Sunday, May 13, 2012

Daily Devotional Sunday 13th May

“A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies. She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness. Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her:”Proverbs 31:10, 27-28 NIV
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Morning and Evening by Charles Spurgeon

Morning

"Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning."
Psalm 30:5
Christian! If thou art in a night of trial, think of the morrow; cheer up thy heart with the thought of the coming of thy Lord. Be patient, for
"Lo! He comes with clouds descending."
Be patient! The Husbandman waits until he reaps his harvest. Be patient; for you know who has said, "Behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give to every man according as his work shall be." If you are never so wretched now, remember
"A few more rolling suns, at most,
Will land thee on fair Canaan's coast."
Thy head may be crowned with thorny troubles now, but it shall wear a starry crown ere long; thy hand may be filled with cares--it shall sweep the strings of the harp of heaven soon. Thy garments may be soiled with dust now; they shall be white by-and-by. Wait a little longer. Ah! how despicable our troubles and trials will seem when we look back upon them! Looking at them here in the prospect, they seem immense; but when we get to heaven we shall then
"With transporting joys recount,
The labours of our feet."
Our trials will then seem light and momentary afflictions. Let us go on boldly; if the night be never so dark, the morning cometh, which is more than they can say who are shut up in the darkness of hell. Do you know what it is thus to live on the future--to live on expectation--to antedate heaven? Happy believer, to have so sure, so comforting a hope. It may be all dark now, but it will soon be light; it may be all trial now, but it will soon be all happiness. What matters it though "weeping may endure for a night," when "joy cometh in the morning?"

Evening

"Thou art my portion, O Lord."
Psalm 119:57
Look at thy possessions, O believer, and compare thy portion with the lot of thy fellowmen. Some of them have their portion in the field; they are rich, and their harvests yield them a golden increase; but what are harvests compared with thy God, who is the God of harvests? What are bursting granaries compared with him, who is the Husbandman, and feeds thee with the bread of heaven? Some have their portion in the city; their wealth is abundant, and flows to them in constant streams, until they become a very reservoir of gold; but what is gold compared with thy God? Thou couldst not live on it; thy spiritual life could not be sustained by it. Put it on a troubled conscience, and could it allay its pangs? Apply it to a desponding heart, and see if it could stay a solitary groan, or give one grief the less? But thou hast God, and in him thou hast more than gold or riches ever could buy. Some have their portion in that which most men love--applause and fame; but ask thyself, is not thy God more to thee than that? What if a myriad clarions should be loud in thine applause, would this prepare thee to pass the Jordan, or cheer thee in prospect of judgment? No, there are griefs in life which wealth cannot alleviate; and there is the deep need of a dying hour, for which no riches can provide. But when thou hast God for thy portion, thou hast more than all else put together. In him every want is met, whether in life or in death. With God for thy portion thou art rich indeed, for he will supply thy need, comfort thy heart, assuage thy grief, guide thy steps, be with thee in the dark valley, and then take thee home, to enjoy him as thy portion forever. "I have enough," said Esau; this is the best thing a worldly man can say, but Jacob replies, "I have all things," which is a note too high for carnal minds.

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Today's reading: 2 Kings 15-16, John 3:1-18 (NIV)

View today's reading on Bible Gateway 
Azariah King of Judah
    1 In the twenty-seventh year of Jeroboam king of Israel, Azariah son of Amaziah king of Judah began to reign. 2 He was sixteen years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem fifty-two years. His mother’s name was Jekoliah; she was from Jerusalem. 3 He did what was right in the eyes of the LORD, just as his father Amaziah had done. 4 The high places, however, were not removed; the people continued to offer sacrifices and burn incense there.
   5 The LORD afflicted the king with leprosy until the day he died, and he lived in a separate house. Jotham the king’s son had charge of the palace and governed the people of the land.
   6 As for the other events of Azariah’s reign, and all he did, are they not written in the book of the annals of the kings of Judah? 7 Azariah rested with his ancestors and was buried near them in the City of David. And Jotham his son succeeded him as king.
Zechariah King of Israel
    8 In the thirty-eighth year of Azariah king of Judah, Zechariah son of Jeroboam became king of Israel in Samaria, and he reigned six months. 9 He did evil in the eyes of the LORD, as his predecessors had done. He did not turn away from the sins of Jeroboam son of Nebat, which he had caused Israel to commit.
   10 Shallum son of Jabesh conspired against Zechariah. He attacked him in front of the people, assassinated him and succeeded him as king. 11 The other events of Zechariah’s reign are written in the book of the annals of the kings of Israel.12 So the word of the LORD spoken to Jehu was fulfilled: “Your descendants will sit on the throne of Israel to the fourth generation.”
Shallum King of Israel
    13 Shallum son of Jabesh became king in the thirty-ninth year of Uzziah king of Judah, and he reigned in Samaria one month. 14 Then Menahem son of Gadi went from Tirzah up to Samaria. He attacked Shallum son of Jabesh in Samaria, assassinated him and succeeded him as king.
   15 The other events of Shallum’s reign, and the conspiracy he led, are written in the book of the annals of the kings of Israel.
   16 At that time Menahem, starting out from Tirzah, attacked Tiphsah and everyone in the city and its vicinity, because they refused to open their gates. He sacked Tiphsah and ripped open all the pregnant women.
Menahem King of Israel
    17 In the thirty-ninth year of Azariah king of Judah, Menahem son of Gadi became king of Israel, and he reigned in Samaria ten years. 18 He did evil in the eyes of the LORD. During his entire reign he did not turn away from the sins of Jeroboam son of Nebat, which he had caused Israel to commit.
   19 Then Pul king of Assyria invaded the land, and Menahem gave him a thousand talents of silver to gain his support and strengthen his own hold on the kingdom. 20 Menahem exacted this money from Israel. Every wealthy person had to contribute fifty shekels of silver to be given to the king of Assyria. So the king of Assyria withdrew and stayed in the land no longer.
   21 As for the other events of Menahem’s reign, and all he did, are they not written in the book of the annals of the kings of Israel? 22 Menahem rested with his ancestors. And Pekahiah his son succeeded him as king.
Pekahiah King of Israel
    23 In the fiftieth year of Azariah king of Judah, Pekahiah son of Menahem became king of Israel in Samaria, and he reigned two years. 24 Pekahiah did evil in the eyes of the LORD. He did not turn away from the sins of Jeroboam son of Nebat, which he had caused Israel to commit. 25 One of his chief officers, Pekah son of Remaliah, conspired against him. Taking fifty men of Gilead with him, he assassinated Pekahiah, along with Argob and Arieh, in the citadel of the royal palace at Samaria. So Pekah killed Pekahiah and succeeded him as king.
   26 The other events of Pekahiah’s reign, and all he did, are written in the book of the annals of the kings of Israel.
Pekah King of Israel
    27 In the fifty-second year of Azariah king of Judah, Pekah son of Remaliah became king of Israel in Samaria, and he reigned twenty years. 28 He did evil in the eyes of the LORD. He did not turn away from the sins of Jeroboam son of Nebat, which he had caused Israel to commit.
   29 In the time of Pekah king of Israel, Tiglath-Pileser king of Assyria came and took Ijon, Abel Beth Maakah, Janoah, Kedesh and Hazor. He took Gilead and Galilee, including all the land of Naphtali, and deported the people to Assyria. 30 Then Hoshea son of Elah conspired against Pekah son of Remaliah. He attacked and assassinated him, and then succeeded him as king in the twentieth year of Jotham son of Uzziah.
   31 As for the other events of Pekah’s reign, and all he did, are they not written in the book of the annals of the kings of Israel?
Jotham King of Judah
    32 In the second year of Pekah son of Remaliah king of Israel, Jotham son of Uzziah king of Judah began to reign. 33He was twenty-five years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem sixteen years. His mother’s name was Jerusha daughter of Zadok. 34 He did what was right in the eyes of the LORD, just as his father Uzziah had done. 35 The high places, however, were not removed; the people continued to offer sacrifices and burn incense there. Jotham rebuilt the Upper Gate of the temple of the LORD.
   36 As for the other events of Jotham’s reign, and what he did, are they not written in the book of the annals of the kings of Judah? 37 (In those days the LORD began to send Rezin king of Aram and Pekah son of Remaliah against Judah.) 38 Jotham rested with his ancestors and was buried with them in the City of David, the city of his father. And Ahaz his son succeeded him as king.

2 Kings 16

Ahaz King of Judah
    1 In the seventeenth year of Pekah son of Remaliah, Ahaz son of Jotham king of Judah began to reign. 2 Ahaz was twenty years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem sixteen years. Unlike David his father, he did not do what was right in the eyes of the LORD his God. 3 He followed the ways of the kings of Israel and even sacrificed his son in the fire, engaging in the detestable practices of the nations the LORD had driven out before the Israelites. 4 He offered sacrifices and burned incense at the high places, on the hilltops and under every spreading tree.
   5 Then Rezin king of Aram and Pekah son of Remaliah king of Israel marched up to fight against Jerusalem and besieged Ahaz, but they could not overpower him. 6 At that time, Rezin king of Aram recovered Elath for Aram by driving out the people of Judah. Edomites then moved into Elath and have lived there to this day.
   7 Ahaz sent messengers to say to Tiglath-Pileser king of Assyria, “I am your servant and vassal. Come up and save me out of the hand of the king of Aram and of the king of Israel, who are attacking me.” 8 And Ahaz took the silver and gold found in the temple of the LORD and in the treasuries of the royal palace and sent it as a gift to the king of Assyria. 9 The king of Assyria complied by attacking Damascus and capturing it. He deported its inhabitants to Kir and put Rezin to death.
   10 Then King Ahaz went to Damascus to meet Tiglath-Pileser king of Assyria. He saw an altar in Damascus and sent to Uriah the priest a sketch of the altar, with detailed plans for its construction. 11 So Uriah the priest built an altar in accordance with all the plans that King Ahaz had sent from Damascus and finished it before King Ahaz returned. 12 When the king came back from Damascus and saw the altar, he approached it and presented offerings on it. 13 He offered up his burnt offering and grain offering, poured out his drink offering, and splashed the blood of his fellowship offerings against the altar. 14 As for the bronze altar that stood before the LORD, he brought it from the front of the temple—from between the new altar and the temple of the LORD—and put it on the north side of the new altar.
   15 King Ahaz then gave these orders to Uriah the priest: “On the large new altar, offer the morning burnt offering and the evening grain offering, the king’s burnt offering and his grain offering, and the burnt offering of all the people of the land, and their grain offering and their drink offering. Splash against this altar the blood of all the burnt offerings and sacrifices. But I will use the bronze altar for seeking guidance.” 16 And Uriah the priest did just as King Ahaz had ordered.
   17 King Ahaz cut off the side panels and removed the basins from the movable stands. He removed the Sea from the bronze bulls that supported it and set it on a stone base. 18 He took away the Sabbath canopy that had been built at the temple and removed the royal entryway outside the temple of the LORD, in deference to the king of Assyria.
   19 As for the other events of the reign of Ahaz, and what he did, are they not written in the book of the annals of the kings of Judah? 20 Ahaz rested with his ancestors and was buried with them in the City of David. And Hezekiah his son succeeded him as king.

John 3

Jesus Teaches Nicodemus
    1 Now there was a Pharisee, a man named Nicodemus who was a member of the Jewish ruling council. 2 He came to Jesus at night and said, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the signs you are doing if God were not with him.”
   3 Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.
   4 “How can someone be born when they are old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!”
   5 Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. 6Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. 7You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ 8 The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”
   9 “How can this be?” Nicodemus asked.
   10 “You are Israel’s teacher,” said Jesus, “and do you not understand these things? 11 Very truly I tell you, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen, but still you people do not accept our testimony. 12 I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things? 13 No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven—the Son of Man. 14 Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, 15 that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.”
   16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.

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The Sign of Jonah

Matthew 12:38-42 "He answered them, 'An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah'" ( v. 39).
A Christian and his friend, who did not know Christ, were discussing Jesus and His claim to be the only way to the Father (John 14:6). The believer humbly shared the Gospel with his friend to no avail. "If only I could see Jesus do a miracle," the non-Christian said, "then I would believe Him."
Such conversations have occured repeatedly throughout history, beginning with Jesus and the scribes and the Pharisees. In today's passage, these scholars, no doubt enraged at His harsh words about them (Matt. 12:1-37), ask Jesus for "a sign" (v. 38 ) - a miracle that unambiguously demonstrates the messianic anointing of Jesus. Apparently, what He has done so far is not enough to convince these men. In their minds the Redeemer's works of deliverance could be attributed to Satan (v. 24). Even if this is not true, they do not think the exorcism of demons is so special since their disciples can also deliver people (v. 27).
The request is not necessarily wrong in itself; God gave Abraham a sign to confirm his faith ( Gen. 15). But Jesus knows nothing can convince the scribes and Pharisees. They only seek more ammunition to use against Him. Besides, Jesus will not "bark on command," nor will He satisfy their whims (Matt. 12:39). Matthew Henry comments, "Christ is always ready to hear and answer holy desires and prayers, yet he will not gratify corrupt lusts and humors."
Jesus does, however, promise the "sign of the prophet Jonah" (v. 39). Many first-century Jews believed the Ninevites repented when Jonah preached because they knew God spoke through him, and they knew this because they knew God saved him from drowning (Jonah 1:17-3:10). Similarly, Jesus' resurrection, which is like Jonah's rescue (Matt. 12:40), also signifies God's vindication of Him and affirms the truth of His words ( Rom. 1:1-4). Yet even this miracle will not be enough to make Jesus' hard-hearted contemporaries believe (Luke 16:31).
On judgment day, the generation that rejects God's Son will be condemned by the Ninevites and the "Queen of the South" (1 Kings 10:1-13Matt. 12:41-42). Ironically, these pagans turned to the true God, but most Israelites, who will see the greater sign of their Lord's resurrection, will not believe.

Coram deo: Living before the face of God

No miracle will ever be sufficient to engender faith within those who love their sin and refuse to turn to God. People are being insincere when they say they will believe if they see a miracle, for there is plenty of evidence of the truth of Jesus in the accounts of His resurrection, the spread of the Gospel, and the lives and societies changed by obedience to His message. Pray that you would always be able to see these proofs for the truth of our Lord's words.
For further study:
The Bible in a year:
For the weekend:
INTO the WORD daily Bible studies from TableTalk Magazine, Matthew Studies. Copyright © 2008 by Ligonier Ministries.
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A lesson from the great panic

‘The removing of those things that are shaken, as of things that are made, that those things which cannot be shaken may remain.’ Hebrews 12:27
Suggested Further Reading: 2 Peter 3:1–13
It is a most popular error that the world stands still, and is fixed and immovable. This has been scouted as an astronomical theory, but as a matter of practical principle it still reigns in men’s minds. Galileo said, ‘No, the world is not a fixed body, it moves;’ Peter had long before declared that all these things should be dissolved; at last men believed the astronomer, but they still doubt the apostle, or at least forget his doctrine. Though it is clear as noonday in Scripture and in experience that stability is not to be found beneath the moon, yet men are for ever building upon earth’s quicksand as if it were substantial rock, and heaping up its dust, as though it would not all be blown away. ‘This is the substance,’ cries the miser, as he clutches his bags of gold; ‘heaven and hell are myths to me.’ ‘This is the main chance,’ whispers the merchant, as he pushes vigorously his commercial speculations; ‘as for spiritual things they are for mere dreamers and sentimentalists. Cash is the true treasure.’ Ah, sirs, you base your statements upon a foundation of falsehood. This world is as certainly a mere revolving ball as to human life as it is astronomically; and hopes founded thereon will as surely come to nought as will card houses in a storm. Here we have no abiding city, and it is in vain to attempt to build one. This world is not the rock beneath our feet which it seems to be; it is no better than those green, but treacherous, soft, and bottomless bogs, which swallow up unwary travellers. We talk of terra firma as if there could be such a thing as solid earth; never was adjective more thoroughly misused, for ‘the world passeth away’ and the fashion thereof.
For meditation: Spurgeon’s sermons on 13 May 1866 (see also tomorrow’s reading) were occasioned by an unexpected commercial panic over the previous two days. We should not rest our hopes on earthly possessions for this life (Haggai 1:5–6Matthew 6:191 Timothy 6:17), let alone for the life to come (Luke 12:15–2116:19–23James 5:1–3).
Sermon no. 690 
13 May (1866)

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Thoughts on the last battle

“The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” 1 Corinthians 15:5657
Suggested Further Reading: Psalm 116
While the Bible is one of the most poetical of books, though its language is unutterably sublime, yet we must remark how constantly it is true to nature. There is no straining of a fact, no glossing over a truth. However dark may be the subject, while it lights it up with brilliance, yet it does not deny the gloom connected with it. If you will read this chapter of Paul’s epistle, so justly celebrated as a masterpiece of language, you will find him speaking of that which is to come after death with such exaltation and glory, that you feel, “If this be to die, then it were well to depart at once.” Who has not rejoiced, and whose heart has not been lifted up, or filled with a holy fire, while he has read such sentences as these: “In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. O Death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?” Yet with all that majestic language, with all that bold flight of eloquence, he does not deny that death is a gloomy thing. Even his very figures imply it. He does not laugh at it; he does not say, “Oh, it is nothing to die;” he describes death as a monster; he speaks of it as having a sting; he tells us wherein the strength of that sting lies; and even in the exclamation of triumph he imputes that victory not to unaided flesh, but he says, “Thanks be to God which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
For meditation: Death is no laughing matter, but for the Christian it need not be a crying matter either (1 Thessalonians 4:1314).
Sermon no. 23
13 May (1855)

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Giving to the God Who Has Everything

Today's reading: Psalm 50:1-23
We've heard or asked it again and again: "What do you give the person who has everything?" The very need to frame this question should alert us that something is wrong in our society. Psalm 50, though, teaches us how to give to the God who does indeed have everything.
As Christians, we have much to learn from God's judgment inPsalm 50:7-16 against the "religious" community. The Lord does not rebuke these people for failing to meet his minimal requirements for sacrifices and offerings (see v. 8). Instead, God reproaches them for blatant sin and ingratitude (see vv. 17-20).
So, how do we give to the God who has everything? By giving to those who have nothing (see Mt 25:44-45) and by praising him for his blessings to us (see 2Co 8:9).
Devotional writer Selwyn Hughes (1928-2006) makes an important point about the sacrifice of generosity prompted by gratitude:
If in reality we don't own our possessions, then the obvious thing is to acknowledge this in a prayer to God. Have the sense to say to God, "I am not the owner, I am the ower." A businessman said, "I've prospered in my business; now my task is to know how much I can keep for my own use." That's the right order. How much can I keep for myself? For everything I needlessly spend on myself is taken from some other person's need.
Management guru Ken Blanchard and CEO S. Truett Cathy contrast the ideas of success and significance:
The successful person has learned how to make money, but the significant person has learned how to give it away-how to be generous, to share the blessings of money with those who are in need or those who help meet a variety of social and humanitarian needs.
The successful person has achieved great things-sadly sometimes at the expense of others. He or she is proud of what has already been accomplished. The significant person understands that the greatest thing anyone can accomplish is to serve others and to help them achieve their goals.
Finally, successful people have attained a measure of status. Others look up to them and maybe even see them as role models. We often discover later that those who have become our role models let us down ... In direct contrast, the significant person is one who values relationships. They become trusted friends and invaluable mentors, and they invest their time in others rather than in striving to build status.

Think About It

  • The people in this psalm were offering sacrifices and giving to God, but God was displeased with their hearts. How might you ensure your attitudes and lifestyle are in keeping with God's desires for your life?
  • How does the knowledge that God owns everything prompt you to view what you "own"?
  • What do you feel is your obligation to others in light of God's censure to the people in Psalm 50?

Pray About It

God, I do not own anything. It is all yours. Show me how much I should keep for myself and what I should give back to you.
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BLESSINGS FOR PARENTS AND CHILDREN

He will turn the hearts of the parents to their children, and the hearts of the children to their parents…Malachi 4:6a
ManFu’s parents are key leaders in a house church network—his father serves as a regional pastor in one of the largest cities in China, and his mother is a Bible teacher. They travel constantly, preaching and teaching at a different congregation almost every weekend. Their little pre-school daughter goes along, but it’s not a stable environment for ManFu, their teenage son, to keep up with his studies. So they enrolled him in a boarding school in his father’s home village, so he could spend weekends with his grandfather.
They pledged to telephone him every Saturday night, but for itinerant pastors in China, Saturday nights are busy, demanding times. ManFu’s parents would sometimes get so caught up with ministry that they missed their weekly call to their son—sometimes three in a row. And even then, they often cut off what he was telling them with a hurried barrage of questions which felt critical and unloving to their son. Although their questions were rooted in concern for his welfare, to ManFu each conversation felt like an interrogation, and he began to wish they would stop calling. His parents became frantic as to how they could effectively reach out to him.
Brother Samuel, an Open Doors trainer, suggested they begin by writing a letter to their son, pouring out their hopes and love and prayers for him. “Share about the struggles you have and how much you long for him to be by your side. Help him to see all that is in your heart. Kneel before the Lord and pray before you begin this letter. Don’t mention the past. Whenever your son thinks of you, he will take the letter out and read it and know his parents are praying for him.”
Accepting their mentor’s assignment, they went home to write to their first-born, hundreds of miles away. Unknown to the parents, their letter never arrived. But by the time they found out, they told Samuel, it didn’t matter anymore. Their phone conversations had been transformed week after week, as the parents focused on sharing their love and prayers for ManFu. Although the letter itself was lost, its contents had been written in their hearts—and ManFu felt their love.
When ManFu’s summer school vacation approached, Samuel advised the anxious parents to set aside special family times to do things together. “It doesn’t matter where you go – to the park or for walks – butyou must take a family photograph,” he advised. “Then take one photograph and write on the back of it for your son to take back to school with him. Whenever he looks at it, he will be reminded of his parents and that you love him.”
When Samuel shared this testimony with pastors in other regions, many admitted that they also had strained relationships with their children. Confused how to resolve the guilt they were experiencing, they had simply given up—until they heard how God worked in ManFu’s family.
“It’s amazing to see parents being set free and healed from their feelings of guilt, to see them turn to God and experience His love,” Samuel said. “And this in turn blessed their children.”
RESPONSE: Today I will work on communications with family members to assure them of my love.
PRAYER: Pray for mentors like Samuel whostrengthen pastors and their families in China’s unregistered church through balanced, holistic ministry.
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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What Jesus Says About Divorce

Some Pharisees came to [Jesus] to test him. They asked, "Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?"
Matthew 19:3
When married people face dark times in their marriage, they may quietly sort through the ramifications of divorce. Knowing what the Bible says is critical in that process. But couples also need to figure out how to respond to friends and family who divorce. Do we need to know all the details in order to know who to support? Do we have to choose sides? What do we do when a friend divorces and then remarries? Should we go to the wedding?
As a pastor, I don't think there is any life situation harder to sort out than divorce. Every story is different. Every situation is painful. It isn't always easy to determine if there is a "guilty party." How to weave compassion, grace and righteousness together often confounds me. Christians who take the Bible seriously and who earnestly want to please the Lord don't always come to the same conclusions. But one thing is certain: We need to consider what Jesus has to say about divorce and remarriage, particularly in Matthew 19.
Divorces in Jesus' day make our "quickie" divorces of today look positively glacial. A man could divorce his wife, as verse 3 says, "for any and every reason," at least according to one school of Jewish thought. (Others took a stricter view.) As we are all wont to do, these Pharisees who questioned Jesus wanted to know exactly what reasons justified getting a divorce. But the question was loaded; these Pharisees apparently were among those who used the Law of Moses (specifically Deuteronomy 24:1-4) as proof that divorce for any reason was lawful.
Jesus' response was that Moses allowed divorce, not to give permission for divorce, but to solve the problem of marital infidelity. Something has to be done when sin utterly poisons the covenant relationship of marriage. Jesus said that sexual immorality (sure evidence of a hard heart) can so poison the covenant of marriage that the innocent party can be released from the marriage commitment.
While Matthew 19 can stir up as many questions as it answers, there are some inescapable conclusions: First, divorce is rarely a solution for followers of Jesus to consider. Rather, we are to cultivate marriages with the grace and truth of God so that they may shine forth the love of Jesus to the world around us. We are not to be like the Pharisees, who tried to push the limits of the law as far as it would go.
Second, we are to become marriage builders among our friends and family. We know how hard and even hopeless marriage can seem sometimes, but we are to be agents of grace and truth to these struggling friends, helping them find hope and help, praying with them and providing a haven away from the tension.
Third, we should affirm those who choose to remain single for the sake of the kingdom, as Jesus did in this passage. Singles don't need our sympathy; they deserve our respect! Those who remain single and single-mindedly serve Christ are models to us all.
Lee Eclov

Let's Talk

  • Whom do we know who has divorced or is going through a divorce right now? What makes divorce so complicated for Christians to respond to?
  • What does repeated sexual immorality do to a marriage? When does the damage become irreparable? How do some couples recover from such sin?
  • How could we honor a single person we know who serves God with undivided attention?
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