Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Daily Devotional Wednesday 28th March

“My salvation and my honor depend on God; he is my mighty rock, my refuge.” Psalm 62:7 NIV
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Morning and Evening by Charles Spurgeon

Morning

"The love of Christ which passeth knowledge."
Ephesians 3:19

The love of Christ in its sweetness, its fulness, its greatness, its faithfulness, passeth all human comprehension. Where shall language be found which shall describe his matchless, his unparalleled love towards the children of men? It is so vast and boundless that, as the swallow but skimmeth the water, and diveth not into its depths, so all descriptive words but touch the surface, while depths immeasurable lie beneath. Well might the poet say,

"O love, thou fathomless abyss!"

for this love of Christ is indeed measureless and fathomless; none can attain unto it. Before we can have any right idea of the love of Jesus, we must understand his previous glory in its height of majesty, and his incarnation upon the earth in all its depths of shame. But who can tell us the majesty of Christ? When he was enthroned in the highest heavens he was very God of very God; by him were the heavens made, and all the hosts thereof. His own almighty arm upheld the spheres; the praises of cherubim and seraphim perpetually surrounded him; the full chorus of the hallelujahs of the universe unceasingly flowed to the foot of his throne: he reigned supreme above all his creatures, God over all, blessed forever. Who can tell his height of glory then? And who, on the other hand, can tell how low he descended? To be a man was something, to be a man of sorrows was far more; to bleed, and die, and suffer, these were much for him who was the Son of God; but to suffer such unparalleled agony--to endure a death of shame and desertion by his Father, this is a depth of condescending love which the most inspired mind must utterly fail to fathom. Herein is love! and truly it is love that "passeth knowledge." O let this love fill our hearts with adoring gratitude, and lead us to practical manifestations of its power.

Evening

"I will accept you with your sweet savour."
Ezekiel 20:41

The merits of our great Redeemer are as sweet savour to the Most High. Whether we speak of the active or passive righteousness of Christ, there is an equal fragrance. There was a sweet savour in his active life by which he honoured the law of God, and made every precept to glitter like a precious jewel in the pure setting of his own person. Such, too, was his passive obedience, when he endured with unmurmuring submission, hunger and thirst, cold and nakedness, and at length sweat great drops of blood in Gethsemane, gave his back to the smiters, and his cheeks to them that plucked out the hair, and was fastened to the cruel wood, that he might suffer the wrath of God in our behalf. These two things are sweet before the Most High; and for the sake of his doing and his dying, his substitutionary sufferings and his vicarious obedience, the Lord our God accepts us. What a preciousness must there be in him to overcome our want of preciousness! What a sweet savour to put away our ill savour! What a cleansing power in his blood to take away sin such as ours! and what glory in his righteousness to make such unacceptable creatures to be accepted in the Beloved! Mark, believer, how sure and unchanging must be our acceptance, since it is in him! Take care that you never doubt your acceptance in Jesus. You cannot be accepted without Christ; but, when you have received his merit, you cannot be unaccepted. Notwithstanding all your doubts, and fears, and sins, Jehovah's gracious eye never looks upon you in anger; though he sees sin in you, in yourself, yet when he looks at you through Christ, he sees no sin. You are always accepted in Christ, are always blessed and dear to the Father's heart. Therefore lift up a song, and as you see the smoking incense of the merit of the Saviour coming up, this evening, before the sapphire throne, let the incense of your praise go up also.

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Today's reading: Judges 1-3, Luke 4:1-30 (NIV)

View today's reading on Bible Gateway
Israel Fights the Remaining Canaanites

1 After the death of Joshua, the Israelites asked the LORD, “Who of us is to go up first to fight against the Canaanites?”

2 The LORD answered, “Judah shall go up; I have given the land into their hands.”

3 The men of Judah then said to the Simeonites their fellow Israelites, “Come up with us into the territory allotted to us, to fight against the Canaanites. We in turn will go with you into yours.” So the Simeonites went with them.

4 When Judah attacked, the LORD gave the Canaanites and Perizzites into their hands, and they struck down ten thousand men at Bezek. 5 It was there that they found Adoni-Bezek and fought against him, putting to rout the Canaanites and Perizzites. 6 Adoni-Bezek fled, but they chased him and caught him, and cut off his thumbs and big toes.

7 Then Adoni-Bezek said, “Seventy kings with their thumbs and big toes cut off have picked up scraps under my table. Now God has paid me back for what I did to them.” They brought him to Jerusalem, and he died there.

8 The men of Judah attacked Jerusalem also and took it. They put the city to the sword and set it on fire.

9 After that, Judah went down to fight against the Canaanites living in the hill country, the Negev and the western foothills. 10They advanced against the Canaanites living in Hebron (formerly called Kiriath Arba) and defeated Sheshai, Ahiman and Talmai. 11 From there they advanced against the people living in Debir (formerly called Kiriath Sepher).

12 And Caleb said, “I will give my daughter Aksah in marriage to the man who attacks and captures Kiriath Sepher.” 13Othniel son of Kenaz, Caleb’s younger brother, took it; so Caleb gave his daughter Aksah to him in marriage.

14 One day when she came to Othniel, she urged him to ask her father for a field. When she got off her donkey, Caleb asked her, “What can I do for you?”

15 She replied, “Do me a special favor. Since you have given me land in the Negev, give me also springs of water.” So Caleb gave her the upper and lower springs.

16 The descendants of Moses’ father-in-law, the Kenite, went up from the City of Palms with the people of Judah to live among the inhabitants of the Desert of Judah in the Negev near Arad.

17 Then the men of Judah went with the Simeonites their fellow Israelites and attacked the Canaanites living in Zephath, and they totally destroyed the city. Therefore it was called Hormah. 18 Judah also took Gaza, Ashkelon and Ekron—each city with its territory.

19 The LORD was with the men of Judah. They took possession of the hill country, but they were unable to drive the people from the plains, because they had chariots fitted with iron. 20 As Moses had promised, Hebron was given to Caleb, who drove from it the three sons of Anak. 21 The Benjamites, however, did not drive out the Jebusites, who were living in Jerusalem; to this day the Jebusites live there with the Benjamites.

22 Now the tribes of Joseph attacked Bethel, and the LORD was with them. 23 When they sent men to spy out Bethel (formerly called Luz), 24 the spies saw a man coming out of the city and they said to him, “Show us how to get into the city and we will see that you are treated well.” 25 So he showed them, and they put the city to the sword but spared the man and his whole family. 26 He then went to the land of the Hittites, where he built a city and called it Luz, which is its name to this day.

27 But Manasseh did not drive out the people of Beth Shan or Taanach or Dor or Ibleam or Megiddo and their surrounding settlements, for the Canaanites were determined to live in that land. 28 When Israel became strong, they pressed the Canaanites into forced labor but never drove them out completely. 29 Nor did Ephraim drive out the Canaanites living in Gezer, but the Canaanites continued to live there among them. 30 Neither did Zebulun drive out the Canaanites living in Kitron or Nahalol, so these Canaanites lived among them, but Zebulun did subject them to forced labor. 31 Nor did Asher drive out those living in Akko or Sidon or Ahlab or Akzib or Helbah or Aphek or Rehob. 32 The Asherites lived among the Canaanite inhabitants of the land because they did not drive them out. 33Neither did Naphtali drive out those living in Beth Shemesh or Beth Anath; but the Naphtalites too lived among the Canaanite inhabitants of the land, and those living in Beth Shemesh and Beth Anath became forced laborers for them. 34 The Amorites confined the Danites to the hill country, not allowing them to come down into the plain. 35 And the Amorites were determined also to hold out in Mount Heres, Aijalon and Shaalbim, but when the power of the tribes of Joseph increased, they too were pressed into forced labor. 36 The boundary of the Amorites was from Scorpion Pass to Sela and beyond.

Judges 2

The Angel of the LORD at Bokim

1 The angel of the LORD went up from Gilgal to Bokim and said, “I brought you up out of Egypt and led you into the land I swore to give to your ancestors. I said, ‘I will never break my covenant with you, 2 and you shall not make a covenant with the people of this land, but you shall break down their altars.’ Yet you have disobeyed me. Why have you done this? 3 And I have also said, ‘I will not drive them out before you; they will become traps for you, and their gods will become snares to you.’”

4 When the angel of the LORD had spoken these things to all the Israelites, the people wept aloud, 5 and they called that place Bokim. There they offered sacrifices to the LORD.

Disobedience and Defeat

6 After Joshua had dismissed the Israelites, they went to take possession of the land, each to their own inheritance. 7The people served the LORD throughout the lifetime of Joshua and of the elders who outlived him and who had seen all the great things the LORD had done for Israel.

8 Joshua son of Nun, the servant of the LORD, died at the age of a hundred and ten. 9 And they buried him in the land of his inheritance, at Timnath Heres in the hill country of Ephraim, north of Mount Gaash.

10 After that whole generation had been gathered to their ancestors, another generation grew up who knew neither the LORD nor what he had done for Israel. 11 Then the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the LORD and served the Baals. 12 They forsook the LORD, the God of their ancestors, who had brought them out of Egypt. They followed and worshiped various gods of the peoples around them. They aroused the LORD’s anger 13because they forsook him and served Baal and the Ashtoreths.14 In his anger against Israel the LORD gave them into the hands of raiders who plundered them. He sold them into the hands of their enemies all around, whom they were no longer able to resist. 15 Whenever Israel went out to fight, the hand of the LORD was against them to defeat them, just as he had sworn to them. They were in great distress.

16 Then the LORD raised up judges, who saved them out of the hands of these raiders. 17 Yet they would not listen to their judges but prostituted themselves to other gods and worshiped them. They quickly turned from the ways of their ancestors, who had been obedient to the LORD’s commands. 18 Whenever the LORD raised up a judge for them, he was with the judge and saved them out of the hands of their enemies as long as the judge lived; for the LORD relented because of their groaning under those who oppressed and afflicted them. 19 But when the judge died, the people returned to ways even more corrupt than those of their ancestors, following other gods and serving and worshiping them. They refused to give up their evil practices and stubborn ways.

20 Therefore the LORD was very angry with Israel and said, “Because this nation has violated the covenant I ordained for their ancestors and has not listened to me, 21 I will no longer drive out before them any of the nations Joshua left when he died. 22 I will use them to test Israel and see whether they will keep the way of the LORD and walk in it as their ancestors did.” 23 The LORD had allowed those nations to remain; he did not drive them out at once by giving them into the hands of Joshua.

Judges 3

1 These are the nations the LORD left to test all those Israelites who had not experienced any of the wars in Canaan 2(he did this only to teach warfare to the descendants of the Israelites who had not had previous battle experience): 3 the five rulers of the Philistines, all the Canaanites, the Sidonians, and the Hivites living in the Lebanon mountains from Mount Baal Hermon to Lebo Hamath. 4 They were left to test the Israelites to see whether they would obey the LORD’s commands, which he had given their ancestors through Moses.

5 The Israelites lived among the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites. 6 They took their daughters in marriage and gave their own daughters to their sons, and served their gods.

Othniel

7 The Israelites did evil in the eyes of the LORD; they forgot the LORD their God and served the Baals and the Asherahs. 8The anger of the LORD burned against Israel so that he sold them into the hands of Cushan-Rishathaim king of Aram Naharaim, to whom the Israelites were subject for eight years. 9But when they cried out to the LORD, he raised up for them a deliverer, Othniel son of Kenaz, Caleb’s younger brother, who saved them. 10 The Spirit of the LORD came on him, so that he became Israel’s judge[j] and went to war. The LORD gave Cushan-Rishathaim king of Aram into the hands of Othniel, who overpowered him. 11 So the land had peace for forty years, until Othniel son of Kenaz died.

Ehud

12 Again the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the LORD, and because they did this evil the LORD gave Eglon king of Moab power over Israel. 13 Getting the Ammonites and Amalekites to join him, Eglon came and attacked Israel, and they took possession of the City of Palms. 14 The Israelites were subject to Eglon king of Moab for eighteen years.

15 Again the Israelites cried out to the LORD, and he gave them a deliverer—Ehud, a left-handed man, the son of Gera the Benjamite. The Israelites sent him with tribute to Eglon king of Moab. 16 Now Ehud had made a double-edged sword about a cubit long, which he strapped to his right thigh under his clothing. 17 He presented the tribute to Eglon king of Moab, who was a very fat man. 18 After Ehud had presented the tribute, he sent on their way those who had carried it. 19 But on reaching the stone images near Gilgal he himself went back to Eglon and said, “Your Majesty, I have a secret message for you.”

The king said to his attendants, “Leave us!” And they all left.

20 Ehud then approached him while he was sitting alone in the upper room of his palace and said, “I have a message from God for you.” As the king rose from his seat, 21 Ehud reached with his left hand, drew the sword from his right thigh and plunged it into the king’s belly. 22 Even the handle sank in after the blade, and his bowels discharged. Ehud did not pull the sword out, and the fat closed in over it. 23 Then Ehud went out to the porch; he shut the doors of the upper room behind him and locked them.

24 After he had gone, the servants came and found the doors of the upper room locked. They said, “He must be relieving himself in the inner room of the palace.” 25 They waited to the point of embarrassment, but when he did not open the doors of the room, they took a key and unlocked them. There they saw their lord fallen to the floor, dead.

26 While they waited, Ehud got away. He passed by the stone images and escaped to Seirah. 27 When he arrived there, he blew a trumpet in the hill country of Ephraim, and the Israelites went down with him from the hills, with him leading them.

28 “Follow me,” he ordered, “for the LORD has given Moab, your enemy, into your hands.” So they followed him down and took possession of the fords of the Jordan that led to Moab; they allowed no one to cross over. 29 At that time they struck down about ten thousand Moabites, all vigorous and strong; not one escaped. 30 That day Moab was made subject to Israel, and the land had peace for eighty years.

Shamgar

31 After Ehud came Shamgar son of Anath, who struck down six hundred Philistines with an oxgoad. He too saved Israel.


Luke 4

Jesus Is Tested in the Wilderness

1 Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, left the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, 2 where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them he was hungry.

3 The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.”

4 Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone.’”

5 The devil led him up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. 6 And he said to him, “I will give you all their authority and splendor; it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. 7 If you worship me, it will all be yours.”

8 Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.’”

9 The devil led him to Jerusalem and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down from here. 10 For it is written:

“‘He will command his angels concerning you
to guard you carefully;
11 they will lift you up in their hands,
so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’”

12 Jesus answered, “It is said: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”

13 When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left him until an opportune time.

Jesus Rejected at Nazareth

14 Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about him spread through the whole countryside. 15 He was teaching in their synagogues, and everyone praised him.

16 He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. He stood up to read, 17 and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:

18 “The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

20 Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. 21 He began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”

22 All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his lips. “Isn’t this Joseph’s son?” they asked.

23 Jesus said to them, “Surely you will quote this proverb to me: ‘Physician, heal yourself!’ And you will tell me, ‘Do here in your hometown what we have heard that you did in Capernaum.’”

24 “Truly I tell you,” he continued, “no prophet is accepted in his hometown. 25 I assure you that there were many widows in Israel in Elijah’s time, when the sky was shut for three and a half years and there was a severe famine throughout the land.26 Yet Elijah was not sent to any of them, but to a widow in Zarephath in the region of Sidon. 27 And there were many in Israel with leprosy in the time of Elisha the prophet, yet not one of them was cleansed—only Naaman the Syrian.”

28 All the people in the synagogue were furious when they heard this. 29 They got up, drove him out of the town, and took him to the brow of the hill on which the town was built, in order to throw him off the cliff. 30 But he walked right through the crowd and went on his way.

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Onesimus [Ōnĕs'ĭmŭs]—profitable.The slave of Philemon, Paul’s convert (Col. 4:7-9; Philemon 10-19 ). Onesimus ran away from his master and came into contact with Paul, who led him to Christ after they met in Rome. Paul urged him to return to his master and entreated Philemon to receive Onesimus, not as a slave, but as a brother in the Lord. How the apostle approached Onesimus provides us with a beautiful exhibition of Christian Courtesy.
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Jesus Heals a Leper

Matthew 8:1-4 "Jesus said to him, 'See that you say nothing to anyone, but go, show yourself to the priest and offer the gift that Moses commanded, for a proof to them'" ( v. 4).

Today we resume our study of Matthew in chapter 8. Thus far, the first evangelist has shown our Savior to be a new Moses in his gospel. Like Moses, Jesus was in mortal danger shortly after His birth (Ex. 1:8-2:10; Matt. 2:16-18 ). Christ, the new covenant mediator, delivered God's word on a mountain just as Moses received the Torah (the Law) on Sinai (Ex. 19:20-23:33;Matt. 5-7). However, Jesus comes not as Moses' equal, but as his superior. Unlike Moses, our Lord explains the Law by His own authority (7:28-29 ). Moreover, Jesus comes down from the mountain to cleanse His people after declaring His Father's will (8:1-4). Christ is better than Moses, who came down with commands that could only pronounce them "unclean" (Ex. 34:29; Lev. 13:1-8).

According to the Mosaic law, leprosy renders a person unclean, and the leper who approaches Jesus in today's passage is used to living apart from the community in isolation or in a leper colony (Lev. 13:45-46). Since lepers are outcasts in Jesus' day, the diseased man acts with audacity when he comes for healing, at least in the view of his culture. Yet the leper displays faith, not arrogance, when he kneels before the Christ. Convinced of the Savior's power, the man knows that Jesus can make him clean if the Lord is willing to exercise His healing touch ( Matt. 8:1-2). Truly, the leper's recognition that Christ's will is determinative is an example of how all are to come before Him (6:10).

Jesus could heal the man with His word alone (8:5-13), but He chooses to touch the leper (vv. 3-4 ). This point helps us interpret this text since Matthew emphasizes the touch with the "unnecessary" detail of Christ stretching out His hand (v. 3). Contact with a leper should render Jesus ceremonially unclean (Num. 5:1-4), but He is not defiled. Instead, His contact purifies the diseased man (Matt. 8:3-4 ), showing Him to be the fulfillment of the Law. Ceremonial regulations, including the leprosy laws, show us our need to be separated from all pollution, but such separation is ultimately possible only if men and women are themselves clean. Jesus' touch cleanses His people, lepers or not, and will make it unnecessary to follow the letter of the ritual purity laws any longer.

Coram deo: Living before the face of God

Though not all diseases will be healed before the Lord returns to consummate His kingdom, we can be sure that He will cleanse the sins of everyone who confesses Him as Savior and follows Him as Lord ( 1 John 1:8-9). If you feel unclean this day, know that Jesus has indeed cleansed you if you love Him and have turned from your sin, placing your faith in Him. Pray for His continued cleansing and look forward to the day when all creation will be made new.

For further study:

Numbers 19:20-22

The Bible in a year:

Judges 8-10

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

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

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The interest of Christ and his people in each other

‘My beloved is mine, and I am his,’ Song of Solomon 2:16

Suggested Further Reading: Galatians 2:15–21

How is my beloved mine? He is mine because he gave himself to me of old. Long ere I knew it, or had a being, he covenanted to bestow himself on me—on all his chosen. When he said, ‘Lo, I come: in the volume of the book it is written of me, I delight to do thy will, O my God,’ he did in fact become my substitute, giving himself to do my work and bear my sorrow. Mine he is because that covenant has been fulfilled in the actual gift. For me (I speak in the first person, because I want you each to speak in the first person too), for you, my soul, he laid aside his robes of glory to become a man; for you he was swaddled in the weakness of infancy, and lay in the poverty of the manger; for you, my soul, he bore the infant body, the childish form, and the human flesh and blood; for you the poverty which made him cry, ‘Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head.’ For you, my soul, for you that shame and spitting, that agony and bloody sweat, that cross, that crown of thorns, those expiring agonies, that dying groan. ‘My Beloved,’ in all this, ‘is mine.’ No, yours the burial; yours the resurrection and its mystic meaning; yours the ascension and its triumphant shouts; yours the session at the right hand of God; yes, and by holy daring we avow it, he who sits today, ‘God over all, blessed for ever,’ is ours in the splendour of his majesty, in the invincibility of his might, in the omnipresence of his power, in all the glory of his future advent. Our beloved is ours, because he has given himself to us, just as he is.

For meditation: Can you call Jesus ‘My Lord and my God’ (John 20:28)? Do you take time to count your possessions in Christ (1 Corinthians 1:30)? ‘All things’ (Romans 8:32 ; 1 Corinthians 3:21) would take more than eternity to exhaust!

Sermon no. 374
28 March (Preached Good Friday 29 March 1861)

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Jesus Heals a Leper

Matthew 8:1-4

Though not all diseases will be healed before the Lord returns to consummate His kingdom, we can be sure that He will cleanse the sins of everyone who confesses Him as Savior and follows Him as Lord ( 1 John 1:8-9). If you feel unclean this day, know that Jesus has indeed cleansed you if you love Him and have turned from your sin, placing your faith in Him. Pray for His continued cleansing and look forward to the day when all creation will be made new.

For further study:

Numbers 19:20-22

The Bible in a year:

Judges 8-10

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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The great revival

“The Lord hath made bare his holy arm in the eyes of all the nations; and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God.” Isaiah 52:10

Suggested Further Reading: 1 Corinthians 14:26-40

In the old revivals in America a hundred years ago, commonly called “the great awakening,” there were many strange things, such as continual shrieks and screams, and knockings, and twitchings, under the services. We cannot call that the work of the Spirit. Even the great Whitefield’s revival at Cambuslang, one of the greatest and most remarkable revivals ever known, was attended by some things that we cannot but regard as superstitious wonders. People were so excited, that they did not know what they did. Now, if in any revival you see any of these strange contortions of the body, always distinguish between things that differ. The Holy Spirit’s work is with the mind, not with the body in that way. It is not the will of God that such things should disgrace the proceedings. I believe that such things are the result of Satanic malice. The devil sees that there is a great deal of good doing; “Now,” says he, “I’ll spoil it all. I’ll put my hoof in there, and do a world of mischief. There are souls being converted; I will let them get so excited that they will do ludicrous things, and then it will all be brought into contempt.” Now, if you see any of these strange things arising, look out. There is that old Apollyon busy, trying to mar the work. Put such vagaries down as soon as you can, for where the Spirit works, he never works against his own precept, and his precept is, “Let all things be done decently and in order.” It is neither decent nor orderly for people to dance under the sermon, nor howl, nor scream, while the gospel is being preached to them, and therefore it is not the Spirit’s work at all, but mere human excitement.

For meditation: The Holy Spirit produces self-control, not loss of control (1 Corinthians 14:32; Galatians 5:22,23; 2 Timothy 1:7).

Sermon no. 185
28 March (1858)

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March 27, 2012
It's Not Over Till It's Over
Sharon Jaynes

Today's Truth
"But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord, Jesus Christ," (1 Corinthians 15:57 NIV).

Friend to Friend
It's called "The Final Four" and in the Jaynes' home, it is important…at least to some of us.

It was Friday night and my son, Steven, and husband, Steve, were watching the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Tar Heels basketball team take on Southern Cal. All three of us had graduated from UNC and we were pulling for the Tar Heels, but it wasn't looking too good for the home team. Part way through the game, we decided to play a game of Scrabble to augment the excitement. By the end of the first half, we were down by 16 points and the Scrabble game was over. (I won, by the way. A rare occurrence.)

"We're going to lose," we agreed.

"It's not worth staying up for," Steve said. "It's late. I'm tired, and they look tired too. I don't want to watch them get creamed. They'll never come back from 16 points."

So we turned off the television and said our goodnights. You can imagine our surprise Saturday morning when we opened the newspaper to read the headlines…"It's a Tar Heel Blitz!" (I'm losing some of you ladies here, but stay with me!)

The coach must have had a powerful pep talk at the half, because the Tar Heels came back "crashing to the offensive boards" coupled with a "suffocating defense." Southern Cal's 16 point lead became 10, became 6, became 3 and suddenly UNC had the lead. Once they had it, they wouldn't let it go. They scored 18 straight points and eventually won, 74 to 64. What an exciting game! And we missed it.

I don't usually get excited about basketball, but I do get excited when God teaches me a life lesson or gives me a practical example of a Biblical principle. See, sometimes we quit too soon. Perhaps we're struggling in the game of life and it appears that we're going to lose. So we quit – turn off the game and go to bed. But here's the thing…just because it looks like we're losing, doesn't mean we are. The game is not over! God is still at work. The celestial team is still on the court.

Many times I give up too soon on a situation that looks bleak. And when I do, I miss the thrill of victory. I miss watching God turn a seemingly hopeless situation into a miraculous win for the home team.

In the Bible, Paul wrote that we are "more than conquerors" in Christ Jesus. Conquerors don't give up when things get tough. They don't quit.

I imagine when Jesus died on the cross and was buried in the tomb, the disciples thought the "game" was over. Imagine if they had newspapers back then. Imagine Peter, John, or Thomas opening the front page and reading the headlines…"The Tomb is Empty! Jesus is Alive!" They gave up too soon.

Are you going through a struggle in your life right now? Do you feel the situation is hopeless? I want to encourage you…do not give up! God is always at work and I don't know about you, but I don't want to miss one second of the miraculous win. I don't want to hear about miracles second hand, but watch them take place before my very eyes.

Let's Pray
Dear Lord, forgive me for giving up too soon. I pray that my faith will remain strong in all situations. Even if I can't see You at work, I know You are.
In Jesus' Name,
Amen.

Now It's Your Turn
Imagine how you would have felt if you had been one of the disciples hiding after Jesus' death. Do you think you would have bemoaned the fact that you didn't expect a miracle? That you gave up too soon?

Make a commitment to God that you will not give up or walk away from a difficult situation. Keep playing the game of life! It's not over until it's over!

What are you believing God for today? Let's share so we can pray for each other! Log ontowww.facebook.com/sharonjaynes and complete this sentence. Today, I'm believing God for…

More from the Girlfriends
Sometimes life just doesn't turn out like we thought it would. However, it can be even better than we expected. Do you have a shattered dream in your life? Then you might want to read 5 Dreams of Every Woman and How God Wants to Fulfill Them. Here you will learn how to give the broken pieces of your dreams to God so He can make them into something more amazing than you ever imagined. Be prepared to dream again!


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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Tracie Miles

March 27, 2012

When Time Keeps Slipping Away
Tracie Miles

"Seventy years are given to us! Some even live to eighty. But even the best years are filled with pain and trouble; soon they disappear, and we fly away. Teach us to realize the brevity of life, so that we may grow in wisdom." Psalm 90:10, 12 (NLT)

Recently my family experienced an unexpected treat. For the first time in many months, we had the joy of a weekend with no obligations! No ballgames, no travel, no commitments-just unstructured time.

Savoring my coffee Monday morning, I thought about the laughter, conversations and relaxing moments. Each had brought a peaceful feeling over my spirit and reminded of how precious the gift of time is, yet how often I take it for granted.

For weeks my thoughts had been continually nudging me to do more, yet my heart had been whispering do less. At the same time I sensed Jesus calling me to rest, and spend more time with Him and my loved ones. But life had just been so busy, and other demands had screamed for my attention.

I realized how I had let time slip away without investing it wisely.

The Bible records the words of Moses, a man who understood the value of time. In Psalm 90, Moses recognizes the brevity of life, and the importance of making the most of the time we have been given.

Perhaps Moses wrote from a place of frustration. After all, he'd watched his entire generation wander aimlessly for 40 years because they didn't trust God's promises. They kept busy with jobs, chores and responsibilities. But they apparently spent more time grumbling than getting to know God better, or enjoying the blessings and people in their lives.

Many of us experience this same dilemma, wandering through daily routines and overbooked schedules. There's little time left at the end of the day to spend with Jesus or those we love. Before we know it, the days turn into years and our hearts are no wiser. We get in a rut of grumbling about troubles and busyness, while ignoring the necessity of rest and the benefits of unstructured time.

I used to view "down time" as being unproductive. I would feel guilty for sitting down with a good book when the sink was full of dirty dishes, or snuggling with my children on the couch to watch a movie when I had errands to run or work to do.

Yet God designed rest because our hearts, minds, bodies and spirits need it. Slowing down and paying attention to what fills our day allows us to refocus and rest.

It gives us time to soak in His Word, have quiet prayer, and invest in our family. These are easy to disregard when life's too busy. Even if we're busy with good things, they may draw us away from what the Lord would have us do.

As we understand the brevity of life and value our time, we'll gain a wise heart that seeks the Lord's will. Let's ask God to show us each day how He wants to fill the hours we are given. Whether He guides us to enjoy personal time, rest and relax, hang out with friends or family, study His Word, or enjoy some fun activities, if He is leading our choices, we'll find peace, contentment, and joy.

Dear Lord, only You know how many breaths I have. Please help me use my time wisely, and invest it in the people and things that matter most. Help me consciously plan time for myself, my family and my faith. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Do You Know Him?

Would you like to bring the message of this devotion to the women of your church? Click here to find out more about considering Tracie as your next retreat / key note speaker.

Visit Tracie's blog for more encouragement on the importance of rest.

10 Smart Things Women Can Do To Build A Better Life by Donna Carter

When you purchase resources through Proverbs 31 Ministries, you touch eternity because your purchase supports the many areas of hope-giving ministry we provide at no cost. We wish we could, but we simply can't compete with prices offered by huge online warehouses. Therefore, we are extremely grateful for each and every purchase you make with us. Thank you!

Reflect and Respond:
How do you spend the majority of your time? Is it spent on the things that matter most?

Does it seem that life is flying by, and you never have time to enjoy it or the people in it? What changes can you make to remedy this problem?

Get alone with God and His Word to determine if you need to realign your priorities regarding how you spend your time. Set some challenging goals that reflect wise values that will honor Jesus.

Power Verses:
Ephesians 5:16-17, "...making the most of your time, because the days are evil. So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is." (NASB)

© 2012 by Tracie Miles. All rights reserved.

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

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Everything New - A Weeekly Devotional

LUNATIC, LIAR, OR LORD

During the brief earthly ministry of Jesus, his disciples gained an accumulating picture of who Jesus of Nazareth really was. Plenty of evidence pointed to the fact that he was not just from Nazareth. He came from God’s place and with a divine mission, and it was getting more astounding all the time.

The statements Jesus made amounted to claims of deity. “I and the Father are one.” “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.” “All that belongs to the Father is mine.” His opponents began considering murder because “not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.”

Also, he used names of deity. “Before Abraham was born, I am” (which recalls the special name God used with Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.”) Thomas fell at Jesus’ feet after he knew he had risen from the dead, exclaiming, “My Lord and my God!” When people called Jesus “Lord,” it seemed to go well beyond the meaning of “master.” There was “Son of God” and “Son of Man,” both labels that expectant Jews knew identified the coming Messiah.

Jesus’ disciples strained to add up all the pieces of evidence in the immediacy of the events. Like a giant puzzle, the pieces came together, but it would take time for people to step back far enough from the puzzle and see the picture in the pieces.

What is the sum of it all? C. S. Lewis put it this way: “I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: ‘I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God.’ A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic–on a level with a man who says he is a poached egg–or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God; or else a madman or something worse.”

What was Jesus trying to accomplish? The answer to that question is bound up in the person Jesus is. He was able to do what he did because of the person he is. He made an exodus for people, a way out of entanglements with self, the heavy gravity of sin, and the plots of the Evil One.

And he didn’t just try to pull it off. It all worked. He was there at the beginning when God said, let us make a universe, and then rested. He was there on the cross when he committed his spirit to his Father, but only after saying, “It is finished.” And the “it” was an agenda that from his inauguration he was uniquely capable of fulfilling, the salvation of the shattered human race.

Excerpt from Putting the Pieces Back Together: How Real Life and Real Faith Connect. Complimentary DVDavailable now.

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About The Author - Mel Lawrenz serves as minister at large for Elmbrook Church and leads The Brook Network. Having been in pastoral ministry for thirty years, the last decade as senior pastor of Elmbrook, Mel seeks to help Christian leaders engage with each other. Mel is the author of eleven books, the most recent for church leaders, Whole Church: Leading from Fragmentation to Engagement.
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Why did God create human beings, knowing they would sin?

This week's reading: Genesis 6:5-6

This question assumes that people are victims caught in the vise of fate. But the Bible teaches that God in his goodness created a world of moral order in which Adam and Eve were free agents. By creating them in his image and likeness, God gave them a unique quality of relationship with each other and with him. God entrusted them with freedom. This freedom included the freedom to turn away from him, and unfortunately, that is what they did.

Even though God knew beforehand what Adam and Eve would do, he granted them the capacity to do as they chose. God condemns no one unjustly by causing anyone to sin. He is the judge of all the earth, and he will do right by everyone. He does not compel or coerce human creatures made in his image. Yet nothing can thwart his glory and grace.

Furthermore, God shows that he is "abounding in love and faithfulness" (Ex 34:6) by not leaving the human race in its sin. In Jesus Christ, the Creator graciously became the Redeemer. Through his death and resurrection, the way to eternal life has been opened to all who turn away from sin to follow him (see Jn 14:6).

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Day 35

For those made to suffer crucifixion, death itself was the only resolution. So Jesus waited that day, along with two other victims and a crowd of onlookers, for death to overcome him. Before that, however, a deeper pain was coming. A pain that went far beyond the nails in his feet and wrists, the labored breathing or the “crown” of thorns puncturing his brow. God poured out humanity’s rightful punishment for sin upon his Son. And even the physical elements trembled.

It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, for the sun stopped shining. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two.

About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”).

When some of those standing there heard this, they said, “He’s calling Elijah.”

Immediately one of them ran and got a sponge. He filled it with wine vinegar, put it on a staff, and offered it to Jesus to drink. The rest said, “Now leave him alone. Let’s see if Elijah comes to save him.”

When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split and the tombs broke open. The bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. They came out of the tombs after Jesus’ resurrection and went into the holy city and appeared to many people.

When the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and all that had happened, they were terrified, and exclaimed, “Surely he was the Son of God!”

When all the people who had gathered to witness this sight saw what took place, they beat their breasts and went away. But all those who knew him, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance, watching these things.

Now it was the day of Preparation, and the next day was to be a special Sabbath. Because the Jewish leaders did not want the bodies left on the crosses during the Sabbath, they asked Pilate to have the legs broken and the bodies taken down. The soldiers therefore came and broke the legs of the first man who had been crucified with Jesus, and then those of the other. But when they came to Jesus and found that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. Instead, one of the soldiers pierced Jesus’ side with a spear, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water. The man who saw it has given testimony, and his testimony is true. He knows that he tells the truth, and he testifies so that you also may believe. These things happened so that the scripture would be fulfilled: “Not one of his bones will be broken,” and, as another scripture says, “They will look on the one they have pierced.”

Later, Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for the body of Jesus. Now Joseph was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly because he feared the Jewish leaders. With Pilate’s permission, he came and took the body away. He was accompanied by Nicodemus, the man who earlier had visited Jesus at night. Nicodemus brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds. Taking Jesus’ body, the two of them wrapped it, with the spices, in strips of linen. This was in accordance with Jewish burial customs. At the place where Jesus was crucified, there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb, in which no one had ever been laid. Because it was the Jewish day of Preparation and since the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there.

The next day, the one after Preparation Day, the chief priests and the Pharisees went to Pilate. “Sir,” they said, “we remember that while he was still alive that deceiver said, ‘After three days I will rise again.’ So give the order for the tomb to be made secure until the third day. Otherwise, his disciples may come and steal the body and tell the people that he has been raised from the dead. This last deception will be worse than the first.”

“Take a guard,” Pilate answered. “Go, make the tomb as secure as you know how.” So they went and made the tomb secure by putting a seal on the stone and posting the guard.

In what way has Jesus' life and death affected the way you live your life from day to day?

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Today's Lent reading: John 3-4 (NIV)

View today's Lent reading on Bible Gateway
Jesus Teaches Nicodemus

1 Now there was a Pharisee, a man named Nicodemus who was a member of the Jewish ruling council. 2 He came to Jesus at night and said, "Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the signs you are doing if God were not with him."

3 Jesus replied, "Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again."

4 "How can someone be born when they are old?" Nicodemus asked. "Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother's womb to be born!"

5 Jesus answered, "Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. 6Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. 7You should not be surprised at my saying, 'You must be born again.' 8 The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit."

9 "How can this be?" Nicodemus asked.

10 "You are Israel's teacher," said Jesus, "and do you not understand these things? 11 Very truly I tell you, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen, but still you people do not accept our testimony. 12 I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things? 13 No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven-the Son of Man. 14 Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, 15 that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him."

16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God's one and only Son. 19 This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 20Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. 21 But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.

John Testifies Again About Jesus

22 After this, Jesus and his disciples went out into the Judean countryside, where he spent some time with them, and baptized. 23 Now John also was baptizing at Aenon near Salim, because there was plenty of water, and people were coming and being baptized. 24 (This was before John was put in prison.) 25 An argument developed between some of John's disciples and a certain Jew over the matter of ceremonial washing. 26 They came to John and said to him, "Rabbi, that man who was with you on the other side of the Jordan-the one you testified about-look, he is baptizing, and everyone is going to him."

27 To this John replied, "A person can receive only what is given them from heaven. 28 You yourselves can testify that I said, 'I am not the Messiah but am sent ahead of him.' 29 The bride belongs to the bridegroom. The friend who attends the bridegroom waits and listens for him, and is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom's voice. That joy is mine, and it is now complete. 30 He must become greater; I must become less."

31 The one who comes from above is above all; the one who is from the earth belongs to the earth, and speaks as one from the earth. The one who comes from heaven is above all. 32 He testifies to what he has seen and heard, but no one accepts his testimony. 33 Whoever has accepted it has certified that God is truthful. 34 For the one whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for God gives the Spirit without limit. 35 The Father loves the Son and has placed everything in his hands. 36Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God's wrath remains on them.

John 4

Jesus Talks With a Samaritan Woman

1 Now Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard that he was gaining and baptizing more disciples than John- 2 although in fact it was not Jesus who baptized, but his disciples. 3 So he left Judea and went back once more to Galilee.

4 Now he had to go through Samaria. 5 So he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph. 6 Jacob's well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about noon.

7 When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, "Will you give me a drink?" 8 (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.)

9 The Samaritan woman said to him, "You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?" (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.)

10 Jesus answered her, "If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water."

11 "Sir," the woman said, "you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? 12 Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his livestock?"

13 Jesus answered, "Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life."

15 The woman said to him, "Sir, give me this water so that I won't get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water."

16 He told her, "Go, call your husband and come back."

17 "I have no husband," she replied.

Jesus said to her, "You are right when you say you have no husband. 18 The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true."

19 "Sir," the woman said, "I can see that you are a prophet.20 Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem."

21 "Woman," Jesus replied, "believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 22 You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. 24 God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth."

25 The woman said, "I know that Messiah" (called Christ) "is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us."

26 Then Jesus declared, "I, the one speaking to you-I am he."

The Disciples Rejoin Jesus

27 Just then his disciples returned and were surprised to find him talking with a woman. But no one asked, "What do you want?" or "Why are you talking with her?"

28 Then, leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town and said to the people, 29 "Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Messiah?" 30 They came out of the town and made their way toward him.

31 Meanwhile his disciples urged him, "Rabbi, eat something."

32 But he said to them, "I have food to eat that you know nothing about."

33 Then his disciples said to each other, "Could someone have brought him food?"

34 "My food," said Jesus, "is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work. 35 Don't you have a saying, 'It's still four months until harvest'? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest. 36 Even now the one who reaps draws a wage and harvests a crop for eternal life, so that the sower and the reaper may be glad together. 37 Thus the saying 'One sows and another reaps' is true. 38 I sent you to reap what you have not worked for. Others have done the hard work, and you have reaped the benefits of their labor."

Many Samaritans Believe

39 Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman's testimony, "He told me everything I ever did." 40 So when the Samaritans came to him, they urged him to stay with them, and he stayed two days. 41 And because of his words many more became believers.

42 They said to the woman, "We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world."

Jesus Heals an Official's Son

43 After the two days he left for Galilee. 44 (Now Jesus himself had pointed out that a prophet has no honor in his own country.) 45 When he arrived in Galilee, the Galileans welcomed him. They had seen all that he had done in Jerusalem at the Passover Festival, for they also had been there.

46 Once more he visited Cana in Galilee, where he had turned the water into wine. And there was a certain royal official whose son lay sick at Capernaum. 47 When this man heard that Jesus had arrived in Galilee from Judea, he went to him and begged him to come and heal his son, who was close to death.

48 "Unless you people see signs and wonders," Jesus told him, "you will never believe."

49 The royal official said, "Sir, come down before my child dies."

50 "Go," Jesus replied, "your son will live."

The man took Jesus at his word and departed. 51 While he was still on the way, his servants met him with the news that his boy was living. 52 When he inquired as to the time when his son got better, they said to him, "Yesterday, at one in the afternoon, the fever left him."

53 Then the father realized that this was the exact time at which Jesus had said to him, "Your son will live." So he and his whole household believed.

54 This was the second sign Jesus performed after coming from Judea to Galilee.


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