Friday, June 22, 2012

Daily Devotional Friday 22nd June

“Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.” Psalm 91:1 NIV
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Morning and Evening by Charles Spurgeon

Morning

"He shall build the temple of the Lord; and he shall bear the glory."
Zechariah 6:13
Christ himself is the builder of his spiritual temple, and he has built it on the mountains of his unchangeable affection, his omnipotent grace, and his infallible truthfulness. But as it was in Solomon's temple, so in this; the materials need making ready. There are the "Cedars of Lebanon," but they are not framed for the building; they are not cut down, and shaped, and made into those planks of cedar, whose odoriferous beauty shall make glad the courts of the Lord's house in Paradise. There are also the rough stones still in the quarry, they must be hewn thence, and squared. All this is Christ's own work. Each individual believer is being prepared, and polished, and made ready for his place in the temple; but Christ's own hand performs the preparation-work. Afflictions cannot sanctify, excepting as they are used by him to this end. Our prayers and efforts cannot make us ready for heaven, apart from the hand of Jesus, who fashioneth our hearts aright.
As in the building of Solomon's temple, "there was neither hammer, nor axe, nor any tool of iron, heard in the house," because all was brought perfectly ready for the exact spot it was to occupy--so is it with the temple which Jesus builds; the making ready is all done on earth. When we reach heaven, there will be no sanctifying us there, no squaring us with affliction, no planing us with suffering. No, we must be made meet here--all that Christ will do beforehand; and when he has done it, we shall be ferried by a loving hand across the stream of death, and brought to the heavenly Jerusalem, to abide as eternal pillars in the temple of our Lord.
"Beneath his eye and care,
The edifice shall rise,
Majestic, strong, and fair,
And shine above the skies."

Evening

"That those things which cannot be shaken may remain."
Hebrews 12:27
We have many things in our possession at the present moment which can be shaken, and it ill becomes a Christian man to set much store by them, for there is nothing stable beneath these rolling skies; change is written upon all things. Yet, we have certain "things which cannot be shaken," and I invite you this evening to think of them, that if the things which can be shaken should all be taken away, you may derive real comfort from the things that cannot be shaken, which will remain. Whatever your losses have been, or may be, you enjoy present salvation. You are standing at the foot of his cross, trusting alone in the merit of Jesus' precious blood, and no rise or fall of the markets can interfere with your salvation in him; no breaking of banks, no failures and bankruptcies can touch that. Then you are a child of God this evening. God is your Father. No change of circumstances can ever rob you of that. Although by losses brought to poverty, and stripped bare, you can say, "He is my Father still. In my Father's house are many mansions; therefore will I not be troubled." You have another permanent blessing, namely, the love of Jesus Christ. He who is God and Man loves you with all the strength of his affectionate nature--nothing can affect that. The fig tree may not blossom, and the flocks may cease from the field, it matters not to the man who can sing, "My Beloved is mine, and I am his." Our best portion and richest heritage we cannot lose. Whatever troubles come, let us play the man; let us show that we are not such little children as to be cast down by what may happen in this poor fleeting state of time. Our country is Immanuel's land, our hope is above the sky, and therefore, calm as the summer's ocean; we will see the wreck of everything earthborn, and yet rejoice in the God of our salvation.

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Today's reading: Esther 3-5, Acts 5:22-42 (NIV)

View today's reading on Bible Gateway 
Haman’s Plot to Destroy the Jews
    1 After these events, King Xerxes honored Haman son of Hammedatha, the Agagite, elevating him and giving him a seat of honor higher than that of all the other nobles. 2 All the royal officials at the king’s gate knelt down and paid honor to Haman, for the king had commanded this concerning him. But Mordecai would not kneel down or pay him honor.
   3 Then the royal officials at the king’s gate asked Mordecai, “Why do you disobey the king’s command?” 4 Day after day they spoke to him but he refused to comply. Therefore they told Haman about it to see whether Mordecai’s behavior would be tolerated, for he had told them he was a Jew.
   5 When Haman saw that Mordecai would not kneel down or pay him honor, he was enraged. 6 Yet having learned who Mordecai’s people were, he scorned the idea of killing only Mordecai. Instead Haman looked for a way to destroy all Mordecai’s people, the Jews, throughout the whole kingdom of Xerxes.
   7 In the twelfth year of King Xerxes, in the first month, the month of Nisan, the pur (that is, the lot) was cast in the presence of Haman to select a day and month. And the lot fell on the twelfth month, the month of Adar.
   8 Then Haman said to King Xerxes, “There is a certain people dispersed among the peoples in all the provinces of your kingdom who keep themselves separate. Their customs are different from those of all other people, and they do not obey the king’s laws; it is not in the king’s best interest to tolerate them. 9 If it pleases the king, let a decree be issued to destroy them, and I will give ten thousand talents of silver to the king’s administrators for the royal treasury.”
   10 So the king took his signet ring from his finger and gave it to Haman son of Hammedatha, the Agagite, the enemy of the Jews. 11 “Keep the money,” the king said to Haman, “and do with the people as you please.”
   12 Then on the thirteenth day of the first month the royal secretaries were summoned. They wrote out in the script of each province and in the language of each people all Haman’s orders to the king’s satraps, the governors of the various provinces and the nobles of the various peoples. These were written in the name of King Xerxes himself and sealed with his own ring. 13 Dispatches were sent by couriers to all the king’s provinces with the order to destroy, kill and annihilate all the Jews—young and old, women and children—on a single day, the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, the month of Adar, and to plunder their goods. 14 A copy of the text of the edict was to be issued as law in every province and made known to the people of every nationality so they would be ready for that day.
   15 The couriers went out, spurred on by the king’s command, and the edict was issued in the citadel of Susa. The king and Haman sat down to drink, but the city of Susa was bewildered.

Esther 4

Mordecai Persuades Esther to Help
    1 When Mordecai learned of all that had been done, he tore his clothes, put on sackcloth and ashes, and went out into the city, wailing loudly and bitterly. 2 But he went only as far as the king’s gate, because no one clothed in sackcloth was allowed to enter it. 3 In every province to which the edict and order of the king came, there was great mourning among the Jews, with fasting, weeping and wailing. Many lay in sackcloth and ashes.
   4 When Esther’s eunuchs and female attendants came and told her about Mordecai, she was in great distress. She sent clothes for him to put on instead of his sackcloth, but he would not accept them. 5 Then Esther summoned Hathak, one of the king’s eunuchs assigned to attend her, and ordered him to find out what was troubling Mordecai and why.
   6 So Hathak went out to Mordecai in the open square of the city in front of the king’s gate. 7 Mordecai told him everything that had happened to him, including the exact amount of money Haman had promised to pay into the royal treasury for the destruction of the Jews. 8 He also gave him a copy of the text of the edict for their annihilation, which had been published in Susa, to show to Esther and explain it to her, and he told him to instruct her to go into the king’s presence to beg for mercy and plead with him for her people.
   9 Hathak went back and reported to Esther what Mordecai had said. 10 Then she instructed him to say to Mordecai, 11 “All the king’s officials and the people of the royal provinces know that for any man or woman who approaches the king in the inner court without being summoned the king has but one law: that they be put to death unless the king extends the gold scepter to them and spares their lives. But thirty days have passed since I was called to go to the king.”
   12 When Esther’s words were reported to Mordecai, 13 he sent back this answer: “Do not think that because you are in the king’s house you alone of all the Jews will escape. 14 For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?”
   15 Then Esther sent this reply to Mordecai: 16 “Go, gather together all the Jews who are in Susa, and fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my attendants will fast as you do. When this is done, I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish.”
   17 So Mordecai went away and carried out all of Esther’s instructions.

Esther 5

Esther’s Request to the King
    1 On the third day Esther put on her royal robes and stood in the inner court of the palace, in front of the king’s hall. The king was sitting on his royal throne in the hall, facing the entrance. 2When he saw Queen Esther standing in the court, he was pleased with her and held out to her the gold scepter that was in his hand. So Esther approached and touched the tip of the scepter.
   3 Then the king asked, “What is it, Queen Esther? What is your request? Even up to half the kingdom, it will be given you.”
   4 “If it pleases the king,” replied Esther, “let the king, together with Haman, come today to a banquet I have prepared for him.”
   5 “Bring Haman at once,” the king said, “so that we may do what Esther asks.”
   So the king and Haman went to the banquet Esther had prepared. 6 As they were drinking wine, the king again asked Esther, “Now what is your petition? It will be given you. And what is your request? Even up to half the kingdom, it will be granted.”
   7 Esther replied, “My petition and my request is this: 8 If the king regards me with favor and if it pleases the king to grant my petition and fulfill my request, let the king and Haman come tomorrow to the banquet I will prepare for them. Then I will answer the king’s question.”
Haman’s Rage Against Mordecai
    9 Haman went out that day happy and in high spirits. But when he saw Mordecai at the king’s gate and observed that he neither rose nor showed fear in his presence, he was filled with rage against Mordecai. 10 Nevertheless, Haman restrained himself and went home.
   Calling together his friends and Zeresh, his wife, 11 Haman boasted to them about his vast wealth, his many sons, and all the ways the king had honored him and how he had elevated him above the other nobles and officials. 12 “And that’s not all,” Haman added. “I’m the only person Queen Esther invited to accompany the king to the banquet she gave. And she has invited me along with the king tomorrow. 13 But all this gives me no satisfaction as long as I see that Jew Mordecai sitting at the king’s gate.”
   14 His wife Zeresh and all his friends said to him, “Have a pole set up, reaching to a height of fifty cubits, and ask the king in the morning to have Mordecai impaled on it. Then go with the king to the banquet and enjoy yourself.” This suggestion delighted Haman, and he had the pole set up.

Acts 5

22 But on arriving at the jail, the officers did not find them there. So they went back and reported, 23 “We found the jail securely locked, with the guards standing at the doors; but when we opened them, we found no one inside.” 24 On hearing this report, the captain of the temple guard and the chief priests were at a loss, wondering what this might lead to.
   25 Then someone came and said, “Look! The men you put in jail are standing in the temple courts teaching the people.” 26 At that, the captain went with his officers and brought the apostles. They did not use force, because they feared that the people would stone them.
   27 The apostles were brought in and made to appear before the Sanhedrin to be questioned by the high priest. 28 “We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name,” he said. “Yet you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and are determined to make us guilty of this man’s blood.”
   29 Peter and the other apostles replied: “We must obey God rather than human beings! 30 The God of our ancestors raised Jesus from the dead—whom you killed by hanging him on a cross. 31 God exalted him to his own right hand as Prince and Savior that he might bring Israel to repentance and forgive their sins. 32 We are witnesses of these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.”
   33 When they heard this, they were furious and wanted to put them to death. 34 But a Pharisee named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law, who was honored by all the people, stood up in the Sanhedrin and ordered that the men be put outside for a little while. 35 Then he addressed the Sanhedrin: “Men of Israel, consider carefully what you intend to do to these men. 36 Some time ago Theudas appeared, claiming to be somebody, and about four hundred men rallied to him. He was killed, all his followers were dispersed, and it all came to nothing. 37 After him, Judas the Galilean appeared in the days of the census and led a band of people in revolt. He too was killed, and all his followers were scattered. 38 Therefore, in the present case I advise you: Leave these men alone! Let them go! For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. 39 But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God.”
   40 His speech persuaded them. They called the apostles in and had them flogged. Then they ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go.
   41 The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name. 42Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Messiah.

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Aristarchus [Ărĭstär'chus]—the best rulerA Macedonian of Thessalonicaand one of Paul’s travel-companions. This convert from Judaism is spoken of as Paul’s “fellow-prisoner,” implying imprisonment for the Gospel’s sake (Acts 19:2920:4 27:2Col. 4:10;Philem. 24).
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Shadow of a Doubt

What happens when people act in direct opposition to what they know is right? This activity happens on a number of levels. When a person who's trying hard to lose weight consistently binges on pizza and ice cream, disappointment ensues. When an individual commits a crime, victims suffer and the perpetrator risks jail time. When a husband or wife chooses to engage in an extramarital affair, the marriage is damaged-sometimes beyond repair-and children suffer the consequences. When a CEO decides to overlook or sometimes even encourage accounting inconsistencies, giant corporations fail, high-level indictments follow and investors lose their savings.
What do all of the scenarios outlined above have in common? Every one of these accounts, as well as countless other failure-filled stories, can trace its origin to the book of Genesis. Today's reading gives us a glimpse of the first failure to follow a direct command from God and the devastating results of that failure. We see the repercussions of this disobedience reflected in the daily news-and, if we're honest, reflected in our own darkened hearts.
At first, Adam and Eve were sure of God's instructions. There was no doubt. They knew exactly what God wanted because they received their marching orders straight from the Creator himself. Still, a simple challenge ("Did God really say ...?") from the serpent shook Eve's confidence to the core. Once she questioned what she knew to be true, she became vulnerable to Satan's temptation. When she and Adam then acted in violation of God's direct command, sin invaded what had been an unimaginably perfect paradise.
Spiritually speaking, what are you sure of beyond the shadow of a doubt? What do you know to be true? Where does your certainty come from? These are important questions to answer because you face tests every day that can undermine your Biblical marching orders. People may question your mental capacity: "How can an educated person believe in intelligent design when there's so much evidence to support evolution?" Others may accuse you of being narrow-minded: "How can you say Jesus is the only way to God?" Some may appeal to your sense of freedom: "Doesn't God want you to have any fun?" Still others might attack the source of your trust: "The Bible is full of inconsistencies, and you're choosing to base your life on this book?"
How prepared are you for the assaults that will come your way? Do you have a tight grip on God's truth? Think about this today: How will God's truth impact your actions-from the time you set foot on the floor in the morning to the minute you go to bed tonight?

To Take Away

  • What are your core faith beliefs-the spiritual truths you are sure of? Take a minute and write down three or four statements that sum up these truths.
  • When was the last time someone challenged your faith? How did it affect you?
  • How did you respond to the challenge? What would you do differently next time?

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Why Is Archaeology Important?

If we can trust the Bible when it tells us about straightforward earthly things that can be verified, then we are more likely to trust it in areas where we can't directly verify it in an empirical way. There have been thousands-not hundreds-of archaeological finds in the Middle East that support the picture presented in the Biblical record. There was a discovery not long ago confirming King David. The patriarchs-the narratives about Abraham, Isaac and Jacob-were once considered legendary, but as more becomes known, these stories are increasingly corroborated. The destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah was thought to be mythological until evidence was uncovered that all five of the cities mentioned in Genesis were, in fact, situated just as the Old Testament said. As far as their destruction goes, archaeologist Clifford Wilson says there is "permanent evidence of the great conflagration that took place in the long distant past."
Adapted from interview with Dr. Norman Geisler
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IN STEP WITH THE SPIRIT

Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Galatians 5:25
Jesus said He would not leave us alone but would give us a Helper to be with us forever ( John 14: 16-18). He taught us that the Holy Spirit would be our Counselor (John 14: 26). Jesus also called Him the Spirit of Truth (John 14:17).
Two sisters in southern China came to Christ in a house church meeting. Twenty months later a friend from Hong Kong visited them and asked what they had been doing since their conversion. “Starting home meetings,” was their timid response.
“How many home meetings?” “Only thirty,” was their halting reply.
“How many attend your meetings?” was the next nonchalant question. “Well, at the smallest one about two hundred and eighty!”
Now the questioner was totally involved and quickly continued, “How many attend your largest meeting?” “Not even 5000, only about four thousand nine hundred!”
The Hong Kong Christian was flabbergasted. And in his excitement quickly asked, “How do you ladies—both new Christians—know what to do?”
They simply replied, “We pray. And after we pray, the Holy Spirit tells us what to do!”
It is also obvious that these two ladies were then obedient to the Holy Spirit’s direction. The goal of all Christians should be to live so completely under the control of the Holy Spirit that it can be said we are walking in the Spirit (Galatians 5:25 ). As Paul reminded the Galatian Christians, they began their Christian lives by a miracle work of God, new birth in Jesus, and they could only expect to continue it by God’s power. This fact is even more evident in a hostile environment.
RESPONSE: The Holy Spirit wants to be my guide and counselor today. I will be obedient to His leading.
PRAYER: Lord, help me to walk this day in the power of Your Holy Spirit. May I also keep in step!
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 21

You complain that you cannot believe? No one should be surprised that they cannot come to believe so long as, in deliberate disobedience, they flee or reject some aspect of Jesus' commandment. You do not want to subject some sinful passion, an enmity, a hope, your life plan, or your reason to Jesus' commandment? Do not be surprised that you do not receive the Holy Spirit, that you cannot pray, that your prayer for faith remains empty! Instead, go and be reconciled with your sister or brother; let go of the sin which keeps you captive; and you will be able to believe again! If you reject God's commanding word, you will not receive God's gracious word. How would you expect to find community while you intentionally withdraw from it at some point? The disobedient cannot believe; only the obedient believe.

Biblical Wisdom

What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if you say that you have faith but do not have works? Can faith save you? If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, "Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill," and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that? So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead. James 2:14-17

Questions to Ponder

  • Jesus' commandment is that we love God who made us and that we love our neighbors as ourselves. How does obedience to this commandment nurture and nourish true faith?
  • Why does rejecting "God's commanding word" keep us from receiving "God's gracious word"?
  • What is it about rejecting God's commanding word that takes us out of community?

Psalm Fragment

Then they despised the pleasant land,
   having no faith in his promise.
They grumbled in their tents,
   and did not obey the voice of the Lord. Psalm 106:24-25

Journal Reflections

  • Write in your journal about a practical experience of how your obedience to Jesus' commandment has nurtured and nourished your faith.
  • Write about your experiences of Christian community. Reflect on both good and bad experiences. What is the difference between them?

Intercessions

Pray for your family and spiritual friends (and for all Christians) that they would continuously experience community grounded in love.

Prayer for Today

Lord, help me to see where I am rejecting some aspect of your will for me. Help me to obey and believe, believe and obey.
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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Pollution's True Source

Matthew 15:1-20 "Out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a person" ( vv. 19-20a).
Herod Antipas is not the only Palestinian whose curiosity is piqued when he hears of Christ's ministry (Matt. 14:1-2). Some of the religious authorities in Jerusalem also want to investigate the carpenter's son from Nazareth. Pharisees and scribes from the capital city confront our Lord in today's passage (15:1 ). These men are likely official representatives of the Pharisaic and scribal movements, both of which the common folk hold in high esteem.
Our Savior has encountered little but antagonism from the scribes and Pharisees in Galilee (12:1-1422-32), and the Jerusalem scholars treat Him no differently. They criticize Jesus' disciples for not washing their hands according to the oral laws ( 15:2). As we have seen, the scribes and Pharisees carefully observed a fence many of their forefathers had built around the Mosaic law (Torah). This fence was made up of oral traditions that, if kept, ensured that the letter of the Law would not be broken. For example, consider the separation of meat and dairy still observed by Orthodox Jews today. This practice is based ultimately on an oral tradition designed to guarantee compliance with Deuteronomy 14:21 . If meat and dairy are never consumed together, there is no way a young animal could ever be cooked in its mother's milk.
Hand-washing was intended to protect the dietary laws (Lev. 11); eating without washed hands was not evil in itself. The problem was that such traditions were put above the weightier matters of the Law (Matt. 23:23). It is no surprise, then, that Jesus correctly condemns the scribes and Pharisees for insisting upon the observance of oral traditions ( Matt. 15:3-9). They have been content to keep their money and property for themselves according to an oral law that allows them to will these things to the Creator after their death even if an impoverished parent needs support before then. Yet in exalting this tradition, these scholars actually violate Exodus 20:12 , which orders them to honor their fathers and mothers. They hypocritically accuse Jesus' disciples of sin for not obeying a tradition with no divine authorization while they themselves break the very Word of God for the sake of their man-made commandments.

Coram deo: Living before the face of God

The concern with outward acts and not the intent of God's law manifested these particular Pharisees' blindness to the ultimate source of impurity. Jesus therefore reminded them that the heart is the true source of corruption, not the hands, a truth to which the Torah points ( Matt. 15:10-20). We manifest a legalistic heart every time we are critical of others for not observing that which we love even though they are indifferent matters as far as the Bible is concerned.
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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The majestic voice

“The voice of the Lord is full of majesty.” Psalm 29:4
Suggested Further Reading: Hebrews 1:1-4
In some sense Jesus Christ may be called the voice of God, for you know he is called the Word of God frequently in Scripture; and I am sure this Word of God “is full of majesty.” The voice and the word are very much the same thing. God speaks: it is his Son. His Son is the Word; the Word is his Son, and the voice is his Son. Truly the voice, the Word of God, “is full of majesty.” Angels! Ye can tell what majesty sublime invested his blest person when he reigned at his Father’s right hand; ye can tell what were the brightnesses which he laid aside to become incarnate; ye can tell how sparkling was that crown, how mighty was that sceptre, how glorious were those robes bedecked with stars. Spirits! Ye who saw him when he stripped himself of all his glories, ye can tell what was his majesty. And oh! Ye glorified, ye who saw him ascend up on high, leading captivity captive—ye beloved songsters, who bow before him, and unceasingly sing his love! Ye can tell how full of majesty he is. High above all principalities and powers ye see him sit; angels are but servants at his feet; and the mightiest monarchs like creeping worms beneath his throne. High there, where God alone reigns, beyond the sight of angels or the gaze of immortal spirits—there he sits, not majestic merely, but full of majesty. Christian! Adore your Saviour; adore the Son of God; reverence him, and remember at all seasons and times, how little so ever you may be, your Saviour, with whom you are allied, the Word of God, is essentially full of majesty.
For meditation: The Lord Jesus Christ is full of grace and truth (John 1:14); in him the fulness of God dwells bodily (Colossians 1:192:9). It should be a staggering thought that every Christian has received from his fullness ( John 1:16;Ephesians 1:22,23).
Sermon no. 87
22 June (1856)

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Pollution's True Source

The concern with outward acts and not the intent of God's law manifested these particular Pharisees' blindness to the ultimate source of impurity. Jesus therefore reminded them that the heart is the true source of corruption, not the hands, a truth to which the Torah points (Matt. 15:10-20 ). We manifest a legalistic heart every time we are critical of others for not observing that which we love even though they are indifferent matters as far as the Bible is concerned.
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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June 21, 2012
Whose Voice Do You Hear?
Mary Southerland
Today's Truth
My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me (John 10:27, NIV).
Friend to Friend 
Dan and I had been married one year when we moved to Fort Worth, Texas, so Dan could attend seminary. I desperately wanted a teaching job, but none was available. Instead I was hired as a secretary in an insurance office. It was definitely not my idea of a dream job, but I had a plan. Every day, on my lunch hour, I call the school district's personnel office to ask, "Do you have a job or me yet?" After several weeks, a frustrated voice finally responded with the words I had been longing to hear. "Mary, will you teach anything anywhere?" she asked. Finally! I jumped at the job offer and made an appointment to visit my new classroom that afternoon. The principal escorted me up a flight of stairs, pointed to a door, and said, "That's your classroom. Good luck!" With a knowing smile, he turned and walked away...quickly.
Stepping into the classroom, I froze at the astonishing sight before me. Some children were jumping on desks while others crawled under tables, all screaming and yelling at the top of their lungs. Paper and food littered the floor. In the corner sat an obviously frazzled substitute teacher, who was desperately trying to gain control of her students...uh, make that mystudents. The classroom was in total chaos. My first thought was, "What have I gotten myself into?" The next few weeks certainly answered that question.
Each classroom was arranged in learning centers instead of desks. The students moved from center to center as they completed assignments, a plan that naturally invited noise. I learned that because of overcrowding, each teacher had been asked to select two children to form a new classroom...my classroom...and of course, each teacher had chosen his or her two most difficult students.
The first few weeks were a nightmarish battle for control. After losing my voice twice, my sister, Betty, a veteran first grade teacher, gave me some great advice. "The louder you are, the louder the children will be. If you want to get their attention, speak softly so they will have to be quiet in order to hear your voice." I put her advice into action the very next day. As the children entered the classroom, I greeted each one with a silent smile. In my hands was a brightly wrapped box. Curious, they asked, "What is that, Mrs. Southerland?" I merely smiled and said nothing until every student was quietly seated. "I have a new plan," I began. "Sometime during the day, I will call your name once. If you hear my voice, you may choose one prize from our new prize box. If you don't hear my voice, you will miss the opportunity to select a prize and I will call another student's name." It worked like a charm! In a matter of days, my students learned to listen for my voice above all others.
Stress comes when we allow the many voices in life to drown out the only voice that really matters, the voice of God. We can't obey every voice we hear. If we try, we will end up in total failure, carrying a heavy load we were never created to carry. Obedience to God is not a heavy load because we don't have to carry it alone. God's strength and power bear the burden of our obedience to Him. The more time we spend in God's Word and in prayer, the easier it will be to recognize His voice.
Let's Pray
Father, I come to You today, wanting and needing to hear Your voice. I am drowning in the expectations of others and am so confused about the next step I need to take. Please give me Your direction and the strength to follow Your plan for my life.
In Jesus' name,
Amen.
Now It's Your Turn 
Read Psalm 32:8 (NLT) "The LORD says, "I will guide you along the best pathway for your life. I will advise you and watch over you." What comfort does this verse give you about God's plan for your life as opposed to your plans or the plans of others?
Read John 10:4 (NLT) "After he has gathered his own flock, he walks ahead of them, and they follow him because they recognize his voice." Notice that the shepherd walks ahead of his sheep, gently calling them to follow. What change do you need to make in your life so that you can look for God's hand at work and listen for His voice alone?
By faith, accept the truth that God is always at work in your life and thank Him for His steadfast provision. Look back over the last few days, weeks and months of your life. Now praise Him for the things He has done. Identify the "voices" that you tend to listen to instead of listening for the voice of God.
More from the Girlfriends
Check out all of Mary's E-Bible Studies, MP3 downloads, CDs, books and videos in her online store. And don't miss the FREE resources available on Mary's website. 
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Religion—a reality

‘For it is not a vain thing for you, because it is your life.’Deuteronomy 32:47
Suggested Further Reading: 1 Corinthians 3:18–23
Where is the folly of true religion? Is it a folly to be providing for the world to come? ‘Oh, no.’ Is it a folly to make the Author of your being its first end? ‘No, no.’ Is it altogether a folly to believe that there is such a thing as justice? I think not. And that, if there be such a thing as justice, it involves punishment? There is no great folly there. Well, then, is it any folly to perceive that there is no way of escaping from the effects of our offences except justice be satisfied? Is that folly? And if it be the fact that Christ has satisfied justice for all who trust in him, is it folly to trust him? If it be a folly to escape from the flames of hell, then let us be fools. If it be folly to lay hold of him who gives us eternal life—oh, blessed folly! Let us be more foolish still. Let us take deep dives into the depths of this foolishness. God forbid that we should do anything else but glory in being such fools as this for Christ’s sake! What, sirs, is your wisdom? Your wisdom dwells in denying what your eyes can see—a God; in denying what your consciences tell you—that you are guilty; in denying what should be your best hope, what your spirit really craves after—redemption in Christ Jesus. Your folly lies in following a perverted nature, instead of obeying the dictates of one who points you to the right path. You are wise and you drink poison; we are fools and we take the antidote. You are wise and you hunt the shadow; we are fools and we grasp the substance. You are wise, and you labour and put your money into a bag which is full of holes, and spend it for that which is not bread, and which never gives you satisfaction; and we are fools enough to be satisfied, to be happy, to be perfectly content with heaven and God.
For meditation: Better to become a fool in the world’s eyes for Christ’s sake (1 Corinthians 3:184:10 ) than to remain a fool in God’s eyes for the world’s sake (Luke 12:19–201 Corinthians 3:19). Which kind of fool are you?
Sermon no. 457
22 June (1862)

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Lysa TerKeurst
June 21, 2012
There's No Way
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 1984)
I wasn't in the mood to be messed up.
I put my head against my bedroom wall, closed my eyes, and whispered, "There's no way." It was late summer of 2003 when my world collided with what seemed like an impossible invitation from God: adopt two teen boys from war-torn Liberia.
All the reasons why this wasn't a good idea tumbled before me. Honest reasons. Understandable reason. Solid reasons.
Who would do such a thing?
Missionaries would be much more qualified. Missionaries with grown kids and multi-cultural experience. People much more spiritual than me. People much more gentle and patient enough to do this sort of thing.
Not this disorganized woman who originally thought Liberia was in South America.
Not this mom who already felt overwhelmed with her three kids. How in heavens would we add two more?
Not someone who couldn't find the video she rented a month ago and who paid so many late fees at the library they should have named a shelf after her. Maybe two shelves.
Definitely not me.
But it was me.
The invitation was mine.
And I knew it.
No matter how many times I whispered over and over, "There's no way," this nagging sense of possibility wouldn't leave me. It wove its way through every fiber of my being until I stood up and shifted everything I thought my family would be with one weak whisper, "Yes."
I can honestly say there were moments of sheer joy where I felt reassured I'd heard God right.
But there were many other moments where life felt chaotic, messy, and really hard. There were tears. There were moments where I loved my five kids but I didn't like them very much. There were moments I wondered if I'd heard God wrong.
And there were more times even after we adopted where I said, "There's no way."
There was no way we could overcome a medical diagnosis one of my boys got. There was no way two teenage boys who tested at a kindergarten level could catch up in two years and be ready for middle school. There was no way I could be patient enough to educate them at home during those two years.
But every time I said, "There's no way," I'd remember Jesus calling himself, "The way..." (John 14:6).
He was the way. He was the One to follow. He was the One who would guide me each day. He was the One I needed to pour out my heart to in prayer. He was the One to listen to. And He was the One who reassured me with so many promises in the Bible. One of those promises was Isaiah 58:10-11:
"... If you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday. The Lord will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail."
I could be a light rising in the darkness. I could be full of life like a well-watered garden. I could be refreshing like a spring whose waters never fail. Me. Crazy, incapable, crying-in-my-closet me. If I let Jesus be my way, and do what He was asking me to do, these things could be true for me.
And they can be true for you as well.
Do you have a situation in your life where you are saying, "There's no way..."? Maybe you aren't called to adopt, but whatever you are being called to do, take heart. Look into the Bible and find some promises that apply to your situation. And follow Jesus' instruction for that promise.
Friend, there might not be a way if you look at your situation with only human reasoning and calculation. But if you let Jesus' truth and promises fill you, you'll find a different way. A good way. A sure way. His way.
Dear Lord, I'm taking a deep breath and diving into Your way. Lord, help me please as I put my trust in You. In Jesus' Name, Amen.
Related Resources:
To see pictures and read more about Lysa's family story,click here. There's also a special surprise video you don't want to miss!
Sometimes we need a friend to walk alongside us when we feel like there's no way! Lysa TerKeurst does just this in her gut-honest new book UngluedClick here to pre-order your copy, releasing August 1.
Reflect and Respond:
Do you have a situation in your life where you are saying, "There's no way..."? Look into the Bible and find some promises that apply to your situation. And follow God's instruction for that promise.
Power Verses:
Ephesians 3:20-21, "Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen." (NIV 1984)
© 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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