tender beauty has been retold times without number, and is a charming record that never loses its appeal. Such an idyllic narrative is almost too familiar to need rehearsal, and too simple to require comment, yet because it constitutes one of the most romantic scenes in the Bible, its “moving scenes, so fresh and artless in their old world simplicity” have a pertinent appeal for present-day society. Ancient Bible histories with their arrestive characters and remarkable sequence of events and fortunes never fail to leave an indelible imprint on our hearts. The chapter recording how a wife was found for Isaac ( Genesis 24) presents a link in the chain of events leading up to—

That far-off Divine event

To which the whole creation moves.

Through the marriage of Isaac and Rebekah, Abraham saw that day of Christ in which the church should become the Bride of Christ.

Almost two millenniums after the days of the patriarch whom God spoke of as His “friend,” there were those who considered it a privilege to belong to the race having Abraham as its fountainhead. To be “a son of Abraham” or a lineal descendant of such a grand, great old divine was an honor, but Isaac enjoyed a still greater advantage for Abraham was his own natural father. What a rich dowry of blessing must have been Isaac’s because of such a close relationship. He had the inspiration of his father’s godliness, and the benefit of his prayers and wise counsels—even in the matter of securing the right kind of wife.

Abraham’s opposition to idolatry is seen in his request that the partner for his son, Isaac, must not be “of the daughters of the Canaanites” (24:3). As he had refused a grave for his wife, Sarah, amongst the sepulchers of the Hittites (Genesis 23 ), so a wife for their son must not be sought among their daughters. Thus it came about that Abraham’s trusted, godly servant, Eliezer, was divinely guided to Haran where Nahor, Abraham’s brother settled. Too feeble to make the journey himself, Abraham gave his servant the most careful instructions, and impressed upon him the solemn significance of his mission. Confident as to the result of the search for a suitable wife for Isaac, Abraham assured the earthly seeker that he would be guided by God’s angel. Eliezer, the intelligent, prudent, obedient and praying servant went forth. Seeking a sign of divine guidance, not to prove God’s faithfulness, but for his own direction in the choice of a woman of character as a wife for his master’s son, the servant came to Nahor’s well at Nahor, and saw in Rebekah who had come to draw water the answer to his prayer and quest.

Eliezer lost no time in telling Rebekah who he was, and from whom he had come, and the purpose of his search. He revealed his tact in the way he wooed and won the heart of Rebekah. The gifts he bestowed upon her and the good things he said of his master, secured the favor of Rebekah’s family who gave its consent to the proposed marriage. Faced with instant departure from her dear ones, Rebekah is given her choice—“Wilt thou go with this man?” Without hesitation, feeling that she, too, was following the leading of God, as Eliezer had, Rebekah replied in a firm voice, “I will go.”

The caravan set out for Abraham’s home, and now we come to a superb touch in the romantic story. Isaac was out in the fields at eventide for his usual period of meditation. He saw the approaching camels and sensed the success of Eliezer in the choice of a wife. Reaching Isaac, Rebekah, according to custom, veiled her face, and the end of this exquisite poem of the meeting of bride and bridegroom is stated in most expressive terms—“Isaac brought her into his mother Sarah’s tent, and took Rebekah, and she became his wife; and he loved her.”

Marrying “sight unseen” is a most dangerous venture, but in this case it was successful because “the angel of the Lord” had directed the events leading up to the union. When Rebekah saw the handsome, mild-mannered and meditative Isaac, her heart went out to him. As for Isaac, a man of forty, and some twenty years older than Rebekah, he instantly loved the most beautiful woman he beheld, and she remained his only love. Some matrimonial matches have been described as “Lucifer Matches,” because of clash of temperament and temper, but the marriage of Isaac and Rebekah was certainly one “made in heaven.” There would be fewer broken homes if only young people looking for partners would seek the guidance of God as the servant of Abraham did. We agree with Alexander Whyte when he says of the ancient record of the circumstances leading to the securing of a wife for Isaac—

A sweeter chapter was never written than the twenty-fourth of Genesis.... The picture of aged Abraham swearing his most trusty servant about a bride for his son Isaac; that servant’s journey to Padan-aram in the far east; Rebekah, first at the well, and then in her mother’s house; and then her first sight of her future husband—that long chapter is a perfect gem of ancient authorship.

As with other pairs in the Bible, it is hardly possible to separate Isaac from Rebekah whose lives were so closely knit together. Yet let us see if we can sketch a portrait of Rebekah herself.

Her Character

As a damsel, that is, a maiden around twenty years of age, Rebekah was “fair to look upon,” meaning that she had an unaffected Oriental beauty. She was a virgin, and had a childlike simplicity. There was no trace of wantonness in her. As with her mother-in-law, Sarah, beauty carried its dangers. During his sojourn in Gerar, Isaac feared lest the physical charms of his wife might excite the desire of the king of Gerar and so he lied. Thus Isaac passed Rebekah off as his sister—a course of action which might have had dire consequences (Genesis 26:6-16 ). He fell into the same error as his father before him (see Sarah). Andrew Fuller says, “The falls of those that have gone before us are like so many rocks on which others have been split; and the recording of them is like placing buoys over them for the security of future mariners.” But in the story of Isaac the buoy served no beneficial purpose.

Beautiful Rebekah had been taken by Abimelech, but one day as he looked out of the window he saw Isaac caressing Rebekah, and he knew that he had been deceived. Isaac’s untruthfulness was discovered, and the heir of God’s promises was rebuked by a heathen king for his lying and deception. In the providence of God, Abimelech, an idolater, was made the protector of the child of promise (see Psalm 17:13 ). As “an amiable and lovely girl,” as her name suggests, she was industrious, for although she was a member of a family of standing she was not afraid to soil her hands. The hard work of drawing and carrying water, the provision she made for Eliezer’s camels, and the meal she prepared, speak of Rebekah as one who did not shun domestic duties. That she was a woman of faith is evident from what Paul says of her as being the recipient of a direct revelation from the Lord regarding universal blessing through her favorite Jacob (Romans 9:12).

Rebekah’s best qualities come out in the simple yet heartwarming narrative describing her response to Eliezer’s approach, in her service to him, and in her willingness to believe and act upon all he had told her. In his remarkable cameo of Rebekah, George Matheson uses the following terms or expressions—“a fine manner” &--;“remarkable tact”—“a sunbeam to her household”—“a very beautiful young woman, with the gift of physical charm which was apt to produce self-consciousness”—“the gift of intellectual sympathy”—“Rebekah’s morning ray is a ray of sympathetic insight.”

Modest and meek, frank and open, ready kindness, great energy and faith, graciousness matching her physical charm, describe Rebekah. When she became a mother she revealed how masterful and clever she could be—a direct contrast to Isaac who was probably more simple, slow of wit, and mild of manner than his wife. The lines of Wordsworth can express Isaac’s feelings when for the first time he gazed upon the lovely Rebekah and came to experience her comforting love as she filled the empty place in his heart because of his mother’s death.

She was a phantom of delight

When first she gleamed upon my sight;

A lovely apparition, sent

To be a moment’s ornament;

Her eyes as stars of twilight fair,

Like twilight’s, too, her dusky hair.

But all things else about her drawn

From May-time and the cheerful dawn.

A dancing shape, an image gay,

To haunt, to startle, and waylay.

I saw her upon nearer view,

A spirit, yet a woman too!

Her Children

Motherhood came to Rebekah somewhat late in life when Isaac was an aging man. For twenty years she had been childless, and conscious of God’s promise that the Abrahamic Covenant could not be broken, Isaac entreated God that his long barren wife might conceive. He graciously answered his earnest intercession (Genesis 25:19-34). As his prayer was in the line of God’s purpose, it was sure of an answer (1 John 5:14 ). The years of waiting on the part of Isaac and Rebekah show that God has His own time for the fulfillment of His purpose.

Like coral strands beneath the sea,

So strongly built and chaste,

The plans of God, unfolding, show

No signs of human haste.

In an age of almost universal polygamy, Isaac took no handmaid, concubine, or second wife. Rebekah and he were bound together by the bonds of a mutual affection, and although childless, yet became the parents of two sons who were destined to be the progenitors of different nations. But when Rebekah became the mother of twins—the first of two Bible women mentioned as giving birth to twins—the other was Tamar (Genesis 38:27)—somehow she changed and was a different character from the young bride who rode south so gaily to meet her lover in Canaan, as our next glimpse of her will show.

The opposite characters of Rebekah’s twins, Esau and Jacob, brought into sharp focus the dark side of their mother. As Esau was the first to emerge from her womb he had the precedence and was thus the heir of two things, namely “the sovereignty and the priesthood, of the clan—the birthright and the blessing. The birthright was the right of succession.... The blessing was something to be given during the lifetime of the father.” We learn that as the boys grew, “Esau was a cunning (skillful) hunter, a man of the field; and Jacob was a plain man, dwelling in tents.” At the time of their birth, Jacob seized his brother’s heel—an incident prophetic of the day when he would supplant Esau. Often in children there are characteristics predictive of the manner of adults they will be.

The divergence of Rebekah’s twins in temperament, inclination, occupation, and religious aspirations is most apparent. Esau was wrapped in a raiment of hair, a rough man of the wilderness, a clever hunter with something of the wild daring spirit of the modern Bedouin. Jacob was the opposite of his brother. He preferred a fixed abode, to dwell in his tent rather than roam the desert. Esau was probably more brilliant, attractive, forceful, daring than his twin brother. Jacob, in spite of his weaknesses and mistakes was the finer character, and on the whole truer to the Lord and more fitted to possess the blessing of the birthright. Further, there was the difference of regard on the part of Isaac and Rebekah toward their two sons that resulted in sorrow and separation.

Isaac loved Esau, but the love was somewhat sensual. He loved his son “because he did eat of his venison.” Such love is of a carnal nature, for love in its highest sense has regard not so much to what the loved one gives as to what he or she is.

Rebekah loved Jacob, not because he was more of a “homebody” than his brother, or possessed a more loving nature than he, but because Jacob was the Lord’s preference (Romans 9:13 ). Esau thought so lightly of the birthright that he was willing to sell it for a mess of pottage, and be guilty, thereby, of the sin of profanity (Hebrews 12:16). Jacob, however, recognized the solemnity of the birthright and wished to possess it. Esau thought of it as of no more value than a mouthful of food, but Jacob knew something of the sacred significance of the birthright and was therefore a more fit channel through which the blessing of God could flow to the seed of Abraham.

As Rebekah is often blamed for the partiality or favoritism she manifested for Jacob, it may be profitable to consider the matter of preference in family life. When parents single out one of their children as a favorite and shower more love and attention upon that one than the rest, such an unwise and unnatural course inevitably results in jealousy and strife. Although Isaac found “in Esau that strong practical nature, and energetic character which distinguished the woman he so dearly loved; and Rebekah saw in the gentle Jacob a replica of the father who had so strangely attracted her that first day when she met him meditating in the fields at evening,” the partiality was absolutely indefensible and led to lying and deception on Rebekah’s part.

What else can be expected but confusion and trouble when there is a crossing of purposes between parents concerning their children? Was the root-cause of Rebekah’s unnatural and unmotherly preference of Jacob over Esau and her treatment of Esau as though he was not, the lack of deep love for her husband, and that union of moral and spiritual ideas and ideals characteristic of every true marriage? We are certainly told that Isaac loved Rebekah, but not that she loved Isaac. Somehow we feel that if husband and wife had been one in all things in that ancient home, Rebekah would have been more concerned about Jacob’s character than his prosperity. But Isaac was partial to Esau and Rebekah partial to Jacob—which favoritism resulted in Esau leaving home, and Jacob fleeing from it. Rebekah’s record therefore shows that while Isaac was faithful to her, she was unfaithful to Isaac in a twofold way. First, she cheated Esau, her oldest son, and Isaac’s pet out of his birthright. Then she cheated Esau out of his father’s blessing, which prerogative had the effect of a testamentary bequest.

Comparing the chapter of the romantic meeting of Isaac and Rebekah ( Genesis 24) with its perfection of writing, and the dark chapter of Rebekah’s deception (Genesis 28), Alexander Whyte says, “That the ship was launched on such a golden morning only the more darkens the surrounding gloom when she goes to the bottom.” Then dealing with the secret alienation that developed between Isaac and Rebekah, the same renowned expositor adds—

When the two twin-brothers were brought up day after day and hour after hour in an atmosphere of favouritism, and partiality, and indulgence, and injustice, no father, no mother, can surely need to have it pointed out to them what present misery, and what future wages of such sin, is all to be seen and to be expected in that evil house.

One result of Rebekah’s preference for Jacob was the spite and the sight of Esau going out and grieving his parents by marrying two ungodly women. Esau was forty years old when he did this &--;the same age at which Isaac married Rebekah. His parents must have seen in the foreign wives he brought home the firstfruits of the devil’s garden they had sowed for themselves. “Their great grief would seem to have been almost the only thing the two old people were at one about by that time.” Esau had seen little in his mother to admire and respect; therefore he was never in any mood to please her. What a different story would have been written if Esau’s home had been “without partiality”!

Her Chicanery

Chicanery is described as the act of one who deliberately deceives, and this was Rebekah’s sin. The destiny of her favorite son, Jacob, was strongly influenced by his mother’s strong-mindedness, and thus she became the authoress of the treacherous plan to deprive Esau of his father’s blessing. Isaac is old, feeble and blind, and informs the members of his household that the time has come to give Esau, officially, what was left to him after selling his birthright, namely, the blessing which carried with it the recognition of his headship, the ratification of the birthright. So Isaac told his favorite son to take his bow and arrow and go into the fields, hunt for his much-liked venison, and make a savory meal. At that time, and for centuries in the Orient, a meal taken together was a common symbol of a saved pledge when father and son partook together. In such an hour of sacred fellowship the father bestowed upon the elder son his rank and place.

Rebekah overheard, and her deceitful heart was stirred to action. She set about to thwart her husband’s purpose. Her favorite son must not be displaced, and her hopes for him dashed to the ground, by the impetuous hunter whom Isaac loved. Cunningly she devised the plan of impersonation. While Esau was out in the fields hunting, Rebekah told Jacob to go to a flock nearby and bring two kids for her to dress and cook and pass off as venison. While cautious about his mother’s duplicity, he had no conscience against it. What made Jacob hesitant was the fact that his brother was a hairy man, while his own skin was smooth, and that if his father felt him and sensed the deception, he would not bless him, but curse him.

Rebekah, however, was equal to this fear of Jacob, and he followed the counsels of his treacherous mother. He put the skin of the kids upon his hands and upon his neck, thus making himself feel and smell like Esau, and so deceived his aged, blind father. Doubtless Rebekah stood nearby in convenient concealment to see how her ill-conceived ruse would succeed. Smelling Esau’s clothes, and feeling the false hairy hands, Isaac was a little doubtful and said, “The voice is the voice of Jacob, but the hands are the hands of Esau.” But reassured by the repeated lies of Jacob, the deceived father bestowed the unalterable blessing upon his son, and Jacob, by fraud, became the father of Israel’s race. To his discredit, he played the role successfully which his mother had drilled into him with masterly skill. Covetous of the sacred, patriarchal blessing for her favorite son, Rebekah felt she had to resort to duplicity to gain her ends, and in doing so she prostituted parental authority. “My son obey my voice” (Genesis 27:8), and Jacob the misguided son obeyed, and in his subsequent career bore the bitter fruit of his conduct when Laban deceived him regarding Rachel.

A deceiver Jacob was

Full of craft and guile;

Thro' long years he bore his guilt,

Unrepentant all the while.

Samuel Morely once said, “I am much what my mother has made me.” It was so in a wrong sense in the life of Jacob, for as in the case of Athaliah, “his mother was his counsellor to do wickedly” (2 Chronicles 22:3 ). The thoroughness with which Jacob carried out his mother’s plan of deception is surely one of the worse features of the narrative. Fearful of the failure of his mother’s plot, Jacob said, “I will bring a curse upon me and not a blessing.” But Rebekah replied, “Upon me be thy curse, my son, only obey my voice.” The future scheming life of Jacob, however, was but the extension of the deceitful qualities of his mother, and both suffered as the result of adopting false methods to accomplish right ends.

When Esau found that he had been robbed of his blessing through the cunning scheme of his mother, he became a remorseless avenger and swore the death of his brother who was forced to flee for his life to Haran, some 500 miles away. Rebekah never saw the face of her much-loved son again. To add to her reproach she had to endure the grief of seeing her other son marry heathen women. Esau’s heathen wives caused Rebekah to be weary of her life (Genesis 27:46 ). Esau received a promise from his father that he would be the progenitor of a great nation—the Edomites—and much misery accrued to Israel because of Edom. The wrath of Esau’s enraged blood boiled in the blood of Herod the Idumean on the day he reviled the Man of Sorrows.

There are some writers who try to justify the actions of Rebekah by saying that she was prompted to take the course she did concerning Jacob because of the prediction that, “the elder shall serve the younger,” but God had no need of trickery and deceit to fulfill His promise. Ambitious for her son, Rebekah sacrificed the love of her husband, the loss of the esteem of her elder son, and the peace of her soul, for the idolized son whose face she never saw again. Without doubt, Jacob was the divinely-appointed heir of Abraham (Genesis 25:23 ), and Rebekah seeking to overrule the purpose of Isaac in his blessing of Esau, resorted to deceit to accomplish the will of God. Her guiding principle was, “Let us do evil that good may come” (Romans 3:8), but wrong is never right (James 1:20). Esau had sold his birthright for a mess of pottage, and Rebekah catered to Isaac’s carnal appetite in order to accomplish a divine purpose. Had she laid aside “all guile, and hypocrisies” ( 1 Peter 2:1), and reasoned with her husband about the solemn issue at stake she would have been saved from the disgrace which her worldly policy brought upon her own head and from the sorrow others had to endure.

Almost the last picture we have of Rebekah is when she tearfully witnessed the hasty departure of her favorite son. “A strong-minded, decisive girl had grown into an autocratic matriarch,” and ends her days a brokenhearted woman. When she died we are not told. Isaac, although much older than Rebekah, was still living when Jacob returned to Canaan over 20 years later. It is assumed that she died during Jacob’s long absence, and was buried in the cave of Machpelah near Hebron (Genesis 49:31 ). A fitting epitaph for her grave would have been, “Died of a broken heart.” The only monument Rebekah has is to be found in the Anglican marriage service of The Book of Common Prayer where we read—

That as Isaac and Rebekah lived faithfully together, so these persons may surely perform and keep the vow and covenant betwixt them.

While she may have been faithful during the first 20 years of marriage while she was childless, Rebekah, by her unjustifiable treacherous and wholly inexplicable intervention for her favorite son, stained her solemn marriage.

Reviewing Rebekah’s life and character what are some of the warnings to heed? Are we not forcibly reminded that love which seeks success at the cost of truth and righteousness is of the earth, earthy? The devil’s maxim is, “Nothing succeeds like success.” But from God’s standpoint nothing succeeds which does not follow the way of truth and honesty. Then, while she had physical beauty, her domination of Jacob and her scheme to deceive her husband revealed the lack of the beauty of a godly character. Further, Rebekah is a warning to all parents that there should be no favorites in the family; that all alike should be dear to them. If there is partiality for any in a family, it should only be for those who are weak and helpless.

Another warning bell is that when a wife conspires against her husband, or vice versa, they are guilty of a baseness which language cannot describe. When one partner finds that he has been betrayed by the other, the world becomes a blank.

The mind has a thousand eyes

The heart but one,

But the light of a whole life dies

When love is done.

There is one beneficial application we can make of Rebekah’s prompt decision to follow Eliezer to meet her future bridegroom, Isaac &--;I will go! In connection with the higher betrothal of the soul to the heavenly Bridegroom, He comes to the sinner saying as Eliezer did to Rebekah, “Will you go with Me? Will you follow Me into that country where saints immortal reign?” When hearts respond to such an appeal, “Yea, Lord I will go. I will follow Thee, whithersoever Thou goest!” they are twice blessed.

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Christ, Our Solid Foundation

Matthew 7:24-29 "Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock" (v. 24).

Some liberal scholars want us to believe that the Synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) do not share John's understanding of Christ's authority (8:58; 10:30) since the first three evangelists record few, if any, of Jesus' self-identifications with Yahweh Himself. However, this "scholarly" assumption is false. In particular, Matthew records several teachings of Jesus that reveal the evangelist's high view of our Lord's person and work (Christology). For example, Jesus claims for Himself the right to determine who will enter the kingdom of heaven in Matthew 7:21-23, and in the Old Testament only God Himself makes such judgments (Eccl. 12:13-14). Furthermore, in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus presents His interpretation of God's law as having the final say (Matt. 5:21-48). Christ is no mere prophet - he does not merely speak for the Lord; He speaks as the Lord. "I say to you" is what we hear Him say, and He expects us to recognize His right to give the meaning of the Scriptures. Unlike the scribes, Jesus does not cite other rabbis to prove His point. He depends solely on His own understanding, and the crowd that overhears His sermon is astonished at the authority with which He teaches (7:28-29).

Matthew Henry says, "It is possible for people to admire good preaching, and yet to remain in ignorance and unbelief; to be astonished, and yet not sanctified." Amazement at Christ's authority is not enough, today's passage reveals. We must build our lives on the solid foundation of His teaching. If we do not do what He says, we are like those whose houses rest upon the sand and are swept away by flash floods (vv. 24-27). Our good works do not merit salvation, but real trust in Christ is not present in our hearts without the corresponding obedience of faith ( Rom. 1:5; James 2:14-26).

Building on Christ, Henry also says, means that we are always seeking "to conform to all the rules of his holy religion, and thus depend entirely on him for assistance from God, and acceptance with him, and count everything but loss and rubbish that [we] may gain Christ, and be found in him." May our confession of Jesus' authority translate into the doing of His words.

Coram deo: Living before the face of God

"On Christ, the solid rock, I stand; all other ground is sinking sand," wrote Edward Mote. In endeavoring to serve Jesus, we see how far we fall short of His demands, confessing that our righteousness does not exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees (Matt. 5:20). This poverty of spirit (v. 3) drives us to the cross where Jesus picks us up, making us more sorrowful for sin and more ready to obey. This is what it means to build our lives on Christ's words.

For further study:

Job 22:16-17

The Bible in a year:

Joshua 13-14

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

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Christ, Our Solid Foundation

Matthew 7:24-29

"On Christ, the solid rock, I stand; all other ground is sinking sand," wrote Edward Mote. In endeavoring to serve Jesus, we see how far we fall short of His demands, confessing that our righteousness does not exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees (Matt. 5:20). This poverty of spirit (v. 3) drives us to the cross where Jesus picks us up, making us more sorrowful for sin and more ready to obey. This is what it means to build our lives on Christ's words.

For further study:

Job 22:16-17

The Bible in a year:

Joshua 13-14

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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A warning against hardness of heart

‘But exhort one another daily, while it is called to-day; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.’ Hebrews 3:13

Suggested Further Reading: Titus 2:1–10

This duty belongs primarily to the pastor and to church officers. We are set in the church to see after the good of the people, and it is our business both in public and in private, as far as we have opportunity, to exhort daily; and especially where we see any coldness creeping over men, where there begins to be a decline in the ways of God, it is our duty to be most earnest in exhortation. The duty belongs to you all. ‘Exhort one another daily.’ Parents should be careful concerning their children in this matter. You act not the part of a true father unless you see to your son whether he be in church membership or not, that upon the slightest inconsistency he receives a gentle word of rebuke from you. Sunday school teachers, this is peculiarly your work with regard to your own classes. Watch over your children, not only that they may be converted, but that after being converted they may be as watered gardens, no plants withering, but all the graces of the Spirit coming to perfection through your care. Here is work for the elders among us. You whose grey heads betoken years of experience, and whose years of experience ought to have given you wisdom and knowledge, you may use the superiority which age affords you to offer a word of exhortation, lovingly and tenderly to the young. You can speak as those of us who are younger cannot speak, for you can tell what you have tasted and have handled; perhaps you can even tell where you have smarted by reason of your own faults and follies. All of you without exception, whether you be rich or poor, see to each others’ souls; say not, ‘Am I my brother’s keeper?’ but seek your brother’s good for edification.

For meditation : The exhortations God gives us in his Word (Joshua 1:6–9; Hebrews 10:19,22) should be the pattern for our mutual exhortations (Joshua 1:18; Hebrews 10:24–25 ). Beloved, if God so exhorts us, we ought also to exhort one another.

Sermon no. 620
19 March (1865)

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March 19, 2012
The Beatitudes of Anger Management
Part 1
Mary Southerland

Today's Truth
"In your anger, do not sin" (Ephesians 4:26).

Friend to Friend
Everyone has to deal with anger. The challenge is to deal with anger in the right way. Anger is powerful - an emotional warning that something is wrong. We have been hurt or rejected. Something has changed and we don't like it!

Anger itself is not sin. We just have to learn to express anger in the right way. Mishandled anger is destructive but anger that is handled correctly can become a tool for good. God's Word is filled with tips for learning to handle anger in a healthy and godly way.

Be still.
Psalm 46:10 "Be still and know that I am God."

If we are busy, it is much easier to ignore or refuse to face and deal with the real source of anger. Anger that is not dealt with in the right way accumulates over time, allowing bitterness to take root and rage to simmer just below the surface of everything we do, say, think or feel. In order to manage anger, we need to incorporate frequent and regular "stops" into our schedules; time set aside to simply be still and hear the voice of God.

Be quiet.
James 1:19-20 "Everyone should be slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man's anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires."

Our first response to conflict is often not a response at all … but a reaction. We jump in with a brutal rebuttal or a thoughtless correction – which is like pouring gasoline on a fire. An explosion is bound to happen. Our first action should be to stop and think instead of rushing to respond in a way that could escalate tensions or provoke an offensive response from others. Listen to the other person before responding. Try counting to ten before saying anything. This may not address the anger directly, but it can minimize the damage you will do while angry.

Be wise.
Proverbs 25:28 "Like a city whose walls are broken down, is a man who lacks self-control."

Wisdom is doing the right thing at the right time for the right reason. Anger management comes from wisdom rooted in self-control. I love the story of Jesus driving the money-changers out of His Father's temple. In John 2:15 , Scripture says Jesus "made a whip out of cords." Don't miss this picture. At the height of His anger, Jesus gathered several cords and braided a whip. I imagine it took several minutes at least to form a whip substantial enough to drive grown men anywhere. I think Jesus was so angry that He knew He needed to cool off, so He deliberately chose to be still, quiet and wise. When we are close to losing control of anger, we need to be wise.

Be discerning.
Psalm 4:4 "In your anger do not sin … search your hearts and be silent."

The longer I work with people the more I realize that there is always a reason for their behavior. Hurt people – hurt people. When you are angry at someone, ask yourself why. Think back to what led up to the conflict. Was it something someone said to you? Has a past problem triggered your present anger? Give yourself time to consider why you are upset and what you should do to handle it in a way that pleases God.

God created us with the capacity for emotions. That means He has a right plan and a right place for emotions in our lives. Anger management is a spiritual discipline that God honors, blesses and empowers. Tomorrow, we will look at four more ways God gives us to control anger.

Let's Pray
Father, please forgive me when I allow anger to control what I say and do. I want to honor You in the way I manage my emotions – especially the anger in my life. Fill my heart with Your peace. Help me cultivate the spiritual discipline of anger management and learn how to control my emotions instead of allowing them to control me.
In Jesus' name,
Amen.

Now it's your turn
Evaluate the level of anger in your life. Would people who know you well describe you as an angry person? Identity the source of your anger; then make the commitment to face and deal with whatever is causing your anger. Review each anger management tip. Which one jumps out at you as a starting point for learning to control anger in your life? Read and memorize the verse of Scripture listed with that tip. Pray – asking God to show you the steps you need to take today to manage the anger in your life. Record your thoughts and the truths God gives you in your journal.

More from the Girlfriends
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.


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Melissa Taylor

March 19, 2012

The Trials of Friendship
Melissa Taylor

"A friend loves at all times, and a brother in born for adversity." Proverbs 17:17 (NIV)

When I asked "Paula" if she could get together Thursday evening she declined. She and her mother already had plans.

A little while later I called "Dana" to see if she could hang out Thursday. You can imagine my shock when she said, "Sorry, I'm going to a dinner party at Paula's. You're not invited?"

Ouch! I couldn't help but wonder why Paula felt she could not be honest with me. Dana said the party was small and Paula probably didn't want to hurt my feelings. I understood, but being left out and lied to really hurt.

An uncomfortable knot sat in my stomach as I struggled with whether I should approach Paula or not.

We'd come to a crossroads in our friendship. I wanted to tell her, "It's okay you didn't invite me to your party but you didn't have to lie to me. And I forgive you, because 'a friend loves at all times.'" But I was too afraid.

At times like this, I follow my mom's advice. "When you don't know what to do, that's your cue to pray." God reminded me that when a "friend loves at all times" it means we believe the best about each other and work through problems.

Despite both my mom's and God's wisdom, I'm sad to say I decided to just let it go; I was too fearful to caringly confront my friend.

Paula called me a few weeks later. She felt bad for lying to me, apologized and explained the dinner party. I also apologized for not confronting her. I should have known our friendship was stronger than my fears.

We ended up laughing about our insecurities, and ourselves, because we knew we loved each other and wouldn't intentionally hurt one another. She should have been honest and I should've been brave enough to ask her about it.

Lying isn't supposed to be a part of friendship, but neither is fear. Every relationship will have its share of trials and mishaps. But it should also have its share of believing the best in each other and forgiveness.

When obstacles that aren't dealt with come between two people, they can eat at our hearts, little by little. When we allow it to build up over time, our enemy will use it to divide us.

Perhaps the Lord is prompting you to tell the truth to a friend you've not been honest with. Or maybe you're the one who's been told a lie. Scripture tells us, "If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone" (Romans 12:18 NIV 1984). Whether telling the truth, or confronting a lie, it rests upon us to do whatever possible to reconcile with our friend.

You may be on the other end of a confession or confrontation that was not well received. I'm so sorry. I know it's painful to lose a friend. But we can rest assured, that once we've done our part, the Lord will continue to do His and heal the wound left.

If you're at a crossroads now, wondering if you should confess or caringly confront, may I encourage you to pray and take the next step? I am so glad Paula called me. What we have is too good to allow hurt feelings and misunderstandings to ruin it.

God's Word tells us "a friend loves at all times." That may not always be easy, but in the end, it's worth it. In fact, I can honestly say our friendship is now even stronger than it was before.

Dear Lord, we can make life so much more complicated than it needs to be. Help us to be honest, be brave, and to love and forgive each other the way You do. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Do You Know Him?

Join Melissa and thousands of others in her next Online Bible Study of An Untroubled Heart by Micca Campbell. The study begins March 25. Click here for information and to enter to win a copy of An Untroubled Heart!

Find loads of encouragement on Melissa Taylor's Online Bible Studies Facebook Page

Reflect and Respond:
Is there a situation in your life that needs restoration or reconciliation?

Pray about how to move into action to make things right. Then take a first step.

Power Verse:
Matthew 18:21-22, "Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, 'Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?' Jesus answered, 'I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.'" (NIV 1984)

Proverbs 3:5-6, "Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight." (NIV 1984)

© 2012 by Melissa Taylor. All rights reserved.

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

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Skills: Change/Innovation

READ MARK 2:18-22

"Why do you cut off the ends of a roast before cooking it?" a husband asked his wife.

"Because my mother did it that way," she responded with a smile. Curious, the husband called his wife's mother and asked her the same question. When she gave an identical answer, he called his wife's grandmother. The moment the elderly matron heard the question she laughed and said, "I don't know why they cut off the ends of the roast, but I did it that way because a full roast wouldn't fit into my pan."

That story illustrates how most practices are initiated to serve a purpose. But over time, even the best practice can lose its usefulness. It takes a wise leader to know when to change something. It takes insight to recognize when it's time for innovation. Jesus certainly understood the role of change and rebuked those who stood in the way of innovation.

The Pharisees chided Jesus because he didn't force his disciples to fast. (v. 18). Jesus informed them that he had not come to add a few new rules and regulations to Judaism. He had something entirely new to impart. The Lord made it clear to the religious leaders that he hadn't come to patch an old system (vv. 21-22). Such an effort would be as foolish as putting a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment, or putting new wine in an old wineskin. When the patch shrunk, the garment would tear. When the wine fermented, the wineskin would burst. The old forms of Judaism could never contain the spirit of Jesus' message.

Jesus was an innovator. A change maker. And so is every effective leader. What innovations have you brought to the team you lead? What innovations would you like to introduce? What's keeping you from proceeding? How can you work past those hindrances?

Change/Innovation and Who God Is

In one way or another, all of us have an aversion to change, especially when things appear to be going reasonably well. But we serve a God who says, "I am making everything new!" (Revelation 21:5). God is not interested in preserving the status quo; he is committed to nothing less than an entirely new order of creation. Turn to John 1:1-18 to consider the radical change that was introduced by the incarnation of Christ.

This Week's Verse to Memorize PHILIPPIANS 3:12-14

Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

Change/Innovation and Who I Am

Change and innovation are integral components of both biological and spiritual growth. The Scriptures focus more on process than on product, because all believers are in a process (whether we resist it or not) of becoming the people God meant us to be. Without change, growth is impossible. Turn to Genesis 12:1-3 for the account of God's call to Abram to leave everything and follow him.

Change/Innovation and How It Works

Change is tough enough when we're the only ones involved. But the role of a leader is to bring about change in others and/or in an organization. Now that's really tough! God modeled some powerful principles of organizational change when he urged the exclusively Jewish church in Jerusalem to embrace Gentiles. Acts 10:9-23 tells the story.

Change/Innovation and What I Do

Change is important. But it's also important to cling to core values. Peter experienced that tension, and God helped him to facilitate change while not abandoning his core values. James C. Collins and Jerry I. Porras help us to understand the importance of both change and core values to a leader. Turn to Acts 16:6-10 for today's reading.


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by Kenneth Boa
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The Handbook to Leadership includes: 52-Week Leadership Guide, Topical Leadership Guide, Leadership Character Studies, and Books of the Bible Leadership Guide.


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The Bible

“I have written to him the great things of my law, but they were counted as a strange thing.” Hosea 8:12

Suggested Further Reading: 2 Peter 1:16-21

Who is the author of it? Do these men jointly claim the authorship? Are they the compositors of this massive volume? Do they between themselves divide the honour? Our holy religion answers, No! This volume is the writing of the living God: each letter was penned with an Almighty finger; each word in it dropped from the everlasting lips, each sentence was dictated by the Holy Spirit. Albeit, that Moses was employed to write his histories with his fiery pen, God guided that pen. It may be that David touched his harp and let sweet psalms of melody drop from his fingers, but God moved his hands over the living strings of his golden harp. It may be that Solomon sang canticles of love, or gave forth words of consummate wisdom, but God directed his lips, and made the preacher eloquent. If I follow the thundering Nahum when his horses plough the waters, or Habbakuk when he sees the tents of Cushan in affliction; if I read Malachi, when the earth is burning like an oven; if I turn to the smooth page of John, who tells of love, or the rugged fiery chapters of Peter, who speaks of the fire devouring God’s enemies; if I turn to Jude, who launches forth curses upon the foes of God, everywhere I find God speaking: it is God’s voice, not man’s; the words are God’s words, the words of the Eternal, the Invisible, the Almighty, the Jehovah of this earth. This Bible is God’s Bible; and when I see it, I seem to hear a voice springing up from it, saying, “I am the book of God: man, read me. I am God’s writing: open my leaf, for I was penned by God; read it, for he is my author, and you will see him visible and manifest everywhere.”

For meditation: We all have our favourite Bible writers and passages, but we must never limit ourselves to them, otherwise we will miss some of the great things God has said.

Sermon no. 15
19 March (Preached 18 March 1855)

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NIV Devotions for Moms

The Real Thing

Joel 2:12-13

Additional Scripture Readings: Jeremiah 17:10; 2 Corinthians 3:17-4:2

Someone once remarked, "The closer we get to someone, the more our impression will depend upon who they are rather than what they do." Counterfeits don't fool many, especially family members. If we want our families to adopt the spiritual principles we believe in, we'll have to model them with sincerity. Living this kind of life out before our husbands and children and the world means showing them the "real thing" and not just some semblance.

When Joel writes about rending our hearts and not our garments, this is what he means. Anyone can look like they belong to God on the outside, tearing their outer garments in grief about their sinful state the way an Old Testament priest might. But those with genuine faith rend their hearts. They open their hearts to God and to others for inspection.

We can't fake it with our kids. We won't be able to fool our husbands. The longer they live with us, the more their impression will be of who we truly are, not just what we do.

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Perpetual Puberty

Proverbs 1:1-33

Junior high. The place where we transitioned to adolescence with pimply faces and few social skills. A time when it wasn't cool to listen to authority. When sarcasm and spite peppered our speech. We thought we knew it all. Now-after 20, 30 or 40 years-many of us look back with regret on some of the choices we made then. We still wince when we remember the wounds we received from cutting words; we still wince when we remember the wounds we inflicted on others. What was missing during that season of life? Could it have been wisdom?

Actually, wisdom was there all the time, but we probably ignored it. When we allow wisdom to go unheeded, we're like a teenager stuck in perpetual puberty. In Proverbs 1, Solomon describes the unwise as those who "delight in mockery" (verse 22), reject help (verse 24) and ignore advice (verse 25). It sounds like Solomon knew more than a few spiritual adolescents, doesn't it?

He goes on to say that those who reject God's knowledge will "eat the fruit of their ways and be filled with the fruit of their schemes" (verse 31). In other words, we will reap what we sow, or in popular jargon, "we'll get what we deserve." Wisdom's warning is appropriate for all of us, regardless of our age.

Where are you on your spiritual journey? Are you stuck in perpetual spiritual puberty? Here are a few signs: You constantly worry about what others think of you. You overreact to stressful situations. You're too proud or stubborn to listen to those older and wiser. You stay with one group and ridicule others. If you've found yourself in perpetual puberty, then seek wisdom.

God's wisdom isn't reserved for a few scholars; it's available to everyone. Wisdom is found in the book that holds eternal truth-God's Word. According to Solomon, wisdom comes from listening to God (one of the most frequent commands in the Old Testament) and obeying him. Wisdom comes from letting the Holy Spirit live within you. Wisdom grows when, "like newborn babies, [you] crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good" (1 Peter 2:2-3). If you're stuck in spiritual adolescence, listen, learn and grow spiritually mature.

Reflection

  1. When you think back to your junior high years, what feelings do you experience?
  2. Describe a time when you disregarded wisdom. What was the result?
  3. How will you go about growing more and seeking wisdom?

Proverbs 1:24-25
You refuse to listen when I call and no one pays attention when I stretch out my hand . . . you disregard all my advice and do not accept my rebuke.

Related Readings

Psalm 81:8-16; Jeremiah 13:15-17; Galatians 6:6-10

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Day 27

How many times had Jesus instructed his followers to hold back, to not tell who he was, to wait? And they had waited. Now the waiting was over. As Jesus entered Jerusalem, he let the crowds rejoice. He knew what this week would hold, but for the moment, those who loved him could cheer and celebrate.

As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage and Bethany at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two of his disciples, saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and just as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ say, ‘The Lord needs it and will send it back here shortly.’”

They went and found a colt outside in the street, tied at a doorway. As they untied it, some people standing there asked, “What are you doing, untying that colt?” They answered as Jesus had told them to, and the people let them go. When they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks over it, he sat on it. Many people spread their cloaks on the road, while others spread branches they had cut in the fields. Those who went ahead and those who followed shouted,

“Hosanna!”

“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”

“Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David!”

“Hosanna in the highest heaven!”

When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, “Who is this?”

The crowds answered, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.”

Jesus entered the temple courts and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves. “It is written,” he said to them, “‘My house will be called a house of prayer,’ but you are making it ‘a den of robbers.’”

The blind and the lame came to him at the temple, and he healed them. But when the chief priests and the teachers of the law saw the wonderful things he did and the children shouting in the temple courts, “Hosanna to the Son of David,” they were indignant.

“Do you hear what these children are saying?” they asked him.

“Yes,” replied Jesus, “have you never read,

“‘From the lips of children and infants
you, Lord, have called forth your praise’?”

And he left them and went out of the city to Bethany, where he spent the night.

Jesus spent much of his final week teaching at the temple. Rabbis commonly lectured in the temple or the synagogues. But this rabbi was different. This teacher changed everything by implying that the Messiah, the one greater even than David, was speaking to them. No one had talked like this before. No one had dared.

While Jesus was teaching in the temple courts, he asked, “Why do the teachers of the law say that the Messiah is the son of David? David himself, speaking by the Holy Spirit, declared:

“‘The Lord said to my Lord:
“Sit at my right hand
until I put your enemies
under your feet.”’

David himself calls him ‘Lord.’ How then can he be his son?”

The large crowd listened to him with delight.

How would you respond to the question, "How can you be sure that Jesus is God?"

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Today's Lent reading: Luke 13-14 (NIV)

View today's Lent reading on Bible Gateway
Repent or Perish

1 Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. 2 Jesus answered, "Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? 3 I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish. 4 Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them-do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? 5 I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish."

6 Then he told this parable: "A man had a fig tree growing in his vineyard, and he went to look for fruit on it but did not find any. 7 So he said to the man who took care of the vineyard, 'For three years now I've been coming to look for fruit on this fig tree and haven't found any. Cut it down! Why should it use up the soil?'

8 "'Sir,' the man replied, 'leave it alone for one more year, and I'll dig around it and fertilize it. 9 If it bears fruit next year, fine! If not, then cut it down.'"

Jesus Heals a Crippled Woman on the Sabbath

10 On a Sabbath Jesus was teaching in one of the synagogues, 11 and a woman was there who had been crippled by a spirit for eighteen years. She was bent over and could not straighten up at all. 12 When Jesus saw her, he called her forward and said to her, "Woman, you are set free from your infirmity." 13 Then he put his hands on her, and immediately she straightened up and praised God.

14 Indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, the synagogue leader said to the people, "There are six days for work. So come and be healed on those days, not on the Sabbath."

15 The Lord answered him, "You hypocrites! Doesn't each of you on the Sabbath untie your ox or donkey from the stall and lead it out to give it water? 16 Then should not this woman, a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has kept bound for eighteen long years, be set free on the Sabbath day from what bound her?"

17 When he said this, all his opponents were humiliated, but the people were delighted with all the wonderful things he was doing.

The Parables of the Mustard Seed and the Yeast

18 Then Jesus asked, "What is the kingdom of God like? What shall I compare it to? 19 It is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his garden. It grew and became a tree, and the birds perched in its branches."

20 Again he asked, "What shall I compare the kingdom of God to? 21 It is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into about sixty pounds of flour until it worked all through the dough."

The Narrow Door

22 Then Jesus went through the towns and villages, teaching as he made his way to Jerusalem. 23 Someone asked him, "Lord, are only a few people going to be saved?"

He said to them, 24 "Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to. 25 Once the owner of the house gets up and closes the door, you will stand outside knocking and pleading, 'Sir, open the door for us.'

"But he will answer, 'I don't know you or where you come from.'

26 "Then you will say, 'We ate and drank with you, and you taught in our streets.'

27 "But he will reply, 'I don't know you or where you come from. Away from me, all you evildoers!'

28 "There will be weeping there, and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, but you yourselves thrown out. 29 People will come from east and west and north and south, and will take their places at the feast in the kingdom of God. 30 Indeed there are those who are last who will be first, and first who will be last."

Jesus' Sorrow for Jerusalem

31 At that time some Pharisees came to Jesus and said to him, "Leave this place and go somewhere else. Herod wants to kill you."

32 He replied, "Go tell that fox, 'I will keep on driving out demons and healing people today and tomorrow, and on the third day I will reach my goal.' 33 In any case, I must press on today and tomorrow and the next day-for surely no prophet can die outside Jerusalem!

34 "Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing. 35 Look, your house is left to you desolate. I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, 'Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.'"

Luke 14

Jesus at a Pharisee's House

1 One Sabbath, when Jesus went to eat in the house of a prominent Pharisee, he was being carefully watched. 2 There in front of him was a man suffering from abnormal swelling of his body. 3 Jesus asked the Pharisees and experts in the law, "Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath or not?" 4 But they remained silent. So taking hold of the man, he healed him and sent him on his way.

5 Then he asked them, "If one of you has a child or an ox that falls into a well on the Sabbath day, will you not immediately pull it out?" 6 And they had nothing to say.

7 When he noticed how the guests picked the places of honor at the table, he told them this parable: 8 "When someone invites you to a wedding feast, do not take the place of honor, for a person more distinguished than you may have been invited. 9 If so, the host who invited both of you will come and say to you, 'Give this person your seat.' Then, humiliated, you will have to take the least important place. 10 But when you are invited, take the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he will say to you, 'Friend, move up to a better place.' Then you will be honored in the presence of all the other guests. 11 For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted."

12 Then Jesus said to his host, "When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or sisters, your relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. 13 But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, 14and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous."

The Parable of the Great Banquet

15 When one of those at the table with him heard this, he said to Jesus, "Blessed is the one who will eat at the feast in the kingdom of God."

16 Jesus replied: "A certain man was preparing a great banquet and invited many guests. 17 At the time of the banquet he sent his servant to tell those who had been invited, 'Come, for everything is now ready.'

18 "But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said, 'I have just bought a field, and I must go and see it. Please excuse me.'

19 "Another said, 'I have just bought five yoke of oxen, and I'm on my way to try them out. Please excuse me.'

20 "Still another said, 'I just got married, so I can't come.'

21 "The servant came back and reported this to his master. Then the owner of the house became angry and ordered his servant, 'Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame.'

22 "'Sir,' the servant said, 'what you ordered has been done, but there is still room.'

23 "Then the master told his servant, 'Go out to the roads and country lanes and compel them to come in, so that my house will be full. 24 I tell you, not one of those who were invited will get a taste of my banquet.'"

The Cost of Being a Disciple

25 Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said: 26 "If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters-yes, even their own life-such a person cannot be my disciple. 27 And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.

28 "Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won't you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it? 29 For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you, 30saying, 'This person began to build and wasn't able to finish.'

31 "Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Won't he first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? 32 If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace. 33 In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples.

34 "Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? 35 It is fit neither for the soil nor for the manure pile; it is thrown out.

"Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear."

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Today's Prayer

Gracious Father, whose blessed Son Jesus Christ came down from heaven to be the true bread which gives life to the world: Evermore give us this bread, that he may live in us, and we in him; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen. -- adapted from the Book of Common Prayer

Today's Scripture Reading: Ephesians 2:4-10

But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy,5 made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions--it is by grace you have been saved. 6 And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, 7 in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. 8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God-- 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God's handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

Today's Quote

"The death of Jesus Christ has turned our whole lives into one continued sacrifice--whether we eat or drink, whether we pray to God, or do any thing to man, it must all be done out of a love for and knowledge of him who died and rose again, to render all, even our most ordinary deeds, acceptable in the sight of God.

"If we live by this principle, if Christ is the Alpha and Omega of all our actions, then our lowliest actions are acceptable sacrifices; but if this principle is lacking in our lives, our most pompous services avail nothing: we are nothing but a spiritual idolater; we sacrifice to our own gain and make an idol of ourselves. We make ourselves, and not Christ, the end of our actions: and therefore such actions are so far from being acceptable by God, that according to the language of one of the Articles of our Church, 'We doubt not but they have the nature of sin, because they spring not from an experimental faith in and knowledge of Jesus Christ.'" -- adapted from George Whitefield's sermon "The Knowledge of Jesus Christ the Best Knowledge"

Something to Think About

Christ's salvation is offered to us freely, and cannot be earned by our actions. Despite this, Christians have struggled since the earliest days of the church with the temptation to try and earn God's forgiveness by doing good works, following the law, or just living "good" lives. Why is it so hard for us to accept Christ's gift? Is this a struggle for you?

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