Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Daily Devotional Wednesday 7th March

LORD, you are my God; I will exalt you and praise your name, for in perfect faithfulness you have done wonderful things, things planned long ago.” Isaiah 25:1NIV
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Morning and Evening by Charles Spurgeon

Morning

"Have faith in God."
Mark 11:22

Faith is the foot of the soul by which it can march along the road of the commandments. Love can make the feet move more swiftly; but faith is the foot which carries the soul. Faith is the oil enabling the wheels of holy devotion and of earnest piety to move well; and without faith the wheels are taken from the chariot, and we drag heavily. With faith I can do all things; without faith I shall neither have the inclination nor the power to do anything in the service of God. If you would find the men who serve God the best, you must look for the men of the most faith. Little faith will save a man, but little faith cannot do great things for God. Poor Little-faith could not have fought "Apollyon;" it needed "Christian" to do that. Poor Little-faith could not have slain "Giant Despair;" it required "Great-heart's" arm to knock that monster down. Little faith will go to heaven most certainly, but it often has to hide itself in a nut-shell, and it frequently loses all but its jewels. Little-faith says, "It is a rough road, beset with sharp thorns, and full of dangers; I am afraid to go;" but Great-faith remembers the promise, "Thy shoes shall be iron and brass; as thy days, so shall thy strength be:" and so she boldly ventures. Little-faith stands desponding, mingling her tears with the flood; but Great-faith sings, "When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee:" and she fords the stream at once. Would you be comfortable and happy? Would you enjoy religion? Would you have the religion of cheerfulness and not that of gloom? Then "have faith in God." If you love darkness, and are satisfied to dwell in gloom and misery, then be content with little faith; but if you love the sunshine, and would sing songs of rejoicing, covet earnestly this best gift, "great faith."

Evening

"It is better to trust in the Lord, than to put confidence in man."
Psalm 118:8

Doubtless the reader has been tried with the temptation to rely upon the things which are seen, instead of resting alone upon the invisible God. Christians often look to man for help and counsel, and mar the noble simplicity of their reliance upon their God. Does this evening's portion meet the eye of a child of God anxious about temporals, then would we reason with him awhile. You trust in Jesus, and only in Jesus, for your salvation, then why are you troubled? "Because of my great care." Is it not written, "Cast thy burden upon the Lord"? "Be careful for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication make known your wants unto God." Cannot you trust God for temporals? "Ah! I wish I could." If you cannot trust God for temporals, how dare you trust him for spirituals? Can you trust him for your soul's redemption, and not rely upon him for a few lesser mercies? Is not God enough for thy need, or is his all-sufficiency too narrow for thy wants? Dost thou want another eye beside that of him who sees every secret thing? Is his heart faint? Is his arm weary? If so, seek another God; but if he be infinite, omnipotent, faithful, true, and all-wise, why gaddest thou abroad so much to seek another confidence? Why dost thou rake the earth to find another foundation, when this is strong enough to bear all the weight which thou canst ever build thereon? Christian, mix not only thy wine with water, do not alloy thy gold of faith with the dross of human confidence. Wait thou only upon God, and let thine expectation be from him. Covet not Jonah's gourd, but rest in Jonah's God. Let the sandy foundations of terrestrial trust be the choice of fools, but do thou, like one who foresees the storm, build for thyself an abiding place upon the Rock of Ages.

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Today's reading: Numbers 35-36, Mark 10:1-31 (NIV)

View today's reading on Bible Gateway
Towns for the Levites

1 On the plains of Moab by the Jordan across from Jericho, the LORD said to Moses, 2 “Command the Israelites to give the Levites towns to live in from the inheritance the Israelites will possess. And give them pasturelands around the towns. 3 Then they will have towns to live in and pasturelands for the cattle they own and all their other animals.

4 “The pasturelands around the towns that you give the Levites will extend a thousand cubits from the town wall. 5Outside the town, measure two thousand cubits on the east side, two thousand on the south side, two thousand on the west and two thousand on the north, with the town in the center. They will have this area as pastureland for the towns.

Cities of Refuge

6 “Six of the towns you give the Levites will be cities of refuge, to which a person who has killed someone may flee. In addition, give them forty-two other towns. 7 In all you must give the Levites forty-eight towns, together with their pasturelands. 8The towns you give the Levites from the land the Israelites possess are to be given in proportion to the inheritance of each tribe: Take many towns from a tribe that has many, but few from one that has few.”

9 Then the LORD said to Moses: 10 “Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘When you cross the Jordan into Canaan, 11select some towns to be your cities of refuge, to which a person who has killed someone accidentally may flee. 12 They will be places of refuge from the avenger, so that anyone accused of murder may not die before they stand trial before the assembly. 13 These six towns you give will be your cities of refuge. 14 Give three on this side of the Jordan and three in Canaan as cities of refuge. 15 These six towns will be a place of refuge for Israelites and for foreigners residing among them, so that anyone who has killed another accidentally can flee there.

16 “‘If anyone strikes someone a fatal blow with an iron object, that person is a murderer; the murderer is to be put to death. 17 Or if anyone is holding a stone and strikes someone a fatal blow with it, that person is a murderer; the murderer is to be put to death. 18 Or if anyone is holding a wooden object and strikes someone a fatal blow with it, that person is a murderer; the murderer is to be put to death. 19 The avenger of blood shall put the murderer to death; when the avenger comes upon the murderer, the avenger shall put the murderer to death. 20 If anyone with malice aforethought shoves another or throws something at them intentionally so that they die 21 or if out of enmity one person hits another with their fist so that the other dies, that person is to be put to death; that person is a murderer. The avenger of blood shall put the murderer to death when they meet.

22 “‘But if without enmity someone suddenly pushes another or throws something at them unintentionally 23 or, without seeing them, drops on them a stone heavy enough to kill them, and they die, then since that other person was not an enemy and no harm was intended, 24 the assembly must judge between the accused and the avenger of blood according to these regulations. 25 The assembly must protect the one accused of murder from the avenger of blood and send the accused back to the city of refuge to which they fled. The accused must stay there until the death of the high priest, who was anointed with the holy oil.

26 “‘But if the accused ever goes outside the limits of the city of refuge to which they fled 27 and the avenger of blood finds them outside the city, the avenger of blood may kill the accused without being guilty of murder. 28 The accused must stay in the city of refuge until the death of the high priest; only after the death of the high priest may they return to their own property.

29 “‘This is to have the force of law for you throughout the generations to come, wherever you live.

30 “‘Anyone who kills a person is to be put to death as a murderer only on the testimony of witnesses. But no one is to be put to death on the testimony of only one witness.

31 “‘Do not accept a ransom for the life of a murderer, who deserves to die. They are to be put to death.

32 “‘Do not accept a ransom for anyone who has fled to a city of refuge and so allow them to go back and live on their own land before the death of the high priest.

33 “‘Do not pollute the land where you are. Bloodshed pollutes the land, and atonement cannot be made for the land on which blood has been shed, except by the blood of the one who shed it. 34 Do not defile the land where you live and where I dwell, for I, the LORD, dwell among the Israelites.’”

Numbers 36

Inheritance of Zelophehad’s Daughters

1 The family heads of the clan of Gilead son of Makir, the son of Manasseh, who were from the clans of the descendants of Joseph, came and spoke before Moses and the leaders, the heads of the Israelite families. 2 They said, “When the LORD commanded my lord to give the land as an inheritance to the Israelites by lot, he ordered you to give the inheritance of our brother Zelophehad to his daughters. 3 Now suppose they marry men from other Israelite tribes; then their inheritance will be taken from our ancestral inheritance and added to that of the tribe they marry into. And so part of the inheritance allotted to us will be taken away. 4 When the Year of Jubilee for the Israelites comes, their inheritance will be added to that of the tribe into which they marry, and their property will be taken from the tribal inheritance of our ancestors.”

5 Then at the LORD’s command Moses gave this order to the Israelites: “What the tribe of the descendants of Joseph is saying is right. 6 This is what the LORD commands for Zelophehad’s daughters: They may marry anyone they please as long as they marry within their father’s tribal clan. 7 No inheritance in Israel is to pass from one tribe to another, for every Israelite shall keep the tribal inheritance of their ancestors. 8 Every daughter who inherits land in any Israelite tribe must marry someone in her father’s tribal clan, so that every Israelite will possess the inheritance of their ancestors. 9No inheritance may pass from one tribe to another, for each Israelite tribe is to keep the land it inherits.”

10 So Zelophehad’s daughters did as the LORD commanded Moses. 11 Zelophehad’s daughters—Mahlah, Tirzah, Hoglah, Milkah and Noah—married their cousins on their father’s side.12 They married within the clans of the descendants of Manasseh son of Joseph, and their inheritance remained in their father’s tribe and clan.

13 These are the commands and regulations the LORD gave through Moses to the Israelites on the plains of Moab by the Jordan across from Jericho.


Mark 10

Divorce

1 Jesus then left that place and went into the region of Judea and across the Jordan. Again crowds of people came to him, and as was his custom, he taught them.

2 Some Pharisees came and tested him by asking, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?”

3 “What did Moses command you?” he replied.

4 They said, “Moses permitted a man to write a certificate of divorce and send her away.”

5 “It was because your hearts were hard that Moses wrote you this law,” Jesus replied. 6 “But at the beginning of creation God ‘made them male and female.’ 7 ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, 8 and the two will become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one flesh. 9 Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”

10 When they were in the house again, the disciples asked Jesus about this. 11 He answered, “Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her.12 And if she divorces her husband and marries another man, she commits adultery.”

The Little Children and Jesus

13 People were bringing little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them, but the disciples rebuked them. 14When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. 15 Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” 16 And he took the children in his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed them.

The Rich and the Kingdom of God

17 As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. “Good teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

18 “Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone. 19 You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, you shall not defraud, honor your father and mother.’”

20 “Teacher,” he declared, “all these I have kept since I was a boy.”

21 Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

22 At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth.

23 Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!”

24 The disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said again, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! 25It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”

26 The disciples were even more amazed, and said to each other, “Who then can be saved?”

27 Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.”

28 Then Peter spoke up, “We have left everything to follow you!”

29 “Truly I tell you,” Jesus replied, “no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel 30 will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age: homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields—along with persecutions—and in the age to come eternal life. 31 But many who are first will be last, and the last first.”

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Ezra, Ezrah [Ĕz'ră]—help or my helper.

  1. The head of one of the twenty-two courses of priests that came up from exile with Zerubbabel and Jeshua (Neh. 10:2-8; 12:1, 13). Probably the Azariah of Ezra 7:1.
  2. A descendant of Judahthrough Caleb (1 Chron. 4:17).
  3. The famous scribe and priestdescended from Hilkiah the high priest (Ezra 7:1-25).

The Man Who Honored Scripture

Ezra or 1 Esdras, as he is called in the Vulgate, was the son or grandson of Seraiah, the high priest who was slain after the taking of Jerusalem (2 Kings 25:18, 21). As a priest, he was descended from Zadok and from Phinehas ( Ezra 7:1-6). He was also a ready scribe (Ezra 7:6, 11, 12, 20), which occupation implied three things:

He was a student and as such had a duty to himself to study the will of God as revealed in His Word, that he might hide it in his own heart (Ezra 7:10).

He was an interpreter with a duty to his own generation in teaching his fellow exiles what he had learned. In this way he gave the “sense” of the Word ( Neh. 8:2-8).

He was a copyist, which meant that this learned man had a duty to his own race in multiplying and preserving intact the very words of God (Ezra 7:10, 11).

Ezra was also an able administrator. He conducted the Jewish exiles back to Jerusalem in peace and safety, and establishing himself as their leader, reformed them with a vigorous hand. Summarizing his life and labors, we can say that this Old Testament reformer was:

I. A man of deep humility and self-denial (Ezra 7:10-15; 10:6).

II. A man of great learning with a fervent zeal for God’s honor (Ezra 7:10; 8:21-23).

III. A man of great trustworthiness ( Ezra 7:13, 26).

IV. A man anxious to commend his cause to others (Ezra 8:2-20).

V. A man who knew how to pray ( Ezra 8:21; 10:1).

VI. A man deeply grieved over the sins of the people (Ezra 9:3;10:6).

VII. A man who spared no pains to bring the people to repentance.

Traditional history says that it was Ezra who instituted the Great Synagogue, became its first President, settled the Canon of Jewish Scripture and began the building of synagogues in Jewish provincial towns. Ezra lived to a good old age, dying like Moses at the age of 120 years.

Ezra was a studious, prayerful ecclesiastic who set his heart to realize definite ideals:

To know the Law of Jehovah. What a passion was his to ascertain, explain and administer that Law!

To will to do the Law. Ezra not only taught the Law but urged the people to serve the Lord with heart, mouth and mind.

The key words of the Book of Ezra are Restoration, Reorganization, Reformation. The emphasis is upon the preservation of the national and religious life of the people. The leading ideas of the book are:

The Purity of Worship

The Sanctity of the Sabbath

The Power of Prayer

The Faithfulness of God

Order in Religion and Delight in Praise

Mutual help in Service

The Purity of Common life.

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March 6, 2012
Are You Living Below the Bar?
Sharon Jaynes

Today's Truth
"So Mephibosheth ate at David's table like one of the king's sons" (2 Samuel 9:11 NIV).

Friend to Friend
Who is the world is Mephibosheth, and what possessed his momma to give him such a name? Well, I can't answer the second question, but I can shed some light on the first. Mephibosheth was a man who was living way below his potential. He was the grandson of King Saul and the son of Prince Jonathan, but he lived like a pauper. When he was a little boy, his nurse dropped him while fleeing from their enemies. As a result, he was crippled in both feet (2 Samuel 9).

When David took over as King of Israel, he wanted to know if there was anyone in Jonathan's household to whom he could show kindness. Jonathan had been David's best friend, and he loved him as a brother. A servant told David about the crippled Mephibosheth, and he was summoned immediately. Mephibosheth lived in a place called Lo-Debar (meaning a pasture-less land).

My own (very unofficial) translation of Lo-Debar is "below the bar." Mephibosheth was living below the bar. He was the grandchild of a king, but he was living in a pasture less land like a pauper. When he came before King David he said, "What is your servant, that you should notice a dead dog like me?"

David didn't even answer him. He simply turned to his servant and commanded that all the land that had been Saul's be given back to his grandson and that Mephibosheth should eat at the king's table everyday.

Perhaps you are walking around like a crippled because of something that has happened to you as a child. Perhaps you feel like a "dead dog." And yet, God is looking for ways to bless you, to restore what has been taken away, and invite you to feast at His table everyday. Mephiboseth was a grandchild of King Saul and potential heir to the throne. However, he saw himself as nothing more than a "dead dog," unworthy to receive even the smallest crumb of kindness from David. David's desire was to restore to Mephibosheth all the land that would have been his inheritance and invite him to feast at his table daily. Mephibosheth didn't see himself as he really was. In reality, he was royalty. "A dead dog?" I think not!

Do you see yourself as you really are? You are a chosen, dearly loved, child of God. You have been blessed with every spiritual blessing, delivered from the domain of darkness and transferred to the kingdom of Christ! You, girlfriend, are a child of the King!

Let's Pray
Dear Lord, so many times I walk around with an emotional limp like a wounded animal. But the truth is, I am a child of the King and I should act like one! Thank you for inviting me to feast at Your banquet table every morning by feeding my soul from Your Word and drinking in the Holy Spirit's power. Today, I will not limp about, but run, jump, and even dance with the joy!
In Jesus' Name,
Amen

Now It's Your Turn
Be honest. Do you act more like the pitiful Mephibosheth or a powerful princess?

What mind adjustment do you need to make to start acting like a child of the King?

You have been invited to feast at His table and do so every time you open the pages of your Bible. Have you accepted His invitation?

If you are willing to start walking like a child of the King today, simply visit my Facebook page,www.facebook.com/sharonjaynes and agree with me with the words…I, (put your name), am a child of the King.

More from the Girlfriends
Unfortunately, many of us limp around like poor old Mephib. We live way below the bar of what God intended. If you would like to learn more about who you are as a child of God and start living the life God intended all along, my bookBecoming Spiritually Beautiful will help get you there. It's time to start seeing yourself as God sees you…and acting like you are who God says you are!

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

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

info@girlfriendsingod.com
www.girlfriendsingod.com

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Tracie Miles

March 6, 2012

Unexpected Grace
Tracie Miles

"God's law was given so that all people could see how sinful they were. But as people sinned more and more, God's wonderful grace became more abundant." Romans 5:20 (NLT)

He appeared out of nowhere. Blue lights burst on right about the time I laid eyes on his intimidating, unmarked SUV.

Immediately I checked the speedometer. It confirmed what the officer knew: I was speeding. A sinking feeling knotted my stomach as I prepared to receive the punishment for my inadvertent disobedience of the traffic laws.

I watched in my rear view mirror as the police car crept up behind me. With driver's license and registration in hand, my fingers tapped in irritation on the steering wheel. My scowl deepened as I impatiently waited for the policeman to walk to my window. "Ma'am, I stopped you for speeding. Driver's license and registration please."

Then it happened. The unexpected. The unwarranted. The undeserved.

The policeman glanced into my car and checked out my passengers (including my three deer-in-the-headlights kids in the back seat). Then he startled us all by blurting out a big ol' Southern "Hey!" to my husband, calling him by name.

Apparently they had grown up in church together and proceeded to spend a couple of friendly minutes reacquainting. He handed back my license and registration and gave me a smile. "Slow it down please, and have a good day."

We sat stunned and breathed a collective sigh of relief as I drove away - slowly, I might add.

I had not paid attention to the guidelines set forth. My guilt was obvious, and I had no excuse. I deserved to suffer the consequences, but instead I was given grace.

Grace is undeserved favor or pardon. We can't earn it or buy it. It's something the giver bestows out of the goodness and love in their heart. The Bible tells countless stories of people who received grace, including prostitutes, unfaithful marriage partners, deceivers, thieves, liars and more. Their sins deserved a punishment, but when they asked God for forgiveness, His grace wiped their guilt away. They were treated as pardoned offenders - just as I was.

In today's key verse, Paul is reminding the people of Corinth that despite their sin, God is good, and the Giver of grace. It serves as a reminder that God not only offers grace ñ He offers it in abundance. The more we need, the more we get.

Although God hates sin because it separates us from Him and ushers pain into our lives, His grace is available no matter how big our offense may be. And when we receive the pardon that was paid through the sacrifice of His Son, and begin a relationship with Jesus Christ, we receive grace, forgiveness and mercy.

As much as I appreciated the grace extended to me from the officer that day, it paled in comparison to God's grace. You see, the officer's grace was one of kindness, but not one of redemptive love. It was a grace of compassion, but not the life-saving grace Jesus gives.

The truth is, I deserved a speeding ticket that day but grace was given. In the same way, although we deserve punishment for sin, God's forgiveness and favor are offered anywayÖ through the gift of His unexpected, unwarranted and undeserved grace.

Dear Lord, thank You for the undeserved gift of grace. Forgive my sins, and shower me with Your favor, even though it is undeserved. Thank You for loving me enough to grant me pardon for my mistakes. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Do You Have A Relationship With Christ?

Visit Tracie's blog for more encouragement.

Reinventing Your Rainbow by Tracie Miles

Grace for the Good Girl: Letting Go of the Try-Hard Lifeby Emily Freeman

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:
Ask God to forgive you for your sins, and believe that His grace is limitless.

Consider how God's grace is limitless and undeserved, yet He gives it anyway. Is there someone you need to offer grace?

Do you need to confess your doubts to God, and commit to believe in His unconditional forgiveness, maybe for the first time?

Power Verses:
Ephesians 2:8, "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faithóand this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God." (NIV)

Romans 3:23, "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." (NIV)

© 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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Fasting in Secret

Matthew 6:16-18 "When you fast, anoint your head and wash your face.... And your Father who sees in secret will reward you" (vv. 17-18).

Before we look at Jesus' teaching on fasting in today's passage, we need to provide a few closing comments on the Lord's Prayer, the prayer He has given to His disciples (Matt. 6:9-15). Most believers have prayed this prayer verbatim at some point, which is not inappropriate if it is said with thoughtful reflection. Yet this prayer is to be used primarily as a guide for structuring our communion with God. We are to praylike Jesus teaches us (v. 9; Luke 11:1-4). In other words, it is good to compose our prayers after the format of the Lord's Prayer, using it as a model to follow. Taking each petition and applying it more directly to our own lives, we are to pray for our own particular needs, sins, and the extension of His kingdom among our friends and families.

Praying for the extension of God's kingdom is especially important (Matt. 6:10). Since our Creator already rules over all (Ps. 97:1), this is a prayer for His rule to be recognized, not established. It is a prayer that we and those around us cease to rebel against our Father and do His will just as it is done in heaven (Matt. 6:9-10) - spontaneously, not begrudgingly, and with full acknowledgment and respect of His holiness. Augustine said that to pray for the kingdom to come is to pray for it to be manifested on earth (Sermon on the Mount, 2.6.20).

Today's passage records our Savior's teaching on avoiding hypocrisy when fasting, a major act of Jewish piety in His day. During Jesus' lifetime, fasting is an opportune time for displaying one's piety; many go about disheveled and visibly hungry to show others their "spirituality." Some even dirty themselves with ashes to show how much they have "given up for God." As with prayer and almsgiving, the Messiah's solution is not to forbid fasting altogether, but to make sure that it is done in secret so that His disciples will receive a lasting reward (Matt. 6:16-18 ). Our fasting is to be so secretive that we show forth our cleanliness and joy, which was often done with oil in first-century Israel (Ps. 104:14-15). If we are clean and happy, who but God will know we are fasting? Contentment with piety for the Lord's sake and not as a show for others will bring us far more than the fleeting praises of men (Matt. 6:18).

Coram deo: Living before the face of God

Fasting is extremely beneficial to our spiritual growth and our prayer lives. Going without food helps reminds us how much we depend on God for our sustenance and, indeed, for all things. This helps us seek Him fervently, for we know that the only hope we have to see our loved ones saved and our lives changed is through His working. Consider taking some time to fast and pray this week so that you may know what it means to rely wholly on the Lord.

For further study:

Esther 4

The Bible in a year:

Deuteronomy 17-19

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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TT_Coramdeo_ttlogo

Fasting in Secret

Matthew 6:16-18

Fasting is extremely beneficial to our spiritual growth and our prayer lives. Going without food helps reminds us how much we depend on God for our sustenance and, indeed, for all things. This helps us seek Him fervently, for we know that the only hope we have to see our loved ones saved and our lives changed is through His working. Consider taking some time to fast and pray this week so that you may know what it means to rely wholly on the Lord.

For further study:

Esther 4

The Bible in a year:

Deuteronomy 17-19

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 bundle of myrrh

‘A bundle of myrrh is my well-beloved unto me; he shall lie all night betwixt my breasts.’ Song of Solomon 1:13

Suggested Further Reading: Psalm 21:1–7

The Christian has joy, just like other men, in the common mercies of life. For him there are charms in music, excellence in painting, and beauty in sculpture; for him the hills have sermons of majesty, the rocks hymns of sublimity, and the valleys lessons of love. He can look upon all things with an eye as clear and joyous as another man’s; he can be glad both in God’s gifts and God’s works. He is not dead to the happiness of the household: around his hearth he finds happy associations, without which life were drear indeed. His children fill his home with glee, his wife is his solace and delight, his friends are his comfort and refreshment. He accepts the comforts which soul and body can yield him according as God sees it wise to afford them unto him; but he will tell you that in all these separately, and in all of them added together, he does not find such substantial delight as he does in the person of his Lord Jesus. Brethren, there is a wine which no vineyard on earth ever yielded; there is a bread which even the corn-fields of Egypt could never bring forth. You and I have said, when we have seen others finding their god in earthly comforts, ‘You may boast in gold, and silver, and raiment, but I will rejoice in the God of my salvation.’ In our esteem, the joys of earth are little better than husks for swine compared with Jesus the heavenly manna. I would rather have one mouthful of Christ’s love, and a sip of his fellowship, than a whole world full of carnal delights. What is the chaff to the wheat? What is the sparkling paste to the true diamond? What is a dream to the glorious reality?

For meditation: Material earthly joys are only temporary; even when deprived of them, Christians have still got spiritual joys which are permanent (Hebrews 10:34; John 16:22). Do you know these joys? If so, do you value them?

Sermon no. 558
6 March (1864)

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Predestination and calling

“Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called.”Romans 8:30

Suggested Further Reading: 1 John 3:19-24

The testimony of sense may be false, but the testimony of the Spirit must be true. We have the witness of the Spirit within, bearing witness with our spirits that we are born of God. There is such a thing on earth as an infallible assurance of our election. Let a man once get that, and it will anoint his head with fresh oil, it will clothe him with the white garment of praise, and put the song of the angel into his mouth. Happy, happy man, who is fully assured of his interest in the covenant of grace, in the blood of atonement, and in the glories of heaven! Such men there are here this very day. Let them “rejoice in the Lord alway, and again I say rejoice.” What would some of you give if you could arrive at this assurance? Mark, if you anxiously desire to know, you may know. If your heart pants to read its title clear it shall do so before long. No man ever desired Christ in his heart with a living and longing desire, who did not find him sooner or later. If you have a desire, God has given it to you. If you pant, and cry, and groan after Christ, even this is his gift; bless him for it. Thank him for little grace, and ask him for great grace. He has given you hope, ask for faith; and when he gives you faith, ask for assurance; and when you get assurance, ask for full assurance; and when you have obtained full assurance, ask for enjoyment; and when you have enjoyment, ask for glory itself; and he shall surely give it to you in his own appointed season.

For meditation: Are you content with a logical possession of God’s salvation, or do you long for a heart-felt assurance? Both head knowledge and heart knowledge are important. (1 John 2:3-5; 3:14,19, 24; 4:13; 5:2,13,19-20).

Sermon no. 241
6 March (1859)

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Ratio Christi

Since starting in 2008, Ratio Christi has been expanding its apologetics ministry at colleges around the country - and beyond. Its goal: to regain the intellectual momentum in an environment where secularism often prevails. Here's an interview with Ratio Christi president Rick Schenker about this new movement to defend the faith.

Q. Tell us about Ratio Christi.

Ratio Christi is a global movement that equips university students and faculty to give historical, philosophical and scientific reasons for following Jesus Christ. Ratio Christi is Latin for "The Reason of Christ," and we are placing Christian apologetics clubs at universities. We are engaging in the battle for the mind of Christians and skeptics alike. We unashamedly defend the veracity of God, the Bible and Christ's resurrection. Currently we have over 60 chapters and expect to have 500 chapters in the next five years.

Q. Why is it particularly important for youth and college students?

When confronted with intellectual challenges to Christianity, many Christian college students will abandon their faith. Secular thought dominates most educational institutions. Christian students are ridiculed and openly humiliated by fellow students, and sometimes even faculty, for believing in God, the Bible and Jesus Christ.

We don't back down in the face of intellectual challenges to the faith, and we teach students and Christian faculty members that our faith can stand up to intellectual scrutiny and attack. We teach both students and faculty the logical, historical, philosophical and scientific reasons why Christianity and the Christian worldview are true. What is amazing about this is that these students become incredibly confident in their faith and become amazing witnesses for Christ.

Read the rest at BibleGateway.com!

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Questions from Readers

What is the unforgivable sin?

What happened with the peanut butter?

Q. I've heard there is a sin that's unforgivable - and I want to make sure I don't commit it! Can you shed some light on this? -- Nancy

A. "If you're worried that you may be guilty of the unforgivable sin, you almost certainly are not," Rick Cornish aptly points out in his book Five Minute Theologian. "Concern about committing it reveals the opposite attitude of what the sin is. Those who might be guilty wouldn't care because they have no distress or remorse over the possibility."

Jesus talked about the unforgivable sin in Matthew 12:31-32: "And I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come."

Let's face it - that's a very sobering teaching! But let's put it into context. Note that Jesus didn't address his comments to his disciples or a mere crowd. He was talking specifically to Pharisees who had personally witnessed his miracle of completely and instantly healing a blind and mute demon-possessed man (Matthew 12:22). Rather than acknowledging the obvious fact that Jesus was exercising divine powers, the Pharisees were so spiritually depraved that they attributed his power to Satan (v. 24).

Read the rest of this answer and the answer to the other question!

Have a question? Drop me a line atAskLee@Leestrobel.com. We'll answer the ones with the broadest interest in upcoming newsletters.

Lee's Notes

• Churches from Guam and Hawaii to Virginia and Florida - and across Canada - will be hosting our live simulcast on The Questions Hope No One Will Ask this coming Saturday morning, March 10. I'll be joined by Mark Mittelberg, Dr. Craig Hazen and Dr. Douglas Groothuis as we give answers to common objections being raised by skeptics these days. We're adding information to our website about host churches each day; just check outhttp://incastevents.com/questionshostsites/ to find the location nearest you and make plans to attend! You'll walk away feeling more confident in your faith and better equipped to deal with tough questions that might arise.

• When you eat at a restaurant between now and Easter, here's a suggestion: leave the waiter or waitress a generous monetary tip as well as a copy of my book The Case for Easter. I wrote this inexpensive little volume to reach out to people with the evidence that Jesus rose from the dead and thus established that he is, in fact, the Son of God. Why not get several copies and give them away to neighbors, friends, colleagues and random folks whose path you cross during the coming days?

• If you live in Nevada, please join me March 24-25 when I speak at Canyon Ridge Christian Church about my journey from atheism to Christianity and the historical evidence for the resurrection that convinced me Jesus is the Son of God. Please bring your spiritually curious friends as well! And if you live in Colorado, I'll be speaking April 21-22 atWoodmen Valley Chapel in Colorado Springs about how scientific discoveries over the last fifty years point powerfully and persuasively toward the existence of a Creator who looks suspiciously like the God of the Bible.

• Hey, let's stay in touch! Join me on Twitter at @LeeStrobel.

Reality of the Resurrection

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At the recent [un]apologetic conference in San Antonio, I spoke on the topic of what convinced me as an atheist that Jesus rose from the dead. Afterward, I interviewed resurrection scholar Michael Licona (PhD., Pretoria) about his research on the topic, the so-called "minimal facts" approach to presenting the evidence for the resurrection, current objections by atheists, and related issues.


Lee's Links: Suggested articles from the web
New discoveries
Additional details emerge about recent important discoveries of ancient manuscripts.
Foolish apologists
Here are 10 pitfalls to avoid if you want to be an effective defender of the faith.
The next Billy
Russell D. Moore explains why the next Billy Graham might be drunk right now.
1 in 4 Charismatic
New research shows 25% of Christians are charismatic or Pentecostal.
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Everything New - A Weeekly Devotional

Important note: This morning's edition of "Everything New" contained a broken link to the subscription page for Mel's "Knowing Him" Easter devotional. The link has been corrected below; you can find the subscription page here. We apologize for the error.

THE MOST IMPORTANT THING WE CANNOT DO FOR OURSELVES

In the 11th century, a wise Christian by the name of Anselm wrote a small book called Cur Deus Homo, Why God Became Man, and in it he offered a straightforward interpretation of salvation. Anselm said that only man should solve the problem of sin-but only God could. Who ought to suffer the consequences for the mistakes and crimes of human beings? Human beings, of course. But the problem is, we cannot really pay for our own sins. We were designed as creatures of perfect goodness and nobility. So every failing, every negligence, every assault against another person puts us deeper and deeper into a moral deficit. No one can make up for all that.

No one, that is, except God.

Only man should solve the problem of sin, but only God could. And so God became man. Now Christians don’t believe this because it is a neat, logical solution. It is, rather, because of the whole eye-opening, mind-blowing, assumption-shattering experience we have had with Jesus Christ since he came. Jesus’ claims about why he came, in other words, have proven true many times over in the lives of countless human beings from almost every culture in the world.

The weeks leading up to Easter are a great time to grow in the knowledge of Christ as Savior and Lord.

Philippians 3:10 says “I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection of the dead.” This is what we need today!

You are invited to receive via email a three-week daily devotional I have written, focussing on the Christ who died and rose for us. It begins March 22.

“Knowing Him: An Easter Devotional” is your opportunity to grow in the grace and power of Jesus. Use the link below to sign up. If you get the message “Update Your The Brook Network Profile,” just follow the steps it indicates.

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Resources

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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Does the Bible allow remarriage after divorce?

This week's reading: Mark 10:11-12

Jesus refutes the teaching that a man is "required" to dispense with his wife when he suspects unfaithfulness. Jesus finds such behavior intolerable, saying Moses did not "command" men to divorce wives; he "permitted" it because of the hardness of people's hearts (see Mk 10:5). The springboard for right action should not be hard-heartedness, but love. Jesus says that only if a woman has done something that irreparably ruptures the marriage can such a divorce be right. But it isn't a necessary response.

This passage can be read as follows: "Whoever does the following commits adultery: divorces his wife (except for immorality) and remarries another." Judgment is placed on the person who remarries after pursuing an illegitimate divorce. If the divorce is invalid, so is the remarriage. But the reverse is also true: If the divorce is valid, then remarriage is acceptable.

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Day 14

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

After this, Jesus traveled about from one town and village to another, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God. The Twelve were with him, and also some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases: Mary (called Magdalene) from whom seven demons had come out; Joanna the wife of Chuza, the manager of Herod’s household; Susanna; and many others. These women were helping to support them out of their own means.

Apparently even John the Baptist didn’t really understand who Jesus was. John had announced Jesus as the coming Messiah, but Jesus’ work hadn’t brought the results John evidently expected. Added to John’s disappointment was the fact that he had been languishing in prison for some time because he had publicly criticized Herod Antipas.

Herod Antipas was one of the sons of Herod the Great, who ruled at the time of Jesus’ birth. Herod Antipas was the Roman puppet ruler over Galilee, and he had convinced his brother’s wife to leave her husband and marry him, a violation of Jewish law. John had been locked up for pointing out Herod’s sin.

When John, who was in prison, heard about the deeds of the Messiah, he sent his disciples to ask him, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?”

Jesus replied, “Go back and report to John what you hear and see: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor. Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me.”

As John’s disciples were leaving, Jesus began to speak to the crowd about John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed swayed by the wind? If not, what did you go out to see? A man dressed in fine clothes? No, those who wear fine clothes are in kings’ palaces. Then what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. This is the one about whom it is written:

“‘I will send my messenger ahead of you,
who will prepare your way before you.’

Truly I tell you, among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet whoever is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been subjected to violence, and violent people have been raiding it. For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John. And if you are willing to accept it, he is the Elijah who was to come.”

Jesus’ answer to John gave more insight into Jesus’ role as Savior and the Messiah. Many people were intrigued by this prophet and teacher, and they wanted to hear more.

Why was it so difficult for people to understand who Jesus was?

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Today's Lent reading: Matthew 27-28 (NIV)

View today's Lent reading on Bible Gateway
Judas Hangs Himself

1 Early in the morning, all the chief priests and the elders of the people made their plans how to have Jesus executed. 2 So they bound him, led him away and handed him over to Pilate the governor.

3 When Judas, who had betrayed him, saw that Jesus was condemned, he was seized with remorse and returned the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders. 4 “I have sinned,” he said, “for I have betrayed innocent blood.”

“What is that to us?” they replied. “That’s your responsibility.”

5 So Judas threw the money into the temple and left. Then he went away and hanged himself.

6 The chief priests picked up the coins and said, “It is against the law to put this into the treasury, since it is blood money.” 7So they decided to use the money to buy the potter’s field as a burial place for foreigners. 8 That is why it has been called the Field of Blood to this day. 9 Then what was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet was fulfilled: “They took the thirty pieces of silver, the price set on him by the people of Israel, 10 and they used them to buy the potter’s field, as the Lord commanded me.”

Jesus Before Pilate

11 Meanwhile Jesus stood before the governor, and the governor asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?”

“You have said so,” Jesus replied.

12 When he was accused by the chief priests and the elders, he gave no answer. 13 Then Pilate asked him, “Don’t you hear the testimony they are bringing against you?” 14 But Jesus made no reply, not even to a single charge—to the great amazement of the governor.

15 Now it was the governor’s custom at the festival to release a prisoner chosen by the crowd. 16 At that time they had a well-known prisoner whose name was Jesus Barabbas. 17 So when the crowd had gathered, Pilate asked them, “Which one do you want me to release to you: Jesus Barabbas, or Jesus who is called the Messiah?” 18 For he knew it was out of self-interest that they had handed Jesus over to him.

19 While Pilate was sitting on the judge’s seat, his wife sent him this message: “Don’t have anything to do with that innocent man, for I have suffered a great deal today in a dream because of him.”

20 But the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowd to ask for Barabbas and to have Jesus executed.

21 “Which of the two do you want me to release to you?” asked the governor.

“Barabbas,” they answered.

22 “What shall I do, then, with Jesus who is called the Messiah?” Pilate asked.

They all answered, “Crucify him!”

23 “Why? What crime has he committed?” asked Pilate.

But they shouted all the louder, “Crucify him!”

24 When Pilate saw that he was getting nowhere, but that instead an uproar was starting, he took water and washed his hands in front of the crowd. “I am innocent of this man’s blood,” he said. “It is your responsibility!”

25 All the people answered, “His blood is on us and on our children!”

26 Then he released Barabbas to them. But he had Jesus flogged, and handed him over to be crucified.

The Soldiers Mock Jesus

27 Then the governor’s soldiers took Jesus into the Praetorium and gathered the whole company of soldiers around him. 28 They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, 29 and then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on his head. They put a staff in his right hand. Then they knelt in front of him and mocked him. “Hail, king of the Jews!” they said. 30They spit on him, and took the staff and struck him on the head again and again. 31 After they had mocked him, they took off the robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him away to crucify him.

The Crucifixion of Jesus

32 As they were going out, they met a man from Cyrene, named Simon, and they forced him to carry the cross. 33 They came to a place called Golgotha (which means “the place of the skull”). 34 There they offered Jesus wine to drink, mixed with gall; but after tasting it, he refused to drink it. 35 When they had crucified him, they divided up his clothes by casting lots. 36And sitting down, they kept watch over him there. 37 Above his head they placed the written charge against him: THIS IS JESUS, THE KING OF THE JEWS.

38 Two rebels were crucified with him, one on his right and one on his left. 39 Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads 40 and saying, “You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself! Come down from the cross, if you are the Son of God!” 41 In the same way the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders mocked him. 42 “He saved others,” they said, “but he can’t save himself! He’s the king of Israel! Let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. 43 He trusts in God. Let God rescue him now if he wants him, for he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’” 44 In the same way the rebels who were crucified with him also heaped insults on him.

The Death of Jesus

45 From noon until three in the afternoon darkness came over all the land. 46 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?”).

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

48 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. 49 The rest said, “Now leave him alone. Let’s see if Elijah comes to save him.”

50 And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit.

51 At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split 52 and the tombs broke open. The bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. 53 They came out of the tombs after Jesus’ resurrection and went into the holy city and appeared to many people.

54 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!”

55 Many women were there, watching from a distance. They had followed Jesus from Galilee to care for his needs. 56Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joseph,[f] and the mother of Zebedee’s sons.

The Burial of Jesus

57 As evening approached, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who had himself become a disciple of Jesus. 58 Going to Pilate, he asked for Jesus’ body, and Pilate ordered that it be given to him. 59 Joseph took the body, wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, 60 and placed it in his own new tomb that he had cut out of the rock. He rolled a big stone in front of the entrance to the tomb and went away. 61 Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were sitting there opposite the tomb.

The Guard at the Tomb

62 The next day, the one after Preparation Day, the chief priests and the Pharisees went to Pilate. 63 “Sir,” they said, “we remember that while he was still alive that deceiver said, ‘After three days I will rise again.’ 64 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.”

65 “Take a guard,” Pilate answered. “Go, make the tomb as secure as you know how.” 66 So they went and made the tomb secure by putting a seal on the stone and posting the guard.

Matthew 28

Jesus Has Risen

1 After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb.

2 There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. 3 His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. 4 The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men.

5 The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. 6 He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. 7 Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.’ Now I have told you.”

8 So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples. 9 Suddenly Jesus met them. “Greetings,” he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him. 10 Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.”

The Guards’ Report

11 While the women were on their way, some of the guards went into the city and reported to the chief priests everything that had happened. 12 When the chief priests had met with the elders and devised a plan, they gave the soldiers a large sum of money, 13 telling them, “You are to say, ‘His disciples came during the night and stole him away while we were asleep.’ 14 If this report gets to the governor, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.” 15 So the soldiers took the money and did as they were instructed. And this story has been widely circulated among the Jews to this very day.

The Great Commission

16 Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”


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