Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Daily Devotional Wednesday 4th April

“fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”Hebrews 12:2 NIV
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Morning and Evening by Charles Spurgeon

Morning

"For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him."
2 Corinthians 5:21

Mourning Christian! why weepest thou? Art thou mourning over thine own corruptions? Look to thy perfect Lord, and remember, thou art complete in him; thou art in God's sight as perfect as if thou hadst never sinned; nay, more than that, the Lord our Righteousness hath put a divine garment upon thee, so that thou hast more than the righteousness of man--thou hast the righteousness of God. O thou who art mourning by reason of inbred sin and depravity, remember, none of thy sins can condemn thee. Thou hast learned to hate sin; but thou hast learned also to know that sin is not thine--it was laid upon Christ's head. Thy standing is not in thyself--it is in Christ; thine acceptance is not in thyself, but in thy Lord; thou art as much accepted of God today, with all thy sinfulness, as thou wilt be when thou standest before his throne, free from all corruption. O, I beseech thee, lay hold on this precious thought, perfection in Christ! For thou art "complete in him." With thy Saviour's garment on, thou art holy as the Holy one. "Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us." Christian, let thy heart rejoice, for thou art "accepted in the beloved"--what hast thou to fear? Let thy face ever wear a smile; live near thy Master; live in the suburbs of the Celestial City; for soon, when thy time has come, thou shalt rise up where thy Jesus sits, and reign at his right hand; and all this because the divine Lord "was made to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him."

Evening

"Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord."
Isaiah 2:3

It is exceedingly beneficial to our souls to mount above this present evil world to something nobler and better. The cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches are apt to choke everything good within us, and we grow fretful, desponding, perhaps proud and carnal. It is well for us to cut down these thorns and briers, for heavenly seed sown among them is not likely to yield a harvest; and where shall we find a better sickle with which to cut them down than communion with God and the things of the kingdom? In the valleys of Switzerland, many of the inhabitants are deformed, and all wear a sickly appearance, for the atmosphere is charged with miasma, and is close and stagnant; but up yonder, on the mountain, you find a hardy race, who breathe the clear fresh air as it blows from the virgin snows of the Alpine summits. It would be well if the dwellers in the valley could frequently leave their abodes among the marshes and the fever mists, and inhale the bracing element upon the hills. It is to such an exploit of climbing that I invite you this evening. May the Spirit of God assist us to leave the mists of fear and the fevers of anxiety, and all the ills which gather in this valley of earth, and to ascend the mountains of anticipated joy and blessedness. May God the Holy Spirit cut the cords that keep us here below, and assist us to mount! We sit too often like chained eagles fastened to the rock, only that, unlike the eagle, we begin to love our chain, and would, perhaps, if it came really to the test, be loath to have it snapped. May God now grant us grace, if we cannot escape from the chain as to our flesh, yet to do so as to our spirits; and leaving the body, like a servant, at the foot of the hill, may our soul, like Abraham, attain the top of the mountain, there to indulge in communion with the Most High.

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Today's reading: Judges 19-21, Luke 7:31-50 (NIV)

View today's reading on Bible Gateway
A Levite and His Concubine

1 In those days Israel had no king.

Now a Levite who lived in a remote area in the hill country of Ephraim took a concubine from Bethlehem in Judah. 2 But she was unfaithful to him. She left him and went back to her parents’ home in Bethlehem, Judah. After she had been there four months, 3 her husband went to her to persuade her to return. He had with him his servant and two donkeys. She took him into her parents’ home, and when her father saw him, he gladly welcomed him. 4 His father-in-law, the woman’s father, prevailed on him to stay; so he remained with him three days, eating and drinking, and sleeping there.

5 On the fourth day they got up early and he prepared to leave, but the woman’s father said to his son-in-law, “Refresh yourself with something to eat; then you can go.” 6 So the two of them sat down to eat and drink together. Afterward the woman’s father said, “Please stay tonight and enjoy yourself.” 7And when the man got up to go, his father-in-law persuaded him, so he stayed there that night. 8 On the morning of the fifth day, when he rose to go, the woman’s father said, “Refresh yourself. Wait till afternoon!” So the two of them ate together.

9 Then when the man, with his concubine and his servant, got up to leave, his father-in-law, the woman’s father, said, “Now look, it’s almost evening. Spend the night here; the day is nearly over. Stay and enjoy yourself. Early tomorrow morning you can get up and be on your way home.” 10 But, unwilling to stay another night, the man left and went toward Jebus (that is, Jerusalem), with his two saddled donkeys and his concubine.

11 When they were near Jebus and the day was almost gone, the servant said to his master, “Come, let’s stop at this city of the Jebusites and spend the night.”

12 His master replied, “No. We won’t go into any city whose people are not Israelites. We will go on to Gibeah.” 13 He added, “Come, let’s try to reach Gibeah or Ramah and spend the night in one of those places.” 14 So they went on, and the sun set as they neared Gibeah in Benjamin. 15 There they stopped to spend the night. They went and sat in the city square, but no one took them in for the night.

16 That evening an old man from the hill country of Ephraim, who was living in Gibeah (the inhabitants of the place were Benjamites), came in from his work in the fields. 17 When he looked and saw the traveler in the city square, the old man asked, “Where are you going? Where did you come from?”

18 He answered, “We are on our way from Bethlehem in Judah to a remote area in the hill country of Ephraim where I live. I have been to Bethlehem in Judah and now I am going to the house of the LORD. No one has taken me in for the night.19 We have both straw and fodder for our donkeys and bread and wine for ourselves your servants—me, the woman and the young man with us. We don’t need anything.”

20 “You are welcome at my house,” the old man said. “Let me supply whatever you need. Only don’t spend the night in the square.” 21 So he took him into his house and fed his donkeys. After they had washed their feet, they had something to eat and drink.

22 While they were enjoying themselves, some of the wicked men of the city surrounded the house. Pounding on the door, they shouted to the old man who owned the house, “Bring out the man who came to your house so we can have sex with him.”

23 The owner of the house went outside and said to them, “No, my friends, don’t be so vile. Since this man is my guest, don’t do this outrageous thing. 24 Look, here is my virgin daughter, and his concubine. I will bring them out to you now, and you can use them and do to them whatever you wish. But as for this man, don’t do such an outrageous thing.”

25 But the men would not listen to him. So the man took his concubine and sent her outside to them, and they raped her and abused her throughout the night, and at dawn they let her go. 26 At daybreak the woman went back to the house where her master was staying, fell down at the door and lay there until daylight.

27 When her master got up in the morning and opened the door of the house and stepped out to continue on his way, there lay his concubine, fallen in the doorway of the house, with her hands on the threshold. 28 He said to her, “Get up; let’s go.” But there was no answer. Then the man put her on his donkey and set out for home.

29 When he reached home, he took a knife and cut up his concubine, limb by limb, into twelve parts and sent them into all the areas of Israel. 30 Everyone who saw it was saying to one another, “Such a thing has never been seen or done, not since the day the Israelites came up out of Egypt. Just imagine! We must do something! So speak up!”

Judges 20

The Israelites Punish the Benjamites

1 Then all Israel from Dan to Beersheba and from the land of Gilead came together as one and assembled before the LORD in Mizpah. 2 The leaders of all the people of the tribes of Israel took their places in the assembly of God’s people, four hundred thousand men armed with swords. 3 (The Benjamites heard that the Israelites had gone up to Mizpah.) Then the Israelites said, “Tell us how this awful thing happened.”

4 So the Levite, the husband of the murdered woman, said, “I and my concubine came to Gibeah in Benjamin to spend the night. 5 During the night the men of Gibeah came after me and surrounded the house, intending to kill me. They raped my concubine, and she died. 6 I took my concubine, cut her into pieces and sent one piece to each region of Israel’s inheritance, because they committed this lewd and outrageous act in Israel. 7 Now, all you Israelites, speak up and tell me what you have decided to do.”

8 All the men rose up together as one, saying, “None of us will go home. No, not one of us will return to his house. 9 But now this is what we’ll do to Gibeah: We’ll go up against it in the order decided by casting lots. 10 We’ll take ten men out of every hundred from all the tribes of Israel, and a hundred from a thousand, and a thousand from ten thousand, to get provisions for the army. Then, when the army arrives at Gibeah in Benjamin, it can give them what they deserve for this outrageous act done in Israel.” 11 So all the Israelites got together and united as one against the city.

12 The tribes of Israel sent messengers throughout the tribe of Benjamin, saying, “What about this awful crime that was committed among you? 13 Now turn those wicked men of Gibeah over to us so that we may put them to death and purge the evil from Israel.”

But the Benjamites would not listen to their fellow Israelites.14 From their towns they came together at Gibeah to fight against the Israelites. 15 At once the Benjamites mobilized twenty-six thousand swordsmen from their towns, in addition to seven hundred able young men from those living in Gibeah. 16Among all these soldiers there were seven hundred select troops who were left-handed, each of whom could sling a stone at a hair and not miss.

17 Israel, apart from Benjamin, mustered four hundred thousand swordsmen, all of them fit for battle.

18 The Israelites went up to Bethel and inquired of God. They said, “Who of us is to go up first to fight against the Benjamites?”

The LORD replied, “Judah shall go first.”

19 The next morning the Israelites got up and pitched camp near Gibeah. 20 The Israelites went out to fight the Benjamites and took up battle positions against them at Gibeah. 21 The Benjamites came out of Gibeah and cut down twenty-two thousand Israelites on the battlefield that day. 22 But the Israelites encouraged one another and again took up their positions where they had stationed themselves the first day. 23The Israelites went up and wept before the LORD until evening, and they inquired of the LORD. They said, “Shall we go up again to fight against the Benjamites, our fellow Israelites?”

The LORD answered, “Go up against them.”

24 Then the Israelites drew near to Benjamin the second day.25 This time, when the Benjamites came out from Gibeah to oppose them, they cut down another eighteen thousand Israelites, all of them armed with swords.

26 Then all the Israelites, the whole army, went up to Bethel, and there they sat weeping before the LORD. They fasted that day until evening and presented burnt offerings and fellowship offerings to the LORD. 27 And the Israelites inquired of the LORD. (In those days the ark of the covenant of God was there, 28 with Phinehas son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron, ministering before it.) They asked, “Shall we go up again to fight against the Benjamites, our fellow Israelites, or not?”

The LORD responded, “Go, for tomorrow I will give them into your hands.”

29 Then Israel set an ambush around Gibeah. 30 They went up against the Benjamites on the third day and took up positions against Gibeah as they had done before. 31 The Benjamites came out to meet them and were drawn away from the city. They began to inflict casualties on the Israelites as before, so that about thirty men fell in the open field and on the roads—the one leading to Bethel and the other to Gibeah. 32While the Benjamites were saying, “We are defeating them as before,” the Israelites were saying, “Let’s retreat and draw them away from the city to the roads.”

33 All the men of Israel moved from their places and took up positions at Baal Tamar, and the Israelite ambush charged out of its place on the west of Gibeah. 34 Then ten thousand of Israel’s able young men made a frontal attack on Gibeah. The fighting was so heavy that the Benjamites did not realize how near disaster was. 35 The LORD defeated Benjamin before Israel, and on that day the Israelites struck down 25,100 Benjamites, all armed with swords. 36 Then the Benjamites saw that they were beaten.

Now the men of Israel had given way before Benjamin, because they relied on the ambush they had set near Gibeah.37 Those who had been in ambush made a sudden dash into Gibeah, spread out and put the whole city to the sword. 38 The Israelites had arranged with the ambush that they should send up a great cloud of smoke from the city, 39 and then the Israelites would counterattack.

The Benjamites had begun to inflict casualties on the Israelites (about thirty), and they said, “We are defeating them as in the first battle.” 40 But when the column of smoke began to rise from the city, the Benjamites turned and saw the whole city going up in smoke. 41 Then the Israelites counterattacked, and the Benjamites were terrified, because they realized that disaster had come on them. 42 So they fled before the Israelites in the direction of the wilderness, but they could not escape the battle. And the Israelites who came out of the towns cut them down there. 43 They surrounded the Benjamites, chased them and easily overran them in the vicinity of Gibeah on the east. 44 Eighteen thousand Benjamites fell, all of them valiant fighters. 45 As they turned and fled toward the wilderness to the rock of Rimmon, the Israelites cut down five thousand men along the roads. They kept pressing after the Benjamites as far as Gidom and struck down two thousand more.

46 On that day twenty-five thousand Benjamite swordsmen fell, all of them valiant fighters. 47 But six hundred of them turned and fled into the wilderness to the rock of Rimmon, where they stayed four months. 48 The men of Israel went back to Benjamin and put all the towns to the sword, including the animals and everything else they found. All the towns they came across they set on fire.

Judges 21

Wives for the Benjamites

1 The men of Israel had taken an oath at Mizpah: “Not one of us will give his daughter in marriage to a Benjamite.”

2 The people went to Bethel, where they sat before God until evening, raising their voices and weeping bitterly. 3 “LORD, God of Israel,” they cried, “why has this happened to Israel? Why should one tribe be missing from Israel today?”

4 Early the next day the people built an altar and presented burnt offerings and fellowship offerings.

5 Then the Israelites asked, “Who from all the tribes of Israel has failed to assemble before the LORD?” For they had taken a solemn oath that anyone who failed to assemble before the LORD at Mizpah was to be put to death.

6 Now the Israelites grieved for the tribe of Benjamin, their fellow Israelites. “Today one tribe is cut off from Israel,” they said. 7 “How can we provide wives for those who are left, since we have taken an oath by the LORD not to give them any of our daughters in marriage?” 8 Then they asked, “Which one of the tribes of Israel failed to assemble before the LORD at Mizpah?” They discovered that no one from Jabesh Gilead had come to the camp for the assembly. 9 For when they counted the people, they found that none of the people of Jabesh Gilead were there.

10 So the assembly sent twelve thousand fighting men with instructions to go to Jabesh Gilead and put to the sword those living there, including the women and children. 11 “This is what you are to do,” they said. “Kill every male and every woman who is not a virgin.” 12 They found among the people living in Jabesh Gilead four hundred young women who had never slept with a man, and they took them to the camp at Shiloh in Canaan.

13 Then the whole assembly sent an offer of peace to the Benjamites at the rock of Rimmon. 14 So the Benjamites returned at that time and were given the women of Jabesh Gilead who had been spared. But there were not enough for all of them.

15 The people grieved for Benjamin, because the LORD had made a gap in the tribes of Israel. 16 And the elders of the assembly said, “With the women of Benjamin destroyed, how shall we provide wives for the men who are left? 17 The Benjamite survivors must have heirs,” they said, “so that a tribe of Israel will not be wiped out. 18 We can’t give them our daughters as wives, since we Israelites have taken this oath: ‘Cursed be anyone who gives a wife to a Benjamite.’ 19 But look, there is the annual festival of the LORD in Shiloh, which lies north of Bethel, east of the road that goes from Bethel to Shechem, and south of Lebonah.”

20 So they instructed the Benjamites, saying, “Go and hide in the vineyards 21 and watch. When the young women of Shiloh come out to join in the dancing, rush from the vineyards and each of you seize one of them to be your wife. Then return to the land of Benjamin. 22 When their fathers or brothers complain to us, we will say to them, ‘Do us the favor of helping them, because we did not get wives for them during the war. You will not be guilty of breaking your oath because you did not give your daughters to them.’”

23 So that is what the Benjamites did. While the young women were dancing, each man caught one and carried her off to be his wife. Then they returned to their inheritance and rebuilt the towns and settled in them.

24 At that time the Israelites left that place and went home to their tribes and clans, each to his own inheritance.

25 In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as they saw fit.


Luke 7

31 Jesus went on to say, “To what, then, can I compare the people of this generation? What are they like? 32 They are like children sitting in the marketplace and calling out to each other:

“‘We played the pipe for you,
and you did not dance;
we sang a dirge,
and you did not cry.’

33 For John the Baptist came neither eating bread nor drinking wine, and you say, ‘He has a demon.’ 34 The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’ 35 But wisdom is proved right by all her children.”

Jesus Anointed by a Sinful Woman

36 When one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, he went to the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table. 37 A woman in that town who lived a sinful life learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, so she came there with an alabaster jar of perfume. 38 As she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them.

39 When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is—that she is a sinner.”

40 Jesus answered him, “Simon, I have something to tell you.”

“Tell me, teacher,” he said.

41 “Two people owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. 42 Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he forgave the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?”

43 Simon replied, “I suppose the one who had the bigger debt forgiven.”

“You have judged correctly,” Jesus said.

44 Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 45 You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. 46 You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. 47 Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.”

48 Then Jesus said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”

49 The other guests began to say among themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?”

50 Jesus said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”


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Cyrus [Cy'rus]—as miserable or an heir. Cyrus, the founder of the Persian Empire, conquered Babylon and was anointed by God to free the Jews from captivity. The prophets frequently foretold the coming of Cyrus. Isaiah, for example, mentioned him by name two hundred years before he was born ( 2 Chron. 36:22, 23; Ezra 1:1-8; 3:7; 4:3-5;5:13-17; 6:3-14; Isa. 44:28; 45; Dan. 1:21; 6:28; 10:1). Classical writers adorn the life and labors of Cyrus with a variety of legendary incidents for which no confirmation can be produced.
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I know that my redeemer liveth

‘For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: and though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God.’ Job 19:25–26

Suggested Further Reading: Ruth 3:1–4:10

The word ‘redeemer’ here used, is in the original ‘goel’—kinsman. The duty of the kinsman, or goel, was this: suppose an Israelite had alienated his estate, as in the case of Naomi and Ruth; suppose a patrimony which had belonged to a family, had passed away through poverty, it was the goel’s business, the redeemer’s business to pay the price as the next of kin, and to buy back the heritage. Boaz stood in that relation to Ruth. Now, the body may be looked upon as the heritage of the soul—the soul’s little farm, that little plot of earth in which the soul has been wont to walk and delight, as a man walks in his garden or dwells in his house. Now, that becomes alienated. Death, like Ahab, takes away the vineyard from us who are as Naboth; we lose our patrimonial estate; death sends his troops to take our vineyard and to spoil the vines thereof and ruin it. But we turn round to death and say, ‘I know that my Goelliveth, and he will redeem this heritage; I have lost it; thou takest it from me lawfully, O death, because my sin hath forfeited my right; I have lost my heritage through my own offence, and through that of my first parent Adam; but there lives one who will buy this back.’ Brethren, Job could say this of Christ long before he had descended upon earth, ‘I know that my redeemer liveth;’ and now that he has ascended up on high, and led captivity captive, surely we may with double emphasis say, ‘I know that my Goel, my Kinsman liveth, and that he hath paid the price, that I should have back my patrimony, so that in my flesh I shall see God.’

For meditation : The Christian can correctly view redemption as something past (Galatians 3:13) and present (Ephesians 1:7); but to stop at the redemption of the soul is to ignore the last vital chapter of the story. We still await the day of redemption (Ephesians 4:30) and the actual redemption of our bodies ( Romans 8:23).

Sermon no. 504
4 April (Preached 12 April 1863)

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The form and spirit of religion

“Let us fetch the ark of the covenant of the Lord out of Shiloh unto us, that, when it cometh among us, it may save us out of the hand of our enemies.” 1 Samuel 4:3

Suggested Further Reading: 1 Corinthians 1:13-17

How vain are the hopes that men build upon their good works, and ceremonial observances! How frightful is that delusion which teaches for the gospel a thing which is not “the gospel”, nor “another gospel”; but it is a thing that would pervert the gospel of Christ. Let me ask thee solemnly, what is thy ground of hope? Dost thou rely on baptism? O man, how foolish thou art! What can a few drops of water, put upon an infant’s forehead, do? Some lying hypocrites tell us that children are regenerated by drops of water. What kind of regeneration is that? We have seen people hanged that were regenerated in this fashion. There have been men that have lived all their lives as whoremongers, adulterers, thieves, and murderers, who have been regenerated in their baptism by that kind of regeneration. Oh, be not deceived by a regeneration so absurd, so palpable even to flesh and blood, as one of the lying wonders that have come from hell itself. But maybe thou sayest, “Sir, I rely upon my baptism, in after life.” Ah, my friends, what can washing in water do? As the Lord liveth, if thou trustest in baptism thou trustest in a thing that will fail thee at last. For what is washing in water, unless it is preceded by faith and repentance? We baptize you, not in order to wash away your sins, but because we believe they are washed away beforehand; and if we did not think you believed so, we would not admit you to a participation in that ordinance. But if you will pervert this to your own destruction, by trusting in it, take heed; you are warned this morning. For as “circumcision availeth nothing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature,” so baptism availeth nothing.

For meditation: Baptism is supposed to illustrate the gospel, not to replace it. The command to be baptised follows the new birth, repentance and faith in Christ (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38;8:12,36-38; 9:17-18; 10:47-48; 16:14-15, 31-34; 18:8).

Sermon no. 186
4 April (1858)

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The Gadarenes' Rejection

Matthew 8:28-34

Who do you care more about, people or pigs? All of us may be so concerned with our own livelihoods that we fail to serve other people and help those in desperate circumstances. In our pursuit of a certain standard of living we can overlook those who are in need even in our own congregations. Consider going to the leadership of your church and finding out how you may help those in need so that you may imitate Christ's love for the oppressed.

For further study:

Zephaniah 1:14-16

The Bible in a year:

1 Samuel 1-2

Coram Deo from TableTalk Magazine, Matthew Studies. Copyright © 2008 by Ligonier Ministries.

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

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The Gadarenes' Rejection

Matthew 8:28-34 "Behold, all the city came out to meet Jesus, and when they saw him, they begged him to leave their region" (v. 34).

Most, if not all, of the disciples have thus far not been privy to much of God's great revelation about Jesus. They were not there when Joseph was told that his adopted Son would be of the Holy Spirit (Matt. 1:18-25). Likewise, they were probably not present at His baptism, the occasion on which the Father declared Jesus His "beloved Son" (3:13-17 ). Having been absent when these things happened, it is understandable that these disciples are not yet fully aware of Christ's divinity and have been left to wonder about the identity of this Nazarene (8:23-27).

Some of the disciples' questions begin to be answered in today's passage. After landing on the eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee, the small band of men find themselves in "the country of the Gadarenes," a region controlled by the town of Gadara, one of the ten cities of the Decapolis. This is an area inhabited primarily by Gentiles, and the two possessed men Jesus and His followers meet are foreigners to God's covenant with Israel (Matt. 8:28). We know this to be the case because pigs are being raised nearby ( v. 30), and no old covenant Israelite would ever be so closely associated with these animals (Lev. 11:7-8).

Demons are driving the two men to violence (Matt. 8:28). Ironically, these spirits reveal Jesus' identity to the disciples when they beg the "Son of God" not to torment them before their time ( v. 29). Apparently, these demons know their time is short and that a day of judgment is coming (see Rev. 20:1-10). Per their request, Jesus sends them into a herd of swine, a sign of His authority over the Devil and a confirmation that the possessed men have been delivered (Matt. 8:32 ). Unlike the other "exorcists" of His day, Christ dispatches the evil spirits with His word and not with some type of magical ritual. Such measures are unnecessary for the Lord of heaven and earth.

The region's citizens should be grateful for this miracle, but the people only see a loss of income from the death of their animals. Seeking material prosperity at the expense of true life, these men implore Jesus to leave (vv. 33-34 ). Regrettably, Matthew Henry comments, too many "prefer their pigs above their Savior, and so come short of Christ, and salvation through him."

Coram deo: Living before the face of God

Who do you care more about, people or pigs? All of us may be so concerned with our own livelihoods that we fail to serve other people and help those in desperate circumstances. In our pursuit of a certain standard of living we can overlook those who are in need even in our own congregations. Consider going to the leadership of your church and finding out how you may help those in need so that you may imitate Christ's love for the oppressed.

For further study:

Zephaniah 1:14-16

The Bible in a year:

1 Samuel 1-2

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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LeAnn Rice

April 3, 2012

An Empty Nest
LeAnn Rice

"I will never leave you nor forsake you." Joshua 1:5b (NIV)

Does a rose bush have thorns or does a thorn bush have roses? It really is all about perspective, isn't it?

My perspective on my upcoming empty nest is full of thorns. I try hard not to think about the fact that I will be alone (except for the cat!) when my son graduates and leaves for college this summer.

It has been just Nick and me for the 15 years since my husband died. Life as a single mom has been rough. But watching my little boy grow into a godly young man has been my greatest joy. I've loved every moment of his sweet toddler giggles, little boy vroom-vroom truck sounds, and even the sounds of video games that come from his room now.

I've tried to distract myself from thinking about the day we will pack the car and head off to college by watching mindless movies, serving others, and keeping extra busy. But I fail miserably and end up crying myself to sleep.

Why? When Nick leaves, I'll be cooking for one. Cleaning for one. Doing everything for just one. There will be no sweet sounds to come home to. No one to help me unload the groceries from the car. No stories about what happened in school. No fits of laughter as he plays with our ornery cat.

The thought of letting go and being alone brings on the tears and my pillow gets soggy. It isn't pretty.

On those days when I get bogged down with thoughts of my impending empty nest, I'm never in a hurry to jump out of bed. I just want to lie there and wallow in self-pity for a little longer. What's the rush to get on with another day? It means one more day closer to his leaving.

And then a little ray of light sneaks into the bedroom. The cat cries because she wants to go outside. The teenager who is still mine to take care of decides he's hungry. Life returns.

I have to function. I want to enjoy every moment of the time I have with my not-so-little boy.

No time for soggy pillows, half empty days, or rose bushes with thorns.

It's time to get out of bed and face the new day and the changes coming. It's time to remember that even in my loneliness, I am never alone. It's time to relish the beautiful roses on those thorn bushes.

• I am loved with an everlasting love. (Jeremiah 31:3)
• I am the apple of His eye. (Proverbs 7:2)
• My name is engraved in the palm of His hands. (Isaiah 49:16)
• I am carried through every storm. (Mark 4:35-41)
• I am wonderfully made. (Psalm 139:14)
• I am watched over day and night. (Psalm 121:1-8)
• I am forgiven. (1 John 1:9)
• I am rejoiced over with singing. (Zephaniah 3:17)

My life is more than half full. It overflows. I just have to be willing to see, and enjoy, who God is and the beautiful things He's given me.

Thorns are painful, but the world is filled with many roses. My prayer for each of us dealing with or facing an empty nest is that we allow ourselves to be overwhelmed by the beauty of the Lord's goodness and the sweet fragrance of all He is to us. Though children will eventually leave our nest, God never will.

Dear Lord, help me to see the roses among the thorns. I want to see that You're always with me and that You watch over me every moment of every day. I love You. I am grateful to belong to You and that I am not alone. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Visit LeAnn's site, She Cooks, for loads of fun and encouragement ... and tasty recipes too! Also, hop over toA Widow's Might for hope and truth.

One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are by Ann Voskamp

Reflect and Respond:
An empty nest is hard. Take some time to sit down and make a list of everything that is good in your life. When we start looking for the roses instead of letting the thorns overwhelm us, we are surrounded by His sweet aroma and reminded of who we are, Who we belong to, and all He can do in and through our lives.

Power Verse:
Psalm 73:26, "My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever." (NIV)

© 2012 by LeAnn Rice. All rights reserved.

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

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GiG Banner 2012 Big

April 3, 2012
Knock. Knock. Is Anybody There?
Part 1
Sharon Jaynes

Today's Truth
Indeed, none of those whowaitfor You will be ashamed;" (Psalm 25:3 NASB).

Friend to Friend
Little feet. I heard them clomping across the linoleum kitchen floor and padding up the carpeted stairs…and I knew they were not my son's. I poked my head out of my sewing room and there he stood. Three-and-a-half feet of pure mischief – my neighbor Philip.

"Philip," I scolded, "you can't just walk into our house like that."

"Why not?" he asked with balled fists on his determined hips.

"Because this isn't your house. You have to knock on the door first."

"OK," he said. "But is Steven home?"

Philip lived across the street from us in a bustling family of 7 homeschooled kids and 2 dogs. He was a stocky fellow with close cropped blond hair and a gruff voice that belonged more on a seasoned smoker than a four-year-old kid. He often wandered over to our house to ask my son, Steven, to come out and play. Steven was eight years older than Philip, but occasionally "shot hoops" with his pint-sized admirer.

I adored Philip, but he had to learn not to walk into other people's houses at will. We had our little chat about knocking first, and then I sent him on his way.

The next day, I was working in my sewing room again when I heard a small but determined knock at the backdoor. I was in the middle of a seam and didn't answer it. I knew who it was. Ah, I thought. He learned his lesson well.

No sooner had that thought entered my mind, I heard the door open and close, followed by the familiar squeak of little-boy tennis shoes moving through the kitchen and up the stairs.

"Philip," I called, "I thought I told you to knock."

"I did," he yelled back. "You didn't come so I came on in."

Philip and I had another chat.

Thinking back on this incident with my tow-headed, pint-sized friend reminds me of how some people approach prayer. They knock. It seems we don't have a problem with that part. It is what comes after the knock that trips us up.

God tells us to pray. He tells us to knock. "Ask, andit will be given to you;" Jesus said. "Seek, and you will find;knock, and it will be opened to you.For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened," (Matthew 7:7-8 NASB). But what comes after the knock?

God also tells us to wait for Him to answer the door…to answer the prayer… before moving forward. Unfortunately, many don't want to wait. If God doesn't answer right way, many take His silence as a "yes," and plow right on ahead.

"Lord, should I date this man?" "Lord, should I marry this man?" "Lord, should I buy this house?" "Lord, should I look for another job?" Knock. Knock.

If God doesn't answer the door right away, is that license to open the door, walk right through it and do what we want? Absolutely not.

David wrote: "Indeed, none of those whowaitfor You will be ashamed," (Psalm 25:3). Let integrity and uprightness preserve me, For Iwaitfor You," (Psalm 25:21 NASB). Waitfor the LORD; Be strong and let your heart take courage; Yes,waitfor the LORD," (Psalm 27:14 NIV).

We'll look more at this subject of next time, but you'll just have to waitJ

Let's Pray
Heavenly Father, I wait patiently for You. Please show me any area of my life where I have not obeyed You fully. Then give me the courage and strength to do so.
In Jesus' Name,
Amen.

Now It's Your Turn
Have you ever prayed about a decision, not waited on God for the answer, and plowed ahead even though you felt unrest in your spirit?

What were the results?

Have you ever prayed about a decision, waited on God for the answer, and moved forward in total peace?

What were the results?

Regardless of the results of obedience, you can be assured that obedience always pleases God. He is more concerned with the process than the product.

More from the Girlfriends
Do you want to be a woman who listens to God? If you'd like to learn how to tune your ears to the timbre of God's still small voice, then check out Sharon's book Becoming a Woman who Listens to God. While you're on her webpage, stop by the homepage and leave a message in the comment box!

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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Does God punish children for their parents' sin?

This week's reading: Numbers 14:18

God punishes people for their own, personal sin. Nowhere in the Bible do righteous believers pay eternally for their parents' sins. God clearly states that a son who acts righteously, even though he has a sinful father, "will not die for his father's sin" (Eze 18:14-20). The law states, "Parents are not to be put to death for their children, nor children put to death for their parents; each will die for their own sin" (Dt 24:16).

This is not to say, however, that nothing is passed on through the family tree. Sinful patterns of behavior are often passed on to family members. For example, an environment of alcoholism, sexual abuse or violence can scar children for life. But the children will answer to God for their own lives, not for those of their parents.

There are instances in the Bible where children experience the tragic consequences of their parents' sins. For example, David's affair with Bathsheba resulted in the death of the son from that union (see 2Sa 12:14,18). Today "crack babies" suffer for their mothers' behavior of using crack cocaine. Until the addictive cycle is broken, generation after generation will be trapped by sin.

The good news of the gospel is that the cycle can be broken through obedience by faith. Hezekiah, the son of the wicked King Ahaz, broke the cycle when he turned to God. So did Josiah, the son of the tyrant Amon. When children break the pattern set by sinful parents, they can receive God's blessing. The gospel of Jesus Christ offers power to break sin's grip on families.

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Day 42

They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

One day Peter and John were going up to the temple at the time of prayer—at three in the afternoon. Now a man who was lame from birth was being carried to the temple gate called Beautiful, where he was put every day to beg from those going into the temple courts. When he saw Peter and John about to enter, he asked them for money. Peter looked straight at him, as did John. Then Peter said, “Look at us!” So the man gave them his attention, expecting to get something from them.

Then Peter said, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” Taking him by the right hand, he helped him up, and instantly the man’s feet and ankles became strong. He jumped to his feet and began to walk. Then he went with them into the temple courts, walking and jumping, and praising God. When all the people saw him walking and praising God, they recognized him as the same man who used to sit begging at the temple gate called Beautiful, and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.

While the man held on to Peter and John, all the people were astonished and came running to them in the place called Solomon’s Colonnade. When Peter saw this, he said to them: “Fellow Israelites, why does this surprise you? Why do you stare at us as if by our own power or godliness we had made this man walk? The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified his servant Jesus. You handed him over to be killed, and you disowned him before Pilate, though he had decided to let him go. You disowned the Holy and Righteous One and asked that a murderer be released to you. You killed the author of life, but God raised him from the dead. We are witnesses of this. By faith in the name of Jesus, this man whom you see and know was made strong. It is Jesus’ name and the faith that comes through him that has completely healed him, as you can all see.

“Now, fellow Israelites, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did your leaders. But this is how God fulfilled what he had foretold through all the prophets, saying that his Messiah would suffer. Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord, and that he may send the Messiah, who has been appointed for you—even Jesus.

The priests and the captain of the temple guard and the Sadducees came up to Peter and John while they were speaking to the people. They were greatly disturbed because the apostles were teaching the people, proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection of the dead. They seized Peter and John and, because it was evening, they put them in jail until the next day. But many who heard the message believed; so the number of men who believed grew to about five thousand.

The next day the rulers, the elders and the teachers of the law met in Jerusalem. Annas the high priest was there, and so were Caiaphas, John, Alexander and others of the high priest’s family. They had Peter and John brought before them and began to question them: “By what power or what name did you do this?”

Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them: “Rulers and elders of the people! If we are being called to account today for an act of kindness shown to a man who was lame and are being asked how he was healed, then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed. Jesus is

“‘the stone you builders rejected,
which has become the cornerstone.’

Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.”

When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus. But since they could see the man who had been healed standing there with them, there was nothing they could say. So they ordered them to withdraw from the Sanhedrin and then conferred together. “What are we going to do with these men?” they asked. “Everyone living in Jerusalem knows they have performed a notable sign, and we cannot deny it. But to stop this thing from spreading any further among the people, we must warn them to speak no longer to anyone in this name.”

Then they called them in again and commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John replied, “Which is right in God’s eyes: to listen to you, or to him? You be the judges! As for us, we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.”

After further threats they let them go. They could not decide how to punish them, because all the people were praising God for what had happened.

What examples of Christian love and fellowship did you see in this story?

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Today's Old Testament Reading: Psalm 71:1-12

1 In you, LORD, I have taken refuge;
let me never be put to shame.
2 In your righteousness, rescue me and deliver me;
turn your ear to me and save me.
3 Be my rock of refuge,
to which I can always go;
give the command to save me,
for you are my rock and my fortress.
4 Deliver me, my God, from the hand of the wicked,
from the grasp of those who are evil and cruel.

5 For you have been my hope, Sovereign LORD,
my confidence since my youth.
6 From birth I have relied on you;
you brought me forth from my mother's womb.
I will ever praise you.
7 I have become a sign to many;
you are my strong refuge.
8 My mouth is filled with your praise,
declaring your splendor all day long.

9 Do not cast me away when I am old;
do not forsake me when my strength is gone.
10 For my enemies speak against me;
those who wait to kill me conspire together.
11 They say, "God has forsaken him;
pursue him and seize him,
for no one will rescue him."
12 Do not be far from me, my God;
come quickly, God, to help me.

New Testament Reading: 1 Corinthians 1:18-31

18 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. 19 For it is written:

"I will destroy the wisdom of the wise;
the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate."

20 Where is the wise person? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. 22 Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24 but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.

26 Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things--and the things that are not--to nullify the things that are,29 so that no one may boast before him. 30 It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God--that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption.31 Therefore, as it is written: "Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord."
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Today's Lent reading: John 15-16 (NIV)

View today's Lent reading on Bible Gateway
The Vine and the Branches

1 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2 He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. 3 You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. 4 Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.

5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. 7 If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.

9 “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 10 If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. 11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. 12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. 13Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command.15 I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. 17 This is my command: Love each other.

The World Hates the Disciples

18 “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first.19 If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. 20 Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. 21 They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the one who sent me. 22 If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not be guilty of sin; but now they have no excuse for their sin. 23 Whoever hates me hates my Father as well. 24If I had not done among them the works no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin. As it is, they have seen, and yet they have hated both me and my Father. 25 But this is to fulfill what is written in their Law: ‘They hated me without reason.’

The Work of the Holy Spirit

26 “When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father—the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father—he will testify about me. 27 And you also must testify, for you have been with me from the beginning.

John 16

1 “All this I have told you so that you will not fall away. 2They will put you out of the synagogue; in fact, the time is coming when anyone who kills you will think they are offering a service to God. 3 They will do such things because they have not known the Father or me. 4 I have told you this, so that when their time comes you will remember that I warned you about them. I did not tell you this from the beginning because I was with you, 5 but now I am going to him who sent me. None of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’ 6 Rather, you are filled with grief because I have said these things. 7 But very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. 8 When he comes, he will prove the world to be in the wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment: 9 about sin, because people do not believe in me; 10 about righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer; 11 and about judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned.

12 “I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. 13 But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. 14 He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you. 15 All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will receive from me what he will make known to you.”

The Disciples’ Grief Will Turn to Joy

16 Jesus went on to say, “In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me.”

17 At this, some of his disciples said to one another, “What does he mean by saying, ‘In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me,’ and ‘Because I am going to the Father’?” 18 They kept asking, “What does he mean by ‘a little while’? We don’t understand what he is saying.”

19 Jesus saw that they wanted to ask him about this, so he said to them, “Are you asking one another what I meant when I said, ‘In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me’? 20 Very truly I tell you, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy. 21 A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world. 22 So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy. 23 In that day you will no longer ask me anything. Very truly I tell you, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. 24 Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete.

25 “Though I have been speaking figuratively, a time is coming when I will no longer use this kind of language but will tell you plainly about my Father. 26 In that day you will ask in my name. I am not saying that I will ask the Father on your behalf. 27 No, the Father himself loves you because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God. 28 I came from the Father and entered the world; now I am leaving the world and going back to the Father.”

29 Then Jesus’ disciples said, “Now you are speaking clearly and without figures of speech. 30 Now we can see that you know all things and that you do not even need to have anyone ask you questions. This makes us believe that you came from God.”

31 “Do you now believe?” Jesus replied. 32 “A time is coming and in fact has come when you will be scattered, each to your own home. You will leave me all alone. Yet I am not alone, for my Father is with me.

33 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”


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