Sunday, April 29, 2012

Daily Devotional Sunday 29th April

“In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross!”Philippians 2:5-8 NIV
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Morning and Evening by Charles Spurgeon

Morning

"Thou art my hope in the day of evil."
Jeremiah 17:17
The path of the Christian is not always bright with sunshine; he has his seasons of darkness and of storm. True, it is written in God's Word, "Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace;" and it is a great truth, that religion is calculated to give a man happiness below as well as bliss above; but experience tells us that if the course of the just be "As the shining light that shineth more and more unto the perfect day," yet sometimes that light is eclipsed. At certain periods clouds cover the believer's sun, and he walks in darkness and sees no light. There are many who have rejoiced in the presence of God for a season; they have basked in the sunshine in the earlier stages of their Christian career; they have walked along the "green pastures" by the side of the "still waters," but suddenly they find the glorious sky is clouded; instead of the Land of Goshen they have to tread the sandy desert; in the place of sweet waters, they find troubled streams, bitter to their taste, and they say, "Surely, if I were a child of God, this would not happen." Oh! say not so, thou who art walking in darkness. The best of God's saints must drink the wormwood; the dearest of his children must bear the cross. No Christian has enjoyed perpetual prosperity; no believer can always keep his harp from the willows. Perhaps the Lord allotted you at first a smooth and unclouded path, because you were weak and timid. He tempered the wind to the shorn lamb, but now that you are stronger in the spiritual life, you must enter upon the riper and rougher experience of God's full-grown children. We need winds and tempests to exercise our faith, to tear off the rotten bough of self-dependence, and to root us more firmly in Christ. The day of evil reveals to us the value of our glorious hope.

Evening

"The Lord taketh pleasure in his people."
Psalm 149:4
How comprehensive is the love of Jesus! There is no part of his people's interests which he does not consider, and there is nothing which concerns their welfare which is not important to him. Not merely does he think of you, believer, as an immortal being, but as a mortal being too. Do not deny it or doubt it: "The very hairs of your head are all numbered." "The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord: and he delighteth in his way." It were a sad thing for us if this mantle of love did not cover all our concerns, for what mischief might be wrought to us in that part of our business which did not come under our gracious Lord's inspection! Believer, rest assured that the heart of Jesus cares about your meaner affairs. The breadth of his tender love is such that you may resort to him in all matters; for in all your afflictions he is afflicted, and like as a father pitieth his children, so doth he pity you. The meanest interests of all his saints are all borne upon the broad bosom of the Son of God. Oh, what a heart is his, that doth not merely comprehend the persons of his people, but comprehends also the diverse and innumerable concerns of all those persons! Dost thou think, O Christian, that thou canst measure the love of Christ? Think of what his love has brought thee--justification, adoption, sanctification, eternal life! The riches of his goodness are unsearchable; thou shalt never be able to tell them out or even conceive them. Oh, the breadth of the love of Christ! Shall such a love as this have half our hearts? Shall it have a cold love in return? Shall Jesus' marvellous lovingkindness and tender care meet with but faint response and tardy acknowledgment? O my soul, tune thy harp to a glad song of thanksgiving! Go to thy rest rejoicing, for thou art no desolate wanderer, but a beloved child, watched over, cared for, supplied, and defended by thy Lord.

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Today's reading: 1 Kings 3-5, Luke 20:1-26 (NIV)

View today's reading on Bible Gateway 
Solomon Asks for Wisdom
    1 Solomon made an alliance with Pharaoh king of Egypt and married his daughter. He brought her to the City of David until he finished building his palace and the temple of the LORD, and the wall around Jerusalem. 2 The people, however, were still sacrificing at the high places, because a temple had not yet been built for the Name of the LORD. 3 Solomon showed his love for the LORD by walking according to the instructions given him by his father David, except that he offered sacrifices and burned incense on the high places.
   4 The king went to Gibeon to offer sacrifices, for that was the most important high place, and Solomon offered a thousand burnt offerings on that altar. 5 At Gibeon the LORD appeared to Solomon during the night in a dream, and God said, “Ask for whatever you want me to give you.”
   6 Solomon answered, “You have shown great kindness to your servant, my father David, because he was faithful to you and righteous and upright in heart. You have continued this great kindness to him and have given him a son to sit on his throne this very day.
   7 “Now, LORD my God, you have made your servant king in place of my father David. But I am only a little child and do not know how to carry out my duties. 8 Your servant is here among the people you have chosen, a great people, too numerous to count or number. 9 So give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong. For who is able to govern this great people of yours?”
   10 The Lord was pleased that Solomon had asked for this. 11So God said to him, “Since you have asked for this and not for long life or wealth for yourself, nor have asked for the death of your enemies but for discernment in administering justice, 12 I will do what you have asked. I will give you a wise and discerning heart, so that there will never have been anyone like you, nor will there ever be. 13 Moreover, I will give you what you have not asked for—both wealth and honor—so that in your lifetime you will have no equal among kings. 14 And if you walk in obedience to me and keep my decrees and commands as David your father did, I will give you a long life.” 15 Then Solomon awoke—and he realized it had been a dream.
   He returned to Jerusalem, stood before the ark of the Lord’s covenant and sacrificed burnt offerings and fellowship offerings. Then he gave a feast for all his court.
A Wise Ruling
    16 Now two prostitutes came to the king and stood before him. 17 One of them said, “Pardon me, my lord. This woman and I live in the same house, and I had a baby while she was there with me. 18 The third day after my child was born, this woman also had a baby. We were alone; there was no one in the house but the two of us.
   19 “During the night this woman’s son died because she lay on him. 20 So she got up in the middle of the night and took my son from my side while I your servant was asleep. She put him by her breast and put her dead son by my breast. 21 The next morning, I got up to nurse my son—and he was dead! But when I looked at him closely in the morning light, I saw that it wasn’t the son I had borne.”
   22 The other woman said, “No! The living one is my son; the dead one is yours.”
   But the first one insisted, “No! The dead one is yours; the living one is mine.” And so they argued before the king.
   23 The king said, “This one says, ‘My son is alive and your son is dead,’ while that one says, ‘No! Your son is dead and mine is alive.’”
   24 Then the king said, “Bring me a sword.” So they brought a sword for the king. 25 He then gave an order: “Cut the living child in two and give half to one and half to the other.”
   26 The woman whose son was alive was deeply moved out of love for her son and said to the king, “Please, my lord, give her the living baby! Don’t kill him!”
   But the other said, “Neither I nor you shall have him. Cut him in two!”
   27 Then the king gave his ruling: “Give the living baby to the first woman. Do not kill him; she is his mother.”
   28 When all Israel heard the verdict the king had given, they held the king in awe, because they saw that he had wisdom from God to administer justice.

1 Kings 4

Solomon’s Officials and Governors
    1 So King Solomon ruled over all Israel. 2 And these were his chief officials:
   Azariah son of Zadok—the priest;
   3 Elihoreph and Ahijah, sons of Shisha—secretaries;
   Jehoshaphat son of Ahilud—recorder;
   4 Benaiah son of Jehoiada—commander in chief;
   Zadok and Abiathar—priests;
   Azariah son of Nathan—in charge of the district governors;
   Zabud son of Nathan—a priest and adviser to the king;
   6 Ahishar—palace administrator;
   Adoniram son of Abda—in charge of forced labor.
   7 Solomon had twelve district governors over all Israel, who supplied provisions for the king and the royal household. Each one had to provide supplies for one month in the year. 8 These are their names:
   Ben-Hur—in the hill country of Ephraim;
   9 Ben-Deker—in Makaz, Shaalbim, Beth Shemesh and Elon Bethhanan;
   10 Ben-Hesed—in Arubboth (Sokoh and all the land of Hepher were his);
   11 Ben-Abinadab—in Naphoth Dor (he was married to Taphath daughter of Solomon);
   12 Baana son of Ahilud—in Taanach and Megiddo, and in all of Beth Shan next to Zarethan below Jezreel, from Beth Shan to Abel Meholah across to Jokmeam;
   13 Ben-Geber—in Ramoth Gilead (the settlements of Jair son of Manasseh in Gilead were his, as well as the region of Argob in Bashan and its sixty large walled cities with bronze gate bars);
   14 Ahinadab son of Iddo—in Mahanaim;
   15 Ahimaaz—in Naphtali (he had married Basemath daughter of Solomon);
   16 Baana son of Hushai—in Asher and in Aloth;
   17 Jehoshaphat son of Paruah—in Issachar;
   18 Shimei son of Ela—in Benjamin;
   19 Geber son of Uri—in Gilead (the country of Sihon king of the Amorites and the country of Og king of Bashan). He was the only governor over the district.
Solomon’s Daily Provisions
    20 The people of Judah and Israel were as numerous as the sand on the seashore; they ate, they drank and they were happy. 21 And Solomon ruled over all the kingdoms from the Euphrates River to the land of the Philistines, as far as the border of Egypt. These countries brought tribute and were Solomon’s subjects all his life.
   22 Solomon’s daily provisions were thirty cors of the finest flour and sixty cors of meal, 23 ten head of stall-fed cattle, twenty of pasture-fed cattle and a hundred sheep and goats, as well as deer, gazelles, roebucks and choice fowl. 24 For he ruled over all the kingdoms west of the Euphrates River, from Tiphsah to Gaza, and had peace on all sides. 25 During Solomon’s lifetime Judah and Israel, from Dan to Beersheba, lived in safety, everyone under their own vine and under their own fig tree.
   26 Solomon had four thousand stalls for chariot horses, and twelve thousand horses.
   27 The district governors, each in his month, supplied provisions for King Solomon and all who came to the king’s table. They saw to it that nothing was lacking. 28 They also brought to the proper place their quotas of barley and straw for the chariot horses and the other horses.
Solomon’s Wisdom
    29 God gave Solomon wisdom and very great insight, and a breadth of understanding as measureless as the sand on the seashore. 30 Solomon’s wisdom was greater than the wisdom of all the people of the East, and greater than all the wisdom of Egypt. 31 He was wiser than anyone else, including Ethan the Ezrahite—wiser than Heman, Kalkol and Darda, the sons of Mahol. And his fame spread to all the surrounding nations. 32He spoke three thousand proverbs and his songs numbered a thousand and five. 33 He spoke about plant life, from the cedar of Lebanon to the hyssop that grows out of walls. He also spoke about animals and birds, reptiles and fish. 34 From all nations people came to listen to Solomon’s wisdom, sent by all the kings of the world, who had heard of his wisdom.

1 Kings 5

Preparations for Building the Temple
    1 When Hiram king of Tyre heard that Solomon had been anointed king to succeed his father David, he sent his envoys to Solomon, because he had always been on friendly terms with David. 2 Solomon sent back this message to Hiram:
   3 “You know that because of the wars waged against my father David from all sides, he could not build a temple for the Name of the LORD his God until the LORD put his enemies under his feet. 4 But now the LORD my God has given me rest on every side, and there is no adversary or disaster. 5 I intend, therefore, to build a temple for the Name of the LORD my God, as the LORD told my father David, when he said, ‘Your son whom I will put on the throne in your place will build the temple for my Name.’
   6 “So give orders that cedars of Lebanon be cut for me. My men will work with yours, and I will pay you for your men whatever wages you set. You know that we have no one so skilled in felling timber as the Sidonians.”
   7 When Hiram heard Solomon’s message, he was greatly pleased and said, “Praise be to the LORD today, for he has given David a wise son to rule over this great nation.”
   8 So Hiram sent word to Solomon:
   “I have received the message you sent me and will do all you want in providing the cedar and juniper logs. 9 My men will haul them down from Lebanon to the Mediterranean Sea, and I will float them as rafts by sea to the place you specify. There I will separate them and you can take them away. And you are to grant my wish by providing food for my royal household.”
   10 In this way Hiram kept Solomon supplied with all the cedar and juniper logs he wanted, 11 and Solomon gave Hiram twenty thousand cors of wheat as food for his household, in addition to twenty thousand baths of pressed olive oil. Solomon continued to do this for Hiram year after year. 12 The LORD gave Solomon wisdom, just as he had promised him. There were peaceful relations between Hiram and Solomon, and the two of them made a treaty.
   13 King Solomon conscripted laborers from all Israel—thirty thousand men. 14 He sent them off to Lebanon in shifts of ten thousand a month, so that they spent one month in Lebanon and two months at home. Adoniram was in charge of the forced labor. 15 Solomon had seventy thousand carriers and eighty thousand stonecutters in the hills, 16 as well as thirty-three hundred[j] foremen who supervised the project and directed the workers. 17 At the king’s command they removed from the quarry large blocks of high-grade stone to provide a foundation of dressed stone for the temple. 18 The craftsmen of Solomon and Hiram and workers from Byblos cut and prepared the timber and stone for the building of the temple.

Luke 20

The Authority of Jesus Questioned
    1 One day as Jesus was teaching the people in the temple courts and proclaiming the good news, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, together with the elders, came up to him. 2“Tell us by what authority you are doing these things,” they said. “Who gave you this authority?”
   3 He replied, “I will also ask you a question. Tell me: 4 John’s baptism—was it from heaven, or of human origin?”
   5 They discussed it among themselves and said, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will ask, ‘Why didn’t you believe him?’ But if we say, ‘Of human origin,’ all the people will stone us, because they are persuaded that John was a prophet.”
   7 So they answered, “We don’t know where it was from.”
   8 Jesus said, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.”
The Parable of the Tenants
    9 He went on to tell the people this parable: “A man planted a vineyard, rented it to some farmers and went away for a long time. 10 At harvest time he sent a servant to the tenants so they would give him some of the fruit of the vineyard. But the tenants beat him and sent him away empty-handed. 11 He sent another servant, but that one also they beat and treated shamefully and sent away empty-handed. 12 He sent still a third, and they wounded him and threw him out.
   13 “Then the owner of the vineyard said, ‘What shall I do? I will send my son, whom I love; perhaps they will respect him.’
   14 “But when the tenants saw him, they talked the matter over. ‘This is the heir,’ they said. ‘Let’s kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.’ 15 So they threw him out of the vineyard and killed him.
   “What then will the owner of the vineyard do to them? 16 He will come and kill those tenants and give the vineyard to others.”
   When the people heard this, they said, “God forbid!”
   17 Jesus looked directly at them and asked, “Then what is the meaning of that which is written:
   “‘The stone the builders rejected 
   has become the cornerstone’?
    18 Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces; anyone on whom it falls will be crushed.”
   19 The teachers of the law and the chief priests looked for a way to arrest him immediately, because they knew he had spoken this parable against them. But they were afraid of the people.
Paying Taxes to Caesar
    20 Keeping a close watch on him, they sent spies, who pretended to be sincere. They hoped to catch Jesus in something he said, so that they might hand him over to the power and authority of the governor. 21 So the spies questioned him: “Teacher, we know that you speak and teach what is right, and that you do not show partiality but teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. 22 Is it right for us to pay taxes to Caesar or not?”
   23 He saw through their duplicity and said to them, 24 “Show me a denarius. Whose image and inscription are on it?”
   “Caesar’s,” they replied.
   25 He said to them, “Then give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.”
   26 They were unable to trap him in what he had said there in public. And astonished by his answer, they became silent.

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Fidelity Check

Then he is to take his wife to the priest. He must also take an offering of a tenth of an ephah of barley flour on her behalf. He must not pour olive oil on it or put incense on it, because it is a grain offering for jealousy, a reminder-offering to draw attention to wrongdoing.
Numbers 5:15
When Anya suspected her husband Ron was having an affair, her antennae went up. She began watching for evidence-receipts, long-distance phone calls, email-to confirm her suspicion. Over time, the evidence was clear: Ron was cheating on her.
When Anya confronted her husband, however, he told her she was crazy for thinking that way. Ron's words cut her to the core. Not only did his vehement denial magnify his guilt, but his demeaning words reinforced what she was already feeling-that she was losing her mind. Jealousy and suspicion were taking over her life.
Anya decided to meet with her pastor. She shared her suspicion and the evidence that pointed to her husband's guilt. Anya hoped this respected leader would come alongside her to intervene. She knew that her husband was lying about his affair. She also knew the public revelation of his affair would be devastating to his career and to the woman he was involved with. Unfortunately, Anya's pastor didn't believe her claims and dismissed her fears. Anya left the pastor's office feeling utterly rejected. She had to deal with her overwhelming feelings of suspicion, jealousy, rejection and anger on her own.
At some point, every couple will experience feelings of jealousy and suspicion. While we might not have a modern-day equivalent to the bitter-water litmus test of Numbers 5:11-31, there are some practical steps we can take to deal with fears of infidelity and to restore trust once it has been broken by an affair.
For starters, we can pray daily for a hedge of protection around our marriage. Jerry Jenkins explains how this works in his book Hedges (Good News/Crossway, 2005). No one is immune from the possibility of committing adultery. At no point in our marriage are any of us safe from this sin. Recognizing this fact is our first defense.
Second, we can build a climate of trust with our partner through open communication and checkpoints that give our partner windows into our world. Without allowing it to become controlling, there's nothing wrong with setting up checkpoints that verify our whereabouts, our communications with others (especially online), and what we do when we're alone. For example, ever since Lyla developed a romantic relationship with a man she met on the Internet, her husband, Phil, has needed reassurance that she is being faithful to him now that the relationship has ended. Lyla and Phil now keep a shared email address. Occasionally Phil checks Lyla's mail. Lyla doesn't argue about those checkups, knowing that accountability to her husband is a good way to rebuild the trust she compromised.
For some time in our marriage, I saw this kind of accountability as invasive and demeaning. What difference did it make if I took a different route to work than Dan thought? Over time, though, I've come to see that by giving Dan my daily itinerary, I'm letting him peek into my world. It's a safeguard for our marriage. Building hedges around each other goes a long way toward protecting us from infidelity, and it also alleviates the fear of infidelity once trust has been broken.
Marian V. Liautaud

Let's Talk

  • What kinds of checkpoints do we have in our marriage? Are we open about our emails, lunch dates and daily schedules?
  • What are some ways we can deal with jealousy or suspicion should they occur in our marriage?
  • What kinds of accountability would be helpful in creating a climate of trust in our marriage?
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More than a Prophet

Matthew 11:7-15 "For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John, and if you are willing to accept it, he is Elijah who is to come" ( vv. 13-14).
Given John the Baptist's earlier declarations about Jesus, his doubts about the Lord's identity raised in Matthew 11:1-6 could have led many to question the consistency of his ministry. How could they not doubt his steadfastness and teaching since he has gone from exalting Jesus (3:13-17John 3:22-36) to inquiring if He is truly the Christ? Alternatively, how could they trust in Jesus as the Messiah if the beloved John the Baptist had doubts about Him?
Jesus addresses these thoughts with His own questions. When swayed by the wind, the long reeds beside the Jordan River are visual metaphors of those who teach according to the whims of men. Christ's inquiry about the reed intends to ask if John is one to change his message with the blowing of the wind ( Matt. 11:7). He expects the people to answer that John was a faithful preacher. Similarly, Christ's question about soft clothing (v. 8) reminds them that they sought John, a prophet who like Elijah wears camel's hair (2 Kings 1:8), not fine linen. Jesus is saying that John is a prophet whose words must be embraced.
However, John is not only like Elijah, he is Elijah. In verses 9-10, Christ says John the Baptist fulfills Malachi 3:1, which looks for a special messenger to come before the Day of the Lord. This messenger is Elijah (Mal. 4:5-6), and in going before Jesus, John is revealed as the fulfillment of Malachi's prophecy. Of course, John is not Elijah reincarnated. Just as the prophets refer to the coming Messiah as David ( Jer. 30:9) because David is the prototypical king, so too does Malachi say the Messiah's forerunner is Elijah since Elijah is the exemplary prophet. But Jesus is not literally David, nor is John the Baptist literally Elijah.
John is indeed great, but the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater still (Matt. 11:11 ). Here Jesus contrasts John's place in redemptive history with that of the new covenant believer. John saw Jesus, but he died before the Lord's death and resurrection. After His resurrection, we understand the work of Christ more clearly. Moreover, even today we experience new covenant benefits - like immediate access to God's presence (Heb. 10:19-22) and the indwelling Spirit (Rom. 8:9) more powerfully than John did when he walked the earth.

Coram deo: Living before the face of God

John Calvin says the new covenant minister's preaching is greater than John the Baptist's because "it holds out Christ as having rendered complete and eternal satisfaction by his one sacrifice, as the conqueror of death and the Lord of life, and because it withdraws the veil, and elevates believers to the heavenly sanctuary." John the Baptist was blessed, but we are more greatly favored to live in an era more cognizant of God's grace in Christ.
For further study:
The Bible in a year:
For the weekend:
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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Sweet savour

‘I will accept you with your sweet savour.’ Ezekiel 20:41
Suggested Further Reading: Matthew 11:20–30
The Saviour’s character has all goodness in all perfection; he is full of grace and truth. Some men, nowadays, talk of him as if he were simply incarnate benevolence. It is not so. No lips ever spoke with such thundering indignation against sin as the lips of the Messiah. ‘He is like a refiner’s fire, and like fullers’ soap;’ his ‘fan is in his hand, and he will throughly purge his floor.’ While in tenderness he prays for his tempted disciple, that his faith may not fail, yet with awful sternness he winnows the heap, and drives away the chaff into unquenchable fire. We speak of Christ as being meek and lowly in spirit, and so he was, but his meekness was balanced by his courage, and by the boldness with which he denounced hypocrisy. ‘Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! …Ye fools and blind; …ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell?’ These are not the words of the milksop some authors represent Christ to have been. He is a man—a real man throughout—a God-like man—gentle as a woman, but yet stern as a warrior in the midst of the day of battle. The character is balanced; as much of one virtue as of another. As in Deity every attribute is full orbed; justice never eclipses mercy, nor mercy justice, nor justice faithfulness; so in the character of Christ you have all the excellent things, ‘whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report;’ you have them all; but not one of them casts a shadow on another; they shine each and all with undimmed splendour.
For meditation: Is this the Jesus you love and worship, or do you only believe in a ‘Gentle Jesus, meek and mild’? Failure to accept fully the Lord Jesus Christ of the New Testament, is to follow a ‘false Christ’ (Matthew 24:24) or ‘another Jesus’ ( 2 Corinthians 11:4), an idol of your own or somebody else’s imagination. That is no better than following Baal or some other false god!
Sermon no. 688
29 April (1866)

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Christ’s people—imitators of him

“Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marvelled; and they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus.” Acts 4:13
Suggested Further Reading: Ephesians 4:11-16
I will ever maintain—that by grace we are saved, and not by ourselves; but equally must I testify, that where the grace of God is, it will produce fitting deeds. To these I am ever bound to exhort you, while you are ever expected to have good works for necessary purposes. Again, I do not, when I say that a believer should be a striking likeness of Jesus, suppose that any one Christian will perfectly exhibit all the features of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ; yet my brethren, the fact that perfection is beyond our reach, should not diminish the ardour of our desire after it. The artist, when he paints, knows right well that he shall not be able to excel Apelles; but that does not discourage him; he uses his brush with all the greater pains, that he may at least in some humble measure resemble the great master. So the sculptor; though persuaded that he will not rival Praxiteles, will hew out the marble still, and seek to be as near the model as possible. Just so the Christian man; though he feels he never can mount to the height of complete excellence, and perceives that he never can on earth become the exact image of Christ, still holds it up before him, and measures his own deficiencies by the distance between himself and Jesus. This will he do, forgetting all he has attained, he will press forward, crying, Excelsior! Going upwards still, desiring to be conformed more and more to the image of Christ Jesus.
For meditation: Christians are fellow-pupils in the masterclass of the supreme Master (John 13:12-15).
n.b: Apelles (4th century BC) Court painter to Alexander the Great.
Praxiteles (mid 4th century BC) Athenian sculptor. Regarded as one of the greatest Greek sculptors of his day.
Sermon no. 21
29 April (1855)

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I Shall Not Want

Today's reading: Psalm 23:1-6
The ordering of the Psalter is no accident. As English pastor and theologian Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892) observed, it is only after we have read "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" (Ps 22:1) that we come to "The LORD is my shepherd" (Ps 23:1).
Experience teaches us that "I lack nothing" cannot mean that we will always receive what we desire-even if our wants are in keeping with God's general principles. A man may long to become a missionary, only to be paralyzed in an automobile accident. A woman with wonderful potential as a Christian mother may remain infertile. And what about those desires to improve our lot in life? Many of God's "sheep," both at home and abroad, are hungry, naked-even dying-at this very moment. The meaning of "I lack nothing" is that I will never lack anything necessary to my ultimate good-which God has wrapped up with his own (cf. Ro 8:28,38-39).
The fact is that if this psalm had no valley in it (v. 4), it wouldn't have any comfort either. When we pass through life's valleys, we have the assurance that we will never lack anything required for our eternal well-being. The only reason a shepherd would guide his sheep into a dangerous valley would be to lead them through it to a better place (see Heb 11:16,40).
In his personal role as a real-life shepherd, Phillip W. Keller has reflected extensively on Psalm 23. Following are extracts from his observations on Psalm 23:5:
In thinking about [the] statement ["You prepare a table before me ..."] it is well to bear in mind that the sheep are approaching this high mountain country of the summer ranges. These are known as alplands or tablelands so much sought after by the sheepmen.
In some of the finest sheep country of the world, especially in the Western United States and Southern Europe, the high plateau of the sheep ranges are always referred to as "mesas"-the Spanish word for "tables."
So it may be seen that what David referred to as a table was actually the entire high summer range. Though these "mesas" may have been remote and hard to reach, the energetic and aggressive sheep owner takes the time and trouble to ready them for the arrival of his flocks.
It is not always apparent to us what tremendous personal cost it has been for Christ to prepare the table for His own. Just as the lonely, personal privation of the sheepman who prepares the summer range for his stock entails a sacrifice, so the lonely agony of Gethsemane, of Pilate's hall, of Calvary, have cost my Master much.

Think About It

  • What does this beloved psalm mean to you personally?
  • What do you feel you lack that you need to turn over to God's keeping?
  • What does the sacrifice of Jesus teach you about God's care for you?

Pray About It

Lord, you are my shepherd. I have everything I need. You give me peace and guide me to do right. Even when bad things happen, I will not be afraid because you are there beside me. Thank you for all you give me.
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GOD USES PROBLEMS AND PERSECUTION TO CORRECT YOU

"...It was the best thing that could have happened to me, for it taught me to pay attention to your laws.”Psalm 119:71-72 LB
Here is another of five ways God uses problems and persecution in your life: God uses problems and persecution to CORRECT you.
Some lessons we learn only through pain and failure. It is likely that as a child your parents told you not to touch a hot stove. But you probably learned by being burned. Sometimes we only learn the value of something—health, money, a relationship—by losing it.
John 17 clearly teaches that He does not desire to have His church in the comforts of a problem-free society. He desires for His church to be faithful in the midst of trials and testing.
During a recent visit to Indonesia, some co-workers had the joy of participating in an Open Doors Standing Strong Through the Storm (SSTS) seminar held in an area of intense conflict. The constant presence of armed soldiers outside the building confirmed that this seminar was far more than just a theology course—this was reality! More than seven hundred churches were already burned to the ground and the church was facing a severe onslaught.
On the second day of teaching, one pastor suddenly jumped up and with all his heart cried out: “My brother, please don’t teach us just to survive, teach us to be faithful.”
In understanding God’s purposes for the church it is vital to understand His requirements for us to remain faithful within these purposes. Faithfulness is not a request it is the duty of every believer. “Teach us to be faithful in the midst of our circumstances”should be a far greater priority in our prayers than that of making our society a safer place. Perseverance is far more important than transformation or preservation.
William Barclay said the following about praying for our circumstances. “When we pray for ourselves and others, we should not ask for the release from any task or situation, but strength to complete it and endure it. Prayer should be for power and seldom for release: not release but conquest must be the keynote of the church.”
RESPONSE: God is at work in my life—even when I do not recognize it or understand it. It is much easier and more profitable when I cooperate with Him. This is the way to victory!
PRAYER: Lord, teach us to be faithful in the midst of our circumstances.
Standing Strong Through The Storm (SSTS)
A daily devotional message by SSTS author Paul Estabrooks

© 2011 Open Doors International. Used by permission

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