Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Daily Devotional Tuesday 12th June

“He says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”” Psalm 46:10 NIV
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Morning and Evening by Charles Spurgeon

Morning

"Thou art weighed in the balances and art found wanting."
Daniel 5:27
It is well frequently to weigh ourselves in the scale of God's Word. You will find it a holy exercise to read some psalm of David, and, as you meditate upon each verse, to ask yourself, "Can I say this? Have I felt as David felt? Has my heart ever been broken on account of sin, as his was when he penned his penitential psalms? Has my soul been full of true confidence in the hour of difficulty as his was when he sang of God's mercies in the cave of Adullam, or in the holds of Engedi? Do I take the cup of salvation and call upon the name of the Lord?" Then turn to the life of Christ, and as you read, ask yourselves how far you are conformed to his likeness. Endeavour to discover whether you have the meekness, the humility, the lovely spirit which he constantly inculcated and displayed. Take, then, the epistles, and see whether you can go with the apostle in what he said of his experience. Have you ever cried out as he did--"O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?" Have you ever felt his self-abasement? Have you seemed to yourself the chief of sinners, and less than the least of all saints? Have you known anything of his devotion? Could you join with him and say, "For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain"? If we thus read God's Word as a test of our spiritual condition, we shall have good reason to stop many a time and say, "Lord, I feel I have never yet been here, O bring me here! give me true penitence, such as this I read of. Give me real faith; give me warmer zeal; inflame me with more fervent love; grant me the grace of meekness; make me more like Jesus. Let me no longer be found wanting,' when weighed in the balances of the sanctuary, lest I be found wanting in the scales of judgment." "Judge yourselves that ye be not judged."

Evening

"Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling."
2 Timothy 1:9
The apostle uses the perfect tense and says, "Who hath saved us." Believers in Christ Jesus are saved. They are not looked upon as persons who are in a hopeful state, and may ultimately be saved, but they are already saved. Salvation is not a blessing to be enjoyed upon the dying bed, and to be sung of in a future state above, but a matter to be obtained, received, promised, and enjoyed now. The Christian is perfectly saved in God's purpose; God has ordained him unto salvation, and that purpose is complete. He is saved also as to the price which has been paid for him: "It is finished" was the cry of the Saviour ere he died. The believer is also perfectly saved in his covenant head, for as he fell in Adam, so he lives in Christ. This complete salvation is accompanied by a holy calling. Those whom the Saviour saved upon the cross are in due time effectually called by the power of God the Holy Spirit unto holiness: they leave their sins; they endeavour to be like Christ; they choose holiness, not out of any compulsion, but from the stress of a new nature, which leads them to rejoice in holiness just as naturally as aforetime they delighted in sin. God neither chose them nor called them because they were holy, but he called them that they might be holy, and holiness is the beauty produced by his workmanship in them. The excellencies which we see in a believer are as much the work of God as the atonement itself. Thus is brought out very sweetly the fulness of the grace of God. Salvation must be of grace, because the Lord is the author of it: and what motive but grace could move him to save the guilty? Salvation must be of grace, because the Lord works in such a manner that our righteousness is forever excluded. Such is the believer's privilege--a present salvation; such is the evidence that he is called to it--a holy life.

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Today's reading: Ruth 1-4, Luke 8:1-25 (NIV)

View today's reading on Bible Gateway 
Naomi Loses Her Husband and Sons
    1 In the days when the judges ruled, there was a famine in the land. So a man from Bethlehem in Judah, together with his wife and two sons, went to live for a while in the country of Moab. 2 The man’s name was Elimelek, his wife’s name was Naomi, and the names of his two sons were Mahlon and Kilion. They were Ephrathites from Bethlehem, Judah. And they went to Moab and lived there.
   3 Now Elimelek, Naomi’s husband, died, and she was left with her two sons. 4 They married Moabite women, one named Orpah and the other Ruth. After they had lived there about ten years, 5 both Mahlon and Kilion also died, and Naomi was left without her two sons and her husband.
Naomi and Ruth Return to Bethlehem
    6 When Naomi heard in Moab that the LORD had come to the aid of his people by providing food for them, she and her daughters-in-law prepared to return home from there. 7 With her two daughters-in-law she left the place where she had been living and set out on the road that would take them back to the land of Judah.
   8 Then Naomi said to her two daughters-in-law, “Go back, each of you, to your mother’s home. May the LORD show you kindness, as you have shown kindness to your dead husbands and to me. 9 May the LORD grant that each of you will find rest in the home of another husband.”
   Then she kissed them goodbye and they wept aloud 10 and said to her, “We will go back with you to your people.”
   11 But Naomi said, “Return home, my daughters. Why would you come with me? Am I going to have any more sons, who could become your husbands? 12 Return home, my daughters; I am too old to have another husband. Even if I thought there was still hope for me—even if I had a husband tonight and then gave birth to sons— 13 would you wait until they grew up? Would you remain unmarried for them? No, my daughters. It is more bitter for me than for you, because the LORD’s hand has turned against me!”
   14 At this they wept aloud again. Then Orpah kissed her mother-in-law goodbye, but Ruth clung to her.
   15 “Look,” said Naomi, “your sister-in-law is going back to her people and her gods. Go back with her.”
   16 But Ruth replied, “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God.17 Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the LORD deal with me, be it ever so severely, if even death separates you and me.” 18 When Naomi realized that Ruth was determined to go with her, she stopped urging her.
   19 So the two women went on until they came to Bethlehem. When they arrived in Bethlehem, the whole town was stirred because of them, and the women exclaimed, “Can this be Naomi?”
   20 “Don’t call me Naomi,” she told them. “Call me Mara, because the Almighty has made my life very bitter. 21 I went away full, but the LORD has brought me back empty. Why call me Naomi? The LORD has afflicted me; the Almighty has brought misfortune upon me.”
   22 So Naomi returned from Moab accompanied by Ruth the Moabite, her daughter-in-law, arriving in Bethlehem as the barley harvest was beginning.

Ruth 2

Ruth Meets Boaz in the Grain Field
    1 Now Naomi had a relative on her husband’s side, a man of standing from the clan of Elimelek, whose name was Boaz.
   2 And Ruth the Moabite said to Naomi, “Let me go to the fields and pick up the leftover grain behind anyone in whose eyes I find favor.”
   Naomi said to her, “Go ahead, my daughter.” 3 So she went out, entered a field and began to glean behind the harvesters. As it turned out, she was working in a field belonging to Boaz, who was from the clan of Elimelek.
   4 Just then Boaz arrived from Bethlehem and greeted the harvesters, “The LORD be with you!”
   “The LORD bless you!” they answered.
   5 Boaz asked the overseer of his harvesters, “Who does that young woman belong to?”
   6 The overseer replied, “She is the Moabite who came back from Moab with Naomi. 7 She said, ‘Please let me glean and gather among the sheaves behind the harvesters.’ She came into the field and has remained here from morning till now, except for a short rest in the shelter.”
   8 So Boaz said to Ruth, “My daughter, listen to me. Don’t go and glean in another field and don’t go away from here. Stay here with the women who work for me. 9 Watch the field where the men are harvesting, and follow along after the women. I have told the men not to lay a hand on you. And whenever you are thirsty, go and get a drink from the water jars the men have filled.”
   10 At this, she bowed down with her face to the ground. She asked him, “Why have I found such favor in your eyes that you notice me—a foreigner?”
   11 Boaz replied, “I’ve been told all about what you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband—how you left your father and mother and your homeland and came to live with a people you did not know before. 12 May the LORD repay you for what you have done. May you be richly rewarded by the LORD, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge.”
   13 “May I continue to find favor in your eyes, my lord,” she said. “You have put me at ease by speaking kindly to your servant—though I do not have the standing of one of your servants.”
   14 At mealtime Boaz said to her, “Come over here. Have some bread and dip it in the wine vinegar.”
   When she sat down with the harvesters, he offered her some roasted grain. She ate all she wanted and had some left over.15 As she got up to glean, Boaz gave orders to his men, “Let her gather among the sheaves and don’t reprimand her. 16Even pull out some stalks for her from the bundles and leave them for her to pick up, and don’t rebuke her.”
    17 So Ruth gleaned in the field until evening. Then she threshed the barley she had gathered, and it amounted to about an ephah. 18 She carried it back to town, and her mother-in-law saw how much she had gathered. Ruth also brought out and gave her what she had left over after she had eaten enough.
   19 Her mother-in-law asked her, “Where did you glean today? Where did you work? Blessed be the man who took notice of you!”
   Then Ruth told her mother-in-law about the one at whose place she had been working. “The name of the man I worked with today is Boaz,” she said.
   20 “The LORD bless him!” Naomi said to her daughter-in-law. “He has not stopped showing his kindness to the living and the dead.” She added, “That man is our close relative; he is one of our guardian-redeemers.”
   21 Then Ruth the Moabite said, “He even said to me, ‘Stay with my workers until they finish harvesting all my grain.’”
   22 Naomi said to Ruth her daughter-in-law, “It will be good for you, my daughter, to go with the women who work for him, because in someone else’s field you might be harmed.”
   23 So Ruth stayed close to the women of Boaz to glean until the barley and wheat harvests were finished. And she lived with her mother-in-law.

Ruth 3

Ruth and Boaz at the Threshing Floor
    1 One day Ruth’s mother-in-law Naomi said to her, “My daughter, I must find a home for you, where you will be well provided for. 2 Now Boaz, with whose women you have worked, is a relative of ours. Tonight he will be winnowing barley on the threshing floor. 3 Wash, put on perfume, and get dressed in your best clothes. Then go down to the threshing floor, but don’t let him know you are there until he has finished eating and drinking. 4 When he lies down, note the place where he is lying. Then go and uncover his feet and lie down. He will tell you what to do.”
   5 “I will do whatever you say,” Ruth answered. 6 So she went down to the threshing floor and did everything her mother-in-law told her to do.
   7 When Boaz had finished eating and drinking and was in good spirits, he went over to lie down at the far end of the grain pile. Ruth approached quietly, uncovered his feet and lay down.8 In the middle of the night something startled the man; he turned—and there was a woman lying at his feet!
   9 “Who are you?” he asked.
   “I am your servant Ruth,” she said. “Spread the corner of your garment over me, since you are a guardian-redeemer of our family.”
   10 “The LORD bless you, my daughter,” he replied. “This kindness is greater than that which you showed earlier: You have not run after the younger men, whether rich or poor. 11And now, my daughter, don’t be afraid. I will do for you all you ask. All the people of my town know that you are a woman of noble character. 12 Although it is true that I am a guardian-redeemer of our family, there is another who is more closely related than I. 13 Stay here for the night, and in the morning if he wants to do his duty as your guardian-redeemer, good; let him redeem you. But if he is not willing, as surely as the LORD lives I will do it. Lie here until morning.”
   14 So she lay at his feet until morning, but got up before anyone could be recognized; and he said, “No one must know that a woman came to the threshing floor.”
   15 He also said, “Bring me the shawl you are wearing and hold it out.” When she did so, he poured into it six measures of barley and placed the bundle on her. Then he went back to town.
   16 When Ruth came to her mother-in-law, Naomi asked, “How did it go, my daughter?”
   Then she told her everything Boaz had done for her 17 and added, “He gave me these six measures of barley, saying, ‘Don’t go back to your mother-in-law empty-handed.’”
   18 Then Naomi said, “Wait, my daughter, until you find out what happens. For the man will not rest until the matter is settled today.”

Ruth 4

Boaz Marries Ruth
    1 Meanwhile Boaz went up to the town gate and sat down there just as the guardian-redeemer he had mentioned came along. Boaz said, “Come over here, my friend, and sit down.” So he went over and sat down.
   2 Boaz took ten of the elders of the town and said, “Sit here,” and they did so. 3 Then he said to the guardian-redeemer, “Naomi, who has come back from Moab, is selling the piece of land that belonged to our relative Elimelek. 4 I thought I should bring the matter to your attention and suggest that you buy it in the presence of these seated here and in the presence of the elders of my people. If you will redeem it, do so. But if you will not, tell me, so I will know. For no one has the right to do it except you, and I am next in line.”
   “I will redeem it,” he said.
   5 Then Boaz said, “On the day you buy the land from Naomi, you also acquire Ruth the Moabite, the dead man’s widow, in order to maintain the name of the dead with his property.”
   6 At this, the guardian-redeemer said, “Then I cannot redeem it because I might endanger my own estate. You redeem it yourself. I cannot do it.”
   7 (Now in earlier times in Israel, for the redemption and transfer of property to become final, one party took off his sandal and gave it to the other. This was the method of legalizing transactions in Israel.)
   8 So the guardian-redeemer said to Boaz, “Buy it yourself.” And he removed his sandal.
   9 Then Boaz announced to the elders and all the people, “Today you are witnesses that I have bought from Naomi all the property of Elimelek, Kilion and Mahlon. 10 I have also acquired Ruth the Moabite, Mahlon’s widow, as my wife, in order to maintain the name of the dead with his property, so that his name will not disappear from among his family or from his hometown. Today you are witnesses!”
   11 Then the elders and all the people at the gate said, “We are witnesses. May the LORD make the woman who is coming into your home like Rachel and Leah, who together built up the family of Israel. May you have standing in Ephrathah and be famous in Bethlehem. 12 Through the offspring the LORD gives you by this young woman, may your family be like that of Perez, whom Tamar bore to Judah.”
Naomi Gains a Son
    13 So Boaz took Ruth and she became his wife. When he made love to her, the LORD enabled her to conceive, and she gave birth to a son. 14 The women said to Naomi: “Praise be to the LORD, who this day has not left you without a guardian-redeemer. May he become famous throughout Israel! 15 He will renew your life and sustain you in your old age. For your daughter-in-law, who loves you and who is better to you than seven sons, has given him birth.”
   16 Then Naomi took the child in her arms and cared for him.17 The women living there said, “Naomi has a son!” And they named him Obed. He was the father of Jesse, the father of David.
The Genealogy of David
    18 This, then, is the family line of Perez:
   Perez was the father of Hezron,
   19 Hezron the father of Ram,
   Ram the father of Amminadab,
    20 Amminadab the father of Nahshon,
   Nahshon the father of Salmon,
   21 Salmon the father of Boaz,
   Boaz the father of Obed,
   22 Obed the father of Jesse,
   and Jesse the father of David.

Luke 8

The Parable of the Sower
    1 After this, Jesus traveled about from one town and village to another, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God. The Twelve were with him, 2 and also some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases: Mary (called Magdalene) from whom seven demons had come out; 3 Joanna the wife of Chuza, the manager of Herod’s household; Susanna; and many others. These women were helping to support them out of their own means.
   4 While a large crowd was gathering and people were coming to Jesus from town after town, he told this parable: 5 “A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path; it was trampled on, and the birds ate it up. 6Some fell on rocky ground, and when it came up, the plants withered because they had no moisture. 7 Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up with it and choked the plants. 8Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up and yielded a crop, a hundred times more than was sown.”
   When he said this, he called out, “Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.”
   9 His disciples asked him what this parable meant. 10 He said, “The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of God has been given to you, but to others I speak in parables, so that,
   “‘though seeing, they may not see; 
   though hearing, they may not understand.’
   11 “This is the meaning of the parable: The seed is the word of God. 12 Those along the path are the ones who hear, and then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved. 13 Those on the rocky ground are the ones who receive the word with joy when they hear it, but they have no root. They believe for a while, but in the time of testing they fall away. 14 The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature. 15 But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop.
A Lamp on a Stand
    16 “No one lights a lamp and hides it in a clay jar or puts it under a bed. Instead, they put it on a stand, so that those who come in can see the light. 17 For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open. 18 Therefore consider carefully how you listen. Whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what they think they have will be taken from them.”
Jesus’ Mother and Brothers
    19 Now Jesus’ mother and brothers came to see him, but they were not able to get near him because of the crowd. 20Someone told him, “Your mother and brothers are standing outside, wanting to see you.”
   21 He replied, “My mother and brothers are those who hear God’s word and put it into practice.”
Jesus Calms the Storm
    22 One day Jesus said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side of the lake.” So they got into a boat and set out.23 As they sailed, he fell asleep. A squall came down on the lake, so that the boat was being swamped, and they were in great danger.
   24 The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Master, Master, we’re going to drown!”
   He got up and rebuked the wind and the raging waters; the storm subsided, and all was calm. 25 “Where is your faith?” he asked his disciples.
   In fear and amazement they asked one another, “Who is this? He commands even the winds and the water, and they obey him.”

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Rahab

The Woman God Took From the Dunghill

Name Meaning—The first part of Rahab—“Ra,” was the name of an Egyptian god. As an Amorite, Rahab belonged to an idolatrous people, and had a name meaning “insolence,” “fierceness,” or “broad,” “spaciousness.”
Family Connections —While Rahab’s parents, brothers and sisters were alive at the time of her association with the spies Joshua sent out, we are not given any of their names (Joshua 2:13). Some of the ancient Jewish fathers who held her in high reputation reckoned that she was the wife of Joshua himself, but in the royal genealogy of Jesus, Rahab is referred to as being the wife of Salmon, one of the two spies she sheltered. In turn, she became the mother of Boaz, who married Ruth from whose son, Obed, Jesse the father of David came, through whose line Jesus was born ( Matthew 1:5, where the asv reads, “Salmon begat Boaz of Rahab”—not Rachab). Salmon was a prince of the house of Judah, and thus, Rahab, the one time heathen harlot, married into one of the leading families of Israel and became an ancestress of our Lord, the other foreign ancestresses being Tamar, Ruth and Bathsheba. The gratitude Salmon felt for Rahab ripened into love, and when grace erased her former life of shame he made her his wife. Jerome’s comment of the inclusion of the four foreign women in Matthew’s genealogy is suggestive—
In it none of the holy women are included, only those whom the Scriptures blame, in order that He who came in behalf of sinners, Himself being born of sinners, might destroy the sins of all.
Both Jewish and Christian writers have tried to prove that Rahab was a different woman from the one whom the Bible always speaks of as a “harlot.” To them it was abhorrent that such a disreputable person should be included in our Lord’s genealogy and by Paul, as a woman of faith, and so her story has been distorted in order to further a scheme of salvation based upon human goodness. Although man’s sense of refinement may be shocked, the fact remains that Rahab, Tamar and Bathsheba were sinful women who were purged by God, and had their share in the royal line from which Jesus sprang.
It has been suggested that the word “harlot” can be translated “innkeeper,” thus making Rahab the landlady of a wayside tavern. Guesses have been made that she had been a concubine, such as Hagar and Zilpah had been, but that in Jericho she was a reputable woman identified with a respectable business. The Bible, however, makes no attempt to smooth over the unpleasant fact that Rahab had been a harlot. Endeavoring to understand her character, we have—

Her Sin

Three times over Rahab is referred to as “the harlot,” and the Hebrew term zoonah and the Greek word porne have at no time meant anything else but “harlot”—a woman who yields herself indiscriminately to every man approaching her. Rahab indulged in venal wantonness as traveling merchants came her way and were housed in her illfamed abode. Evidently Rahab had her own house and lived apart from her parents and family. Although she never lost her concern for her dear ones, perhaps she was treated as a moral leper. We are told that prostitution was not regarded with the same horror then, as now, but the Bible with one voice speaks of harlotry with moral revulsion and social ostracism.
Rahab’s house was built against the town wall with the roof almost level with the ramparts, and with a stairway leading up to a flat roof that appears to be a continuation of the wall. Thus, the people of Jericho knew all about the men who entered and left such a disreputable house. While her name came to be sanctified and ennobled, both Paul and James affix the label to her name, Rahab the harlot . She still carried the evil, distinguishing name, thus declaring the peculiar grace of the transforming power of God. How Rahab came to forsake her evil career we are not told! Like many a young girl today perhaps she found the restrictions of her respectable home too irk-some. She wanted a freer life, a life of thrill and excitement, away from the drab monotony of the home giving her birth and protection. So, high-spirited and independent she left her parents, set up her own apartment with dire consequences. Frequently women like Rahab are more often sinned against than sinners. Man’s lust for the unlawful is responsible for harlotry.

Her Scheme

It was from some of the travelers Rahab entertained and sinned with, that she came to learn the facts of the Exodus of Israel, the miracle of the Red Sea, and the overthrow of Sihon and Og. So, when the two spies from Joshua sought cover in her house, she knew that sooner or later the king of Jericho would get to know of the accommodation she gave them. Here were two men, different from other men who came seeking her favors. These were men of God, not idolaters, bent on one mission, namely, the overthrow of the enemies of His people, and brilliantly she planned their protection and escape. The flax that she spread on her roof and the scarlet cord she used as a sign indicated that Rahab manufactured linen and also dyed it. If only, like Lydia, she had kept to such an honorable occupation, what a different story would have been hers.
Rahab’s skillful scheme succeeded. The two Jewish spies were in desperate straits, seeing the Amorite pursuers were hot on their trail, but Rahab, although her safety and patriotism as an Amorite would be assured if she informed against the spies, decided to hide and preserve them. Seeing their hunted and dreaded look, Rahab assuredly said, “Fear not, I will not betray you nor your leader. Follow me,” and taking them up to the flat roof of her house, bade the men cover themselves completely with a pile of flax lying there to dry. Shortly after, when the pursuers had tracked the two spies to Rahab’s house, she met them with a plausible excuse that they were there but had left by way of the Eastern Gate. If they doubted her word, they could come in and search her house. But off the pursuers went to catch up with their prey, not knowing that the spies were being befriended by Rahab. As soon as the way was clear, under cover of night, she let the spies down from the window in the wall and, knowing the country, guided the spies in the best way to escape capture.
There are one or two features associated with this clever plan of Rahab which are worthy of notice. First of all, idolater though she had been, with a phase of immorality associated with her idolatrous life, she witnessed to a remarkable understanding of the sovereignty of the true God for she said to the spies—
I know that the Lord hath given you the land, and that your terror is fallen upon us.... The Lord, your God he is God in heaven above, and in earth beneath (Joshua 2:9-11).
Harlot though Rahab had been, intuition from above had been given her that the spies were men of God, the forerunners of His people who were to execute His will, and that to take sides with them was to take sides with God Himself.
Further, there was in Rahab’s mind, no matter how faintly understood, a distinct call from God, that she was being singled out from her own idolatrous people to aid the God she had a growing conception of. Her faith of this God who worked great wonders was altogether marvelous and singular. It was such a call that made her willing to sacrifice her own nation—an act which would have been otherwise treasonable. Does not her confession of God’s power and purpose, and her service for the spies indicate that she knew the race of which she was part was accursed of God for its crimes and idolatry, and that she wished to be separated from such a doomed people, and identified with the people of God? The declaration of faith given by this Canaanite woman places her in a unique position among the women of the Bible.

Her Sacrifice

When Rahab hid the spies, put those who sought them on a false trail and helped the spies to escape and melt away into the shadows of night, and lay concealed until they could reach Joshua with their report, she took her life in her own hands. We cannot but admire her courage and willingness to risk her own neck. Had those spies been discovered hiding in her house, she would have died at the hands of the king of Jericho. Yet with a calm demeanor, and without the slightest trace of inner agitation, she met the searchers and succeeded in setting them out on a false trail. By her act Rahab was actually betraying her own country, and for such treason certain death would have been hers had she been found out. To hide spies was a crime punishable with death. Seeing the faces of the spies filled with fear, Rahab assured their hearts that she was on their side, and in spite of the sacrifice involved said, “I will not betray you. Follow me!” By military law the spies were likewise liable to instant death because of the threat of war, and Rahab, willing to do all in her power to protect her nation’s enemies, faced a like terrible end. How gloriously daring was her faith, and how richly rewarded she was for her willingness to sacrifice her life in a cause she knew to be of God!

Her Sign

As Rahab offered to shelter the spies and aid them in their escape, she received from them the promise that when they returned to her country, along with Joshua and his army, that she and her family would be spared alive. While her sin had possibly estranged her from her loved ones, she was concerned about their safety as well as her own. Rahab wanted the kindness she was showing the spies to be reciprocated, and they assured her that she would be dealt with “kindly and truly.” The spies said, “Our life for yours if ye utter not this our business.” Then the sign of the scarlet rope—their means of escape—was arranged. “According unto thy words, so be it,” said Rahab as she let the spies down, and making fast the scarlet rope, she awaited her own deliverance. That red token at the window was likewise a signal to the outside world that Rahab believed in the ultimate triumph of Jehovah.
Much has been said of Rahab’s deceit when confronted by the king of Jericho. She told a lie and Scripture forbids a lie or any “evil doing, that good may come of it” (Romans 3:78). But under the rules of war, Rahab is not to be blamed for her protection of those righteous forces set against the forces of evil. What the Bible commends is not her deception, but the faith which was the mainspring of her conduct. The characteristic feature of the scarlet rope was that it had to be placed outside the window for Joshua and his men to see. Those inside did not see the token of security. As that scarlet line, because of its color and sign of safety, speaks of the sacrificial work of Christ ( Hebrews 9:1922), the ground of our assurance of salvation is not experience or feelings within, but the token without. Like the Israelites, Rahab and her relatives might not have felt safe within the house, but the same promise prevailed, “When I see the blood, I will pass over you” ( Exodus 12:13).

Her Salvation

Jericho was the worst of the cities of the Amorites, thus God commanded Joshua to destroy both the city and the inhabitants. By divine decree, it was to be given over to a perpetual desolation. When Joshua entered the city he set about the execution of the divine command, but respected the promise made to Rahab by the spies. Under the protection of the scarlet line, Rahab and all her kindred were brought out of the house. The spies came to her house, not to indulge in sin with Rahab, but to prepare the way for Joshua to take Jericho. She saved the spies not out of human pity, or because of expediency, but because she knew that they were servants of the Lord. In turn, she was saved. The spies she had hid brought her, and her father, her mother, her brothers, and all that she had out of her doomed house, and made them secure without the camp of Israel (Joshua 6:17-25). Brought out of an accursed city, and from her own sins which were as scarlet, Rahab is a fitting illustration of another miracle of divine grace, namely, the calling forth of His church out of a godless, Gentile world.

Her Status

The threefold reference to Rahab in the New Testament reveals how she became a faithful follower of the Lord. She had been taken from the dunghill and placed among the saints in the genealogy of the Saviour (Matthew 1:5 where Rachab [kjv] and Rahab [asv ], are to be identified as the same person). Her remarkable faith was a sanctifying faith leading her to a pure life and honorable career. As the result of her marriage to Salmon, one of the two spies whom she had saved, who “paid back the life he owed her by a love that was honourable and true,” Rahab became an ancestress in the royal line from which Jesus came as the Saviour of lost souls. “Poor Rahab, the muddy, the defiled, became the fountainhead of the River of the Water of Life which floweth out of the throne of God and of the Lamb.” Her name became sanctified and ennobled, and is worthy of inclusion among many saints.
Paul highly commends Rahab for her energetic faith and gives her a place on the illustrious roll of the Old Testament of those who triumphed by faith. “By faith the harlot Rahab perished not with them that believed not, when she received the spies with peace” (Hebrews 11:31). What a suggestive touch that is, “with peace.” There was not only faith in her heart that God would be victorious, but also an assured peace when she hid the spies that her deliverance from destruction would be taken care of. She knew the rest of faith. In fact, Rahab is the only woman besides Sarah who is designated as an example of faith in the great cloud of witnesses. What a manifestation of divine grace it is to find the one-time harlot ranked along with saints like Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Joseph, Moses and David!
The Apostle James adds to Paul’s record about Rahab being justified by faith by saying that she was likewise justified by works (James 2:25 ), and there is no contradiction between these two aspects for Rahab’s courageous deed was but faith in practice. Faith had wrought in her a change of heart and life, and it likewise enabled her to shield the spies as she did in the confidence God would triumph over His enemies. She exemplified her faith by her brave act, and so James quotes Rahab as exemplifying justification by works evidentially. As Fausset puts it—
Paul’s justification by faith alone means a faith, not dead but working by love (Galatians 5:6 ). Again, Rahab’s act cannot prove justification by works as such, for she was a woman ofbad character. But as an example of grace, justifying through an operative as opposed to mere verbal faith, none could be more suitable than the saved “harlot.” She believed, so as to act on her belief, what her countrymen disbelieved; and this in the face of every improbability that an unwarlike force would conquer a well armed one, far more numerous. She believed with the heart ( Romans 10:910), confessed with the mouth, and acted on her profession at the risk of her life.
In conclusion, what are the lessons to be gathered from the harlot whom God used to fulfill His purpose? First of all, we are reminded by Rahab’s change of heart and life, that “His blood can make the vilest clean,” and that “His blood avails for me.” Was it not a wonderful condescension on the part of the Redeemer when He became manifest in the flesh to take hold of a root so humble in type as poor, despised Rahab to magnify His abounding grace for all sinners? Rahab was well worth saving from her evil life both for her own sake and for the place she had in God’s plan. Other women in Jericho saw no beauty in Rahab that they should desire her company, but through faith she became one of God’s heroines, and is included among the harlots entering the kingdom of God before the self-righteous. Rahab’s sins had been scarlet, but the scarlet line freeing the spies, and remaining as a token of her safety, typified the red blood of Jesus whereby the worst of sinners can be saved from sin and hell (Matthew 21:3132 ). While the door of mercy stands ajar, the vilest sinner can return and know what it is to be saved and safe.
A further lesson to be gleaned from Rahab the harlot is that of deep concern for the salvation of others. With the shadow of death and destruction over Jericho, Rahab extracted a promise from Joshua’s spies not only to spare her, but also all those bound to her by human ties. While her life of sin and shame had estranged her from her family, self was not her sole consideration in her request for safety. She desired all her loved ones to share in the preservation. What a vein of gold that was in such a despised character! When the mighty change took place in Rahab’s life, and she was transformed from a whore into a worshiper of Jehovah, we are not told. As she received and hid the spies, her tribute to God’s omnipotence and sure triumph over His foes reveals a spiritual insight God grants to all who believe. And restored to honor and holiness, the redeemed harlot pleads for her parents, and brothers, and sisters. Do we make Rahab’s prayer for the salvation of her family, the cry for our own homes? Is ours the same passionate supplication for all of our dear ones that when death strikes they may be found sheltered by the atoning blood of the Redeemer? When at evening the sun goeth down, will our loved ones be as stars in our crown?
Rahab is likewise a poetic and symbolic name for Egypt (Psalms 87:489:10Isaiah 51:9. See SYMBOLIC AND REPRESENTATIVE BIBLE WOMEN).

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Apollos [Ăpŏl'los]—a destroyer oryouthful god of musicAn eloquent and learned Jew born at Alexandria and deeply versed in Old Testament Scriptures (Acts 18:2419:1 1 Cor. 1:123:4-6224:616:12Titus 3:13).

The Man Whose Influence Was Enriched

This educated, cultured Alexandrian Jew was an orator and an efficient worker in the Church who knew only the baptism of John (Acts 18:2425 ). The influence of Apollos was ample and varied and, under Aquila and Priscilla, was heightened and enriched.
I. His was the influence of eloquence (Acts 18:24). Apollos wielded an ever powerful instrument of blessing—a consecrated eloquence.
II. His was the influence of exposition. Apollos was mighty in the Scriptures (Acts 18:26). What a tribute it is to be mighty in the mightiest of books!
III. His was the influence of spiritual knowledge. Apollos taught by word of mouth the things of the Lord.
IV. His was the influence of fervency. Apollos was also “fervent in spirit” (Acts 18:25). “A lively, affectionate preacher,” as Matthew Henry calls him.
V. His was the influence of accuracy. Apollos taught “carefully” or “accurately” the truth of Christ (Acts 18:25 RV). Incorrectness in teaching is detrimental to all concerned.
VI. His was the influence of courage. Apollos spoke “boldly.” He had no hesitation in his tone. Courage flashed in his eyes (Acts 18:26).
Yet with all his excellent gifts and goodly influence, Apollos had a distinct limitation. He knew that Christ was coming, but his was only a partial Christianity. Yet what he knew and taught profoundly impressed many in the synagogue. Under the tuition of Aquila and Priscilla, two deeply taught believers, Apollos was led into a deeper understanding of the truth. Instructed in the way of the Lord, Apollos went out to expound the truth more fully and accurately and thereafter became an unashamed herald of the Christian faith especially among the Jews (Acts 18:28).
Later on, Apollos became an apostle and one of Paul’s trusted friends and companions, and remained active in his ministry during Paul’s life (1 Cor. 16:12Titus 3:13 ). So effective a preacher did he become that some of the Corinthians put him before both Peter and Paul. Martin Luther hazarded the guess that Apollos was the writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews.

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June 11, 2012
A Heavy Dose of Perspective
Sharon Jaynes
Today's Truth
"This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it!" (Psalm 188:24 NIV)
Friend to Friend
It was just a quick check-up at the doctor's office...or at least that's what it was supposed to be.  My "to-do-list" resembled a mile-long scroll and several deadlines loomed like a thunder cloud ready to burst. But, the appointment would take just a few minutes. Just enough time to catch my breath.
"Good morning Mrs. Jaynes," the cheery receptionist greeted. "May I see your insurance card please?"
We went through the regular check-in procedure and then I settled in a comfy chair with a magazine that I would not have normally read.  I knew I wouldn't have time to read a full-length article...since this was just a quick visit.  My, oh my, the trouble those Hollywood folks get into.
Ten minutes turned into fifteen turned into twenty turned into thirty.  My to-do list began growing heavier and heavier in my mind.
"Excuse me," I interrupted the receptionist.  "My appointment was thirty minutes ago.  Did they forget me?"
"I'm so sorry," she reassured me.  "I'll check on it right away."
In just a few moments, a nurse appeared at the door.  "Mrs. Jaynes, come right this way."
My second stop was into a stark treatment room with more magazines.  "Oh well, let's see what Brittany did last year," I mumbled to myself.  At least I was in the room.  That was good.
The clock continued to tick. With each passing minute my frustration grew. "I'm glad he's not checking my blood pressure," I grumbled to no one in particular.
Fifty minutes after I had walked into the office for my quick 5-minute check-up, the doctor himself walked into my room. My to-do list was magnified in my mind. My time was important too, you know. I didn't have time to sit around and read out-dated gossip magazines!
The doctor was actually a friend of mine, but I was feeling less than friendly. Ice Queen is a description that comes to mind when I think of my probable appearance.
"Hi Sharon," he began. "I'm sorry you have had to wait so long. I have been with a patient and had to tell her that she has terminal cancer. It took longer than I thought."
Suddenly, my icy countenance began to melt into a puddle on the shiny tile floor and tears pooled in my eyes. I was upset about not checking insignificant frivolous errands off my to-do list, and the woman in the next room was pondering how she was going to spend her last days on earth. I envisioned her walking to her car and coming up with a brand new to-do list for her day.
#1 Live well
#2 Love well
Yes, I did have a check-up that day. God was the doctor and He looked into my heart to see that my perspective on life needed surgery. What's really important? My silly list of errands? No. What should be at the top of my to-do list today and every day is:  #1 Live well.  #2 Love well. Celebrate each day as an incredible gift from God.
Let's Pray
Dear God, Thank You for another day of life. Sometimes I can get so caught up in my silly little lists that I lose perspective of the true meaning of life. Help me to live my days glorifying You with every breath that I take and step that I make.  
In Jesus' Name,  Amen.
Now It's Your Turn
What is at the top of your to do list today?
Consider making a new to do list and including what you think God would have you do today.
Wouldn't it be fun to see what your sisters are scheduled to do today? Log onto my Facebook page atwww.facebook.com/sharonjaynes and tell me the first 5 items on your list. Be honest...not that you wouldn't beJ I'm not looking for overly spiritual, I'm looking for real girlfriend stuff!
More from the Girlfriends
One of the things that is at the top of my to-do list for today is to love my husband the way he longs to be loved...the way God would have me love him.  If you would like to learn more about keeping your marriage in the top 5 of your to-do list, check out my book, Becoming the Woman of His Dreams- seven qualities every man longs for. 
 
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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Wendy Blight
June11, 2012
Did I Really Say That?
Wendy Blight
"Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you." Ephesians 4:32 (NLT)
I had just cleaned my kitchen ... everything perfect and in its place ... counters shining, stovetop sparkling. And then it happened. Within moments of completing this labor of love my husband walked through the door.
I should have been thrilled, but I wasn't. I knew what was coming. He was home for lunch and was going to create one of the gourmet sandwiches he loves to make. All I could think about was the grease that would soon be on my freshly polished stove and dishes that would soon fill my sink.
My mind went right to the mess he was about to make inmy freshly cleaned kitchen. I couldn't stand it, so I launched into a series of instructions:
"Please don't make a mess. I just cleaned."
"Please put your dishes in the dishwasher."
"Please wipe your crumbs off the counter."
"Please clean the stove I spent an hour scrubbing."
I was polite. Did you count my "pleases?" I just have a way I like things to be done in my kitchen ... my way.
I saw the look on his face. I knew what he was thinking:You have got to be kidding me. Did she really just say that? Why did I even come home for lunch?
I realized I was nagging. I knew I was being controlling. And this wasn't the first time.
Often after I speak such words, I find myself asking, Did I really just say that?
When I make such big deals out of minor things it brings resentment and discord. It's wrong. Yet sometimes it feels like I just can't help myself.
But when I get in God's Word, I am inspired to change. I want to stop being a control freak. I promise myself no matter what-dishes in the sink, crumbs on the counter, grease on the stove-I won't say anything.
It could be hours or days later when the opportunity comes again, and I blow it once more. Within minutes, the words start spewing.
I'm convinced my way is best. Deep inside, I know I should not be this way, but then I hear that voice of justification: "It's just who I am."
The truth is, it is not who I am. It is who I am used to being.
But it's not who God wants me to be. In fact, His Word tells me exactly how He wants me to respond with my speech. My words should be:
Edifying:
"Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen." Ephesians 4:29 (NIV)
Gentle:
"A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger." Proverbs 15:1 (NIV)
Self-controlled:
"A fool gives full vent to his anger, but a wise man keeps himself under control." Proverbs 29:11 (NIV 1984)
Compassionate:
"Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you." Ephesians 4:32 (NLT)
This can so hard to do on our own! Yet God enables us to walk in obedience to these scriptures through the power of His Holy Spirit. He will mold us and make us more like Him. And on those days when we feel as if there is no way we can speak kindly to others, let's remember His Word says we can do ALL things through Christ who strengthens us (Phil. 4:13).
When we quiet our hearts. When we open His Word instead of just opening our mouths. When we approach Him with a heart of surrender. When we choose to submit to His ways instead of our own ....
That is when God will do His work and help us tame our tongue. And the next time we find ourselves asking, "Did I really just say that?" I'm praying it will be because we responded with patience, kindness and gentleness that is evidence of His work in us.
Dear Lord, help me to tame my tongue. Make my heart tender to Your Word. Guide me into all Truth. Enable me through the power of Your Holy Spirit to speak gentle, edifying, self-controlled, compassionate words of life. Thank You, Father, that You are faithful and will do what You promise. In Jesus' Name, Amen.
Related Resources:
This lesson was taken from Wendy's e-book Bible studyAll Things Wise and Wonderful: Applying God's Word in Everyday Life.
Click here to visit Wendy's blog today to enter to win a copy of her e-book Bible study, All Things Wise and Wonderful: Applying God's Word in Everyday Life.
30 Days to Taming Your Tongue and accompanyingWorkbook by Deborah Smith Pegues
Reflect and Respond:
Keep a journal or mental record of your words this week. At the end of the week, honestly examine the words you have spoken.
Apply the truths you have learned today and take one baby step toward changing your speech this week.
Power Verses:
Proverbs 12:18, "Some people make cutting remarks, but the words of the wise bring healing." (NLT)
Proverbs 10:11a, "The words of the godly are a life-giving fountain." (NLT)
© 2012 by Wendy Blight. All rights reserved.
Proverbs 31 Ministries
616-G Matthews-Mint Hill Road
Matthews, NC 28105
www.Proverbs31.org

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The scales of judgement

“Tekel; Thou art weighed in the balances, and art found wanting.” Daniel 5:27.
Suggested Further Reading: Psalm 62
Into those scales I must go. God will not take me on my profession. I may bring my witnesses with me; I may bring my minister and the deacons of the church to give me a character, which might be thought all-sufficient among men, but God will tolerate no subterfuge. Into the scales he will put me, do what I may; whatever the opinion of others may be of me, and whatever my own profession. And let me remember, too, that I must be altogether weighed in the scales. I cannot hope that God will weigh my head and pass over my heart—that because I have correct notions of doctrine, therefore he will forget that my heart is impure, or my hands guilty of iniquity. My all must be cast into the scales. Come, let me stretch my imagination, and picture myself about to be put into those scales. Shall I be able to walk boldly up and enter them, knowing whom I have believed, and being persuaded that the blood of Christ and his perfect righteousness shall bear me harmless through it all; or shall I be dragged with terror and dismay? Shall the angel come and say, “Thou must enter.” Shall I bend my knee and cry, “Oh, it is all right,” or shall I seek to escape? Now, thrust into the scale, do I see myself waiting for one solemn moment. My feet have touched the bottom of the scales, and there stand those everlasting weights, and now which way are they turned? Which way shall it be? Do I descend in the scale with joy and delight, being found through Jesus’ righteousness to be full weight, and so accepted; or must I rise, light, frivolous, unsound in all my fancied hopes, and kick the beam?
For meditation: We all ought to check our weight before God does (2 Corinthians 13:5). The scales of God’s judgement will show in our favour only if Jesus Christ, the Rock of Ages, is in us. Do you need to put on weight?
Sermon no. 257
12 June (1859)

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The superlative excellence of the Holy Spirit

‘Nevertheless I tell you the truth; it is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you.’ John 16:7
Suggested Further Reading: 1 Corinthians 2:9–16
Without the Holy Spirit no good thing ever did or ever can come into any of your hearts—no sigh of penitence, no cry of faith, no glance of love, no tear of hallowed sorrow. Your heart can never beat with life divine, except through the Spirit; you are not capable of the smallest degree of spiritual emotion, much less spiritual action, apart from the Holy Spirit. Dead you lie, living only for evil, but absolutely dead for God until the Holy Spirit comes and raises you. The flowers of Christ are all exotics—‘In me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing.’ ‘Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? not one.’ Everything must come from Christ, and Christ gives nothing to men except through the Spirit of all grace. Prize, then, the Spirit as the channel of all good which comes into you. And further, no good thing can come out of you apart from the Spirit. Let it be in you, yet it lies dormant unless God works in you to will and to do of his own good pleasure. Do you desire to preach? How can you unless the Holy Spirit touches your tongue? Do you desire to pray? Alas, what dull work it is unless the Spirit makes intercession for you. Do you desire to subdue sin? Would you be holy? Would you imitate your Master? Do you desire to rise to superlative heights of spirituality? Are you wanting to be made like the angels of God, full of zeal and ardour for the Master’s cause? You cannot without the Spirit—‘Without me ye can do nothing.’ O branch of the vine, you can have no fruit without the sap. O child of God, you have no life within you apart from the life which God gives you through his Spirit.
For meditation: Christians are what they are as the result of receiving the Holy Spirit, his teaching and his gifts (1 Corinthians 2:12–14). As recipients of everything we have, we should neither boast of our gifts as if they originated with us ( 1 Corinthians 4:7), nor should we monopolise them (1 Peter 4:10).
Sermon no. 574
12 June (1864)


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A Glorious Future

Matthew 13:36-43 "Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear" ( v. 43).
Today's passage contains Jesus' interpretation of the parable of the wheat and the tares (Matt. 13:36-43), which presents problems for the twenty-first century Bible student. Simply put, it is difficult to discern whether or not this parable teaches that unbelievers will exist alongside believers in the visible covenant community until the return of Christ.
Many godly scholars teach that the parable in question is concerned mainly with the church and the authenticity of the faith of its professing members. Scripture, of course, teaches that we will often be unable to distinguish those who profess faith falsely from the true believers in the institutional church until Judgment Day. Yet this point is probably not the emphasis of the parable of the wheat and the tares. Christ says the field represents the "world," not the "kingdom" or the "church" (v. 38). Most likely, Jesus is focusing on the work of the Son of Man and Satan within the world in general, not the church particularly.
What then is the parable's purpose? Because today's passage follows the parables of the mustard seed and the leaven (vv. 31-33), Jesus seems to be dealing with the apparent delay of the kingdom's consummation. Look at things from the disciples' viewpoint. This Nazarene is doing messianic miracles (11:1-6 ) and claiming absolute authority (12:1-14); yet, the kingdom He inaugurates is not crushing its human opposition (vv. 22-24). As one author has said, the disciples want to know how the kingdom could allow its enemies to go unchecked.
Jesus does not give a full answer in Matthew 13:36-43 , but He does say the apparent delay of final judgment does not mean it has been cancelled. As Christ plants the Gospel in the hearts of His people, the Devil works against Him. Satan is ever present, striving to put out the Light of the world. The Adversary craftily disguises his plans as good things, much as darnel plants (the weed) look like wheat in the earliest stages of growth. Pulling up the darnel cannot be done without pulling up the wheat, and the wheat cannot be harvested until it has all matured. Until then, the Son of Man allows wheat and darnel to grow together lest the kingdom's harvest come before all of His grain is ready.

Coram deo: Living before the face of God

Gloriously, at the time of God's harvest we who have suffered the onslaught of the Devil and the scorn of the world will shine brightly, just like the Lord Himself (Matt. 13:43). John Calvin comments, "What a remarkable consolation! The sons of God, who now lie covered with dust, or are held in no estimation, or even are loaded with reproaches, will then shine in full brightness, as when the sky is serene, and every cloud has been dispelled."
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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A Glorious Future

Gloriously, at the time of God's harvest we who have suffered the onslaught of the Devil and the scorn of the world will shine brightly, just like the Lord Himself (Matt. 13:43 ). John Calvin comments, "What a remarkable consolation! The sons of God, who now lie covered with dust, or are held in no estimation, or even are loaded with reproaches, will then shine in full brightness, as when the sky is serene, and every cloud has been dispelled."
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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Personal Development: Vision

Few things are more important to effective leadership than vision. Good leaders foresee something out there, vague as it might appear from the distance, that others don't see. Godly leaders who are followers of Christ must first have a vision of who God is and the future he holds for them. They must also have a sense of what God has called them to do.
The apostle Paul had both. Through a miraculous vision, he was taken into heaven where he saw images too spectacular to communicate; images he wasn't allowed to communicate. That vision enabled him to undergo intense hardship and pain with an unwavering faith in God.
But there was a second vision Paul possessed. The first was of heaven, his future home. The second was a vision of his earthly ministry among the Corinthians. He knew God had called him to minister to the Gentiles (Romans 1:5). And he knew that the Lord was directing him to return to the Corinthians a third time. Elsewhere he spoke about his vision to take the Gospel to Rome and Spain (Romans 15:23-24).
While God may not give you a vision of heaven like Paul experienced, he will give you one of himself. Through his Word he will show you what he is like and will give you insight into your spiritual destiny. As you seek him through his Word and through prayer, ask him to show you himself. Ask him to give you a clear image of the work he has called you to join him in accomplishing.
Vision and Who God Is
Where did we come from, why are we here and where are we going? Without a revelation from the Creator of the cosmos, the fundamental questions of origin, purpose and destiny would be unanswerable. But Scripture reveals God's perspective on each of these issues and gives us a vision of his eternal plan. Turn to Revelation 21:1-7 for a study of God's vision for the new heaven and the new earth.
Vision and Who I Am
What is the focus of your life? Are you a person of passion for the things of God, or is that passion just a sporadic experience for you? If you had to describe the compelling treasure in your life, what would it look like? Turn to Hebrews 11:24-26 to read about the vision that motivated Moses.
Vision and How It Works
Oh to be like those prophets who could see into the future! Alas, we are not, but being a godly leader does play a crucial role in casting a vision for our organization. Elisha, one of God's great prophets, provides an essential principle for the visionary leader. Read the story in 2 Kings 6:15-17 .
Vision and What I Do
It's crucial for a leader to know how to identify and cultivate a personal vision. But where do such visions originate? Burt Nanus provides us with a good definition of the word vision, and Jesus demonstrates how to keep our vision in line with God's purposes. Turn to Mark 8:31-33 for today's reading.

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NIV Devotions for Moms

A Flicker or a Flame?

Additional Scripture Readings: Song of Songs 8:6; 2 Timothy 1:6
Apathy is like a flame that only flickers and sputters beneath our faith in Christ. It may flare up occasionally when blown by the winds of whatever seems interesting at the moment, but soon returns to only a weak flicker. Zeal, on the other hand, is the flame that feeds our faith into a fire that burns steadily, whatever the circumstances or passing influences.
In Romans 12:11, Paul exhorts, “Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.” Note that the flame of spiritual fervor or zeal needs to be fed with service to the Lord. Romans 12:12 gives instruction on feeding the flame: be joyful, patient, faithful.
We tend to reserve our passions, our fiery feelings, for our best arguments, for our ambitions and for our bedrooms. We seldom think of directing passion toward God. Oh, but God wants us ardently interested in and eagerly pursuing him. He longs to matter to us! He yearns for us to yearn for him!
Zeal pushes us to give our best effort, to care when we don’t feel like it, to try when we want to give up, to continue when we want to quit. How high and strong does your flame of zeal burn?
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What About the Poor?

Ask your neighbor or coworker to list the "top ten" sins, and you will probably hear a version of the Ten Commandments. Murder, stealing, lying and adultery would probably head the list.
But when God revealed to Amos that he was about to bring judgment upon his people, he cited Israel's treatment of the poor as cause for punishment. In startling imagery, God said Israel had "trampled" the needy and cheated the poor. The poor, the victims of Israel's greed and exploitation, had no recourse but to appeal to God. And God listened.
In the New Testament, Jesus repeatedly takes up the often-overlooked cause of the poor. When Jesus preached in the synagogue in Luke 4:16-21, the prophecy he chose to read to reveal who he was came from Isaiah 61:1-2: "The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor." When Jesus described final judgment in Matthew 25:31-46, he evaluated how well people cared for the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the needy and the imprisoned. Jesus so identifies with the poor in this passage that he says that the good deeds done to the "least of these" were counted as being done to him!
How does the way you live reveal your concern for the poor? Are the poor an afterthought? A nuisance? A perplexing problem you've quit trying to solve? For many of us, Amos's message challenges us to serve the poverty stricken in ways besides simply giving money. Volunteering in a food pantry or rescue mission may be the first step to helping poor people with their immediate needs. Working directly with people who are poor helps us to put names and faces on poverty. When we do that, we can no longer objectify and ignore the needy. But are there ways to take our compassion one step further? How can we speak up to make sure the poor aren't exploited? How can we work to make sure our institutions don't make the problem worse? How can we vote for policies and practices that are equitable?
It is God's desire that we be willing to share what we have with those in need and help the poor whenever we can. When we do, our hearts beat in time with his.

Reflection

  1. What are your assumptions about why someone might be poor?
  2. Have you ever been without what you needed to live? What did you do?
  3. Why do you think God identifies himself with the poor? What does that tell you about his character?
Amos 8:4-5 
Hear this, you who trample the needy and do away with the poor of the land, saying, "When will the New Moon be over that we may sell grain, and the Sabbath be ended that we may market wheat?"-skimping the measure, boosting the price and cheating with dishonest scales.

Related Readings

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Correction: The Scripture reading sent out earlier this morning was incorrect. We apologize for the error. The correct reading is below.

Today's reading: Ezra 1-2, John 19:23-42 (NIV)

View today's reading on Bible Gateway 
Cyrus Helps the Exiles to Return
    1 In the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, in order to fulfill the word of the LORD spoken by Jeremiah, the LORD moved the heart of Cyrus king of Persia to make a proclamation throughout his realm and also to put it in writing:
   2 "This is what Cyrus king of Persia says:
   "'The LORD, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth and he has appointed me to build a temple for him at Jerusalem in Judah. 3 Any of his people among you may go up to Jerusalem in Judah and build the temple of the LORD, the God of Israel, the God who is in Jerusalem, and may their God be with them. 4 And in any locality where survivors may now be living, the people are to provide them with silver and gold, with goods and livestock, and with freewill offerings for the temple of God in Jerusalem.'"
   5 Then the family heads of Judah and Benjamin, and the priests and Levites-everyone whose heart God had moved-prepared to go up and build the house of the LORD in Jerusalem. 6 All their neighbors assisted them with articles of silver and gold, with goods and livestock, and with valuable gifts, in addition to all the freewill offerings.
   7 Moreover, King Cyrus brought out the articles belonging to the temple of the LORD, which Nebuchadnezzar had carried away from Jerusalem and had placed in the temple of his god.8 Cyrus king of Persia had them brought by Mithredath the treasurer, who counted them out to Sheshbazzar the prince of Judah.
   9 This was the inventory:
    gold dishes 30
    silver dishes 1,000
    silver pans 29
    10 gold bowls 30
    matching silver bowls 410
    other articles 1,000
   11 In all, there were 5,400 articles of gold and of silver. Sheshbazzar brought all these along with the exiles when they came up from Babylon to Jerusalem.

Ezra 2

The List of the Exiles Who Returned
    1 Now these are the people of the province who came up from the captivity of the exiles, whom Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon had taken captive to Babylon (they returned to Jerusalem and Judah, each to their own town, 2 in company with Zerubbabel, Joshua, Nehemiah, Seraiah, Reelaiah, Mordecai, Bilshan, Mispar, Bigvai, Rehum and Baanah):
   The list of the men of the people of Israel:
    3 the descendants of Parosh 2,172
    4 of Shephatiah 372
    5 of Arah 775
    6 of Pahath-Moab (through the line of Jeshua and Joab) 2,812
    of Elam 1,254
    8 of Zattu 945
    9 of Zakkai 760
    10 of Bani 642
    11 of Bebai 623
    12 of Azgad 1,222
    13 of Adonikam 666
    14 of Bigvai 2,056
    15 of Adin 454
    16 of Ater (through Hezekiah) 98
    17 of Bezai 323
    18 of Jorah 112
    19 of Hashum 223
    20 of Gibbar 95
    21 the men of Bethlehem 123
    22 of Netophah 56
    23 of Anathoth 128
    24 of Azmaveth 42
    25 of Kiriath Jearim, Kephirah and Beeroth 743
    26 of Ramah and Geba 621
    27 of Mikmash 122
    28 of Bethel and Ai 223
    29 of Nebo 52
    30 of Magbish 156
    31 of the other Elam 1,254
    32 of Harim 320
    33 of Lod, Hadid and Ono 725
    34 of Jericho 345
    35 of Senaah 3,630
   36 The priests:
    the descendants of Jedaiah (through the family of Jeshua) 973
    37 of Immer 1,052
    38 of Pashhur 1,247
    39 of Harim 1,017
   40 The Levites:
    the descendants of Jeshua and Kadmiel (of the line of Hodaviah) 74
   41 The musicians:
    the descendants of Asaph 128
   42 The gatekeepers of the temple:
    the descendants of
    Shallum, Ater, Talmon,
    Akkub, Hatita and Shobai 139
   43 The temple servants:
    the descendants of
    Ziha, Hasupha, Tabbaoth,
    44 Keros, Siaha, Padon,
    45 Lebanah, Hagabah, Akkub,
    46 Hagab, Shalmai, Hanan,
    47 Giddel, Gahar, Reaiah,
    48 Rezin, Nekoda, Gazzam,
    49 Uzza, Paseah, Besai,
    50 Asnah, Meunim, Nephusim,
    51 Bakbuk, Hakupha, Harhur,
    52 Bazluth, Mehida, Harsha,
    53 Barkos, Sisera, Temah,
    54 Neziah and Hatipha
   55 The descendants of the servants of Solomon:
    the descendants of
    Sotai, Hassophereth, Peruda,
    56 Jaala, Darkon, Giddel,
    57 Shephatiah, Hattil,
    Pokereth-Hazzebaim and Ami
    58 The temple servants and the descendants of the servants of Solomon 392
   59 The following came up from the towns of Tel Melah, Tel Harsha, Kerub, Addon and Immer, but they could not show that their families were descended from Israel:
    60 The descendants of
    Delaiah, Tobiah and Nekoda 652
   61 And from among the priests:
    The descendants of
    Hobaiah, Hakkoz and Barzillai (a man who had married a daughter of Barzillai the Gileadite and was called by that name).
   62 These searched for their family records, but they could not find them and so were excluded from the priesthood as unclean. 63 The governor ordered them not to eat any of the most sacred food until there was a priest ministering with the Urim and Thummim.
   64 The whole company numbered 42,360, 65 besides their 7,337 male and female slaves; and they also had 200 male and female singers. 66 They had 736 horses, 245 mules, 67 435 camels and 6,720 donkeys.
   68 When they arrived at the house of the LORD in Jerusalem, some of the heads of the families gave freewill offerings toward the rebuilding of the house of God on its site. 69 According to their ability they gave to the treasury for this work 61,000 darics of gold, 5,000 minas of silver and 100 priestly garments.
   70 The priests, the Levites, the musicians, the gatekeepers and the temple servants settled in their own towns, along with some of the other people, and the rest of the Israelites settled in their towns.

John 19

   23 When the soldiers crucified Jesus, they took his clothes, dividing them into four shares, one for each of them, with the undergarment remaining. This garment was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom.
   24 "Let's not tear it," they said to one another. "Let's decide by lot who will get it."
   This happened that the scripture might be fulfilled that said,
   "They divided my clothes among them 
   and cast lots for my garment."
   So this is what the soldiers did.
   25 Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. 26 When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to her, "Woman, here is your son," 27and to the disciple, "Here is your mother." From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.
The Death of Jesus
    28 Later, knowing that everything had now been finished, and so that Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, "I am thirsty."29 A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus' lips. 30 When he had received the drink, Jesus said, "It is finished." With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.
   31 Now it was the day of Preparation, and the next day was to be a special Sabbath. Because the Jewish leaders did not want the bodies left on the crosses during the Sabbath, they asked Pilate to have the legs broken and the bodies taken down. 32 The soldiers therefore came and broke the legs of the first man who had been crucified with Jesus, and then those of the other. 33 But when they came to Jesus and found that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. 34 Instead, one of the soldiers pierced Jesus' side with a spear, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water. 35 The man who saw it has given testimony, and his testimony is true. He knows that he tells the truth, and he testifies so that you also may believe. 36These things happened so that the scripture would be fulfilled: "Not one of his bones will be broken," 37 and, as another scripture says, "They will look on the one they have pierced."
The Burial of Jesus
    38 Later, Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for the body of Jesus. Now Joseph was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly because he feared the Jewish leaders. With Pilate's permission, he came and took the body away. 39 He was accompanied by Nicodemus, the man who earlier had visited Jesus at night. Nicodemus brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds. 40 Taking Jesus' body, the two of them wrapped it, with the spices, in strips of linen. This was in accordance with Jewish burial customs. 41 At the place where Jesus was crucified, there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb, in which no one had ever been laid. 42Because it was the Jewish day of Preparation and since the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there.

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COMMUNICATION WITH GOD

Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. Colossians 4:2
Pastor He’s church in Vietnam grew from twenty-nine to over 5,000 in just a few years during the communist regime in the late 1970’s. When asked the secret of this phenomenal church growth, Pastor Ha replied, “I have a very simple theology. When you have problems, pray! When you have more problems, pray more!” Every morning this church had a well-attended prayer meeting at six a.m. And the church grew and grew. Although they were constantly living under pressure, there was one scripture text chosen for the wall of their sanctuary, “In everything give thanks.”
And yet after his years of imprisonment, Pastor Ha said, “When I had my freedom, I worked with prayer sometimes in the background. In prison, I discovered that prayer is everything. It’s like a pilot using a checklist before he takes off. If he skips the first item, many lives might be in danger. The first item on our checklist should always be prayer. If we skip it, the whole mission is in jeopardy.”
Vietnamese Pastor Cuong also spent over six years in prison. He says this about prayer:
In my work I was so busy I had no time to pray. But in prison, I was thankful to God that He gave me time for prayer. I had about six hours of prayer every day. I had time to recall every member of my congregation to pray for them. Before that, although I served the church, I didn't have enough time to pray for them. I learned about the real presence of God in prayer there. When you kneel down and pray wholeheartedly with the Lord, you feel His answer right there.
All of the world's major religions emphasize prayer. The Buddhists repeat their prayers fervently, although they do not believe anyone is listening. The Hindus pray regularly, believing one of their many Hindu gods may be listening, but they do not really expect any response to their prayers. The Muslims pray five times a day. They believe that Allah is listening, but he will not alter his plans to meet their needs.
Devout Buddhists, Hindus and Muslims consider Christianity a prayerless faith, because they rarely see Christians praying. Yet we believe—and know—we have a God who not only hears our prayers, but also will answer them in mighty power!
RESPONSE: Today I recommit to spending time in communication—prayer—with my Lord.
PRAYER: Pray that all Christians in prison will experience God’s presence in a special way today.
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 11

Disciples live with not only renouncing their own rights, but even renouncing their own righteousness. They get no credit themselves for what they do and sacrifice.
The only righteousness they can have is in hungering and thirsting for it. They will have neither their own righteousness nor God's righteousness on earth. At all times they look forward to God's future righteousness, but they cannot bring it about by themselves. Those who follow Jesus will be hungry and thirsty along the way. They are filled with longing for forgiveness of all sins and for complete renewal; they long for the renewal of the earth and for God's perfect justice.

Biblical Wisdom

"Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled." Matthew 5:6

Questions to Ponder

  • What could it mean to renounce your own righteousness?
  • Why do disciples "have neither their own righteousness nor God's righteousness on earth"? Is that a reason for pessimism or cynicism?
  • If a church renounced its own righteousness, what changes might take place in the way that church relates to other churches, the secular world, and other religions?
  • Would being always hungry and thirsty for righteousness lead to action or inaction? Why?

Psalm Fragment

For the word of the Lord is upright,
   and all his work is done in faithfulness.
He loves righteousness and justice;
   the earth is full of the steadfast love of the Lord. Psalm 33:4-5

Journal Reflections

  • In what ways do you experience hungering and thirsting for righteousness in your own life? What could you do to alleviate that hunger and thirst?
  • In what ways do you see our world hungering and thirsting for righteousness? What could your community of faith do to alleviate that hunger and thirst?

Intercessions

Think of those places and situations in our world where people suffer from unrighteousness. Pray that people of faith would say no to the suffering, no to the injustice, and then stand and work in solidarity with those who suffer "for righteousness."

Prayer for Today

Lord, may your righteous kingdom come in my life and in the world.
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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