Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Daily Devotional Tuesday 15th May

“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.”Psalm 139:13-14 NIV
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Morning and Evening by Charles Spurgeon

Morning

"All that believe are justified."
Acts 13:39
The believer in Christ receives a present justification. Faith does not produce this fruit by-and-by, but now. So far as justification is the result of faith, it is given to the soul in the moment when it closes with Christ, and accepts him as its all in all. Are they who stand before the throne of God justified now?--so are we, as truly and as clearly justified as they who walk in white and sing melodious praises to celestial harps. The thief upon the cross was justified the moment that he turned the eye of faith to Jesus; and Paul, the aged, after years of service, was not more justified than was the thief with no service at all. We are today accepted in the Beloved, today absolved from sin, today acquitted at the bar of God. Oh! soul-transporting thought! There are some clusters of Eshcol's vine which we shall not be able to gather till we enter heaven; but this is a bough which runneth over the wall. This is not as the corn of the land, which we can never eat till we cross the Jordan; but this is part of the manna in the wilderness, a portion of our daily nutriment with which God supplies us in our journeying to and fro. We are now--even now pardoned; even now are our sins put away; even now we stand in the sight of God accepted, as though we had never been guilty. "There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus." There is not a sin in the Book of God, even now, against one of his people. Who dareth to lay anything to their charge? There is neither speck, nor spot, nor wrinkle, nor any such thing remaining upon any one believer in the matter of justification in the sight of the Judge of all the earth. Let present privilege awaken us to present duty, and now, while life lasts, let us spend and be spent for our sweet Lord Jesus.

Evening

"Made perfect."
Hebrews 12:23
Recollect that there are two kinds of perfection which the Christian needs--the perfection of justification in the person of Jesus, and the perfection of sanctification wrought in him by the Holy Spirit. At present, corruption yet remains even in the breasts of the regenerate--experience soon teaches us this. Within us are still lusts and evil imaginations. But I rejoice to know that the day is coming when God shall finish the work which he has begun; and he shall present my soul, not only perfect in Christ, but perfect through the Spirit, without spot or blemish, or any such thing. Can it be true that this poor sinful heart of mine is to become holy even as God is holy? Can it be that this spirit, which often cries, "O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this sin and death?" shall get rid of sin and death--that I shall have no evil things to vex my ears, and no unholy thoughts to disturb my peace? Oh, happy hour! may it be hastened! When I cross the Jordan, the work of sanctification will be finished; but not till that moment shall I even claim perfection in myself. Then my spirit shall have its last baptism in the Holy Spirit's fire. Methinks I long to die to receive that last and final purification which shall usher me into heaven. Not an angel more pure than I shall be, for I shall be able to say, in a double sense, "I am clean," through Jesus' blood, and through the Spirit's work. Oh, how should we extol the power of the Holy Ghost in thus making us fit to stand before our Father in heaven! Yet let not the hope of perfection hereafter make us content with imperfection now. If it does this, our hope cannot be genuine; for a good hope is a purifying thing, even now. The work of grace must be abiding in us now or it cannot be perfected then. Let us pray to "be filled with the Spirit," that we may bring forth increasingly the fruits of righteousness.

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Today's reading: 2 Kings 19-21, John 4:1-30 (NIV)

View today's reading on Bible Gateway 
Jerusalem’s Deliverance Foretold
    1 When King Hezekiah heard this, he tore his clothes and put on sackcloth and went into the temple of the LORD. 2 He sent Eliakim the palace administrator, Shebna the secretary and the leading priests, all wearing sackcloth, to the prophet Isaiah son of Amoz. 3 They told him, “This is what Hezekiah says: This day is a day of distress and rebuke and disgrace, as when children come to the moment of birth and there is no strength to deliver them. 4 It may be that the LORD your God will hear all the words of the field commander, whom his master, the king of Assyria, has sent to ridicule the living God, and that he will rebuke him for the words the LORD your God has heard. Therefore pray for the remnant that still survives.”
   5 When King Hezekiah’s officials came to Isaiah, 6 Isaiah said to them, “Tell your master, ‘This is what the LORD says: Do not be afraid of what you have heard—those words with which the underlings of the king of Assyria have blasphemed me. 7 Listen! When he hears a certain report, I will make him want to return to his own country, and there I will have him cut down with the sword.’”
   8 When the field commander heard that the king of Assyria had left Lachish, he withdrew and found the king fighting against Libnah.
   9 Now Sennacherib received a report that Tirhakah, the king of Cush, was marching out to fight against him. So he again sent messengers to Hezekiah with this word: 10 “Say to Hezekiah king of Judah: Do not let the god you depend on deceive you when he says, ‘Jerusalem will not be given into the hands of the king of Assyria.’ 11 Surely you have heard what the kings of Assyria have done to all the countries, destroying them completely. And will you be delivered? 12 Did the gods of the nations that were destroyed by my predecessors deliver them—the gods of Gozan, Harran, Rezeph and the people of Eden who were in Tel Assar? 13 Where is the king of Hamath or the king of Arpad? Where are the kings of Lair, Sepharvaim, Hena and Ivvah?”
Hezekiah’s Prayer
    14 Hezekiah received the letter from the messengers and read it. Then he went up to the temple of the LORD and spread it out before the LORD. 15 And Hezekiah prayed to the LORD: “LORD, the God of Israel, enthroned between the cherubim, you alone are God over all the kingdoms of the earth. You have made heaven and earth. 16 Give ear, LORD, and hear; open your eyes, LORD, and see; listen to the words Sennacherib has sent to ridicule the living God.
   17 “It is true, LORD, that the Assyrian kings have laid waste these nations and their lands. 18 They have thrown their gods into the fire and destroyed them, for they were not gods but only wood and stone, fashioned by human hands. 19 Now, LORD our God, deliver us from his hand, so that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you alone, LORD, are God.”
Isaiah Prophesies Sennacherib’s Fall
    20 Then Isaiah son of Amoz sent a message to Hezekiah: “This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: I have heard your prayer concerning Sennacherib king of Assyria. 21 This is the word that the LORD has spoken against him:
   “‘Virgin Daughter Zion 
   despises you and mocks you. 
Daughter Jerusalem 
   tosses her head as you flee. 
22 Who is it you have ridiculed and blasphemed? 
   Against whom have you raised your voice 
and lifted your eyes in pride? 
   Against the Holy One of Israel! 
23 By your messengers 
   you have ridiculed the Lord. 
And you have said, 
   “With my many chariots 
I have ascended the heights of the mountains, 
   the utmost heights of Lebanon. 
I have cut down its tallest cedars, 
   the choicest of its junipers. 
I have reached its remotest parts, 
   the finest of its forests. 
24 I have dug wells in foreign lands 
   and drunk the water there. 
With the soles of my feet 
   I have dried up all the streams of Egypt.”
   25 “‘Have you not heard? 
   Long ago I ordained it. 
In days of old I planned it; 
   now I have brought it to pass, 
that you have turned fortified cities 
   into piles of stone. 
26 Their people, drained of power, 
   are dismayed and put to shame. 
They are like plants in the field, 
   like tender green shoots, 
like grass sprouting on the roof, 
   scorched before it grows up.
   27 “‘But I know where you are 
   and when you come and go 
   and how you rage against me. 
28 Because you rage against me 
   and because your insolence has reached my ears, 
I will put my hook in your nose 
   and my bit in your mouth, 
and I will make you return 
   by the way you came.’
   29 “This will be the sign for you, Hezekiah:
   “This year you will eat what grows by itself, 
   and the second year what springs from that. 
But in the third year sow and reap, 
   plant vineyards and eat their fruit. 
30 Once more a remnant of the kingdom of Judah 
   will take root below and bear fruit above. 
31 For out of Jerusalem will come a remnant, 
   and out of Mount Zion a band of survivors.
   “The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this.
   32 “Therefore this is what the LORD says concerning the king of Assyria:
   “‘He will not enter this city 
   or shoot an arrow here. 
He will not come before it with shield 
   or build a siege ramp against it. 
33 By the way that he came he will return; 
   he will not enter this city, declares the LORD. 
34 I will defend this city and save it, 
   for my sake and for the sake of David my servant.’”
   35 That night the angel of the LORD went out and put to death a hundred and eighty-five thousand in the Assyrian camp. When the people got up the next morning—there were all the dead bodies! 36 So Sennacherib king of Assyria broke camp and withdrew. He returned to Nineveh and stayed there.
   37 One day, while he was worshiping in the temple of his god Nisrok, his sons Adrammelek and Sharezer killed him with the sword, and they escaped to the land of Ararat. And Esarhaddon his son succeeded him as king.

2 Kings 20

Hezekiah’s Illness
    1 In those days Hezekiah became ill and was at the point of death. The prophet Isaiah son of Amoz went to him and said, “This is what the LORD says: Put your house in order, because you are going to die; you will not recover.”
   2 Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to the LORD, 3 “Remember, LORD, how I have walked before you faithfully and with wholehearted devotion and have done what is good in your eyes.” And Hezekiah wept bitterly.
   4 Before Isaiah had left the middle court, the word of the LORD came to him: 5 “Go back and tell Hezekiah, the ruler of my people, ‘This is what the LORD, the God of your father David, says: I have heard your prayer and seen your tears; I will heal you. On the third day from now you will go up to the temple of the LORD. 6 I will add fifteen years to your life. And I will deliver you and this city from the hand of the king of Assyria. I will defend this city for my sake and for the sake of my servant David.’”
   7 Then Isaiah said, “Prepare a poultice of figs.” They did so and applied it to the boil, and he recovered.
   8 Hezekiah had asked Isaiah, “What will be the sign that the LORD will heal me and that I will go up to the temple of the LORD on the third day from now?”
   9 Isaiah answered, “This is the LORD’s sign to you that the LORD will do what he has promised: Shall the shadow go forward ten steps, or shall it go back ten steps?”
   10 “It is a simple matter for the shadow to go forward ten steps,” said Hezekiah. “Rather, have it go back ten steps.”
   11 Then the prophet Isaiah called on the LORD, and the LORD made the shadow go back the ten steps it had gone down on the stairway of Ahaz.
Envoys From Babylon
    12 At that time Marduk-Baladan son of Baladan king of Babylon sent Hezekiah letters and a gift, because he had heard of Hezekiah’s illness. 13 Hezekiah received the envoys and showed them all that was in his storehouses—the silver, the gold, the spices and the fine olive oil—his armory and everything found among his treasures. There was nothing in his palace or in all his kingdom that Hezekiah did not show them.
   14 Then Isaiah the prophet went to King Hezekiah and asked, “What did those men say, and where did they come from?”
   “From a distant land,” Hezekiah replied. “They came from Babylon.”
   15 The prophet asked, “What did they see in your palace?”
   “They saw everything in my palace,” Hezekiah said. “There is nothing among my treasures that I did not show them.”
   16 Then Isaiah said to Hezekiah, “Hear the word of the LORD:17 The time will surely come when everything in your palace, and all that your predecessors have stored up until this day, will be carried off to Babylon. Nothing will be left, says the LORD.18 And some of your descendants, your own flesh and blood who will be born to you, will be taken away, and they will become eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon.”
   19 “The word of the LORD you have spoken is good,” Hezekiah replied. For he thought, “Will there not be peace and security in my lifetime?”
   20 As for the other events of Hezekiah’s reign, all his achievements and how he made the pool and the tunnel by which he brought water into the city, are they not written in the book of the annals of the kings of Judah? 21 Hezekiah rested with his ancestors. And Manasseh his son succeeded him as king.

2 Kings 21

Manasseh King of Judah
    1 Manasseh was twelve years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem fifty-five years. His mother’s name was Hephzibah. 2 He did evil in the eyes of the LORD, following the detestable practices of the nations the LORD had driven out before the Israelites. 3 He rebuilt the high places his father Hezekiah had destroyed; he also erected altars to Baal and made an Asherah pole, as Ahab king of Israel had done. He bowed down to all the starry hosts and worshiped them. 4 He built altars in the temple of the LORD, of which the LORD had said, “In Jerusalem I will put my Name.” 5 In the two courts of the temple of the LORD, he built altars to all the starry hosts. 6He sacrificed his own son in the fire, practiced divination, sought omens, and consulted mediums and spiritists. He did much evil in the eyes of the LORD, arousing his anger.
   7 He took the carved Asherah pole he had made and put it in the temple, of which the LORD had said to David and to his son Solomon, “In this temple and in Jerusalem, which I have chosen out of all the tribes of Israel, I will put my Name forever.8 I will not again make the feet of the Israelites wander from the land I gave their ancestors, if only they will be careful to do everything I commanded them and will keep the whole Law that my servant Moses gave them.” 9 But the people did not listen. Manasseh led them astray, so that they did more evil than the nations the LORD had destroyed before the Israelites.
   10 The LORD said through his servants the prophets: 11“Manasseh king of Judah has committed these detestable sins. He has done more evil than the Amorites who preceded him and has led Judah into sin with his idols. 12 Therefore this is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: I am going to bring such disaster on Jerusalem and Judah that the ears of everyone who hears of it will tingle. 13 I will stretch out over Jerusalem the measuring line used against Samaria and the plumb line used against the house of Ahab. I will wipe out Jerusalem as one wipes a dish, wiping it and turning it upside down. 14 I will forsake the remnant of my inheritance and give them into the hands of enemies. They will be looted and plundered by all their enemies; 15 they have done evil in my eyes and have aroused my anger from the day their ancestors came out of Egypt until this day.”
   16 Moreover, Manasseh also shed so much innocent blood that he filled Jerusalem from end to end—besides the sin that he had caused Judah to commit, so that they did evil in the eyes of the LORD.
   17 As for the other events of Manasseh’s reign, and all he did, including the sin he committed, are they not written in the book of the annals of the kings of Judah? 18 Manasseh rested with his ancestors and was buried in his palace garden, the garden of Uzza. And Amon his son succeeded him as king.
Amon King of Judah
    19 Amon was twenty-two years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem two years. His mother’s name was Meshullemeth daughter of Haruz; she was from Jotbah. 20 He did evil in the eyes of the LORD, as his father Manasseh had done. 21 He followed completely the ways of his father, worshiping the idols his father had worshiped, and bowing down to them. 22 He forsook the LORD, the God of his ancestors, and did not walk in obedience to him.
   23 Amon’s officials conspired against him and assassinated the king in his palace. 24 Then the people of the land killed all who had plotted against King Amon, and they made Josiah his son king in his place.
   25 As for the other events of Amon’s reign, and what he did, are they not written in the book of the annals of the kings of Judah? 26 He was buried in his tomb in the garden of Uzza. And Josiah his son succeeded him as king.

John 4

Jesus Talks With a Samaritan Woman
    1 Now Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard that he was gaining and baptizing more disciples than John— 2although in fact it was not Jesus who baptized, but his disciples. 3 So he left Judea and went back once more to Galilee.
   4 Now he had to go through Samaria. 5 So he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about noon.
   7 When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” 8 (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.)
   9 The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.)
   10 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”
   11 “Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? 12 Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his livestock?”
   13 Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
   15 The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.”
   16 He told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.”
   17 “I have no husband,” she replied.
   Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband. 18 The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.”
   19 “Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet. 20Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.”
   21 “Woman,” Jesus replied, “believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 22 You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. 24 God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”
   25 The woman said, “I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.”
   26 Then Jesus declared, “I, the one speaking to you—I am he.”
The Disciples Rejoin Jesus
    27 Just then his disciples returned and were surprised to find him talking with a woman. But no one asked, “What do you want?” or “Why are you talking with her?”
   28 Then, leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town and said to the people, 29 “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Messiah?” 30 They came out of the town and made their way toward him.

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JEZEBEL

Revelation 2:20-23

As we have already dealt with this woman in the portion dealing with named women of the Bible (seeJezebel No. 2 ), all we need to do at this point is to briefly remind the reader of the way this sinister female is dealt with. Some writers adopt the reading, “thy wife Jezebel” and so regard her as an actual person, a false prophetess who sought to seduce the saints in the church in Thyatira. Other commentators regard the name Jezebel not as one belonging to an individual, but one representative of an apostate faction in the church. “It seems best to view the name as symbolical,” says Ellicott, “always remembering that the Jezebel spirit of proud, self-constituted authority, vaunting claims of superior holiness, or higher knowledge, linked with a disregard of—and perhaps a proud contempt for—‘legalism,’ and followed by open immorality, has again and again run riot in the churches of God.”
In this longest of the letters to the seven churches, Christ utters a solemn warning to those who persistently indulge in spiritual harlotry. If they refuse to repent, then they must share the condemnation of Jezebel. How gracious the Lord is, even to the worst of evil-doers—“I gave her space to repent.”
To those in Thyatira who had not been influenced by Jezebel and her fornications and demoniac depths (verse 24) there was promised a share in the rule of Christ ( verse 26). Works based on love play a prominent part in this letter (2:1926). Deeds and depths belong to Satan ( 2:2224). The Morning Star is Christ and all overcomers are fully to possess Him. What a future awaits all those who shun Jezebel and her evil ways and who have Christ in the heart as the Harbinger of the coming glorious day!

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Theophilus [Thēŏph'ĭlŭs]—loved by god, lover of god, or friend of godA Christian of high rank for whose use Luke wrote his gospel and the Acts of the Apostles (Luke 1:3Acts 1:1 ). The term “most excellent,” used also of Felix and Festus (Acts 23:2624:3;26:25 ), indicates that Theophilus was a Roman official to whom Luke paid due deference, even though he was on intimate terms with him. It has been suggested “Theophilus” was the name this Gentile nobleman chose at his conversion to Christianity. Evidently Luke had fully instructed him in the cardinal truths of the Gospel (Luke 1:3).
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Worse than the First

Matthew 12:43-45 "It goes and brings with it seven other spirits more evil than itself...and the last state of that person is worse than the first. So also will it be with this evil generation" ( v. 45).
In stating that something greater than both the Ninevites' repentance and King Solomon is present in Israel (Matt. 12:41-42 ), Jesus teaches us an important point about Himself (Christology). Jonah and Solomon represent the offices of prophet and king, respectively, and that which is greater is, of course, Christ Jesus and His coming. In short, Jesus is better than all the prophets and kings who came before Him. He is also greater than the priesthood because He is greater than the temple, which represents the priestly office (v. 6). Jesus, then, is clearly presenting Himself as the consummate prophet, priest, and king, a teaching found elsewhere in the New Testament ( Heb. 1:1-4).
Knowing the greatness of Christ's threefold office as our prophet, priest, and king helps us to interpret today's passage. The magnificence of Jesus means that there can be no neutral ground once you have seen the working of His power. Either you are for Jesus or you are against Him (Matt. 12:30 ). Christ has delivered many people from demons; therefore, those who have been rescued from Satan's grip must make a decision. A life of discipleship must follow such great healings. He who tries to remain on the fence about his allegiance to Jesus once he has seen the might of the Savior is going to be worse off than he was before meeting the Lord. If the place the Devil formerly occupied is not filled with love for the Redeemer, the evil spirit will return and bring with him seven demons more wicked than himself (vv. 43-45 ). The one who tastes the goodness of Jesus and then does not respond in faith will end up enslaved to Satan with stronger chains and will be more inclined toward degeneracy (see Heb. 6:1-8).
Jesus' main point in today's passage is not to provide a thorough explanation of demon-possession and exorcism, though these verses do have bearing on that subject. Instead, Christ is emphasizing once again the necessity of whole-hearted commitment to Himself. It is not enough to experience the good things of the kingdom; repentance and obedience must follow. Life-transforming discipleship must fill the void left by sin and evil. Otherwise it would be better not to be freed from such slavery at all (Matt. 12:38-42).

Coram deo: Living before the face of God

Modern commentators like James Boice have expressed grave concern for the present generation of Americans. Like those who lived during the time of Jesus, many people in the United States have experienced profound material blessings without turning from their sin and rebellion. Our pews are filled with people who lack faith even though they have seen the power of the Gospel in preaching and in answers to the prayers of others. Are you one of these individuals?
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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BIL-Header-700

Relationships: Encouragement

Few functions a leader performs are more important than that of keeping hope alive. During those times in which others are lost in a dark and seemingly endless maze of despair, effective leaders will drive away the darkness with positive projections for the future. They'll infuse those around them with optimism regarding themselves, others and the future of the organization. They know when to draw alongside of someone. They sense whether a team member needs a quick admonition or a shoulder on which to cry.
No other New Testament character illustrates the ability to encourage more strongly than Barnabas, whose name means "Son of Encouragement." The disciples in Jerusalem were understandably afraid of Saul. Based upon his reputation for zealotry and cruelty, it's no wonder that they questioned the validity of his profession of faith in Christ. As a devout Pharisee, Saul had doggedly hunted down and persecuted followers of Jesus.
Due to this suspicion, it seemed that Saul's ministry would flounder before it ever got started. And that might have happened had not Barnabas stood in the gap beside Saul, leading him to the apostles and testifying concerning his conversion and subsequent ministry. Barnabas encouraged the apostles to bless Saul's ministry, and they responded favorably. Barnabas provided the timely support that Saul needed to launch his ministry.
Effective leaders, like Barnabas, sustain hope by offering words of support. Suppose for a moment that Barnabas had said nothing on Saul's behalf. What might have happened? In what ways did his actions demonstrate both love and courage? Think for a moment about how you can follow his example, whether with a family member, a coworker or a peer. A little bit of encouragement can go a long way toward motivating those around you.
Encouragement and Who God Is
Because God loves us, he is pleased to encourage us. And he does this more frequently than we might suppose. Encouragement was a key theme in the divinely inspired revelations of the prophets, since God lovingly sought to inspire his people to confidence and hope in him. Turn to Zechariah 2:6-13 for a classic example of a prophetic word of encouragement.
Encouragement and Who I Am
In the rough-and-tumble circumstances of life, we sometimes receive blows that leave us bleeding and gasping for breath. During such times we need reassurance from God and others so that we may remain faithful in "the good fight" of faith, fix our eyes on Jesus and finish the race. Turn to 1 Samuel 18:1-4 to consider the relationship of mutual encouragement between Jonathan and David.
Encouragement and How It Works
Paul's life in general, and his farewell address to the Ephesian elders in particular, give us some good insight into the mechanics of encouragement. Turn to Acts 20:13-38 and notice the genuine care and concern Paul manifests for the people whom he is addressing.
Encouragement and What I Do
Encouragement is to a team what wind is to a sail-it moves people forward. Like the ancient Hebrew Christians, we all need words of support. The former baseball great Dave Dravecky provides some guidance concerning how we can offer the best kind of encouragement. Turn to Hebrews 3:13 for today's reading.
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Passage to memorize this week:
2 THESSALONIANS 2:16-17 May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word.

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by Kenneth Boa 
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TT_Coramdeo_ttlogo

Worse than the First

Modern commentators like James Boice have expressed grave concern for the present generation of Americans. Like those who lived during the time of Jesus, many people in the United States have experienced profound material blessings without turning from their sin and rebellion. Our pews are filled with people who lack faith even though they have seen the power of the Gospel in preaching and in answers to the prayers of others. Are you one of these individuals?
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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GiG Banner 2012 Big
May 14, 2012
Trust God with Your Time
Mary Southerland
Today's Truth
Ephesians 5:15-16 (ESV) "Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil."
Friend to Friend
Discipline is obedience, a lifetime process that brings us to a state of order by training and controlling our behavior. Discipline is focusing and eliminating, zeroing in on what is important in every area of life. Discipline not only leads to right thinking, pleasing behavior and balanced emotions but also produces a purpose-driven life based on right goals and priorities. 
Time management is a dreaded and often ignored spiritual discipline for many of us. We have either forgotten or failed to realize the truth that our minutes, hours and days are precious commodities -- gifts from God that can be unwrapped only once. Time is wasted unless it is invested in goals and priorities that are rooted in God's plan.
A busy life is not necessarily a productive life, girlfriends. Oh, I can hear it now! "I am very busy, but I am busy doing good things." Those words were the cry of my heart just before I crashed and burned and landed in a pit of clinical depression. The problem with my list of "good things" was that it was just that – my list – which was the wrong list formy life. The result was exhaustion, burnout and disobedience. 
One of the most important lessons of my "pit experience" was that my perspective of time was skewed. I had poured years into making my plan successful only to discover the truth that God resources and empowers His plan alone. Outlook determines outcome. It was painfully obvious I needed an outlook adjustment, an eternal perspective. I needed to understand the truth that my time is not really mine to do with as I please. It is a resource on loan to me from God. As a result, every plan, priority and goal should be held against the backdrop of eternity because it is from that backdrop that our priorities are validated, our calling confirmed and our time best invested.
Learning how to trust God with our time is a challenge for us all. I am, by no means, an expert in this area, but I do want to share some simple ideas that have worked for me.
Tithe your time. Just as we tithe our money, we should tithe our time. God blesses and multiplies the time we set aside to spend in Bible study, prayer and service. 
Get organized.  In 1 Corinthians 14:40, we are challenged to "do all in a fitting and orderly way." In other words, being organized is a spiritual discipline, freeing us from the tyranny of the urgent while making room for the eternal things that matter. Here are some simple organizational tips:
  • Buy and keep a calendar. Writing things down keeps me from wasting time and "bunching up" activities. It takes the pressure off to remember everything and allows me to see, at a glance, what is important. My weeks and months are more evenly scheduled and I am forced to prioritize, doing the important things first.
  • Choose one day a week to plan. Every Sunday afternoon, I plan the week ahead, recording the main tasks I need to complete and scheduling the appointments I need to make and keep. Pray over your week, asking the Holy Spirit to make clear those things ordained for each day. 
  • Simplify and eliminate. Experts advise us to approach spring cleaning by dealing with one closet at a time. The same principle works with time management. Break jobs up into manageable steps so that the large tasks seem doable. 
  • Tackle the dreaded task first. I have discovered that tackling the job I dread the most energizes me for the rest of the tasks. I have also learned to use my best time, the time of the day when my energy is highest, for the most important and the most difficult tasks. 
  • Stop activity when it becomes unproductive. Sometimes, a 10 minute break will boost energy, refocus attention and get creative juices flowing.
  • Begin a task, even if you won't have time to complete it. I hate doing laundry and frequently long for the day of disposable clothing. As a result, I often do the laundry in phases. For example, I will start the wash and go answer email. I then toss the wet clothing into the dryer and work on a writing assignment. You get the idea!
  • Delegate. When we delegate work to our children, we are teaching them godly discipline as well as basic life skills they need to learn. The church is filled with people waiting to be pushed out of their comfort zones in service. Look for those potential leaders and delegate.
  • Leave margins in your schedule. I tend to fill every time slot during the day. Therefore, when the "unexpected" comes along, I am overwhelmed and unprepared. Building margins of time into our schedules is a step of faith, trusting God to fill them in any way He chooses. 
  • Yield to the seasons of life. When my children were small, I did not travel and speak as much as I do now. Do not sacrifice your family on the altar of a career or even a ministry. Our greatest mission field is our home, our marriage and our children. It does not matter how much we do or how successful we are, if home and family get the leftovers of our time, energy, emotions and spiritual service, we are walking in sin and disobedience. 
Let's face it. If we don't set priorities -- others will. Time thieves will steal our time as we allow them to impose their plans and standards on us. While it is true that different women have different priorities and different seasons of life, it is also true that one priority remains steadfast. Matthew 6:33 "Seek ye first the kingdom of God…" Once that priority is firmly established, the rest of life will surely fall into place, and we will be trusting God with our time.
Let's Pray
Father, I want to live a life of power and purpose. I now surrender my time to You, Lord, and choose to invest each moment wisely. I will no longer put off doing what I know You want me to do. I will line up my priorities according to Your Word and will seek to be more disciplined with my time. I will set boundaries that please and honor God. Today, I choose to trust You with my time. 
In Jesus' name, 
Amen.
Now It's Your Turn
Read the following verses of Scripture. Memorize at least one and record it in your journal. What one new truth has God given you about time through today's devotional?
Psalm 90:12 (ESV) "So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom."

Ecclesiastes 3:1 (ESV) "For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven."

Psalm 39:4-5 (ESV) "O Lord, make me know my end and what is the measure of my days; let me know how fleeting I am! Behold, you have made my days a few handbreadths, and my lifetime is as nothing before you. Surely all mankind stands as a mere breath!"
More from the Girlfriends
For more help learning how to manage time, check out Mary's E-Bible Study, Time: Friend or Foe. 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?
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Girlfriends in God
P.O. Box 725
Matthews, NC 28106

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The first five disciples

‘The two disciples … followed Jesus; … One of the two … was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. He … first findeth his own brother Simon; … And he brought him to Jesus; … The day following Jesus … findeth Philip; … Philip findeth Nathanael.’John 1:37,40–43,45
Suggested Further Reading: 1 Corinthians 9:16–23
In the work of grace, there is ever the same kind of operation, and yet ever a difference in the manner of operation. There is always the same worker in the conversion of the soul, and yet different methods for breaking the heart and binding it up again are continually employed. Every sinner must be quickened by the same life, made obedient to the same gospel, washed in the same blood, clothed in the same righteousness, filled with the same divine energy, and eventually taken up to the same heaven, and yet in the conversion of no two sinners will you find matters precisely the same; but from the first dawn of the divine life to the day when it is consummated in the noontide of perfect sanctification in heaven, you shall find that God works this way in that one, and that way in the other, and by another method in the third; for God still will be the God of variety. Let his order stand fast as it may, still will he ever be manifesting the variety, the many-sidedness of his own thoughts and mind. If then you look at this narrative (John 1:37–51 )—somewhat long, but I think very full of instruction—you may notice four different methods of conversion; and these occur in the conversion of the first five who formed the nucleus of the college of apostles—the first five who came to Christ, and were numbered among his disciples. It is very remarkable that there should be among five individuals four different ways of conversion. Pick out five Christians indiscriminately and begin to question how they were brought to know the Lord, and you would find methods other than those you have here.
For meditation: The Lord Jesus Christ is the one and only way to God ( John 14:6), but there are no end of ways of being led to faith in him. God may vary his methods, but he never changes his principles (1 Corinthians 12:4–6).
Sermon no. 570
15 May (1864)

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Holy violence

“From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of God suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force.”Matthew 11:12
Suggested Further Reading: Genesis 32:22-32
Frequently complaints are made and surprise expressed by individuals who have never found a blessing rest upon anything they have attempted to do in the service of God. “I have been a Sunday-school teacher for years,” says one, “and I have never seen any of my girls or boys converted.” No, and the reason most likely is, you have never been violent about it; you have never been compelled by the divine Spirit to make up your mind that converted they should be, and no stone shall be left unturned until they were. You have never been brought by the Spirit to such a passion, that you have said, “I cannot live unless God bless me; I cannot exist unless I see some of these children saved.” Then, falling on your knees in agony of prayer, and putting forth afterwards your trust with the same intensity towards heaven, you would never have been disappointed, “for the violent take it by force.” And you too, my brother in the gospel, you have marvelled and wondered why you have not seen souls regenerated. Did you ever expect it? Why, you preach like one who does not believe what he is saying. Those who believe in Christ, may say of you with kind partiality, “Our minister is a dear good man;” but the careless young men that attend your ministry say, “Does that man expect to make me believe that which he only utters as a dry story, and to convince me when I see him go through the service with all the dullness and monotony of dead routine?” Oh, my brethren, what we want today in the churches is violence; not violence against each other, but violence against death, and hell, against the hardness of other men’s hearts, and against the sleepiness of our own.
For meditation: Do you mean business with God or do you just go through the motions? It can make all the difference (2 Kings 4:31-35Mark 9:2829).
Sermon no. 252
15 May (1859)

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NIV Devotions for Moms

How Many Loaves?

Additional Scripture Readings: 2 Kings 4:42-44; Mark 6:32-44
The only miracle reported in each of the four Gospels-besides the resurrection-is the feeding of the five thousand. If a truth is worth telling four times, it must be worth hearing.
It probably seemed ridiculous to Philip to even consider feeding 5,000 men (and about 10,000 women and children). Jesus' response in Mark 6:38 was simple: "How many loaves do you have?" And with the meager resources at hand, a few loaves and fish, Jesus fed the hungry.
Most of the time we don't realize how many "loaves" we have. We don't realize the many ways we can feed those around us. With the evening meal, we can serve up a loaf of encouragement to a dejected teenager. With a cup of coffee, we can serve a loaf of support to a new mom in our neighborhood. With a simple brown-bag lunch, we can serve up a happy time, hiking with our little ones. God takes our "loaves" and nourishes the needs of those around us. Let's eat!
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FIX YOUR EYES ON JESUS

…fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. Hebrews 12:2-3
The letter to the Hebrews was written to first century Jewish background believers who were being severely persecuted. Some were even considering giving up their faith in Jesus. The unknown author pens what many Bible scholars feel was originally a sermon about the superiority of Jesus over anyone else and everything else.
He slowly builds his case to culminate in the great faith chapter. In this chapter, he also points out that some great men and women of faith lived to see the fruit of their faith while many others—also men and women of faith—died prematurely because of persecution. Now in chapter twelve, the author makes what I think is his critical statement or main point of the letter.
How do we walk by faith? We walk by faith bykeeping our eyes fixed on Jesus ! Not fixed on our problems or difficult environment of opposition. Jesus was the pioneer and perfecter of faith. He endured opposition to the point of crucifixion. So we follow His example and we will also patiently endure because of the joy we know that is yet to come.
In a communist country, a Christian girl named Viorica was beaten harshly in school because she had invited her schoolmates to church. She fainted during the beating, and an ambulance had to take her to hospital. Two days passed before she regained consciousness. When she did, the doctor at her bedside said, “You poor girl, at last you’ve opened your eyes. All this time I’ve been thinking of the cruelty of the director who beat you like this. My heart has been bitter with hatred. I wish I could take revenge on him.”
Viorica smiled. “There is no need to hate him,” she replied. Jesus taught us to love everyone. Just before I opened my eyes, I saw Him and talked to Him. He asked me whether it still hurts. And He told me that in heaven I will receive a very beautiful crown, which is reserved only for those who have suffered for Him. He told me to pray for those who mistreated me, and to love them, because our influence will help them to give their lives to God and so become His children.”
From the mouths of children! Keep your eyes fixed on Jesus!
RESPONSE: Today I will take my eyes off my surroundings, my problems, my fears and my suffering. I will keep them fixed on Jesus my Lord.
PRAYER: Lord Jesus, help me keep my focus on You and in so doing bring glory and honor to You.
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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Wild Inspiration

Do you ever read Bible passages and just scratch your head in confusion? For most non-scholarly Bible readers, the book of Ezekiel is chock-full of kaleidoscopic visions that seem more like Star Wars than Scripture. After reading Ezekiel 1, can you imagine what fun Hollywood would have in creating their rendition of this scene? Even animatronics wizards might struggle to come up with a four-winged human being with four faces (that of a man, lion, ox and eagle)-on wheels, no less. God is, indeed, more creative than any human being's imagination.
Why would God give this wild vision to Ezekiel?
The answer might have to do with inspiration. It seems that what enabled the prophet Ezekiel and his contemporaries to press on in their difficult ministries was a powerful, majestic vision of God. Ezekiel's particular vision left an indelible impression: God was the absolute Sovereign over all of creation and history. The prophet would remember this one-of-a-kind experience and return to it all of his life.
Ezekiel could describe the cherubim in this vision with great detail. However, when he saw "the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD," he groped for words and ultimately could not respond. He could only fall facedown-awestruck by God's holiness and glory.
Ezekiel, like most Biblical prophets, endured his share of shame and often appeared foolish to his contemporaries. He did not have a dream job . . . so he needed a vision. His visions of God sustained, encouraged, strengthened and directed him in an otherwise difficult and thankless task.
What is your vision of God? What keeps you staying with the job God has called you to do? Is your motivation based on who God has revealed himself to be? Whatever your task today, dare to ask the wild, holy, Sovereign God of Ezekiel to reveal his majesty to encourage and strengthen you

Reflection

  1. Do you ever feel uninspired and unrewarded in your ministry, task or job?
  2. Where do you usually look for motivation?
  3. How has God revealed himself to you in a way that has strengthened and encouraged you?
Ezekiel 1:28 
Like the appearance of a rainbow in the clouds on a rainy day, so was the radiance around him. This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD. When I saw it, I fell facedown, and I heard the voice of one speaking

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Ali Smith
May 14, 2012
Hiding My Tears
Ali Smith
"You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book." Psalm 56:8b (NLT)
For years I kept my tears far from the eyes of anyone else. I simply refused to cry. Hiding my tears started with one little tooth.
"Just tilt your head back, close your eyes and I'll yank it out on the count of three ... ready? 1 ... 2 ... 3!"
I was only six, too little for that sharp surge of pain that rushed through my mouth. So of course it was only natural I burst into tears.
"You big cry baby!" That's my dad for you. The big heroic tooth extractor laughed.
All I could do was whimper amid muffled sobs, "But it hurts!" I nursed the gaping hole in my gums with a soggy paper towel. My historic moment of bravery turned into one pathetic flop. I had proved myself an official wimp.
That day sealed the deal. Crying became a strictly private and pretty much non-existent affair ... even into my adult years. Any time I felt tears coming, like a dam about to burst, I forced them to stay where I thought they belonged: hidden deep within my soul for no one else to see.
When I stumbled across these two treasured lines my perspective on crying changed: "You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book." Psalm 56:8b(NLT)
I couldn't believe it. Someone else wanted to store my tears! And in a far better place than the corners of my heart. Isn't it amazing to think each droplet we've shed over our years of experiences {including losing our first tooth} has been collected in a precious bottle? Held near and dear to our Father's heart.
You see, God doesn't laugh when we cry. He doesn't tell us to toughen up or turn the page on our tears like they don't exist. Instead, He picks us up on His lap and wraps us in His loving arms as we pour out our hearts to Him. Our Lord loves for us to let Him in on our deepest felt emotions.
I wonder what might cause your tears to flow right now-unanswered prayers ... unmet promises ... uncertainties of life-they are seen and saved by the One who comforts and cares for your every need.
Whatever is holding you back, may I encourage you? Open the floodgate of your heart and release your tears, sit quietly with the Lord and listen. Journal. Or take a walk and give your tears to Him. His arms are open and He is waiting for you to come to Him.
Dear Lord, thank You that You created me with tear ducts and all. Keep me from hiding my emotions out of fear of what others might think. Grant me the courage to cry, knowing that You will be there to comfort and console my heart in all of life's circumstances. Your love never fails and I am so very grateful. In Jesus' Name, Amen.
Ali Smith serves as a contributing writer for She Seeks, our division for 20'somethings! If you're in your 20s or love someone who is we hope you'll stop by today!
Reflect and Respond:
Was crying an acceptable thing in your family growing up? Reflect on ways in which your perspective on tears was shaped based on your upbringing.
What keeps you from expressing your emotions fully and freely around those you love? Ask God to show you what might be blocking or hindering your ability to be vulnerable.
Power Verses:
2 Corinthians 1:3-4, "Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ...who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God." (NIV)
Psalm 62:8, "Trust in him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge." (NIV)
© 2012 by Ali Smith. All rights reserved.
Proverbs 31 Ministries
616-G Matthews-Mint Hill Road
Matthews, NC 28105
www.Proverbs31.org


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