Sunday, May 20, 2012

Daily Devotional Sunday 20th May

“But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.” James 3:17-18 NIV
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Morning and Evening by Charles Spurgeon

Morning

"Marvellous lovingkindness."
Psalm 17:7
When we give our hearts with our alms, we give well, but we must often plead to a failure in this respect. Not so our Master and our Lord. His favours are always performed with the love of his heart. He does not send to us the cold meat and the broken pieces from the table of his luxury, but he dips our morsel in his own dish, and seasons our provisions with the spices of his fragrant affections. When he puts the golden tokens of his grace into our palms, he accompanies the gift with such a warm pressure of our hand, that the manner of his giving is as precious as the boon itself. He will come into our houses upon his errands of kindness, and he will not act as some austere visitors do in the poor man's cottage, but he sits by our side, not despising our poverty, nor blaming our weakness. Beloved, with what smiles does he speak! What golden sentences drop from his gracious lips! What embraces of affection does he bestow upon us! If he had but given us farthings, the way of his giving would have gilded them; but as it is, the costly alms are set in a golden basket by his pleasant carriage. It is impossible to doubt the sincerity of his charity, for there is a bleeding heart stamped upon the face of all his benefactions. He giveth liberally and upbraideth not. Not one hint that we are burdensome to him; not one cold look for his poor pensioners; but he rejoices in his mercy, and presses us to his bosom while he is pouring out his life for us. There is a fragrance in his spikenard which nothing but his heart could produce; there is a sweetness in his honey-comb which could not be in it unless the very essence of his soul's affection had been mingled with it. Oh! the rare communion which such singular heartiness effecteth! May we continually taste and know the blessedness of it!

Evening

"I drew them with cords of a man, with bands of love."
Hosea 11:4
Our heavenly Father often draws us with the cords of love; but ah! how backward we are to run towards him! How slowly do we respond to his gentle impulses! He draws us to exercise a more simple faith in him; but we have not yet attained to Abraham's confidence; we do not leave our worldly cares with God, but, like Martha, we cumber ourselves with much serving. Our meagre faith brings leanness into our souls; we do not open our mouths wide, though God has promised to fill them. Does he not this evening draw us to trust him? Can we not hear him say, "Come, my child, and trust me. The veil is rent; enter into my presence, and approach boldly to the throne of my grace. I am worthy of thy fullest confidence, cast thy cares on me. Shake thyself from the dust of thy cares, and put on thy beautiful garments of joy." But, alas! though called with tones of love to the blessed exercise of this comforting grace, we will not come. At another time he draws us to closer communion with himself. We have been sitting on the doorstep of God's house, and he bids us advance into the banqueting hall and sup with him, but we decline the honour. There are secret rooms not yet opened to us; Jesus invites us to enter them, but we hold back. Shame on our cold hearts! We are but poor lovers of our sweet Lord Jesus, not fit to be his servants, much less to be his brides, and yet he hath exalted us to be bone of his bone and flesh of his flesh, married to him by a glorious marriage-covenant. Herein is love! But it is love which takes no denial. If we obey not the gentle drawings of his love, he will send affliction to drive us into closer intimacy with himself. Have us nearer he will. What foolish children we are to refuse those bands of love, and so bring upon our backs that scourge of small cords, which Jesus knows how to use!

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Today's reading: 1 Chronicles 7-9, John 6:22-44 (NIV)

View today's reading on Bible Gateway 
Issachar
    The sons of Issachar:
   Tola, Puah, Jashub and Shimron—four in all.
   2 The sons of Tola: 
   Uzzi, Rephaiah, Jeriel, Jahmai, Ibsam and Samuel—heads of their families. During the reign of David, the descendants of Tola listed as fighting men in their genealogy numbered 22,600.
   3 The son of Uzzi: 
   Izrahiah.
   The sons of Izrahiah: 
   Michael, Obadiah, Joel and Ishiah. All five of them were chiefs. 4 According to their family genealogy, they had 36,000 men ready for battle, for they had many wives and children.
   5 The relatives who were fighting men belonging to all the clans of Issachar, as listed in their genealogy, were 87,000 in all.
Benjamin
    Three sons of Benjamin: 
   Bela, Beker and Jediael.
   7 The sons of Bela: 
   Ezbon, Uzzi, Uzziel, Jerimoth and Iri, heads of families—five in all. Their genealogical record listed 22,034 fighting men.
   8 The sons of Beker: 
   Zemirah, Joash, Eliezer, Elioenai, Omri, Jeremoth, Abijah, Anathoth and Alemeth. All these were the sons of Beker. 9Their genealogical record listed the heads of families and 20,200 fighting men.
   10 The son of Jediael: 
   Bilhan.
   The sons of Bilhan: 
   Jeush, Benjamin, Ehud, Kenaanah, Zethan, Tarshish and Ahishahar. 11 All these sons of Jediael were heads of families. There were 17,200 fighting men ready to go out to war.
   12 The Shuppites and Huppites were the descendants of Ir, and the Hushites the descendants of Aher.
Naphtali
    13 The sons of Naphtali: 
   Jahziel, Guni, Jezer and Shillem—the descendants of Bilhah.
Manasseh
    14 The descendants of Manasseh: 
   Asriel was his descendant through his Aramean concubine. She gave birth to Makir the father of Gilead. 15 Makir took a wife from among the Huppites and Shuppites. His sister’s name was Maakah. 
   Another descendant was named Zelophehad, who had only daughters. 
   16 Makir’s wife Maakah gave birth to a son and named him Peresh. His brother was named Sheresh, and his sons were Ulam and Rakem.
   17 The son of Ulam: 
   Bedan.
   These were the sons of Gilead son of Makir, the son of Manasseh. 18 His sister Hammoleketh gave birth to Ishhod, Abiezer and Mahlah.
   19 The sons of Shemida were: 
   Ahian, Shechem, Likhi and Aniam.
Ephraim
    20 The descendants of Ephraim: 
   Shuthelah, Bered his son, 
   Tahath his son, Eleadah his son, 
   Tahath his son, 21 Zabad his son 
   and Shuthelah his son. 
   Ezer and Elead were killed by the native-born men of Gath, when they went down to seize their livestock. 22 Their father Ephraim mourned for them many days, and his relatives came to comfort him. 23 Then he made love to his wife again, and she became pregnant and gave birth to a son. He named him Beriah, because there had been misfortune in his family. 24 His daughter was Sheerah, who built Lower and Upper Beth Horon as well as Uzzen Sheerah.
   25 Rephah was his son, Resheph his son, 
   Telah his son, Tahan his son, 
   26 Ladan his son, Ammihud his son, 
   Elishama his son, 27 Nun his son 
   and Joshua his son.
   28 Their lands and settlements included Bethel and its surrounding villages, Naaran to the east, Gezer and its villages to the west, and Shechem and its villages all the way to Ayyah and its villages. 29 Along the borders of Manasseh were Beth Shan, Taanach, Megiddo and Dor, together with their villages. The descendants of Joseph son of Israel lived in these towns.
Asher
    30 The sons of Asher: 
   Imnah, Ishvah, Ishvi and Beriah. Their sister was Serah.
   31 The sons of Beriah: 
   Heber and Malkiel, who was the father of Birzaith.
   32 Heber was the father of Japhlet, Shomer and Hotham and of their sister Shua.
   33 The sons of Japhlet: 
   Pasak, Bimhal and Ashvath. 
   These were Japhlet’s sons.
    34 The sons of Shomer: 
   Ahi, Rohgah, Hubbah and Aram.
   35 The sons of his brother Helem: 
   Zophah, Imna, Shelesh and Amal.
   36 The sons of Zophah: 
   Suah, Harnepher, Shual, Beri, Imrah, 37 Bezer, Hod, Shamma, Shilshah, Ithran and Beera.
   38 The sons of Jether: 
   Jephunneh, Pispah and Ara.
   39 The sons of Ulla: 
   Arah, Hanniel and Rizia.
   40 All these were descendants of Asher—heads of families, choice men, brave warriors and outstanding leaders. The number of men ready for battle, as listed in their genealogy, was 26,000.

1 Chronicles 8

The Genealogy of Saul the Benjamite
    1 Benjamin was the father of Bela his firstborn,
   Ashbel the second son, Aharah the third, 
   2 Nohah the fourth and Rapha the fifth.
   3 The sons of Bela were: 
   Addar, Gera, Abihud, 4 Abishua, Naaman, Ahoah, 5 Gera, Shephuphan and Huram.
   These were the descendants of Ehud, who were heads of families of those living in Geba and were deported to Manahath:
   7 Naaman, Ahijah, and Gera, who deported them and who was the father of Uzza and Ahihud.
   8 Sons were born to Shaharaim in Moab after he had divorced his wives Hushim and Baara. 9 By his wife Hodesh he had Jobab, Zibia, Mesha, Malkam, 10 Jeuz, Sakia and Mirmah. These were his sons, heads of families. 11 By Hushim he had Abitub and Elpaal.
    12 The sons of Elpaal: 
   Eber, Misham, Shemed (who built Ono and Lod with its surrounding villages), 13 and Beriah and Shema, who were heads of families of those living in Aijalon and who drove out the inhabitants of Gath.
   14 Ahio, Shashak, Jeremoth, 15 Zebadiah, Arad, Eder, 16Michael, Ishpah and Joha were the sons of Beriah.
   17 Zebadiah, Meshullam, Hizki, Heber, 18 Ishmerai, Izliah and Jobab were the sons of Elpaal.
   19 Jakim, Zikri, Zabdi, 20 Elienai, Zillethai, Eliel, 21 Adaiah, Beraiah and Shimrath were the sons of Shimei.
   22 Ishpan, Eber, Eliel, 23 Abdon, Zikri, Hanan, 24 Hananiah, Elam, Anthothijah, 25 Iphdeiah and Penuel were the sons of Shashak.
   26 Shamsherai, Shehariah, Athaliah, 27 Jaareshiah, Elijah and Zikri were the sons of Jeroham.
    28 All these were heads of families, chiefs as listed in their genealogy, and they lived in Jerusalem.
   29 Jeiel the father of Gibeon lived in Gibeon. 
   His wife’s name was Maakah, 30 and his firstborn son was Abdon, followed by Zur, Kish, Baal, Ner,[j] Nadab, 31 Gedor, Ahio, Zeker 32 and Mikloth, who was the father of Shimeah. They too lived near their relatives in Jerusalem.
    33 Ner was the father of Kish, Kish the father of Saul, and Saul the father of Jonathan, Malki-Shua, Abinadab and Esh-Baal.
   34 The son of Jonathan: 
   Merib-Baal, who was the father of Micah.
   35 The sons of Micah: 
   Pithon, Melek, Tarea and Ahaz. 
   36 Ahaz was the father of Jehoaddah, Jehoaddah was the father of Alemeth, Azmaveth and Zimri, and Zimri was the father of Moza. 37 Moza was the father of Binea; Raphah was his son, Eleasah his son and Azel his son.
   38 Azel had six sons, and these were their names: 
   Azrikam, Bokeru, Ishmael, Sheariah, Obadiah and Hanan. All these were the sons of Azel.
   39 The sons of his brother Eshek: 
   Ulam his firstborn, Jeush the second son and Eliphelet the third. 40 The sons of Ulam were brave warriors who could handle the bow. They had many sons and grandsons—150 in all.
   All these were the descendants of Benjamin.

1 Chronicles 9

   1 All Israel was listed in the genealogies recorded in the book of the kings of Israel and Judah. They were taken captive to Babylon because of their unfaithfulness.
The People in Jerusalem
    2 Now the first to resettle on their own property in their own towns were some Israelites, priests, Levites and temple servants.
   3 Those from Judah, from Benjamin, and from Ephraim and Manasseh who lived in Jerusalem were:
   4 Uthai son of Ammihud, the son of Omri, the son of Imri, the son of Bani, a descendant of Perez son of Judah.
   5 Of the Shelanites: 
   Asaiah the firstborn and his sons.
   6 Of the Zerahites: 
   Jeuel. 
   The people from Judah numbered 690.
   7 Of the Benjamites: 
   Sallu son of Meshullam, the son of Hodaviah, the son of Hassenuah; 
   8 Ibneiah son of Jeroham; Elah son of Uzzi, the son of Mikri; and Meshullam son of Shephatiah, the son of Reuel, the son of Ibnijah. 
   9 The people from Benjamin, as listed in their genealogy, numbered 956. All these men were heads of their families.
   10 Of the priests: 
   Jedaiah; Jehoiarib; Jakin; 
   11 Azariah son of Hilkiah, the son of Meshullam, the son of Zadok, the son of Meraioth, the son of Ahitub, the official in charge of the house of God; 
   12 Adaiah son of Jeroham, the son of Pashhur, the son of Malkijah; and Maasai son of Adiel, the son of Jahzerah, the son of Meshullam, the son of Meshillemith, the son of Immer. 
   13 The priests, who were heads of families, numbered 1,760. They were able men, responsible for ministering in the house of God.
   14 Of the Levites: 
   Shemaiah son of Hasshub, the son of Azrikam, the son of Hashabiah, a Merarite; 15 Bakbakkar, Heresh, Galal and Mattaniah son of Mika, the son of Zikri, the son of Asaph; 16Obadiah son of Shemaiah, the son of Galal, the son of Jeduthun; and Berekiah son of Asa, the son of Elkanah, who lived in the villages of the Netophathites.
   17 The gatekeepers: 
   Shallum, Akkub, Talmon, Ahiman and their fellow Levites, Shallum their chief 18 being stationed at the King’s Gate on the east, up to the present time. These were the gatekeepers belonging to the camp of the Levites. 19 Shallum son of Kore, the son of Ebiasaph, the son of Korah, and his fellow gatekeepers from his family (the Korahites) were responsible for guarding the thresholds of the tent just as their ancestors had been responsible for guarding the entrance to the dwelling of the LORD. 20 In earlier times Phinehas son of Eleazar was the official in charge of the gatekeepers, and the LORD was with him. 21 Zechariah son of Meshelemiah was the gatekeeper at the entrance to the tent of meeting.
   22 Altogether, those chosen to be gatekeepers at the thresholds numbered 212. They were registered by genealogy in their villages. The gatekeepers had been assigned to their positions of trust by David and Samuel the seer. 23 They and their descendants were in charge of guarding the gates of the house of the LORD—the house called the tent of meeting. 24The gatekeepers were on the four sides: east, west, north and south. 25 Their fellow Levites in their villages had to come from time to time and share their duties for seven-day periods. 26But the four principal gatekeepers, who were Levites, were entrusted with the responsibility for the rooms and treasuries in the house of God. 27 They would spend the night stationed around the house of God, because they had to guard it; and they had charge of the key for opening it each morning.
   28 Some of them were in charge of the articles used in the temple service; they counted them when they were brought in and when they were taken out. 29 Others were assigned to take care of the furnishings and all the other articles of the sanctuary, as well as the special flour and wine, and the olive oil, incense and spices. 30 But some of the priests took care of mixing the spices. 31 A Levite named Mattithiah, the firstborn son of Shallum the Korahite, was entrusted with the responsibility for baking the offering bread. 32 Some of the Kohathites, their fellow Levites, were in charge of preparing for every Sabbath the bread set out on the table.
   33 Those who were musicians, heads of Levite families, stayed in the rooms of the temple and were exempt from other duties because they were responsible for the work day and night.
   34 All these were heads of Levite families, chiefs as listed in their genealogy, and they lived in Jerusalem.
The Genealogy of Saul
    35 Jeiel the father of Gibeon lived in Gibeon. 
   His wife’s name was Maakah, 36 and his firstborn son was Abdon, followed by Zur, Kish, Baal, Ner, Nadab, 37 Gedor, Ahio, Zechariah and Mikloth. 38 Mikloth was the father of Shimeam. They too lived near their relatives in Jerusalem.
   39 Ner was the father of Kish, Kish the father of Saul, and Saul the father of Jonathan, Malki-Shua, Abinadab and Esh-Baal.
   40 The son of Jonathan: 
   Merib-Baal, who was the father of Micah.
   41 The sons of Micah: 
   Pithon, Melek, Tahrea and Ahaz.
   42 Ahaz was the father of Jadah, Jadah was the father of Alemeth, Azmaveth and Zimri, and Zimri was the father of Moza. 43 Moza was the father of Binea; Rephaiah was his son, Eleasah his son and Azel his son.
   44 Azel had six sons, and these were their names: 
   Azrikam, Bokeru, Ishmael, Sheariah, Obadiah and Hanan. These were the sons of Azel.

John 6

   22 The next day the crowd that had stayed on the opposite shore of the lake realized that only one boat had been there, and that Jesus had not entered it with his disciples, but that they had gone away alone. 23 Then some boats from Tiberias landed near the place where the people had eaten the bread after the Lord had given thanks. 24 Once the crowd realized that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they got into the boats and went to Capernaum in search of Jesus.
Jesus the Bread of Life
    25 When they found him on the other side of the lake, they asked him, “Rabbi, when did you get here?”
   26 Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw the signs I performed but because you ate the loaves and had your fill. 27 Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on him God the Father has placed his seal of approval.”
   28 Then they asked him, “What must we do to do the works God requires?”
   29 Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.”
   30 So they asked him, “What sign then will you give that we may see it and believe you? What will you do? 31 Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written: ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’”
   32 Jesus said to them, “Very truly I tell you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is the bread that comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”
   34 “Sir,” they said, “always give us this bread.”
   35 Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. 36 But as I told you, you have seen me and still you do not believe. 37 All those the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. 38 For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. 39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all those he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. 40 For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.”
   41 At this the Jews there began to grumble about him because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” 42 They said, “Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he now say, ‘I came down from heaven’?”
   43 “Stop grumbling among yourselves,” Jesus answered. 44“No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them, and I will raise them up at the last day.

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Angels as Messengers

Luke 1:5-38 "The angel answered him, 'I am Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God, and I was sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news'" ( v. 19).
We have noted that angelos is the Greek word normally translated into English as "angel." Basically, angelos means "one who brings a message," and it often refers to human messengers as well as the heavenly host. The biblical authors' use of angelos when recounting angelic appearances indicates that a chief task of these supernatural creatures is to bring a message from on high.
This angelic role is clear in today's passage, which describes Gabriel's visit to Zechariah and Mary to announce the births of John the Baptist and Jesus, respectively ( Luke 1:5-38). Gabriel is a special emissary, privileged to stand in God's presence and carry our Father's word to His servants (v. 19). To receive a visit from an angel is a unique experience, and that explains Zechariah's fear when Gabriel appeared (vv. 5-12). Contrary to what we might think, angels did not appear before the biblical saints on a regular basis; they only showed themselves to God's people when they were needed to announce a specific advance in the Lord's plan of salvation (for example, Gen. 18:1-15). When Gabriel revealed himself to Zechariah, he commanded the priest to name his son "John" and to keep him away from strong drink (Luke 1:13-17 ). Significantly, to dictate what someone will be named is, in biblical categories, to take authority over him. Yet Gabriel did not claim possession of John for himself. He was speaking on behalf of God Almighty. As a mouthpiece for the Creator, Gabriel and the other angels are invested with God's authority because they speak God's commands.
Centuries before Gabriel was sent to Zechariah and Mary, Joshua met another heavenly messenger - "the commander of the army of the Lord" (Josh. 5:13-14a ). Angels are not to be worshiped because they are sent from God and are not God Himself. But in this case, Joshua worships the commander (vv. 14b-15). Though angels are created beings, church tradition has seen in this episode an encounter between Joshua and a pre-incarnate manifestation of the Son of God since Joshua is not rebuked for praising the angel like others are rebuked for angel worship elsewhere (Rev. 22:8-9 ). Many scholars throughout church history have identified the "angel of the Lord" with Jesus Himself.

Coram deo: Living before the face of God

Interest in angels is at an all-time high in our culture, and many people long to have an encounter with them. However, while seeing an angel would be a remarkable event, even the angels themselves are far more concerned that we heed God's messages to us than they are that we see them face to face. We have in Scripture a message from the Lord delivered through the angels (Heb. 2:1-4 ). It is that message we must trust and obey.
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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Joy and peace in believing

‘Joy and peace in believing.’ Romans 15:13
Suggested Further Reading: Ezekiel 13:1–16
You must take care, while valuing joy and peace, that you do not overestimate them; for, remember that joy and peace are, though eminently desirable, not infallible evidences of safety. There are many persons who have great joy and much peace who are not saved, for their joy springs from a mistake, and their peace is the false peace which does not rest upon the rock of divine truth but upon the sand of their own imaginations. It is certainly a good sign that the spring is come, that you find the weather to be so warm, but there are very mild days in winter. I must not therefore infer because the heat of the sun is at such and such a degree, that therefore it is necessarily spring. And, on the other hand, we have had very cold days this week—cold days which, if we had to judge by such evidences, might have indicated to us that we were rather in November than in May. And so, joy and peace are like fine sunny days. They come to those that have no faith, that are in the winter of their unbelief, and they may not visit you who have believed; or, if they come, they may not abide, for there may be cold weather in May, and there may be some sorrow and some distress even to a truly believing soul. Understand, that you must not look upon the possession of joy and peace as being the absolutely necessary consequence of your being saved. A man may be in the lifeboat, but that lifeboat may be so tossed about that he may still feel himself exceedingly ill, and think himself to be still in peril. It is not his sense of safety that makes him safe; he is safe because he is in the lifeboat, whether he is sensible of this or not.
For meditationLuke 16:25; the Christian may have a tough time in this life, but the best is yet to come (Romans 8:182 Corinthians 4:17Hebrews 12:111 Peter 5:10). The unbeliever may have a good time in this life, but the worst is yet to come (Psalm 73:3–5,17–20).
Sermon no. 692
20 May (1866)

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The hope of future bliss

“As for me, I will behold thy face in righteousness: I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with thy likeness.” Psalm 17:15
Suggested Further Reading: Revelation 7:13-17
He will be satisfied, the Psalmist says, when he wakes up in God’s likeness. Satisfaction! This is another joy for the Christian when he shall enter heaven. Here we are never thoroughly satisfied. True, the Christian is satisfied from himself; he has that within which is a well-spring of comfort, and he can enjoy solid satisfaction. But heaven is the home of true and real satisfaction. When the believer enters heaven I believe his imagination will be thoroughly satisfied. All he has ever thought of he will there see; every holy idea will be solidified; every mighty conception will become a reality; every glorious imagination will become a tangible thing that he can see. His imagination will not be able to think of anything better than heaven; and should he sit down through eternity, he would not be able to conceive of anything that should outshine the lustre of that glorious city. His imagination will be satisfied. Then his intellect will be satisfied.
“Then shall I see, and hear, and know, All I desired, or wished, below.”
Who is satisfied with his knowledge here? Are there not secrets we want to know—depths of the secrets of nature that we have not entered? But in that glorious state we shall know as much as we want to know. The memory will be satisfied. We shall look back upon the vista of past years, and we shall be content with whatever we endured, or did, or suffered on earth.
“There, on a green and flowery mount, My wearied soul shall sit,
And with transporting joys recount, The labours of my feet.”
Hope will be satisfied, if there be such a thing in heaven. We shall hope for a future eternity, and believe in it. But we shall be satisfied as to our hope continually.
For meditation: The difference between now and then is beyond our finest imaginations (1 Corinthians 13:121 John 3:2).
Sermon no. 25
20 May (1855)

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Come and See!

Today's reading: Psalm 66:1-20
In Psalms 65 and 66, the psalmist recounts all that God has done and all that he has created. In jubilant psalms of praise, the psalmist describes God's "awesome and righteous deeds" (Ps 65:5), God's power displayed in his creation, God's abundance in caring for the land and watering it, God's bounty in providing for humankind and animals alike. "Come and see what God has done," he says in Psalm 66. "his awesome deeds for mankind" (Ps 66:5). Physician and author J. Matthew Sleeth invites us to share the healing that comes from bearing witness to the miracle of God's creation:
When the psalmists advise us how to heal spiritually, they do not tell us to purchase a television, car, house, self-help book, or exercise equipment. God, they say, is to be found in the natural world that he created, a world filled with the grandeur, beauty, and peace that are so often lacking in our material world.
What remedy does God prescribe for our souls? [Quiet] waters and green pastures (see Ps 23:2). Find a place where there is nothing man-made in sight. Sit or lie down. Be still, and know who God is (see Ps 46:10). Do not pray. Do not worry. Do not think. Your house, your cell phone, and your new kitchen do not give glory to God. The Bible states that if it is God-made (streams, mountains, birds, trees), it praises God ... When only God-made things surround you, you are in a fellowship of praise.
If you live in a city, try to find one small area that consists of only God-made things. If you must, lie on your stomach and stare at a one-square-foot area. If there is noise or highway sound, put your hands over your ears. You will hear the sound of your own pulse and breath. That's okay. And that's the point. You are God-made. We have forgotten that we have far more in common with a honeybee than we do with our SUV or DVD ...
Perhaps many of our problems, including those of depression and anxiety, are warning signals that we are living a lifestyle that God does not sanction or want us to lead. The response to mental pain and discomfort should be to seek restoring connection with God. In seeking quiet moments, green pastures, and still waters, we may find just what our souls need.
Do you know in which direction the Milky Way traverses the sky? As the phases of the moon progress, does the light go from right to left, or left to right? Can you identify a greater number of trees or cars? If the Bible says God knows every flower and bird, why do we spend so much effort knowing the names of man-made items? Maybe we're paying attention to the wrong things. Maybe this is why life seems so hard. If this is our Father's world, maybe we should pay more attention to it.

Think About It

  • In what ways does your culture and lifestyle distract you from God's created world?
  • In what ways does God's creation reflect his glory?
  • What within you needs healing?

Act on It

Follow Sleeth's advice. Get outside this week and surround yourself with only God-made things. Worship God in the company of his creation.
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FIGHTING MATERIALISM

Jesus looked at him and said, "How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!” Luke 18:24
How is the god Mammon conquered? The Bible offers a perspective from which to view all of life’s economic decisions. The Holy Spirit is with us; Jesus is our present teacher. The following are some suggestions:
• Get in touch with our feelings about money. Get in touch with our fear, insecurity, guilt, pride or envy. We are afraid to be short of money. And our fears, though irrational, are real. We need to face up to these feelings before we can apply God’s promises to our financial situation.
• Stop denying our wealth. Instead of seeing the small picture of our situation, let us become world citizens, looking at ourselves in relation to all humanity.
• Create an atmosphere in which confession is possible. Much of our preaching about money has been either to condemn it or to praise it but not to help each other relate to it. Many of us feel isolated and alone. How much better if we could confess our fears and temptations.
• Discover one other person who will struggle with you through the money maze. Together covenant to help each other detect when the seductive power of money is beginning to win. This
needs to be done in a spirit of love and graciousness but also rebuking and prodding.
• Discover ways to get in touch with the poor. One of the damaging results of affluence is allowing us to distance ourselves from the poor so that we no longer see their pain.
• Give with glad and generous hearts. Giving has a way of rooting out the tough old miser within us. The very act of letting go of money, or some other treasure, destroys the sin of greed.
Chinese house church leaders met together to discuss their problems. They concluded that their number two problem (after gossip) was money and the lure of materialism. There are two main sources of this. One is the rising standard of living in the coastal areas, which is tempting good teachers into commerce, depriving the church of much-needed leaders. The other is the kind, but often indiscriminate, giving of some wealthier Christians and missions to house church networks.
RESPONSE: Today I commit to living a simple life style and not give in to materialism.
PRAYER: Lord, I want to follow You all the way. And I want to be obedient as You direct and instruct.
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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Giving Up Our Secrets

"Whatever is hidden is meant to be disclosed, and whatever is concealed is meant to be brought out into the open."
Mark 4:22
Robert Louis Stevenson wrote, "The cruelest lies are often told in silence." Much in our world is deceptive and dishonest: the rhetoric of political campaigns, for example, or the propaganda of advertising, with its slanted facts and testimonials. In a time that makes us wary, we long for honesty that breeds trust and nurtures hope.
A woman once came to me for counseling. For the next two years, we wrestled through the difficulties in her life. She was living a lie, and she didn't even know it. Secrets had twisted her in so many ways that she couldn't even say what her problem was. But finally God got through to her, wrapped his healing around her hurting heart, and took the kinks out of her troubled dreams.
When we first started counseling, the woman hid her pain behind clever tales and false fronts. She talks differently today. Her yes means yes, and she knows why. She doesn't have to lie to God anymore, and she doesn't have to invent stories for others. The doors of her prison have swung open. She has found God. She has found herself. She is free of secrets, and the way she talks shows it.
Straight talk is important in marriage. It is easy to distort the truth when we are doing the "dating dance" and wooing one another. We parade partial truths in hopes that some of our deeper secrets will stay hidden. The tipping point comes when we enter into the deeper relational stage we call "engagement." An older term for that was betrothal, which literally means giving our troth, an earlier variation on the word truth. In other words, dating is playing games, but engagement, or betrothal, means we are now committing to truth. We are choosing to reveal more of ourselves so we can see each other wholly and love each other in wholesome ways.
The outcome of a good engagement is marriage, when, as Adam and Eve discovered, we find ways to be "naked and not ashamed" before each other. This is more than just undressing; it is the psychological honesty that allows us to meet one another in truth, peering into each other's souls without embarrassment or threat of one of us walking away.
There may be times when too much honesty harms a good relationship, but it is hard to know how secrets can be part of a healthy relationship. God does not turn away from us when the secrets of our hearts are brought into the healing light of divine grace. Nor should we turn from those who trust us with the intimacy of private faults, disappointments, needs and dreams. As Jesus reminds us in this brief parable about a lamp, "Whatever is hidden is meant to be disclosed, and whatever is concealed is meant to be brought out into the open." Especially in marriage.
Wayne Brouwer

Let's Talk

  • How well do we know each other? How much can we entrust to one another? How are knowing and trusting related?
  • What do we know about each other that no one else knows? How have we used that secret information in healthy and nurturing ways? How have we abused it?
  • Are there secrets we keep from one another? Do we need to become more open with one another? How might we do that?
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