Thursday, May 31, 2012

Daily Devotional Thursday 31st May

“In God, whose word I praise— in God I trust and am not afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?” Psalm 56:4 NIV
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Morning and Evening by Charles Spurgeon

Morning

"The king also himself passed over the brook Kidron."
2 Samuel 15:23
David passed that gloomy brook when flying with his mourning company from his traitor son. The man after God's own heart was not exempt from trouble, nay, his life was full of it. He was both the Lord's Anointed, and the Lord's Afflicted. Why then should we expect to escape? At sorrow's gates the noblest of our race have waited with ashes on their heads; wherefore then should we complain as though some strange thing had happened unto us?
The King of kings himself was not favoured with a more cheerful or royal road. He passed over the filthy ditch of Kidron, through which the filth of Jerusalem flowed. God had one Son without sin, but not a single child without the rod. It is a great joy to believe that Jesus has been tempted in all points like as we are. What is our Kidron this morning? Is it a faithless friend, a sad bereavement, a slanderous reproach, a dark foreboding? The King has passed over all these. Is it bodily pain, poverty, persecution, or contempt? Over each of these Kidrons the King has gone before us. "In all our afflictions he was afflicted." The idea of strangeness in our trials must be banished at once and forever, for he who is the Head of all saints, knows by experience the grief which we think so peculiar. All the citizens of Zion must be free of the Honourable Company of Mourners, of which the Prince Immanuel is Head and Captain.
Notwithstanding the abasement of David, he yet returned in triumph to his city, and David's Lord arose victorious from the grave; let us then be of good courage, for we also shall win the day. We shall yet with joy draw water out of the wells of salvation, though now for a season we have to pass by the noxious streams of sin and sorrow. Courage, soldiers of the Cross, the King himself triumphed after going over Kidron, and so shall you.

Evening

"Who healeth all thy diseases."
Psalm 103:3
Humbling as is the statement, yet the fact is certain, that we are all more or less suffering under the disease of sin. What a comfort to know that we have a great Physician who is both able and willing to heal us! Let us think of him awhile tonight. His cures are very speedy--there is life in a look at him; his cures are radical--he strikes at the centre of the disease; and hence, his cures are sure and certain. He never fails, and the disease never returns. There is no relapse where Christ heals; no fear that his patients should be merely patched up for a season, he makes new men of them: a new heart also does he give them, and a right spirit does he put within them. He is well skilled in all diseases. Physicians generally have some speciality. Although they may know a little about almost all our pains and ills, there is usually one disease which they have studied above all others; but Jesus Christ is thoroughly acquainted with the whole of human nature. He is as much at home with one sinner as with another, and never yet did he meet with an out-of-the-way case that was difficult to him. He has had extraordinary complications of strange diseases to deal with, but he has known exactly with one glance of his eye how to treat the patient. He is the only universal doctor; and the medicine he gives is the only true catholicon, healing in every instance. Whatever our spiritual malady may be, we should apply at once to this Divine Physician. There is no brokenness of heart which Jesus cannot bind up. "His blood cleanseth from all sin." We have but to think of the myriads who have been delivered from all sorts of diseases through the power and virtue of his touch, and we shall joyfully put ourselves in his hands. We trust him, and sin dies; we love him, and grace lives; we wait for him and grace is strengthened; we see him as he is, and grace is perfected forever.

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Today's reading: 2 Chronicles 10-12, John 11:30-57 (NIV)

View today's reading on Bible Gateway 
Israel Rebels Against Rehoboam
    1 Rehoboam went to Shechem, for all Israel had gone there to make him king. 2 When Jeroboam son of Nebat heard this (he was in Egypt, where he had fled from King Solomon), he returned from Egypt. 3 So they sent for Jeroboam, and he and all Israel went to Rehoboam and said to him: 4 “Your father put a heavy yoke on us, but now lighten the harsh labor and the heavy yoke he put on us, and we will serve you.”
   5 Rehoboam answered, “Come back to me in three days.” So the people went away.
   6 Then King Rehoboam consulted the elders who had served his father Solomon during his lifetime. “How would you advise me to answer these people?” he asked.
   7 They replied, “If you will be kind to these people and please them and give them a favorable answer, they will always be your servants.”
   8 But Rehoboam rejected the advice the elders gave him and consulted the young men who had grown up with him and were serving him. 9 He asked them, “What is your advice? How should we answer these people who say to me, ‘Lighten the yoke your father put on us’?”
   10 The young men who had grown up with him replied, “The people have said to you, ‘Your father put a heavy yoke on us, but make our yoke lighter.’ Now tell them, ‘My little finger is thicker than my father’s waist. 11 My father laid on you a heavy yoke; I will make it even heavier. My father scourged you with whips; I will scourge you with scorpions.’”
   12 Three days later Jeroboam and all the people returned to Rehoboam, as the king had said, “Come back to me in three days.” 13 The king answered them harshly. Rejecting the advice of the elders, 14 he followed the advice of the young men and said, “My father made your yoke heavy; I will make it even heavier. My father scourged you with whips; I will scourge you with scorpions.” 15 So the king did not listen to the people, for this turn of events was from God, to fulfill the word the LORD had spoken to Jeroboam son of Nebat through Ahijah the Shilonite.
   16 When all Israel saw that the king refused to listen to them, they answered the king:
   “What share do we have in David, 
   what part in Jesse’s son? 
To your tents, Israel! 
   Look after your own house, David!”
   So all the Israelites went home. 17 But as for the Israelites who were living in the towns of Judah, Rehoboam still ruled over them.
   18 King Rehoboam sent out Adoniram, who was in charge of forced labor, but the Israelites stoned him to death. King Rehoboam, however, managed to get into his chariot and escape to Jerusalem. 19 So Israel has been in rebellion against the house of David to this day.

2 Chronicles 11

   1 When Rehoboam arrived in Jerusalem, he mustered Judah and Benjamin—a hundred and eighty thousand able young men—to go to war against Israel and to regain the kingdom for Rehoboam.
   2 But this word of the LORD came to Shemaiah the man of God: 3 “Say to Rehoboam son of Solomon king of Judah and to all Israel in Judah and Benjamin, 4 ‘This is what the LORD says: Do not go up to fight against your fellow Israelites. Go home, every one of you, for this is my doing.’” So they obeyed the words of the LORD and turned back from marching against Jeroboam.
Rehoboam Fortifies Judah
    5 Rehoboam lived in Jerusalem and built up towns for defense in Judah: 6 Bethlehem, Etam, Tekoa, 7 Beth Zur, Soko, Adullam, 8 Gath, Mareshah, Ziph, 9 Adoraim, Lachish, Azekah, 10 Zorah, Aijalon and Hebron. These were fortified cities in Judah and Benjamin. 11 He strengthened their defenses and put commanders in them, with supplies of food, olive oil and wine. 12 He put shields and spears in all the cities, and made them very strong. So Judah and Benjamin were his.
   13 The priests and Levites from all their districts throughout Israel sided with him. 14 The Levites even abandoned their pasturelands and property and came to Judah and Jerusalem, because Jeroboam and his sons had rejected them as priests of the LORD 15 when he appointed his own priests for the high places and for the goat and calf idols he had made. 16 Those from every tribe of Israel who set their hearts on seeking the LORD, the God of Israel, followed the Levites to Jerusalem to offer sacrifices to the LORD, the God of their ancestors. 17They strengthened the kingdom of Judah and supported Rehoboam son of Solomon three years, following the ways of David and Solomon during this time.
Rehoboam’s Family
    18 Rehoboam married Mahalath, who was the daughter of David’s son Jerimoth and of Abihail, the daughter of Jesse’s son Eliab. 19 She bore him sons: Jeush, Shemariah and Zaham. 20 Then he married Maakah daughter of Absalom, who bore him Abijah, Attai, Ziza and Shelomith. 21 Rehoboam loved Maakah daughter of Absalom more than any of his other wives and concubines. In all, he had eighteen wives and sixty concubines, twenty-eight sons and sixty daughters.
   22 Rehoboam appointed Abijah son of Maakah as crown prince among his brothers, in order to make him king. 23 He acted wisely, dispersing some of his sons throughout the districts of Judah and Benjamin, and to all the fortified cities. He gave them abundant provisions and took many wives for them.

2 Chronicles 12

Shishak Attacks Jerusalem
    1 After Rehoboam’s position as king was established and he had become strong, he and all Israel with him abandoned the law of the LORD. 2 Because they had been unfaithful to the LORD, Shishak king of Egypt attacked Jerusalem in the fifth year of King Rehoboam. 3 With twelve hundred chariots and sixty thousand horsemen and the innumerable troops of Libyans, Sukkites and Cushites that came with him from Egypt, 4 he captured the fortified cities of Judah and came as far as Jerusalem.
    5 Then the prophet Shemaiah came to Rehoboam and to the leaders of Judah who had assembled in Jerusalem for fear of Shishak, and he said to them, “This is what the LORD says, ‘You have abandoned me; therefore, I now abandon you to Shishak.’”
   6 The leaders of Israel and the king humbled themselves and said, “The LORD is just.”
   7 When the LORD saw that they humbled themselves, this word of the LORD came to Shemaiah: “Since they have humbled themselves, I will not destroy them but will soon give them deliverance. My wrath will not be poured out on Jerusalem through Shishak. 8 They will, however, become subject to him, so that they may learn the difference between serving me and serving the kings of other lands.”
   9 When Shishak king of Egypt attacked Jerusalem, he carried off the treasures of the temple of the LORD and the treasures of the royal palace. He took everything, including the gold shields Solomon had made. 10 So King Rehoboam made bronze shields to replace them and assigned these to the commanders of the guard on duty at the entrance to the royal palace. 11 Whenever the king went to the LORD’s temple, the guards went with him, bearing the shields, and afterward they returned them to the guardroom.
   12 Because Rehoboam humbled himself, the LORD’s anger turned from him, and he was not totally destroyed. Indeed, there was some good in Judah.
   13 King Rehoboam established himself firmly in Jerusalem and continued as king. He was forty-one years old when he became king, and he reigned seventeen years in Jerusalem, the city the LORD had chosen out of all the tribes of Israel in which to put his Name. His mother’s name was Naamah; she was an Ammonite. 14 He did evil because he had not set his heart on seeking the LORD.
   15 As for the events of Rehoboam’s reign, from beginning to end, are they not written in the records of Shemaiah the prophet and of Iddo the seer that deal with genealogies? There was continual warfare between Rehoboam and Jeroboam. 16Rehoboam rested with his ancestors and was buried in the City of David. And Abijah his son succeeded him as king.

John 11

30 Now Jesus had not yet entered the village, but was still at the place where Martha had met him. 31 When the Jews who had been with Mary in the house, comforting her, noticed how quickly she got up and went out, they followed her, supposing she was going to the tomb to mourn there.
   32 When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”
   33 When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. 34 “Where have you laid him?” he asked.
   “Come and see, Lord,” they replied.
   35 Jesus wept.
   36 Then the Jews said, “See how he loved him!”
   37 But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?”
Jesus Raises Lazarus From the Dead
    38 Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance. 39 “Take away the stone,” he said.
   “But, Lord,” said Martha, the sister of the dead man, “by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days.”
   40 Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?”
   41 So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. 42 I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.”
   43 When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” 44 The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face.
   Jesus said to them, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.”
The Plot to Kill Jesus
    45 Therefore many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary, and had seen what Jesus did, believed in him. 46 But some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done. 47 Then the chief priests and the Pharisees called a meeting of the Sanhedrin.
   “What are we accomplishing?” they asked. “Here is this man performing many signs. 48 If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and then the Romans will come and take away both our temple and our nation.”
   49 Then one of them, named Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, spoke up, “You know nothing at all! 50 You do not realize that it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish.”
   51 He did not say this on his own, but as high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the Jewish nation, 52and not only for that nation but also for the scattered children of God, to bring them together and make them one. 53 So from that day on they plotted to take his life.
   54 Therefore Jesus no longer moved about publicly among the people of Judea. Instead he withdrew to a region near the wilderness, to a village called Ephraim, where he stayed with his disciples.
   55 When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, many went up from the country to Jerusalem for their ceremonial cleansing before the Passover. 56 They kept looking for Jesus, and as they stood in the temple courts they asked one another, “What do you think? Isn’t he coming to the festival at all?” 57But the chief priests and the Pharisees had given orders that anyone who found out where Jesus was should report it so that they might arrest him.

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Caesar [Cae'zar]—one cut outThe surname always used in the New Testament for all Roman emperors. See AUGUSTUSTIBERIUS andCLAUDIUS (Matt. 22:17 , etc.). To Caesar the Jews paid tribute and it was also to him that those Jews who were Roman citizens (for example, Paul, Acts 25:10-21), had the right of appeal.
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Regeneration Is a Mystery

None of us will desire the things of God perfectly before we are glorified. None of us will love the Lord as much as he should this side of heaven. Still, as Dr. R.C. Sproul has often said, the presence of such things at all in our hearts is proof of regeneration. No unregenerate person will have a desire for these things; at best he will be indifferent. What evidence can you find of the Spirit's work in your heart today?
For further study:
The Bible in a year:
Coram Deo from TableTalk Magazine, Matthew Studies. Copyright © 2008 by Ligonier Ministries.
Subscribe to Tabletalk magazine and receive daily Bible studies & in depth articles from world class scholars for only $23 per per year! That's only $1.92 per month. And you can try it out for three months absolutely free! Bringing the best in biblical scholarship together with down-to-earth writing, Tabletalk helps you understand the Bible and apply it to daily living. 

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Renee Swope
May 30, 2012
Measuring Up
Renee Swope
"When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise."2 Corinthians 10:12b (NIV)
Do you ever compare yourself to other women and feel like you don't quite measure up? Maybe you feel like you're not as smart, pretty, fun, organized or as good at _______ as they are.
It is so easy to think that if we had more or knew more, we'd be secure. But the truth is, even people who "have it all" still struggle with feelings of insecurity. The Bible opens with the story of a woman who had everything but it still wasn't enough (Genesis 2).
God had established Eve's worth as His child and the crown of His creation. He also gave Eve every woman's desire: intimacy, beauty, security, significance, and purpose. Yet Satan conjured up feelings of insecurity by getting Eve to take her eyes off what she had and focus on what she didn't have.
Boy, can I relate. Like Eve, I've heard Satan's whispers telling me I'm not all I could be - or should be. One day I was reading her story in Genesis 2 and I noticed that his questions and suggestions were intended to plant seeds of doubt in Eve's heart. He wanted her to doubt God and herself.
The enemy's whispers tempted Eve to try to "be" more and "have" more by seeking significance apart from God's provision. He convinced her something was missing in her life and that the forbidden fruit would make her be "like God."
It was a foolish comparison, but all comparisons are. Yet don't we do it all the time? If only I was like her...if only I had a house like hers, a husband like hers, a job like hers...if only my children behaved like hers...If only _______, then I'd feel significant, satisfied and secure.
In today's key verse, Paul warns us that those who "measure themselves by themselves, and compare themselves with themselves, are not wise" (2 Cor. 10:12NIV). Comparison will always leave us feeling like we don't measure up. We can try to do more and be more, yet it's never enough.
If only Eve had focused on who she was and what she had as a child of God. If only we could too.
Yet Satan wants us to focus on our flaws and feelings of inadequacy, then exhaust our energy figuring out how to hide them. But we don't have to go along with his schemes. Instead we need to equip ourselves to recognize his lies, refute his temptations with truth, and focus on God's acceptance, security, and significance. Then we can thank God for His provision and His promises that remind us of who we are in Him:
I am accepted...
Ephesians 1:3-8 I have been chosen by God and adopted as His child.
Colossians 1:13-14 I have been redeemed and forgiven of all my sins.
Colossians 2:9-10 I am complete in Christ.
I am secure...
Romans 8:28 I am assured that God works for my good in all circumstances.
Romans 8:31-39 I am free from condemnation. I can't be separated from God's love.
Philippians1:6 I am confident God will complete the good work He started in me.
I am significant...
Ephesians 2:10 I am God's workmanship.
Ephesians 3:12 I may approach God with freedom and confidence.
Philippians 4:13 I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.
Author and psychologist, Dr. Neil T. Anderson says, "The more you reaffirm who you are in Christ, the more your behavior (and beliefs) will begin to reflect your true identity!"
So, the next time we're tempted to use the measuring stick of comparison - let's commit to measure UP ↑ by focusing upward on Christ and who we are in HIM!
Lord, thank You that in Christ I'm chosen, holy, and dearly loved. When I'm tempted to measure up according to the world's standards or my foolish comparisons, help me recognize Satan's lies, refuse his temptations and rely on your truth about me instead. Remind me that such confidence as this is mine through Christ-not that I am competent in myself to claim anything for myself, but competence comes from You. In Jesus' name, Amen. (Colossians 3:121 Peter 5:9; 2 Corinthians 3:4-5)
Related Resources:
This devotion is taken in part from chapter 6 of Renee Swope's book: A Confident Heart: How to Stop Doubting Yourself & Live in the Security of God's Promises. To find out more or order your copy, click here.
Visit Renee's blog/website where she's sharing more ways to overcome comparison and condemnation, and a powerful list of "Our Identity in Christ" verses. Also, be sure to enter her "Contagious Confidence" give-away!
Reflect and Respond:
"The more you reaffirm who you are in Christ, the more your behavior (and beliefs) will begin to reflect your true identity!" Dr. Neil T. Anderson.
When you're tempted to use the measuring stick of comparison today - measure UP↑ by re-focusing upward on who you are in Christ. For practical ways to do that and truths to focus on visit Renee's website today.
Power Verses:
1 Peter 5:9, "Stand firm against him [the devil], and be strong in your faith. Remember that your Christian brothers and sisters all over the world are going through the same kind of suffering you are." (NLT)
2 Corinthians 3:4-5, "Such confidence we have through Christ before God. Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God." (NIV)
© 2012 by Renee Swope. All rights reserved.
Proverbs 31 Ministries
616-G Matthews-Mint Hill Road
Matthews, NC 28105
www.Proverbs31.org

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Regeneration Is a Mystery

John 3:4-8 "The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit" ( v. 8).
We have seen that regeneration is absolutely necessary if a person is to enter the kingdom of heaven (John 3:3). No one is born a child of God. A change of heart effected by the Holy Spirit must first take place. In fact, the label "born-again Christian" is redundant, for it is impossible to be a Christian unless one is born again.
Despite the fact that regeneration is required for spiritual life, it must be admitted that the experience of the new birth can be difficult to put into words. There is a great deal of mystery concerning the working of the Spirit in our lives. We know thatHe works, but we cannot always explain how He works. In fact, the actual process of regeneration takes place within and is not visible to our physical eyes. This is one of the realities Jesus points out in John 3.
In today's passage, Jesus continues His discussion with Nicodemus, a Pharisee who sits on the Sanhedrin, the religious governing body of Israel in the first century. While Nicodemus shows interest in Jesus, he is not yet a disciple of Christ as shown in his failure to grasp what Jesus is talking about - being born from above, not a second physical birth (v. 4). Our Lord goes on to clarify His point, talking about the need of the Spirit's work in regeneration ( v. 5).
In His instruction Jesus points out the mysterious nature of the Holy Spirit by likening Him to the blowing of the wind (v. 8). Interestingly, the word for spirit in the original Hebrew, ruach, is also the word we translate into English as "wind." The Greek term pneuma functions in the same way. Knowing that the Spirit's work is invisible, like the wind, it makes perfect sense that the biblical authors would use the same term for both "wind" and "spirit."
We all know that we can feel the wind and see its effects as it bends tree branches and so on. Nevertheless, we cannot actually see the wind itself. Similarly, we do not see the Holy Spirit Himself, but His work is evident in the fruit that He produces in the lives of all true believers (Gal. 5:22-23). We can know that we are born again if we find the evidence of the Spirit's work in our hearts - a desire for the things of God and a life of repentance.

Coram deo: Living before the face of God

None of us will desire the things of God perfectly before we are glorified. None of us will love the Lord as much as he should this side of heaven. Still, as Dr. R.C. Sproul has often said, the presence of such things at all in our hearts is proof of regeneration. No unregenerate person will have a desire for these things; at best he will be indifferent. What evidence can you find of the Spirit's work in your heart today?
For further study:
The Bible in a year:
INTO the WORD daily Bible studies from TableTalk Magazine, Matthew Studies. Copyright © 2008 by Ligonier Ministries.
Subscribe to Tabletalk magazine and receive daily Bible studies & in depth articles from world class scholars for only $23 per per year! That's only $1.92 per month. And you can try it out for three months absolutely free! Bringing the best in biblical scholarship together with down-to-earth writing, Tabletalk helps you understand the Bible and apply it to daily living. 


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Elijah’s appeal to the undecided

“How long halt ye between two opinions? If the Lord be God, follow him: if Baal, then follow him.” 1 Kings 18:21
Suggested Further Reading: John 13:12-19
I insist that it is your bounden duty, if you believe in God, simply because he is God, to serve him and obey him. I do not tell you it is for your advantage—it may be, I believe it is—but that I put aside from the question; I demand of you that you follow God, if you believe him to be God. If you do not think he is God; if you really think that the devil is God, then follow him; his pretended godhead shall be your plea, and you shall be consistent; but if God be God, if he made you, I demand that you serve him; if it is he who puts the breath into your nostrils, I demand that you obey him. If God be really worthy of worship, and you really think so, I demand that you either follow him, or else deny that he is God at all. Now, professor, if thou sayest that Christ’s gospel is the only gospel, if thou believest in the divinity of the gospel, and puttest thy trust in Christ, I demand of thee to follow out the gospel, not merely because it will be to thy advantage, but because the gospel is divine. If thou makest a profession of being a child of God, if thou art a believer, and thinkest and believest religion is the best, the service of God most desirable, I do not come to plead with thee because of any advantage thou wouldst get by being holy; it is on this ground that I put it, that the Lord is God; and if he be God, it is thy business to serve him. If his gospel be true, and thou believest it to be true, it is thy duty to carry it out.
For meditation: Four things God will not accept—hypocrisy (Luke 6:46), half-heartedness (Luke 9:59-62), double-mindedness (James 1:6-8) and lukewarmness (Revelation 3:15,16).
Sermon no. 134
31 May (1857)
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A precious drop of honey

‘Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands.’Isaiah 49:16
Suggested Further Reading: Deuteronomy 33:1–5
We have heard of one, an eastern queen, who so loved her husband that she thought even to build a mausoleum to his memory was not enough. She had a strange way of proving her affection, for when her husband’s bones were burned she took the ashes and drank them day by day, that, as she said, her body might be her husband’s living sepulchre. It was a strange way of showing love. But what shall I say of this divine, celestial, unobjectionable, sympathetic mode of showing remembrance, by cutting it into the palms? Words fail to express our intense content with this most admirable sign of tenderness and fond affection. It appears to me as though the King had said, ‘Shall I carve my people upon precious stones? Shall I choose the ruby, the emerald, the topaz? No; for these all must melt in the last general conflagration. What then? Shall I write on tables of gold or silver? No, for all these may canker and corrupt, and thieves may break through and steal. Shall I cut the memorial deep on brass? No, for time would wear it, and the letters would not long be legible. I will write on myself, on my own hand, and then my people will know how tender I am, that I would sooner cut into my own flesh than forget them; I will have my Son branded in the hand with the names of his people, that they may be sure he cannot forsake them; hard by the memorial of his wounds shall be the memorial of his love to them, for indeed his wounds are an everlasting remembrance.’ How loving, then, how full of superlative, super-excellent affection is God toward you and toward me in so recording our names.
For meditation: When he appeared before God on behalf of the people, the Old Testament high priest carried on his clothing the names of the twelve tribes of Israel (Exodus 28:9–12,29) and the guilt of the people ( Exodus 28:36–38). Our great High Priest has carried in his own body the sins of his people (Isaiah 53:4–61 Peter 2:24), knows every believer by name (John 10:3) and appears before God on their behalf (Hebrews 7:259:24). Are you represented by him?
Sermon no. 512
31 May (1863)

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May 30, 2012
The Treasure of Friendship
Mary Southerland
Today's Truth
Ecclesiastes 4:12 (NIV) "Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken."
Friend to Friend
Friendship is the springboard to every other love and the foundation for every healthy relationship. It is a proven fact that lonely people live shorter lives than those who have healthy friendships. Even Jesus needed friends when He walked this earth as a man. In fact, He placed great value on relationships. The Bible tells us Jesus spent much of His time deepening the relationships with a few – not the crowd. 
I love the story of an ingenious teenager who was tired of reading bedtime stories to his little sister. He decided to record several of her favorite stories on tape. When he presented the tape player and tape to his sister, he explained, "Now you can hear your stories any time you want.  Isn't that great?" The little girl took one look at the machine, frowned and then replied, "No! It is not great! That thing does not have a lap!"
God created us to need each other. That truth is never more evident than when we are in pain or struggling with some crisis in life. One of the main factors leading to a two-year battle with clinical depression in my life was the absence of replenishing friendships.  As I think back to that time, I am sure many women would have counted themselves as my friend when, in reality, they were simply acquaintances because that was all I would allow them to be. My pride kept me from admitting I wasn't Superwoman and that I did need the help of others. My insecurity held me back from reaching out to new friends and cultivating old ones.
To admit my need of a friend seemed like a weakness instead of the precious gift God created it to be. I refused to take the risk of being hurt, rejected or misunderstood.  I did not have time to invest in building intimate friendships and was too busy doing the work of God to be a friend.  As a result, when the darkness hit, I felt isolated and alone. Friendship took on an entirely different meaning in my life from that point on. In fact, friends are a great source of strength and encouragement in my life today. Friends fast and pray for me, holding me accountable and confronting me when they see my priorities lining up in the wrong way. Friends make me stop and take time for fun. Friends have taught me to be transparent.
Have I been hurt along the way? Yes.  
Have I been misunderstood? Yes.  
Have the friendships been worth the price? Absolutely! 
Roses are beautiful flowers. People who know me are aware of the fact that I can kill any plant known to mankind.  I once had a neighbor who grew roses in every shade of pink, yellow and red. I often watched Joan work in her garden and eventually realized she never handled the roses without wearing long sleeves and thick gloves. The roses were beautiful, but their thorns were not and could certainly inflict a lot of pain. In fact, my neighbor always seemed to have cuts and scrapes on her hands and arms even with the long sleeves and gloves she wore. I once asked Joan why she continued to grow roses and jokingly suggested she might want to consider raising a less dangerous kind of flower. I will never forget her answer and the profound truth it held, "The beauty of the rose is worth the occasional wound it gives. I have learned to handle the roses with respect and in such a way that my wounds are few." The same truth can be said of friendships. 
 
The words of Jesus found in John 13:34-35, portray the perfect backdrop for God's love.  "And so I am giving a new commandment to you now--love each other just as much as I love you. Your strong love for each other will prove to the world that you are my disciples." Does the world know we are His disciples by the way we love and relate to each other?  
    
Chad was a shy, quiet little boy. One day he came home and told his mother he'd like to make a valentine for everyone in his class. Her heart sank. "I wish he wouldn't do that!" she thought. She had watched the children when they walked home from school. Her Chad was always behind them. They laughed and hung on to each other and talked to each other, but Chad was never included. Still, she decided to go along with her son's plan. She purchased the paper, glue and crayons, and for three whole weeks, night after night, Chad painstakingly made thirty-five valentines. Valentine's Day dawned, and Chad was frantic with excitement! He carefully placed the valentines in a bag, and bolted out the door.
His mom decided to bake his favorite cookies because she knew he would be disappointed when he came home from school. It hurt her to think he wouldn't get many valentines -- maybe none at all. That afternoon she had the cookies and milk on the table. Finally, when she heard their voices, she looked out the window to see the children laughing and having the best time. As usual, there was Chad in the rear but walking a little faster than usual.
She fully expected him to burst into tears as soon as he got inside. His arms were empty and when the door opened, she choked back tears as she said, "Honey, I have some warm cookies and milk for you" but he hardly heard her words. He just marched right on by, his face glowing, and all he could say was: "Not a one -- not a one." The mother's heart sank. Then he added, "I didn't forget a one, not a single one!" When God is in control of our friendships and when we trust Him with those friendships, we will be a better friend, and we will have more true friends.
Let's Pray
Lord, I praise You for the gift of friendship. Today I commit to investing more time in deepening the friendships You have given me. I want others to see You in the way I relate to my friends. I am willing to risk being hurt in order to be a better friend. I will look for needs that I can meet in the lives of my friends and be transparent in sharing my needs with them. Today, I choose to honor You in every friendship and trust You with each one. 
In Jesus' name,
Amen.
Now it's Your Turn
1 Peter 4:8 (NLT) "Most important of all, continue to show deep love for each other, for love covers a multitude of sins."
"A friend is one who strengthens you with prayers, blesses you with love and encourages you with hope." Anonymous
More from the Girlfriends
Check out Mary's E-Bible Study: I Need a Friendfor ways to be a better friend and learn how to develop healthy friendships.
Need help learning how to live a life of power and purpose? Check out Mary's weekly online Bible Study, How to Dress for Success and learn how to live a life of victory. Connect with Mary on Facebook or through email.
Seeking God?
Click here to find out more about
how to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
Girlfriends in God
P.O. Box 725
Matthews, NC 28106

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At Issue - Forgiveness

David had reached the end of himself. His sins-adultery, murder, lying-had caught up with him. He knew the depth of his sin, but he also knew the depth of God's love and compassion. That's what gave him hope. As much as David was a sinner, God was a forgiver, so David threw himself on God's mercy. And that's what God gave him-not begrudging forgiveness, but lavish cleansing. If you think you're beyond forgiveness, or if you're trying to earn your way back to God, take a lesson from David. Throw yourself on God's grace. He will forgive.
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A Portable Cathedral

An unlikely sight in the desert
Exodus 35:21 Everyone who was willing and whose heart moved them came and brought an offering to the LORD for the work on the tent of meeting.
In A.D. 1144 a great building began to take shape in a village in northwest France. Enthusiasm for the project soon spread across the entire country, and volunteer workers streamed to the site. Working together, the people managed to construct one of the most beautiful buildings in the world, the magnificent cathedral at Chartres.
Fifty years later, after a terrible fire, the villagers of France rebuilt their cathedral from scratch. Today, tourists throng to marvel at what was splendidly fashioned to the glory of God so long ago.
Inspired Builders
A work of art took shape in similar fashion thousands of years earlier than Chartres, and the last chapters of Exodus provide a wealth of details. In a hostile desert landscape, a tribe of just-liberated slaves built something of exquisite beauty: a portable cathedral, or tabernacle.
God directed the project personally, specially endowing the crafters with skill (see Exodus 31:1-6 ) and elaborating right down to the color choice of woven yarns, the precise length of curtains and wooden frames, and the design of gold filigree. The people of Israel joined together in a flurry of activity, carefully following God's pattern. A ton of gold went into the project, as well as nearly four tons of silver and stockpiles of precious gems and rare woods.
God Moves In
After describing the tabernacle construction in great detail, the Bible devotes just five verses, the last five in Exodus, to its culmination. In a matter-of-fact tone, those sentences record a remarkable event.
Throughout the book of Exodus God had been progressively revealing himself to Moses: once in a burning bush, once in a mysterious appearance beside a rock, once on a trembling mountain and often in a cloud-covered tent of meeting. God's presence caused such fear and awe that the people of Israel begged that he not speak to them directly (see Exodus 20:19). When Moses had come down from Mount Sinai after meeting with God, he glowed as if radioactive, and everyone was too frightened to go near him (see Exodus 34:30).
Yet, on the day the tabernacle was completed, this same God moved in. His glory filled the new tabernacle. God took up residence with his people.
A Visible Reminder
From then on, whenever the Israelites marched or camped, their portable cathedral stayed in the exact center of the camp, with their tents and personal belongings radiating out from the Most Holy Place and the ark of the covenant. The tabernacle gave them a visible reminder of God's central place. Each day priests performed functions of sacrifice and worship there.
The story of the tabernacle, which takes up one-third of Exodus, reveals much about the character of God. He can never be taken lightly-the rituals here and in the next three books show that God must be approached with care and reverence. He cannot be experienced directly, in his fullness, by ordinary people; a holy God is simply too overwhelming. Even Moses, Exodus says, could not look on God's face and live (see Exodus 33:20).
And yet, amazingly, that same God who seemed so distant came near. Despite the huge gulf separating God and humanity-a gulf that all the rules on holiness and purification only hint at-God allowed personal access to himself. He made himself available.
Life Questions
Where does God "live" now?
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WHICH ARE YOU?

I can do all this through him who gives me strength.Philippians 4:13
A young woman went to her mother and told her how things were so hard for her. She did not know how she was going to make it and wanted to give up. She was tired of fighting and struggling. It seemed as one problem was solved a new one arose.
Her mother took her to the kitchen. She filled three pots with water. In the first, she placed carrots, in the second she placed eggs and the last she placed ground coffee beans. She let them sit and boil without saying a word. In about twenty minutes she turned off the burners. She fished the carrots out and placed them in a bowl. She pulled the eggs out and placed them in a bowl. Then she ladled the coffee out and placed it in a bowl.
Turning to her daughter, she asked, “Tell me what you see?” “Carrots, eggs, and coffee,” she replied.
She brought her closer and asked her to feel the carrots. She did and noted that they were soft. She then asked her to take an egg and break it. After pulling off the shell, she observed the hard-boiled egg. Finally, she asked her to sip the coffee. The daughter tasted its rich aroma.
The daughter then asked. “What does it mean, mother?”
Her mother explained that each of these objects had faced the same adversity—boiling water—but each reacted differently. The carrot went in strong, hard and unrelenting. After being subjected to the boiling water, it softened and became weak. The egg had been fragile. Its thin outer shell had protected its liquid interior. But, after sitting through the boiling water, its inside became hardened. The ground coffee beans were unique, however. After they were in the boiling water they had changed the water.
“Which are you?” she asked her daughter. “When adversity knocks on your door, how do you respond? Are you a carrot that seems strong, but with pain and adversity, do you wilt and become soft and lose your strength? Or are you an egg that starts with a malleable heart, but changes with the heat? Do you have a fluid spirit, but after a loved-one’s death, a relationship breakup, a financial hardship or some other trial, have you become hardened and stiff? Does your shell look the same, but on the inside you are bitter and tough with a stiff spirit and a hardened heart? Or are you like a coffee bean? The bean actually changes the hot water, the very circumstance that brings the pain. When the water gets hot, it releases the fragrance and flavor. If I am like the bean, when things are at their worst, I get better and change the situation around me through Christ-likeness.
When the hour is the darkest and trials are their greatest do you elevate to another level? How do you handle adversity?
RESPONSE: Christians are like carrots, eggs or coffee beans. They don’t know how strong their response is until they get into hot water. Which are you?
PRAYER: Lord, help me realize that every experience You gives me, every person You put in my path, is the perfect preparation only You can see.
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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