Sunday, June 17, 2012

Daily Devotional Sunday 17th June

“As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him;” Psalm 103:13 NIV
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Morning and Evening by Charles Spurgeon

Morning

"Help, Lord."
Psalm 12:1
The prayer itself is remarkable, for it is short, but seasonable, sententious, and suggestive. David mourned the fewness of faithful men, and therefore lifted up his heart in supplication--when the creature failed, he flew to the Creator. He evidently felt his own weakness, or he would not have cried for help; but at the same time he intended honestly to exert himself for the cause of truth, for the word "help" is inapplicable where we ourselves do nothing. There is much of directness, clearness of perception, and distinctness of utterance in this petition of two words; much more, indeed, than in the long rambling outpourings of certain professors. The Psalmist runs straight-forward to his God, with a well-considered prayer; he knows what he is seeking, and where to seek it. Lord, teach us to pray in the same blessed manner.
The occasions for the use of this prayer are frequent. In providential afflictions how suitable it is for tried believers who find all helpers failing them. Students, in doctrinal difficulties, may often obtain aid by lifting up this cry of "Help, Lord," to the Holy Spirit, the great Teacher. Spiritual warriors in inward conflicts may send to the throne for reinforcements, and this will be a model for their request. Workers in heavenly labour may thus obtain grace in time of need. Seeking sinners, in doubts and alarms, may offer up the same weighty supplication; in fact, in all these cases, times, and places, this will serve the turn of needy souls. "Help, Lord," will suit us living and dying, suffering or labouring, rejoicing or sorrowing. In him our help is found, let us not be slack to cry to him.
The answer to the prayer is certain, if it be sincerely offered through Jesus. The Lord's character assures us that he will not leave his people; his relationship as Father and Husband guarantee us his aid; his gift of Jesus is a pledge of every good thing; and his sure promise stands, "Fear not, I will help thee."

Evening

"Then Israel sang this song, Spring up, O well; sing ye unto it."
Numbers 21:17
Famous was the well of Beer in the wilderness, because it was the subject of a promise: "That is the well whereof the Lord spake unto Moses, Gather the people together, and I will give them water." The people needed water, and it was promised by their gracious God. We need fresh supplies of heavenly grace, and in the covenant the Lord has pledged himself to give all we require. The well next became the cause of a song. Before the water gushed forth, cheerful faith prompted the people to sing; and as they saw the crystal fount bubbling up, the music grew yet more joyous. In like manner, we who believe the promise of God should rejoice in the prospect of divine revivals in our souls, and as we experience them our holy joy should overflow. Are we thirsting? Let us not murmur, but sing. Spiritual thirst is bitter to bear, but we need not bear it--the promise indicates a well; let us be of good heart, and look for it. Moreover, the well was the centre of prayer. "Spring up, O well." What God has engaged to give, we must enquire after, or we manifest that we have neither desire nor faith. This evening let us ask that the Scripture we have read, and our devotional exercises, may not be an empty formality, but a channel of grace to our souls. O that God the Holy Spirit would work in us with all his mighty power, filling us with all the fulness of God. Lastly, the well was the object of effort. "The nobles of the people digged it with their staves." The Lord would have us active in obtaining grace. Our staves are ill adapted for digging in the sand, but we must use them to the utmost of our ability. Prayer must not be neglected; the assembling of ourselves together must not be forsaken; ordinances must not be slighted. The Lord will give us his peace most plenteously, but not in a way of idleness. Let us, then, bestir ourselves to seek him in whom are all our fresh springs.

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Today's reading: Nehemiah 4-6, Acts 2:22-47 (NIV)

View today's reading on Bible Gateway 
Opposition to the Rebuilding
    1 When Sanballat heard that we were rebuilding the wall, he became angry and was greatly incensed. He ridiculed the Jews,2 and in the presence of his associates and the army of Samaria, he said, “What are those feeble Jews doing? Will they restore their wall? Will they offer sacrifices? Will they finish in a day? Can they bring the stones back to life from those heaps of rubble—burned as they are?”
   3 Tobiah the Ammonite, who was at his side, said, “What they are building—even a fox climbing up on it would break down their wall of stones!”
   4 Hear us, our God, for we are despised. Turn their insults back on their own heads. Give them over as plunder in a land of captivity. 5 Do not cover up their guilt or blot out their sins from your sight, for they have thrown insults in the face of the builders.
   6 So we rebuilt the wall till all of it reached half its height, for the people worked with all their heart.
   7 But when Sanballat, Tobiah, the Arabs, the Ammonites and the people of Ashdod heard that the repairs to Jerusalem’s walls had gone ahead and that the gaps were being closed, they were very angry. 8 They all plotted together to come and fight against Jerusalem and stir up trouble against it. 9 But we prayed to our God and posted a guard day and night to meet this threat.
   10 Meanwhile, the people in Judah said, “The strength of the laborers is giving out, and there is so much rubble that we cannot rebuild the wall.”
   11 Also our enemies said, “Before they know it or see us, we will be right there among them and will kill them and put an end to the work.”
   12 Then the Jews who lived near them came and told us ten times over, “Wherever you turn, they will attack us.”
   13 Therefore I stationed some of the people behind the lowest points of the wall at the exposed places, posting them by families, with their swords, spears and bows. 14 After I looked things over, I stood up and said to the nobles, the officials and the rest of the people, “Don’t be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your families, your sons and your daughters, your wives and your homes.”
   15 When our enemies heard that we were aware of their plot and that God had frustrated it, we all returned to the wall, each to our own work.
   16 From that day on, half of my men did the work, while the other half were equipped with spears, shields, bows and armor. The officers posted themselves behind all the people of Judah17 who were building the wall. Those who carried materials did their work with one hand and held a weapon in the other, 18 and each of the builders wore his sword at his side as he worked. But the man who sounded the trumpet stayed with me.
   19 Then I said to the nobles, the officials and the rest of the people, “The work is extensive and spread out, and we are widely separated from each other along the wall. 20 Wherever you hear the sound of the trumpet, join us there. Our God will fight for us!”
   21 So we continued the work with half the men holding spears, from the first light of dawn till the stars came out. 22 At that time I also said to the people, “Have every man and his helper stay inside Jerusalem at night, so they can serve us as guards by night and as workers by day.” 23 Neither I nor my brothers nor my men nor the guards with me took off our clothes; each had his weapon, even when he went for water.

Nehemiah 5

Nehemiah Helps the Poor
    1 Now the men and their wives raised a great outcry against their fellow Jews. 2 Some were saying, “We and our sons and daughters are numerous; in order for us to eat and stay alive, we must get grain.”
   3 Others were saying, “We are mortgaging our fields, our vineyards and our homes to get grain during the famine.”
   4 Still others were saying, “We have had to borrow money to pay the king’s tax on our fields and vineyards. 5 Although we are of the same flesh and blood as our fellow Jews and though our children are as good as theirs, yet we have to subject our sons and daughters to slavery. Some of our daughters have already been enslaved, but we are powerless, because our fields and our vineyards belong to others.”
   6 When I heard their outcry and these charges, I was very angry. 7 I pondered them in my mind and then accused the nobles and officials. I told them, “You are charging your own people interest!” So I called together a large meeting to deal with them 8 and said: “As far as possible, we have bought back our fellow Jews who were sold to the Gentiles. Now you are selling your own people, only for them to be sold back to us!” They kept quiet, because they could find nothing to say.
   9 So I continued, “What you are doing is not right. Shouldn’t you walk in the fear of our God to avoid the reproach of our Gentile enemies? 10 I and my brothers and my men are also lending the people money and grain. But let us stop charging interest! 11 Give back to them immediately their fields, vineyards, olive groves and houses, and also the interest you are charging them—one percent of the money, grain, new wine and olive oil.”
   12 “We will give it back,” they said. “And we will not demand anything more from them. We will do as you say.”
   Then I summoned the priests and made the nobles and officials take an oath to do what they had promised. 13 I also shook out the folds of my robe and said, “In this way may God shake out of their house and possessions anyone who does not keep this promise. So may such a person be shaken out and emptied!”
   At this the whole assembly said, “Amen,” and praised the LORD. And the people did as they had promised.
   14 Moreover, from the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes, when I was appointed to be their governor in the land of Judah, until his thirty-second year—twelve years—neither I nor my brothers ate the food allotted to the governor. 15 But the earlier governors—those preceding me—placed a heavy burden on the people and took forty shekels of silver from them in addition to food and wine. Their assistants also lorded it over the people. But out of reverence for God I did not act like that. 16 Instead, I devoted myself to the work on this wall. All my men were assembled there for the work; we did not acquire any land.
   17 Furthermore, a hundred and fifty Jews and officials ate at my table, as well as those who came to us from the surrounding nations. 18 Each day one ox, six choice sheep and some poultry were prepared for me, and every ten days an abundant supply of wine of all kinds. In spite of all this, I never demanded the food allotted to the governor, because the demands were heavy on these people.
   19 Remember me with favor, my God, for all I have done for these people.

Nehemiah 6

Further Opposition to the Rebuilding
    1 When word came to Sanballat, Tobiah, Geshem the Arab and the rest of our enemies that I had rebuilt the wall and not a gap was left in it—though up to that time I had not set the doors in the gates— 2 Sanballat and Geshem sent me this message: “Come, let us meet together in one of the villages[f]on the plain of Ono.”
   But they were scheming to harm me; 3 so I sent messengers to them with this reply: “I am carrying on a great project and cannot go down. Why should the work stop while I leave it and go down to you?” 4 Four times they sent me the same message, and each time I gave them the same answer.
   5 Then, the fifth time, Sanballat sent his aide to me with the same message, and in his hand was an unsealed letter 6 in which was written:
   “It is reported among the nations—and Geshem says it is true—that you and the Jews are plotting to revolt, and therefore you are building the wall. Moreover, according to these reports you are about to become their king 7 and have even appointed prophets to make this proclamation about you in Jerusalem: ‘There is a king in Judah!’ Now this report will get back to the king; so come, let us meet together.”
   8 I sent him this reply: “Nothing like what you are saying is happening; you are just making it up out of your head.”
   9 They were all trying to frighten us, thinking, “Their hands will get too weak for the work, and it will not be completed.”
   But I prayed, “Now strengthen my hands.”
   10 One day I went to the house of Shemaiah son of Delaiah, the son of Mehetabel, who was shut in at his home. He said, “Let us meet in the house of God, inside the temple, and let us close the temple doors, because men are coming to kill you—by night they are coming to kill you.”
   11 But I said, “Should a man like me run away? Or should someone like me go into the temple to save his life? I will not go!” 12 I realized that God had not sent him, but that he had prophesied against me because Tobiah and Sanballat had hired him. 13 He had been hired to intimidate me so that I would commit a sin by doing this, and then they would give me a bad name to discredit me.
   14 Remember Tobiah and Sanballat, my God, because of what they have done; remember also the prophet Noadiah and how she and the rest of the prophets have been trying to intimidate me. 15 So the wall was completed on the twenty-fifth of Elul, in fifty-two days.
Opposition to the Completed Wall
    16 When all our enemies heard about this, all the surrounding nations were afraid and lost their self-confidence, because they realized that this work had been done with the help of our God.
   17 Also, in those days the nobles of Judah were sending many letters to Tobiah, and replies from Tobiah kept coming to them. 18 For many in Judah were under oath to him, since he was son-in-law to Shekaniah son of Arah, and his son Jehohanan had married the daughter of Meshullam son of Berekiah. 19 Moreover, they kept reporting to me his good deeds and then telling him what I said. And Tobiah sent letters to intimidate me.

Acts 2

   22 “Fellow Israelites, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. 23 This man was handed over to you by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. 24 But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him. 25David said about him:
   “‘I saw the Lord always before me. 
   Because he is at my right hand, 
   I will not be shaken. 
26 Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; 
   my body also will rest in hope, 
27 because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead, 
   you will not let your holy one see decay. 
28 You have made known to me the paths of life; 
   you will fill me with joy in your presence.’
   29 “Fellow Israelites, I can tell you confidently that the patriarch David died and was buried, and his tomb is here to this day. 30 But he was a prophet and knew that God had promised him on oath that he would place one of his descendants on his throne. 31 Seeing what was to come, he spoke of the resurrection of the Messiah, that he was not abandoned to the realm of the dead, nor did his body see decay. 32 God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of it. 33 Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear. 34 For David did not ascend to heaven, and yet he said,
   “‘The Lord said to my Lord: 
   “Sit at my right hand 
35 until I make your enemies 
   a footstool for your feet.”’
   36 “Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.”
   37 When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?”
   38 Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.”
   40 With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” 41Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.
The Fellowship of the Believers
    42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

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Righting Wrong Assumptions

His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”
John 9:2
It’s so easy to make assumptions. I remember a time I made a hasty conclusion and was proved wrong.
I was teaching a writing course for a local university, and on the first night, I strolled up the front sidewalk and noticed a man sitting on the bench outside, smoking a cigarette. He was dirty, missing most of his front teeth, and he didn’t look too bright. His flannel shirt was torn, and his jeans were dirty. “He’s probably homeless,” I thought, moving on into the building.
As the students filed into class, I winced as I saw “Homeless” take a seat and pull a notebook out of his bag. “Oh, great,” I thought. “He’ll probably need remedial training; I bet he can’t string two sentences together.”
The man didn’t say a word during that first class. At the end of the three hours, I collected some paragraphs I had assigned to the students earlier that evening in which they were to describe a childhood experience that had affected them as adults.
I skimmed through the assignments and gasped in disbelief. “Homeless” could write! His paper was eloquent and heart wrenching; in short, it was the best first paper I’d read from a student in years.
This man subsequently went on to publish a book of essays dealing with his childhood.
The people of Jesus’ day were no different than I was. The man in John 9 must have had a rough life; because he had been born blind, people assumed he was being punished. Either he had sinned in the womb (or in a preexistent state) or else his condition was the result of the sin of his parents. Even Jesus’ disciples bought into those assumptions!
That kind of thinking still pervades our society, even among Christians: If you’d had more faith, your parent could have been cured of cancer. If you’d been a better husband or wife, your spouse wouldn’t have left you. On the flip side, those people over there have been so tremendously blessed; they must be doing something right.
We make judgments in marriage too. Assumptions about our spouse’s motives, feelings or rationale for doing something—without speaking about it first—can be so wrong. Yet our misconceptions can escalate into angry words, hard feelings and cold wars without us ever knowing the truth.
Jesus’ words in John 9:3 blow assumptions out of the water. “Neither this man nor his parents sinned . . . but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.” Likewise, God is working through our marriages and us, using various situations not to humble or exalt us but to reveal himself. He permits certain things to happen to us to teach us what it means to be his followers. So our assumptions may fall flat as we live out the works God displays in us.
We just need to be sure we open the Book before making judgments about what’s inside others.
Valerie Van Kooten

Let’s Talk

  • What preconceived notions did we have of each other when we first met? Were they correct or not?
  • Why is it dangerous to make assumptions about a person or situation before knowing much about it? How do we find out what’s really going on?
  • When have our assumptions been proven wrong about others who were having a hard time? How did that change our response to them?
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The axe at the root—a testimony against idolatry

‘But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth, for the Father seeketh such to worship him. God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.’ John 4:23–24
Suggested Further Reading: Philippians 3:1–8
Let me give a sketch of this worship as it actually exhibits itself. A man may have been to a place of worship from his youth up, and he may have fallen into a habit of repeating a sacred form every morning and every evening; he may even have been a tolerably diligent reader of the Word of God, and yet though this may have continued for sixty years and more, he may never once have worshipped God after the fashion prescribed in the text. But see him! The Father seeks him, truth comes home to his soul, and in the light of that truth he feels himself a sinner, and feeling himself so, he cries, ‘Father, I have sinned.’ That is his first true worship. See, brethren, his spirit feels it, he means what he says. All that he said before was as nothing, but that first cry ‘I have sinned’ has in it the vitality of worship. He hears the story of the cross, the full atonement made by God’s appointed sacrifice, and he prays, ‘Lord, I believe in Jesus, and I trust him;’ here is another specimen of true worship; here is the spirit resting upon God’s appointed sacrifice, and reverencing God’s way of salvation by accepting it. Being saved by the precious blood of Jesus, he cries, ‘Father, I bless thee that I am saved, I thank thee that my sins are washed away.’ This is true worship. The whole of the Christian’s life, consisting as it must do of dealings with the invisible God through Jesus Christ by his heart, is a life of worship, and when at last he comes to die, you perceive that his worship will not cease with death, because it has always been spiritual, and did not depend upon the body.
For meditation: Worship consists of trusting Christ and living for him (Romans 12:1), not merely of singing hymns and saying prayers. Paul’s first act of true worship was to replace his faith in religious ceremonies and his religious upbringing (Philippians 3:3–6) by faith in Christ (Philippians 3:7–9). Are you a so-called ‘worshipper’ who needs to do the same?
Sermon no. 695
17 June (1866)

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A Prophet without Honor

Matthew 13:53-58 "'A prophet is not without honor except in his hometown and in his own household.' And he did not do many mighty works there, because of their unbelief" ( vv. 57-58).
Yesterday we saw that those who have been led by the Spirit in the way of Christ can see treasures new and old in the Old Testament. However, while all believers are granted insight into the Scriptures (1 John 2:27), the teaching ministry of the church is still necessary for the spiritual health of God's people. Jesus speaks of "scribes" being trained for the kingdom inMatthew 13:51-52, and in His day the scribes were those specially trained to interpret the Law and the Prophets. Our Lord is probably alluding to the need for trained teachers in the new covenant community in this passage and may be emphasizing the role of the apostles as the church's foundation (John 16:12-15Eph. 2:19-20).
The one place we might expect Jesus to receive a warm welcome is in Nazareth, the town in which He was raised (Matt. 2:19-23). The people of Nazareth (Jesus' "hometown," 13:54 ) are amazed at the wisdom and power of the carpenter's son. This is due to their familiarity with Jesus and His upbringing. They know His family well, and apparently no one in His clan is all that remarkable. Lacking a formal education, Jesus should not be able to teach with the authority that He conveys. Yet Mary's son is unafraid to instruct with boldness (vv. 55-56). We would therefore expect the people in Nazareth to experience awe when in the presence of Jesus, whose teaching demonstrates that He is the Holy One of God. But as verse 57makes clear, their questions arise from contempt and offense. Basically they are saying, "Who does this carpenter think He is? He is no scribe and comes from a family of no special import. How can He possibly act as if He has the right to do what He is doing?"
Like the Pharisees before them (12:22-32 ), the citizens of Nazareth acknowledge the good work that Jesus is doing and yet fail to discern the source of His authority. For them, familiarity has bred contempt, and they will do whatever they can to deny the obvious. Once more, as John Calvin comments, we find sinners unwilling to believe in what God has sent. "It is not mere ignorance that hinders men, but that, of their own accord, they search after grounds of offense, to prevent them from following the path to which God invites."

Coram deo: Living before the face of God

Western society is blessed to be steeped in the teaching of Scripture and the person and work of Christ. However, we must take care that this blessing of familiarity does not motivate contempt in us for the things of God. Even if we do not consciously disregard the Lord, failing to marvel at the Father's grace - because we hear of it every week - is a subtle and powerful form of contempt. Take time to meditate on the greatness of our God and His love for us.
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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The power of the Holy Spirit

“The power of the Holy Ghost.” Romans 15:13
Suggested Further Reading: Acts 2:1-21
In a few more years—I know not when, I know not how—the Holy Spirit will be poured out in a far different style from the present. There are diversities of operations; and during the last few years it has been the case that the diversified operations have consisted in very little pouring out of the Spirit. Ministers have gone on in dull routine, continually preaching—preaching—preaching, and little good has been done. I do hope that perhaps a fresh era has dawned upon us, and that there is a better pouring out of the Spirit even now. For the hour is coming, and it may be even now is, when the Holy Spirit shall be poured out again in such a wonderful manner that many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased—the knowledge of the Lord shall cover the earth as the waters cover the surface of the great deep; when his kingdom shall come, and his will shall be done on earth even as it is in heaven. We are not going to be dragging on for ever like Pharaoh with the wheels off his chariot. My heart exults and my eyes flash with the thought that very likely I shall live to see the out-pouring of the Spirit; when “the sons and the daughters of God again shall prophecy, and the young men shall see visions, and the old men shall dream dreams.” Perhaps there shall be no miraculous gifts—for they will not be required; but yet there shall be such a miraculous amount of holiness, such an extraordinary fervour of prayer, such a real communion with God and so much vital religion, and such a spread of the doctrines of the cross, that everyone will see that verily the Spirit is poured out like water, and the rains are descending from above. For that let us pray: let us continually labour for it, and seek it of God.
For meditation: Spurgeon saw answers to his prayers in the 1859 revival. What are your visions for revival? Lots of excitement with extravagant claims that the Holy Spirit is involved? Or a genuine work of the Spirit which speaks for itself in real conversions, true fellowship and godly living ( Acts 2:37-47)?
Sermon no. 30
17 June (1855)

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Responding to God Sense-sationally

Which of your five senses is most important as you express to God your adoration and praise? Which is most likely to stir you to worship? Perhaps you're an auditory person. If appreciating and/or making lovely music is your thing, does your praise accompany the rendition? Psalm 98:4-5 invites us to "burst into jubilant song with music," to praise God instrumentally-in one way or another to "shout for joy to the LORD"!
Do you take particular delight in the beauty you take in visually? Does the sight of a sunset, a waterfall or a masterful painting prompt you to hold your breath as your soul exhales its gratitude? Are your spiritual eyes fixed on God (see Ps 141:8)? In the words of Psalm 19:1-3 , "The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge. They have no speech, they use no words; no sound is heard from them." Do the works of God's hands pour forth wordless "speech" to you, a visual message so universal that you are convinced it can be missed only by deliberately turning your back (see Ro 1:20)?
God created us with the ability to distinguish and appreciate fine nuances of taste. Do you respond in gratitude to fine food and drink? Have you noticed the rich banquet imagery throughout God's Word? We may not experience physical hunger or thirst in the new heaven (see Rev 7:16-17), but, given the resurrection of the body, we'll likely retain the capacity to enjoy culinary delights.
Then again, do your creative expressions incorporate texture? If so, you may be the kind of person who's most touched by touch. In Matthew 14:34-36 we read that when the men of Gennesaret recognized Jesus, "they sent word to all the surrounding country. People brought all their sick to him and begged him to let the sick just touch the edge of his cloak, and all who touched it were healed." Do you use your hands to touch and create in order to bring glory to God?
The woman with the alabaster jar of pricey perfume in Matthew 26:6-810 was moved by scent. If that sounds like you, whether your passion is nature, gardening, floral arrangement, cooking, candle-making or creating multi-sensory ambience in your home, you'll understand her motivation. Has it ever struck you that the primary purpose of Old Testament animal sacrifice centered around the heady smell of the cooking meat? Over and over again the Bible's early books repeat a refrain: "It is a burnt offering to the LORD, a pleasing aroma" (Ex 29:18 ). Our ability to smell calls forth associations. In Ephesians 5:1-2Paul urges believers to imitate Christ, who "gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God."

Think About It

  • With which sense do you most often praise God?
  • Are you stewarding your five God-given senses in appreciative response to your Creator? In what ways?
  • What personal quality makes your praise beautiful to God?

Act on It

Today offer worship to God using one of your five senses. Perhaps choose the sense you use the least for a new perspective on worship.
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HAS GOD FORGOTTEN HIS CHILDREN?

How long, LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and day after day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me? Psalm 13:1-2
If any believers can identify with this cry of David, it is those in North Korea. Today we hear from our co-worker, Jan Vermeer:
Looking at the desperate condition of the scattered North Korean church is a test of faith. Was the church meant to be underground or to be a bold witness? Should the name of Jesus Christ be proclaimed or whispered in silence? And if Jesus is King, why doesn’t He come to the rescue of his followers? Why do hundreds or even thousands perish in prisons or death camps each year?
An Open Doors contact in North Korea talks about their prayer meetings. “If you could attend one of those rare prayer meetings, your hearts would break,” he says. “We cover the portraits of the leaders on the wall and then we kneel down in a circle. We pray for strength and endurance. We pray that God will keep our country. ‘Father,’ we say, ‘The Israelites sinned and you made them wander in the wilderness for forty years. But for us, Lord, after more than fifty years we are still being punished. However, we have sinned and You are just. We bowed before the idols of Kim Il-Sung and before that to the idols of the Japanese. Forgive us. Please Father; restore the churches of past times in North Korea.’”
Feeling that sense of guilt in the North Korean believers is utterly painful. It makes you cry out with them the words of David, “How long, oh Lord? Will you forget me forever?” It’s a heartfelt cry, but is it the truth? Has God forgotten His children in North Korea? For that answer we have to investigate the spiritual life of North Korean Christians.
The Open Doors contact adds, “If you do that, you’ll find North Korean Christians are very mature. They know how to approach unbelievers and how to train new Christians, including their children once they are old enough. The Christians don’t mind to be tested. In fact, they are determined to sacrifice themselves for the Kingdom of God. They see trials as purifying.”
North Korean Christians know that when they pray earnestly, God will answer. The contact continues, “Whenever we do a project with Open Doors, first we fast for seven, sometimes ten days. Only when God tells us separately that we can continue with the project do we give the green light and carry out the project. Sometimes we have a very vivid dream in which God tells us what to do and sometimes we all just feel exactly the same about the project. Our believers are bolder and stronger than before, even though the persecution is also stronger.”
Where people love and follow Jesus, there is always hope!
RESPONSE: Today I bask in the sunshine of this hope. God does not ever forget His children!
PRAYER: Pray today for isolated believers in North Korea who do not have the warmth of Christian fellowship and group prayer.
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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40-Day Journey with Bonhoeffer Header

Day 16

"You are the salt"․not "You should be the salt"! The disciples are given no choice whether they want to be salt or not. No appeal is made to them to become the salt of the earth. Rather they just are salt whether they want to be or not, by the power of the call which has reached them. You are the salt․not "you have the salt." It would diminish the meaning to equate the disciples' message with salt, as the reformers did. What is meant is their whole existence, to the extent that it is newly grounded in Christ's call to discipleship, that existence of which the Beatitudes speak. All those who follow Jesus' call to discipleship are made by that call to be the salt of the earth in their whole existence.

Biblical Wisdom

"You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything, but is thrown out and trampled under foot." Matthew 5:13

Questions to Ponder

  • What are the qualities of salt that make it an apt metaphor for Jesus' disciples?
  • If Christ's call to discipleship changes our whole existence, in what ways should the disciple's life be different from those who have not heard or ­accepted the call?
  • Is there any area of a disciple's life that is exempt from the call to be the salt of the earth? Explain.

Psalm Fragment

Give me understanding, that I may keep your law
   and observe it with my whole heart.
Lead me in the path of your commandments,
   for I delight in it.
Turn my heart to your decrees,
   and not to selfish gain.
Turn my eyes from looking at vanities;
   give me life in your ways. Psalm 119:34-37

Journal Reflections

  • How does it feel to understand yourself as the salt of the earth?
  • How salty are you?
  • List the ways in which you are salt in your family, workplace, and community.

Intercessions

Think of places in your community where "salt" is needed. Pray for your community of faith that it may be up to the call to be salt in those places.

Prayer for Today

Lord, in response to your call, I want to be who you have made me, the salt of the earth.
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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