Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Daily Devotional Tuesday 5th June

“Yours, LORD, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the majesty and the splendor, for everything in heaven and earth is yours. Yours, LORD, is the kingdom; you are exalted as head over all.” 1 Chronicles 29:11 NIV
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Morning and Evening by Charles Spurgeon

Morning

"The Lord shut him in."
Genesis 7:16
Noah was shut in away from all the world by the hand of divine love. The door of electing purpose interposes between us and the world which lieth in the wicked one. We are not of the world even as our Lord Jesus was not of the world. Into the sin, the gaiety, the pursuits of the multitude we cannot enter; we cannot play in the streets of Vanity Fair with the children of darkness, for our heavenly Father has shut us in. Noah was shut in with his God. "Come thou into the ark," was the Lord's invitation, by which he clearly showed that he himself intended to dwell in the ark with his servant and his family. Thus all the chosen dwell in God and God in them. Happy people to be enclosed in the same circle which contains God in the Trinity of his persons, Father, Son, and Spirit. Let us never be inattentive to that gracious call, "Come, my people, enter thou into thy chambers, and shut thy doors about thee, and hide thyself as it were for a little moment until the indignation be overpast." Noah was so shut in that no evil could reach him. Floods did but lift him heavenward, and winds did but waft him on his way. Outside of the ark all was ruin, but inside all was rest and peace. Without Christ we perish, but in Christ Jesus there is perfect safety. Noah was so shut in that he could not even desire to come out, and those who are in Christ Jesus are in him forever. They shall go no more out forever, for eternal faithfulness has shut them in, and infernal malice cannot drag them out. The Prince of the house of David shutteth and no man openeth; and when once in the last days as Master of the house he shall rise up and shut the door, it will be in vain for mere professors to knock, and cry Lord, Lord open unto us, for that same door which shuts in the wise virgins will shut out the foolish forever. Lord, shut me in by thy grace.

Evening

"He that loveth not knoweth not God."
1 John 4:8
The distinguishing mark of a Christian is his confidence in the love of Christ, and the yielding of his affections to Christ in return. First, faith sets her seal upon the man by enabling the soul to say with the apostle, "Christ loved me and gave himself for me." Then love gives the countersign, and stamps upon the heart gratitude and love to Jesus in return. "We love him because he first loved us." In those grand old ages, which are the heroic period of the Christian religion, this double mark was clearly to be seen in all believers in Jesus; they were men who knew the love of Christ, and rested upon it as a man leaneth upon a staff whose trustiness he has tried. The love which they felt towards the Lord was not a quiet emotion which they hid within themselves in the secret chamber of their souls, and which they only spake of in their private assemblies when they met on the first day of the week, and sang hymns in honour of Christ Jesus the crucified, but it was a passion with them of such a vehement and all-consuming energy, that it was visible in all their actions, spoke in their common talk, and looked out of their eyes even in their commonest glances. Love to Jesus was a flame which fed upon the core and heart of their being; and, therefore, from its own force burned its way into the outer man, and shone there. Zeal for the glory of King Jesus was the seal and mark of all genuine Christians. Because of their dependence upon Christ's love they dared much, and because of their love to Christ they did much, and it is the same now. The children of God are ruled in their inmost powers by love--the love of Christ constraineth them; they rejoice that divine love is set upon them, they feel it shed abroad in their hearts by the Holy Ghost, which is given unto them, and then by force of gratitude they love the Saviour with a pure heart, fervently. My reader, do you love him? Ere you sleep give an honest answer to a weighty question!

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Today's reading: 2 Chronicles 21-22, John 14 (NIV)

View today's reading on Bible Gateway 
   Then Jehoshaphat rested with his ancestors and was buried with them in the City of David. And Jehoram his son succeeded him as king. 2 Jehoram’s brothers, the sons of Jehoshaphat, were Azariah, Jehiel, Zechariah, Azariahu, Michael and Shephatiah. All these were sons of Jehoshaphat king of Israel.3 Their father had given them many gifts of silver and gold and articles of value, as well as fortified cities in Judah, but he had given the kingdom to Jehoram because he was his firstborn son.
Jehoram King of Judah
    4 When Jehoram established himself firmly over his father’s kingdom, he put all his brothers to the sword along with some of the officials of Israel. 5 Jehoram was thirty-two years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem eight years.6 He followed the ways of the kings of Israel, as the house of Ahab had done, for he married a daughter of Ahab. He did evil in the eyes of the LORD. 7 Nevertheless, because of the covenant the LORD had made with David, the LORD was not willing to destroy the house of David. He had promised to maintain a lamp for him and his descendants forever.
   8 In the time of Jehoram, Edom rebelled against Judah and set up its own king. 9 So Jehoram went there with his officers and all his chariots. The Edomites surrounded him and his chariot commanders, but he rose up and broke through by night. 10 To this day Edom has been in rebellion against Judah.
   Libnah revolted at the same time, because Jehoram had forsaken the LORD, the God of his ancestors. 11 He had also built high places on the hills of Judah and had caused the people of Jerusalem to prostitute themselves and had led Judah astray.
   12 Jehoram received a letter from Elijah the prophet, which said:
   “This is what the LORD, the God of your father David, says: ‘You have not followed the ways of your father Jehoshaphat or of Asa king of Judah. 13 But you have followed the ways of the kings of Israel, and you have led Judah and the people of Jerusalem to prostitute themselves, just as the house of Ahab did. You have also murdered your own brothers, members of your own family, men who were better than you. 14 So now the LORD is about to strike your people, your sons, your wives and everything that is yours, with a heavy blow. 15 You yourself will be very ill with a lingering disease of the bowels, until the disease causes your bowels to come out.’”
   16 The LORD aroused against Jehoram the hostility of the Philistines and of the Arabs who lived near the Cushites. 17They attacked Judah, invaded it and carried off all the goods found in the king’s palace, together with his sons and wives. Not a son was left to him except Ahaziah, the youngest.
   18 After all this, the LORD afflicted Jehoram with an incurable disease of the bowels. 19 In the course of time, at the end of the second year, his bowels came out because of the disease, and he died in great pain. His people made no funeral fire in his honor, as they had for his predecessors.
   20 Jehoram was thirty-two years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem eight years. He passed away, to no one’s regret, and was buried in the City of David, but not in the tombs of the kings.

2 Chronicles 22

Ahaziah King of Judah
    1 The people of Jerusalem made Ahaziah, Jehoram’s youngest son, king in his place, since the raiders, who came with the Arabs into the camp, had killed all the older sons. So Ahaziah son of Jehoram king of Judah began to reign.
   2 Ahaziah was twenty-two years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem one year. His mother’s name was Athaliah, a granddaughter of Omri.
   3 He too followed the ways of the house of Ahab, for his mother encouraged him to act wickedly. 4 He did evil in the eyes of the LORD, as the house of Ahab had done, for after his father’s death they became his advisers, to his undoing. 5 He also followed their counsel when he went with Joram son of Ahab king of Israel to wage war against Hazael king of Aram at Ramoth Gilead. The Arameans wounded Joram; 6 so he returned to Jezreel to recover from the wounds they had inflicted on him at Ramoth in his battle with Hazael king of Aram.
   Then Ahaziah son of Jehoram king of Judah went down to Jezreel to see Joram son of Ahab because he had been wounded.
   7 Through Ahaziah’s visit to Joram, God brought about Ahaziah’s downfall. When Ahaziah arrived, he went out with Joram to meet Jehu son of Nimshi, whom the LORD had anointed to destroy the house of Ahab. 8 While Jehu was executing judgment on the house of Ahab, he found the officials of Judah and the sons of Ahaziah’s relatives, who had been attending Ahaziah, and he killed them. 9 He then went in search of Ahaziah, and his men captured him while he was hiding in Samaria. He was brought to Jehu and put to death. They buried him, for they said, “He was a son of Jehoshaphat, who sought the LORD with all his heart.” So there was no one in the house of Ahaziah powerful enough to retain the kingdom.
Athaliah and Joash
    10 When Athaliah the mother of Ahaziah saw that her son was dead, she proceeded to destroy the whole royal family of the house of Judah. 11 But Jehosheba, the daughter of King Jehoram, took Joash son of Ahaziah and stole him away from among the royal princes who were about to be murdered and put him and his nurse in a bedroom. Because Jehosheba, the daughter of King Jehoram and wife of the priest Jehoiada, was Ahaziah’s sister, she hid the child from Athaliah so she could not kill him. 12 He remained hidden with them at the temple of God for six years while Athaliah ruled the land.

John 14

Jesus Comforts His Disciples
    1 “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. 2 My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. 4 You know the way to the place where I am going.”
Jesus the Way to the Father
    Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?”
   6 Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7 If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.”
   8 Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.”
   9 Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10 Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you I do not speak on my own authority. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. 11 Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the works themselves. 12 Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. 13 And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.
Jesus Promises the Holy Spirit
    15 “If you love me, keep my commands. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever— 17 the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. 18 I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. 19 Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. 20 On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. 21Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them.”
   22 Then Judas (not Judas Iscariot) said, “But, Lord, why do you intend to show yourself to us and not to the world?”
   23 Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. 24 Anyone who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me.
   25 “All this I have spoken while still with you. 26 But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. 27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.
   28 “You heard me say, ‘I am going away and I am coming back to you.’ If you loved me, you would be glad that I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I. 29 I have told you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe. 30 I will not say much more to you, for the prince of this world is coming. He has no hold over me, 31 but he comes so that the world may learn that I love the Father and do exactly what my Father has commanded me.
   “Come now; let us leave.

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Hagar

The Woman Who Lost a Bottle But Found a Well

Name Meaning—Hagar, an Egyptian name, closely resembles the root of the Arabic, flight, familiar to us as the history of Mohammed, descendant of Hagar. It may be taken as an adaptation of her original name to the principal circumstances of her life, and understood to mean, fugitive or immigrant, which Hagar became.
Family Connections—While the Bible gives us no record of Hagar’s genealogy, legend has supplied her pedigree, as being the daughter of Pharaoh, the king of Egypt, the same who coveted the possession of Sarah in vain. This legendary source affirms that the Egyptian princess became so attached to Sarah that she told her royal father that she would accompany her when she returned to Abraham.
“What!” cried the king, “thou wilt be no more than a handmaid to her!”
“Better to be a handmaid in the tents of Abraham than a princess in this palace,” the daughter replied.
Hagar would not stay behind and join again in the idolatrous rites of her home, so when Abraham and Sarah moved on, she went with them. Sarah was an active missionary of the faith of Jehovah among women, as Abraham was among men, and so Hagar became a convert to the worship of the true God. While this is a pleasing tradition, the likelihood is that Hagar was an Egyptian girl-slave whom Sarah secured for her household while she and Abraham were in Egypt. Hagar bore Abraham his first son, Ishmael, and thus became the foundress of the Ishmaelites and Arab peoples from whom came Mohammed, the founder of Islam.
If Hagar was a slave girl then her mistress was legally entitled to do as she pleased with her. Knowing that it was humanly impossible for her to have children by Abraham, she gave her handmaid to him, that she might have children by her—a custom consistent with moral standards prevailing at that time. Abraham reminded Sarah that her word was law to her own slave and that he had no choice in the matter. Under Sumero-Babylonian law there is this clause in Hammurabi’s Code—
If she has given a maid to her husband and she has borne children and afterwards that maid has made herself equal with her mistress, because she has borne children her mistress shall not sell her for money, she shall reduce her to bondage and count her among the female slaves.
But Sarah ran ahead of God in giving a Gentile idolater from a pagan country to Abraham to bear the promised seed. Poor Hagar—she became the helpless victim of Sarah’s scheming! The whole affair was a sin before God—a sin all three were guilty of. Sarah distrusted God when she resorted to such a wicked expedient. As a child of faith, did she not know that God was able to raise up children out of stones unto Abraham? As for this “friend of God,” in spite of current custom, he should have stoutly refused Sarah’s scheme and obeyed the law of God, and believed the divine promise made to him. The attempt to secure the Child of Promise by Hagar was the result of a lack of faith in God’s omnipotence. Then, Hagar, although the least free and the least responsible, should not have yielded to such an unholy alliance merely to gratify any ambition she may have had. What sorrow, anguish and loneliness Hagar reaped for her compliance in such a plan to forestall God’s promise of an heir for Abraham (Genesis 15:45).
Although the chapter recording the unworthy method of trying to fulfill a divine purpose is only a short one, yet like the shortest verse in the Bible, it is saturated with tears. Genesis 16 is made up of only sixteen verses and with such we have these three features—

The Folly of Sarah

We have already seen that Sarah’s folly had its root in unbelief. She was impatient, and wanted the promised child without delay. Her unbelief became contagious for “Abraham hearkened unto her voice.” The pious phrases she uttered were worthless. “The Lord judge” (16:5). She should have appealed for judgment to the Lord before she took the wrong step. She was a godly woman (Hebrews 11:11 ), but fell into the meshes of unbelief. With distrust there came dishonor. She confessed “my wrong,” but Hagar was the real sufferer, and Sarah’s sin bore bitter fruit, for when she gave Hagar to Abraham, she originated a rivalry which has run in the keenest animosity through the ages, and which oceans of blood have not quenched.

The Flight of Hagar

Strife quickly followed the human arrangement which Sarah had made. Having conceived by Abraham, Hagar chides the childless Sarah, and the jealousy begotten between these two women was transplanted to their maternal hearts and penetrated even their children. Ishmael came to tease and vex Isaac, and discord arose between Abraham and Sarah. The ill treatment accorded to Hagar by Sarah was not only cruel, but also irrational. Had Sarah not instigated the wrongdoing that was the cause of her jealousy? Therefore it was unreasonable for her to lay the blame upon another. As things were, mistress and maid could scarcely dwell together, so Hagar fled. Better a flight than a fight! Being compelled to flee was a thing forbidden to a bondwoman.
Far from home in “the way to Shur,” the appearance of a calm and gracious angelic messenger from God must have been a relief to the poor, pregnant fugitive. As Hagar traveled further from her jealous mistress the Lord was at her heels, and said to her in her distress, “Return to thy mistress.” Hagar had left her position as handmaid without notice and without permission, so she must return. Sarah had wronged her, but she was not permitted to retaliate by doing wrong herself. Two wrongs do not make a right. It was no easy matter for Hagar to return and submit herself to Sarah, but it was the only right course, and a divine revelation helped her to pursue it.
At that renowned well Hagar met God, and in awe cried, “Thou God seest me.” He had given her counsel, and although not pleasing to flesh and blood, Hagar took it and went back to Sarah. Had she persisted in remaining in the desert she might have died in it. God gave her a promise that although the wrongdoing of her master and mistress had led her into a false position, yet His favor would rest upon her and she would have a son who would be the progenitor of a great multitude. The soothing promise of God was a balm for the wounded spirit of the poor and lowly handmaid. Though Ishmael, the name God gave Hagar for her coming son, might not be the Child of Promise as Isaac would be, yet he would be the child of a promise made to her.
Is it to be wondered at that she called the well where God spoke to her and revealed the future of her son “Beth-lahairoi,” meaning, “The well of Him that liveth and seeth me”? It was there that the veil fell from Hagar’s eyes, and she received the assurance that she was the object of God’s special care. Dr. Alexander Whyte extols Hagar for her submission to God in this glowing fashion—
Hagar, by reason of the extremity of her sorrow; by reason of the utter desolateness and brokenness of her heart; and by reason of the sovereign grace and abounding mercy of God—Hagar, I say, stands out before us in the very foremost rank of faith, and trust, and experience, and assurance. Hagar, to me, stands out among God’s very electest saints. Hagar has only one or two who can stand beside her in her discovery of God, in her nearness to God, in her face-to-face fellowship with God, in the instructiveness, in the comfort, and in the hopefulness of her so close communion with God.... The best and the most blessed of them all was not more or better blessed than was Hagar the polluted outcast on her weeping way to Shur. The pure in heart shall see God.

The Forecast Concerning Ishmael

In the strength of the revelation of God received in the desert, Hagar returned to her mistress and bore Abraham his child. Abraham was 86 years of age (Genesis 16:16) and then, when he reached his 100th year (Genesis 21:5 ), Sarah bore him Isaac. This means that for over 14 years Hagar and her son lived in the patriarch’s home with all the tension and feeling there must have been as Sarah daily looked upon the son of her husband by another woman. After Isaac was born Hagar and Ishmael began to manifest their jealousy, and when Ishmael began to maltreat Isaac, Sarah could stand it no longer, and compelled Abraham to cast out the bondwoman and her child. As Bible names often set forth some feature of the character or history of those who bore them, so Ishmael meaning “God shall hear,” was fully understood by Hagar when in the wilderness ( Genesis 21:9-21) God heard the moaning of her broken heart.
How painters and poets have seized upon this pathetic incident of the poor woman and her boy in the wilderness, thirst-ridden and ready to die! One of the finest masterpieces adorning the Dresden Gallery is the painting called Hagar in the Wilderness—and cold is the heart that can gaze upon it without deep emotion. The boy is pictured on his back, dying with thirst, while his poor but beautiful mother in an agonizing prayer, “lifted up her voice and wept,” saying, “Let me not see the death of the child.” Could anything be more poignant? True, Hagar had “despised Sarah” and “mocked Isaac,” but surely she had not deserved such cruel treatment as this—death from hunger and thirst in a barren land!
But how Hagar’s extremity became God’s opportunity. When the last drop of water had gone, and Hagar tenderly places her almost dead boy under the shrubs, God heard the dying cry of the lad, and also the wail of Hagar’s broken heart, for out of heaven came His voice, “What aileth thee, Hagar? Fear not.” Then God opened her eyes and she saw a well of water, and both she and her boy were saved from death. Abraham had given Hagar a bottle, but it was soon empty. God gave her a well, and the lad drank and God was with him, and he grew and became an archer in the wilderness. The last glimpse we have of Hagar is of her securing a wife for her son, out of the land of Egypt, her own land ( Genesis 21:21)—the land of idols and worldliness. Untaught by the piety and instruction of Abraham, and by God’s mercy to herself, Hagar failed Him in the choice of such a wife for the boy whom He had blessed.
The practical lessons to be learned from the history of Hagar have been fittingly summarized by Dr. James Crichton in his article on Hagar in The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia
The life and experience of Hagar teach, among other truths, the temptations incident to a new position; the foolishness of hasty action in times of trial and difficulty; the care exercised over the lonely by the all-seeing God; the Divine purpose in the life of everyone, however obscure and friendless; how God works out His gracious purposes by seemingly harsh methods; and the strength, comfort and encouragement that ever accompany the hardest experiences of His children.
It only remains to be said that Paul uses the story of Hagar as an allegory to distinguish law from grace ( Galatians 4:21-31). Hagar the bondwoman is contrasted with Sarah the freewoman, and Ishmael “born after the flesh” with Isaac “born through promise”; thence freedom and grace appear as the characteristic qualities of Christianity. Hagar represents the Old Covenant and Sarah the New Covenant which is superior to the Old with its ordinances. Under grace all within the household of faith live by faith, and Sarah represents “the Jerusalem that is above”—“our mother” (rv ), which is the free spiritual city to which all children of the promise even now belong (Philippians 3:21).

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Shaphan [Shā'phan]—prudent, shy, rock badger or wild rat.
  1. A scribe, son of Azaliah, father of Gemariah. It was this Shaphan who laid before King Josiah the law book discovered by Hilkiah in the temple (2 Kings 22:3-142 Chron. 34:8-20Jer. 36:10-12) and who was the chief lay leader in the outworking of Josiah’s reforms. For two generations his family played a worthy part as servants of Jehovah and as friends of Jeremiah.
  2. Father of Ahikam, a chief officer in the court of Josiah ( 2 Kings 22:1225:222 Chron. 34:20Jer. 26:2439:14;40:541:243:6).
  3. A father of Elasah by whom Jeremiah the prophet sent a letter to the exiles in Babylon ( Jer. 29:3).
  4. The father of Jaaganiah whom Ezekiel saw as enticing people to idolatry and whom he denounced as a ringleader (Ezek. 8:11).

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Skills: Systems Thinking

According to a popular story, a great orchestra had gathered to rehearse with the celebrated conductor Sir Michael Costa. As the music reached a crescendo, every instrument was being played-except for one. Distracted, the piccolo player had momentarily lost his place on the page of music. He hoped his instrument wouldn't be missed. Suddenly, Costa brought down his arm and silenced the orchestra. "Where's the piccolo?" he inquired. To a skilled conductor, and a skilled leader, every part of the system is crucial-even those that may seem less important.
That is the point being made by the apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 12:12-29. Paul observed that, even though Christ's body is comprised of many members, it is, like the human body, still one body. And even though that body encompasses great diversity, every member is equally a part.
Paul's point has nothing to do with human anatomy. He wanted to ensure that every follower of Christ will feel important, will be assured that his or her contribution is crucial. No one has the right to act as though he or she is separate from the body. Nor may the members of Christ's body envy one another.
While we may wish that we (or others) were different, the bottom line is that God created each of us just as he wanted us to be (v. 18) and calls upon each of us to faithfully serve according to our unique calling. And as leaders, we're to view every member of our team as a crucial part of the system, to help each individual to discover his or her role and play it.
How do you feel about your role on your current team or on teams with whom you've been involved in the past? How do you feel about the roles of other team members? What could you do to demonstrate that you value each member and want to strengthen his or her relationship with the rest of the system?
Systems Thinking and Who God Is
Effective Leaders have discovered that tasks are best accomplished and goals best achieved by organizing and implementing systems. In doing so, we are really imitating God, who has a passion for order and harmony. Turn to the note on Colossians 1:13-20 to study the whole of creation as a system that is ordered and sustained by Christ.
Systems Thinking and Who I Am
God has designed organic systems in such a way that they transform sunlight, water and other nonliving substances into living entities. These organic systems incorporate inanimate materials not only to sustain but also to reproduce themselves. Turn to John 15:1-8 to consider Jesus' profound allegory about the vine and the fruit produced by its branches.
Systems Thinking and How It Works
Organizations often act in surprising and even seemingly strange ways. Distant events and decisions made by people in other companies-or countries-can have a powerful influence on our operation. Jonah made decisions that nearly cost the lives of people he did not personally know. Jonah 1:1-17 provides a powerful illustration of systems at work.
Systems Thinking and What I Do
In Nehemiah 2:1-9 we read about Nehemiah's unique ability to solve complex problems. His methods illustrate the two elements of systems thinking articulated by Peter Senge. As we understand these two elements, they'll help us better solve problems we face as leaders.

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The believer’s challenge

“Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us.” Romans 8:34
Suggested Further Reading: Romans 6:1-11
Christ was in his death the hostage of the people of God. He was the representative of all the elect. When Christ was bound to the tree, I see my own sin bound there; when he died every believer virtually died in him; when he was buried we were buried in him, and when he was in the tomb, he was, as it were, God’s hostage for all his church, for all that ever should believe on him. Now, as long as he was in prison, although there might be ground of hope, it was but as light sown for the righteous; but when the hostage came out, behold the first fruit of the harvest! When God said, “Let my Anointed go free, I am satisfied and content in him,” then every elect vessel went free in him; then every child of God was released from imprisonment no more to die, not to know bondage or fetter for ever. I do see ground for hope when Christ is bound, for he is bound for me; I do see reason for rejoicing when he dies, for he dies for me, and in my room and stead; I do see a theme for solid satisfaction in his burial, for he is buried for me; but when he comes out of the grave, having swallowed up death in victory, my hope bursts into joyous song. He lives , and because he lives I shall live also. He is delivered and I am delivered too. Death has no more dominion over him and no more dominion over me; his deliverance is mine, his freedom mine for ever. Again, I repeat it, the believer should take strong draughts of consolation here. Christ is risen from the dead, how can we be condemned?
For meditation: The reality of having been united with Christ in his death, burial and resurrection should be acted out in believer’s baptism; but it should also be acted out in believer’s daily living (1 Peter 3:21-4: 2).
Sermon no. 256
5 June (1859)


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Regeneration Is Immediate

Luke 1:39-45 "When Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit" ( v. 41).
Today we will examine the immediacy of regeneration. Typically, when we speak of something being immediate we are speaking of something that happens in time. In other words, the term immediate refers to something that happens instantly or suddenly. If we say that Sarah asked her husband to come into the kitchen and he immediately goes there, we mean that Sarah's husband did not hesitate even for a moment to fulfill her request.
However, we are not referring to time when we say that regeneration is immediate. Instead, we mean that the new birth is something that happens without means. God the Holy Spirit alone works upon the soul, He does not use any other agent to change the heart. Now, it is true that God's Spirit brings a person to salvation through the preaching of the Gospel, for someone must know about his sin and the grace offered in Christ if he is going to repent and believe (Rom. 10:14-17 ). Yet the quickening power of the Holy Spirit must act on us first, otherwise we remain dead and unable to heed Scripture's call to trust in the Messiah (Eph. 2:4-5).
One possible biblical example of the immediacy of regeneration is the encounter of Elizabeth and Mary recorded in today's passage. Elizabeth's son, John the Baptist, leaps in his mother's womb when she meets Mary (Luke 1:41 ). Some theologians take this as evidence of John's regeneration. He is dancing in the womb because he knows he is in the presence of Jesus, who is in Mary's womb at the time. The precise point at which John was regenerated is unknown of course, but the Lord had to have worked without means to change his heart since in one sense, only God can get to someone in the womb.
Because we are not omniscient like our Creator, we likewise cannot know with surety the precise point the new birth comes to us. We may know the exact time at which we first trusted Jesus, but this faith is evidence of regeneration, not regeneration itself. Still, there is a clear line that separates the regenerate heart from the unregenerate heart. A person is either regenerate or not, for just as no one is almost pregnant, so too is no one almost regenerate.

Coram deo: Living before the face of God

Though God does not make use of any means besides Himself to bring about regeneration, He does work through means in our sanctification, the process of growing in personal holiness. Scripture read and preached, the sacraments, prayer, and so on are all means that the Lord uses to mature us in Christ. When you engage in one of these activities, ask God to make you aware of how it can be used to conform you to the Savior.
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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Regeneration Is Immediate

Though God does not make use of any means besides Himself to bring about regeneration, He does work through means in our sanctification, the process of growing in personal holiness. Scripture read and preached, the sacraments, prayer, and so on are all means that the Lord uses to mature us in Christ. When you engage in one of these activities, ask God to make you aware of how it can be used to conform you to the Savior.
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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Melanie Chitwood
June 4, 2012
Catching the Little Foxes
Melanie Chitwood
"Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you." Ephesians 4:32 (NAS)
My friend Holly has a hard time parking in the garage. It sits at a tricky angle and she has run into the garage wall quite a few times. In fact, her van has plenty of scrapes and dents to prove it.
Her husband Dan could choose many ways to respond-he could be angry every time or he could berate her, but that's not his reaction. He has repeatedly chosen to forgive Holly. Their situation is a great example of one of the "little foxes" mentioned in Song of Solomon 2:15: "Catch all the foxes, those little foxes, before they ruin the vineyard of love, for the grapevines are blossoming!" (NLT).
Theirs is a situation that could have become divisive but because of Dan's gracious response this "little fox" did not ruin their "vineyard of love."
Do any "little foxes" come to mind when you think about your own marriage?
Maybe your spouse was abrupt when speaking to you, didn't give you the attention you wanted, wasn't responsive to intimacy, forgot your anniversary, or got home late without calling recently. Everyday married life presents countless occasions to choose to be offended or to choose to forgive as today's key verses instructs us.
Without forgiveness we'll find ourselves becoming irritated, hard-hearted, bitter, and disconnected from our spouse. A friend taught me one way to make sure this doesn't happen: The moment I feel offended I can choose to forgive. If my spouse says something that makes me mad or hurt, I need to begin praying at that very moment to forgive. Doing this allows God to begin softening our hearts immediately.
In addition to dealing with the little foxes of small offenses, we will sometimes need to forgive our spouses for big offenses. We might be betrayed by unfaithfulness, our trust might be rattled by secrets our spouses keep, or our feelings might be stomped on by spouses who do the same hurtful things over and over again.
If one quality makes a Christian marriage stand out from the rest, it's our choice to forgive our spouse. We might feel as if we're ignoring the offense or giving our stamp of approval by choosing to forgive. Our pride and fear might rise up: What if the offense happens again and again? Will I be taken for a fool? What will others think?
Choosing to forgive is an act of obedience to God's commands. Forgiveness entails choosing, often over and over again, not to dwell on the offense because that would allow a root of bitterness to grow in our hearts. But let's be clear: If you're dealing with a sin issue in marriage, choose to forgive but still spend the needed time talking about the situation, praying separately and together, and seeking godly counsel.
Forgiveness is one of the most essential attitudes for bringing unity and oneness to marriage, and it flows from our relationship with Christ.
Dear Lord, Cover our marriage with a spirit of forgiveness. I confess that sometimes I want to hold a grudge, to retaliate, or to be right, rather than forgive. Lord, I don't want the enemy to get a foothold in our marriage, so through the power of the Holy Spirit, I slam the door on Satan by choosing to forgive my spouse. In Jesus' Name, Amen.
This devotion was adapted from Melanie Chitwood's book, What a Wife Needs from Her Husband
Reflect and Respond:
What "little foxes" come to mind concerning your marriage? Have you chosen to be offended and hurt? Or gracious and forgiving?
Dwell on Christ's forgiveness of your offenses. The moment you feel offended, begin to pray that the Holy Spirit will work through you to forgive your spouse.
Power Verses:
Colossians 3:12-13, "Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Make allowance for each other's faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others." (NLT)
© 2012 by Melanie Chitwood. All rights reserved.
Proverbs 31 Ministries
616-G Matthews-Mint Hill Road
Matthews, NC 28105
www.Proverbs31.org

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June 4, 2012
Whoever said, "Don't Ever Change," Didn't Know You Very WellSharon Jaynes
Today's Truth
"
And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit,"
 (2 Corinthians 3:18 NIV).
Friend to Friend
Isn't it funny what you think you know in High School? I was looking back through my old High School Yearbook, 1975 to be exact. It was my Senior year. The end of an era. We were the Gryphons, oh yeah...mighty, mighty Gryphons, oh yeah. (The Gryphon was our team mascot, for all those who might not know the cheer).
The skirts were short, the bellbottoms were wide, and the hair...oh the hair. My white friends all had long straight hair parted down the middle like the Red Sea – both the boys and the girls. My African American friends had big afros – really big. (Now don't anybody send me an email saying I've offended you. You know seventy's hair was a sight to behold. Come on. Admit it.)
But what interested me the most were all the farewell notes written throughout the pages by friends, and some folks I barely even knew. Of course people tried to write nice things about each other. "You are so sweet." "You are nice." "You had cool clothes." "You'll go far in life," whatever that meant. Others wrote about favorite memories shared.  "I remember when...." "I'll never forget when..." What's funny is I can't remember half of what the "I'll never forget" comments were talking about.
In all the scribbled farewells and best wishes, one line stuck out among all the rest. "Don't ever change." It was repeated time and time again. I wonder how many times I wrote that same line in someone else's yearbook.
Oh my mercy. I can't imagine what I'd be like if I had followed that astute wisdom from my fellow classmates. "Don't ever change." It's frightening!
I can almost hear Satan giving a big Gryphon cheer. "That's right girl! Don't ever change! Stay the same ole' insecure girl you've always been! Keep feeling like you're not good enough, not smart enough, not talented enough and not pretty enough! Don't ever change! Don't grow in your relationship with Jesus. You know everything you need to know right now. You've got your ticket to heaven. That's enough. You don't need to learn anymore of that Bible stuff. Don't ever change. You're fine just the way you are!"
Well praise God I didn't follow the advice written in my High School yearbook. I did change...a lot. And I've got more changing to do...a lot.
All through the New Testament, Paul wrote letters to Christians encouraging them not to stay the way they were, but to change. Here's just one example in his letter he wrote to the Ephesians church:
So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. 
You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.
Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body. "In your anger do not sin": Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold. Anyone who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with their own hands, that they may have something to share with those in need.
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...  Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.
I think if Paul had been a fellow Gryphon, and written in my High School yearbook, he would have penned something like the following: "Please, Sharon, whatever you do, change! Don't stay the same as you are today. Continue to grow and mature in your faith. Make it your goal to become more and more like Jesus with each passing day. And Sharon, please do something about that hair."
Let's Pray
Dear Lord, Thank you for accepting me just the way I am, but loving me too much to let me stay that way. I don't want to stay the same, but to grow more and more into a reflection of your glory with each passing day. Change me, Lord. 
In Jesus' Name,
Amen.
Now It's Your TurnPaul wrote several similar passages to the one in Ephesians above. Pick one of the following and read today.

Colossians 3:1-17
Galatians 5:16-26
1 Thessalonians 4:1-12
What is one thing about your character or lifestyle that God has changed over the past year. Let's share our answers. Log onto www.facebook.com/sharonjaynes to comment.
More From The Girlfriends If you would like to learn more about how to experience real and lasting change – change from the inside out, then you'll want to read Sharon's book, Becoming Spiritually Beautiful. Discover the beauty that comes only through a personal, ongoing, vibrant relationship with Jesus. While you're on her website, www.sharonjaynes.com, check out the free printable resources and free book sample downloads.
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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Day 4

After the first morning hour [of prayer], the Christian's day until evening belongs to work. "People go out to their work and to their labor until the evening" (Ps. 104:23 ). In most cases a community of Christians living together will separate for the duration of the working hours. Praying and working are two different things. Prayer should not be hindered by work, but neither should work be hindered by prayer. Just as it was God's will that human beings should work six days and rest and celebrate before the face of God on the seventh, so it is also God's will that every day should be marked for the Christian both by prayer and work. Prayer also requires its own time. But the longest part of the day belongs to work. The inseparable unity of both will become clear when work and prayer each receives its own undivided due.

Biblical Wisdom

Whatever your task, put yourselves into it, as done for the Lord and not for your masters, since you know that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward; you serve the Lord Christ. Colossians 3:23

Questions to Ponder

  • In what ways might prayer be hindered by work?
  • In what ways might work be hindered by prayer?
  • How are prayer and work related to each other?

Psalm Fragment

Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us,
   and prosper for us the work of our hands․ 
   O prosper the work of our hands! Psalm 90:17

Journal Reflections

  • Reflect on the work you do. Is it satisfying and meaningful? Is it work that reflects your values? Is it work that reflects your faith? Explain.
  • In what ways does prayer support you in your work? In what ways does prayer help to shape your work and the way you do it?
  • Besides the work you do for income, what other kinds of meaningful work do you do at home or in the community? How does prayer relate to that work?

Intercessions

Pray for your co-workers, that they might find real satisfaction and meaning in their work. Pray for your workplace relationships, particularly those where there may be conflict and tension. Pray that you and your co-workers would be mutually supportive and encouraging.

Prayer for Today

Lord, when I go out to work may I go joyfully and with enthusiasm for the tasks at hand. May my work be good for me and good for others.
40-Day Journey with Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Copyright © 2007 Augsburg Books, imprint of Augsburg Fortress.

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But for a Moment

After the wicked King Louis XIV of France revoked the Edict of Nantes and condemned tens of thousands of the noblest men and women of France to torture and to death, many brave women were imprisoned in a huge tower called the Tour de Constance. The dungeon was a terrible place; its walls were 15 feet thick, and it was lighted only by narrow embrasures. The sister of a martyred minister lived for 36 years in that prison, and never gave way.
When at last the Huguenot women were released in 1768, someone found a word scored in the middle of the hard stone floor. The inscription is hardly readable, and to see it on a fine summer day, one has to kneel down and have a candle lighted; otherwise it is too dark. That one word is Resist. It is thought that some woman carved it, perhaps with a needle (the tracing is so faint), toiling at that word to help and strengthen herself and others, so that after she was gone they might be encouraged in their resolve to endure till the end. Surely the powers of endurance that God can give to the human soul are beyond our understanding. These women had not even the comfort of their Bibles. They had nothing, nothing-but God. Can the God who so gloriously nourished them with heavenly strength not feed us also, in our lesser needs, as we wait day by day upon him?
When we think of suffering, such as myriads have endured in all ages, in all lands, and of the suffering, too, that many are enduring today, our own little troubles and difficulties seem too small to think about at all, and we can only find relief in praying for those who suffer. And yet, though this is so, sometimes our trifles can try us a good deal, and those words, "And even this shall pass," may perhaps bring comfort to some among us. At longest it is "but for a moment," and then . . . ?
-Amy Carmichael

Reflection

  1. What area of your life seems lost or hopeless? Ask God for the strength to resist giving way to discouragement.
  2. How does God's promise to "repay you for the years the locusts have eaten" give you hope?
  3. How does the thought that what you are enduring is "but for a moment" in light of eternity bring you comfort?
Joel 2:25, 27 
"I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten-the great locust and the young locust, the other locusts and the locust swarm-my great army that I sent among you . . . Then you will know that I am in Israel, that I am the LORD your God, and that there is no other; never again will my people be shamed."

Related Readings

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NIV Devotions for Moms

Behind Bars

Additional Scripture Readings: Deuteronomy 30:8–10; Philippians 1:12–29
Did you know that the most prolific writer of the New Testament was a jailbird? Paul was imprisoned on several occasions because he persisted in preaching the gospel. While serving time in a cell, Paul learned patience and resourcefulness, which carried God’s message through the bars of his prison and out into the world.
How did it happen? First, Paul focused on the needs close at hand. While he was captive, he captivated his caretakers with stories of Jesus. Rather than pining about those he couldn’t reach, he touched those at his elbow with God’s love.
Second, Paul kept problems and persecutions in his short-term memory and God’s purposes in his long-term memory. He accepted God’s plan for his days, even if that meant he spent them in prison. He kept his mind on the eternal picture.
Most of us feel at some time like we’re stuck in prison—stuck behind bars. In the days when we’re mothering babies and stuck inside a house, or buckled into the chauffeur position in the car, or cemented into the roles of provider and nurturer, it’s easy to feel incarcerated! But in the midst of “captivity,” God can use us to captivate others.
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LIVING TO PLEASE GOD – WITHOUT FEAR

For I am the LORD your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you. Isaiah 41:13
Today we share the testimony of overcoming fear from Sister Sarah in Bangladesh:
“I knew my husband since childhood. We grew up in same village and studied in same school. But his family was devoted to Islam; his father was a Muslim imam. Just imagine the disappointment when his family learned that he became a Christian! To leave Islam and marry me, a Christian girl, is to bring great shame to his family. It was like pouring more oil into the fire! His family plotted to kill him, but God save my husband from their hands.
“My in-laws blamed me and my parents for my husband’s conversion. My parents received lots of threats, finally forcing my parents to move to another place. Those days were very painful for me but my husband and I always prayed, ‘Lord help us stand firm in our faith.’ God would speak to my heart through His Word that He held me by His right hand… that I didn’t need to be afraid, because He was there to help (Isaiah 41:13).
“The first few years of my marriage were the toughest. We feared for our lives every night. During those years, we moved six times because of threat from my in-laws. After three years or so, my in-laws rejected my husband completely and they left him without inheritance. It was painful, but I also felt relieved, because that meant there would be fewer threats.
“When the tension lessened, I joined an organization that was working among disadvantaged women. I found joy in being with lots of people. I felt satisfaction in what I was doing, though it was for a secular company. Later on, however, it motivated me to pursue working with a Christian ministry. I began praying, ‘Lord I want to serve You by serving Your people. Would You please open a door for me and equip me for Your work?’
“God was quick to answer! In 2008, my husband and I enrolled in a Bible school abroad through the support of Open Doors. Throughout those four years of seminary training, God taught me to develop inner beauty through faith, obedience, courage, and prayer. I became more confident in introducing Christ to others, more supportive of my husband as he fulfilled his calling and potential, and more conscious of helping my children grow up as God-fearing persons.
“This year, we returned to our home country Bangladesh. My husband got an opportunity to serve God and His people through a Christian organization. Please pray that God will help me encourage my husband so that he remains faithful in his calling, raise my kids in a godly way, and obey His command to make disciples.”
RESPONSE: Today I will thank God that He is with me and I do not need to fear anything or anyone!
PRAYER: Pray that God’s promises will sustain Sarah and her husband in living for God without fear in their new ministry.
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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Baptismal regeneration

‘He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.’ Mark 16:15–16
Suggested Further Reading: Romans 6:3–4
What connection has baptism with faith? I think it has just this,baptism is the avowal of faith; the man was Christ’s soldier, but now in baptism he puts on his regimentals. The man believed in Christ, but his faith remained between God and his own soul. In baptism he says to the baptizer, ‘I believe in Jesus Christ;’ he says to the church, ‘I unite with you as a believer in the common truths of Christianity;’ he says to the onlooker, ‘Whatever you may do, as for me, I will serve the Lord.’ It is the avowal of his faith.
Next, we think baptism is also to the believer a testimony of his faith ; he does in baptism tell the world what he believes. ‘I am about,’ says he, ‘to be buried in water. I believe that the Son of God was metaphorically baptized in suffering: I believe he was literally dead and buried.’ To rise again out of the water sets forth to all men that he believes in the resurrection of Christ. There is a showing forth in the Lord’s Supper of Christ’s death, and there is a showing forth in baptism of Christ’s burial and resurrection. It is a type, a sign, a symbol, a mirror to the world: a looking-glass in which religion is as it were reflected. We say to the onlooker, when he asks what is the meaning of this ordinance, ‘we mean to set forth our faith that Christ was buried, and that he rose again from the dead, and we avow this death and resurrection to be the ground of our trust.’
Again, baptism is also faith taking her proper place. It is, or should be, one of her first acts of obedience.
For meditation: This sermon, preached against the doctrine of baptismal regeneration, provoked a fierce backlash against Spurgeon. Baptism comes second to repentance (Acts 2:38), receiving the word (Acts 2:41 ) and believing the gospel (Acts 8:12,3718:8), things which a baby cannot consciously do.
Sermon no. 573
5 June (1864)



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