Monday, May 07, 2012

Daily Devotional Monday 7th May

“Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” James 5:16 NIV
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Morning and Evening by Charles Spurgeon

Morning

"Great multitudes followed him, and he healed them all."
Matthew 12:15
What a mass of hideous sickness must have thrust itself under the eye of Jesus! Yet we read not that he was disgusted, but patiently waited on every case. What a singular variety of evils must have met at his feet! What sickening ulcers and putrefying sores! Yet he was ready for every new shape of the monster evil, and was victor over it in every form. Let the arrow fly from what quarter it might, he quenched its fiery power. The heat of fever, or the cold of dropsy; the lethargy of palsy, or the rage of madness; the filth of leprosy, or the darkness of ophthalmia--all knew the power of his word, and fled at his command. In every corner of the field he was triumphant over evil, and received the homage of delivered captives. He came, he saw, he conquered everywhere. It is even so this morning. Whatever my own case may be, the beloved Physician can heal me; and whatever may be the state of others whom I may remember at this moment in prayer, I may have hope in Jesus that he will be able to heal them of their sins. My child, my friend, my dearest one, I can have hope for each, for all, when I remember the healing power of my Lord; and on my own account, however severe my struggle with sins and infirmities, I may yet be of good cheer. He who on earth walked the hospitals, still dispenses his grace, and works wonders among the sons of men: let me go to him at once in right earnest.
Let me praise him, this morning, as I remember how he wrought his spiritual cures, which bring him most renown. It was by taking upon himself our sicknesses. "By his stripes we are healed." The Church on earth is full of souls healed by our beloved Physician; and the inhabitants of heaven itself confess that "He healed them all." Come, then, my soul, publish abroad the virtue of his grace, and let it be "to the Lord for a name, for an everlasting sign which shall not be cut off."

Evening

"Jesus saith unto him, Rise, take up thy bed, and walk."
John 5:8
Like many others, the impotent man had been waiting for a wonder to be wrought, and a sign to be given. Wearily did he watch the pool, but no angel came, or came not for him; yet, thinking it to be his only chance, he waited still, and knew not that there was One near him whose word could heal him in a moment. Many are in the same plight: they are waiting for some singular emotion, remarkable impression, or celestial vision; they wait in vain and watch for nought. Even supposing that, in a few cases, remarkable signs are seen, yet these are rare, and no man has a right to look for them in his own case; no man especially who feels his impotency to avail himself of the moving of the water even if it came. It is a very sad reflection that tens of thousands are now waiting in the use of means, and ordinances, and vows, and resolutions, and have so waited time out of mind, in vain, utterly in vain. Meanwhile these poor souls forget the present Saviour, who bids them look unto him and be saved. He could heal them at once, but they prefer to wait for an angel and a wonder. To trust him is the sure way to every blessing, and he is worthy of the most implicit confidence; but unbelief makes them prefer the cold porches of Bethesda to the warm bosom of his love. O that the Lord may turn his eye upon the multitudes who are in this case tonight; may he forgive the slights which they put upon his divine power, and call them by that sweet constraining voice, to rise from the bed of despair, and in the energy of faith take up their bed and walk. O Lord, hear our prayer for all such at this calm hour of sunset, and ere the day breaketh may they look and live.
Courteous reader, is there anything in this portion for you?

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Today's reading: 1 Kings 21-22, Luke 23:26-56 (NIV)

View today's reading on Bible Gateway 
Naboth’s Vineyard
    1 Some time later there was an incident involving a vineyard belonging to Naboth the Jezreelite. The vineyard was in Jezreel, close to the palace of Ahab king of Samaria. 2 Ahab said to Naboth, “Let me have your vineyard to use for a vegetable garden, since it is close to my palace. In exchange I will give you a better vineyard or, if you prefer, I will pay you whatever it is worth.”
   3 But Naboth replied, “The LORD forbid that I should give you the inheritance of my ancestors.”
   4 So Ahab went home, sullen and angry because Naboth the Jezreelite had said, “I will not give you the inheritance of my ancestors.” He lay on his bed sulking and refused to eat.
   5 His wife Jezebel came in and asked him, “Why are you so sullen? Why won’t you eat?”
   6 He answered her, “Because I said to Naboth the Jezreelite, ‘Sell me your vineyard; or if you prefer, I will give you another vineyard in its place.’ But he said, ‘I will not give you my vineyard.’”
   7 Jezebel his wife said, “Is this how you act as king over Israel? Get up and eat! Cheer up. I’ll get you the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite.”
   8 So she wrote letters in Ahab’s name, placed his seal on them, and sent them to the elders and nobles who lived in Naboth’s city with him. 9 In those letters she wrote:
   “Proclaim a day of fasting and seat Naboth in a prominent place among the people. 10 But seat two scoundrels opposite him and have them bring charges that he has cursed both God and the king. Then take him out and stone him to death.”
   11 So the elders and nobles who lived in Naboth’s city did as Jezebel directed in the letters she had written to them. 12 They proclaimed a fast and seated Naboth in a prominent place among the people. 13 Then two scoundrels came and sat opposite him and brought charges against Naboth before the people, saying, “Naboth has cursed both God and the king.” So they took him outside the city and stoned him to death. 14 Then they sent word to Jezebel: “Naboth has been stoned to death.”
   15 As soon as Jezebel heard that Naboth had been stoned to death, she said to Ahab, “Get up and take possession of the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite that he refused to sell you. He is no longer alive, but dead.” 16 When Ahab heard that Naboth was dead, he got up and went down to take possession of Naboth’s vineyard.
   17 Then the word of the LORD came to Elijah the Tishbite: 18“Go down to meet Ahab king of Israel, who rules in Samaria. He is now in Naboth’s vineyard, where he has gone to take possession of it. 19 Say to him, ‘This is what the LORD says: Have you not murdered a man and seized his property?’ Then say to him, ‘This is what the LORD says: In the place where dogs licked up Naboth’s blood, dogs will lick up your blood—yes, yours!’”
   20 Ahab said to Elijah, “So you have found me, my enemy!”
   “I have found you,” he answered, “because you have sold yourself to do evil in the eyes of the LORD. 21 He says, ‘I am going to bring disaster on you. I will wipe out your descendants and cut off from Ahab every last male in Israel—slave or free,22 I will make your house like that of Jeroboam son of Nebat and that of Baasha son of Ahijah, because you have aroused my anger and have caused Israel to sin.’
   23 “And also concerning Jezebel the LORD says: ‘Dogs will devour Jezebel by the wall of Jezreel.’
   24 “Dogs will eat those belonging to Ahab who die in the city, and the birds will feed on those who die in the country.”
   25 (There was never anyone like Ahab, who sold himself to do evil in the eyes of the LORD, urged on by Jezebel his wife.26 He behaved in the vilest manner by going after idols, like the Amorites the LORD drove out before Israel.)
   27 When Ahab heard these words, he tore his clothes, put on sackcloth and fasted. He lay in sackcloth and went around meekly.
   28 Then the word of the LORD came to Elijah the Tishbite: 29“Have you noticed how Ahab has humbled himself before me? Because he has humbled himself, I will not bring this disaster in his day, but I will bring it on his house in the days of his son.”

1 Kings 22

Micaiah Prophesies Against Ahab
    1 For three years there was no war between Aram and Israel.2 But in the third year Jehoshaphat king of Judah went down to see the king of Israel. 3 The king of Israel had said to his officials, “Don’t you know that Ramoth Gilead belongs to us and yet we are doing nothing to retake it from the king of Aram?”
   4 So he asked Jehoshaphat, “Will you go with me to fight against Ramoth Gilead?”
   Jehoshaphat replied to the king of Israel, “I am as you are, my people as your people, my horses as your horses.” 5 But Jehoshaphat also said to the king of Israel, “First seek the counsel of the LORD.”
   6 So the king of Israel brought together the prophets—about four hundred men—and asked them, “Shall I go to war against Ramoth Gilead, or shall I refrain?”
   “Go,” they answered, “for the Lord will give it into the king’s hand.”
   7 But Jehoshaphat asked, “Is there no longer a prophet of the LORD here whom we can inquire of?”
   8 The king of Israel answered Jehoshaphat, “There is still one prophet through whom we can inquire of the LORD, but I hate him because he never prophesies anything good about me, but always bad. He is Micaiah son of Imlah.”
   “The king should not say such a thing,” Jehoshaphat replied.
   9 So the king of Israel called one of his officials and said, “Bring Micaiah son of Imlah at once.”
   10 Dressed in their royal robes, the king of Israel and Jehoshaphat king of Judah were sitting on their thrones at the threshing floor by the entrance of the gate of Samaria, with all the prophets prophesying before them. 11 Now Zedekiah son of Kenaanah had made iron horns and he declared, “This is what the LORD says: ‘With these you will gore the Arameans until they are destroyed.’”
   12 All the other prophets were prophesying the same thing. “Attack Ramoth Gilead and be victorious,” they said, “for the LORD will give it into the king’s hand.”
   13 The messenger who had gone to summon Micaiah said to him, “Look, the other prophets without exception are predicting success for the king. Let your word agree with theirs, and speak favorably.”
   14 But Micaiah said, “As surely as the LORD lives, I can tell him only what the LORD tells me.”
   15 When he arrived, the king asked him, “Micaiah, shall we go to war against Ramoth Gilead, or not?”
   “Attack and be victorious,” he answered, “for the LORD will give it into the king’s hand.”
   16 The king said to him, “How many times must I make you swear to tell me nothing but the truth in the name of the LORD?”
   17 Then Micaiah answered, “I saw all Israel scattered on the hills like sheep without a shepherd, and the LORD said, ‘These people have no master. Let each one go home in peace.’”
   18 The king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat, “Didn’t I tell you that he never prophesies anything good about me, but only bad?”
   19 Micaiah continued, “Therefore hear the word of the LORD: I saw the LORD sitting on his throne with all the multitudes of heaven standing around him on his right and on his left. 20 And the LORD said, ‘Who will entice Ahab into attacking Ramoth Gilead and going to his death there?’
   “One suggested this, and another that. 21 Finally, a spirit came forward, stood before the LORD and said, ‘I will entice him.’
   22 “‘By what means?’ the LORD asked.
   “‘I will go out and be a deceiving spirit in the mouths of all his prophets,’ he said.
   “‘You will succeed in enticing him,’ said the LORD. ‘Go and do it.’
   23 “So now the LORD has put a deceiving spirit in the mouths of all these prophets of yours. The LORD has decreed disaster for you.”
   24 Then Zedekiah son of Kenaanah went up and slapped Micaiah in the face. “Which way did the spirit from the LORD go when he went from me to speak to you?” he asked.
   25 Micaiah replied, “You will find out on the day you go to hide in an inner room.”
   26 The king of Israel then ordered, “Take Micaiah and send him back to Amon the ruler of the city and to Joash the king’s son 27 and say, ‘This is what the king says: Put this fellow in prison and give him nothing but bread and water until I return safely.’”
   28 Micaiah declared, “If you ever return safely, the LORD has not spoken through me.” Then he added, “Mark my words, all you people!”
Ahab Killed at Ramoth Gilead
    29 So the king of Israel and Jehoshaphat king of Judah went up to Ramoth Gilead. 30 The king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat, “I will enter the battle in disguise, but you wear your royal robes.” So the king of Israel disguised himself and went into battle.
   31 Now the king of Aram had ordered his thirty-two chariot commanders, “Do not fight with anyone, small or great, except the king of Israel.” 32 When the chariot commanders saw Jehoshaphat, they thought, “Surely this is the king of Israel.” So they turned to attack him, but when Jehoshaphat cried out,33 the chariot commanders saw that he was not the king of Israel and stopped pursuing him.
   34 But someone drew his bow at random and hit the king of Israel between the sections of his armor. The king told his chariot driver, “Wheel around and get me out of the fighting. I’ve been wounded.” 35 All day long the battle raged, and the king was propped up in his chariot facing the Arameans. The blood from his wound ran onto the floor of the chariot, and that evening he died. 36 As the sun was setting, a cry spread through the army: “Every man to his town. Every man to his land!”
   37 So the king died and was brought to Samaria, and they buried him there. 38 They washed the chariot at a pool in Samaria (where the prostitutes bathed), and the dogs licked up his blood, as the word of the LORD had declared.
   39 As for the other events of Ahab’s reign, including all he did, the palace he built and adorned with ivory, and the cities he fortified, are they not written in the book of the annals of the kings of Israel? 40 Ahab rested with his ancestors. And Ahaziah his son succeeded him as king.
Jehoshaphat King of Judah
    41 Jehoshaphat son of Asa became king of Judah in the fourth year of Ahab king of Israel. 42 Jehoshaphat was thirty-five years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem twenty-five years. His mother’s name was Azubah daughter of Shilhi. 43 In everything he followed the ways of his father Asa and did not stray from them; he did what was right in the eyes of the LORD. The high places, however, were not removed, and the people continued to offer sacrifices and burn incense there. 44 Jehoshaphat was also at peace with the king of Israel.
   45 As for the other events of Jehoshaphat’s reign, the things he achieved and his military exploits, are they not written in the book of the annals of the kings of Judah? 46 He rid the land of the rest of the male shrine prostitutes who remained there even after the reign of his father Asa. 47 There was then no king in Edom; a provincial governor ruled.
   48 Now Jehoshaphat built a fleet of trading ships to go to Ophir for gold, but they never set sail—they were wrecked at Ezion Geber. 49 At that time Ahaziah son of Ahab said to Jehoshaphat, “Let my men sail with yours,” but Jehoshaphat refused.
   50 Then Jehoshaphat rested with his ancestors and was buried with them in the city of David his father. And Jehoram his son succeeded him as king.
Ahaziah King of Israel
    51 Ahaziah son of Ahab became king of Israel in Samaria in the seventeenth year of Jehoshaphat king of Judah, and he reigned over Israel two years. 52 He did evil in the eyes of the LORD, because he followed the ways of his father and mother and of Jeroboam son of Nebat, who caused Israel to sin. 53 He served and worshiped Baal and aroused the anger of the LORD, the God of Israel, just as his father had done.

Luke 23

The Crucifixion of Jesus
    26 As the soldiers led him away, they seized Simon from Cyrene, who was on his way in from the country, and put the cross on him and made him carry it behind Jesus. 27 A large number of people followed him, including women who mourned and wailed for him. 28 Jesus turned and said to them, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me; weep for yourselves and for your children. 29 For the time will come when you will say, ‘Blessed are the childless women, the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed!’ 30Then
   “‘they will say to the mountains, “Fall on us!” 
   and to the hills, “Cover us!”’
   31 For if people do these things when the tree is green, what will happen when it is dry?”
   32 Two other men, both criminals, were also led out with him to be executed. 33 When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified him there, along with the criminals—one on his right, the other on his left. 34 Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” And they divided up his clothes by casting lots.
   35 The people stood watching, and the rulers even sneered at him. They said, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is God’s Messiah, the Chosen One.”
   36 The soldiers also came up and mocked him. They offered him wine vinegar 37 and said, “If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself.”
   38 There was a written notice above him, which read: THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS.
   39 One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!”
   40 But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? 41 We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.”
   42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
   43 Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”
The Death of Jesus
    44 It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, 45 for the sun stopped shining. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. 46 Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” When he had said this, he breathed his last.
   47 The centurion, seeing what had happened, praised God and said, “Surely this was a righteous man.” 48 When all the people who had gathered to witness this sight saw what took place, they beat their breasts and went away. 49 But all those who knew him, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance, watching these things.
The Burial of Jesus
    50 Now there was a man named Joseph, a member of the Council, a good and upright man, 51 who had not consented to their decision and action. He came from the Judean town of Arimathea, and he himself was waiting for the kingdom of God.52 Going to Pilate, he asked for Jesus’ body. 53 Then he took it down, wrapped it in linen cloth and placed it in a tomb cut in the rock, one in which no one had yet been laid. 54 It was Preparation Day, and the Sabbath was about to begin.
   55 The women who had come with Jesus from Galilee followed Joseph and saw the tomb and how his body was laid in it. 56 Then they went home and prepared spices and perfumes. But they rested on the Sabbath in obedience to the commandment.

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A glorious church

‘Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, that he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing.’ Ephesians 5:25–27
Suggested Further Reading: Jeremiah 31:1–331–34
A husband loves his wife with a constant love, and so does Christ his church. He will not cast her away tomorrow having loved her today. He does not vary in his affection. He may change in his display of affection, but the affection itself is still the same. A husband loves his wife with an enduring love; it never will die out: he says, ‘Till death us do part will I cherish thee;’ but Christ will not even let death part his love to his people. Nothing ‘shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.’ A husband loves his wife with a hearty love, with a love that is true and intense. It is not mere lip-service. He does not merely speak, but he acts; he is ready to provide for her wants; he will defend her character; he will vindicate her honour, because his heart is set upon her. It is not merely with the eye that he delights now and then to glance upon her, but his soul has her continually in his remembrance: she has a mansion in his heart from whence she can never be cast away. She has become a portion of himself; she is a member of his body, she is part of his flesh and of his bones; and so is the church to Christ for ever, an eternal spouse. He says, ‘Forget thee, I will not, I cannot …’ This church is only a church of Christ, because he has made her so. She had no right or title to his affection; he loved her because he chose to do so, and having once loved her, he never will divorce her: she shall be his, world without end.
For meditation: The institution of marriage has been marred by divorce and human hardness of heart (Matthew 19:3–9); but it was designed both to depict the relationship between Christ and the church (Ephesians 5:31–32 ) and to follow the example of that relationship (Ephesians 5:23–25).
Sermon no. 628
7 May (1865)

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Peace at home, and prosperity abroad

“He maketh peace in thy borders, and filleth thee with the finest of the wheat. He sendeth forth his commandment upon earth: his word runneth very swiftly.” Psalm 147:14-15
Suggested Further Reading: 1 Thessalonians 1
Suppose the pulpit in our land gives an uncertain sound. As a result God’s people begin to forsake the assembling of themselves together; no crowds gather to hear the Word; places begin to get empty; prayer-meetings become more and more deserted; the efforts of the Church may be still carried on, but they are merely a matter of routine; there is no life, no heart in it. I am supposing a case you see, a case which I trust we never may see. Things get worse and worse; the doctrines of the gospel become expunged and unknown; they that fear the Lord no more speak one to another. Still for a little time the money continues to be brought into the Society, and foreign missions are sustained. Can you not imagine in the next report, “We have had no converts this year; our income is still maintained; but notwithstanding that, our brethren feel that they are labouring under the greatest possible disadvantages; in fact, some of them wish to return home and renounce the work.” Another year—the missionary spirit has grown cold in the churches, its funds decrease. Another year, and yet another; it becomes a moot point among us as to whether missions are absolutely necessary or not. We have come at last to the more advanced point which some divines have already reached, and begin to question whether Mohammed and Confucius had not a revelation from God as well as Jesus Christ. And now we begin to say, “Is it needful that we should extend the gospel abroad at all? We have lost faith in it; we see it does nothing at home, shall we send that across the sea which is a drug on the market here, and distribute as a healing for the wounds of the daughters of Zidon and of Tyre that which has not healed the daughter of Jerusalem?”
For meditation: A healthy church is the light of the world; an unhealthy church will be as much use to the world as the seven churches of Revelation are today (Matthew 5:13-16).
Sermon no. 314 
7 May (Preached 9 May 1860)

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NATIONALISM

There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.Galatians 3:28
Satan has inspired rulers to try to force Christians to return to their former folk religions or the pagan gods of their ancestors—all in the name of patriotism or nationalism. Religious nationalism is where a particular territory or culture is staked out exclusively in religious terms.
Leaders say, “Only Hindus are allowed to stay in India.” Or, “You are a true Sri Lankan only if you are a Buddhist.” In such cases where religious nationalism reigns, Christians either must accept second-class citizen status, face daily discrimination, or leave.
Research done by Open Doors indicates that to establish a “religious state” the religious nationalists require four elements: a villain, a lie, a mob, and a vacuum. They need a “villain” who can unite the people with a powerful message; a “lie” (Christians are intolerant); a “mob” to create chaos (media support helps); and a “vacuum” (absence of moderates in power to control the nation).
Some in India and Nepal argue that their country is Hindu hence other religions are foreign and imperialistic. State assistance is denied to those who convert to non-Hindu religions.
At one point, the Mongolian State Intelligence Bureau described Christianity as a “foreign religion.” And today, Mongolia’s new laws imply that Christianity is “against Mongolian customs.”
In Mexico, a mayor of a community in the southern state of Chiapas has tried to justify the ongoing persecution of evangelicals with the claim that they “attack…our culture and traditions.” In reality, tens of thousands of Christians have been expelled from their homes for not joining in the syncretistic community spiritual activities.
Christians in an area of Swaziland were told by their chief that each Christian would be fined a cow for not attending the annual cultural ceremonies at the king’s royal cattle kraal. The chief announced that he had compiled a list of all his subjects who deliberately avoided two yearly ceremonies: the umhlanga (reed dance) and the incwala (first fruit). Pastors of churches accused of preaching against Swazi culture are among those fined. Pastors in the area plan to challenge the chief’s fines in a court of law.
Christians must avoid the mistake of identifying religion with nation, and nation with religion—even in the West. To do so severely hinders the growth of the Body of Christ where there is “neither Jew nor Greek.”
RESPONSE: I will not make the mistake of identifying religion with nation…and pray for those who do.
PRAYER: Pray for Christians who struggle to survive in the midst of religious nationalism and extreme patriotism.
Standing Strong Through The Storm (SSTS)
A daily devotional message by SSTS author Paul Estabrooks

© 2011 Open Doors International. Used by permission

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