Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Daily Devotional Wednesday 18th April

“For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” 1 Corinthians 1:18NIV
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Morning and Evening by Charles Spurgeon

Morning

"She bound the scarlet line in the window."
Joshua 2:21

Rahab depended for her preservation upon the promise of the spies, whom she looked upon as the representatives of the God of Israel. Her faith was simple and firm, but it was very obedient. To tie the scarlet line in the window was a very trivial act in itself, but she dared not run the risk of omitting it. Come, my soul, is there not here a lesson for thee? Hast thou been attentive to all thy Lord's will, even though some of his commands should seem non-essential? Hast thou observed in his own way the two ordinances of believers' baptism and the Lord's Supper? These neglected, argue much unloving disobedience in thy heart. Be henceforth in all things blameless, even to the tying of a thread, if that be matter of command.

This act of Rahab sets forth a yet more solemn lesson. Have I implicitly trusted in the precious blood of Jesus? Have I tied the scarlet cord, as with a Gordian knot in my window, so that my trust can never be removed? Or can I look out towards the Dead Sea of my sins, or the Jerusalem of my hopes, without seeing the blood, and seeing all things in connection with its blessed power? The passer-by can see a cord of so conspicuous a colour, if it hangs from the window: it will be well for me if my life makes the efficacy of the atonement conspicuous to all onlookers. What is there to be ashamed of? Let men or devils gaze if they will, the blood is my boast and my song. My soul, there is One who will see that scarlet line, even when from weakness of faith thou canst not see it thyself; Jehovah, the Avenger, will see it and pass over thee. Jericho's walls fell flat: Rahab's house was on the wall, and yet it stood unmoved; my nature is built into the wall of humanity, and yet when destruction smites the race, I shall be secure. My soul, tie the scarlet thread in the window afresh, and rest in peace.

Evening

"And thou saidst, I will surely do thee good."
Genesis 32:12

When Jacob was on the other side of the brook Jabbok, and Esau was coming with armed men, he earnestly sought God's protection, and as a master reason he pleaded, "And thou saidst, I will surely do thee good." Oh, the force of that plea! He was holding God to his word--"Thou saidst." The attribute of God's faithfulness is a splendid horn of the altar to lay hold upon; but the promise, which has in it the attribute and something more, is a yet mightier holdfast--"Thou saidst, I will surely do thee good." And has he said, and shall he not do it? "Let God be true, and every man a liar." Shall not he be true? Shall he not keep his word? Shall not every word that cometh out of his lips stand fast and be fulfilled? Solomon, at the opening of the temple, used this same mighty plea. He pleaded with God to remember the word which he had spoken to his father David, and to bless that place. When a man gives a promissory note, his honour is engaged; he signs his hand, and he must discharge it when the due time comes, or else he loses credit. It shall never be said that God dishonours his bills. The credit of the Most High never was impeached, and never shall be. He is punctual to the moment: he never is before his time, but he never is behind it. Search God's word through, and compare it with the experience of God's people, and you shall find the two tally from the first to the last. Many a hoary patriarch has said with Joshua, "Not one thing hath failed of all the good things which the Lord your God spake concerning you; all are come to pass." If you have a divine promise, you need not plead it with an "if," you may urge it with certainty. The Lord meant to fulfil the promise, or he would not have given it. God does not give his words merely to quiet us, and to keep us hopeful for awhile with the intention of putting us off at last; but when he speaks, it is because he means to do as he has said.

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Today's reading: 2 Samuel 1-2, Luke 14:1-24 (NIV)

View today's reading on Bible Gateway
David Hears of Saul’s Death

1 After the death of Saul, David returned from striking down the Amalekites and stayed in Ziklag two days. 2 On the third day a man arrived from Saul’s camp with his clothes torn and dust on his head. When he came to David, he fell to the ground to pay him honor.

3 “Where have you come from?” David asked him.

He answered, “I have escaped from the Israelite camp.”

4 “What happened?” David asked. “Tell me.”

“The men fled from the battle,” he replied. “Many of them fell and died. And Saul and his son Jonathan are dead.”

5 Then David said to the young man who brought him the report, “How do you know that Saul and his son Jonathan are dead?”

6 “I happened to be on Mount Gilboa,” the young man said, “and there was Saul, leaning on his spear, with the chariots and their drivers in hot pursuit. 7 When he turned around and saw me, he called out to me, and I said, ‘What can I do?’

8 “He asked me, ‘Who are you?’

“‘An Amalekite,’ I answered.

9 “Then he said to me, ‘Stand here by me and kill me! I’m in the throes of death, but I’m still alive.’

10 “So I stood beside him and killed him, because I knew that after he had fallen he could not survive. And I took the crown that was on his head and the band on his arm and have brought them here to my lord.”

11 Then David and all the men with him took hold of their clothes and tore them. 12 They mourned and wept and fasted till evening for Saul and his son Jonathan, and for the army of the LORD and for the nation of Israel, because they had fallen by the sword.

13 David said to the young man who brought him the report, “Where are you from?”

“I am the son of a foreigner, an Amalekite,” he answered.

14 David asked him, “Why weren’t you afraid to lift your hand to destroy the LORD’s anointed?”

15 Then David called one of his men and said, “Go, strike him down!” So he struck him down, and he died. 16 For David had said to him, “Your blood be on your own head. Your own mouth testified against you when you said, ‘I killed the LORD’s anointed.’”

David’s Lament for Saul and Jonathan

17 David took up this lament concerning Saul and his son Jonathan, 18 and he ordered that the people of Judah be taught this lament of the bow (it is written in the Book of Jashar):

19 “A gazelle lies slain on your heights, Israel.
How the mighty have fallen!

20 “Tell it not in Gath,
proclaim it not in the streets of Ashkelon,
lest the daughters of the Philistines be glad,
lest the daughters of the uncircumcised rejoice.

21 “Mountains of Gilboa,
may you have neither dew nor rain,
may no showers fall on your terraced fields.
For there the shield of the mighty was despised,
the shield of Saul—no longer rubbed with oil.

22 “From the blood of the slain,
from the flesh of the mighty,
the bow of Jonathan did not turn back,
the sword of Saul did not return unsatisfied.
23 Saul and Jonathan—
in life they were loved and admired,
and in death they were not parted.
They were swifter than eagles,
they were stronger than lions.

24 “Daughters of Israel,
weep for Saul,
who clothed you in scarlet and finery,
who adorned your garments with ornaments of gold.

25 “How the mighty have fallen in battle!
Jonathan lies slain on your heights.
26 I grieve for you, Jonathan my brother;
you were very dear to me.
Your love for me was wonderful,
more wonderful than that of women.

27 “How the mighty have fallen!
The weapons of war have perished!”

2 Samuel 2

David Anointed King Over Judah

1 In the course of time, David inquired of the LORD. “Shall I go up to one of the towns of Judah?” he asked.

The LORD said, “Go up.”

David asked, “Where shall I go?”

“To Hebron,” the LORD answered.

2 So David went up there with his two wives, Ahinoam of Jezreel and Abigail, the widow of Nabal of Carmel. 3 David also took the men who were with him, each with his family, and they settled in Hebron and its towns. 4 Then the men of Judah came to Hebron, and there they anointed David king over the tribe of Judah.

When David was told that it was the men from Jabesh Gilead who had buried Saul, 5 he sent messengers to them to say to them, “The LORD bless you for showing this kindness to Saul your master by burying him. 6 May the LORD now show you kindness and faithfulness, and I too will show you the same favor because you have done this. 7 Now then, be strong and brave, for Saul your master is dead, and the people of Judah have anointed me king over them.”

War Between the Houses of David and Saul

8 Meanwhile, Abner son of Ner, the commander of Saul’s army, had taken Ish-Bosheth son of Saul and brought him over to Mahanaim. 9 He made him king over Gilead, Ashuri and Jezreel, and also over Ephraim, Benjamin and all Israel.

10 Ish-Bosheth son of Saul was forty years old when he became king over Israel, and he reigned two years. The tribe of Judah, however, remained loyal to David. 11 The length of time David was king in Hebron over Judah was seven years and six months.

12 Abner son of Ner, together with the men of Ish-Bosheth son of Saul, left Mahanaim and went to Gibeon. 13 Joab son of Zeruiah and David’s men went out and met them at the pool of Gibeon. One group sat down on one side of the pool and one group on the other side.

14 Then Abner said to Joab, “Let’s have some of the young men get up and fight hand to hand in front of us.”

“All right, let them do it,” Joab said.

15 So they stood up and were counted off—twelve men for Benjamin and Ish-Bosheth son of Saul, and twelve for David. 16Then each man grabbed his opponent by the head and thrust his dagger into his opponent’s side, and they fell down together. So that place in Gibeon was called Helkath Hazzurim.

17 The battle that day was very fierce, and Abner and the Israelites were defeated by David’s men.

18 The three sons of Zeruiah were there: Joab, Abishai and Asahel. Now Asahel was as fleet-footed as a wild gazelle. 19He chased Abner, turning neither to the right nor to the left as he pursued him. 20 Abner looked behind him and asked, “Is that you, Asahel?”

“It is,” he answered.

21 Then Abner said to him, “Turn aside to the right or to the left; take on one of the young men and strip him of his weapons.” But Asahel would not stop chasing him.

22 Again Abner warned Asahel, “Stop chasing me! Why should I strike you down? How could I look your brother Joab in the face?”

23 But Asahel refused to give up the pursuit; so Abner thrust the butt of his spear into Asahel’s stomach, and the spear came out through his back. He fell there and died on the spot. And every man stopped when he came to the place where Asahel had fallen and died.

24 But Joab and Abishai pursued Abner, and as the sun was setting, they came to the hill of Ammah, near Giah on the way to the wasteland of Gibeon. 25 Then the men of Benjamin rallied behind Abner. They formed themselves into a group and took their stand on top of a hill.

26 Abner called out to Joab, “Must the sword devour forever? Don’t you realize that this will end in bitterness? How long before you order your men to stop pursuing their fellow Israelites?”

27 Joab answered, “As surely as God lives, if you had not spoken, the men would have continued pursuing them until morning.”

28 So Joab blew the trumpet, and all the troops came to a halt; they no longer pursued Israel, nor did they fight anymore.

29 All that night Abner and his men marched through the Arabah. They crossed the Jordan, continued through the morning hours and came to Mahanaim.

30 Then Joab stopped pursuing Abner and assembled the whole army. Besides Asahel, nineteen of David’s men were found missing. 31 But David’s men had killed three hundred and sixty Benjamites who were with Abner. 32 They took Asahel and buried him in his father’s tomb at Bethlehem. Then Joab and his men marched all night and arrived at Hebron by daybreak.


Luke 14

Jesus at a Pharisee’s House

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

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

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

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

The Parable of the Great Banquet

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

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

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

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

20 “Still another said, ‘I just got married, so I can’t come.’

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

22 “‘Sir,’ the servant said, ‘what you ordered has been done, but there is still room.’

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

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Due to a technical error, the incorrect devotional was sent out on April 12. We apologize for the error. You can read the correct devotional for April 12 here:

Men of the Bible April 12

Thanks to everyone who wrote in to let us know about the problem!

Joses [Jō’sēs]—he that pardons.

  1. One of the brethren of our Lord(Matt. 13:55; Mark 6:3). RV gives name as Joseph.
  2. The son of Mary, probably the same as No. 1 ( Matt. 27:56;Mark 15:40-47).
  3. The personal or natal name of Barnabas, the companion and missionary colleague of Paul (Acts 4:36). The RV gives Joseph.
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April 17, 2012
He has risen!
Mary Southerland

Today's Truth
He is not here; he has risen! (Luke 24:6, NIV).

Friend to Friend
The boys and girls in Mrs. Stephens' fourth grade Sunday school class entered the room and quickly found their seats. The girls were dressed in frills and lace and chatting excitedly about the candy-filled baskets they had received that morning. The boys pulled at the unfamiliar ties around their necks and quickly discarded the sports coats they had obviously been forced to wear. The room was filled with excitement – for good reason. It was Easter Sunday.

Mrs. Stephens wanted to help her students understand that there is so much more to the Easter holiday than new clothes, chocolate bunnies and egg hunts. It is more than family gatherings and tables filled with luscious food. Easter is about life. Easter celebrates the certainty of Jesus' death on the cross, the fact that He was buried, and the reality that He came out of that burial tomb to conquer death – so that we can have life - eternal life with Jesus in Heaven and abundant life with Him here and now.

Mrs. Stephens came up with a plan. After sharing the Bible story of Jesus' resurrection, she gave each one of her students an empty plastic egg and said, "We are going to take a walk outside and I want each one of you to find one sign of life and put it in your plastic egg." As the children filed out of the room, Mrs. Stephens noticed Danny, a little Down syndrome boy who had been coming to her class for some time. His bright smile and sunny disposition had immediately won her heart. In fact, when it came to Danny, she often thought he had taught her so much more about the unconditional love of God and the joy of simply being a child of God than she could ever teach him. When she heard the other children make fun of him, it broke her heart. She always corrected the children and tried to help them see just how special Danny was, but Danny seemed oblivious to their hurtful words and thought of each child as his "buddy."

The children soon returned from their walk, depositing their eggs on the teacher's desk as they made their way to their seats. Inside one student's egg was a butterfly. In another was an ant. Others had collected flowers, twigs, blades of grass and leaves to fill their eggs. But one egg had nothing in it. Everyone knew whose egg it was. Mrs. Stephens silenced the giggles with a look of warning. When she asked Danny why he had not put anything inside his egg to show signs of life, his face broke into a huge grin as he responded, "Because the tomb was empty."

Danny understood the profound truth of Easter. The empty tomb is the ultimate sign of life and a miracle like none other.

Jesus Christ had risen from the dead. The women knew Jesus was dead. Some of them had seen Him die. And they were sure His body was in the tomb; it had been there since Friday. But when they went to anoint the body on that Sunday morning, the tomb was empty! The body could not have been stolen. Nobody was playing tricks on them. They were not merely fooling themselves. The miracle was real! They could see the empty tomb with their own eyes. Jesus Christ really had risen from the dead!

On this Easter weekend, spend some time thanking God for the miracle of life. And then share the good news with someone else: He is risen! He is risen indeed!

Let's Pray
Father, Thank You for the miracle of life – abundant life here and eternal life with You in Heaven. Help me to celebrate that life every day as I seek You and follow Your plan for my life. Today, I say with the Apostle Paul, "Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?"
In Jesus' name,
Amen.

Now It's Your Turn
Consider this truth: Satan has no answer for the empty tomb. What does the resurrection of Jesus Christ mean to you?

Set aside time today to remember what Christ has done for you through His death on the cross and His resurrection from the dead. Read Luke 24 and celebrate the life only He can give.

More from the Girlfriends
I would love to have been there that morning when the women went to the tomb – expecting to deal with death and instead found life, wouldn't you? You may be dealing with death in your own life – the loss of a loved one – the death of a dream – the pain of a broken body. Just as Jesus Christ rose from the dead, He can breathe new life into your heart and mind. Right now, quietly turn to Jesus. He is waiting for you – healing and restoration and new life are in His hands.

Need help studying the Bible? Enroll in Mary's weekly online Bible Study and join women across the world who are learning how to tame their tongues. Need a friend? Connect with Mary on Facebook or through email.

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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Lysa TerKeurst

April 17, 2012

When Friendship is Tough
Lysa TerKeurst

"Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace." Ephesians 4:2-3 (NIV)

One of the wisest pieces of advice on friendship I ever got was from one of my daughters. She was in middle school at the time. You know that awkward place where insecurities run rampant, hormones rage, and your best friend one day becomes your worst enemy the next? So lovely.

She got in the car one day with tears filling her eyes. She waited until we pulled out of the school parking lot to let all her hurt leak down her cheeks.

"Rough day?" I asked.

"Awful," she replied.

I turned down the radio, waited until we were at a red light, and reached for her hand. "Wanna talk about it?"

"Nope," she whispered as she turned her face away from me toward the window. The rest of the night she sulked around the house. And no matter how many times I tried to get her to talk, this normally very vocal child wouldn't open up.

The next morning, I was surprised when she bounded down the stairs with a smile on her face.

"Well hey! You sure look happy this morning," I said as I lifted up quick thank you prayers to God for whatever had brought back the sunshine to my girl's life.

"Mom," she said with great authority, "I've decided something about friends. They all have good stuff and bad stuff. Things you like and things that really annoy you. So, you just have to decide if you can handle their package deal."

How wise. How true.

Friends are a package deal. And sadly, not all friendships will stand the test of time. Some friendships are for a season.

But other times, we have to be willing to deal with the messy stuff to fight for our friendships.

Recently, I had something hard happen with a friend I dearly love and greatly respect. A misunderstanding. Hurt feelings. Frustration.

Part of me wanted to distance myself because it was hard to sift through the hurt. But as I prayed through it, I had to remind myself this person is a package deal. Part of what makes them a great friend that I love being around is their tenacity and passion to accomplish tasks with excellence. But because they are so task oriented, they are less relationally sensitive.

And if I'm honest with myself, I can see that I'm a package deal too. With good stuff. And annoying stuff.

They have issues. I have issues.

We're both messy people, willing to work on our not-so-fun stuff, who are fully aware we're going to hit some muddy little potholes along our friendship path.

But we've decided the package deal is worth it.

Dear Lord, thank You for my friendships. I know some will last a lifetime, and some will fade after a short season. Please help me be completely humble and gentle, patient, bearing with my friends in love. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Take the Three Day Friendship Challenge being offered on Lysa's website this week by clicking here. It's free and it's eye-opening!

Becoming More than a Good Bible Study Girl by Lysa TerKeurst

Take a girlfriend to hear Lysa speak this year. To see her speaking schedule click here.

Reflect and Respond:
They have issues. You have issues. Friendships have issues.

How can you invest humility, gentleness and patience in your friendships today?

Power Verse:
1 Peter 3:8, "Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble." (NIV)

Copyright symbol 2012 by Lysa TerKeurst. All rights reserved.

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

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What Is Evangelism?

Romans 10:15

Declaring the Gospel is a job given to every Christian, but we can hardly preach the good news of Jesus Christ if we do not know any unbelievers. How many non-Christians do you know? If you do not have any contact with non-Christians, look for an opportunity to make contact with a neighbor, co-worker, or someone else. This week let us all share the Gospel with at least one person who does not know the Savior.

For further study:

Psalm 68:11

The Bible in a year:

2 Samuel 6-8

Coram Deo from TableTalk Magazine, Matthew Studies. Copyright Copyright symbol 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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What Is Evangelism?

Romans 10:15 "How are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, 'How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!'" ( v. 15).

Now that we have defined the Gospel, we will begin looking at what it means to spread the good news of Jesus Christ. Evangelism is the term we use to refer to the preaching of the Gospel. It comes from the same Greek word for gospel (euangelion) and means, literally, "gospeling." When we evangelize we are "gospeling" - we are spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Evangelism is one way in which we can fulfill Christ's call to be His witnesses (Acts 1:8 ). In biblical categories, witnessing involves making visible what is otherwise invisible. The reality to which we bear witness is the invisible kingdom of God, and in witnessing we strive to make the Lord's reign visibly manifest. Among the many ways we can bear witness to Jesus is through loving our fellow believers. We reveal to the world that we belong to our Savior when we love other Christians (John 13:34-35). Celebrating the Lord's Supper proclaims visibly the Lord's death until He comes again ( 1 Cor. 11:26). In preaching the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus in our evangelism, we are also helping to make visible the invisible reality of Christ.

The distinction between witnessing and evangelism is important because it is easy to think we are evangelizing when all we are doing is bearing witness to the Savior. Giving one's testimony is a good thing, but it is not evangelism. Testifying to the work of God in our lives bears witness to what Christ has done for us; it does not by itself give the content of the Gospel. Living a righteous life manifests the work of the Holy Spirit, but we have not evangelized our neighbor if we have never shared the Gospel with him. No one is converted by our kindness or honesty; they are brought into the kingdom of heaven only through repentance and faith in Jesus Christ ( Acts 16:25-34).

God has created us with different personalities and gifts, and some of us are more adept at the verbal proclamation of the Gospel than others. Nevertheless, declaring the message of salvation through Christ is the responsibility of us all, and we must seek opportunities to preach the Gospel. Only if we confess Him before men will He confess us before the Father (Matt. 10:32-33).

Coram deo: Living before the face of God

Declaring the Gospel is a job given to every Christian, but we can hardly preach the good news of Jesus Christ if we do not know any unbelievers. How many non-Christians do you know? If you do not have any contact with non-Christians, look for an opportunity to make contact with a neighbor, co-worker, or someone else. This week let us all share the Gospel with at least one person who does not know the Savior.

For further study:

Psalm 68:11

The Bible in a year:

2 Samuel 6-8

INTO the WORD daily Bible studies from TableTalk Magazine, Matthew Studies. Copyright Copyright symbol 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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Exposition of the doctrines of grace (2. Introduction to evening session)

Suggested Reading: Ezekiel 37:1–14

There are some who say, ‘To what purpose after all, is your inviting any to come, when the Spirit of God alone constrains them to come; and why, especially, preach to those whom you believe to be so depraved that they cannot and will not come?’ Just so, this is a serious difficulty to everything except faith. Do you see Ezekiel yonder; he is about to preach a sermon. By his leave, we will stop him. ‘Ezekiel, where are you about to preach?’ ‘I am about,’ says he, ‘to preach to a strange congregation—dead, dry bones, lying in a mass in a valley.’ ‘But, Ezekiel, they have no power to live.’ ‘I know that,’ says he. ‘To what purpose, then, is your preaching to them? If they have no power, and if the breath must come from the four winds, and they have no life in themselves, to what purpose do you preach?’ ‘I am ordered to preach,’ says he, ‘commanded;’ and he does so. He prophesies, and afterwards mounting to a yet higher stage of faith, he cries, ‘Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live.’ And the wind comes, and the effect of his ministry is seen in their life. So we preach to dead sinners; so we pray for the living Spirit. So, by faith, do we expect his divine influence, and it comes, not from man, nor of man, nor by blood, nor by the will of the flesh, but from the sovereign will of God. But notwithstanding it comes instrumentally through the faith of the preacher while he pleads with man—‘as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God.’

For meditation: The necessary ingredients for a work of salvation are a dead sinner, a loving Father, a crucified and risen Saviour, a life-giving Spirit, and last, but by no means least, the faithful communication of the Gospel. Without it how shall people hear, believe in the Lord and call on him (Romans 10:14)? Remember the God-ordained route to saving faith (Romans 10:17).

Part of nos. 385–8
18 April (Spoken on 11 April 1861)

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The Redeemer’s prayer

“Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me: for thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world.” John 17:24

Suggested Further Reading: Song of Solomon 5:1-8

When we get a glimpse of Christ, many step in to interfere. We have our hours of contemplation, when we draw near to Jesus, but alas! how the world steps in and interrupts even our most quiet moments—the shop, the field, the child, the wife, the head, perhaps the very heart, all these are interlopers between ourselves and Jesus. Christ loves quiet; he will not talk to our souls in the busy market place, but he says, “Come, my love, into the vineyard, get thee away into the villages, there will I show thee my love.” But when we go to the villages, behold the Philistine is there, the Canaanite has invaded the land. When we would be free from all thought except thought of Jesus, the wandering band of Bedouin thoughts come upon us, and they take away our treasures, and spoil our tents. We are like Abraham with his sacrifice; we lay out the pieces ready for the burning, but foul birds come to feast on the sacrifice which we desire to keep for our God and for him alone. We have to do as Abraham did; “When the birds came down upon the sacrifice, Abraham drove them away.” But in heaven there shall be no interruption, no weeping eyes shall make us for a moment pause in our vision; no earthly joys, no sensual delights, shall create a discord in our melody; there shall we have no fields to till, no garment to spin, no wearied limb, no dark distress, no burning thirst, no pangs of hunger, no weepings of bereavement; we shall have nothing to do or think upon, but for ever to gaze upon that Sun of righteousness, with eyes that cannot be blinded, and with a heart that can never be weary.

For meditation: We are never going to be free from outside distractions and wandering thoughts in this life, but we do need to seek to have some time each day when we can shut them out as far as possible and spend time alone with our heavenly Father (Matthew 6:6).

Sermon no. 188
18 April (1858)

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Everything New - A Weeekly Devotional

THE FUTURE SALVATION WE NEED

Ask yourself, just for a moment, what you really believe is going to happen as history unfolds in ever-greater extremes.

Charles Dickens' famous opening passage from A Tale of Two Cities begins this way: "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way."

Doesn't the world today look like just such a set of contradictions? But it's more severe than that. The pendulum is swinging in an ever-wider arch: the best is getting better, and the worst is getting worse. History still moves toward a clash. The question of destiny should press itself on every person's mind. Some take comfort in the roll of the dice: chances are I will be able to duck the clash. But whether any of us are firsthand witnesses of the climax of history, we will all face the last doorway when we come to the end of our own lives. We all need the God who says, "In the day of salvation, I will help you" ( Isa.49:8). We all need to heed the advice that "the hour has come for you to wake from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed" (Rom.13:11).

The biblical word "salvation" means rescue. It means someone bigger and better, stronger and wiser, does for us what we cannot do for ourselves. The necessity of salvation takes nothing away from human dignity. Rather, it gives us back our own lives. Whether we realize we need rescue or not, we still need rescue. It just makes sense for us to admit it, and to live in such a way that we respond to the rescue.

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

This week's reading: Job 25:4

"How can mere mortals prove their innocence before God?" (Job 9:2 ) is probably the most important question in life. The answer is clear: No one can claim personal righteousness equal to God's purity. Paul recognizes that "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Ro 3:23).

The problem is, we are born in a sinful condition due to the sin of Adam and Eve (see Ge 3:6-7; Ro 5:12). David described this original sin (as some refer to it): "Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me" (Ps 51:5).

Isn't that unfair? How can we be held accountable for something we inherit? The problem with such questions is that we too have sinned. The question instead should be: What do we do with the sinful nature we inherit? Do we indulge it? Or do we trust in the way God has provided to overcome it? Through faith in the saving work of Jesus Christ on the cross, God gives us a brand new nature with a righteous standing before him. This is how we take responsibility for our sins.

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