Thursday, June 14, 2012

Daily Devotional Thursday 14th June

“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 NIV
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Morning and Evening by Charles Spurgeon

Morning

"Delight thyself also in the Lord."
Psalm 37:4
The teaching of these words must seem very surprising to those who are strangers to vital godliness, but to the sincere believer it is only the inculcation of a recognized truth. The life of the believer is here described as a delight in God, and we are thus certified of the great fact that true religion overflows with happiness and joy. Ungodly persons and mere professors never look upon religion as a joyful thing; to them it is service, duty, or necessity, but never pleasure or delight. If they attend to religion at all, it is either that they may gain thereby, or else because they dare not do otherwise. The thought of delight in religion is so strange to most men, that no two words in their language stand further apart than "holiness" and "delight." But believers who know Christ, understand that delight and faith are so blessedly united, that the gates of hell cannot prevail to separate them. They who love God with all their hearts, find that his ways are ways of pleasantness, and all his paths are peace. Such joys, such brimful delights, such overflowing blessednesses, do the saints discover in their Lord, that so far from serving him from custom, they would follow him though all the world cast out his name as evil. We fear not God because of any compulsion; our faith is no fetter, our profession is no bondage, we are not dragged to holiness, nor driven to duty. No, our piety is our pleasure, our hope is our happiness, our duty is our delight.
Delight and true religion are as allied as root and flower; as indivisible as truth and certainty; they are, in fact, two precious jewels glittering side by side in a setting of gold.
"'Tis when we taste thy love,
Our joys divinely grow,
Unspeakable like those above,
And heaven begins below."

Evening

"O Lord, to us belongeth confusion of face ... because we have sinned against thee."
Daniel 9:8
A deep sense and clear sight of sin, its heinousness, and the punishment which it deserves, should make us lie low before the throne. We have sinned as Christians. Alas! that it should be so. Favoured as we have been, we have yet been ungrateful: privileged beyond most, we have not brought forth fruit in proportion. Who is there, although he may long have been engaged in the Christian warfare, that will not blush when he looks back upon the past? As for our days before we were regenerated, may they be forgiven and forgotten; but since then, though we have not sinned as before, yet we have sinned against light and against love--light which has really penetrated our minds, and love in which we have rejoiced. Oh, the atrocity of the sin of a pardoned soul! An unpardoned sinner sins cheaply compared with the sin of one of God's own elect ones, who has had communion with Christ and leaned his head upon Jesus' bosom. Look at David! Many will talk of his sin, but I pray you look at his repentance, and hear his broken bones, as each one of them moans out its dolorous confession! Mark his tears, as they fall upon the ground, and the deep sighs with which he accompanies the softened music of his harp! We have erred: let us, therefore, seek the spirit of penitence. Look, again, at Peter! We speak much of Peter's denying his Master. Remember, it is written, "He wept bitterly." Have we no denials of our Lord to be lamented with tears? Alas! these sins of ours, before and after conversion, would consign us to the place of inextinguishable fire if it were not for the sovereign mercy which has made us to differ, snatching us like brands from the burning. My soul, bow down under a sense of thy natural sinfulness, and worship thy God. Admire the grace which saves thee--the mercy which spares thee--the love which pardons thee!

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Today's reading: Ezra 6-8, John 21 (NIV)

View today's reading on Bible Gateway 
The Decree of Darius
    King Darius then issued an order, and they searched in the archives stored in the treasury at Babylon. 2 A scroll was found in the citadel of Ecbatana in the province of Media, and this was written on it:
   Memorandum:
   3 In the first year of King Cyrus, the king issued a decree concerning the temple of God in Jerusalem:
   Let the temple be rebuilt as a place to present sacrifices, and let its foundations be laid. It is to be sixty cubits high and sixty cubits wide, with three courses of large stones and one of timbers. The costs are to be paid by the royal treasury. 5 Also, the gold and silver articles of the house of God, which Nebuchadnezzar took from the temple in Jerusalem and brought to Babylon, are to be returned to their places in the temple in Jerusalem; they are to be deposited in the house of God.
   6 Now then, Tattenai, governor of Trans-Euphrates, and Shethar-Bozenai and you other officials of that province, stay away from there. 7 Do not interfere with the work on this temple of God. Let the governor of the Jews and the Jewish elders rebuild this house of God on its site.
   8 Moreover, I hereby decree what you are to do for these elders of the Jews in the construction of this house of God:
   Their expenses are to be fully paid out of the royal treasury, from the revenues of Trans-Euphrates, so that the work will not stop. 9 Whatever is needed—young bulls, rams, male lambs for burnt offerings to the God of heaven, and wheat, salt, wine and olive oil, as requested by the priests in Jerusalem—must be given them daily without fail, 10 so that they may offer sacrifices pleasing to the God of heaven and pray for the well-being of the king and his sons.
   11 Furthermore, I decree that if anyone defies this edict, a beam is to be pulled from their house and they are to be impaled on it. And for this crime their house is to be made a pile of rubble. 12 May God, who has caused his Name to dwell there, overthrow any king or people who lifts a hand to change this decree or to destroy this temple in Jerusalem.
   I Darius have decreed it. Let it be carried out with diligence.
Completion and Dedication of the Temple
    13 Then, because of the decree King Darius had sent, Tattenai, governor of Trans-Euphrates, and Shethar-Bozenai and their associates carried it out with diligence. 14 So the elders of the Jews continued to build and prosper under the preaching of Haggai the prophet and Zechariah, a descendant of Iddo. They finished building the temple according to the command of the God of Israel and the decrees of Cyrus, Darius and Artaxerxes, kings of Persia. 15 The temple was completed on the third day of the month Adar, in the sixth year of the reign of King Darius.
   16 Then the people of Israel—the priests, the Levites and the rest of the exiles—celebrated the dedication of the house of God with joy. 17 For the dedication of this house of God they offered a hundred bulls, two hundred rams, four hundred male lambs and, as a sin offering for all Israel, twelve male goats, one for each of the tribes of Israel. 18 And they installed the priests in their divisions and the Levites in their groups for the service of God at Jerusalem, according to what is written in the Book of Moses.
The Passover
    19 On the fourteenth day of the first month, the exiles celebrated the Passover. 20 The priests and Levites had purified themselves and were all ceremonially clean. The Levites slaughtered the Passover lamb for all the exiles, for their relatives the priests and for themselves. 21 So the Israelites who had returned from the exile ate it, together with all who had separated themselves from the unclean practices of their Gentile neighbors in order to seek the LORD, the God of Israel. 22 For seven days they celebrated with joy the Festival of Unleavened Bread, because the LORD had filled them with joy by changing the attitude of the king of Assyria so that he assisted them in the work on the house of God, the God of Israel.

Ezra 7

Ezra Comes to Jerusalem
    1 After these things, during the reign of Artaxerxes king of Persia, Ezra son of Seraiah, the son of Azariah, the son of Hilkiah, 2 the son of Shallum, the son of Zadok, the son of Ahitub, 3 the son of Amariah, the son of Azariah, the son of Meraioth, 4 the son of Zerahiah, the son of Uzzi, the son of Bukki, 5 the son of Abishua, the son of Phinehas, the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the chief priest— 6 this Ezra came up from Babylon. He was a teacher well versed in the Law of Moses, which the LORD, the God of Israel, had given. The king had granted him everything he asked, for the hand of the LORD his God was on him. 7 Some of the Israelites, including priests, Levites, musicians, gatekeepers and temple servants, also came up to Jerusalem in the seventh year of King Artaxerxes.
   8 Ezra arrived in Jerusalem in the fifth month of the seventh year of the king. 9 He had begun his journey from Babylon on the first day of the first month, and he arrived in Jerusalem on the first day of the fifth month, for the gracious hand of his God was on him. 10 For Ezra had devoted himself to the study and observance of the Law of the LORD, and to teaching its decrees and laws in Israel.
King Artaxerxes’ Letter to Ezra
    11 This is a copy of the letter King Artaxerxes had given to Ezra the priest, a teacher of the Law, a man learned in matters concerning the commands and decrees of the LORD for Israel:
   12 Artaxerxes, king of kings,
   To Ezra the priest, teacher of the Law of the God of heaven:
   Greetings.
   13 Now I decree that any of the Israelites in my kingdom, including priests and Levites, who volunteer to go to Jerusalem with you, may go. 14 You are sent by the king and his seven advisers to inquire about Judah and Jerusalem with regard to the Law of your God, which is in your hand. 15 Moreover, you are to take with you the silver and gold that the king and his advisers have freely given to the God of Israel, whose dwelling is in Jerusalem, 16 together with all the silver and gold you may obtain from the province of Babylon, as well as the freewill offerings of the people and priests for the temple of their God in Jerusalem. 17 With this money be sure to buy bulls, rams and male lambs, together with their grain offerings and drink offerings, and sacrifice them on the altar of the temple of your God in Jerusalem.
   18 You and your fellow Israelites may then do whatever seems best with the rest of the silver and gold, in accordance with the will of your God. 19 Deliver to the God of Jerusalem all the articles entrusted to you for worship in the temple of your God. 20 And anything else needed for the temple of your God that you are responsible to supply, you may provide from the royal treasury.
   21 Now I, King Artaxerxes, decree that all the treasurers of Trans-Euphrates are to provide with diligence whatever Ezra the priest, the teacher of the Law of the God of heaven, may ask of you— 22 up to a hundred talents of silver, a hundred cors of wheat, a hundred baths of wine, a hundred baths of olive oil, and salt without limit. 23 Whatever the God of heaven has prescribed, let it be done with diligence for the temple of the God of heaven. Why should his wrath fall on the realm of the king and of his sons? 24 You are also to know that you have no authority to impose taxes, tribute or duty on any of the priests, Levites, musicians, gatekeepers, temple servants or other workers at this house of God.
   25 And you, Ezra, in accordance with the wisdom of your God, which you possess, appoint magistrates and judges to administer justice to all the people of Trans-Euphrates—all who know the laws of your God. And you are to teach any who do not know them. 26 Whoever does not obey the law of your God and the law of the king must surely be punished by death, banishment, confiscation of property, or imprisonment.
   27 Praise be to the LORD, the God of our ancestors, who has put it into the king’s heart to bring honor to the house of the LORD in Jerusalem in this way 28 and who has extended his good favor to me before the king and his advisers and all the king’s powerful officials. Because the hand of the LORD my God was on me, I took courage and gathered leaders from Israel to go up with me.

Ezra 8

List of the Family Heads Returning With Ezra
    1 These are the family heads and those registered with them who came up with me from Babylon during the reign of King Artaxerxes:
   2 of the descendants of Phinehas, Gershom;
   of the descendants of Ithamar, Daniel;
   of the descendants of David, Hattush 3 of the descendants of Shekaniah;
   of the descendants of Parosh, Zechariah, and with him were registered 150 men;
   4 of the descendants of Pahath-Moab, Eliehoenai son of Zerahiah, and with him 200 men;
   of the descendants of Zattu, Shekaniah son of Jahaziel, and with him 300 men;
   6 of the descendants of Adin, Ebed son of Jonathan, and with him 50 men;
   7 of the descendants of Elam, Jeshaiah son of Athaliah, and with him 70 men;
   8 of the descendants of Shephatiah, Zebadiah son of Michael, and with him 80 men;
   9 of the descendants of Joab, Obadiah son of Jehiel, and with him 218 men;
   10 of the descendants of Bani,i] Shelomith son of Josiphiah, and with him 160 men;
   11 of the descendants of Bebai, Zechariah son of Bebai, and with him 28 men;
   12 of the descendants of Azgad, Johanan son of Hakkatan, and with him 110 men;
   13 of the descendants of Adonikam, the last ones, whose names were Eliphelet, Jeuel and Shemaiah, and with them 60 men;
   14 of the descendants of Bigvai, Uthai and Zakkur, and with them 70 men.
The Return to Jerusalem
    15 I assembled them at the canal that flows toward Ahava, and we camped there three days. When I checked among the people and the priests, I found no Levites there. 16 So I summoned Eliezer, Ariel, Shemaiah, Elnathan, Jarib, Elnathan, Nathan, Zechariah and Meshullam, who were leaders, and Joiarib and Elnathan, who were men of learning, 17 and I ordered them to go to Iddo, the leader in Kasiphia. I told them what to say to Iddo and his fellow Levites, the temple servants in Kasiphia, so that they might bring attendants to us for the house of our God. 18 Because the gracious hand of our God was on us, they brought us Sherebiah, a capable man, from the descendants of Mahli son of Levi, the son of Israel, and Sherebiah’s sons and brothers, 18 in all; 19 and Hashabiah, together with Jeshaiah from the descendants of Merari, and his brothers and nephews, 20 in all. 20 They also brought 220 of the temple servants—a body that David and the officials had established to assist the Levites. All were registered by name.
   21 There, by the Ahava Canal, I proclaimed a fast, so that we might humble ourselves before our God and ask him for a safe journey for us and our children, with all our possessions. 22 I was ashamed to ask the king for soldiers and horsemen to protect us from enemies on the road, because we had told the king, “The gracious hand of our God is on everyone who looks to him, but his great anger is against all who forsake him.” 23So we fasted and petitioned our God about this, and he answered our prayer.
   24 Then I set apart twelve of the leading priests, namely, Sherebiah, Hashabiah and ten of their brothers, 25 and I weighed out to them the offering of silver and gold and the articles that the king, his advisers, his officials and all Israel present there had donated for the house of our God. 26 I weighed out to them 650 talents of silver, silver articles weighing 100 talents, 100 talents of gold, 27 20 bowls of gold valued at 1,000 darics, and two fine articles of polished bronze, as precious as gold.
   28 I said to them, “You as well as these articles are consecrated to the LORD. The silver and gold are a freewill offering to the LORD, the God of your ancestors. 29 Guard them carefully until you weigh them out in the chambers of the house of the LORD in Jerusalem before the leading priests and the Levites and the family heads of Israel.” 30 Then the priests and Levites received the silver and gold and sacred articles that had been weighed out to be taken to the house of our God in Jerusalem.
   31 On the twelfth day of the first month we set out from the Ahava Canal to go to Jerusalem. The hand of our God was on us, and he protected us from enemies and bandits along the way. 32 So we arrived in Jerusalem, where we rested three days.
   33 On the fourth day, in the house of our God, we weighed out the silver and gold and the sacred articles into the hands of Meremoth son of Uriah, the priest. Eleazar son of Phinehas was with him, and so were the Levites Jozabad son of Jeshua and Noadiah son of Binnui. 34 Everything was accounted for by number and weight, and the entire weight was recorded at that time.
   35 Then the exiles who had returned from captivity sacrificed burnt offerings to the God of Israel: twelve bulls for all Israel, ninety-six rams, seventy-seven male lambs and, as a sin offering, twelve male goats. All this was a burnt offering to the LORD. 36 They also delivered the king’s orders to the royal satraps and to the governors of Trans-Euphrates, who then gave assistance to the people and to the house of God.

John 21

Jesus and the Miraculous Catch of Fish
    1 Afterward Jesus appeared again to his disciples, by the Sea of Galilee. It happened this way: 2 Simon Peter, Thomas (also known as Didymus), Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two other disciples were together. 3 “I’m going out to fish,” Simon Peter told them, and they said, “We’ll go with you.” So they went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.
   4 Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus.
   5 He called out to them, “Friends, haven’t you any fish?”
   “No,” they answered.
   6 He said, “Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.” When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish.
   7 Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” As soon as Simon Peter heard him say, “It is the Lord,” he wrapped his outer garment around him (for he had taken it off) and jumped into the water. 8 The other disciples followed in the boat, towing the net full of fish, for they were not far from shore, about a hundred yards. 9 When they landed, they saw a fire of burning coals there with fish on it, and some bread.
   10 Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish you have just caught.” 11 So Simon Peter climbed back into the boat and dragged the net ashore. It was full of large fish, 153, but even with so many the net was not torn. 12 Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” None of the disciples dared ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord. 13 Jesus came, took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. 14 This was now the third time Jesus appeared to his disciples after he was raised from the dead.
Jesus Reinstates Peter
    15 When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?”
   “Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.”
   Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.”
   16 Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”
   He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”
   Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.”
   17 The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”
   Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.”
   Jesus said, “Feed my sheep. 18 Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” 19 Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, “Follow me!”
   20 Peter turned and saw that the disciple whom Jesus loved was following them. (This was the one who had leaned back against Jesus at the supper and had said, “Lord, who is going to betray you?”) 21 When Peter saw him, he asked, “Lord, what about him?”
   22 Jesus answered, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.” 23 Because of this, the rumor spread among the believers that this disciple would not die. But Jesus did not say that he would not die; he only said, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you?”
   24 This is the disciple who testifies to these things and who wrote them down. We know that his testimony is true.
   25 Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.

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Joseph [Jō'zeph]—may god add orincreaser.
  1. Poetic description of the descendants of Joseph the son of Jacob (Deut. 33:13).
  2. The Father of Igal, one of the spies sent by Moses into Canaan (Num. 13:7).
  3. A son of Asaph ( 1 Chron. 25:2,9).
  4. A man of the family of Bani who had taken a foreign wife (Ezra 10:42).
  5. A priest of the family of Shebaniah in Joaakim’s time (Neh. 12:14).
  6. Ancestor of Joseph, Mary’s husband ( Luke 3:24).
  7. Another ancestor of Joseph in the same line (Luke 3:26).
  8. A more remote ancestor of Joseph, Mary’s husband (Luke 3:30).
  9. A disciple nominated with Matthias to take the place of Judas Iscariot among the disciples. Matthias was chosen (Acts 1:23). This Joseph must have been a commendable Christian since he was nominated as an apostle.
  10. The eleventh son of Jacob and first of Rachel, and one of the most outstanding men of the Bible, meriting honorable mention (Gen. 30:2425 ).

The Man Whose Dream Came True

The story of this young man who went from pit to palace and from rags to riches, never loses its charm for young and old alike. It would take a book itself to fully portray all the vicissitudes and virtues of Joseph, who kept his record clean. All that we can do in our treatment of him is to suggest a few aspects of his character for development.
Joseph was a youthful dreamer and his dream came true ( Gen. 37:5-941:42-44).
Joseph labored as a slave, but was faithful in hard places (Gen. 39:1-620-23).
Joseph enjoyed the presence of God and won the confidence of his master (Gen. 39:24).
Joseph had physical beauty, but it was never a snare to him (Gen. 39:6).
Joseph resisted temptation. His godless mistress could not seduce him. Grace was his to flee youthful lusts. Thus he did not commit a “great wickedness” (Gen. 39:7-13).
Joseph was silent amid foul accusations and the appearance of guilt and unjust punishment (Gen. 39:14-20).
Joseph was unspoiled by sudden prosperity. When days of honor followed days of humiliation, he did not yield to pride (Gen. 41:14-16).
Joseph the interpreter of dreams proved that “prison walls do not a prison make.” He acknowledged his dependence upon God for illumination, proving that he was not a mere dreamer but an interpreter of dreams (Gen. 40).
Joseph manifested great wisdom, brotherly love, filial devotion and utter submission to God ( Gen. 43:2045:8142347:7). He knew how to return good for evil (Gen. 50:16-21). If we cannot have all the gifts of Joseph, who is a perfect type of Christ, we can certainly covet all his graces. If we cannot have his greatness, we can certainly emulate his goodness.
R. W. Moss says, “A very high place must be given Joseph among the early founders of his race. In strength of right purpose he was second to none, whilst in graces of reverence and kindness, of insight and assurance, he became the type of a faith that is at once personal and national (Heb. 11:22), and allows neither misery nor a career of triumph to eclipse the sense of Divine destiny.”
11. The husband of Mary, and foster-father of our Lord ( Matt. 1:16-242:13Luke 1:272:4-433:234:22John 1:456:42).

The Man of Wood and Nails

It is somewhat unique that two Josephs were associated with Christ, one at His birth and the other at His death. Both of these godly men gave Jesus of their best. In this section we think of Joseph the carpenter, who was present at the manger when Jesus was born, even though he was not His father. While Christ came as the Son of Man, He was never a son of a man.
Joseph’s presence at Christ’s birth witnesses to a severe test that had emerged triumphant. Mary was the pure young woman he had fallen in love with, and was about to make his wife. Yet the Child she was about to bear would not be his. Seeing her “great with child,” without fanfare Joseph was minded to put her away. He never acted rashly with his espoused, although he was baffled by her condition. This serves for all time as an example of godly wisdom and tender consideration for others.
Bitterly disappointed that Mary had apparently betrayed him, yet believing, he made no haste. As a praying man he waited upon God, and his love for and patience with Mary were rewarded. God understood his mental difficulties and rewarded Joseph’s conscientious attitude toward Mary by revealing His redemptive plan. God never fails those who carry their anxieties to Him. Joseph received a direct and distinct revelation from God, and at once his fears were banished, and his line of duty made clear.
Tenderly he cared for his dear one as if the Child she was bearing were his own. Overawed by the mystery of it all, that his beloved Mary had been chosen as the mother of the Lord he as a devout Jew had eagerly anticipated, we can imagine how he would superintend every detail of the Nativity.
What holy thoughts must have filled the mind of Mary’s guardian. Where suspicion regarding Mary’s purity once lurked, strong faith now reigned as he looked into the lovely face of Mary’s Child. At last God’s promises had been fulfilled and before him was the Babe through whom God’s covenants would be established.
When it became necessary because of Herod’s hatred to flee into Egypt, Joseph cared for Mary and her first-born Son with reverent devotion until tidings came that Herod was dead, and that they could safely return to their own land. While a shroud of secrecy covers the thirty years Christ spent at home, we can be sure of this, that between Jesus and Joseph there was an affection strong and deep.
Briefly stated, we have these glimpses of Joseph:
I. He was “a son of David” and could claim royal or priestly descent (Matt. 1:20).
II. His family belonged to Bethlehem, David’s city.
III. He followed the trade of carpenter, and doubtless taught Christ how to use wood and nails (Matt. 13:55).
IV. He was a pious Israelite, faithful in all the ordinances of the Temple (Luke 2:22-244142).
V. He was a kindly, charitable man, treating Mary gently in her time of need (Matt. 1:19Luke 2:1-7).
VI. He was faithful in his care of Christ, and deserved to be called His “father” (Luke 2:33John 1:456:42).
VII. He never appears in the Gospels after Christ was twelve years of age and became “a son of the Law” (Luke 2:41-51), which may suggest that he died during the interval. This would explain why Jesus at His death asked John to care for His mother.
VIII. He died, tradition says, at the age of 111 years, when Jesus was but eighteen years of age.
12. Joseph of Arimathaea , a secret disciple of Jesus, whose unused grave was surrendered to Jesus. Thus the One born in a virgin womb was buried in a virgin tomb (Matt. 27:57-60Mark 15:43Luke 23:50 John 19:38).

The Man Who Gave His Grave to Jesus

This wealthy and devout Israelite, a member of the Sanhedrin, lived in a city of Jews (Luke 23:51). It is to the provision he made for the body of Christ that Isaiah had reference when he said, “He made His grave with the rich” (Isa. 53:9 ). Of this renowned Joseph we discover:
1. He was an honorable counselor (Mark 15:43). Because of his adherence to the Law and integrity of life he was a member of the governing body known as the Sanhedrin.
II. He looked for the kingdom of God. Immersed in Old Testament Scriptures, he anticipated the reign of the promised Messiah.
III. He was “a good man and just” ( Luke 23:5051). As the Bible never uses words unnecessarily, there must be a distinction between “good” and “just.” As a “good man” we have his owninternal disposition—what he was in himself. As a “just man” we have his external conduct—what he was towards others. His just dealings were the fruit of the root of his goodness. His was the belief that knew how to behave.
IV. He was a secret disciple ( John 19:38). Joseph of Arimathaea was similar to Nicodemus in his respect for our Lord as a man, admiration for Him as a teacher, belief in Him as the Christ, and yet, till now, his lack of confessing Him before men. Dreading the hostility of his colleagues on the Sanhedrin, he kept his faith secret.
V. He begged the body of Jesus (Matt. 27:58 ). As soon as Jesus was dead, Joseph hastened to Pilate for permission to inter His body. David Smith observes that when the condemnation of Jesus was over—a condemnation in which Joseph took no part—he realized how cowardly a part he had played and, stricken with shame and remorse, plucked up courage and went in to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. It was common for friends of the crucified to purchase their bodies, which would otherwise have been cast out as refuse, and give them decent burial (Mark 15:45).
VI. He gave his grave to Christ ( Matt. 27:5960 ). With lingering reverence Joseph paid his last respects to the One he admired, and in the hour of sorrow helped the friends and not the foes of the righteous Sufferer. Joseph had a garden close to Calvary, where he had hewn a smoothed and polished tomb in the side of the rock as his own last resting place, in which, aided by Nicodemus, he buried the linencovered and perfumed body of Christ.
VII. Joseph, legend tells us, was sent to Britain by Philip the Apostle, and founded the Church of Glastonbury. Medieval chroniclers delighted to tell of the staff Joseph stuck into the ground. The staff supposedly took root, brought forth leaves and flowers and became the parent of all the Glastonbury thorns from that day to this.

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A Mixed Body

Matthew 13:47-50 "So it will be at the close of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous" (v. 49).
The parable of the wheat and the tares (Matt. 13:24-3036-43 ) is probably not first and foremost about the presence of people who profess the Christian faith falsely in the institutional church. However, this does not mean that Jesus has nothing to say on the subject. The parable of the net apparently deals with the fact that those who do not really know Christ will "worship" beside true believers in the visible covenant community.
Several hints in Matthew 13:47-50 indicate that the parable of the net is about the church. First among these is Jesus' use of a fishing metaphor ( v. 47). He calls His disciples to be "fishers of men" and four of the Twelve - Peter, Andrew, James, and John - were professional fishermen before our Lord made them apostles (4:18-22). Fishermen casting a net brings to mind the call of the Twelve (and all believers) to preach the Gospel and catch people for the kingdom.
Second, the indiscriminate casting of the net reminds us of the external call of the Gospel ( 13:47). In Jesus' day, Jewish fishermen used a net with weights and floaters that, when pulled by rope out of the water, ensnared a multitude of various kinds of fish. Similarly, Christ calls His church to evangelize all mankind without regard to the distinctions between human beings (28:18-20).
Our Lord's contemporaries are again familiar with the imagery in this parable. Those who had worked on the seas knew well the task of sorting out the edible fish from those not fit for consumption (13:48), which is likened to the angelic separation of the righteous from the unrighteous when the kingdom is consummated (vv. 49-50 ). Like a net catching fish, the church will bring in many kinds of people. Yet just as not all fish are fit for eating, so too are not all members of the visible church fit for heaven. The church we can see is a mixed body until the Savior returns. All those whom we see professing Christ (the visible church) do not necessarily have faith; some join the church for motives other than serving Jesus. These false professors are mixed with true believers in the visible church, but not forever. For on Judgment Day those who never possessed saving trust in Christ will find eternal punishment (vv. 49-50).

Coram deo: Living before the face of God

When people abandon Christ, they prove that they never had faith at all, since those with true faith are preserved by God, never to fall away permanently (1 John 2:19 ). Still, when we see people leave Jesus, it does not necessarily mean there is no hope for them. Only God knows the state of a person's heart, and He may be pleased to bring one who has backslidden back into His fold. That is why we must never cease praying for those who have left the church.
For further study:
The Bible in a year:
INTO the WORD daily Bible studies from TableTalk Magazine, Matthew Studies. Copyright © 2008 by Ligonier Ministries.
Subscribe to Tabletalk magazine and receive daily Bible studies & in depth articles from world class scholars for only $23 per per year! That's only $1.92 per month. And you can try it out for three months absolutely free! Bringing the best in biblical scholarship together with down-to-earth writing, Tabletalk helps you understand the Bible and apply it to daily living. 

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Renee Swope
June 13, 2012
The Comparison Trap
Renee Swope
"But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body." 1 Corinthians 12:18-20 (NIV)
I'm pretty sure it started in middle school. I really didn't like who I was, but wanted everyone else to like me.
When I was in sixth grade we moved to a small town in North Carolina. During the first few weeks of school I got teased for my freckles, my fair skin and my weird accent.
Although I couldn't change how I looked or talked, I could change what I liked and how I acted. My strategy was simple. I compared myself to girls around me and tried to figure out who was liked most, so I could be like them.
Unfortunately it took me decades to break free from comparison. And I know I'm not alone. Whether we're adolescents, teens or grown women our tendency to compare is universal.
My friend Genia once described the trap we fall into. She said, "Every time we compare ourselves with someone else, we can never measure up because we're comparing our insides with their outsides."
It's exactly what I'd been doing. Comparing how I felt inadequate on the inside with how others looked like they had it all together on the outside.
The sad thing is comparison makes us compete with each other. Yet God never intended for us to compete with each other; He wants us to complete one another - encouraging each other's strengths while discovering and embracing who He created us to be.
Paul explains why in 1 Corinthians 12:18-20"But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body."
The only way we'll break free from the comparison trap is by embracing who we are instead of trying to be who we are not.
So how do we start? First, trust that God made you just as He wanted you to be, and then be the best YOU. Discover and offer the unique personality traits, abilities and gifts God gave you to impact those around you.
For instance, your personality is your natural way of doing things and relating to others. You have strengths and "relational challenges" God intentionally wove together when He was making you.
God made some of us people-oriented and sensitive to others' feelings, while some of us are more task-oriented and lower on empathy. He created those who love to talk and live life on the fly, while others love to listen and schedule plans in advance.
All of us are different and bring something valuable to our circumstances and relationships.
We also have natural abilities, but often self-doubt shapes our excuses: "I don't have any talent. I have nothing special to offer." Well, do you like to cook? Prepare meals for shut-ins. Good with crafts? Serve at a community center. Have accounting abilities? You could assist a neighbor having problems balancing her checkbook.
No matter how big or small your abilities seem, they're God-given and can be used for His purposes.
Unlike abilities given at natural birth, our spiritual gifts come at spiritual birth. When we surrender our lives to Jesus, the Holy Spirit fills our souls and we are givenspiritual gifts. Spiritual gifts are varied and many, each thoughtfully chosen by God to help us fulfill His plans for our lives.
It wasn't until I was in my thirties, feeling miserable, that I realized I was still stuck in the comparison trap: serving where I was needed, but not where I was gifted; trying to find my purpose, yet confused because I didn't know who I was.
By identifying and embracing my unique personality traits, abilities, and gifts, I found freedom from the comparison trap. And you can too!
Let's be women who no longer compare and compete, but celebrate and complete our friendships, churches, workplaces and homes with the unique offering we bring. You'll love the freedom and confidence that comes when you become the woman God created you to be!
Dear Lord, thank You that I'm Your masterpiece, created anew in Christ Jesus so I can do good things You planned for me long ago. I want to stop comparing myself with others so I can become who You created me to be. In Jesus' Name, Amen.
Related Resources:
Today's devotion is based on Chatper 8 of Renee's best-selling book: A Confident Heart: How to Stop Doubting Yourself & Live in the Security of God's Promises, where she unpacks the powerful discovery process she walked through and has used to help thousands live in their God-given purpose!
Click here for a FREE spiritual gift assessment and insights on different personality types.
Connect with Renee on Facebook for life-changing perspectives and promises from God's Word!
Reflect and Respond:
"Every time we compare ourselves with someone else, we can never measure up because we're comparing our insides with their outsides."
Does comparison keep you from living confidently as the woman God created you to be?
Power Verses:
Ephesians 2:10, "For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do." (NIV 1984)
© 2012 by Renee Swope. All rights reserved.
Proverbs 31 Ministries
616-G Matthews-Mint Hill Road
Matthews, NC 28105
www.Proverbs31.org

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A Mixed Body

When people abandon Christ, they prove that they never had faith at all, since those with true faith are preserved by God, never to fall away permanently (1 John 2:19 ). Still, when we see people leave Jesus, it does not necessarily mean there is no hope for them. Only God knows the state of a person's heart, and He may be pleased to bring one who has backslidden back into His fold. That is why we must never cease praying for those who have left the church.
For further study:
The Bible in a year:
Coram Deo from TableTalk Magazine, Matthew Studies. Copyright © 2008 by Ligonier Ministries.
Subscribe to Tabletalk magazine and receive daily Bible studies & in depth articles from world class scholars for only $23 per per year! That's only $1.92 per month. And you can try it out for three months absolutely free! Bringing the best in biblical scholarship together with down-to-earth writing, Tabletalk helps you understand the Bible and apply it to daily living. 

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Tell it all

‘But the woman fearing and trembling, knowing what was done in her, came and fell down before him, and told him all the truth.’ Mark 5:33
Suggested Further Reading: 1 Thessalonians 1:1–10
You do not know, dear friends, of how much service your open confession of Christ might be to some trembling soul. One reason why we have churches, and are joined in fellowship, is that we may help the weak; that by our daring to say ‘Christ has saved me,’ others may take heart, and may come to him and find the same mercy. ‘Oh,’ but you say, ‘the church does not want me.’ Then, I might say the same, and all Christians might say the same. Where would there be a visible church on earth at all? What is right for one Christian to do is right for all to do; and if it is right for you to neglect professing Christ, then it is right for all believers to do so. And then, where is the church? Where is the ministry? Where is Christ’s truth? How are sinners to be saved at all? Suppose, my brother, that John Calvin and Martin Luther had said, ‘Well now we know the truth; but we had better be quiet, for we can go to heaven much more comfortably. If we begin preaching we shall set all the world by the ears, and there will be a deal of mischief done; hundreds of persons will have to be martyrs for their faith, and we shall be subject to many hardships.’ They had quite as much right to hide their religion as you have. They had quite as much reason for the concealment of their godliness as you have. But alas! for the world, where would have been the Reformation, if these had been as cowardly as you are, and like you had skulked to the rear in the day of battle. I ask again, what would be the wretched lot of England, what calamities would happen to our island, if all who know Christ as you know him were to act as you do?
For meditation: Do you have to plead guilty? Many of us are more ready with our excuses than we are with our testimonies (1 Peter 3:15). The only excuses the early church made use of were excuses for spreading the Gospel ( Acts 2:14–153:12–134:9–10,19–20,295:29,41–42).
Sermon no. 514
14 June (1863)


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Israel in Egypt

“And they sing the song of Moses the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying, Great and marvellous are thy works, Lord God Almighty; just and true are thy ways, thou King of saints.” Revelation 15:3
Suggested Further Reading: Exodus 15:1-18
One part of the song of Moses consisted in praising the ease with which God destroyed his enemies. “Thou didst blow with thy wind, the sea covered them; they sank as lead in the mighty waters.” If we had gone to work to destroy the hosts of Pharaoh, what a multitude of engines of death should we have required. If the work had been committed to us, to cut off the hosts, what marvellous preparations, what thunder, what noise, what great activity there would have been. But mark the grandeur of the expression. God did not even lift himself from his throne to do it: he saw Pharaoh coming; he seemed to look upon him with a placid smile; he did just blow with his lips, and the sea covered them. You and I will marvel at the last how easy it has been to overthrow the enemies of the Lord. We have been tugging and toiling all our lifetime to be the means of overthrowing systems of error: it will astonish the church when her Master shall come to see how, as the ice dissolveth before the fire, all error and sin shall be utterly destroyed in the coming of the most High. We must have our societies and our machinery, our preachers and our gatherings, and rightly too; but God will not require them at the last. The destruction of his enemies shall be as easy to him as the making of a world. In passive silence unmoved he sat; and he did but break the silence with “Let there be light” and light was. So shall he at the last, when his enemies are raging furiously, blow with his winds, and they shall be scattered.
For meditation: Creation took God a matter of a few days; the destruction of a great power will take him only a fraction of the time (Revelation 18:8,10,1719).
Sermon no. 136
14 June (1857)

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June 13, 2012
A Daddy Who Loves Me 
Sharon Jaynes
Today's Truth
"I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters," (2 Corinthians 6:18 NIV).
Friend to Friend
One of my favorite retreat topics is from my book, 5 Dreams of Every Woman...and How God Longs to Fulfill Them. In this book I talk about five dreams every little girl has: to have a daddy who loves her, to be a bride, to be a mommy, to be beautiful, and to have a best friend. For most of us, we get to a point in our lives and realize life has not turned out the way we thought they would, especially in those 5 areas. But the good news is, God has a wonderful plan for you!
In talking to women all across the country, I have seen eyes fill with tears when I talk about the dream of having a daddy who loves me. But the tears are not for me, they reveal the longing in their own hearts. Butterfly Kisses is a song by Bob Carlisle that climbed the charts in 2000. It received international recognition in both the Christian and Secular music industries. The song was about the tender love between a father and his daughter, starting from her birth to her wedding day. Mr. Carlisle said, "I get a lot of mail from young girls who try to get me to marry their moms. That used to be a real chuckle because it's so cute, but then I realized they didn't want romance for mom. They want the father like the one that is in that song, and that just kills me."
In the Old Testament, God has many names.  He is Elohim – the Creator, El Elyon – God Most High, El Roi – the God who sees, El Shaddai – the All-Sufficient One, Adonai – the Lord, Jehovah – the Self-Existent One, Jehovah-Jireh –the Lord Will Provide, Jehovah – Rapha – the Lord who heals, Jehovah—Shalom – the Lord is peace, Jehovah-Raah – the Lord my Shepherd, and many more.  His covenant name with the people of Israel was I AM. J.I. Packer, in his book, Knowing God, said, "He is: and it is because He is what He is that everything else is as it is." 
In the New Testament, Jesus introduced a new name for God – Father. It is the name that Jesus referred to more than any other and the name that He invites us to use to address the Creator of the Universe. Just stop and think about that for a moment. The God of the universe who created the heavens and the earth, who always has been and always will be, who is all-knowing, all-powerful, and present everywhere at once – that same God invites you to call Him - Daddy!
When the disciples asked Jesus to teach them how to pray, He said:
But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to yourFather, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. This, then, is how you should pray: 'Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name....' (Matthews 6:6-9 NIV).
Packer went on to say: "For everything that Christ taught, everything that makes the New Testament new and better than the Old, everything that is distinctly Christian as opposed to merely Jewish, is summed up in the knowledge of the fatherhood of God."  All other religions demand followers to worship created beings (Mohammad, Buddha),  but Jehovah the Creator, the great I AM, invites us to crawl up in His lap, become His child, and call Him Abba, Daddy.  He said, "I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters,"
 (2 Corinthians 6:18 NIV).
This Father's Day, no matter what your situation may be with your earthly dad, always remember that you have a Heavenly Father who loves you dearly and has your name written on the palm of His hand.
Let's Pray
Dear Lord, Thank You for being a Father who loves me as His precious child. How amazing to think that the God who created the universe and all it contains invites me to be His child and call Him Abba, Father. I do not take this invitation lightly, but cherish it with all my heart. 
 In Jesus' Name,  Amen.
Now It's Your Turn
Make a list of your idea of a perfect Father? Now put a check mark by the ones that are demonstrated in the character of God.
What does God promise in 2 Corinthians 6:18?
Describe how God our Father is depicted in Hosea 11:3-4.
What do you learn about the love of God in Ephesians 3:18-19?
What do you learn about the Fatherhood of God in 1 Corinthians 8:6?
Tell me one characteristic of the Fatherhood of God that means the most to you. Log onto www.facebook.com and share your answer.
More from the Girlfriends
Today's devotion was taken from Sharon's book, The 5 Dreams of Every Woman...and how God Wants  to Fulfill Them. Can you risk the hope that God still has dreams for your life? That He hasn't forgotten you?  Place your hand firmly in His-take a deep breath and begin the exciting journey to a place you thought you'd never find: the dream God planned for you all along.
  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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At Issue - Serving

Plant corn seeds and you get corn. Plant kernels of wheat and you get wheat. Sow to please the Holy Spirit and you get eternal blessings. It's true: You reap what you sow. How do you sow to please the Spirit? Do good to all people, especially other believers. Don't give up-even when you've been serving in the same way for years. Even if no one notices. Even if some take advantage of you. Even if you receive more criticism than praise. Even if it doesn't seem to make a difference. Remember, the harvest will come. So keep planting!
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Handling Tough Questions

Why so many stories?
Luke 19:47-48 The chief priests, the teachers of the law and the leaders among the people were trying to kill him. Yet they could not find any way to do it, because all the people hung on his words.
Suffering strikes like an earthquake, without warning, causing sudden devastation. Twenty-nine teenagers die when a school bus plunges off a bridge. A hurricane smashes into Mexico. An epidemic of cholera breaks out in South America.
Psychological tremors follow, often in the form of questions. "Why did God let this happen? Did we do something wrong? Why does God permit such suffering?"
In Jesus' day, rumors buzzed about two catastrophes: Pontius Pilate's slaughter of Galileans and the collapse of a tower (seeLuke 13:1-4). Naturally, people around Jesus questioned him about these events, but his answers puzzled them. He refused to be drawn into a discussion of the age-old problem of pain. He merely dismissed the common opinion that tragedies happen to people who deserve them and deflected the issue back to the questioners as a general warning (see Luke 13:4-5).
The Heart of the Question
Jesus' response to the questions on suffering illustrate how he dealt with difficult issues. Religious leaders and philosophical types were constantly trying to stop him with an arsenal of tough questions. Usually their tactics backfired as Jesus expertly turned their questions back on them.
Conscious of the listening crowds, Jesus avoided long arguments, instead emphasizing the need for people to change behavior. His answers cut to the heart of the question, and to the hearts of his listeners.
When teaching, Jesus often relied on a parable-a compact short story with a moral. Speaking in parables allowed him to continue training his disciples "privately," despite the throngs of onlookers (see Luke 8:10). He could explain the meaning to the disciples later on when they were alone together. Parables also helped preserve his message: Years later, as people reflected on what Jesus taught, his parables came to mind in vivid detail.
Simple Stories With a Profound Point
Luke, a master storyteller, collected 18 parables that appear nowhere else, and he also retold some of the most familiar. While Matthew emphasizes parables of the kingdom, Luke adds those that focus on people: the good Samaritan, a persistent widow, the lost son. His parables speak to heavy subjects, but in an unexpectedly disarming way.
Jesus' style of handling tough questions contrasts sharply with Paul's. The apostle Paul wrapped concepts in theological words and gave formal explanations. In careful prose he patiently probed such complex words as forgiveness and justification.
Jesus, speaking to a restless crowd of thousands, communicated the same message in three progressive stories-the Lost Sheep, the Lost Coin and the Lost Son (see Luke 15:1-32). Scottish Christians like to call that last story "The Wonderful Father." It expresses the heart of Jesus' message about as well as any ten-volume theological work.
Life Questions
What one question would you most like to ask Jesus in person? Given how he handled tough questions in Luke, can you imagine how he might respond to yours?
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PRAY FOR PERSECUTORS

“But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.” Luke 6:27-28
In Luke chapter six, Jesus defines persecution with four verbs: hatred, exclusion, insult and rejection (Luke 6:22). But later in the chapter Jesus gives much more emphasis on how you and I are to respond to persecution that comes our way.
One of the great lessons from the persecuted church is praying for those who persecute you. This is a parallel principle with loving your enemies. Multiple examples can be shared how God has honored this principle of prayer:
Noskie was a former Imam in the southern part of the Philippines. He was a devout Muslim and one who generated respect from that little community in which he lived. Coming home from a fishing expedition one day, he was shocked to discover that his two daughters had converted to Christianity. He was well aware of the shame that this would bring to the whole community.
In his anger, he mercilessly beat them hoping that they would renounce their new faith. But the daughters remained faithful. They loved their father and knew that nothing was impossible with God so they started praying for their father’s conversion.
Sometime later, while fishing, Noskie felt a sudden piercing pain in his stomach. As the pain intensified, his belly began to balloon. He writhed in unbearable pain. He prayed but nothing happened. In desperation he cried out to the God of his daughters, Jesus Christ, and was instantly healed.
Noskie emerged from the experience a new person. He submitted his heart and surrendered to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. Today he faithfully serves the Lord as a lay pastor. His daughters help in the ministry.
RESPONSE: I am committed to respond to persecution with non-violence as Jesus taught.
PRAYER: Lord, I realize today that when I pray for my enemy and love my enemy, he or she is no longer my enemy. Help me to always respond this way.
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 13

Who is pure in heart? Only those who have completely given their hearts to Jesus, so that he alone rules in them. Only those who do not stain their hearts with their own evil, but also not with their own good. A pure heart is the simple heart of a child, who does not know about good and evil, the heart of Adam before the fall, the heart in which the will of Jesus rules instead of one's own conscience.... A pure heart is pure of good and evil; it belongs entirely and undivided to Christ; it looks only to him, who goes on ahead. Those alone will see God who in this life have looked only to Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Their hearts are free of defiling images; they are not pulled back and forth by the various wishes and intentions of their own. Their hearts are fully absorbed in seeing God. They will see God whose hearts mirror the image of Jesus Christ.

Biblical Wisdom

"Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God." Matthew 5:8

Questions to Ponder

  • How is it possible to live in our complex world and still give your heart "completely" to Jesus?
  • What does it mean to say that people can "stain their hearts...with their own good"?
  • How would those whose "hearts mirror the image of Jesus Christ" relate to other people, both friends and strangers?

Psalm Fragment

Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord?
   And who shall stand in his holy place?
Those who have clean hands and pure hearts,
   who do not lift up their souls to what is false,
   and do not swear deceitfully.
They will receive blessing from the Lord,
   and vindication from the God of their salvation. Psalm 24:3-5

Journal Reflections

  • Bonhoeffer wrote that: "A pure heart is the simple heart of a child..." Think back to when you were a child. How did you see things differently as a child than you do now as an adult?
  • What, if any, are the "defiling images" that stand between you and the vision of God? How might you begin to cleanse your heart of them?
  • What, if any, are your various "wishes and intentions" that pull you "back and forth" and prevent you from seeing God? How might you begin to become free of them?

Intercessions

Pray for all the children that you know (and then pray for all children) that they would be protected from the "defiling images" culture tries to entice them with.

Prayer for Today

Lord, help me to will one thing: to belong entirely and undividedly to you.
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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