Sunday, April 08, 2012

Daily Devotional Sunday 8th April

“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” Galatians 2:20 NIV
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Morning and Evening by Charles Spurgeon

Morning

"If they do these things in a green tree, what shall be done in the dry?"
Luke 23:31

Among other interpretations of this suggestive question, the following is full of teaching: "If the innocent substitute for sinners, suffer thus, what will be done when the sinner himself--the dry tree--shall fall into the hands of an angry God?" When God saw Jesus in the sinner's place, he did not spare him; and when he finds the unregenerate without Christ, he will not spare them. O sinner, Jesus was led away by his enemies: so shall you be dragged away by fiends to the place appointed for you. Jesus was deserted of God; and if he, who was only imputedly a sinner, was deserted, how much more shall you be? "Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?" what an awful shriek! But what shall be your cry when you shall say, "O God! O God! why hast thou forsaken me?" and the answer shall come back, "Because ye have set at nought all my counsel, and would none of my reproof: I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when your fear cometh." If God spared not his own Son, how much less will he spare you! What whips of burning wire will be yours when conscience shall smite you with all its terrors. Ye richest, ye merriest, ye most self-righteous sinners--who would stand in your place when God shall say, "Awake, O sword, against the man that rejected me; smite him, and let him feel the smart forever"? Jesus was spit upon: sinner, what shame will be yours! We cannot sum up in one word all the mass of sorrows which met upon the head of Jesus who died for us; therefore it is impossible for us to tell you what streams, what oceans of grief must roll over your spirit if you die as you now are. You may die so, you may die now. By the agonies of Christ, by his wounds and by his blood, do not bring upon yourselves the wrath to come! Trust in the Son of God, and you shall never die.

Evening

"I will fear no evil: for thou art with me."
Psalm 23:4

Behold, how independent of outward circumstances the Holy Ghost can make the Christian! What a bright light may shine within us when it is all dark without! How firm, how happy, how calm, how peaceful we may be, when the world shakes to and fro, and the pillars of the earth are removed! Even death itself, with all its terrible influences, has no power to suspend the music of a Christian's heart, but rather makes that music become more sweet, more clear, more heavenly, till the last kind act which death can do is to let the earthly strain melt into the heavenly chorus, the temporal joy into the eternal bliss! Let us have confidence, then, in the blessed Spirit's power to comfort us. Dear reader, are you looking forward to poverty? Fear not; the divine Spirit can give you, in your want, a greater plenty than the rich have in their abundance. You know not what joys may be stored up for you in the cottage around which grace will plant the roses of content. Are you conscious of a growing failure of your bodily powers? Do you expect to suffer long nights of languishing and days of pain? O be not sad! That bed may become a throne to you. You little know how every pang that shoots through your body may be a refining fire to consume your dross--a beam of glory to light up the secret parts of your soul. Are the eyes growing dim? Jesus will be your light. Do the ears fail you? Jesus' name will be your soul's best music, and his person your dear delight. Socrates used to say, "Philosophers can be happy without music;" and Christians can be happier than philosophers when all outward causes of rejoicing are withdrawn. In thee, my God, my heart shall triumph, come what may of ills without! By thy power, O blessed Spirit, my heart shall be exceeding glad, though all things should fail me here below.

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Today's reading: 1 Samuel 7-9, Luke 9:18-36 (NIV)

View today's reading on Bible Gateway

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So the men of Kiriath Jearim came and took up the ark of the LORD. They brought it to Abinadab’s house on the hill and consecrated Eleazar his son to guard the ark of the LORD. 2The ark remained at Kiriath Jearim a long time—twenty years in all.
Samuel Subdues the Philistines at Mizpah

Then all the people of Israel turned back to the LORD. 3 So Samuel said to all the Israelites, “If you are returning to the LORD with all your hearts, then rid yourselves of the foreign gods and the Ashtoreths and commit yourselves to the LORD and serve him only, and he will deliver you out of the hand of the Philistines.” 4 So the Israelites put away their Baals and Ashtoreths, and served the LORD only.

5 Then Samuel said, “Assemble all Israel at Mizpah, and I will intercede with the LORD for you.” 6 When they had assembled at Mizpah, they drew water and poured it out before the LORD. On that day they fasted and there they confessed, “We have sinned against the LORD.” Now Samuel was serving as leader of Israel at Mizpah.

7 When the Philistines heard that Israel had assembled at Mizpah, the rulers of the Philistines came up to attack them. When the Israelites heard of it, they were afraid because of the Philistines. 8 They said to Samuel, “Do not stop crying out to the LORD our God for us, that he may rescue us from the hand of the Philistines.” 9 Then Samuel took a suckling lamb and sacrificed it as a whole burnt offering to the LORD. He cried out to the LORD on Israel’s behalf, and the LORD answered him.

10 While Samuel was sacrificing the burnt offering, the Philistines drew near to engage Israel in battle. But that day the LORD thundered with loud thunder against the Philistines and threw them into such a panic that they were routed before the Israelites. 11 The men of Israel rushed out of Mizpah and pursued the Philistines, slaughtering them along the way to a point below Beth Kar.

12 Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen. He named it Ebenezer, saying, “Thus far the LORD has helped us.”

13 So the Philistines were subdued and they stopped invading Israel’s territory. Throughout Samuel’s lifetime, the hand of the LORD was against the Philistines. 14 The towns from Ekron to Gath that the Philistines had captured from Israel were restored to Israel, and Israel delivered the neighboring territory from the hands of the Philistines. And there was peace between Israel and the Amorites.

15 Samuel continued as Israel’s leader all the days of his life.16 From year to year he went on a circuit from Bethel to Gilgal to Mizpah, judging Israel in all those places. 17 But he always went back to Ramah, where his home was, and there he also held court for Israel. And he built an altar there to the LORD.

1 Samuel 8

Israel Asks for a King

1 When Samuel grew old, he appointed his sons as Israel’s leaders. 2 The name of his firstborn was Joel and the name of his second was Abijah, and they served at Beersheba. 3 But his sons did not follow his ways. They turned aside after dishonest gain and accepted bribes and perverted justice.

4 So all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah. 5 They said to him, “You are old, and your sons do not follow your ways; now appoint a king to lead us, such as all the other nations have.”

6 But when they said, “Give us a king to lead us,” this displeased Samuel; so he prayed to the LORD. 7 And the LORD told him: “Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king. 8 As they have done from the day I brought them up out of Egypt until this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are doing to you. 9 Now listen to them; but warn them solemnly and let them know what the king who will reign over them will claim as his rights.”

10 Samuel told all the words of the LORD to the people who were asking him for a king. 11 He said, “This is what the king who will reign over you will claim as his rights: He will take your sons and make them serve with his chariots and horses, and they will run in front of his chariots. 12 Some he will assign to be commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and others to plow his ground and reap his harvest, and still others to make weapons of war and equipment for his chariots. 13 He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers.14 He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive groves and give them to his attendants. 15 He will take a tenth of your grain and of your vintage and give it to his officials and attendants. 16 Your male and female servants and the best of your cattle and donkeys he will take for his own use. 17 He will take a tenth of your flocks, and you yourselves will become his slaves. 18 When that day comes, you will cry out for relief from the king you have chosen, but the LORD will not answer you in that day.”

19 But the people refused to listen to Samuel. “No!” they said. “We want a king over us. 20 Then we will be like all the other nations, with a king to lead us and to go out before us and fight our battles.”

21 When Samuel heard all that the people said, he repeated it before the LORD. 22 The LORD answered, “Listen to them and give them a king.”

Then Samuel said to the Israelites, “Everyone go back to your own town.”

1 Samuel 9

Samuel Anoints Saul

1 There was a Benjamite, a man of standing, whose name was Kish son of Abiel, the son of Zeror, the son of Bekorath, the son of Aphiah of Benjamin. 2 Kish had a son named Saul, as handsome a young man as could be found anywhere in Israel, and he was a head taller than anyone else.

3 Now the donkeys belonging to Saul’s father Kish were lost, and Kish said to his son Saul, “Take one of the servants with you and go and look for the donkeys.” 4 So he passed through the hill country of Ephraim and through the area around Shalisha, but they did not find them. They went on into the district of Shaalim, but the donkeys were not there. Then he passed through the territory of Benjamin, but they did not find them.

5 When they reached the district of Zuph, Saul said to the servant who was with him, “Come, let’s go back, or my father will stop thinking about the donkeys and start worrying about us.”

6 But the servant replied, “Look, in this town there is a man of God; he is highly respected, and everything he says comes true. Let’s go there now. Perhaps he will tell us what way to take.”

7 Saul said to his servant, “If we go, what can we give the man? The food in our sacks is gone. We have no gift to take to the man of God. What do we have?”

8 The servant answered him again. “Look,” he said, “I have a quarter of a shekel of silver. I will give it to the man of God so that he will tell us what way to take.” 9 (Formerly in Israel, if someone went to inquire of God, they would say, “Come, let us go to the seer,” because the prophet of today used to be called a seer.)

10 “Good,” Saul said to his servant. “Come, let’s go.” So they set out for the town where the man of God was.

11 As they were going up the hill to the town, they met some young women coming out to draw water, and they asked them, “Is the seer here?”

12 “He is,” they answered. “He’s ahead of you. Hurry now; he has just come to our town today, for the people have a sacrifice at the high place. 13 As soon as you enter the town, you will find him before he goes up to the high place to eat. The people will not begin eating until he comes, because he must bless the sacrifice; afterward, those who are invited will eat. Go up now; you should find him about this time.”

14 They went up to the town, and as they were entering it, there was Samuel, coming toward them on his way up to the high place.

15 Now the day before Saul came, the LORD had revealed this to Samuel: 16 “About this time tomorrow I will send you a man from the land of Benjamin. Anoint him ruler over my people Israel; he will deliver them from the hand of the Philistines. I have looked on my people, for their cry has reached me.”

17 When Samuel caught sight of Saul, the LORD said to him, “This is the man I spoke to you about; he will govern my people.”

18 Saul approached Samuel in the gateway and asked, “Would you please tell me where the seer’s house is?”

19 “I am the seer,” Samuel replied. “Go up ahead of me to the high place, for today you are to eat with me, and in the morning I will send you on your way and will tell you all that is in your heart. 20 As for the donkeys you lost three days ago, do not worry about them; they have been found. And to whom is all the desire of Israel turned, if not to you and your whole family line?”

21 Saul answered, “But am I not a Benjamite, from the smallest tribe of Israel, and is not my clan the least of all the clans of the tribe of Benjamin? Why do you say such a thing to me?”

22 Then Samuel brought Saul and his servant into the hall and seated them at the head of those who were invited—about thirty in number. 23 Samuel said to the cook, “Bring the piece of meat I gave you, the one I told you to lay aside.”

24 So the cook took up the thigh with what was on it and set it in front of Saul. Samuel said, “Here is what has been kept for you. Eat, because it was set aside for you for this occasion from the time I said, ‘I have invited guests.’” And Saul dined with Samuel that day.

25 After they came down from the high place to the town, Samuel talked with Saul on the roof of his house. 26 They rose about daybreak, and Samuel called to Saul on the roof, “Get ready, and I will send you on your way.” When Saul got ready, he and Samuel went outside together. 27 As they were going down to the edge of the town, Samuel said to Saul, “Tell the servant to go on ahead of us”—and the servant did so—“but you stay here for a while, so that I may give you a message from God.”


Luke 9

Peter Declares That Jesus Is the Messiah

18 Once when Jesus was praying in private and his disciples were with him, he asked them, “Who do the crowds say I am?”

19 They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, that one of the prophets of long ago has come back to life.”

20 “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”

Peter answered, “God’s Messiah.”

Jesus Predicts His Death

21 Jesus strictly warned them not to tell this to anyone. 22And he said, “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.”

23 Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. 24 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it. 25 What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self? 26 Whoever is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.

27 “Truly I tell you, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God.”

The Transfiguration

28 About eight days after Jesus said this, he took Peter, John and James with him and went up onto a mountain to pray.29 As he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became as bright as a flash of lightning. 30 Two men, Moses and Elijah, appeared in glorious splendor, talking with Jesus. 31 They spoke about his departure, which he was about to bring to fulfillment at Jerusalem. 32 Peter and his companions were very sleepy, but when they became fully awake, they saw his glory and the two men standing with him.33 As the men were leaving Jesus, Peter said to him, “Master, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” (He did not know what he was saying.)

34 While he was speaking, a cloud appeared and covered them, and they were afraid as they entered the cloud. 35 A voice came from the cloud, saying, “This is my Son, whom I have chosen; listen to him.” 36 When the voice had spoken, they found that Jesus was alone. The disciples kept this to themselves and did not tell anyone at that time what they had seen.

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Hope, yet no hope. No hope, yet hope

‘And they said, there is no hope: but we will walk after our own devices, and we will every one do the imagination of his evil heart.’ Jeremiah 18:12

Suggested Further Reading: Job 8:11–9:2

Most men must have a secret hope somewhere of a false kind; for, look at the way in which they are employing themselves. Surely those men must have some fictitious hope somewhere, or they would not act as they do. We see many busy about their persons, decorating themselves when their soul is in ruin; like a man painting the front door when the house is in flames. Surely they must harbour some baseless hope which makes them thus insensible. We see men who do not quail and tremble, though they profess to believe the Bible which tells them that God is angry with them every day. Surely their quietness of heart must arise from some secret hope lurking in their spirits. The rope of mercy is cast to the sinner, and he will not lay hold of it. Surely he cannot be such a fool as to love to die; he must have some hope somewhere that he can swim by his own exertions, and it is this hopefulness of the man in himself that is his ruin and destruction. Until you are completely separate from all consciousness of hope in yourself, there is no hope that the gospel will ever be any power to you; but when you shall throw up your hands like a drowning man, feeling, ‘It is all over with me: I am lost, unless a stronger than I shall interpose,’ then there is hope for you. If we can once get you to say, ‘One thing I know, I cannot save myself. One thing I feel, I must have a stronger arm than mine to rescue me from ruin,’ when you have come to this, we will begin to rejoice over you, and may God grant that our rejoicing may not be in vain.

For meditation: Christians may sometimes imagine that God has deserted them (Psalm 10:1), but he will not disappoint them (Psalm 10:14,17 ). Unbelievers are the ones to be pitied; despite ignoring God, they delude themselves that all is well (Psalm 10:4,6,11,13).

Sermon no. 684
8 April (1866)

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Holy Habits Under Pressure

Daniel 6:1-28

Now when Daniel learned that the decree had been published, he went home to his upstairs room where the windows opened toward Jerusalem. Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God, just as he had done before.
Daniel 6:10

Some years ago a major research firm conducted a survey to determine what people would be willing to do for ten million dollars. The results were astounding:

3 percent would put their children up for adoption

7 percent would kill a stranger

16 percent would divorce their spouses

25 percent would leave their families

We all apparently have our selling price. It might be ten million dollars or only a bottle of wine. Our selling price is linked to our identity; the deeper our character, the higher our selling price.

Daniel was a foreigner in a strange land, and there were many officials who wished to define his identity for him. Yet he tenaciously clung to the rituals that helped define his truest self as a child of God. Daniel would not sell himself short, even when the pressure was on. He continued to get down on his knees three times a day, giving thanks to God, even when he knew the penalty for doing so was being torn apart by hungry lions. He knew that without God he was nothing.

When a ship is built, each part has a voice of its own. As seamen walk through the new ship, they can almost hear the creaking whispers: "I am a rivet!" "I am a sheet of steel!" "I am a propeller!" "I am a beam!" For a while these little voices sing their individual songs, proudly independent and fiercely self-protective.

But then a storm blows in on the high seas. The waves toss, the gales hurl and the rains beat. If the parts of the ship tried to withstand the pummeling independent from one another, each would be lost. On the bridge, however, stands the captain. He issues orders that take all of the little voices and bring them together for a larger purpose. By the time the vessel has weathered the storm, sailors sense a new and deeper song echoing from stem to stern: "I am a ship!"

Our Captain calls each of us, especially in marriage, to a greater purpose than furthering ourselves. Answering that call is a top priority for our lives, as Daniel knew. Those who hear the Captain's call are able to sail true and straight. And those who have that strong sense of service and self-awareness are able to give out of that fullness to the Lord and to others.
Wayne Brouwer

Let's Talk

  • What kind of home life might have created in Daniel the strength of character he displayed for a lifetime, even in adverse conditions?
  • What habits of faith and its expressions are routine and meaningless in our lives? Which ritual practices do we do mainly for others?
  • What habits might be good to develop to grow our relationship?
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Wine for Fresh Wineskins

Matthew 9:14-17 "Neither is new wine put into old wineskins. If it is...the skins are destroyed. But new wine is put into fresh wineskins, and so both are preserved" ( v. 17).

From an argument with the Pharisees over the propriety of eating with sinners (Matt. 9:10-13), Jesus moves to a misunderstanding regarding fasting in today's passage. The disciples of John the Baptist protest that Jesus and His followers do not fast like they and the Pharisees do (v. 14).

This text is not saying that Jesus neglects fasting altogether. As a devout Jew, He certainly obeys God's command to fast on the Day of Atonement (Lev. 16:29, 31). He also fasted before meeting Satan in the desert (Matt. 4:1-2). Furthermore, Jesus teaches that His people will fast after His ascension (9:15). But in the first century, certain "pious" Jews observed fasts on Mondays and Thursdays each week, in addition to the fasting prescribed in the Law. People were upset with Jesus because He did not engage in this extra fasting.

Our Lord's answer to the protestors reveals that they do not understand the era in which they live. Using the image of a wedding feast, Christ says it is improper to fast while He, the bridegroom, walks the earth (v. 15 ). In that society, there was a celebration that lasted several days wherein the groom was present at his reception. Similarly, Jesus the bridegroom is with His disciples; thus, there should be joy, not the solemnity His culture associates with fasting. Christ's likening of Himself to the bridegroom is remarkable given it is an Old Testament metaphor for God (Isa. 54:5-8). Jesus is implicitly identifying Himself with Yahweh, revealing that He is the divine Messiah who has come to transform His people and bring them great rejoicing ( Zeph. 3:14-18).

Most first-century Jews expected the son of David to leave the old covenant unchanged, but today's passage challenges this assumption. When sewn on old clothing, a new unshrunken patch will shrink in the wash and tear at the old, shrunken, inflexible cloth. Gases from new, fermenting wine force brittle, old wineskins to expand and burst (Matt. 9:16-17 ). Likewise, the new covenant cannot be contained in the forms and rituals of the old. Jesus fulfills and thereby changes the forms of old covenant piety (Heb. 7:11-19), and only those who fail to trust Jesus have the audacity to protest this transformation.

Coram deo: Living before the face of God

Many of Jesus' contemporaries were unwilling to accept the change God was bringing to His covenant with them, and they rejected Him. Though the essence of God's covenant of grace is the same for those who live on either side of the coming of Christ, the outward forms, rites, and customs have undergone a significant transformation. Rejoice that we live under the new covenant and have greater knowledge of Jesus as well as a fuller experience of the Spirit.

For further study:

Jeremiah 31:31-34

The Bible in a year:

1 Samuel 10-12

For the weekend:

1 Samuel 13-17

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

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Importance of small things in religion

“The Lord our God made a breach upon us, for that we sought him not after the due order.” 1 Chronicles 15:13

Suggested Further Reading: 1 Samuel 13:8-14

When we come before God, it will be no excuse for us to say, “My Lord, I did wrong, but I thought I was doing right.” “Yes, but I gave you my law, but you did not read it; or, if you read it, you read it so carelessly that you did not understand it, and then you did wrong, and you tell me you did it with a right motive. Yes, but it is of no avail whatever.” Just as in Uzzah’s case, did it not seem the rightest thing in the world to put out his hand to prevent the ark from slipping off? Who could blame the man? But God had commanded that no unpriestly hand should ever touch it, and inasmuch as he did touch it, though it was with a right motive, yet Uzzah must die. God will have his laws kept. Besides, my dear brethren, I am not sure about the rightness of your motives after all. The State has issued a proclamation, it is engraven, according to the old Roman fashion, in brass. A man goes up with his file, and he begins working away upon the brass; erases here, and amends there. Says he, “I did that with a right motive; I didn’t think the law a good one, I thought it was too old-fashioned for these times, and so I thought I would alter it a little, and make it better for the people.” Ah, how many have there been who have said, “The old puritanic principles are too rough for these times; we’ll alter them, we’ll tone them down a little.” What are you at, sir? Who are you that dares to touch a single letter of God’s Book?

For meditation: Sincerity needs to be allied to truth (Joshua 24:14). It is possible to be sincerely wrong (John 16:2; Acts 26:9; Romans 10:2).

Sermon no. 307
8 April (1860)

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It Is Finished

Today's reading: Mark 15:33-39

And with Jesus' last cry, redemptive history reached a watershed. The apostle John added that Jesus said, "It is finished" (Jn 19:30). Jesus had fulfilled God's plan that the Father had "purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment-to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ" (Eph 1:9-10). Stewardship theologian A. C. Conrad comments:

When, in the far reaches of the past, God planned the creation of the world and man, he did so in connection with his Son, the revealed oikonomos, or steward ... It is evident in this passage [in Eph 1:9-10] and others that the entire plan of the ages and scheme of redemption was in the mind of God in the far distant past ... The essence and heart of God's purpose is revealed in the redemptive work of Christ. [The kinship between God and humanity] is established in the presence of his Son upon the earth and fully sealed through his sacrificial death upon the cross.

In his death Jesus became the great high priest, fulfilling all the requirements of the old law, interceding between God and humans "once for all when he offered himself" (Heb 7:27). Says stewardship theologian T. A. Kantonen (1900-1993):

He is the High Priest who laid down his life on the altar of the Cross to redeem us from sin and death. He defines the central purpose of his mission thus: "[The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many]" [Mt 20:28]. Redemption presupposes that man is a sinner and as such he is cut off from the power to carry out the tasks growing out of that son ship.

Kantonen goes on to explain the ramifications of Jesus' redemptive work for stewardship:

Those who accept the gospel of forgiveness in faith receive the power to become not only God's trustees but also his children. The motive for their action is grateful love; the more livingly we know him who loved us and gave himself for us the more completely we give ourselves to him. And because genuine love is "[not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth]" (1Jn 3:18), we shoulder the responsibilities of Christian stewardship.

In the death of Christ on the cross, not only humanity, but indeed all creation is set free from bondage (see Ro 8:20-23); Christ's redemptive work establishes his victory over all the powers in this world opposed to his purposes. These are at work in individual sinners and in the world's systems to produce injustice, lawlessness, cruelty, faithlessness, greed, jealousy and death. God is liberating his people by redeeming them and his creation from individual sins and from the dominion of darkness (see Col 1:19-20).

Think About It

  • How was the passion of Jesus a part of God's plan even before creation?
  • In what ways was Jesus a steward?
  • What is your response to Jesus' redemptive and liberating work?

Pray About It

Lord, thank you for your perfect plan for the world and for me.

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Day 46

Most of the new Christians were Jewish, but God’s story of Good News was for everyone. Things had to change.

At Caesarea there was a man named Cornelius, a centurion in what was known as the Italian Regiment. He and all his family were devout and God-fearing; he gave generously to those in need and prayed to God regularly. One day at about three in the afternoon he had a vision. He distinctly saw an angel of God, who came to him and said, “Cornelius!”

Cornelius stared at him in fear. “What is it, Lord?” he asked.

The angel answered, “Your prayers and gifts to the poor have come up as a memorial offering before God. Now send men to Joppa to bring back a man named Simon who is called Peter. He is staying with Simon the tanner, whose house is by the sea.”

When the angel who spoke to him had gone, Cornelius called two of his servants and a devout soldier who was one of his attendants. He told them everything that had happened and sent them to Joppa.

About noon the following day as they were on their journey and approaching the city, Peter went up on the roof to pray. He became hungry and wanted something to eat, and while the meal was being prepared, he fell into a trance. He saw heaven opened and something like a large sheet being let down to earth by its four corners. It contained all kinds of four-footed animals, as well as reptiles and birds. Then a voice told him, “Get up, Peter. Kill and eat.”

“Surely not, Lord!” Peter replied. “I have never eaten anything impure or unclean.”

The voice spoke to him a second time, “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.”

This happened three times, and immediately the sheet was taken back to heaven.

While Peter was wondering about the meaning of the vision, the men sent by Cornelius found out where Simon’s house was and stopped at the gate. They called out, asking if Simon who was known as Peter was staying there.

While Peter was still thinking about the vision, the Spirit said to him, “Simon, three men are looking for you. So get up and go downstairs. Do not hesitate to go with them, for I have sent them.”

Peter went down and said to the men, “I’m the one you’re looking for. Why have you come?”

The men replied, “We have come from Cornelius the centurion. He is a righteous and God-fearing man, who is respected by all the Jewish people. A holy angel told him to ask you to come to his house so that he could hear what you have to say.” Then Peter invited the men into the house to be his guests.

The next day Peter started out with them, and some of the believers from Joppa went along. The following day he arrived in Caesarea. Cornelius was expecting them and had called together his relatives and close friends. As Peter entered the house, Cornelius met him and fell at his feet in reverence. But Peter made him get up. “Stand up,” he said, “I am only a man myself.”

While talking with him, Peter went inside and found a large gathering of people. He said to them: “You are well aware that it is against our law for a Jew to associate with or visit a Gentile. But God has shown me that I should not call anyone impure or unclean.

Peter went on to say he realized that God doesn’t show favoritism but invites people from every ethnic group and nation to accept the gospel through Jesus the Messiah. As Peter was explaining the gospel message and the first-ever Gentile audience was responding with faith and repentance, something amazing happened: the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out on them just as it had been on the Jewish believers on the day of Pentecost.

What factors helped the Good News of Jesus Christ to spread quickly?

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Lent=Devotions-Header
Today's Old Testament Reading: Job 14:1-14

1 "Mortals, born of woman,
are of few days and full of trouble.
2 They spring up like flowers and wither away;
like fleeting shadows, they do not endure.
3 Do you fix your eye on them?
Will you bring them before you for judgment?
4 Who can bring what is pure from the impure?
No one!
5 A person's days are determined;
you have decreed the number of his months
and have set limits he cannot exceed.
6 So look away from him and let him alone,
till he has put in his time like a hired laborer.

7 "At least there is hope for a tree:
If it is cut down, it will sprout again,
and its new shoots will not fail.
8 Its roots may grow old in the ground
and its stump die in the soil,
9 yet at the scent of water it will bud
and put forth shoots like a plant.
10 But a man dies and is laid low;
he breathes his last and is no more.
11 As the water of a lake dries up
or a riverbed becomes parched and dry,
12 so he lies down and does not rise;
till the heavens are no more, people will not awake
or be roused from their sleep.

13 "If only you would hide me in the grave
and conceal me till your anger has passed!
If only you would set me a time
and then remember me!
14 If someone dies, will they live again?
All the days of my hard service
I will wait for my renewal to come.

New Testament Reading: 1 Peter 4:1-8
Living for God
1 Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because whoever suffers in the body is done with sin. 2 As a result, they do not live the rest of their earthly lives for evil human desires, but rather for the will of God. 3 For you have spent enough time in the past doing what pagans choose to do--living in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry. 4 They are surprised that you do not join them in their reckless, wild living, and they heap abuse on you. 5 But they will have to give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. 6For this is the reason the gospel was preached even to those who are now dead, so that they might be judged according to human standards in regard to the body, but live according to God in regard to the spirit.

7 The end of all things is near. Therefore be alert and of sober mind so that you may pray. 8 Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.

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Today's Lent reading: 1 Corinthians 15 (NIV)

View today's Lent reading on Bible Gateway
The Resurrection of Christ

1 Now, brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. 2 By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain.

3 For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. 6 After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles,8 and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.

9 For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them-yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me. 11Whether, then, it is I or they, this is what we preach, and this is what you believed.

The Resurrection of the Dead

12 But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. 15 More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised.16 For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. 19 If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.

20 But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. 22 For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. 23 But each in turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him. 24 Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. 25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26The last enemy to be destroyed is death. 27 For he "has put everything under his feet." Now when it says that "everything" has been put under him, it is clear that this does not include God himself, who put everything under Christ. 28 When he has done this, then the Son himself will be made subject to him who put everything under him, so that God may be all in all.

29 Now if there is no resurrection, what will those do who are baptized for the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, why are people baptized for them? 30 And as for us, why do we endanger ourselves every hour? 31 I face death every day-yes, just as surely as I boast about you in Christ Jesus our Lord. 32If I fought wild beasts in Ephesus with no more than human hopes, what have I gained? If the dead are not raised,

"Let us eat and drink,
for tomorrow we die."

33 Do not be misled: "Bad company corrupts good character."34 Come back to your senses as you ought, and stop sinning; for there are some who are ignorant of God-I say this to your shame.

The Resurrection Body

35 But someone will ask, "How are the dead raised? With what kind of body will they come?" 36 How foolish! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. 37 When you sow, you do not plant the body that will be, but just a seed, perhaps of wheat or of something else. 38 But God gives it a body as he has determined, and to each kind of seed he gives its own body. 39 Not all flesh is the same: People have one kind of flesh, animals have another, birds another and fish another. 40There are also heavenly bodies and there are earthly bodies; but the splendor of the heavenly bodies is one kind, and the splendor of the earthly bodies is another. 41 The sun has one kind of splendor, the moon another and the stars another; and star differs from star in splendor.

42 So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; 43 it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; 44 it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body.

If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. 45 So it is written: "The first man Adam became a living being"; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit. 46 The spiritual did not come first, but the natural, and after that the spiritual. 47 The first man was of the dust of the earth; the second man is of heaven. 48 As was the earthly man, so are those who are of the earth; and as is the heavenly man, so also are those who are of heaven. 49And just as we have borne the image of the earthly man, so shall we bear the image of the heavenly man.

50 I declare to you, brothers and sisters, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. 51 Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed- 52 in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. 53 For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. 54 When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: "Death has been swallowed up in victory."

55 "Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?"

56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.57 But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

58 Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.


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