Monday, June 25, 2012

Daily Devotional Monday 25th June

“But the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen you and protect you from the evil one.” 2 Thessalonians 3:3 NIV
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Morning and Evening by Charles Spurgeon

Morning

"Get thee up into the high mountain."
Isaiah 40:9
Our knowledge of Christ is somewhat like climbing one of our Welsh mountains. When you are at the base you see but little: the mountain itself appears to be but one-half as high as it really is. Confined in a little valley, you discover scarcely anything but the rippling brooks as they descend into the stream at the foot of the mountain. Climb the first rising knoll, and the valley lengthens and widens beneath your feet. Go higher, and you see the country for four or five miles round, and you are delighted with the widening prospect. Mount still, and the scene enlarges; till at last, when you are on the summit, and look east, west, north, and south, you see almost all England lying before you. Yonder is a forest in some distant county, perhaps two hundred miles away, and here the sea, and there a shining river and the smoking chimneys of a manufacturing town, or the masts of the ships in a busy port. All these things please and delight you, and you say, "I could not have imagined that so much could be seen at this elevation." Now, the Christian life is of the same order. When we first believe in Christ we see but little of him. The higher we climb the more we discover of his beauties. But who has ever gained the summit? Who has known all the heights and depths of the love of Christ which passes knowledge? Paul, when grown old, sitting grey-haired, shivering in a dungeon in Rome, could say with greater emphasis than we can, "I know whom I have believed," for each experience had been like the climbing of a hill, each trial had been like ascending another summit, and his death seemed like gaining the top of the mountain, from which he could see the whole of the faithfulness and the love of him to whom he had committed his soul. Get thee up, dear friend, into the high mountain.

Evening

"The dove found no rest for the sole of her foot."
Genesis 8:9
Reader, can you find rest apart from the ark, Christ Jesus? Then be assured that your religion is vain. Are you satisfied with anything short of a conscious knowledge of your union and interest in Christ? Then woe unto you. If you profess to be a Christian, yet find full satisfaction in worldly pleasures and pursuits, your profession is false. If your soul can stretch herself at rest, and find the bed long enough, and the coverlet broad enough to cover her in the chambers of sin, then you are a hypocrite, and far enough from any right thoughts of Christ or perception of his preciousness. But if, on the other hand, you feel that if you could indulge in sin without punishment, yet it would be a punishment of itself; and that if you could have the whole world, and abide in it forever, it would be quite enough misery not to be parted from it; for your God--your God--is what your soul craves after; then be of good courage, thou art a child of God. With all thy sins and imperfections, take this to thy comfort: if thy soul has no rest in sin, thou are not as the sinner is! If thou art still crying after and craving after something better, Christ has not forgotten thee, for thou hast not quite forgotten him. The believer cannot do without his Lord; words are inadequate to express his thoughts of him. We cannot live on the sands of the wilderness, we want the manna which drops from on high; our skin bottles of creature confidence cannot yield us a drop of moisture, but we drink of the rock which follows us, and that rock is Christ. When you feed on him your soul can sing, "He hath satisfied my mouth with good things, so that my youth is renewed like the eagle's," but if you have him not, your bursting wine vat and well-filled barn can give you no sort of satisfaction: rather lament over them in the words of wisdom, "Vanity of vanities, all is vanity!"

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Today's reading: Job 1-2, Acts 7:22-43 (NIV)

View today's reading on Bible Gateway 
Prologue
    In the land of Uz there lived a man whose name was Job. This man was blameless and upright; he feared God and shunned evil. 2 He had seven sons and three daughters, 3 and he owned seven thousand sheep, three thousand camels, five hundred yoke of oxen and five hundred donkeys, and had a large number of servants. He was the greatest man among all the people of the East.
   4 His sons used to hold feasts in their homes on their birthdays, and they would invite their three sisters to eat and drink with them. 5 When a period of feasting had run its course, Job would make arrangements for them to be purified. Early in the morning he would sacrifice a burnt offering for each of them, thinking, “Perhaps my children have sinned and cursed God in their hearts.” This was Job’s regular custom.
   6 One day the angels came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came with them. 7 The LORD said to Satan, “Where have you come from?”
   Satan answered the LORD, “From roaming throughout the earth, going back and forth on it.”
   8 Then the LORD said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil.”
   9 “Does Job fear God for nothing?” Satan replied. 10 “Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has? You have blessed the work of his hands, so that his flocks and herds are spread throughout the land. 11 But now stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face.”
   12 The LORD said to Satan, “Very well, then, everything he has is in your power, but on the man himself do not lay a finger.”
   Then Satan went out from the presence of the LORD.
   13 One day when Job’s sons and daughters were feasting and drinking wine at the oldest brother’s house, 14 a messenger came to Job and said, “The oxen were plowing and the donkeys were grazing nearby, 15 and the Sabeans attacked and made off with them. They put the servants to the sword, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!”
   16 While he was still speaking, another messenger came and said, “The fire of God fell from the heavens and burned up the sheep and the servants, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!”
   17 While he was still speaking, another messenger came and said, “The Chaldeans formed three raiding parties and swept down on your camels and made off with them. They put the servants to the sword, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!”
   18 While he was still speaking, yet another messenger came and said, “Your sons and daughters were feasting and drinking wine at the oldest brother’s house, 19 when suddenly a mighty wind swept in from the desert and struck the four corners of the house. It collapsed on them and they are dead, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!”
   20 At this, Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground in worship 21 and said:
   “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, 
   and naked I will depart.
The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; 
   may the name of the LORD be praised.”
   22 In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing.

Job 2

   1 On another day the angels came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came with them to present himself before him. 2 And the LORD said to Satan, “Where have you come from?”
   Satan answered the LORD, “From roaming throughout the earth, going back and forth on it.”
   3 Then the LORD said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil. And he still maintains his integrity, though you incited me against him to ruin him without any reason.”
   4 “Skin for skin!” Satan replied. “A man will give all he has for his own life. 5 But now stretch out your hand and strike his flesh and bones, and he will surely curse you to your face.”
   6 The LORD said to Satan, “Very well, then, he is in your hands; but you must spare his life.”
   7 So Satan went out from the presence of the LORD and afflicted Job with painful sores from the soles of his feet to the crown of his head. 8 Then Job took a piece of broken pottery and scraped himself with it as he sat among the ashes.
   9 His wife said to him, “Are you still maintaining your integrity? Curse God and die!”
   10 He replied, “You are talking like a foolish woman. Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?”
   In all this, Job did not sin in what he said.
   11 When Job’s three friends, Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite, heard about all the troubles that had come upon him, they set out from their homes and met together by agreement to go and sympathize with him and comfort him. 12 When they saw him from a distance, they could hardly recognize him; they began to weep aloud, and they tore their robes and sprinkled dust on their heads. 13 Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights. No one said a word to him, because they saw how great his suffering was.

Acts 7

22 Moses was educated in all the wisdom of the Egyptians and was powerful in speech and action.
   23 “When Moses was forty years old, he decided to visit his own people, the Israelites. 24 He saw one of them being mistreated by an Egyptian, so he went to his defense and avenged him by killing the Egyptian. 25 Moses thought that his own people would realize that God was using him to rescue them, but they did not. 26 The next day Moses came upon two Israelites who were fighting. He tried to reconcile them by saying, ‘Men, you are brothers; why do you want to hurt each other?’
   27 “But the man who was mistreating the other pushed Moses aside and said, ‘Who made you ruler and judge over us? 28 Are you thinking of killing me as you killed the Egyptian yesterday?’29 When Moses heard this, he fled to Midian, where he settled as a foreigner and had two sons.
   30 “After forty years had passed, an angel appeared to Moses in the flames of a burning bush in the desert near Mount Sinai.31 When he saw this, he was amazed at the sight. As he went over to get a closer look, he heard the Lord say: 32 ‘I am the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.’ Moses trembled with fear and did not dare to look.
   33 “Then the Lord said to him, ‘Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground. 34 I have indeed seen the oppression of my people in Egypt. I have heard their groaning and have come down to set them free. Now come, I will send you back to Egypt.’
   35 “This is the same Moses they had rejected with the words, ‘Who made you ruler and judge?’ He was sent to be their ruler and deliverer by God himself, through the angel who appeared to him in the bush. 36 He led them out of Egypt and performed wonders and signs in Egypt, at the Red Sea and for forty years in the wilderness.
   37 “This is the Moses who told the Israelites, ‘God will raise up for you a prophet like me from your own people.’ 38 He was in the assembly in the wilderness, with the angel who spoke to him on Mount Sinai, and with our ancestors; and he received living words to pass on to us.
   39 “But our ancestors refused to obey him. Instead, they rejected him and in their hearts turned back to Egypt. 40 They told Aaron, ‘Make us gods who will go before us. As for this fellow Moses who led us out of Egypt—we don’t know what has happened to him!’ 41 That was the time they made an idol in the form of a calf. They brought sacrifices to it and reveled in what their own hands had made. 42 But God turned away from them and gave them over to the worship of the sun, moon and stars. This agrees with what is written in the book of the prophets:
   “‘Did you bring me sacrifices and offerings 
   forty years in the wilderness, people of Israel? 
43 You have taken up the tabernacle of Molek 
   and the star of your god Rephan, 
   the idols you made to worship. 
Therefore I will send you into exile’ beyond Babylon.

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HOLY SPIRIT CALLING

But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. John 16:13
Johnny Li of Nexus ministry shares today the story of his “calling” by God’s Holy Spirit:
“Your son asked me to come and visit you!” As I spoke these words to the elderly man in front of me, I could see the utter surprise and even confusion in his eyes. Suddenly the man grabbed me and quickly jerked me inside the small room.
My mind began to retrace my steps and all the events that had led to this: first meeting young Brother Wang in Hong Kong after his daring escape from China; then the challenging request from my pastor to take Bibles to the family of Brother Wang in China; then the daring and dangerous expedition that led me here.
Mrs. Wang quickly excused herself and I spent the next hour bringing greetings and love from Brother Wang as well as all the other believers from our small church in Hong Kong. Curious about the sudden disappearance of Mrs. Wang I enquired where she went. “She is in the room next door praying for our safety,” Brother Wang’s father replied.
After memorable fellowship, the final words of Brother Wang Sr. pierced my heart. “You must come again,” he pleaded.
I smiled politely but in my heart I knew I would not likely return. The trip was much too risky and dangerous for my liking. Being Chinese I knew that my destiny would be prison if I were caught. “You must come again and bring more Bibles,” old Brother Wang pleaded as if he could read my troubled mind. I gave the only correct answer I could think of. “I will pray about it.”
In a daze I walked to the train station and boarded the first train home to safety. My heart was torn because this was the country responsible for arresting my mother and causing me to grow up as an orphan. I decided I would not return! Then I heard the unmistakable voice of the Holy Spirit, “Do you need a calling, Johnny?”
“Lord what do you mean,” I asked? “You have seen the need. You have heard my voice. Why do you need a ‘calling’ to respond?” I knew I had no choice. The Lord had spoken. I knew this was the way for me.
This was thirty years ago and Johnny Li has been an immense blessing in assisting the fast-growing church in China. He’s been responsible for producing the first Chinese Children’s Bible in modern Chinese and has delivered thousands of Bibles and other Christian literature into China. Today he trains Chinese missionaries committed to take the Gospel to the Muslim world.
RESPONSE: Today I will listen to the Spirit’s voice before making decisions and plans.
PRAYER: Lord, help me to listen to Your Spirit’s direction in my life since He will direct my steps.
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 24

Every human idealized image that is brought into the Christian community is a hindrance to genuine community and must be broken up so that genuine community can survive. Those who love their dream of a Christian community more than the Christian community itself become destroyers of that Christian community even though their personal intentions may be ever so honest, earnest, and sacrificial...
Those who dream of this idealized community demand that it be fulfilled by God, by others, and by themselves. They enter the community of Christians with their demands, set up their own law, and judge one another and even God accordingly...
Because God already has laid the only foundation of our community, because God has united us in one body with other Christians in Jesus Christ long before we entered into common life with them, we enter into that life together with other Christians, not as those who make demands, but as those who thankfully receive. We thank God for what God has done for us. We thank God for giving us other Christians who live by God's call, forgiveness, and promise. We do not complain about what God does not give us; rather we are thankful for what God does give us daily.

Biblical Wisdom

I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all. Ephesians 4:1-6

Questions to Ponder

  • What does it mean to love the "dream of Christian community more than the community itself"?
  • If "we enter community not as those who make demands, but as those who thankfully receive," what should our attitude and action toward the community be?
  • Is it easier to "complain about what God does not give us" or to be "thankful for what God does give us"? Why?

Psalm Fragment

The Lord is my strength and my shield;
   in him my heart trusts;
   so I am helped, and my heart exults,
   and with my song I give thanks to him.
The Lord is the strength of his people;
   he is the saving refuge of his anointed.
O save your people, and bless your heritage;
   be their shepherd, and carry them forever. Psalm 28:7-9

Journal Reflections

  • Write about your response to Bonhoeffer's ideas about Christian community.
  • Does reading Bonhoeffer on Christian community change the way you feel about your faith community? How? Or why not?
  • Does it suggest any practical changes in the way you relate to your faith community? If so, what are they?

Intercessions

Think about your faith community and spiritual friends (name them) and thank God for the support you get from them in living your life of faith.

Prayer for Today

Lord Jesus, I will be as important to my spiritual community as my spiritual community is to me.
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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Jericho captured

‘And the Lord said unto Joshua, See, I have given into thine hand Jericho, and the king thereof, and the mighty men of valour. And ye shall compass the city, all ye men of war, and go round the city once. Thus shalt thou do six days.’ Joshua 6:2–3
Suggested Further Reading: Hebrews 11:29–38
‘Go round about her: tell the towers thereof. Mark ye well her bulwarks.’ These men were practical surveyors of Jericho; they could well understand the strength of the battlements, how many feet long the huge stones were at the corners, and how near the stars the loftiest towers were raised. They had the difficulty, I say, always before them, yet they kept on in simple faith, going round the city. Sometimes we get into the habit of shutting our eyes to difficulty; that will not do: faith is not a fool, faith does not shut her eyes to difficulty, and then run head-foremost against a brick wall—never. Faith sees the difficulty, surveys it all, and then she says, ‘By my God will I leap over a wall;’ and over the wall she goes. She never brings out the flaming accounts of ‘Signs of the Times,’ in her favour; she does not sit down, and say that evidently public sentiment is changing; she does not reckon upon any undercurrents that may be at work, which she is told by Mistress Gossip really are doing great things, but she just looks at it, and does not mind how bad the thing is reported to be; if anyone can exaggerate the difficulty, faith is of the same noble mind as that famous warrior, who when told there were so many thousand soldiers against him, replied, ‘There are so many more to be killed.’ So faith reckons: ‘So many more difficulties, so many more things to be overcome;’ and even impossibilities she puts down as only so much burden to be cast upon him, with whom nothing is impossible. She keeps Jericho’s walls before her.
For meditation: Walking by faith and not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7) does not mean having blind faith. The Christian is not to close his eyes to the difficulties (Romans 8:35,38–39), but to open them to see the hand of the invisible God at work (Hebrews 11:27). Hezekiah had the right approach (2 Kings 19:14–19).
Sermon no. 629
25 June (Undated Sermon)

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The sound in the mulberry trees

“When thou hearest the sound of a going in the tops of the mulberry trees, that then thou shalt bestir thyself: for then shall the Lord go out before thee, to smite the host of the Philistines.” 2 Samuel 5:24
Suggested Further Reading: 2 Timothy 2:14-19
If any of your acquaintance have been in the house of God, if you have induced them to go there, and you think there is some little good doing but you do not know, take care of that little. It may be God has used us as a foster mother to bring up his child, so that this little one may be brought up in the faith, and this newly converted soul may be strengthened and edified. But I’ll tell you, many of you Christians do a deal of mischief, by what you say when going home. A man once said that when he was a lad he heard a certain sermon from a minister, and felt deeply impressed under it. Tears stole down his cheeks, and he thought within himself, “I will go home to pray.” On the road home he fell into the company of two members of the church. One of them began saying, “Well, how did you enjoy the sermon?” The other said, “I do not think he was quite sound on such a point.” “Well,” said the other, “I thought he was rather off his guard,” or something of that sort; and one pulled one part of the minister’s sermon to pieces, and another the other, until, said the young man, before I had gone many yards with them, I had forgotten all about it; and all the good I thought I had received seemed swept away by those two men, who seemed afraid lest I should get any hope, for they were just pulling that sermon to pieces which would have brought me to my knees. How often have we done the same! People will say, “What did you think of that sermon?” I gently tell them nothing at all, and if there is any fault in it—and very likely there is, it is better not to speak of it, for some may get good from it.
For meditation: If you must have the sermon for Sunday lunch, beware of devouring someone’s faith along with it (Mark 4:4,15).
Sermon no. 147
25 June (Preached 31 May 1857)


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