Saturday, June 23, 2012

Daily Devotional Saturday 23rd June

“The LORD will keep you from all harm— he will watch over your life; the LORD will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.”Psalm 121:7-8 NIV
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Morning and Evening by Charles Spurgeon

Morning

"Ephraim is a cake not turned."
Hosea 7:8
A cake not turned is uncooked on one side; and so Ephraim was, in many respects, untouched by divine grace: though there was some partial obedience, there was very much rebellion left. My soul, I charge thee, see whether this be thy case. Art thou thorough in the things of God? Has grace gone through the very centre of thy being so as to be felt in its divine operations in all thy powers, thy actions, thy words, and thy thoughts? To be sanctified, spirit, soul, and body, should be thine aim and prayer; and although sanctification may not be perfect in thee anywhere in degree, yet it must be universal in its action; there must not be the appearance of holiness in one place and reigning sin in another, else thou, too, wilt be a cake not turned.
A cake not turned is soon burnt on the side nearest the fire, and although no man can have too much religion, there are some who seem burnt black with bigoted zeal for that part of truth which they have received, or are charred to a cinder with a vainglorious Pharisaic ostentation of those religious performances which suit their humour. The assumed appearance of superior sanctity frequently accompanies a total absence of all vital godliness. The saint in public is a devil in private. He deals in flour by day and in soot by night. The cake which is burned on one side, is dough on the other.
If it be so with me, O Lord, turn me! Turn my unsanctified nature to the fire of thy love and let it feel the sacred glow, and let my burnt side cool a little while I learn my own weakness and want of heat when I am removed from thy heavenly flame. Let me not be found a double-minded man, but one entirely under the powerful influence of reigning grace; for well I know if I am left like a cake unturned, and am not on both sides the subject of thy grace, I must be consumed forever amid everlasting burnings.

Evening

"Waiting for the adoption."
Romans 8:23
Even in this world saints are God's children, but men cannot discover them to be so, except by certain moral characteristics. The adoption is not manifested, the children are not yet openly declared. Among the Romans a man might adopt a child, and keep it private for a long time: but there was a second adoption in public; when the child was brought before the constituted authorities its former garments were taken off, and the father who took it to be his child gave it raiment suitable to its new condition of life. "Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be." We are not yet arrayed in the apparel which befits the royal family of heaven; we are wearing in this flesh and blood just what we wore as the sons of Adam; but we know that "when he shall appear" who is the "first-born among many brethren," we shall be like him, we shall see him as he is. Cannot you imagine that a child taken from the lowest ranks of society, and adopted by a Roman senator, would say to himself, "I long for the day when I shall be publicly adopted. Then I shall leave off these plebeian garments, and be robed as becomes my senatorial rank"? Happy in what he has received, for that very reason he groans to get the fulness of what is promised him. So it is with us today. We are waiting till we shall put on our proper garments, and shall be manifested as the children of God. We are young nobles, and have not yet worn our coronets. We are young brides, and the marriage day is not yet come, and by the love our Spouse bears us, we are led to long and sigh for the bridal morning. Our very happiness makes us groan after more; our joy, like a swollen spring, longs to well up like an Iceland geyser, leaping to the skies, and it heaves and groans within our spirit for want of space and room by which to manifest itself to men.

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Today's reading: Esther 6-8, Acts 6 (NIV)

View today's reading on Bible Gateway 
Mordecai Honored
    That night the king could not sleep; so he ordered the book of the chronicles, the record of his reign, to be brought in and read to him. 2 It was found recorded there that Mordecai had exposed Bigthana and Teresh, two of the king’s officers who guarded the doorway, who had conspired to assassinate King Xerxes.
   3 “What honor and recognition has Mordecai received for this?” the king asked.
   “Nothing has been done for him,” his attendants answered.
   4 The king said, “Who is in the court?” Now Haman had just entered the outer court of the palace to speak to the king about impaling Mordecai on the pole he had set up for him.
   5 His attendants answered, “Haman is standing in the court.”
   “Bring him in,” the king ordered.
   6 When Haman entered, the king asked him, “What should be done for the man the king delights to honor?”
   Now Haman thought to himself, “Who is there that the king would rather honor than me?” 7 So he answered the king, “For the man the king delights to honor, have them bring a royal robe the king has worn and a horse the king has ridden, one with a royal crest placed on its head. 9 Then let the robe and horse be entrusted to one of the king’s most noble princes. Let them robe the man the king delights to honor, and lead him on the horse through the city streets, proclaiming before him, ‘This is what is done for the man the king delights to honor!’”
   10 “Go at once,” the king commanded Haman. “Get the robe and the horse and do just as you have suggested for Mordecai the Jew, who sits at the king’s gate. Do not neglect anything you have recommended.”
   11 So Haman got the robe and the horse. He robed Mordecai, and led him on horseback through the city streets, proclaiming before him, “This is what is done for the man the king delights to honor!”
   12 Afterward Mordecai returned to the king’s gate. But Haman rushed home, with his head covered in grief, 13 and told Zeresh his wife and all his friends everything that had happened to him.
   His advisers and his wife Zeresh said to him, “Since Mordecai, before whom your downfall has started, is of Jewish origin, you cannot stand against him—you will surely come to ruin!” 14 While they were still talking with him, the king’s eunuchs arrived and hurried Haman away to the banquet Esther had prepared.

Esther 7

Haman Impaled
    1 So the king and Haman went to Queen Esther’s banquet, 2and as they were drinking wine on the second day, the king again asked, “Queen Esther, what is your petition? It will be given you. What is your request? Even up to half the kingdom, it will be granted.”
   3 Then Queen Esther answered, “If I have found favor with you, Your Majesty, and if it pleases you, grant me my life—this is my petition. And spare my people—this is my request. 4 For I and my people have been sold to be destroyed, killed and annihilated. If we had merely been sold as male and female slaves, I would have kept quiet, because no such distress would justify disturbing the king.”
   5 King Xerxes asked Queen Esther, “Who is he? Where is he—the man who has dared to do such a thing?”
   6 Esther said, “An adversary and enemy! This vile Haman!”
   Then Haman was terrified before the king and queen. 7 The king got up in a rage, left his wine and went out into the palace garden. But Haman, realizing that the king had already decided his fate, stayed behind to beg Queen Esther for his life.
   8 Just as the king returned from the palace garden to the banquet hall, Haman was falling on the couch where Esther was reclining.
   The king exclaimed, “Will he even molest the queen while she is with me in the house?”
   As soon as the word left the king’s mouth, they covered Haman’s face. 9 Then Harbona, one of the eunuchs attending the king, said, “A pole reaching to a height of fifty cubits stands by Haman’s house. He had it set up for Mordecai, who spoke up to help the king.”
   The king said, “Impale him on it!” 10 So they impaled Haman on the pole he had set up for Mordecai. Then the king’s fury subsided.

Esther 8

The King’s Edict in Behalf of the Jews
    1 That same day King Xerxes gave Queen Esther the estate of Haman, the enemy of the Jews. And Mordecai came into the presence of the king, for Esther had told how he was related to her. 2 The king took off his signet ring, which he had reclaimed from Haman, and presented it to Mordecai. And Esther appointed him over Haman’s estate.
   3 Esther again pleaded with the king, falling at his feet and weeping. She begged him to put an end to the evil plan of Haman the Agagite, which he had devised against the Jews. 4Then the king extended the gold scepter to Esther and she arose and stood before him.
   5 “If it pleases the king,” she said, “and if he regards me with favor and thinks it the right thing to do, and if he is pleased with me, let an order be written overruling the dispatches that Haman son of Hammedatha, the Agagite, devised and wrote to destroy the Jews in all the king’s provinces. 6 For how can I bear to see disaster fall on my people? How can I bear to see the destruction of my family?”
   7 King Xerxes replied to Queen Esther and to Mordecai the Jew, “Because Haman attacked the Jews, I have given his estate to Esther, and they have impaled him on the pole he set up. 8 Now write another decree in the king’s name in behalf of the Jews as seems best to you, and seal it with the king’s signet ring—for no document written in the king’s name and sealed with his ring can be revoked.”
   9 At once the royal secretaries were summoned—on the twenty-third day of the third month, the month of Sivan. They wrote out all Mordecai’s orders to the Jews, and to the satraps, governors and nobles of the 127 provinces stretching from India to Cush. These orders were written in the script of each province and the language of each people and also to the Jews in their own script and language. 10 Mordecai wrote in the name of King Xerxes, sealed the dispatches with the king’s signet ring, and sent them by mounted couriers, who rode fast horses especially bred for the king.
   11 The king’s edict granted the Jews in every city the right to assemble and protect themselves; to destroy, kill and annihilate the armed men of any nationality or province who might attack them and their women and children, and to plunder the property of their enemies. 12 The day appointed for the Jews to do this in all the provinces of King Xerxes was the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, the month of Adar. 13 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 that the Jews would be ready on that day to avenge themselves on their enemies.
   14 The couriers, riding the royal horses, went out, spurred on by the king’s command, and the edict was issued in the citadel of Susa.
The Triumph of the Jews
    15 When Mordecai left the king’s presence, he was wearing royal garments of blue and white, a large crown of gold and a purple robe of fine linen. And the city of Susa held a joyous celebration. 16 For the Jews it was a time of happiness and joy, gladness and honor. 17 In every province and in every city to which the edict of the king came, there was joy and gladness among the Jews, with feasting and celebrating. And many people of other nationalities became Jews because fear of the Jews had seized them.

Acts 6

The Choosing of the Seven
    1 In those days when the number of disciples was increasing, the Hellenistic Jews among them complained against the Hebraic Jews because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food. 2 So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, “It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables. 3 Brothers and sisters, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them 4 and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word.”
   5 This proposal pleased the whole group. They chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit; also Philip, Procorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas from Antioch, a convert to Judaism. 6 They presented these men to the apostles, who prayed and laid their hands on them.
   7 So the word of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith.
Stephen Seized
    8 Now Stephen, a man full of God’s grace and power, performed great wonders and signs among the people. 9Opposition arose, however, from members of the Synagogue of the Freedmen (as it was called)—Jews of Cyrene and Alexandria as well as the provinces of Cilicia and Asia—who began to argue with Stephen. 10 But they could not stand up against the wisdom the Spirit gave him as he spoke.
   11 Then they secretly persuaded some men to say, “We have heard Stephen speak blasphemous words against Moses and against God.”
   12 So they stirred up the people and the elders and the teachers of the law. They seized Stephen and brought him before the Sanhedrin. 13 They produced false witnesses, who testified, “This fellow never stops speaking against this holy place and against the law. 14 For we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place and change the customs Moses handed down to us.”
   15 All who were sitting in the Sanhedrin looked intently at Stephen, and they saw that his face was like the face of an angel.

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Myth: "The church should meet my needs."

Today's church service just didn't do anything for me. Sunday mornings are my only day of the week to sleep late. It's incredibly frustrating to drag myself out of bed to go to church and then not get anything out of it.
I went church shopping the first weekend I moved here and started my new job. Over the next couple months, I tried out several different kinds of churches, even though I come from a Methodist background. I did mega-churches. Small churches. Funky retro churches that met in strip malls and coffee bars. Stiff churches with ice-cold marble flooring that complemented the even cooler reception from their starched members.
The church I'm attending now is OK, but it's not really my style. I walked into Sunday school and immediately knew these weren't "my people." They invite me to their socials, but what's the point when I have nothing in common with them? I occasionally glance over the bulletin, scanning for ministries that might suit me, but I rarely find anything that garners more than an occasional blip on my interest radar. It makes me wonder where all my offering money is going. The most exciting thing I see happening is in the children's ministry-no way, thank you. I come to church to relax, not to stress out over who's had their snack or to build a miniature church out of dried pinto beans and empty toilet paper rolls.
One would think a church this size would have something for everyone (and some good-looking guys wouldn't hurt). Why is it so hard to find a church that meets my needs, doesn't talk about money more than once a year and has a decent music program?
-Gabriela
When it comes to understanding the purpose of the church, we often have it backwards. The church does not exist for us, though we are central to its existence. The capital-C Church-which is the big-picture, universal Church that includes all believers-exists for Jesus alone. The Church is his bride (seeRevelation 19:721:2). The little-c church-which is the local church in a neighborhood near you-is how God reaches the masses with his gospel and love. It is also an incubator for baby Christians, a hospital for hurting people, a gathering place for all to worship and an opportunity for maturing believers to hone their spiritual gifts through serving one another. Although it is human nature to make life "all about me," the church is all about serving Jesus through serving his people.
That's why petty arguments about the music being too loud, the music being too dull, the pastor talking too long, the service starting too early, the service starting too late and all the other rationales for why we resent the church for not catering to our preferences are just that-petty preferences that do not matter. The next time you try to make church all about you, remember this:
  • The church is Jesus' body (see 1 Corinthians 12:27).
  • Jesus promises to build his church-regardless of our personal tastes (see Matthew 16:18).
  • Jesus loved the church so much that he died for it. The church matters to him, so it should matter to us (seeEphesians 5:25-27).
When we begin to make church more about Jesus and less about us, we look for ways to love the body of Christ. Ironically, God rewards our unselfish actions by meeting our needs in return-if we will just put him and his church first (seeMatthew 6:33).
"The local church is the classroom for learning how to get along in God's family. It is a lab for practicing unselfish, sympathetic love."
-Rick Warren
"From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work."
Ephesians 4:16

See also

Acts 2:42-47; Galatians 6:2, 10; Colossians 3:15-16
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THE HOLY SPIRIT

“If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” Luke 11:13
Imagine the Christian movement in your country suddenly cut off from all those who are now its leaders! In the period of confusion that immediately follows a takeover, some small groups of Christians may be able to move to a different locality and become underground churches, but they must leave their “institutional forms” behind.
But who would lead such groups? Who would provide leadership for “house” churches and “family” churches? God, through the Holy Spirit, would raise up and equip leaders for His church in such circumstances, as He always had in the past. The members of a home fellowship must be prepared to accept the leadership of the Spirit and of those through whom He chooses to minister.
When regular lay Christians actually begin to understand that they can pray directly to the Lord, when they can take a passage of Scripture, written or memorized, and understand it under the direction of the Holy Spirit, they are then on the road to surviving victoriously in whatever set of hostile circumstances that may come along. One exciting discovery will lead to another. These Christians will begin to let the Holy Spirit use them to touch the lives of others and minister to their needs. No authority on earth can destroy this kind of spiritual church!
In China, a Christian woman was in charge of security at a coal mine. The woman suddenly felt the Holy Spirit urging her to pull the alarm lever, even though there was no apparent reason to do so. Although everything seemed quiet and normal, she obeyed the prompting within her. The whole mine was evacuated as a result of the alarm sounding, but when all the men had assembled on the surface, it seemed as if a huge mistake had been made. Just moments later the ground beneath their feet shook and a large section of the mine collapsed from the earthquake.
Because of this sister’s sensitivity and willingness to obey God’s Holy Spirit, everyone’s life had been saved. Additionally, however, 400 of the miners surrendered their lives to Christ after recognising that God had miraculously saved them from death.[1]
RESPONSE: Today I will thank God for the gift of His Holy Spirit.
PRAYER: Lord, use me today through Your Spirit to touch the lives of others and minister to their needs.
1. Patterson, p. 193.
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 22

The measure with which God gives the gift of visible community is varied. Christians who live dispersed from one another are comforted by a brief visit of another Christian, a prayer together, and another Christian's blessing. Indeed, they are strengthened by letters written by the hand of other Christians. Paul's greetings in his letters written in his own hand were no doubt tokens of such community. Others are given the gift on Sundays of the community of the worship service. Still others have the privilege of living a Christian life in the community of their families.

Biblical Wisdom

Now concerning love of the brothers and sisters, you do not need to have anyone write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love one another, and indeed you do love all the brothers and sisters throughout Macedonia. 1 Thessalonians 4:9

Questions to Ponder

  • Why is Christian community so important for the life of faith?
  • What are the things that weaken community?
  • What are the things that strengthen community?

Psalm Fragment

Worship the Lord with gladness; 
   come into his presence with singing.
Know that the Lord is God.
It is he that made us, and we are his;
   we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. Psalm 100:2-3

Journal Reflections

  • Write about how the gift of Christian community has been a blessing to you.
  • What kinds of Christian communities are you a part of?
  • Do you have a spiritual friend, someone with whom you can speak about faith, confide in, who encourages you, guides you and, if needed, corrects you․and for whom you are the same? If so, reflect on that relationship and what it means to you. If not, could you build a friendship like that?

Prayer for Today

Lord, enable me to be a strength of my Christian communities, and faithful in my spiritual friendships.
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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Crumbs from the Table

John Calvin comments, "At no time, certainly, did God shut up his grace among the Jews in such a manner as not to bestow a small taste of them on the Gentiles." Throughout redemptive history there have been Gentiles who have come to trust the God of Israel. Yet God is the covenant Lord of Israel, and, therefore, the Gospel goes to the Jew first. Take some time to pray for the physical sons of Abraham, that they would come to know Jesus.
For further study:
The Bible in a year:
For the weekend:
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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Crumbs from the Table

Matthew 15:21-28 "Jesus answered her, 'O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.' And her daughter was healed instantly" ( v. 28).
The distinction between clean and unclean animals may be designed to remind Israel of the fall. Clean animals are visibly separated from the ground by cloven hoofs or scales and fins that enable them to swim away from the ocean floor (Lev. 11:3,9). Unclean animals touch the earth directly. They have paws or crawl upon the sea bottom because they lack fins and scales ( vv. 10-1226-27). Other taboo creatures eat dead flesh (v. 18). Since Adam's sin brought a curse on the ground and death (Gen. 3:14-19 ), not eating animals associated with such things reminded Israel of creation's brokenness, cultivating hope for the curse's removal and the world's return to its original goodness.
On the cross, Jesus took the curse upon Himself (Gal. 3:13), and now all creation waits for its goodness to be made fully manifest (Rom. 8:19-21 ). With the curse broken, what was unclean is now clean, and thus the old Mosaic food laws need not be followed in the new covenant. This is the logical conclusion of Jesus' teaching on this point (Matt. 15:1-20; see especially Mark 7:19).
Removing the curse will also end the division between Jew and Gentile, a truth hinted at in Matthew 15:21-28 . As Christ nears Tyre and Sidon, a Gentile woman approaches Jesus and begs Him to heal her daughter (Matt. 15:21-22). He ignores her at first, but then tells her His mission is to Israel (vv. 23-24 ). He is not denying salvation to the Gentiles; He is reminding her that He comes to Israel before going to the nations. Jesus' later exchange with the woman about giving the children's bread to the dogs is related. God, the good Father, feeds His children - His people Israel - prior to feeding the family dog (vv. 25-26).
The woman, a daughter of Israel's ancient enemies in Canaan, knows this truth well, and her daughter is healed when she asks to mercifully share in the abundance of the Messiah's feast, not to be fed out of order ( vv. 27-28). John Calvin says that the woman does not impiously contradict Christ. "As God preferred the Jews to other nations, she does not dispute with them the honor of adoption, and declares, that she has no objection whatever that Christ should satisfy them according to the order which God had prescribed."

Coram deo: Living before the face of God

John Calvin comments, "At no time, certainly, did God shut up his grace among the Jews in such a manner as not to bestow a small taste of them on the Gentiles." Throughout redemptive history there have been Gentiles who have come to trust the God of Israel. Yet God is the covenant Lord of Israel, and, therefore, the Gospel goes to the Jew first. Take some time to pray for the physical sons of Abraham, that they would come to know Jesus.
For further study:
The Bible in a year:
For the weekend:
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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Fire! Fire! Fire!

‘When thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee.’ Isaiah 43:2
Suggested Further Reading: 1 Peter 4:12–19
Through much tribulation we must inherit the kingdom. Think it no strange thing when the fiery trial shall happen to you. If you have the common afflictions of the world do not wonder. You must have them. The same thing happens both to the evil and to the good. You lose in business, you have reverses and disappointments; do not stagger at these on the way to heaven. You must have these; they are necessary to your spiritual health. Worse than that, you have strange temptations, you are placed in a position where you are constantly exposed to sin. It must be so. This too is the pathway of God’s people; you must have these fiery temptations, that you, being tried in the fire, may come forth as gold seven times purified. You have mental anxieties. Neither let these seem a wonder to you. They fall to the lot of all the saints of the Most High. Moreover, you will have to endure the attacks of Satan, you must go through the valley of the shadow of death, and fight with Apollyon as Christian did; you are not to be exempted from the hardness of Christian warfare. If you will mount the hill, you must climb; if you are to win the crown, you must win it by sheer might. Think not this a strange thing. And if in doing good you meet with difficulties, let that not stagger you. It is but right and natural. I tell you again, if there be any pathway in which there be not fire, tremble; but if your lot be hard, thank God for it. If your sufferings be great, bless the Lord for them; and if the difficulties in your pathway be many, surmount them by faith, but let them not cast you down. Be of good courage, and wait on the Lord, setting this constantly in your minds that he has not promised to keep you from trouble, but to preserve you in it.
For meditation: The early Christians were properly taught to expect problems in the Christian life (John 16:33Acts 14:22 ;1 Thessalonians 3:4). Are you forewarned and forearmed for trouble (1 Peter 4:12) or does it take you by surprise and throw you into doubt and confusion?
Sermon no. 397
23 June (1861)

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The plea of faith

“Do as thou hast said.” 2 Samuel 7:25
Suggested Further Reading: Psalm 19:7-11
Unless we know what God has said, it will be folly to say, “do as thou hast said.” Perhaps there is no book more neglected in these days than the Bible. I do truly believe there are more mouldy Bibles in this world than there are of any sort of neglected books. We have stillborn books in abundance; we have innumerable books which never see any circulation, but we have no book that is so much bought, and then so speedily laid aside, and so little used, as the Bible. If we buy a newspaper, it is generally handed from one person to another, or we take care to peruse it pretty well; indeed some go so far as to read advertisements and all. If a person purchases a novel, it is well known how he will sit and read it all the way through, till the midnight candle is burnt out; the book must be finished in one day, because it is so admirable and interesting; but the Bible, of course, in the estimation of many, is not an interesting book; and the subjects it treats of are not of any very great importance. So most men think; they think it is a very good book to carry out on a Sunday, but never meant to be used as a book of pleasure, or a book to which one could turn with delight. Such is the opinion of many; but no opinion can be more apart from the truth; for what other book deals with truths half so important as those that concern the soul? What book can so well deserve my attention as that which is written by the greatest of all authors, God himself?
For meditation: This book will become a hindrance to your soul if you allow it to become a substitute for your daily Bible reading. The correct use of these daily readings is found inActs 17:11.
Sermon no. 88
23 June (Preached 22 June 1856)

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June 22, 2012
Masterpiece in the Making
Gwen Smith
Today's Truth
And I am convinced and sure of this very thing, that He Who began a good work in you will continue until the day of Jesus Christ [right up to the time of His return], developing [that good work] and perfecting and bringing it to full completion in you (Philippians 1:6, AMP).
Friend to Friend 
It took four years of fresco painting for the Italian Renaissance sculptor, painter, architect, and poet Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni, to finish the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. Commonly known as Michelangelo, his time painting was mostly spent alone, on his back, lying on scaffolding. (How painful!) The painting on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel is one of the most remarkable in the history of Western art. One thing is for sure: the process that altered a ceiling from plain to fabulous required a lot of time, great discipline, and the hand of a master artist. The same is true for us. The journey from broken into beautiful is a lifelong transformation that requires both discipline and a Master Artist.
As Michelangelo was working, I'm sure that lots of people came through the corridors of the chapel and stood in amazement. As they looked up at the beauty of his work, I bet they said things like, "That is the most fantastic work of art I have ever seen!" or "Extraordinary!" To which hemight have said, "It's not done!" But did the unfinished state of the project negate that parts of the ceiling were beautiful? No! The parts that were complete were still extravagant and breathtaking.
Maybe this is the way God and others see our lives. It's common for people to notice the work God has done in us and comment on the beauty. And even though compliments are nice to hear, I've been known to resist them. (Admit it, you probably have too.) It's not so much a humility thing as it is an "I-don't-see-myself-as-beautiful" thing. From my limited perspective, I can see only the unfinished work. But in truth, my vantage point doesn't negate the beauty of the work God has done and is doing in my life.
Real beauty isn't about a finished or flawless product. It can't be. It's not possible on this side of eternity to have completed beauty. Our restoration will be complete in the presence of God when we see Him face to face. 
Now, you might be saying, "But Gwen, I can't be beautiful!  You don't know what I've done...or what I've been through...or what I'm going through!"
Friend, God knows where you have been, what you have been through, and where you are now. He knows what your flaws are and loves you in spite of your imperfections. His tender love is far-reaching and complete.
Your past sins do not define you.
Your painful scars do not define you.
Your present sufferings do not define you.
They are just shards of brokenness that God will use to lovingly refine your beauty. The transformation from broken into beautiful is neither easy nor instantaneous. It demands a yielded heart and can be quite painful, but it comes with great reward. God will need your broken pieces—your scars, shame, insecurities, disappointments, betrayals, and failures.
Do you have some of those?
Are they tucked away in a safe, do-not-enter part of your heart?
You might find it hard to hand over hurts. I get that. It's hard for me too. But difficult as it may be, it's time to hand them over and let our masterful Lord create a stunning work of beauty in you. And He's going to need all of your broken pieces to complete the restoration.
Let's Pray
Holy Father, I am humbled by Your willingness to love and forgive someone like me.  Please take the broken pieces of my life and don't allow me to have them back.  I surrender to Your healing.  Mold me and shape me into a beautiful reflection of Your glory.  In Jesus' Name, Amen.
Now It's Your Turn
Read Isaiah 64:8, "Yet, O LORD, you are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand."
Meditate on this verse.  Read it again and personalize it in a prayerful response to God:  "Yet, O LORD, you are MY Father. I AM the clay, you are the potter; I AM the work of your hand."
Please come to my Facebook page today and share your heart and your "Masterpiece in the making" story with me.www.facebook.com/GwenSmithMusic.
More from the Girlfriends
Today's devotion is an excerpt from Gwen's book, Broken into Beautiful. If you would like to learn more about how your brokenness can be transformed into a picture of God's beauty, order Gwen's book Broken Into Beautiful. This resource will help you experience the power of hope, healing and restoration! To order the book, go to Amazon or, for a signed copy, order from Gwen's website: www.gwensmith.net.
LOVE MUSIC? Check out Gwen's latest CD, Uncluttered. The songs ofUncluttered are purposed to sweep you away from life-noise and to focus your heart and mind on the one thing that matters: your relationship with Jesus Christ. You can download the songs from iTunes or Amazon – or order her CDs on www.GwenSmith.net.
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

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P31Header
Samantha Reed
June 22, 2012
The God Who Sees
Samantha Reed
"She gave this name to the LORD who spoke to her: 'You are the God who sees me.'" Genesis 16:13a (NIV)
It's common, everyday. He tells me it's nothing, but I know better.
This single parent single-handedly holds each strand of his small daughter's hair as her little brother stands by. It's getting late, but he must continue ridding the unwelcome "guests." Comb and wash and comb again until father, daughter and son fall into bed, exhausted.
I send him this message, "You're making great memories." Folded under their daddy's wings, they'll remember sleeping under his safety and care.
He dismisses my encouragement: his kiddos won't recall this vacation, his sacrifice of rising early and staying up late, or the tedious job of removing lice. He says the only thing his 3- and 5-year-old birds will remember is being zonked out.
What about him? Shins kicked by size 2 feet, hot milky breath in his face, and blurry eyes still open as the sun rises on the next day of their vacation. These are what he bets he'll remember, and no one else will ever realize.
But I know better. Common moments, built one upon the other, create great lifetimes. These moments are mostly free, yet costly. Their currency? Time, energy, selflessness, dreams and yes, sleep. All create a life of loving well and building deep.
Reminds me of a story I read years ago by Nicole Johnson. Opening the coffee table book about magnificent cathedrals, she paused to soak in the inscription. "With admiration for the greatness of what you are building when no one sees."
This story hidden in the pages of her book is recounted."No one can say who built the great cathedrals - we have no record of their names. These builders gave their whole lives for this work. The passion for their building was fueled by their faith that the eyes of God saw everything.
A man visited the cathedral while it was being built, and he saw a workman carving a tiny bird on the inside of a beam. He asked, 'Why are you spending so much time carving that bird into a beam that will be covered by the roof? No one will ever see it.' The workman replied, 'Because God sees.'"
Yes, I knew better. Knew that my single-parent friend and his sleepless night were building something grand. Knew that even though he felt alone, he wasn't. God saw him just as He saw the woman in our key verse. In the desert, alone. Today's scripture reminds us that one of the names of the Lord, El Roi, means, "The God who sees."
Indeed, God sees each of our everyday efforts, whether with our kids or other children in our lives. Keeping watch late at night for them to arrive home safely. Folding the 11th basket of clothes . . . today. Cooking dinner with no "thank you" given. Dribbling the basketball with the neighborhood kids or volunteering at a summer camp. Though costly in many ways, these actions will pay off in building up a child's confidence of being loved, assurance of belonging, knowledge of being 'worth it.'
Whether you are investing in your own children, or someone else's, keep up the greatness in the common moments. It may seem like nothing, but it matters. It's building. It's seen.
Dear Lord, I can get so weary and tired persisting in building greatness in the everyday moments of life. It often feels like no one notices or appreciates me. Thank You for confirming that YOU see me. Help that be enough. In Jesus' Name, Amen.
Related Resources:
Always There offers an inspiring combination of real-faith mothering stories and Scriptures that assures you of God's abiding presence, written by authors such as Renee Swope, Ann Voskamp and more.
A Life that Says Welcome by Karen Ehman
Visit Samantha's blog to enter to win a copy of one of the above books . . . your choice!
Reflect and Respond:
Common moments, built one upon the other, create great lifetimes. These moments are mostly free, yet costly. Their currency? Time, energy, selflessness, dreams and yes, sleep. All create a life of loving well and building deep.
Click here to view Nicole Johnson sharing the story of "The Invisible Woman."
Power Verses:
Psalm 139: 2-3, "You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar. You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways." (ESV)
© 2012 by Samantha Reed. All rights reserved.
Proverbs 31 Ministries
616G MatthewsMint Hill Road
Matthews, NC 28105
www.Proverbs31.org



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