Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Daily Devotional Wednesday 13th June

A psalm of David. The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge.” Psalm 19:1-2 NIV
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Morning and Evening by Charles Spurgeon

Morning

"Whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely."
Revelation 22:17
Jesus says, "take freely." He wants no payment or preparation. He seeks no recommendation from our virtuous emotions. If you have no good feelings, if you be but willing, you are invited; therefore come! You have no belief and no repentance,--come to him, and he will give them to you. Come just as you are, and take "Freely," without money and without price. He gives himself to needy ones. The drinking fountains at the corners of our streets are valuable institutions; and we can hardly imagine any one so foolish as to feel for his purse, when he stands before one of them, and to cry, "I cannot drink because I have not five pounds in my pocket." However poor the man is, there is the fountain, and just as he is he may drink of it. Thirsty passengers, as they go by, whether they are dressed in fustian or in broadcloth, do not look for any warrant for drinking; its being there is their warrant for taking its water freely. The liberality of some good friends has put the refreshing crystal there and we take it, and ask no questions. Perhaps the only persons who need go thirsty through the street where there is a drinking fountain, are the fine ladies and gentlemen who are in their carriages. They are very thirsty, but cannot think of being so vulgar as to get out to drink. It would demean them, they think, to drink at a common drinking fountain: so they ride by with parched lips. Oh, how many there are who are rich in their own good works and cannot therefore come to Christ! "I will not be saved," they say, "in the same way as the harlot or the swearer." What! go to heaven in the same way as a chimney sweep. Is there no pathway to glory but the path which led the thief there? I will not be saved that way. Such proud boasters must remain without the living water; but, "Whosoever will, let him TAKE THE WATER OF LIFE FREELY."

Evening

"Remove far from me vanity and lies."
Proverbs 30:8
"O my God, be not far from me."
--Psalm 38:21
Here we have two great lessons--what to deprecate and what to supplicate. The happiest state of a Christian is the holiest state. As there is the most heat nearest to the sun, so there is the most happiness nearest to Christ. No Christian enjoys comfort when his eyes are fixed on vanity--he finds no satisfaction unless his soul is quickened in the ways of God. The world may win happiness elsewhere, but he cannot. I do not blame ungodly men for rushing to their pleasures. Why should I? Let them have their fill. That is all they have to enjoy. A converted wife who despaired of her husband was always very kind to him, for she said, "I fear that this is the only world in which he will be happy, and therefore I have made up my mind to make him as happy as I can in it." Christians must seek their delights in a higher sphere than the insipid frivolities or sinful enjoyments of the world. Vain pursuits are dangerous to renewed souls. We have heard of a philosopher who, while he looked up to the stars, fell into a pit; but how deeply do they fall who look down. Their fall is fatal. No Christian is safe when his soul is slothful, and his God is far from him. Every Christian is always safe as to the great matter of his standing in Christ, but he is not safe as regards his experience in holiness, and communion with Jesus in this life. Satan does not often attack a Christian who is living near to God. It is when the Christian departs from his God, becomes spiritually starved, and endeavours to feed on vanities, that the devil discovers his vantage hour. He may sometimes stand foot to foot with the child of God who is active in his Master's service, but the battle is generally short: he who slips as he goes down into the Valley of Humiliation, every time he takes a false step invites Apollyon to assail him. O for grace to walk humbly with our God!

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Today's reading: Ezra 3-5, John 20 (NIV)

View today's reading on Bible Gateway 
Rebuilding the Altar
    When the seventh month came and the Israelites had settled in their towns, the people assembled together as one in Jerusalem. 2 Then Joshua son of Jozadak and his fellow priests and Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel and his associates began to build the altar of the God of Israel to sacrifice burnt offerings on it, in accordance with what is written in the Law of Moses the man of God. 3 Despite their fear of the peoples around them, they built the altar on its foundation and sacrificed burnt offerings on it to the LORD, both the morning and evening sacrifices. 4 Then in accordance with what is written, they celebrated the Festival of Tabernacles with the required number of burnt offerings prescribed for each day. 5 After that, they presented the regular burnt offerings, the New Moon sacrifices and the sacrifices for all the appointed sacred festivals of the LORD, as well as those brought as freewill offerings to the LORD. 6 On the first day of the seventh month they began to offer burnt offerings to the LORD, though the foundation of the LORD’s temple had not yet been laid.
Rebuilding the Temple
    7 Then they gave money to the masons and carpenters, and gave food and drink and olive oil to the people of Sidon and Tyre, so that they would bring cedar logs by sea from Lebanon to Joppa, as authorized by Cyrus king of Persia.
   8 In the second month of the second year after their arrival at the house of God in Jerusalem, Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, Joshua son of Jozadak and the rest of the people (the priests and the Levites and all who had returned from the captivity to Jerusalem) began the work. They appointed Levites twenty years old and older to supervise the building of the house of the LORD. 9 Joshua and his sons and brothers and Kadmiel and his sons (descendants of Hodaviah) and the sons of Henadad and their sons and brothers—all Levites—joined together in supervising those working on the house of God.
   10 When the builders laid the foundation of the temple of the LORD, the priests in their vestments and with trumpets, and the Levites (the sons of Asaph) with cymbals, took their places to praise the LORD, as prescribed by David king of Israel. 11With praise and thanksgiving they sang to the LORD:
   “He is good; 
   his love toward Israel endures forever.”
   And all the people gave a great shout of praise to the LORD, because the foundation of the house of the LORD was laid. 12But many of the older priests and Levites and family heads, who had seen the former temple, wept aloud when they saw the foundation of this temple being laid, while many others shouted for joy. 13 No one could distinguish the sound of the shouts of joy from the sound of weeping, because the people made so much noise. And the sound was heard far away.

Ezra 4

Opposition to the Rebuilding
    1 When the enemies of Judah and Benjamin heard that the exiles were building a temple for the LORD, the God of Israel, 2they came to Zerubbabel and to the heads of the families and said, “Let us help you build because, like you, we seek your God and have been sacrificing to him since the time of Esarhaddon king of Assyria, who brought us here.”
   3 But Zerubbabel, Joshua and the rest of the heads of the families of Israel answered, “You have no part with us in building a temple to our God. We alone will build it for the LORD, the God of Israel, as King Cyrus, the king of Persia, commanded us.”
   4 Then the peoples around them set out to discourage the people of Judah and make them afraid to go on building. 5 They bribed officials to work against them and frustrate their plans during the entire reign of Cyrus king of Persia and down to the reign of Darius king of Persia.
Later Opposition Under Xerxes and Artaxerxes
    6 At the beginning of the reign of Xerxes, they lodged an accusation against the people of Judah and Jerusalem.
   7 And in the days of Artaxerxes king of Persia, Bishlam, Mithredath, Tabeel and the rest of his associates wrote a letter to Artaxerxes. The letter was written in Aramaic script and in the Aramaic language.
   8 Rehum the commanding officer and Shimshai the secretary wrote a letter against Jerusalem to Artaxerxes the king as follows:
   9 Rehum the commanding officer and Shimshai the secretary, together with the rest of their associates—the judges, officials and administrators over the people from Persia, Uruk and Babylon, the Elamites of Susa, 10 and the other people whom the great and honorable Ashurbanipal deported and settled in the city of Samaria and elsewhere in Trans-Euphrates.
   11 (This is a copy of the letter they sent him.)
   To King Artaxerxes,
   From your servants in Trans-Euphrates:
   12 The king should know that the people who came up to us from you have gone to Jerusalem and are rebuilding that rebellious and wicked city. They are restoring the walls and repairing the foundations.
   13 Furthermore, the king should know that if this city is built and its walls are restored, no more taxes, tribute or duty will be paid, and eventually the royal revenues will suffer. 14 Now since we are under obligation to the palace and it is not proper for us to see the king dishonored, we are sending this message to inform the king, 15 so that a search may be made in the archives of your predecessors. In these records you will find that this city is a rebellious city, troublesome to kings and provinces, a place with a long history of sedition. That is why this city was destroyed. 16 We inform the king that if this city is built and its walls are restored, you will be left with nothing in Trans-Euphrates.
   17 The king sent this reply:
   To Rehum the commanding officer, Shimshai the secretary and the rest of their associates living in Samaria and elsewhere in Trans-Euphrates:
   Greetings.
   18 The letter you sent us has been read and translated in my presence. 19 I issued an order and a search was made, and it was found that this city has a long history of revolt against kings and has been a place of rebellion and sedition. 20Jerusalem has had powerful kings ruling over the whole of Trans-Euphrates, and taxes, tribute and duty were paid to them. 21 Now issue an order to these men to stop work, so that this city will not be rebuilt until I so order. 22 Be careful not to neglect this matter. Why let this threat grow, to the detriment of the royal interests?
   23 As soon as the copy of the letter of King Artaxerxes was read to Rehum and Shimshai the secretary and their associates, they went immediately to the Jews in Jerusalem and compelled them by force to stop.
   24 Thus the work on the house of God in Jerusalem came to a standstill until the second year of the reign of Darius king of Persia.

Ezra 5

Tattenai’s Letter to Darius
    1 Now Haggai the prophet and Zechariah the prophet, a descendant of Iddo, prophesied to the Jews in Judah and Jerusalem in the name of the God of Israel, who was over them. 2 Then Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel and Joshua son of Jozadak set to work to rebuild the house of God in Jerusalem. And the prophets of God were with them, supporting them.
   3 At that time Tattenai, governor of Trans-Euphrates, and Shethar-Bozenai and their associates went to them and asked, “Who authorized you to rebuild this temple and to finish it?” 4They also asked, “What are the names of those who are constructing this building?” 5 But the eye of their God was watching over the elders of the Jews, and they were not stopped until a report could go to Darius and his written reply be received.
   6 This is a copy of the letter that Tattenai, governor of Trans-Euphrates, and Shethar-Bozenai and their associates, the officials of Trans-Euphrates, sent to King Darius. 7 The report they sent him read as follows:
   To King Darius:
   Cordial greetings.
   8 The king should know that we went to the district of Judah, to the temple of the great God. The people are building it with large stones and placing the timbers in the walls. The work is being carried on with diligence and is making rapid progress under their direction.
   9 We questioned the elders and asked them, “Who authorized you to rebuild this temple and to finish it?” 10 We also asked them their names, so that we could write down the names of their leaders for your information.
   11 This is the answer they gave us:
   “We are the servants of the God of heaven and earth, and we are rebuilding the temple that was built many years ago, one that a great king of Israel built and finished. 12 But because our ancestors angered the God of heaven, he gave them into the hands of Nebuchadnezzar the Chaldean, king of Babylon, who destroyed this temple and deported the people to Babylon.
   13 “However, in the first year of Cyrus king of Babylon, King Cyrus issued a decree to rebuild this house of God. 14 He even removed from the temple of Babylon the gold and silver articles of the house of God, which Nebuchadnezzar had taken from the temple in Jerusalem and brought to the temple[i] in Babylon. Then King Cyrus gave them to a man named Sheshbazzar, whom he had appointed governor, 15 and he told him, ‘Take these articles and go and deposit them in the temple in Jerusalem. And rebuild the house of God on its site.’
   16 “So this Sheshbazzar came and laid the foundations of the house of God in Jerusalem. From that day to the present it has been under construction but is not yet finished.”
   17 Now if it pleases the king, let a search be made in the royal archives of Babylon to see if King Cyrus did in fact issue a decree to rebuild this house of God in Jerusalem. Then let the king send us his decision in this matter.

John 20

The Empty Tomb
    1 Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance. 2 So she came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, and said, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!”
   3 So Peter and the other disciple started for the tomb. 4 Both were running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. 5 He bent over and looked in at the strips of linen lying there but did not go in. 6 Then Simon Peter came along behind him and went straight into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying there, 7 as well as the cloth that had been wrapped around Jesus’ head. The cloth was still lying in its place, separate from the linen. 8 Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed. 9 (They still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.) 10 Then the disciples went back to where they were staying.
Jesus Appears to Mary Magdalene
    11 Now Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb 12 and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot.
   13 They asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?”
   “They have taken my Lord away,” she said, “and I don’t know where they have put him.” 14 At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus.
   15 He asked her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?”
   Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.”
   16 Jesus said to her, “Mary.”
   She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means “Teacher”).
   17 Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’”
   18 Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: “I have seen the Lord!” And she told them that he had said these things to her.
Jesus Appears to His Disciples
    19 On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 20 After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.
   21 Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” 22 And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”
Jesus Appears to Thomas
    24 Now Thomas (also known as Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!”
   But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”
   26 A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 27Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”
   28 Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!”
   29 Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
The Purpose of John’s Gospel
    30 Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. 31 But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

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Joram [Jō'ram]—jehovah is high.
  1. A son of Toi, king of Zobah (2 Sam. 8:10). Called Hadoram, meaning “Hadah is exalted” (1 Chron. 18:10).
  2. A son of Jehoshaphat, who reigned for eight years ( 2 Kings 8:16-1911:21 Chron. 3:11;Matt. 1:8). Called also Jehoram.
  3. A son of Ahab, king of Israel, who reigned for eleven years. With him the dynasty of Omri ceased ( 2 Kings 8:16-29). Called also Jehoram.
  4. A Levite, descendant of Eliezer the son of Moses (1 Chron. 26:25).
  5. One of the priests sent by Jehoshaphat to instruct the people (2 Chron. 17:8).

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The Pearl of Great Price

Matthew 13:44-46 "Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it" ( vv. 45-46).
Our Savior continues to unfold the "secrets of the kingdom of heaven" (Matt. 13:11), but He switches gears a bit in today's passage to emphasize a truth about the kingdom other than its slow, pervasive growth (vv. 31-33) and the apparent delay of its consummation ( vv. 24-3036-43). With the parables of the hidden treasure (v. 44) and the pearl of great price (vv. 45-46), Jesus conveys powerfully the worth of the kingdom.
Whatever we might say about each parable individually, both tales indicate the kingdom is of such inestimable value that those who understand this truth will do whatever it takes to possess it. If we know God's kingdom in Christ truly, we will not consider it too costly to sell all that we have if that is what it takes to appropriate the kingdom and its treasure. Commenting on the parable of the hidden treasure, Matthew Henry writes of the kingdom: "Those who discern this treasure in the field, and value it aright, will never be at ease until they have made it their own on any terms."
Again, Jesus uses illustrations to which His contemporaries can easily relate. Given the potential for political instability and invasions, as well as the non-existence of safety deposit boxes, ancient Jews often buried their valuables. Sometimes these treasures were abandoned, and finding one that had been left behind was a once-in-a-lifetime event. That such a treasure is found indicates the kingdom's rarity and therefore, its preciousness. Pearls were more highly valued in first-century Palestine than diamonds are in our culture. Other biblical passages use pearls to illustrate all-surpassing worth ( Rev. 21:21), and so Jesus likens the kingdom to a precious pearl.
These parables teach us primarily how we must value Jesus' kingdom. Yet they also tell us about the people our Redeemer saves. As with the man in the field, some "stumble upon" Christ when they are not looking for Him. Others travel various spiritual paths for years before "finding Jesus," just as the merchant searches tirelessly for the costliest pearl. God's grace calls the spiritually apathetic as well as those who believe themselves to be seeking Him.

Coram deo: Living before the face of God

John Calvin says we need the teaching of today's passage because "we are so captivated by the allurements of the world, that eternal life fades from our view; and in consequence of our carnality, the spiritual graces of God are far from being held by us in the estimation which they deserve." On what do you place highest value? Do friends, family, possessions, or anything else take the place of God's kingdom in your heart?
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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The wicked man’s life, funeral, and epitaph

“And so I saw the wicked buried, who had come and gone from the place of the holy, and they were forgotten in the city where they had so done: this also is vanity.” Ecclesiastes 8:10
Suggested Further Reading: Luke 16:19-23
Go into Bunhill Fields, and stand by the memorial of John Bunyan, and you will say, “Ah! There lies the head that contained the brain which thought out that wondrous dream of the Pilgrim’s Progress from the City of Destruction to the Better Land. There lies the finger that wrote those wondrous lines which depict the story of him who came at last to the land Beulah, and waded through the flood, and entered into the celestial city. And there are the eyelids which he once spoke of, when he said, “If I lie in prison until the moss grows on my eyelids, I will never make a promise to withhold from preaching.” And there is that bold eye that penetrated the judge, when he said, “If you will let me out of prison today, I will preach again tomorrow, by the help of God.” And there lies that loving hand that was ever ready to receive into communion all them that loved the Lord Jesus Christ: I love the hand that wrote the book, “Water Baptism no bar to Christian Communion.” I love him for that sake alone, and if he had written nothing else but that, I would say, “John Bunyan, be honoured for ever.” And there lies the foot that carried him up Snow Hill to go and make peace between a father and a son, in that cold day, which cost him his life. Peace to his ashes! Wait, O John Bunyan, till thy Master sends his angel to blow the trumpet; and methinks, when the archangel sounds it, he will almost think of thee, and this shall be a part of his joy, that honest John Bunyan, the greatest of all Englishmen, shall rise from his tomb at the blowing of that great trump. You cannot say so of the wicked.
For meditation: In Heaven the saved are still known by name—Abraham, Lazarus; in hell the lost are at best known only by a description—Dives is just the Latin for “a rich man”. See the contrast in Proverbs 10:7. Are the names and burial-places of John Bunyan’s enemies well known even on earth?
Sermon no. 200
13 June (1858)

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T. Suzanne Eller
June 12, 2012
Broken Places
T. Suzanne Eller
"We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure." 2 Corinthians 4:7a (NLT)
I knew there were secrets. I pressed gently, but she shied away. I prayed she would tell me when she was ready.
The phone call finally came.
"Can you come get me?"
When I arrived I found her battered and we drove to get medical help. On the way she spilled her secrets. Her mother was often beaten. She and her siblings were secondary targets. Leaving home had been her only escape. She had returned to visit, only to find her brother being abused. She stepped in and crushing blows followed. Her father finally stopped when she begged for her life.
Shana came to live with us until she found a safer environment. In those two months we often stayed up late talking. Her greatest fear was that she would always feel broken.
We prayed together that she could move beyond her father's actions.
Paul, an apostle in the Bible, also knew what it was to be bruised and battered. He was imprisoned unfairly. Beaten.
He once described himself as a chipped clay jar, saying, "We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed." Paul had discovered something valuable. There was a light inside that fractured jar healing the hurting places on the interior, then shining through the broken places so that the world could see.
That treasure, nestled in the center of the clay, was Jesus.
As time passed, Shana began to see herself through that light. She wasn't just a battered daughter; she was a woman with purpose. The wounds inflicted by her earthly father took time to heal, but as they did she was led to share her story.
Her message, one she would shout from every mountaintop, is this:
You are loved.
You are made for more than this.
God can and will heal the broken parts of your heart.
Today Shana is a mom and a wife. The treasure inside of this woman illuminates through the once-broken places in a powerful way. She has adopted a son and fostered other children who came to her home with their own broken places, her hope to love them to wholeness. Children trust her because she understands their pain, but also because of the light and love they see inside of her.
Maybe, you were bruised by an earthly parent's words or actions. Can I tell you something? Those words, those actions, they do not define you. You aren't limited by the chips and cracks in the outer shell.
There are thousands, like Shana, like me, who were once chipped and broken. God blazed His light through those cracks, not just healing us, but allowing that light to lead others straight into His loving arms and these truths:
God sees you.
He loves you.
He's reaching to make you whole again.
Dear Lord, I can't change another person's actions or the past, but I can open my heart to the treasure of You. You are the light in the darkness. You are reaching for me today and I am reaching back. Thank You for a fresh beginning inside of me. In Jesus' Name, Amen.
Related Resources:
Do You Know Him?
Visit Suzie's blog for an interview between Suzie and Shana about beginning to heal with God's help.
The Mom I Want to Be by Suzie Eller
Embraced by the Father by Susanne Scheppmann
Join Suzie in her Live Free Facebook community to find daily encouragement on how to live free despite a painful past.
When you purchase resources through Proverbs 31 Ministries, you touch eternity because your purchase supports the many areas of hope-giving ministry we provide at no cost. We wish we could, but we simply can't compete with prices offered by huge online warehouses. Therefore, we are extremely grateful for each and every purchase you make with us. Thank you!
Reflect and Respond:
Your family may have been far from perfect, but Christ offers a family tree, one with a new and beautiful legacy.
Read Ephesians 1:18. Make this paraphrased scripture your prayer today:
I ______________ pray that my heart will be flooded with light so that I can understand the confident hope Christ has given to me, for He has called me as His own to give a rich and glorious inheritance.
Power Verses:
Psalm 147:3, "He heals the brokenhearted and bandages their wounds." (NLT)
Psalm 34:18, "The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those whose spirits are crushed." (NLT)
© 2012 by T. Suzanne Eller. All rights reserved.
Proverbs 31 Ministries
616-G Matthews-Mint Hill Road
Matthews, NC 28105
www.Proverbs31.org

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The Pearl of Great Price

John Calvin says we need the teaching of today's passage because "we are so captivated by the allurements of the world, that eternal life fades from our view; and in consequence of our carnality, the spiritual graces of God are far from being held by us in the estimation which they deserve." On what do you place highest value? Do friends, family, possessions, or anything else take the place of God's kingdom in your heart?
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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The restoration and conversion of the Jews

‘Thus saith the Lord God unto these bones: Behold, I will cause breath to enter into you, and ye shall live: and I will lay sinews upon you, and will bring up flesh upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and ye shall live; and ye shall know that I am the Lord.’ Ezekiel 37:5–6
Suggested Further Reading: Romans 11:1–12
Israel is to have a spiritual restoration or a conversion. Both the text and the context teach this. The promise is that they shall renounce their idols, and, behold, they have already done so. ‘Neither shall they defile themselves any more with their idols’ (Ezekiel 37:23 ). Whatever faults the Jew may have besides, he certainly has no idolatry. ‘The Lord thy God is one God,’ is a truth far better conceived by the Jew than by any other man on earth except the Christian. Weaned for ever from the worship of all images, of whatever sort, the Jewish nation has now become infatuated with traditions or duped by philosophy. She is to have, however, instead of these delusions, a spiritual religion: she is to love her God. ‘They shall be my people, and I will be their God’ (verse 23 ). The unseen but omnipotent Jehovah is to be worshipped in spirit and in truth by his ancient people; they are to come before him in his own appointed way, accepting the Mediator whom their sires rejected; coming into covenant relation with God, for so the context tells us—‘I will make a covenant of peace with them’ (verse 26 ), and Jesus is our peace, therefore we gather that Jehovah shall enter into the covenant of grace with them, that covenant of which Christ is the federal head, the substance, and the surety. They are to walk in God’s ordinances and statutes, and so exhibit the practical effects of being united to Christ who has given them peace. All these promises certainly imply that the people of Israel are to be converted to God, and that this conversion is to be permanent.
For meditation: Do you find time in your theology and prayers for the Jews? Join the apostle Paul and pray ( Romans 10:1) that more and more Jewish people will accept the new covenant which God has made, that he will be their God and that they will be his people (Hebrews 8:8,10).
Sermon no. 582
13 June (Preached 16 June 1864)


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June 12, 2012
Do Wrinkles Make You Die?
Mary Southerland
Today's Truth
James 1:19 (NIV) "My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry."
Friend to Friend
It had been a very long and extremely hard day. My husband's grandmother had died, and we had just returned from her funeral. Trying to establish a sense of normality for our two young children, I unpacked suitcases, started the laundry and spent some time playing with Jered and Danna. After a dinner during which Dan and I tried to lighten the atmosphere with silly bantering, we got the kids ready for bed.
Dan and Danna headed to her room for one last game of "Pretty, Pretty Princess" before bed. (You have not lived until you have seen Dan Southerland in a tiara and pink plastic earrings!) Jered and I settled in his bedroom to read books, play with his Hot Wheels and just talk. We prayed together and Jered climbed into bed. I gave him a kiss and a hug and tucked him into a blanket, a nightly ritual of creating a "Jered-ito." As I turned on his nightlight and started out of the room, Jered's question stopped me in my tracks. "Mama, do wrinkles make you die?" he asked. Ordinarily, I would have dismissed his question as a childish ploy to delay bedtime, but in a rare moment of wisdom as a mom, I sat on the edge of our son's bed, took his hand and asked, "Son, what do you mean?"
Jered smiled and replied, "Well, Grandmother died and she had sooooooo many wrinkles." Dan's grandmother battled pernicious anemia for many years. The illness itself and the medications she had to take for that condition had left her skin damaged and very wrinkled. "Yes, honey, Grandmother was sick and had a lot of wrinkles. I still don't understand your question." After a moment of silence, Jered said, "Well, at dinner tonight you and daddy were joking about who had the most wrinkles, and I just need to know if wrinkles make you die."
Wow! Over the years, I have thanked God so many times for the Holy Spirit who prompted me to stop and really listen to our son. We talked for a long time about the fact that wrinkles don't make you die, but we also talked about the fact that Grandmother Lois was in Heaven and did not have any more wrinkles. And she was well and no longer in pain. It was one of the most meaningful conversations Jered and I have ever had about life and death and the fact that when we know Jesus as our Lord and Savior, we will go to heaven where Grandmother Lois will be waiting for us.
I have had to learn how to listen – really listen. For years, I used the time someone was speaking to formulate a clever response. Oh, I looked into their eyes but did not really see them. I heard their words, but did not really listen. I failed to hear what was behind the words – the hurt and pain or the confusion and questioning heart.
I now work hard to realize that every person God sends my way is really seeking His listening heart at work in and through me. I try to look for the pain hidden in each word. I pray for wisdom to respond in a way that will promote restoration and encourage healing. I have a long way to go, but I want to be "God with skin on" when it comes to learning how to listen.
Listening by definition means "attention, with the intention to understand." James says we should be "quick to listen and slow to speak" (James 1:19). Talking is sharing but listening is caring. Take a tip from creation. Ears aren't made to shut, but the mouth is. Put away your sermon, save your advice and just listen. Sometimes the best gift we can give is a listening ear.
A little girl was eating breakfast with her Daddy. They were on a "date" spending some special time together. He was telling her how wonderful she was and how proud he was of her. After he had done what he thought was a sufficient job, he picked up his fork and began to eat. His daughter put her hand on his arm and stopped him with these words, "Longer, Daddy, longer." He didn't eat much food that day, but a little girl's hungry heart was fed because her father was willing to listen.
Are there any hungry hearts in your life who long for nothing more than your listening heart? I am convinced Jesus was an amazing listener. Children loved him and longed to spend time with Him. Hurting people were drawn to Him. He was sought out by people from every walk of life. He always made time to listen. We need to do the same.
Let's Pray
Father, I am sorry for the times when I have failed to really listen to the people in my life who need my love and undivided attention. Help me to be a better listener. Teach me to encourage others by the way I listen to and love them.
In Jesus' name, 
Amen.
Now It's Your Turn
How would you rate yourself in the listening department? Do any of the following characteristics apply to you? If so, what steps do you need to take to become a better listener.
_____ Too busy
_____ Preoccupied
_____ Failure to focus
_____ A judgmental attitude
_____ Don't care enough
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Everything New - A Weeekly Devotional

CROSS AND TOMB

Cross and tomb go together in the Christian gospel: both were occupied for a short span, both abandoned, both defeated.
The apostle Paul, who knew what it was to suffer for choosing to be associated with Jesus, said, “I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death” (Phil. 3:10 ). Paul wrote this at a time when he was in prison and anticipated that he would have his final trial and execution at any time. What helped him hold things together, and hold the meaning of it all together, is that when we are torn to pieces by enemies, we are known and can know the Lord who is also crushed by his enemies. But on the other side of the apparent defeat is the victory of resurrection.
This applies not just to apostles or to Christians about to be martyred, but to every believer who feels that life gets too shredded. Evil seems stronger than it should. Things in life are just getting broken up.
There is no greater promise that God can put the pieces of our lives back together than the resurrection of Jesus. We all know that at the moment of death, a body begins to break down. But Jesus’ body did not go through that corruption. The resurrection of Jesus is the greatest miracle, not because it was so difficult. (Isn’t the creation of the universe a larger physical feat? Isn’t the conception of human life from two single seeds from mother and father a more amazing biological event?) Jesus got up and walked out of his tomb more easily than I got out of bed this morning.
No, the resurrection of Jesus is the greatest miracle because it signifies the greatest truth. The law of entropy, of things falling to pieces, is switched off in the resurrection of Jesus. He would not become dust, and so he proclaimed to us dust creatures that our lives do not need to fall to pieces. The power by which Jesus was raised from the dead brings marriages together, holds us together despite our diverse roles in life, and stops sin from taking us apart like a vicious virus attacking a body.
The Christian gospel says, consider the cross and take courage from the empty tomb. Cross and tomb work together. One is incomplete without the other. If Jesus had only died a martyr for a cause, but not been resurrected, then we might gain inspiration, but not salvation. If Jesus had been brought back to life, but after having died of natural causes, he would only be an example of miraculous resuscitation, not transformation. But he died a death of salvation, and rose from the dead in a transfigured body.
Cross and tomb–vanquished.
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About The Author - Mel Lawrenz serves as minister at large for Elmbrook Church and leads The Brook Network. Having been in pastoral ministry for thirty years, the last decade as senior pastor of Elmbrook, Mel seeks to help Christian leaders engage with each other. Mel is the author of eleven books, the most recent for church leaders, Whole Church: Leading from Fragmentation to Engagement.

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Is it right to pray for revenge?

Several psalms call upon God to take revenge on the enemy. Yet Jesus taught that we should love our enemies (see Mt 5:44). And the apostle Paul wrote, "Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God's wrath" (Ro 12:19). How, then, do we interpret psalms that call a curse on the enemy?
Several points help put this question into perspective:
(1) Cursing the wicked was, for Old Testament saints, more a plea for God's justice than a cry for personal revenge. Their reasoning may have been this: Sinners show contempt for God's honor when they cause the innocent to suffer. The writers of the psalms could not tolerate the idea of God standing by, permitting these wrongs to go unpunished. They begged for his justice and his wrath to be carried out.
(2) Though David asked God to show no mercy to the wicked (see Ps 59:5, for example), he himself showed mercy several times when he could have taken revenge on the guilty: to Saul (see 1Sa 24:8-1326:8-11), to Shimei (see 2Sa 16:5-13 ) and to Absalom (see 2Sa 18:5). In those cases, David left the judgment of sinners in the hands of God, the "Judge of the earth" (Ps 94:2).
(3) The writers of the psalms, though they had the benefit of Old Testament law, had not experienced the new dimensions that were given through Christ. It's hardly fair to expect Old Testament people to act "Christian" before Jesus Christ even came.
No, we should not pray for revenge. Like the psalmists, we must trust God to right the wrongs of this world. And with Christ's help, we can love and pray for those who mistreat us.
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TASK PRAYER

Elijah was a man just like us. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. James 5:17
Rev. Dr. David Cho who pastors the largest church in the world—a cell group based church—is also very strong on the significance of prayer. As a pastor of a growing Korean church, he felt he could not pray less than five hours a day.
He distinguishes between the type of prayer we usually think of—fellowship prayer—and what he calls “task” prayer. Both are important forms of prayer but task prayer is terrific labor and takes much energy. It is closest to intercessory prayer and is usually very focused prayer about an intense need.
Here are the characteristics of “task” prayer:
1. Have a clear goal – be very focused
2. Use simple words
3. Mobilize all the emotion in your heart
4. Be persistent (Luke 18:1-8)
Believers in China are very much involved in this type of prayer. Here is one description of believers who had gathered for a special meeting in a cave twenty-five feet below ground level. After a three-hour message:
They prayed with tears running down from their eyes, and the stream of tears intermingled with their ‘noserun,’ dripping down like transparent noodles, which they ignored. For their hearts were so turned to the face of Christ that they became totally oblivious of their own unkempt state. One sister prayed for over 45 minutes standing, pleading with the Lord to release her fellow-evangelist and her fiancé from prison. He had fasted for many days and refused to divulge any information on the churches’ evangelistic activity.[1]
RESPONSE: When I have an intense need, I will practice task prayer.
PRAYER: Lord, help me to have the faith, persistence and emotion of Elijah when I pray.
1. Ross Paterson, Heart Cry For China (Chichester, UK: Sovereign World, 1989), p.190.
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 12

These people without possessions, these strangers, these powerless, these sinners, these followers of Jesus live with him now also in the renunciation of their own dignity , for they are merciful. As if their own need and lack were not enough, they share in other people's need, debasement, and guilt. They have an irresistible love for the lowly, the sick, for those who are in misery, for those who are demeaned and abased, for those who suffer injustice and are rejected, for everyone in pain and anxiety. They seek out all those who have fallen into sin and guilt. No need is too great, no sin too dreadful for mercy to reach. The merciful give their own honor to those who have fallen into shame and take that shame unto themselves. They may be found in the company of tax collectors and sinners and willingly bear the shame of their fellowship. Disciples give away anyone's greatest possession, their own dignity and honor, and show mercy. They know only one dignity and honor, the mercy of their Lord, which is their only source of life.

Biblical Wisdom

"Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy." Matthew 5:7

Questions to Ponder

  • Practically speaking, what does mercy look like? How do merciful people act?
  • Why is "renunciation of their own dignity" necessary if disciples are to be truly merciful?
  • How might a church renounce its own dignity in order to be merciful?
  • How is Jesus our model for renouncing dignity in order to be merciful?
  • Is there anyone beneath the disciples' mercy? Why, or why not?

Psalm Fragment

They rise in the darkness as a light for the upright;
   they are gracious, merciful, and righteous.
It is well with those who deal generously and lend,
   who conduct their affairs with justice. Psalm 112:4-5

Journal Reflections

  • Write about a time when you extended mercy to someone. How did you feel?
  • Write about a time when you withheld mercy. How did you feel?
  • Reflect on the ways in which God is merciful to you.

Intercessions

Think of someone who needs to experience mercy. Pray for them in their need. Ask God what you might do to show them mercy.

Prayer for Today

Lord, may your infinite mercy to me enable me to be truly merciful to all others.
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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