Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Daily Devotional Tuesday 3rd July

“The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it? “I the LORD search the heart and examine the mind, to reward each person according to their conduct, according to what their deeds deserve.”” Jeremiah 17:9-10 NIV
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Today's reading: Job 22-24, Acts 11 (NIV)

View today's reading on Bible Gateway 
Eliphaz
    1 Then Eliphaz the Temanite replied:
   2 “Can a man be of benefit to God? 
   Can even a wise person benefit him? 
3 What pleasure would it give the Almighty if you were righteous? 
   What would he gain if your ways were blameless?
   4 “Is it for your piety that he rebukes you 
   and brings charges against you? 
5 Is not your wickedness great? 
   Are not your sins endless? 
6 You demanded security from your relatives for no reason; 
   you stripped people of their clothing, leaving them naked. 
7 You gave no water to the weary 
   and you withheld food from the hungry, 
8 though you were a powerful man, owning land— 
   an honored man, living on it. 
9 And you sent widows away empty-handed 
   and broke the strength of the fatherless. 
10 That is why snares are all around you, 
   why sudden peril terrifies you, 
11 why it is so dark you cannot see, 
   and why a flood of water covers you.
   12 “Is not God in the heights of heaven? 
   And see how lofty are the highest stars! 
13 Yet you say, ‘What does God know? 
   Does he judge through such darkness? 
14 Thick clouds veil him, so he does not see us 
   as he goes about in the vaulted heavens.’ 
15 Will you keep to the old path 
   that the wicked have trod? 
16 They were carried off before their time, 
   their foundations washed away by a flood. 
17 They said to God, ‘Leave us alone! 
   What can the Almighty do to us?’ 
18 Yet it was he who filled their houses with good things, 
   so I stand aloof from the plans of the wicked. 
19 The righteous see their ruin and rejoice; 
   the innocent mock them, saying, 
20 ‘Surely our foes are destroyed, 
   and fire devours their wealth.’
   21 “Submit to God and be at peace with him; 
   in this way prosperity will come to you. 
22 Accept instruction from his mouth 
   and lay up his words in your heart. 
23 If you return to the Almighty, you will be restored: 
   If you remove wickedness far from your tent 
24 and assign your nuggets to the dust, 
   your gold of Ophir to the rocks in the ravines, 
25 then the Almighty will be your gold, 
   the choicest silver for you. 
26 Surely then you will find delight in the Almighty 
   and will lift up your face to God. 
27 You will pray to him, and he will hear you, 
   and you will fulfill your vows. 
28 What you decide on will be done, 
   and light will shine on your ways. 
29 When people are brought low and you say, ‘Lift them up!’ 
   then he will save the downcast. 
30 He will deliver even one who is not innocent, 
   who will be delivered through the cleanness of your hands.”

Job 23

Job
    1 Then Job replied:
   2 “Even today my complaint is bitter; 
   his hand is heavy in spite of my groaning. 
3 If only I knew where to find him; 
   if only I could go to his dwelling! 
4 I would state my case before him 
   and fill my mouth with arguments. 
5 I would find out what he would answer me, 
   and consider what he would say to me. 
Would he vigorously oppose me? 
   No, he would not press charges against me. 
7 There the upright can establish their innocence before him, 
   and there I would be delivered forever from my judge.
   8 “But if I go to the east, he is not there; 
   if I go to the west, I do not find him. 
9 When he is at work in the north, I do not see him; 
   when he turns to the south, I catch no glimpse of him. 
10 But he knows the way that I take; 
   when he has tested me, I will come forth as gold. 
11 My feet have closely followed his steps; 
   I have kept to his way without turning aside. 
12 I have not departed from the commands of his lips; 
   I have treasured the words of his mouth more than my daily bread.
   13 “But he stands alone, and who can oppose him? 
   He does whatever he pleases. 
14 He carries out his decree against me, 
   and many such plans he still has in store. 
15 That is why I am terrified before him; 
   when I think of all this, I fear him. 
16 God has made my heart faint; 
   the Almighty has terrified me. 
17 Yet I am not silenced by the darkness, 
   by the thick darkness that covers my face.

Job 24

   1 “Why does the Almighty not set times for judgment? 
   Why must those who know him look in vain for such days? 
2 There are those who move boundary stones; 
   they pasture flocks they have stolen. 
3 They drive away the orphan’s donkey 
   and take the widow’s ox in pledge. 
4 They thrust the needy from the path 
   and force all the poor of the land into hiding. 
5 Like wild donkeys in the desert, 
   the poor go about their labor of foraging food; 
   the wasteland provides food for their children. 
6 They gather fodder in the fields 
   and glean in the vineyards of the wicked. 
7 Lacking clothes, they spend the night naked; 
   they have nothing to cover themselves in the cold. 
8 They are drenched by mountain rains 
   and hug the rocks for lack of shelter. 
9 The fatherless child is snatched from the breast; 
   the infant of the poor is seized for a debt. 
10 Lacking clothes, they go about naked; 
   they carry the sheaves, but still go hungry. 
11 They crush olives among the terraces; 
   they tread the winepresses, yet suffer thirst. 
12 The groans of the dying rise from the city, 
   and the souls of the wounded cry out for help. 
   But God charges no one with wrongdoing.
   13 “There are those who rebel against the light, 
   who do not know its ways 
   or stay in its paths. 
14 When daylight is gone, the murderer rises up, 
   kills the poor and needy, 
   and in the night steals forth like a thief. 
15 The eye of the adulterer watches for dusk; 
   he thinks, ‘No eye will see me,’ 
   and he keeps his face concealed. 
16 In the dark, thieves break into houses, 
   but by day they shut themselves in; 
   they want nothing to do with the light. 
17 For all of them, midnight is their morning; 
   they make friends with the terrors of darkness.
   18 “Yet they are foam on the surface of the water; 
   their portion of the land is cursed, 
   so that no one goes to the vineyards. 
19 As heat and drought snatch away the melted snow, 
   so the grave snatches away those who have sinned. 
20 The womb forgets them, 
   the worm feasts on them; 
the wicked are no longer remembered 
   but are broken like a tree. 
21 They prey on the barren and childless woman, 
   and to the widow they show no kindness. 
22 But God drags away the mighty by his power; 
   though they become established, they have no assurance of life. 
23 He may let them rest in a feeling of security, 
   but his eyes are on their ways. 
24 For a little while they are exalted, and then they are gone; 
   they are brought low and gathered up like all others; 
   they are cut off like heads of grain.
   25 “If this is not so, who can prove me false 
   and reduce my words to nothing?”

Acts 11

Peter Explains His Actions
    1 The apostles and the believers throughout Judea heard that the Gentiles also had received the word of God. 2 So when Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcised believers criticized him 3 and said, “You went into the house of uncircumcised men and ate with them.”
   4 Starting from the beginning, Peter told them the whole story: 5 “I was in the city of Joppa praying, and in a trance I saw a vision. I saw something like a large sheet being let down from heaven by its four corners, and it came down to where I was. 6 I looked into it and saw four-footed animals of the earth, wild beasts, reptiles and birds. 7 Then I heard a voice telling me, ‘Get up, Peter. Kill and eat.’
   8 “I replied, ‘Surely not, Lord! Nothing impure or unclean has ever entered my mouth.’
   9 “The voice spoke from heaven a second time, ‘Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.’ 10 This happened three times, and then it was all pulled up to heaven again.
   11 “Right then three men who had been sent to me from Caesarea stopped at the house where I was staying. 12 The Spirit told me to have no hesitation about going with them. These six brothers also went with me, and we entered the man’s house. 13 He told us how he had seen an angel appear in his house and say, ‘Send to Joppa for Simon who is called Peter. 14 He will bring you a message through which you and all your household will be saved.’
   15 “As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit came on them as he had come on us at the beginning. 16 Then I remembered what the Lord had said: ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ 17 So if God gave them the same gift he gave us who believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to think that I could stand in God’s way?”
   18 When they heard this, they had no further objections and praised God, saying, “So then, even to Gentiles God has granted repentance that leads to life.”
The Church in Antioch
    19 Now those who had been scattered by the persecution that broke out when Stephen was killed traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus and Antioch, spreading the word only among Jews. 20 Some of them, however, men from Cyprus and Cyrene, went to Antioch and began to speak to Greeks also, telling them the good news about the Lord Jesus. 21 The Lord’s hand was with them, and a great number of people believed and turned to the Lord.
   22 News of this reached the church in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. 23 When he arrived and saw what the grace of God had done, he was glad and encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts. 24 He was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith, and a great number of people were brought to the Lord.
   25 Then Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, 26 and when he found him, he brought him to Antioch. So for a whole year Barnabas and Saul met with the church and taught great numbers of people. The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch.
   27 During this time some prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch. 28 One of them, named Agabus, stood up and through the Spirit predicted that a severe famine would spread over the entire Roman world. (This happened during the reign of Claudius.) 29 The disciples, as each one was able, decided to provide help for the brothers and sisters living in Judea. 30 This they did, sending their gift to the elders by Barnabas and Saul.

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Vashti

The Woman Who Exalted Modesty

Scripture ReferencesEsther 12:1;4:17
Name Meaning—Vashti corresponded to the significance of her name, “beautiful woman.” She must have been one of the loveliest women in the realm of King Ahasuerus who thought so much of his wife’s physical charms that at a drinking debauchery he wanted to exhibit her beauty for she “was fair to look upon.”
Family Connections—Bullinger identifies this Persian beauty as the daughter of Alyattes, King of Lydia, but the only authentic record of Vashti is what we have in her brief appearance in Scripture as the queen of the court of Ahasuerus, or Artaxerxes. It would be interesting to know what became of the noble wife after her disgrace and divorce by her unworthy, wine-soaked husband.
While the Book of Esther holds a high place in the sacred literature of the Jews, it yet has no mention of God or of the Holy Land, and contains no definite religious teaching. Martin Luther is said to have tossed the book into the river Elbe, saying that he wished it did not exist for “it has too much of Judaism and a great deal of heathenish imagination.” The book contains a genuine strain of human interest, but it is also heavy with the air of divine providence (compare Esther). Although the story of Vashti only covers a few paragraphs in the book, yet in the setting of oriental grandeur we have the elements of imperishable drama. While the bulk of the book revolves around Esther, from our point of view the shining character in the story is the queenly Vashti, who was driven out because she refused to display her lovely face and figure before the lustful eyes of a drunken court.
By birth Vashti was a Persian princess, possessing along with her regal bearing, an extraordinary, fragile beauty. Although her husband was a king “who reigned from India even unto Ethiopia, over an hundred and seven and twenty provinces,” her self-respect and high character meant more to her than her husband’s vast realm. Rather than cater to the vanity and sensuality of drunkards, she courageously sacrificed a kingdom. Rather than lower the white banner of womanly modesty, Vashti accepted disgrace and dismissal. The only true ruler in that drunken court was the woman who refused to exhibit herself, even at the king’s command.

The Demand

An impressive banquet was to be held in Susa the capital of Persia, lasting for seven days, with the king and his dignitaries joining with hundreds of invited guests in an unceasing whirl of festivities during which wine flowed freely. Both great and small were to be found “in the court of the garden of the palace.” Then came the crowning touch of a drunken tyrant’s caprice. When “the heart of the king was merry with wine” he commanded that Vashti, his royal consort, appear before the guests. For a week, inflamed with wine and adulation, he had displayed the magnificent wealth and power of his kingdom and the princes had poured flattery upon him. Now for the climax! Let all the half-drunken guests see his most lovely possession, Queen Vashti, who was probably the most beautiful woman in his kingdom. He wanted the intoxicated jubilant lords to feast their eyes on her. The Bible plainly declares that Ahasuerus summoned his wife to the feast simply “to show her beauty.”
Had the king been sober he would not have considered such a breach of custom, for he knew that Eastern women lived in seclusion and that such a request as he made in his drunken condition amounted to a gross insult. “For Vashti to appear in the banquet hall, though dressed in her royal robes and crowned, would be almost as degrading as for a modern woman of our modern world to go naked into a man’s party.” What Ahasuerus demanded was a surrender of womanly honor, and Vashti, who was neither vain nor wanton, was unwilling to comply. Plutarch reminds us that it was the habit of a Persian king to have his queen beside him at a banquet, but when he wished to riot and drink, he sent his queen away and called in the wives of inferior rank—his concubines. Perhaps that is the historic clue to Vashti’s indignant refusal for she knew only too well that Persian custom dictated that a queen be secluded during the feasts where rare wines flowed freely.

The Disobedience

To Vashti, the command of the king—her husband, who alone had the right to gaze upon her beautiful form—was most revolting to her sense of propriety, and knowing what the consequences of her refusal to appear before the half-drunken company would entail, refused in no uncertain terms to comply with the king’s demand. She stood strong in womanly self-respect and “refused to come at the king’s commandment.” Her noble scorn at her threatened indignity deserves finer recognition. What the king sought would have infringed upon her noble, feminine modesty, therefore she had every right to disobey her wine-soaked husband. A wife need not and may not obey her husband in what opposes God’s laws and the laws of feminine honor and decency. All praise to the heroic Vashti for her decent disobedience.

The Deposition

Vashti’s disobedience excited the king to madness. No one, especially a woman, had ever dared to humiliate such a despot whose word was law in all his realm. Such a slight had but one issue, for forth went the decree, “that Vashti come no more before King Ahasuerus.” This degradation also meant divorce, not only from her husband, but also from the life and luxury she had been used to. Thus amid the tragic darkness Queen Vashti—never more queenly than in her refusal—disappears like a shining shadow. The wise men, court astrologers and princes agreed with the king that banishment from the palace was the only fit punishment for such a crime. They knew that Vashti’s bold stand might incite other Persian ladies to disobey their liege lords, and so the warrant, silly as it was royal, was enacted that “Every man be master in his own house, and that all the wives shall give to their husbands honour, both to great and small!”
As a Persian law once made could never be revoked, Ahasuerus, now sober, and likely regretful of his impulsive anger could not reinstate Vashti, thus Esther was chosen to succeed her as queen. It is quite probable that “Vashti continued to live in the royal household, stripped of the insignia of royalty, but with her own integrity clothed in purple.” Surrendering the diadem of Persia, Vashti put on a crown which was beyond the power of a despot king to give or take away, namely, the crown of exalted womanhood. How apropos are the lines of Tennyson as we think of the fine character of Vashti, the pagan Persian—
Self-reverence, self-knowledge, self-control,
These three alone lead life to sovereign power.
Yet not for power (power by herself
Would come uncalled for), but to live by law,
Acting the law we live without fear;
And, because right is right, to follow right
Were wisdom in the scorn of consequence.
Vashti chose deposition rather than dishonor with a mortifying refusal to obey. Her refusal to exhibit herself was visited with “a punishment severe enough to reestablish the supremacy which it threatened to overthrow,” but to Vashti, conscience and personal dignity occupied a higher supremacy and for this ideal she was dethroned. Allied to her beauty and regal charm were courage and heroism, securing her character from the rot of power. Vashti had a soul of her own, and preserved its integrity; and if women today fail to honor their life they will never win the best God has for them. It is to be regretted that in our modern world many women are not as careful as Vashti the pagan was in guarding the dignity of the body. Fashion and popularity are a poor price to pay for the loss of one’s self-respect. Christian ideals in womanhood may be deemed old-fashioned and in conflict with the trend of the times, but divine favor rests upon those who have courage to be ridiculed for such high ideals. Any woman is one after God’s own heart when, as Mary Hallet puts it, she determines by His grace—
To remain refined in speech and action, when it is the style to appear “hard-boiled”—
To be dignified when everyone else pretends to be “wild”—
To maintain a true perspective, a real sense of values, in an irresponsible age.

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Tobiah, Tobijah [Tōbī'ah,Tōbī'jah]—jehovah is good.
  1. A Levite sent by Jehoshaphat to instruct the people of Judah (2 Chron. 17:8).
  2. A founder of a tribal family the descendants of which returned from exile but were unable to trace their genealogy (Ezra 2:60Neh. 7:62).
  3. An Ammonite who with Sanballat and others ridiculed the efforts of the Jews to rebuild the wall of Jerusalem (Neh. 2:104:37). This enemy of Nehemiah and of the Jews was silenced by the diligence of the people.
  4. A chief man whose posterity returned from exile (Zech. 6:1014). He it was who obtained the gold and silver for Joshua’s crown.

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Bullies

Every schoolyard has them. They're the nemesis of every 43-pound weakling and pig-tailed girl with lunch money. They are the menaces of the playground. It seems they never get caught-and there are very few who can or will stand up to them.
At this time in history, the biggest bullies on Israel's block were the Assyrians. The Ninevites, who lived in the capital city of Assyria, were vicious and arrogant. Hearing their name made the Israelites cringe and whimper. One hundred years earlier, Jonah had tried to run away from them, and for good reason. Their war crimes were legendary.
And dear Nahum, whose name means, "comfort," brings Israel some good news: The big bully is finally going to get his due. And who will avenge them? God himself. Jonah had demonstrated God's compassion toward the bullies and had given them a chance to change. Now, a century after their short-lived revival, Nahum lets them have it.
Nahum draws a terrifying cosmic portrait of the God who can make short work of any bully, no matter how big and pushy. God is slow to anger; he is not impulsive. But when he has waited with infinite patience for the guilty to change, watch out! The most powerful forces of nature-the whirlwind, the storm, the earthquake and the flood-are but a shadow of God's awesome power; they are his tools, as a hammer is the tool of a worker. The real force is the strength behind the hammer. And this worker, Israel's God, has declared of the bullies, "They will be destroyed and pass away" (verse 12).
But Nahum's portrait is a study in contrasts and mystery: God is also "good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in him" (verse 7). God is both stern and kind, just and loving.
The world is full of bullies. Maybe they've never looked at Nahum's portrait of God. The sight should strike as much terror in their hearts as looking up into the eye of a whirlwind. But as for you, keep Nahum's portrait in mind the next time you face a bully. God sees injustice and, in his time, will avenge the helpless and the innocent. If Jonah's story reminds us that their day may not be today, then Nahum assures us that their day will certainly come.

Reflection

  1. Do you have experience with being "bullied"? Describe what it feels like.
  2. Describe what it is like to finally have someone stick up for you.
  3. Who are the "big bullies" in your present circumstances? Ask God to deal with them and be your "refuge in times of trouble."
Nahum 1:3
The LORD is slow to anger but great in power; the LORD will not leave the guilty unpunished. His way is in the whirlwind and the storm, and clouds are the dust of his feet.

Related Readings

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PRAYER CHANGES THINGS

Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. Hebrews 4:16
Ages ago the prophet Jonah saw it happen. The population of the city of Nineveh (in the north of present day Iraq) repented from sin. A radical change came because he preached and God’s Spirit worked. Almost on the same spot in the city of Mosul (modern Nineveh), the climate has changed too.
After 2003, Mosul became a city with increasing violence. Car bombs, attacks and all kind of violence are normal in this old city. Civilians of whatever religion and police and soldiers have been targeted. In the beginning of 2010, there was a significant increase in violent attacks on Christians. In the month of February that year, eight were killed in just ten days. This all caused an exodus of Christians.
“Thousands of Christians have left our city…and that hurts,” shares twenty-one-year-old Dawud. “I saw a lot of my friends leaving too,” the young Iraqi adds. His family has been Christian for generations, as is the case with many Iraqi Christians.
Open Doors worker, Daniel, says that as far as he knows the number of Christians dramatically dropped in the second biggest city of the country. Before the fall of Saddam Hussein, the number in Mosul was estimated at two hundred thousand of the one and a half million inhabitants. “We believe the number is now far less than one hundred thousand, many of them not living in the city itself but in Christian villages around.”
“We started some years ago to pray for our city,” Dawud continues. “It started small with just our family, but soon there were more believers coming to the prayer meetings. Now we pray weekly on Tuesdays and Saturdays from five till seven in the afternoon. Some fifty Christians in our city regularly participate,” he says. “Because of our prayer, the city started to change. The situation is different now. What I see now is that my generation doesn’t want to leave, we want to stay. This is God’s place for me. I’ll stay; I will never leave. And if I will be killed, I will be killed.”
“But,” he goes on, “the situation is much better now. We can go out as youth again, even in the evenings. We can go to our meetings without being afraid, we don’t feel insecure anymore.” His father, pastor of one of the churches in Mosul, confirms that the climate in the city improved after they started praying as a church. With a smile on his face he adds, “We even saw Muslims becoming followers of Jesus.”
RESPONSE: Today I will rejoice in the ability I have to take every issue I face to the Lord and trust Him for the answer.
PRAYER: Remember brothers and sisters who live in violent societies. Pray that fear will not drive them to leave.
Standing Strong Through The Storm (SSTS)
A daily devotional message by SSTS author Paul Estabrooks

© 2011 Open Doors International. Used by permission

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40-Day Journey with Bonhoeffer Header

Day 32

Intercessory prayer is also a daily service Christians owe to God and one another. Those who deny their neighbors prayers of intercession deny them a service Christians are called to perform. Furthermore, it is clear that intercessory prayer is not something general and vague, but something very concrete. It is interested in specific persons and specific difficulties and therefore specific requests. The more concrete my intercessory prayer becomes the more promising it is...
All this proves that intercessory prayer is a gift of God's grace for every Christian community and for every Christian. Because God has made us such an immeasurably great offer here, we should accept it joyfully. The very time we give to intercession will turn out to be a daily source of new joy in God and in the Christian congregation.

Biblical Wisdom

"Moreover, as for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord by ceasing to pray for you." 1 Samuel 12:23

Questions to Ponder

  • Is it a contradiction to say that intercessory prayer is both a "daily service Christians owe to God and one another" and "a gift of God's grace for every Christian community and for every Christian"? Why, or why not?
  • Could the lack of joy evident in many Christians and in many Christian communities be a sign of a lack of specific, concrete, intercessory prayer? Explain.

Psalm Fragment

But let all who take refuge in you rejoice;
let them ever sing for joy.
Spread your protection over them,
so that those who love your name may exult in you. Psalm 5:11

Journal Reflections

  • Write about how you feel when praying for others in your community of faith.
  • Is intercessory prayer "a daily source of new joy in God and in the Christian congregation" for you? Why, or why not?

Intercessions

Pray that your community of faith in particular, and all communities of faith in general, would experience the joy in God and in each other that comes from the service of daily prayer on behalf of their members.

Prayer for Today

Holy God, thank you for the joy of bringing people into your presence this day and every day.
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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An earnest invitation

“Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all they that put their trust in him.” Psalm 2:12
Suggested Further Reading: Psalm 1
Those that trust in him are blessed; and I would observe, first, that they are really blessed. It is no fiction, no imaginary blessing; it is a real blessedness which belongs to those who trust in God: a blessedness that will stand the test of consideration, the test of life, and the trial of death; a blessedness into which we cannot plunge too deeply, for none of it is a dream, but all a reality. Again, those that trust in him have not only a real blessedness, but they oftentimes have a conscious blessedness. They know what it is to be blest in their troubles, for they are in their trials comforted, and they are blest in their joys, for their joys are sanctified. They are blest and they know it, they sing about it and they rejoice in it. It is their joy to know that God’s blessing is come to them not in word only but in very deed. They are blessed men and blessed women.
“They would not change their blest estate
For all the world calls good and great.”
Then, further, they are not only really blessed, and consciously blessed, but they are increasingly blessed. Their blessedness grows. They do not go downhill, as the wicked do, from bright hope to black despair. They do not diminish in their delights, the river deepens as they wade into it. They are blessed when the first ray of heavenly light streams on their eyeballs; they are blessed when their eyes are opened wider still, to see more of the love of Christ; they are blessed the more their experience widens, and their knowledge deepens, and their love increases. They are blessed in the hour of death, and, best of all, their blessedness increases to eternal blessedness,—the perfection of the saints at the right hand of God. “Blessed are all they that put their trust in him.”
For meditation: How often do you take time to count your blessings in Christ?
Sermon no. 260
3 July (1859)

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NIV Devotions for Moms

Pillar People

Additional Scripture Readings: Acts 15:32; Hebrews 10:24
In Galatians 2:9, Paul refers to Peter (Cephas), James and John as “pillars.” They were the earliest leaders of the church. They encouraged it, and they protected it against heretical teaching.
Pillars support. They undergird and uphold. One of the major tasks of a mother is to give her children support. Here’s how:
  • Program your children for success. What you want them to be, tell them they are.
  • Expose your children to people you admire. If you surround your children with those you admire—youth group leaders, teachers, baby-sitters, relatives—you can provide a “stereo” version of value-training.
  • Tell, tell, tell your children what they are doing right. Lavish sincere words of praise on your children, whatever their age.
  • Teach your children to become pillars to others. Encourage them to invest praise and encouragement in the lives of their friends.
It’s not hard to be a pillar of support for our children. Like most of us, they are waiting to be encouraged.
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Samantha Reed
July 2, 2012
Another Chance
Samantha Reed
"My beloved spoke and said to me, 'Arise, my darling, my beautiful one, come with me. See! The winter is past; the rains are over and gone.'" Song of Songs 2:10-11 (NIV)
These lyrics caught in my throat the first time I sang them: "I'll never know how much it cost to see my sin upon the cross."* I cried the ugly cry as I stared at my circumstances, ashamed.
I'd comprised big time in some areas and, until the warm truth of that song, I had turned a cold shoulder to the hope of forgiveness.
Shame convinced me I wasn't worthy of another chance.
Last summer I met a girl who needed a second or third chance. On a 75 degree, gorgeous-in-every-way-L.A. day, I served food on Skid Row with The Dream Center team. There I was, navigating pain and hypodermic needles. There she was, fidgeting outside the women's shelter of this concrete jungle.
She melded into the gray of her tattered sweatpants. Washed out and muted; buried under a cold world, away from the Light for far too long. Inching toward me, she stepped over others hibernating beneath cardboard boxes and frigid despair.
Try as I might, I couldn't catch her eye as she asked for help. Shame from past deeds had beaten her down. It made her doubt she was worthy of anything, much less another chance for a hot meal and cold drink.
This sweet woman had been pushed out of the food line. Unable to defend herself and in too much physical pain to stand in line again, she needed someone to make a way.
Together, we walked to the front of the food truck {not gonna lie, it was fun breezing past her bullies}. But I felt ridiculous handing her scrambled eggs and water. Cause surely, she needed so much more.
We all do at some point, don't we?
She needed to know this place didn't have to be her last stop. That what she'd done to land on Skid Row could be forgiven ... forgotten, even. This cold season could turn into a warmer one. I wanted to share this truth ...
"See! The winter is past; the rains are over and gone." (Song of Songs 2:11 NIV)
Winter ... that gloomy season that should pass. But what if it lingers? What if one bad-for-us choice turns into 100 that beat us to our own Skid Row? What if mistakes convince us that we don't deserve another shot?
Been there? Me too. But letting the Light in melts our winter of doubt into a spring of hope.
What we've done doesn't dictate who we are. The truth is, what He's done makes us who we are: forgiven, hopeful and worthy of another chance. We may not feel we deserve a second shot. But Christ's sacrifice and our salvation through Him gives us one.
Never doubt, He'll always lead us past the bully of shame to the front of the line for so much more than eggs and water.
Dear Lord, it's hard to believe I'm worthy of another chance. But I'm taking a step of faith, choosing to accept that Your death means new life for me. I'll never know how much it cost, but I'm forever grateful. In Jesus' Name, Amen.
Related Resources:
Click here to read more about salvation through Jesus
Visit Samantha's blog for hope, encouragement and to enter to win The Cause Within You by Pastor Matthew Barnett, founder of The Dream Center.
Reflect and Respond:
Is it difficult for you to believe you're worthy of another chance? It might be time to see a counselor or talk with a trusted Christian friend for help.
Jesus, You know just how far the east is from the west
I don't have to see the man I've been come rising up in me again
In the arms of Your mercy I find rest
'cause You know just how far the east is from the west
From one scarred hand to the other

~Casting Crowns, East to West**
Power Verses:
Isaiah 12:1-2, "You will say in that day: 'I will give thanks to you, O Lord, for though you were angry with me, your anger turned away, that you might comfort me. Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and will not be afraid; for the Lord God is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation.'" (ESV)
John 3:17-18, "For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned ..." (ESV)
*Light of the World (Here I am to Worship) by Tim Hughes. © 2000 Thankyou Music.
**East to West by Mark Hall and Bernie Herms. © 2007 My Refuge Music/Club Zoo Music/SWECS Music (BMI).
© 2012 by Samantha Reed. All rights reserved.
Proverbs 31 Ministries
616G MatthewsMint Hill Road
Matthews, NC 28105
www.Proverbs31.org

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Willing to Die

Matthew 16:24-28 "Jesus told his disciples, 'If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me" ( v. 24).
Peter's grasp of the Messiah's task was lacking at first (Matt. 16:13-23), but he finally saw that the Messiah is the Suffering Servant who bears God's wrath against sin (1 Peter 2:21-25). Moreover, Peter probably met his end by being crucified upside down, enabling him to share the Savior's misery in a special way.
Jesus in today's passage calls each person who wants to be a disciple to take up the cross and participate in His afflictions (Matt. 16:24; see also Col. 1:24 ). To partake in Jesus' sufferings is not in any way redemptive; only heretics say Christ's death is insufficient to save us unless joined to our own efforts. Instead, our share in Jesus' afflictions shows our commitment to live as He lived, which always earns for us the persecution He also endured from the world. A servant is not above his master, and we cannot take part in the benefits of Christ unless we walk the hard road of obedience He lays before us (10:24-25).
The cross was a means of execution; thus, Jesus calls us to die. True discipleship puts our lives at risk - a foreign reality to Western believers, admittedly. Still, our values, goals, loves, and activities can and must paint the picture of a people who enduringly serve God's kingdom, not the present world order. John Calvin says that self-denial is extensive, calling us "to give up our natural inclinations, and part with all the affections of the flesh, and thus give our consent to be reduced to nothing, provided that God lives and reigns in us."
Promises of final judgment and reward surrounding Jesus' promise that some of His original followers will not "taste death" until the Son of Man comes in His kingdom (16:27-28) complicates interpretation. Many believe Christ is speaking of His second coming, which would cast doubt on His veracity, since His apostles are dead and the world continues on.Matthew 16:28, however, only means that some apostles will not die before the kingdom comes (Mark 9:1Luke 9:27). This cannot refer to His second advent, which consummates a kingdom already inaugurated. Christ is likely talking about Jerusalem's destruction in 70 a.d., for this event confirmed His authority as judge and king that He received in His resurrection and ascension (Acts 1:6-111 Cor. 15:12-28Phil. 2:5-11).

Coram deo: Living before the face of God

We still wait for the visible, bodily presence of Christ, but that does not mean the kingdom is not present at all right now. Though its fullness has not yet been realized, the kingdom has come, and, indeed, it continues to come as lives are transformed by the power of the Spirit. Our Savior has kept His promise that the apostles would taste the kingdom before their deaths, and today we too taste God's kingdom in our lives. Look for it to bear fruit in you today.
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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Personal Development: DAY Purpose/Passion

Paul accomplished an astounding amount in two decades of ministry. What made him tick? What drove him to carry out the work that he did? Today's passage explodes with Paul's passion for his calling. Effective leaders, like Paul, are those who have figured out what they stand for. They have identified their purpose and pursue it with a passion.
Before his dramatic conversion (Acts 9), Paul followed a different purpose in life. As a member of the Pharisees, Paul had attained the highest levels of stature. In this instance he could have boasted about his religious training, heritage and practice. He had been in every sense a "Hebrew of Hebrews," and his credentials would have impressed the most devoted Jew. Yet Paul considered all he had attained through religious effort to be garbage when compared with the value of knowing Christ. Paul was more than happy to throw away all he had attained in order to know Christ.
Paul preached that in Christ he and all believers possess all the righteousness of God. And because of the infinite worth of knowing Christ, Paul devoted his life to knowing the Savior. That was his purpose and his passion. And that purpose shaped all he did and influenced all he led.
What's your purpose, your passion, the one thing that you stand for above all else? Take a look at Paul's statements again and see how your purpose in life stacks up against his.
Purpose/Passion and Who God Is
What was God's purpose in creating the universe? Does Scripture reveal God's intention when he created humans who bear his image? If so, how can we discover God's deep passion and participate in it? Turn to the note on Ephesians 3:2-11 (p. 1380) to gain a perspective on the purpose and passion of the God of creation.
Purpose/Passion and Who I Am
Why do you get out of bed in the morning? What is your life purpose? Few people can articulate a clear purpose statement for their lives. It is ironic that people tend to put more effort into planning a two-week vacation than they do in thinking about the destiny of their earthly journey. Turn to 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 to gain more of an eternal perspective on this temporal journey.
Purpose/Passion and How It Works
Where does passion come from? One man who lived a hard life found the secret and, at eighty-five, was passionate about his purposedriven life. His story is a must-read. Turn to Joshua 14:6-14 for a brief case study on passion.
Purpose/Passion and What I Do
We've learned that, as godly leaders, our purpose in life needs to be directed toward God and his kingdom. Does that mean we sit idly by and wait for Christ's return? No. Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 5:9 that we need to please God both in this life and the next, and Rick Warren gives us some great information on accomplishing the former.

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Willing to Die

We still wait for the visible, bodily presence of Christ, but that does not mean the kingdom is not present at all right now. Though its fullness has not yet been realized, the kingdom has come, and, indeed, it continues to come as lives are transformed by the power of the Spirit. Our Savior has kept His promise that the apostles would taste the kingdom before their deaths, and today we too taste God's kingdom in our lives. Look for it to bear fruit in you today.
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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A bad excuse is worse than none

‘And they all with one consent began to make excuse.’ Luke 14:18
Suggested Further Reading: Jonah 3:1–4:2
The doctrine of election is a great and precious truth, but it never can be a valid reason for a man’s not believing in Christ. You are ill today, and the doctor comes; ‘There,’ says he, ‘there is the medicine, I will guarantee if you take it, it will heal you.’ You say, ‘Sir, I would take it at once, but I do not know whether I am predestined to get over this fever. If I am predestined to live, why then, sir, I will take the medicine, but I must know first.’ ‘Ah!’ says the doctor, ‘I tell you what, if you do not take it, you are predestined to die.’ And I will tell you this, if you will not believe in Jesus Christ, you will be damned, be you who you may, but you will not be able to lay it at predestination’s door; it will lie at your own. A man has fallen overboard; a rope is thrown to him, but he says, ‘I should like to grasp that rope, only I do not know whether I am predestined to be drowned.’ Fool! he will go down to the bottom with a lie in his mouth. We do not say, ‘I would sit down to dinner today, but I will not eat, because I do not know whether I am predestined to have any dinner today.’ We do not talk so foolishly in common things, why then do we so in religion? When men are hard-up for an excuse, they are glad to run to the mysteries of God to use them as a veil to cover their faces. O my dear friends, you must know that though God has a chosen people, yet when he commands you to believe in Christ, his having a chosen people, or not having a chosen people cannot excuse you from obedience to the divine command: ‘Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.’
For meditation: The people of Nineveh used God’s threat of judgment as a reason to repent and hope against hope for his forgiveness (Jonah 3:5,). It is not surprising that on the Day of Judgment they will condemn those who have rejected Christ’s forgiveness (Matthew 12:41) by disobeying the gospel command to repent and trust in him (Mark 1:15). Will the people of Nineveh have to condemn you?
Sermon no. 578
3 July (1864)


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