Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Daily Devotional Wednesday 2nd May

“And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” Hebrews 11:6 NIV
Morning and Evening by Charles Spurgeon


"I pray not that thou shouldst take them out of the world."
John 17:15
It is a sweet and blessed event which will occur to all believers in God's own time--the going home to be with Jesus. In a few more years the Lord's soldiers, who are now fighting "the good fight of faith" will have done with conflict, and have entered into the joy of their Lord. But although Christ prays that his people may eventually be with him where he is, he does not ask that they may be taken at once away from this world to heaven. He wishes them to stay here. Yet how frequently does the wearied pilgrim put up the prayer, "O that I had wings like a dove! for then would I fly away and be at rest;" but Christ does not pray like that, he leaves us in his Father's hands, until, like shocks of corn fully ripe, we shall each be gathered into our Master's garner. Jesus does not plead for our instant removal by death, for to abide in the flesh is needful for others if not profitable for ourselves. He asks that we may be kept from evil, but he never asks for us to be admitted to the inheritance in glory till we are of full age. Christians often want to die when they have any trouble. Ask them why, and they tell you, "Because we would be with the Lord." We fear it is not so much because they are longing to be with the Lord, as because they desire to get rid of their troubles; else they would feel the same wish to die at other times when not under the pressure of trial. They want to go home, not so much for the Saviour's company, as to be at rest. Now it is quite right to desire to depart if we can do it in the same spirit that Paul did, because to be with Christ is far better, but the wish to escape from trouble is a selfish one. Rather let your care and wish be to glorify God by your life here as long as he pleases, even though it be in the midst of toil, and conflict, and suffering, and leave him to say when "it is enough."


"These all died in faith."
Hebrews 11:13
Behold the epitaph of all those blessed saints who fell asleep before the coming of our Lord! It matters nothing how else they died, whether of old age, or by violent means; this one point, in which they all agree, is the most worthy of record, "they all died in faith." In faith they lived--it was their comfort, their guide, their motive and their support; and in the same spiritual grace they died, ending their life-song in the sweet strain in which they had so long continued. They did not die resting in the flesh or upon their own attainments; they made no advance from their first way of acceptance with God, but held to the way of faith to the end. Faith is as precious to die by as to live by.
Dying in faith has distinct reference to the past. They believed the promises which had gone before, and were assured that their sins were blotted out through the mercy of God. Dying in faith has to do with the present. These saints were confident of their acceptance with God, they enjoyed the beams of his love, and rested in his faithfulness. Dying in faith looks into the future. They fell asleep, affirming that the Messiah would surely come, and that when he would in the last days appear upon the earth, they would rise from their graves to behold him. To them the pains of death were but the birth-pangs of a better state. Take courage, my soul, as thou readest this epitaph. Thy course, through grace, is one of faith, and sight seldom cheers thee; this has also been the pathway of the brightest and the best. Faith was the orbit in which these stars of the first magnitude moved all the time of their shining here; and happy art thou that it is thine. Look anew tonight to Jesus, the author and finisher of thy faith, and thank Him for giving thee like precious faith with souls now in glory.


Today's reading: 1 Kings 10-11, Luke 21:20-38 (NIV)

View today's reading on Bible Gateway 
The Queen of Sheba Visits Solomon
    1 When the queen of Sheba heard about the fame of Solomon and his relationship to the LORD, she came to test Solomon with hard questions. 2 Arriving at Jerusalem with a very great caravan—with camels carrying spices, large quantities of gold, and precious stones—she came to Solomon and talked with him about all that she had on her mind. 3Solomon answered all her questions; nothing was too hard for the king to explain to her. 4 When the queen of Sheba saw all the wisdom of Solomon and the palace he had built, 5 the food on his table, the seating of his officials, the attending servants in their robes, his cupbearers, and the burnt offerings he made at the temple of the LORD, she was overwhelmed.
   6 She said to the king, “The report I heard in my own country about your achievements and your wisdom is true. 7 But I did not believe these things until I came and saw with my own eyes. Indeed, not even half was told me; in wisdom and wealth you have far exceeded the report I heard. 8 How happy your people must be! How happy your officials, who continually stand before you and hear your wisdom! 9 Praise be to the LORD your God, who has delighted in you and placed you on the throne of Israel. Because of the LORD’s eternal love for Israel, he has made you king to maintain justice and righteousness.”
   10 And she gave the king 120 talents of gold, large quantities of spices, and precious stones. Never again were so many spices brought in as those the queen of Sheba gave to King Solomon.
   11 (Hiram’s ships brought gold from Ophir; and from there they brought great cargoes of almugwood and precious stones.12 The king used the almugwood to make supports for the temple of the LORD and for the royal palace, and to make harps and lyres for the musicians. So much almugwood has never been imported or seen since that day.)
   13 King Solomon gave the queen of Sheba all she desired and asked for, besides what he had given her out of his royal bounty. Then she left and returned with her retinue to her own country.
Solomon’s Splendor
    14 The weight of the gold that Solomon received yearly was 666 talents, 15 not including the revenues from merchants and traders and from all the Arabian kings and the governors of the territories.
   16 King Solomon made two hundred large shields of hammered gold; six hundred shekels of gold went into each shield. 17 He also made three hundred small shields of hammered gold, with three minas of gold in each shield. The king put them in the Palace of the Forest of Lebanon.
   18 Then the king made a great throne covered with ivory and overlaid with fine gold. 19 The throne had six steps, and its back had a rounded top. On both sides of the seat were armrests, with a lion standing beside each of them. 20 Twelve lions stood on the six steps, one at either end of each step. Nothing like it had ever been made for any other kingdom. 21All King Solomon’s goblets were gold, and all the household articles in the Palace of the Forest of Lebanon were pure gold. Nothing was made of silver, because silver was considered of little value in Solomon’s days. 22 The king had a fleet of trading ships at sea along with the ships of Hiram. Once every three years it returned, carrying gold, silver and ivory, and apes and baboons.
   23 King Solomon was greater in riches and wisdom than all the other kings of the earth. 24 The whole world sought audience with Solomon to hear the wisdom God had put in his heart. 25 Year after year, everyone who came brought a gift—articles of silver and gold, robes, weapons and spices, and horses and mules.
   26 Solomon accumulated chariots and horses; he had fourteen hundred chariots and twelve thousand horses, which he kept in the chariot cities and also with him in Jerusalem. 27The king made silver as common in Jerusalem as stones, and cedar as plentiful as sycamore-fig trees in the foothills. 28Solomon’s horses were imported from Egypt and from Kue--the royal merchants purchased them from Kue at the current price.29 They imported a chariot from Egypt for six hundred shekels of silver, and a horse for a hundred and fifty. They also exported them to all the kings of the Hittites and of the Arameans.

1 Kings 11

Solomon’s Wives
    1 King Solomon, however, loved many foreign women besides Pharaoh’s daughter—Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Sidonians and Hittites. 2 They were from nations about which the LORD had told the Israelites, “You must not intermarry with them, because they will surely turn your hearts after their gods.” Nevertheless, Solomon held fast to them in love. 3 He had seven hundred wives of royal birth and three hundred concubines, and his wives led him astray. 4 As Solomon grew old, his wives turned his heart after other gods, and his heart was not fully devoted to the LORD his God, as the heart of David his father had been. 5 He followed Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, and Molek the detestable god of the Ammonites. 6 So Solomon did evil in the eyes of the LORD; he did not follow the LORD completely, as David his father had done.
   7 On a hill east of Jerusalem, Solomon built a high place for Chemosh the detestable god of Moab, and for Molek the detestable god of the Ammonites. 8 He did the same for all his foreign wives, who burned incense and offered sacrifices to their gods.
   9 The LORD became angry with Solomon because his heart had turned away from the LORD, the God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice. 10 Although he had forbidden Solomon to follow other gods, Solomon did not keep the LORD’s command. 11 So the LORD said to Solomon, “Since this is your attitude and you have not kept my covenant and my decrees, which I commanded you, I will most certainly tear the kingdom away from you and give it to one of your subordinates. 12Nevertheless, for the sake of David your father, I will not do it during your lifetime. I will tear it out of the hand of your son. 13Yet I will not tear the whole kingdom from him, but will give him one tribe for the sake of David my servant and for the sake of Jerusalem, which I have chosen.”
Solomon’s Adversaries
    14 Then the LORD raised up against Solomon an adversary, Hadad the Edomite, from the royal line of Edom. 15 Earlier when David was fighting with Edom, Joab the commander of the army, who had gone up to bury the dead, had struck down all the men in Edom. 16 Joab and all the Israelites stayed there for six months, until they had destroyed all the men in Edom.17 But Hadad, still only a boy, fled to Egypt with some Edomite officials who had served his father. 18 They set out from Midian and went to Paran. Then taking people from Paran with them, they went to Egypt, to Pharaoh king of Egypt, who gave Hadad a house and land and provided him with food.
   19 Pharaoh was so pleased with Hadad that he gave him a sister of his own wife, Queen Tahpenes, in marriage. 20 The sister of Tahpenes bore him a son named Genubath, whom Tahpenes brought up in the royal palace. There Genubath lived with Pharaoh’s own children.
   21 While he was in Egypt, Hadad heard that David rested with his ancestors and that Joab the commander of the army was also dead. Then Hadad said to Pharaoh, “Let me go, that I may return to my own country.”
   22 “What have you lacked here that you want to go back to your own country?” Pharaoh asked.
   “Nothing,” Hadad replied, “but do let me go!”
   23 And God raised up against Solomon another adversary, Rezon son of Eliada, who had fled from his master, Hadadezer king of Zobah. 24 When David destroyed Zobah’s army, Rezon gathered a band of men around him and became their leader; they went to Damascus, where they settled and took control. 25Rezon was Israel’s adversary as long as Solomon lived, adding to the trouble caused by Hadad. So Rezon ruled in Aram and was hostile toward Israel.
Jeroboam Rebels Against Solomon
    26 Also, Jeroboam son of Nebat rebelled against the king. He was one of Solomon’s officials, an Ephraimite from Zeredah, and his mother was a widow named Zeruah.
   27 Here is the account of how he rebelled against the king: Solomon had built the terraces and had filled in the gap in the wall of the city of David his father. 28 Now Jeroboam was a man of standing, and when Solomon saw how well the young man did his work, he put him in charge of the whole labor force of the tribes of Joseph.
   29 About that time Jeroboam was going out of Jerusalem, and Ahijah the prophet of Shiloh met him on the way, wearing a new cloak. The two of them were alone out in the country, 30and Ahijah took hold of the new cloak he was wearing and tore it into twelve pieces. 31 Then he said to Jeroboam, “Take ten pieces for yourself, for this is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: ‘See, I am going to tear the kingdom out of Solomon’s hand and give you ten tribes. 32 But for the sake of my servant David and the city of Jerusalem, which I have chosen out of all the tribes of Israel, he will have one tribe. 33 I will do this because they have forsaken me and worshiped Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, Chemosh the god of the Moabites, and Molek the god of the Ammonites, and have not walked in obedience to me, nor done what is right in my eyes, nor kept my decrees and laws as David, Solomon’s father, did.
   34 “‘But I will not take the whole kingdom out of Solomon’s hand; I have made him ruler all the days of his life for the sake of David my servant, whom I chose and who obeyed my commands and decrees. 35 I will take the kingdom from his son’s hands and give you ten tribes. 36 I will give one tribe to his son so that David my servant may always have a lamp before me in Jerusalem, the city where I chose to put my Name. 37 However, as for you, I will take you, and you will rule over all that your heart desires; you will be king over Israel. 38If you do whatever I command you and walk in obedience to me and do what is right in my eyes by obeying my decrees and commands, as David my servant did, I will be with you. I will build you a dynasty as enduring as the one I built for David and will give Israel to you. 39 I will humble David’s descendants because of this, but not forever.’”
   40 Solomon tried to kill Jeroboam, but Jeroboam fled to Egypt, to Shishak the king, and stayed there until Solomon’s death.
Solomon’s Death
    41 As for the other events of Solomon’s reign—all he did and the wisdom he displayed—are they not written in the book of the annals of Solomon? 42 Solomon reigned in Jerusalem over all Israel forty years. 43 Then he rested with his ancestors and was buried in the city of David his father. And Rehoboam his son succeeded him as king.

Luke 21

   20 “When you see Jerusalem being surrounded by armies, you will know that its desolation is near. 21 Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, let those in the city get out, and let those in the country not enter the city. 22 For this is the time of punishment in fulfillment of all that has been written. 23How dreadful it will be in those days for pregnant women and nursing mothers! There will be great distress in the land and wrath against this people. 24 They will fall by the sword and will be taken as prisoners to all the nations. Jerusalem will be trampled on by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.
   25 “There will be signs in the sun, moon and stars. On the earth, nations will be in anguish and perplexity at the roaring and tossing of the sea. 26 People will faint from terror, apprehensive of what is coming on the world, for the heavenly bodies will be shaken. 27 At that time they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. 28 When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”
   29 He told them this parable: “Look at the fig tree and all the trees. 30 When they sprout leaves, you can see for yourselves and know that summer is near. 31 Even so, when you see these things happening, you know that the kingdom of God is near.
   32 “Truly I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. 33 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.
   34 “Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness and the anxieties of life, and that day will close on you suddenly like a trap. 35 For it will come on all those who live on the face of the whole earth. 36 Be always on the watch, and pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen, and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man.”
   37 Each day Jesus was teaching at the temple, and each evening he went out to spend the night on the hill called the Mount of Olives, 38 and all the people came early in the morning to hear him at the temple.

Ichabod [Ĭ'chabŏd]—the glory is not, where is the glory or ingloriousThe posthumous son of Phinehas and grandson of Eli. His name commemorated a tragic crisis in Israel’s history, namely, the great slaughter of the people, including Hophni and Phinehas, and the capture of the Ark by the Philistines. Such terrible calamity resulted in Eli’s death at ninety-eight. The wife of Phinehas was so shocked over the dread news that when her child was born she called him Ichabod saying, “The glory is departed from Israel: for the ark of God is taken” ( 1 Sam. 4:2122).


Woes for the Hard in Heart

Matthew 11:20-24 "I tell you that it will be more tolerable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom than for you" ( v. 24).
Matthew 11 focuses on the rising opposition to Jesus' mission. Although John the Baptist's question about the Lord's true identity is not intended to oppose Him (because he does not go past doubt to unbelief, vv. 1-15 ), note that such doubting, if not handled properly, is the first step toward apostasy. Many religious leaders in Jesus' day go farther down this path and become outright enemies of John and Jesus (9:32-3411:16-19). Finally, as seen in today's passage, many common folk begin showing hostility to the Christ.
We have seen in the last few chapters examples of individuals who trusted Jesus and were blessed ( 8:5-139:20-22). However, people like the Roman centurion and the hemorrhaging woman are not necessarily representative of the great crowds that have heard the Savior (8:1). These faithful people are the exception according to Matthew 11:20-24 , not the rule. Jesus has done "mighty" miracles throughout Galilee (exemplified in the towns of Corazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum), but the populace as a whole has failed to repent.
That these villages have committed an especially heinous sin in rejecting Jesus is clear in their promised fate, which will be worse than that of three exceptionally wicked cities. The Old Testament prophets frequently denounced Tyre and Sidon (Ezek. 26-28Zech. 9:1-4 ) for their worship of idols and for taking pride in wealth. Sodom's rampant wickedness is well-known (Gen. 19). The Galilee of Jesus' day may not be guilty of such evils, but their punishment on Judgment Day will be worse because, unlike Tyre, Sidon, and Sodom, they have seen that Jesus is the agent of God's salvation and yet have rejected Him. In this passage, our Savior tells us that greater knowledge brings greater responsibility. As Matthew Henry says, "The stronger inducements we have to repent, the more heinous is the unrepentance and the severer will the reckoning be."
Matthew 11:20-24 seems to teach us there will be degrees of punishment in hell. Although all unrepentant sinners will suffer for eternity, those who have been exposed to the Gospel and have rejected it will suffer more intensely than those sinners who have never heard (Luke 12:35-48).

Coram deo: Living before the face of God

All of us are children of wrath from the moment of conception and deserve only eternal, conscious punishment for our sins apart from God's gracious renewal of our hearts to trust in His Son. Nevertheless, the sufferings of hell will be greater for those who know more of the Father's plan and character and yet remain in sin. No matter how difficult this may be for us to understand (Luke 20:45-47), the more we know, the more accountable we will be.
For further study:
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May 1, 2012
Oil for My Lamp
Sharon Jaynes
Today's Truth
"Her lamp does not go out at night…" (Proverbs 31:18 NIV).
Friend to Friend
Driving along the coast and coming upon a lighthouse is an inspiring sight.  Even though the map marks where the landmarks are stationed, it still brings a thrill when each one comes into view. That's how I feel when I see a mother nurturing her child. It is nothing new, this love of a mother for her offspring, but each time I see it, my heart takes a leap. Lighthouses and mothers share some common features, yet each one is beautiful and unique. Her bright light shines, and her foundation is sure. But the most important feature is the oil in her lamp.
Recently, I stood looking at the Bodie Island Lighthouse with its bold black and white horizontal stripes painted on its solid exterior. She is quite a flashy beacon, to say the least. Then I turned to look at the rough seas that were beating against the shore. I thought about the mariners who were dependent on the lighthouse's searching beam to lead them safely to shore. What if she ran out of oil? What if she didn't shine? The ships were relying on her to be prepared and well supplied with oil.
Then I thought about my own life as a mother. Suppose I ran out of oil, my light grew dim, or worse, burned out altogether. What would happen to my little fleet?
The blessed mother in Proverbs 31:18 also had a lamp. Scripture says that "her lamp did not go out at night." I used to read that verse and think, Doesn't this woman ever sleep!  But then I realized that it wasn't so much about her staying awake all night, as it was about her lamp. She never let her oil run dry.
A lighthouse has one primary mission: to broadcast light so a mariner can see the shore.  Likewise, a mother is a beacon that displays the Light to guide her children through an ocean of choices. A mother's light is Jesus Christ, and she can't shine that light if her lamp runs dry.
Ephesians 5:18 tells us, "Be filled with the Holy Spirit." That "be filled" is a present tense, continuous action verb. It means be filled daily and continually. And interestingly enough, many times in Scripture the Holy Spirit is referred to as…you guessed it…oil!
How does a mother run out of oil? In Max Lucado's book, Just Like Jesus, he tells a story that gives us a clue.
 "A lighthouse keeper who worked on a rocky stretch of coastline received oil once a month to keep his light burning bright. Not being far from the village, he had frequent guests. One night a woman needed oil to keep her family warm. Another night a father needed oil for his lamp.  Then another needed oil to lubricate a wheel. All the requests seemed legitimate, so the lighthouse keeper tried to meet them all. Toward the end of the month, however, he ran out of oil and his lighthouse went dark, causing several ships to crash on the coastline. The man was reproved by his superiors, 'You were given the oil for one reason,' they said, 'to keep the light burning.'"
As mothers in the twenty-first century, we are tempted to meet every need that comes our way. But our primary job is to love the Lord, love our husbands, and nurture our children. All the other needs that scream for our attention, though they are noble, must wait until we take care of our families first.
Let's Pray
Dear Lord, Thank You for this family that You have given me. I pray that I will be careful to take care of their needs before the needs of others who scream for my attention. Help me to be a woman with a balanced life: God first, husband second, children third. 
In Jesus' Name,
Now It's Your Turn
Have you ever run out of oil?  Out of strength?  Out of energy?
That's a silly question!  We all have!
Which statement best describes your life?
I am burning my light like a candle that consumes itself.
I am burning like an oil lamp fueled by an endless supply of the Holy Spirit's power.
Write a prayer asking God to fuel you with the Holy Spirit's power today.
More from the Girlfriends:
No one ever said being a parent would be easy. If it were, I don't think it would start with something called "labor!" If you would like to learn more about how to be a great parent, see Sharon's book, Being a Great Mom-Raising Great Kids. Also, Sharon offers a 4x5 laminated prayer card of Scripture to pray for your children or grandchildren.
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how to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
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The great arbitration case

‘Neither is there any daysman betwixt us, that might lay his hand upon us both.’ Job 9:33
Suggested Further Reading: 1 Timothy 2:1–6
We have all been thinking lately about the Atlantic cable. It is a very interesting attempt to join two worlds together. That cable has had to be sunk into the depths of the sea, in the hope of establishing a union between the two worlds, and now we are disappointed again. But what an infinitely greater wonder has been accomplished. Christ Jesus sank down deep into the woes of man till all God’s waves and billows had gone over him, that he might become the great telegraphic communication between God and poor sinners. Let me say to you, sinner, that there was no failure in the laying down of that blessed cable. It went down deep; the end was well secured, and it went into the depths of our sin and woe; and on the other side it has gone right up to the eternal throne, and is fastened there by God himself. You may work that telegraph today, and you may easily understand the art of working it too. A sigh or a tear will work it. Say, ‘God be merciful to me a sinner,’ and along the wire the message will flash, and will reach God before it comes from you. It is swifter far than earthly telegraphs; and there will come an answer back much sooner than you ever dream of, for it is promised—‘Before they call I will answer; and while they are yet speaking, I will hear.’ Who ever heard of such a communication as this between man and man? But it really does exist between sinners and God, since Christ has opened up a way from the depths of our sin to the heights of his glory.
For meditation: Unlike the Atlantic cable, the way between God and man has needed establishing once only (Romans 6:10Hebrews 7:25,279:1226,2810:101 Peter 3:18); he has worked perfectly well ever since for all who come to God by him and will never need repairing.
N.B. A telegraph cable across the Atlantic was first established, after three failures, in 1866. This undated sermon appeared in November 1865.
Sermon no. 661
2 May (Undated Sermon)


Breaking the Pact

People are often more interested in discussing spiritual matters than we think.
When Leslie and I moved to a new community, we sat down and discussed how we could strategically reach out to our neighbors with the message of Jesus. We would try to be attentive to ways we could serve them. We would drop hints early that we were Christians to plant seeds for future spiritual conversations. We would endeavor to follow a godly lifestyle so we might be “salt and light.” When we took our evening strolls together, we would silently pray for our neighbors as we walked by their homes.
We thought we had a pretty good game plan – until God showed up and reminded us that a big part of the adventure of evangelism are the surprises he brings along the way.
One day I saw a nearby neighbor I hadn't met. He was busy washing a car in his driveway, and I could tell by the lack of license plates that he had just purchased it. Seizing the opportunity to get to know him, I meandered over and congratulated him on his purchase.
“You picked a great car,” I told him. “The auto editor of the Tribune gave it an excellent review.”
“Thanks,” he replied with a smile, using a chamois to soak up water from the car's silver hood.
He seemed personable and extroverted. Soon we were embarking on a lively conversation that went from cars to families to the Chicago Cubs. Before long, our chat turned to one of my favorite topics: restaurants. “Did you see the barbecue place that just opened?” I asked.
His eyes lit up. “No, but I love barbecue,” he said. “Where is it?”
“Not far,” I said.
He glanced at his watch: it was about 5:15 pm. “Let's get the wives and go over there right now,” he said.
“Great idea! Can we take your new car?”
“Sure!” he replied, clearly happy to show it off.
I hurried back to our house and found Leslie getting ready to start cooking dinner. It didn't take much persuasion to convince her to go to the restaurant instead...
Read the rest at!
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Questions from Readers

• Why would a skeptic adopt a faith-based worldview?
• Why are resurrection accounts short and vague?
• Are recent archaeological findings significant?
Q. What evidence would cause an "atheist" to be swayed to a faith-based worldview?
A. I was an atheist for much of my life, starting in high school. In fact, a while back I was contacted by a nurse who had been a classmate of mine at Prospect High School in suburban Chicago during the late 1960s. She recalled how she had been "the good Catholic girl," while I was the acerbic atheist who was constantly belittling her for her faith. She was stunned when she stumbled upon one of my books and discovered I had later become a Christian!
I think your question may reflect a misunderstanding about faith. When I was an atheist, I still had a "faith-based worldview" - it was a faith built on my unproven conclusion that God does not exist. We all take steps of faith each day of our lives. Let me explain.
I define faith as being a step we take in the same direction we believe the evidence is pointing. For instance, I'm sitting here at my computer while sipping a bottle of water. How did I know the water wasn't poisoned? Well, the bottle came sealed. It bears the label of a reputable water company. It looks clear. There was no odor coming from the bottle when I opened it. My wife gave it to me, and she has no reason to want to harm me. So based on that evidence, it made sense to take a step of faith in the same direction and take a sip. Did I know for an absolute fact that it wasn't poisoned? No, but all the evidence pointed in the direction that it was safe to drink and therefore it was rational to do so.
When I was a teenager, it seemed rational for me to become an atheist. The world looked chaotic and unplanned. I believed my teachers when they said the unguided processes of evolution explained the origin and development of life. The presence of so much suffering in the world seemed to argue against a deity, miracles appeared scientifically impossible, and so on. Reading atheist authors reinforced my views. It seemed logical to take a step of faith in the same direction the evidence appeared to be pointing and became an atheist.
Read the rest of these Questions from Readers at Bible Gateway!

Have a question? Drop me a line We'll answer the ones with the broadest interest in upcoming newsletters.

Lee's Notes

• Spiritual skepticism is on the rise. Nearly one in four Americans under 30 now describe their religion as “atheist,” “agnostic,” or “nothing in particular.” Young people are dropping out of church at 5-6 times the historic rate, often because of intellectual doubts. To help you and your church deal with this trend, we're presenting a live simulcast called Unpacking Atheism on Sunday evening, October 14. Mark Mittelberg and I will be joined by Dr. William Lane Craig, one of the world's most prominent apologists, as well as a panel of former atheists who will describe why they became Christians. Register your church early so you can get out the word, especially to young people. For more information and to sign up, visitIncastevents.
• I love stories of radical conversions - and few are as stirring as Chuck Colson's transformation from Richard Nixon's “hatchet man” to a committed follower of Jesus. Chuck was a prophetic voice, a moral visionary, a friend of sinners and a persuasive campaigner for justice. I have fond memories of chatting for hours with him, late into the night, in the kitchen of a house at Prison Fellowship's headquarters. We'll miss his wisdom, leadership and passion. Chuck's memorial service is set for 10 am on May 16 at Washington National Cathedral. The event will be streamed live at Here are linksto some of the top media commentary on his life and contribution.
• Glad to hear that my legal thriller, The Ambition, has now been released in paperback, just in time for leisurely summer reading on the beach. And it's on sale for 33 percent off!
How then should we live?
Screen shot 2012-05-01 at 10.23.00 AM

In this video, Chuck Colson honors the legacy of Francis Schaeffer - but what really struck me was how Colson's words could easily be describing the impact of his own life and ministry. Watch as Colson urges the church to engage the culture and to defend "true truth," both of which were hallmarks of his own remarkable ministry. Well done, Chuck.

Lee's Links: Suggested articles from the web
Pill for singles?
We all want to decrease abortions, but pushing contraceptives to singles in the church is the wrong way.
Admiring Nietzsche
Why did many prominent Americans admire atheist German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche?
Help for kids
Here's a list of apologetics resources for kids from Ratio Christi, a student apologetics alliance.
Tebow's virginity
What should we think about the million-dollar bounty for anyone who can prove Tebow is lying?

Everything New - A Weeekly Devotional


I was walking through the tiled corridor of the history building at the University of Wisconsin, having just finished teaching a class, my mind focused on pressing ahead to the cafeteria for a bite to eat. But my way was blocked by a cluster of twenty or so students who stood motionless and quiet, staring up at a TV monitor mounted high on a wall in the lobby, listening to the news anchor's low and slow voice, which echoed among the tile and stone. I too could only stop and look up.
There on the monitor was a picture of a few dozen people in an outdoor reviewing stand-and they too were looking up, straining to see something, heads tilting, hands shielding their eyes from the sun. The next shot was of a strange pillar of smoke that branched out in two directions at the top. I heard a student whisper to another who just joined the cluster, "The Challenger blew up. The space shuttle." And the other student said in a hushed whisper, "No way."
Though I may not remember what I did or where I was the day before yesterday, I remember exactly where I was standing when I heard that the space shuttle blew up just after launch, though that was twenty-five years ago now. We all looked up, and have looked up a hundred times since seeing video replays of that yellow and black explosion, the chaos in the sky, the cross-like shape of the smoke with a fireball at the middle.
"When I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw all people to myself." Of all Jesus' statements pointing to his cross and what would happen in the world because of his crucifixion, this is one of the most poignant. He said this, according to John, "to indicate the kind of death he was going to die." Flesh nailed to a cross piece, hoisted up on a post, hanging in such a way that it was hard to draw a breath. Left to dry, left to die. And all that the people around could do was to stop, and look up. But as they looked up at the torture, they were also looking up toward heaven, and the world-changing transaction that was taking place at this crossing point.
There were the crowds who flowed out of Jerusalem, following the procession out to the "Place of the Skull" as we might follow an ambulance to a smoking heap beside the road. Gapers' block. Hard not to look, hard not to slow down.
"The people stood watching..." (Luke 23:35).
Jesus' own followers followed him to that place that they did not want to go to. "A large number of people followed him, including women who mourned and wailed for him" (Luke 23:27). They dared not stand too close. "But all those who knew him, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance, watching these things" (Luke 23:49).
Some of those close by participated in the crime, soldiers for whom a crucifixion was one more dirty duty on one more dirty day in the desert so far away from home. "The soldiers also came up and mocked him. They offered him wine vinegar and said, 'If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself'" (Luke 35:36-37).
The authorities who saw the wooden post as a decisive way to lance the boil of Jesus' ministry, to be rid of the problem once and for all, "sneered at him. They said, 'He saved others; let him save himself is he is the Christ of God, the Chosen One'" (Luke 35:35).
We all seek salvation. People use different words for it, but really all people living in all places at all times recognize through injury and disappointment and death that something has gone terribly wrong in the world, and we need rescue.
So when the soldiers ridiculed Jesus by saying that he should save himself from his torture, and when the rulers claimed that the least the "Messiah" should be able to do is to save himself, and when one of the criminals being crucified next to Jesus taunted, "Aren't you the Christ? Save yourself and us," they all spoke through bitter, teeth-clenched mouths of their own most deep personal need to be saved-but in a way they could barely imagine.
They all looked up. How could they not?
When Jesus was lifted up in that way at that time, he did draw all people to himself.


About The Author - Mel Lawrenz serves as minister at large for Elmbrook Church and leads The Brook Network. Having been in pastoral ministry for thirty years, the last decade as senior pastor of Elmbrook, Mel seeks to help Christian leaders engage with each other. Mel is the author of eleven books, the most recent for church leaders, Whole Church: Leading from Fragmentation to Engagement.


Why was Elijah afraid after his great victory?

This week's reading: 1 Kings 19:3-5
Even individuals of great courage and conviction have moments when they feel discouraged. After the euphoric victory on Mount Carmel, it seems that Elijah's emotions fell. He was not indestructible. He had human weaknesses. "Elijah was a human being just like us" (Jas 5:17).
We might think that in the rush of victory, Elijah would have felt invincible. Instead, it seems, he felt exhausted. We might think Elijah would have welcomed Jezebel's challenge as an opportunity to attack his enemy at its source. Instead, he retreated.
It may be that Elijah was facing a personal crisis of faith, identity and vision. Now that he had won his lifelong battle against the prophets of Baal, why was his life still in danger? Didn't he deserve a little rest? Hadn't he earned the right to retire in peace? Sometimes the thought of another battle, after just finishing one, is overwhelming.
We can only speculate about what actually fueled Elijah's fears. But we can readily see that he was human. God met Elijah in the midst of fear and doubt, giving the frightened prophet comfort and rest.




For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Ephesians 6:12
A Filipino pastor, who is a former Muslim, lives on the island of Mindanao in the southern Philippines. He was a notorious gang leader and spent years in prison for robbery and murder. But there in prison he met Jesus Christ.
After his release, he was so effective in leading Muslims to Jesus back home in Mindanao that Muslim extremists in his area kidnapped his fourteen-year-old daughter. They would only return her, he was told, if he stopped preaching about Jesus and returned to Islam.
He and his wife prayed intensely about this and felt they could not give in to this blackmail. He continued to preach faithfully for three years with no definite news about his little girl.
He concludes, “Despite the terrible things they have done to my daughter, I fear no one but God alone! Pray for my daughter and that I will continue to preach Christ.”
Three years later, he received a letter from his daughter. She shared with her parents that she had been sold into prostitution in neighbouring East Malaysia. But God had helped her escape. She was then taken in by a sympathetic Malaysian family and hidden for her safety. And then she fell in love with a young man and married him. She and her parents planned to visit together in a safe place.
Spiritual warfare is the cosmic conflict that rages between the kingdom of God and the kingdom of Satan. Remember we are not talking about two equal kingdoms battling-it-out for victory. Satan is only a created being. Christ has all authority and power. Satan's power was broken at the cross. The Apostle Paul records for us in Colossians 2:15And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the crossSo the only power Satan has today is the power to deceive the people of the world - to blind them from seeing the glory of God (2 Corinthians 4:3-4).
Satan’s primary strategy is to divide and conquer. His key tactics include accusation, deception, and the interruption of our relationships with the Father and with each other. He is actively leading mankind to defile the land, which is God’s, in order to keep humanity in darkness. This is one reason unity in the Body of Christ is so critical for the fulfillment of the Great Commission.
Why would someone lost in the chaos of the world want to be part of a fellowship of people that is disorderly, dysfunctional, and even destructive? The Church of Jesus Christ must be ruled by love. We must be a refuge, a place of safety!
RESPONSE: I will be alert to Satan’s spiritual warfare tactics today without getting distracted from the Lord’s primary ministry directions.
PRAYER: Pray for witnessing brothers and sisters on the frontlines who experience Satan’s greatest fury.
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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Samantha Reed
May 1, 2012
When Life Breaks You
Samantha Reed
"The fundamental fact of existence is that this trust in God, this faith, is the firm foundation under everything that makes life worth living. It's our handle on what we can't see." Hebrews 11:1 (MSG)
It was a hard year. Heart-breakin' hard.
A dream I nurtured for ten years went up in flames. This hope wasn't a passing flight-of-fancy. It was a promise I fully believed was from the Lord.
Staying the course and believing for so long was exhausting. And thrilling. Yet in a flash my dream died. My heart was burned and the ashes seemed a proper place to fall.
Sad and unresponsive to encouragement, I stayed there a long,long time. My hands {emptied of hope} filled with fists of ashes.
I knew I needed to get up; I just couldn't muster the elusive 'oomph' to do it. Grief was the only emotion that felt natural; sorrow was comfortable.
Yet I knew, wallowing in the embers would be the death of me as well. And here's the sweet thing: God knew this too. He unwaveringly kneeled next to me, extending a helping-hand up. He promised: This isn't the end. Give Me the ashes; I'll do something with them. Something beautiful.
He spoke this message in hundreds of ways. But it wasn't until He was silent that I heard Him at a concert.
It was barely noticeable. Permanently engraved on the girl's foot in front of me, the swirly feminine font contrasted with dark masculine ink: Beauty for ashes.
And there He was. Our God of redemption and resurrection, speaking His timeless message once again.
For me. For you. Give Me the ashes; I'll do something with them. Something beautiful.
That was several years ago. And I wish I could tie up my story with a pretty bow. Say that I unclenched my fists; gave God the soot. Have been happy-go-lucky since then. But I won't. Cause I can't.
I want to be real. And real is the fact that it's taken every day between then and now to see redeeming qualities from the heartbreak. To be honest, I still don't see much beauty from such devastation.
But like I said, I want to be real. And real is also my trust ... my faith ... in a God who makes life worth living. When I can't get a handle on my emotions or wrap my mind around the questions, I'll stay committed to...
Take Him at His Word, despite circumstances. Believe He a creative Creator. Hope for what is unseen.
I'll continue to look for His goodness, our firm foundation, even if it's from a pile of ashes. Because truly, the most beautiful thing I see from these years and this pain is a faithful God.
One who stands by. One who redeems - all things. One who creates masterpieces out of muck.
A God who took the most hopeless situation and the ultimate death ... and resurrected hope. Resurrected our Hope: Jesus.
And there is the spark we need to light a new fire in us to Give Me the ashes; I'll do something with them. Something beautiful.
Dear Lord, I can't see how good will come from my pain. But You are my creative Creator and I know You can work masterpieces out of muck. Today, I recommit my hope and faith in You, and I'm looking up to You. Thanks for kneeling beside me so faithfully. In Jesus' Name, Amen.
Related Resources:
Find hope each month with P31 Woman magazine
Samantha Reed is saying "yes" to the Lord this year. Yes to getting out of the ashes, to hope, to beauty. Join her here!
Daily encouragement is waiting for you on our Facebook page.
Reflect and Respond:
Have you opted to stare at the ashes, rather than gaze at God? This could be the day you Give Me the ashes; I'll do something with them. Something beautiful.
The most beautiful thing we can see from hard years and much pain is a faithful God. One who stands by. One who redeems - all things. One who creates masterpieces out of muck.
Power Verses:
2 Corinthians 1:3-4a, "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction ..." (ESV)
Psalm 3:3-4, "But you, O Lord, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head. I cried aloud to the Lord, and he answered me from his holy hill." (ESV)
© 2012 by Samantha Reed. All rights reserved.
Proverbs 31 Ministries
616G MatthewsMint Hill Road
Matthews, NC 28105



Christ glorified as the builder of his church

“He shall build the temple of the Lord; and he shall bear the glory.” Zechariah 6:13
Suggested Further Reading: Revelation 19:1-10
This glory is undivided glory. In the church of Christ in heaven, no one is glorified but Christ. He who is honoured on earth has some one to share the honour with him, some inferior helper who laboured with him in the work; but Christ has none. He is glorified, and it is all his own glory. Oh, when you get to heaven, you children of God, will you praise any but your Master? Calvinists, today you love John Calvin; will you praise him there? Lutherans, today you love the memory of that stern reformer; will you sing the song of Luther in heaven? Followers of Wesley, you revere that evangelist; will you in heaven have a note for John Wesley? None, none, none! Giving up all names and all honours of men, the strain shall rise in undivided and unjarring unison “Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, unto him be glory for ever and ever.” But again; he shall have all the glory; all that can be conceived, all that can be desired, all that can be imagined shall come to him.Today, you praise him, but not as you can wish; in heaven you shall praise him to the summit of your desire. Today you see him magnified, but you see not all things put under him; in heaven all things shall acknowledge his dominion. There every knee shall bow before him, and every tongue confess that he is Lord. He shall have all the glory. But to conclude on this point; this glory is continual glory. It says he shall bear all the glory. When shall this dominion become exhausted? When shall this promise be so fulfilled that it is put away as a worn out garment? Never.
For meditation: “Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever.” (Matthew 6:13). Can you really say ‘Amen’ to this?
Sermon no. 191
2 May (1858)


Woes for the Hard in Heart

All of us are children of wrath from the moment of conception and deserve only eternal, conscious punishment for our sins apart from God's gracious renewal of our hearts to trust in His Son. Nevertheless, the sufferings of hell will be greater for those who know more of the Father's plan and character and yet remain in sin. No matter how difficult this may be for us to understand (Luke 20:45-47 ), the more we know, the more accountable we will be.
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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