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Sunday, July 31, 2016

Division (and other devotionals)


Today's ReadingGenesis 29Matthew 9:1-17

Today's Thoughts: Division

 And God saw the light, that it was good; and God divided the light from the darkness….Then God said, "Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters." Thus God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament; and it was so. - Genesis 1:4, 6-7

God is in the business of division. As in creation, He divided whatever was necessary in order to bring order. He divides light and darkness today also. That is why His people are in this world but not of it. God’s children are separated from the world as they are sanctified, or set apart, for the things of God. As Christians, we think of the Lord as One who wants to make “everything ok” or to bring peace to a given situation. However, the Lord Jesus clearly said that He came to divide.
"Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. For I have come to 'set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law'; and 'a man's enemies will be those of his own household.' He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it.” (Matthew 10:34-39)
If you have troubles with loved ones who don’t know the Lord, be at peace in the Lord. It is the work of the Lord in your life that has changed you so that you feel the division. Your love for your loved ones shouldn’t change, but your heart’s desire to see them come to Christ will set you apart or divide you from them. Keep praying, keep loving and keep your peace in Jesus. He didn’t give peace to the world but brought peace to you individually as He set you apart for Him.

~Daily Disciples Devotional~
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The Power of a Godly Life

At this time Aramean raiders had invaded the land of Israel, and among their captives was a young girl who had been given to Naaman's wife as a maid.

—2 Kings 5:2

In 2 Kings 5 we read of a young Israelite girl, whose name we don't even know, that had been kidnapped and carried away to Syria. How easily she could have been bitter against God for allowing this to happen. And certainly she could have been angry with the people she was working for as a slave.

So when her master Naaman was stricken with leprosy, she could have thought, He deserves it. But that isn't the way she felt at all. She was concerned for him. Her heart went out to him. And she saw the opportunity to tell Naaman about a prophet in Israel named Elisha who could pray for him. Elisha was Elijah's successor. God was working through him and had used him to raise someone from the dead. Like Elijah, he had miracle-working power.

This girl had somehow heard about Elisha. So she said to Naaman's wife, "I wish my master would go to see the prophet in Samaria. He would heal him of his leprosy" (2 Kings 5:3).

It reminds me of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, young Israelites who also were taken captive. They were brought to Babylon, where the king changed their names. But he couldn't change their hearts. They walked closely with God, as did this young woman.

Imagine how she felt when she heard how God had healed Naaman. I wonder if she ever thought God would use someone like her to reach someone as significant as Naaman. It's a wonderful thing when you have lived such a godly life that when you speak to someone, they listen. This girl earned the right to bring the message she did probably because she was such a great person and a hard worker. She held fast to her faith, even in a foreign land.
~Greg Laurie~
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Practical Suggestions for Guarding Against Extremes
by Chuck Swindoll
Three suggestions come to mind as I think about living with the risks of grace and putting all this into balanced living.
First, guard against extremes if you want to enjoy the freedom grace provides. Try your best to keep balanced, then enjoy it. No reason to feel guilty. No reason to be afraid. Try this first: Simply give yourself permission to be free. Don't go crazy . . . but neither should you spend time looking over your shoulder worrying about those who "spy out your liberty," and wondering what they will think and say.
Second, treat grace as an undeserved privilege rather than an exclusive right. This will also help you keep a balance. Live gratefully, not arrogantly. Have fun, but don't flaunt. It is all in one's attitude, isn't it? It has nothing to do with financial status or where you live or what clothes you prefer or which car you drive. It has everything to do with attitude.
Third, remember that while grace came to you freely, it cost the Savior His life. It may seem free, but it was terribly expensive when He purchased it for us. And who wouldn't want to be free, since we have been purchased from the horrors of bondage?
Grace is God's universal good news of salvation. The tragedy is that some continue to live lives in a deathlike bog because they have been so turned off by a message that is full of restrictions, demands, negativism, and legalism. You may have been one of those held in bondage, victimized by a system that has stolen your joy and snuffed out your hope. If so, I have some wonderful news. You've gotten very close to the border. There's a flag flying. And on that flag is a cross. And if you come into this camp of grace beneath the cross, you'll never have to be in that awful bog again.
You will be free . . . free at last.
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Holy, Holy, Holy! 

Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of His glory! 
Isaiah 6:3 
Recommended Reading
Isaiah 6:1-8
Reginald Heber was pastor of an Anglican Church in the village of Hodnet, in a church once led by his father. Between 1811 and 1821, Reginald wrote 57 hymns, which he longed to see published; but the Anglicans hadn’t yet adopted the singing of hymns in worship. Heber packed away his hymns and sailed as a missionary to India, where he labored with intensity for a few short years before passing away at age 42. His hymns were published after his death, and one is famous to this day: “Holy, holy, holy! Lord God Almighty! Early in the morning our song shall rise to Thee.”
In Isaiah 6, the prophet Isaiah had a vision of the throne of God, surrounded by seraphim crying, “Holy, holy, holy!” Isaiah, caught up in the worship of God, confessed his sins, was wonderfully cleansed, and offered to go and do whatever the Lord said. “Here am I! Send me.”

When we worship, we get caught up in the nature of God and in His holiness. We praise Him who is merciful and mighty; and then we say, “Here am I! Send me.”

Only Thou art holy; there is none beside Thee, perfect in power, in love and purity.
~David Jeremiah~
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Because I live, you also will live. (John 14:19 NIV)

Relationship with God today in so many directions, and over such a wide range, is not a living relationship. There is an acknowledgment of God, there is a form of worship of God, there are rites connected with God; yes, there is a recognition in a greater or lesser measure of a kind of devotion to God, worship of God, acknowledgment of God, perhaps desire for God, but all short of a living relationship with God. Yet that He is the living God means that those who are related to Him should live. He would say, "Because I live ye shall live also." A living relationship with God is possible....
It is not a relationship with some dead order of things, but with a living Person. But I must ask, Have you that living relationship? Are you following a system, an order, or are you in living fellowship with a living God? The Lord desires that such a relationship with Him shall be living all the way along. It is a great thing to know that you have access to the living God. You do not know whether a thing is right or wrong? Well, you have the living God, ask Him; He is open, He is accessible, He is alive; you can have dealings with Him. Just to enjoy a living relationship with a living God is how He wills it to be. The desire of His heart is that you should treat Him as being a living God. "He that cometh to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him." We must believe, when we come, that He is; not feeling out into the universe, the vacant, empty universe. No, we are coming to a living Person; we believe that He is! There is nothing vague about that.

~T. Austin-Sparks~
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Today's ReadingGenesis 31Matthew 9:18-38

Today's Thoughts: A Changed Heart

And Jacob saw the countenance of Laban, and indeed it was not favorable toward him as before. Then the Lord said to Jacob, "Return to the land of your fathers and to your family, and I will be with you." So Jacob sent and called Rachel and Leah to the field, to his flock, and said to them, "I see your father's countenance, that it is not favorable toward me as before; but the God of my father has been with me. And you know that with all my might I have served your father. Yet your father has deceived me and changed my wages ten times, but God did not allow him to hurt me.   Genesis 31:2-7

God is God and He can change the heart of people for your advantage. Jacob knew that despite all his efforts and hard work, Laban's heart was changing towards him. Jacob described it as "not favorable toward him as before." This would seem like an injustice to Jacob since he had worked for Laban who had deceived him and changed his wages unfairly 10 times. And through it all, Laban was completely blessed because of Jacob. However, for some strange reason, Laban's heart changed towards Jacob and his work. With the unfair treatment and Laban's change of heart, Jacob wanted to move on. Why? Because God wanted Jacob to leave and when leaving, God did not want Jacob to ever look back and regret his decision. So God allowed Laban to test Jacob unfairly and to cause Jacob to desire to leave.
Has this ever happened to you? It happens in all kinds of circumstances where people form close ties that are mutually beneficial. A person's heart can change towards a friend when they fear they are losing something of value, but God can change a heart simply for His purposes, even when the innocent one is treated unfairly. It is hard being the one who is mistreated because the heart of a friend has changed against you. But God knows your heart as well as the heart of your former friend.
If you are finding yourself in this place, completely trust in the Lord. Even though you might not have ever left, He still may change circumstances and hearts to get you to change. Some of us pray for years to have our circumstances change. For others of us, we are so surprised when God intervenes and changes a heart. But if you really examine your prayers, the change should not catch you off guard. God is good like that. You can trust Him. He knows where you need to be and He will perform miracles to get you there. 

~Daily Disciples Devotional~
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The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death. (Romans 8:2)

We speak about natural laws. What are natural laws? Take the law of nourishment. Provided that law is complied with, honored; and at the right time the body is given what it needs, not more, not less; the law of nourishment deals with that and quite spontaneously works out in development, growth, to express itself in various ways. It is the working of a natural law spontaneously. You do not sit down with the law, and watch it, and worry about it. What you do is to feed yourself, and leave all the rest to the law. If you violate the law you know all about it, but acting rightly in relation to the law you will not be fretting all day long about the law of nourishment, you will simply be taking your meals and getting on with your work. The result is that you are able to work, able to go on; you are nourished.
The law of the Spirit of Life in Christ is like that. It is a law of Life, and it works out in a practical way when respected and honored. It works out spontaneously in certain directions. It has its own results quite naturally. The law of the Spirit of Life in Christ is that law by which we become aware. That is the simplest way of putting things. The Lord Jesus knew that at a certain time He could not act, could not speak; He had no movement of the Spirit in quickening, no Life to do so at that time; in His spirit there was no movement of Life; the law was not active in the positive way. But when the Father, Who knew what was required in speech or action, saw that the time had come, He did not bend down and speak with an audible voice into His ear, and say, "Now is the time! Say this! Do that!" He simply quickened Him inwardly. The law of Life became active in that direction, and He knew by an inward quickening what the mind of God was. That is what Paul means when he says, "The mind of the Spirit is Life."

~T. Austin-Sparks~


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