Friday, June 15, 2012

Daily Devotional Friday 15th June

“But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ,” Philippians 3:20 NIV
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Morning and Evening by Charles Spurgeon

Morning

"And Sarah said, God hath made me to laugh, so that all that hear will laugh with me."
Genesis 21:6
It was far above the power of nature, and even contrary to its laws, that the aged Sarah should be honoured with a son; and even so it is beyond all ordinary rules that I, a poor, helpless, undone sinner, should find grace to bear about in my soul the indwelling Spirit of the Lord Jesus. I, who once despaired, as well I might, for my nature was as dry, and withered, and barren, and accursed as a howling wilderness, even I have been made to bring forth fruit unto holiness. Well may my mouth be filled with joyous laughter, because of the singular, surprising grace which I have received of the Lord, for I have found Jesus, the promised seed, and he is mine forever. This day will I lift up psalms of triumph unto the Lord who has remembered my low estate, for "my heart rejoiceth in the Lord; mine horn is exalted in the Lord; my mouth is enlarged over mine enemies, because I rejoice in thy salvation."
I would have all those that hear of my great deliverance from hell, and my most blessed visitation from on high, laugh for joy with me. I would surprise my family with my abundant peace; I would delight my friends with my ever-increasing happiness; I would edify the Church with my grateful confessions; and even impress the world with the cheerfulness of my daily conversation. Bunyan tells us that Mercy laughed in her sleep, and no wonder when she dreamed of Jesus; my joy shall not stop short of hers while my Beloved is the theme of my daily thoughts. The Lord Jesus is a deep sea of joy: my soul shall dive therein, shall be swallowed up in the delights of his society. Sarah looked on her Isaac, and laughed with excess of rapture, and all her friends laughed with her; and thou, my soul, look on thy Jesus, and bid heaven and earth unite in thy joy unspeakable.

Evening

"He openeth, and no man shutteth."
Revelation 3:7
Jesus is the keeper of the gates of paradise and before every believing soul he setteth an open door, which no man or devil shall be able to close against it. What joy it will be to find that faith in him is the golden key to the everlasting doors. My soul, dost thou carry this key in thy bosom, or art thou trusting to some deceitful pick-lock, which will fail thee at last? Hear this parable of the preacher, and remember it. The great King has made a banquet, and he has proclaimed to all the world that none shall enter but those who bring with them the fairest flower that blooms. The spirits of men advance to the gate by thousands, and they bring each one the flower which he esteems the queen of the garden; but in crowds they are driven from the royal presence, and enter not into the festive halls. Some bear in their hand the deadly nightshade of superstition, or the flaunting poppies of Rome, or the hemlock of self- righteousness, but these are not dear to the King, the bearers are shut out of the pearly gates. My soul, hast thou gathered the rose of Sharon? Dost thou wear the lily of the valley in thy bosom constantly? If so, when thou comest up to the gates of heaven thou wilt know its value, for thou hast only to show this choicest of flowers, and the Porter will open: not for a moment will he deny thee admission, for to that rose the Porter openeth ever. Thou shalt find thy way with the rose of Sharon in thy hand up to the throne of God himself, for heaven itself possesses nothing that excels its radiant beauty, and of all the flowers that bloom in paradise there is none that can rival the lily of the valley. My soul, get Calvary's blood-red rose into thy hand by faith, by love wear it, by communion preserve it, by daily watchfulness make it thine all in all, and thou shalt be blessed beyond all bliss, happy beyond a dream. Jesus, be mine forever, my God, my heaven, my all.

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Today's reading: Ezra 9-10, Acts 1 (NIV)

View today's reading on Bible Gateway 
Ezra’s Prayer About Intermarriage
    1 After these things had been done, the leaders came to me and said, “The people of Israel, including the priests and the Levites, have not kept themselves separate from the neighboring peoples with their detestable practices, like those of the Canaanites, Hittites, Perizzites, Jebusites, Ammonites, Moabites, Egyptians and Amorites. 2 They have taken some of their daughters as wives for themselves and their sons, and have mingled the holy race with the peoples around them. And the leaders and officials have led the way in this unfaithfulness.”
   3 When I heard this, I tore my tunic and cloak, pulled hair from my head and beard and sat down appalled. 4 Then everyone who trembled at the words of the God of Israel gathered around me because of this unfaithfulness of the exiles. And I sat there appalled until the evening sacrifice.
   5 Then, at the evening sacrifice, I rose from my self-abasement, with my tunic and cloak torn, and fell on my knees with my hands spread out to the LORD my God 6 and prayed:
   “I am too ashamed and disgraced, my God, to lift up my face to you, because our sins are higher than our heads and our guilt has reached to the heavens. 7 From the days of our ancestors until now, our guilt has been great. Because of our sins, we and our kings and our priests have been subjected to the sword and captivity, to pillage and humiliation at the hand of foreign kings, as it is today.
   8 “But now, for a brief moment, the LORD our God has been gracious in leaving us a remnant and giving us a firm place in his sanctuary, and so our God gives light to our eyes and a little relief in our bondage. 9 Though we are slaves, our God has not forsaken us in our bondage. He has shown us kindness in the sight of the kings of Persia: He has granted us new life to rebuild the house of our God and repair its ruins, and he has given us a wall of protection in Judah and Jerusalem.
   10 “But now, our God, what can we say after this? For we have forsaken the commands 11 you gave through your servants the prophets when you said: ‘The land you are entering to possess is a land polluted by the corruption of its peoples. By their detestable practices they have filled it with their impurity from one end to the other. 12 Therefore, do not give your daughters in marriage to their sons or take their daughters for your sons. Do not seek a treaty of friendship with them at any time, that you may be strong and eat the good things of the land and leave it to your children as an everlasting inheritance.’
   13 “What has happened to us is a result of our evil deeds and our great guilt, and yet, our God, you have punished us less than our sins deserved and have given us a remnant like this.14 Shall we then break your commands again and intermarry with the peoples who commit such detestable practices? Would you not be angry enough with us to destroy us, leaving us no remnant or survivor? 15 LORD, the God of Israel, you are righteous! We are left this day as a remnant. Here we are before you in our guilt, though because of it not one of us can stand in your presence.”

Ezra 10

The People’s Confession of Sin
    1 While Ezra was praying and confessing, weeping and throwing himself down before the house of God, a large crowd of Israelites—men, women and children—gathered around him. They too wept bitterly. 2 Then Shekaniah son of Jehiel, one of the descendants of Elam, said to Ezra, “We have been unfaithful to our God by marrying foreign women from the peoples around us. But in spite of this, there is still hope for Israel. 3 Now let us make a covenant before our God to send away all these women and their children, in accordance with the counsel of my lord and of those who fear the commands of our God. Let it be done according to the Law. 4 Rise up; this matter is in your hands. We will support you, so take courage and do it.”
   5 So Ezra rose up and put the leading priests and Levites and all Israel under oath to do what had been suggested. And they took the oath. 6 Then Ezra withdrew from before the house of God and went to the room of Jehohanan son of Eliashib. While he was there, he ate no food and drank no water, because he continued to mourn over the unfaithfulness of the exiles.
   7 A proclamation was then issued throughout Judah and Jerusalem for all the exiles to assemble in Jerusalem. 8Anyone who failed to appear within three days would forfeit all his property, in accordance with the decision of the officials and elders, and would himself be expelled from the assembly of the exiles.
   9 Within the three days, all the men of Judah and Benjamin had gathered in Jerusalem. And on the twentieth day of the ninth month, all the people were sitting in the square before the house of God, greatly distressed by the occasion and because of the rain. 10 Then Ezra the priest stood up and said to them, “You have been unfaithful; you have married foreign women, adding to Israel’s guilt. 11 Now honor the LORD, the God of your ancestors, and do his will. Separate yourselves from the peoples around you and from your foreign wives.”
   12 The whole assembly responded with a loud voice: “You are right! We must do as you say. 13 But there are many people here and it is the rainy season; so we cannot stand outside. Besides, this matter cannot be taken care of in a day or two, because we have sinned greatly in this thing. 14 Let our officials act for the whole assembly. Then let everyone in our towns who has married a foreign woman come at a set time, along with the elders and judges of each town, until the fierce anger of our God in this matter is turned away from us.” 15 Only Jonathan son of Asahel and Jahzeiah son of Tikvah, supported by Meshullam and Shabbethai the Levite, opposed this.
   16 So the exiles did as was proposed. Ezra the priest selected men who were family heads, one from each family division, and all of them designated by name. On the first day of the tenth month they sat down to investigate the cases, 17and by the first day of the first month they finished dealing with all the men who had married foreign women.
Those Guilty of Intermarriage
    18 Among the descendants of the priests, the following had married foreign women:
   From the descendants of Joshua son of Jozadak, and his brothers: Maaseiah, Eliezer, Jarib and Gedaliah. 19 (They all gave their hands in pledge to put away their wives, and for their guilt they each presented a ram from the flock as a guilt offering.)
   20 From the descendants of Immer: 
   Hanani and Zebadiah.
   21 From the descendants of Harim: 
   Maaseiah, Elijah, Shemaiah, Jehiel and Uzziah.
   22 From the descendants of Pashhur: 
   Elioenai, Maaseiah, Ishmael, Nethanel, Jozabad and Elasah.
   23 Among the Levites:
   Jozabad, Shimei, Kelaiah (that is, Kelita), Pethahiah, Judah and Eliezer.
    24 From the musicians: 
   Eliashib.
   From the gatekeepers: 
   Shallum, Telem and Uri.
   25 And among the other Israelites:
   From the descendants of Parosh: 
   Ramiah, Izziah, Malkijah, Mijamin, Eleazar, Malkijah and Benaiah.
   26 From the descendants of Elam: 
   Mattaniah, Zechariah, Jehiel, Abdi, Jeremoth and Elijah.
   27 From the descendants of Zattu: 
   Elioenai, Eliashib, Mattaniah, Jeremoth, Zabad and Aziza.
   28 From the descendants of Bebai: 
   Jehohanan, Hananiah, Zabbai and Athlai.
   29 From the descendants of Bani: 
   Meshullam, Malluk, Adaiah, Jashub, Sheal and Jeremoth.
   30 From the descendants of Pahath-Moab: 
   Adna, Kelal, Benaiah, Maaseiah, Mattaniah, Bezalel, Binnui and Manasseh.
   31 From the descendants of Harim: 
   Eliezer, Ishijah, Malkijah, Shemaiah, Shimeon, 32 Benjamin, Malluk and Shemariah.
   33 From the descendants of Hashum: 
   Mattenai, Mattattah, Zabad, Eliphelet, Jeremai, Manasseh and Shimei.
   34 From the descendants of Bani: 
   Maadai, Amram, Uel, 35 Benaiah, Bedeiah, Keluhi, 36 Vaniah, Meremoth, Eliashib, 37 Mattaniah, Mattenai and Jaasu.
   38 From the descendants of Binnui:
   Shimei, 39 Shelemiah, Nathan, Adaiah, 40 Maknadebai, Shashai, Sharai, 41 Azarel, Shelemiah, Shemariah, 42 Shallum, Amariah and Joseph.
   43 From the descendants of Nebo: 
   Jeiel, Mattithiah, Zabad, Zebina, Jaddai, Joel and Benaiah.
   44 All these had married foreign women, and some of them had children by these wives.

Acts 1

Jesus Taken Up Into Heaven
    1 In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach 2 until the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen. 3 After his suffering, he presented himself to them and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God. 4 On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. 5 For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”
   6 Then they gathered around him and asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”
   He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
   9 After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.
   10 They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. 11 “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.”
Matthias Chosen to Replace Judas
    12 Then the apostles returned to Jerusalem from the hill called the Mount of Olives, a Sabbath day’s walk from the city.13 When they arrived, they went upstairs to the room where they were staying. Those present were Peter, John, James and Andrew; Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew; James son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of James. 14 They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers.
   15 In those days Peter stood up among the believers (a group numbering about a hundred and twenty) 16 and said, “Brothers and sisters, the Scripture had to be fulfilled in which the Holy Spirit spoke long ago through David concerning Judas, who served as guide for those who arrested Jesus. 17 He was one of our number and shared in our ministry.”
   18 (With the payment he received for his wickedness, Judas bought a field; there he fell headlong, his body burst open and all his intestines spilled out. 19 Everyone in Jerusalem heard about this, so they called that field in their language Akeldama, that is, Field of Blood.)
   20 “For,” said Peter, “it is written in the Book of Psalms:
   “‘May his place be deserted; 
   let there be no one to dwell in it,’
   and,
   “‘May another take his place of leadership.’
   21 Therefore it is necessary to choose one of the men who have been with us the whole time the Lord Jesus was living among us, 22 beginning from John’s baptism to the time when Jesus was taken up from us. For one of these must become a witness with us of his resurrection.”
   23 So they nominated two men: Joseph called Barsabbas (also known as Justus) and Matthias. 24 Then they prayed, “Lord, you know everyone’s heart. Show us which of these two you have chosen 25 to take over this apostolic ministry, which Judas left to go where he belongs.” 26 Then they cast lots, and the lot fell to Matthias; so he was added to the eleven apostles.

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Timotheus, Timothy [Tīmō'theŭs, Tĭm'o thy̆]—honored of god, worshiping god or valued of godA young man of Lystra, son of Eunice, a Jewess, by a Greek father who was probably dead when Paul first visited the home (Acts 16:1).

The Man Who Confessed a Good Confession

As Paul contributes a full portrait of his spiritual son, many years his junior, let us string together the salient features of Timothy.
I. He was the child of godly heritage (2 Tim. 1:5). His mother was a Christian Jewess and the daughter of another devout Jewess, Lois. His Greek father’s name is unknown. It may be that Eunice became a Christian when Paul visited Lystra, a town not far from Paul’s birthplace, Tarsus.
II. He was a youthful reader of Scripture (2 Tim. 3:15). From a “babe” he had had knowledge of the Truth. How blessed children are if cradled in the things of God!
III. He was Paul’s child in the faith (1 Cor. 4:171 Tim. 1:22 Tim. 1:2 ). Probably Paul, a visitor of Timothy’s house, led the young lad to Christ during his ministry in Iconium and Lystra since he refers to his persecutions there, which Timothy himself knew about (2 Tim. 3:1011). One writer suggests that when Paul recovered from his stoning at Lystra it was in Timothy’s home he found shelter and succor.
IV. He was ordained as a minister of the Gospel (1 Tim. 4:142 Tim. 1:67). Conscious of Timothy’s unique gifts, especially of evangelism ( Rom. 16:212 Tim. 4:5), it was fitting that Paul should choose him as a companion and fellow-worker. Faithfully he served Paul “as a son with his father,” in the furtherance of the Gospel (Phil. 2:22). How indispensable he became to the apostle ( Acts 17:141518:520:4 )! Paul had no other companion so “like-minded” as Timothy, who enjoyed Paul’s constant instruction (2 Tim. 2:33:14).
V. He was an ambassador charged with difficult tasks. The responsible and delicate mission of restoring a backsliding church required both gift and grace ( 1 Cor. 14:17), as did the comfort of believers in the midst of tribulation (1 Thess. 3:2).
VI. He was co-sufferer with Paul in the afflictions of the Gospel (2 Tim. 1:8 ). Tradition says that Timothy died as a martyr for his faithfulness as a bishop in the reign of Domitian or Nerva. While attempting to stop an indecent heathen procession during the Festival of Diana, this God-honoring minister sealed his testimony with his blood. The two epistles Paul addressed to Timothy are rich in their pastoral counsel.

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Treasures New and Old

Matthew 13:51-52 "Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like the master of a house, who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old" ( v. 52).
Matthew 13, Jesus' third major discourse in the first gospel, is devoted to parables that explain God's kingdom in Christ.Verses 51-52 conclude this discourse and look at the Old Testament's role in the new covenant era.
Before His final kingdom parable, Jesus asks His disciples if they have understood all that He has said ( v. 51). They answer yes, which is an overestimation of their insight since the disciples later have no clue about the nature of the kingdom and the suffering it entails. For example, Peter will object to the Lord's crucifixion (16:21-23) and all the disciples flee upon Christ's arrest in Gethsemane (26:47-56 ). Still, the Twelve are not wholly wrong to say that they have understood our Savior's teaching, for He has explained His parables to them (13:18-23,36-4347-50 ). Their comprehension is not mature, but it is not absent altogether. James Boice writes: "Their yes did not actually mean that they understood all that Jesus was teaching, only that they believed all that they did understand and were prepared to act on it" (The Gospel of Matthew, vol. 1, p. 252). All believers do see the truth, albeit through a glass darkly. Our knowledge will not be mature until we are with Christ in glory (1 Cor. 13:12).
Jesus' final parable of the kingdom tells us that those who have been trained for the kingdom are able to bring forth treasures both new and old (Matt. 13:52). Discipleship precedes understanding; only those trained for the kingdom - only those who have taken upon themselves the yoke of Christ - are able to bring forth new treasures along with the old. The special revelation of Jesus allows His people to see in the Old Testament kingdom truths that have been there since the foundation of the world, but which have largely gone unnoticed (vv. 34-35). These new truths are the key to the right appropriation of Scripture, but they are not in opposition to the old truths evident apart from the parables of Jesus. As Dr. John MacArthur comments, "The disciples are not to spurn the old for the sake of the new. Rather, they are to understand the new insights gleaned from Jesus' parables in light of the old truths, and vice versa (The MacArthur Bible Commentary, p. 1150).

Coram deo: Living before the face of God

The new things taught by Jesus are loyal to the intent and purpose of the Old Testament. As one commentator has said, the old covenant revelation is not abolished, it is "judiciously integrated" into the new. Nevertheless, apart from becoming a disciple of Jesus, we cannot see this precious truth. We believe in order to understand, and so we must make sure we are following the way of Christ if we want to understand His teaching.
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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Sunshine in the heart

‘Delight thyself also in the Lord, and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart.’ Psalm 37:4
Suggested Further Reading: Psalm 84:1–12
‘I can’t understand,’ once said a bird to a fish, ‘how it is that you always live in the cold element; I could not live there. It must be a great self-denial to you not to fly up to the trees. See how I can mount aloft.’ ‘Ah,’ said the fish, ‘it is no self-denial to me to live here, it is my element; I never aspire to fly, for it would not suit me. If I were taken out of my element I should die unless I was restored to it very soon, and the sooner the better.’ So the believer feels that God is his native element. He does not escape from his God, or from his Master’s will and service; and if for a time he were taken out of it, the sooner he could get back to it the better. If he is thrown into bad company he is miserable and wretched until he gets out of it again. Does the dove deny itself when it does not eat carrion? No, verily the dove could not delight in blood, it would not feed thereon if it could. When a man sees a company of swine under the oak delighting themselves in their acorns, and grunting out their satisfaction, does he deny himself when he passes them by without sharing their feast? No, verily. he has better bread at home whereof he can eat, and swines’ meat is no dainty to him. So it is with the believer; his religion is a matter of delight, a matter of satisfaction; and that which he avoids and turns from is very little self-denial to him. His tastes are changed, his wishes are altered. He delights himself in his God, and joyously receives the desire of his heart.
For meditation: If you are a Christian, unbelievers should have problems trying to understand your lifestyle (1 Peter 4:3–4). If that isn’t the case, are you enjoying something you shouldn’t be, or not enjoying something you should be? Is your delight in the Lord’s word (Psalm 1:2), the Lord’s will ( Psalm 40:8), the Lord’s day (Isaiah 58:13) and in the Lord himself (Isaiah 58:14)?
Sermon no. 454
15 June (1862)

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Omniscience

“Thou God seest me.” Genesis 16:13
Suggested Further Reading: Psalm 94:4-11
It were hard to suppose a God who could not see his own creatures; it were difficult in the extreme to imagine a divinity who could not behold the actions of the works of his hands. The word which the Greeks applied to God implied that he was a God who could see. They called him Theos; and they derived that word, if I read rightly, from the root theisthai, to see, because they regarded God as being the all-seeing one, whose eye took in the whole universe at a glance, and whose knowledge extended far beyond that of mortals. God Almighty, from his very essence and nature, must be an Omniscient God. Strike out the thought that he sees me, and you extinguish Deity by a single stroke. There would be no God if that God had no eyes, for a blind God is not God at all. We could not conceive such a one. Stupid as idolaters may be, it is very hard to think that even they had fashioned a blind god: even they have given eyes to their gods, though they see not. Juggernaut, or Jagannatha (a god worshipped in some areas of Hinduism), has eyes stained with blood; and the gods of the ancient Romans had eyes, and some of them were called far-seeing gods. Even the heathen can scarce conceive of a god that has no eyes to see, and certainly we are not so mad as to imagine for a single second that there can be a Deity without the knowledge of everything that is done by man beneath the sun. I say it is as impossible to conceive of a God who did not observe everything, as to conceive of a round square. When we say, “Thou God,” we do, in fact, comprise in the word “God” the idea of a God who sees everything, “Thou God seest me.”
For meditation: The proofs of Jesus’ deity in Mark 2:5-8: He could see faith, forgive sins and perceive the thoughts of the heart. He still can!
Sermon no. 85
15 June (1856)

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June 14, 2012
Mary Had a Little Lamb
Mary Southerland
Today's Truth
He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young (Isaiah 40:11, NIV).
Friend to Friend
As a little girl, I really did have a little lamb whose fleece was white as snow. I can remember the day my mother showed me the lamb and explained that she did not have a bottle with which to feed the stray lamb. I did. I agreed to let the lamb have my bottle if I could have the lamb. I have been fascinated by the unique relationship between sheep and their shepherd ever since.
Shepherds live with their sheep, finding places for them to eat and drink, providing shelter from the storms and protection from the heat. Sheep must eat the right amount of the right kinds of grass at the right times...or they will die. If the sheep eat too little one day and too much the next day, some of the bacteria that live in the stomach of the sheep will reproduce at abnormal levels, creating toxins which cause sudden death. This problem was even more complicated for the shepherds of the Bible.
The type of shepherding referred to in the Bible is not the farming of fenced pasture lands but nomadic grazing. The shepherd must carefully plan the path and lead the way so the sheep have neither too little nor too much grazing and are able to get to the water hole on time. Pastures are often lost to extreme heat which means the shepherd has to scour the countryside in search of green grass. Several flocks of sheep are gathered together at night in a sheltered place so shepherds can share the watches of the night, protecting the sheep from wild animals and thieves. Good shepherds are always willing to risk their lives to save their flocks from any harm, any enemy and even from themselves.
Sheep are dumb, can never be left alone and often stray, requiring the shepherd to find and rescue them.  A shepherd never pushes his sheep but rather leads his sheep, going before them, making sure they are not walking into danger. The needs of sheep, compared to the needs of other animals, are greater because of their instinct to be afraid and when faced with a fearful situation, to run. Without a shepherd to care for the sheep, they will not last long.
Personally, I definitely fit the profile of a sheep. I can't count the number of times I have stubbornly stuck to my plan, foolishly thinking that it was better than His plan, only to end up in some pit somewhere, calling for help. Psalm 40:1-3 has become my life maxim – with one exception. I rarely wait patiently! Remember, I am a sheep!
Psalm 40:1-3 "I waited patiently for the LORD; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.  He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear and put their trust in the LORD" (NIV).
I sometimes allow fear to drive me to a place where I am trapped by doubts and darkness...until He rescues me. I try to satisfy my hunger by eating the wrong things found in the wrong places at the wrong times. The result is always the same; my soul remains ravenous for what is good while stuffing my heart and mind with what is bad. 
Like every sheep, I don't like to be pushed. Good shepherds do not push, no matter how great the temptation.  A good shepherd stands in front of his sheep, gently calling their names, leading them to a place where he has already been, positioning himself between danger and his sheep. When I am tired and ready to give up, I tend to withdraw from the other sheep and even from my Shepherd. Many of us have somehow bought into the lie that we can make it on our own or that the rules, the commandments of God, do not necessarily apply to us...just those other sheep. The longer I serve God, the more I realize just how much we need each other and how much we need Him.  When will I learn that I cannot do life on my own – as a sheep or as a shepherd? 
A good shepherd is willing to lay down his life for his sheep, just as Jesus Christ laid down His life for you and for me. I am so glad He was willing to lay down His life for every single sheep – the cute, fluffy ones as well as the dirty, broken lambs like me. Maybe it is time for us all to stop, listen for His voice, seek His plan and remember that we are indeed needy sheep who are called to love and lead other needy sheep to the Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ. 
Let's Pray
Lord, I am so thankful that You are my Shepherd and that no matter how deep the valley or dark the pit, You have gone before me and made a way. Help me to understand that Your ways are higher than mine. Forgive me when I complain that the way You have made for me is harder than I want it to be. I surrender my life to you, Lord, my God and my Shepherd. 
In Jesus' name, 
Amen.
Now it's Your Turn
Here is a challenge for every Girlfriend in God. Read Psalm 23 once a day for one month. Record it in your journal. Let every word soak into your heart, mind and soul. When fear comes, turn to God. When you are in need, trust the Shepherd. When confusion surrounds you, trust God to make the crooked paths straight.  Rejoice daily in the fact that you are His lamb and He is your Shepherd.
More from the Girlfriends
I truly believe that most of our stress in life is rooted in our refusal to trust God as our Shepherd. Escaping the Stress Trap is not just a book I wrote. It is based on Psalm 23 and is my story of learning to understand that I am His sheep and He is my Shepherd. Check it out! If you need help dealing with the pain in your life, enroll in Mary's weekly online Bible Study, How to Dress for Success and learn how to face and deal with the pain in your life. Connect with Mary on Facebook or through email.

  Seeking God? 
Click 
HERE to find out more about
how to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
 
Girlfriends in God
P.O. Box 725
Matthews, NC 28106

info@girlfriendsingod.com
www.girlfriendsingod.com

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Treasures New and Old

The new things taught by Jesus are loyal to the intent and purpose of the Old Testament. As one commentator has said, the old covenant revelation is not abolished, it is "judiciously integrated" into the new. Nevertheless, apart from becoming a disciple of Jesus, we cannot see this precious truth. We believe in order to understand, and so we must make sure we are following the way of Christ if we want to understand His teaching.
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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Lysa TerKeurst
June 14, 2012
Is This News or Truth?
Lysa TerKeurst
"Jesus answered, 'I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.'" John 14:6 (NIV)
News and truth aren't always one and the same. I'm learning this through a medical situation I've faced recently. I had a diving accident that severely damaged nerves inside my left inner ear. As a result, I have hearing loss and a horrible screeching sound that hasn't stopped since the accident weeks ago.
It's been very hard. I know in the grand scheme of things, I could be dealing with much worse. I know that. And it makes me greatly empathetic for anyone facing a chronic medical diagnosis. It's scary when doctors shock you with test results and you don't know what the future holds.
I've been honest about my fears with my friends. They've been so faithful to stand beside me, pray for me and send precious notes of encouragement. {And I hope this devotion might be a note of encouragement from me to you.}
One of the emails I received was from my friend Shaunti. It contained a line that stirred me: "Lysa this is news. This is not truth."
Wow.
I've always thought of news and truth as one and the same. What the doctor gave me was news. Honest news based on test results and medical facts.
But what I have access to is a truth that transcends news. What is impossible with man's limitations is always possible for a limitless God.
So, I find myself looking at the word impossible a little differently today.
Impossible, when looked at in light of Shaunti's note, could be completely different if I just stick a little apostrophe between the first two letters. Then it becomes I'm-Possible. God is the great I AM. Therefore He is my possibility for hope and healing.
I'm-Possible is a much more comforting way to look at anything that feels quite impossible.
I suspect many of us have things in our life that feel impossible. Maybe you just got some bad news. News of an impossible financial situation. News of an impossible job situation. News of an impossible kid situation. News of an impossible friend situation. News of an impossible medical situation.
Whatever news you just got or will get, I pray Shaunti's advice helps you too.
This is news.
And this is Truth:
I AM THE WAY AND THE TRUTH AND THE LIFE.
"I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." John 14:6
I AM FOREVER FAITHFUL.
"He is the Maker of heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them-He remains faithful forever." Psalm 146:6
I AM WITH YOU.
"So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand." Isaiah 41:10
I AM HOLDING YOU.
"Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand."Psalm 73:23
I AM YOUR HIDING PLACE.
"You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance." Psalm 32:7
If there is any comfort for me during this tough time, it is knowing that somehow God will use this for good. And that God will be my possible in the midst of what can sometimes feel so stinkin' impossible.
Of course, I still have those less spiritually secure moments where I feel like I'm going to lose my mind. And cry. And pitch a little hissy fit.
Oh how thankful I am for my praying, encouraging, note-writing friends who help me focus on truth and not just the facts. I'm asking Jesus to send some your way today. And every time that word impossible creeps up and starts to steal your hope, see the words I'm-Possible and hold on to Him.
Dear Lord, You are I Am, I'm-Possible. You are the way, truth and life, and You are forever faithful. Thank You for being with me always, holding me and being my hiding place. Help me lean on these truths when the news I receive feels impossible. In Jesus' Name, Amen.
Related Resources:
Lysa and her friend Shaunti Feldhahn paired up to offer young women the truth that it is possible to find lasting satisfaction in God. Click here to order your copy of Made to Crave for Young Women.
Each week on her website Lysa shares encouragement that all things are possible. Sign up for free reminders byclicking here.
It'd be an honor to pray for you. Click here to leave your request and our team will pray for you today.
Reflect and Respond:
Impossible could be completely different if you stick a little apostrophe between the first two letters. Then it becomes I'm-Possible.
How will your view of your impossible situation change if you hold onto the truth that God is the great I AM, therefore He is your possibility for hope and healing? Remember, news and truth aren't always one and the same.
Power Verses:
Psalm 25:4-6, "Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long." (NIV)
© 2012 by Lysa TerKeurst. All rights reserved.
Proverbs 31 Ministries
616-G Matthews-Mint Hill Road
Matthews, NC 28105
www.Proverbs31.org

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Commit to pray for our nation in 2012
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Join us in praying for our nation, that God will heal our land.
Click here to learn more about Billy Graham's Evangelistic Association


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NIV Devotions for Men has been running for a year! That means we've reached the end of its one-year cycle of weekly devotions.

NIV Devotions for Men will restart from the beginning next week. If you'd like to keep receiving these weekly devotionals, you don't need to do anything --you'll receive the next devotional as you normally do. If you would like to unsubscribe, just visit your email Subscription Center and un-check NIV Devotions for Men.

If you haven't browsed our email newsletters lately, you might be surprised at the number of new email devotionals we've added--devotionals like Standing Strong Through the Storm(focused on the persecuted church) and the 40-Day Journey with Dietrich Bonhoeffer. If you wish, you can subscribe to those while you're perusing your Subscription Center.

If you've been reading NIV Devotions for Men from the beginning, congratulations, and thanks for your interest! We hope it's been a helpful resource for you. If you've joined us more recently, welcome aboard, and thanks for bearing with us during this brief pause. This newsletter will resume with a new devotional for you next week.

Thanks, as always, for your continued support of Bible Gateway. We hope and pray that this and our other devotionals are a blessing to you.

Sincerely,

The Bible Gateway team
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Do the Resurrection Accounts in the Four Gospels Contradict Each Other?

A cursory reading of the resurrection in Matthew, Mark, Luke and John reveals a few differences in the recorded facts. While these supposed discrepancies sometimes alarm modern readers, they tend not to concern historians because any differences are merely relegated to secondary details.
In each Gospel account the core story is the same: Joseph of Arimathea takes the body of Jesus and puts it in a tomb, one or more of Jesus' female followers visit the tomb early on the Sunday morning following his crucifixion, and they find that the tomb is empty. They see a vision of either one or two angels who say that Jesus is risen. Despite the differences concerning the women's number and names, the exact time of the morning and the number of angels, we can have great confidence in the shared core story that would be agreed upon by the majority of New Testament scholars today.
Even the usually skeptical historian Michael Grant, a fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge, and professor at Edinburgh University, concedes in his book Jesus: An Historian's Review of the Gospels, "True, the discovery of the empty tomb is differently described by the various gospels, but if we apply the same sort of criteria that we would apply to any other ancient literary sources, then the evidence is firm and plausible enough to necessitate the conclusion that the tomb was, indeed, found empty."
The differences between the empty tomb narratives are indicative of multiple, independent affirmations of the story. Sometimes people say, "Matthew and Luke just plagiarized from Mark," but when one examines the narratives closely, the divergences suggest that even if Matthew and Luke did know Mark's account, they also had separate, independent sources.
So with these multiple and independent accounts, no historian would disregard this evidence just because of secondary discrepancies. Consider the secular example of Hannibal crossing the Alps to attack Rome, for which there are two historically incompatible and irreconcilable accounts. Yet no classical historian doubts the fact that Hannibal did mount such a campaign. Hannibal's crossing is a nonbiblical illustration of a story in which discrepancies in secondary details fail to undermine the historical core accuracy of the event.
While that may be enough to satisfy historians, also consider that many of the alleged contradictions in the Gospel accounts are rather easily reconciled. For example, the accounts vary in the reported time of the visit to the tomb. One writer describes it as "still dark" (John 20:1), another says it was "very early in the morning" (Luke 24:1), and another says it was "just after sunrise" ( Mark 16:2). But if the visit was "at dawn," (Matthew 28:1), they were likely describing the same thing with different words.
As for the number and names of the women, none of the Gospels pretends to give a complete list. They all include Mary Magdalene, and Matthew, Mark and Luke also cite other women, so there was probably a group of these early disciples that included those who were named and probably a couple of others. Perhaps when the women came, Mary Magdalene arrived first and that's why only John mentions her. That's hardly a contradiction. In terms of whether there were/was one angel (Matthew) or two (John) at Jesus' tomb, have you ever noticed that whenever you have two of anything, you also have one? It never fails. Matthew didn't say there was only one. John was providing more detail by saying there were two.
Adapted from interview with Dr. William Lane Craig and Dr. Norman Geisler
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PERSISTENT PRAYER

As for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the LORD by failing to pray for you. 1 Samuel 12:23a
An important aspect of prayer is to pray patiently. God meets our needs “at the proper time” ( Galatians 6:9). Too often Christians weary of praying, and give up. This is often justified on the basis that God's failure to answer means the request is not according to His will. Remember, God can:
Deliver - whatever we ask in His name;
Delay - to fit His perfect timing (only He sees the end from the beginning);
Deny - and say ‘No’ because we ask amiss or give a
Different and better answer.
Jesus urges us to be persistent in prayer ( Luke 11:5-8). This does not mean that God does not want to meet our needs and that we need to try to persuade Him. It simply means that only God, who completely understands the whole situation, can know when and how to answer. Only when we have assurance in our hearts from the Lord, should we remove a matter from our prayer list.
Many times Christians lose heart in prayer because they do not recognize when the Lord does answer their prayers. Sometimes this is due to the fact that they did not pray specifically enough and sometimes because they have decided in advance how God must answer. Perhaps they think that only a great miracle can meet their need.
But the Lord may change the circumstances so that the need seems to be supplied “naturally.” Mature believers will recognize that the events of everyday life also come from the Lord. Our daily bread and safety are miracles of God in this troubled world Let us not presume to tell God how to answer, and let us praise Him for His daily care.
RESPONSE: Today I will acknowledge God gives His best to those who leave the choices to Him.
PRAYER: Lord, help me to be patient and persistent…and leave the answers to my prayers in Your hands.
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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Day 14

Jesus' followers are called to peace. When Jesus called them, they found their peace. Jesus is their peace. Now they are not only to have peace, but they are to make peace. To do this they renounce violence and strife. Those things never help the cause of Christ. Christ's kingdom is a realm of peace, and those in Christ's community greet each other with a greeting of peace. Jesus' disciples maintain peace by choosing to suffer instead of causing others to suffer. They preserve community when others destroy it. They renounce self-assertion and are silent in the face of hatred and injustice. That is how they overcome evil with good. That is how they are makers of divine peace in a world of hatred and war.

Biblical Wisdom

"Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God." Matthew 5:9

Questions to Ponder

  • What impact would it have on our culture of violence if individual Christians and churches were to "renounce violence and strife" as a mark of true discipleship?
  • How might being "silent in the face of hatred and injustice" be compatible with non-violent resistance to evil?
  • Why can violence never help the cause of Christ's kingdom?

Psalm Fragment

Which of you desires life,
   and covets many days to enjoy good?
Keep your tongue from evil, 
   and your lips from speaking deceit.
Depart from evil, and do good;
   seek peace, and pursue it. Psalm 34:12-14

Journal Reflections

  • Have you ever thought deeply on the fact that your call to follow Jesus is a call to peace? Reflect in your journal on how that realization makes you feel. Any actions suggest themselves?
  • Think of any people with whom you are in conflict or tension. Reflect on what might happen if the next time you met them you greeted them with a "greeting of peace."
  • What experiences of peacemaking have you had? Reflect on what it felt like to be a peacemaker.

Intercessions

Pray for all politicians and government leaders that they might "renounce violence and strife" and embrace peacemaking as a priority at all levels of government.

Prayer for Today

God of peace, you give me peace, now teach me to be a peacemaker.
40-Day Journey with Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Copyright © 2007 Augsburg Books, imprint of Augsburg Fortress.
Missed the first couple devotionals in this series, or want to re-read an earlier devotional? You can find a complete online archive of Bonhoeffer devotionals at BibleGateway.com. The first devotional can be found here.
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One of the most widely admired theologians of the 20th century, Bonhoeffer was a profound yet clear thinker. Klug selects significant passages from his works, pairs them with appropriate Scripture, sets up a journal-writing exercise, and concludes with prayer.

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