Transformation Garden Devotions: Encouragement for Women

 
 
 
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Transformation Garden :Today’s Text and Thought of Encouragement:

I will give you the treasures of darkness and hidden riches of secret places, that you may know that it is I, the Lord, the God of Israel, who calls you by your name.”

Isaiah 45:3, Amplified Bible

“If I believe in God, in a Being who made me, and fashioned me, and knows my wants and capacities and necessities, because He gave them to me, and who is perfectly good and loving, righteous, and perfectly wise and powerful, whatever my circumstances inward or outward may be, however thick the darkness which encompasses me, I yet can trust, yea, be assured, that all will be well, that He can draw light out of darkness, and make crooked things straight.”

Thomas Eskine

Today’s Study Text:

“For Achan…took of the accursed thing.”

Joshua 7:1, King James Version

EXPLORATION

“A Monkey Grip”

“All things that a (woman) owns hold (her) far more than (she) holds them.”

Sigrid Undst

What am I holding on to that holds me more tightly than God?

“Mine! There isn’t any such thing as mine. The world slips slithering through my fingers.”

Nancy Hale

INSPIRATION

“Don’t hoard treasure down here where it gets eaten by moths and corroded by rust or worse! – stolen by burglars. Stockpile treasure in heaven, where it’s safe from moth and rust and burglars. It’s obvious, isn’t it? The place where your treasure is, is the place you will most want to be, and end up being.”

Matthew 6:19-21, The Message

      Many years ago, I went to the zoo with my nieces where we were amused by the playful antics of the chimpanzees. One in particular grabbed a piece of food outside a protected area and was trying in every way possible, to pull that tasty morsel back into the protected habitat. The problem was that the food and the chimp’s clinched fist, couldn’t slip through the bars. The chimp had to let go of what it wanted and you can only imagine the noisy frustration this creature displayed. Of course, everybody watching the spectacle was roaring with laughter, but none of us would have thought it so funny if, at that moment, we’d all been informed that we are like little chimps with our grabbing at this, that and the other! Don’t get me wrong, we have more than enough help in this world for someone is always trying to make us feel “less than” if we don’t have the latest fashion design or newest model of car or the fanciest home conveniences. Advertisers constantly pepper us with the, “You have to have this,” mantra and what’s so sad is that we are such willing accomplices. At least I know I am. I laughed the other day when my daily stack of catalogs filled the mailbox. In one was a sign that said, “I’ve been shopping all my life, and I still don’t have anything to wear.” I hate to admit this but I could relate to those words. With a closet full of clothes, we still feel we lack something.

      If you happen to think our lust for more is a modern day problem, then I encourage you to look at Joshua 7: 1. The background to this text is found in Joshua 6. God promised Joshua victory in the capture and destruction of Jericho. But there was this caveat which is described in Joshua 6:17-18 “And the city shall be accursed, even it, and all that are therein, to the Lord…and ye, in any wise keep yourselves from the accursed thing, lest ye make yourselves accursed….” God made it clear. “Keep your hands off of the trinkets in Jericho. They will bring you nothing but “trouble.”

      In order for us to more clearly comprehend God’s instruction, let’s take a look at two words in this passage: “Keep” and “Accursed.”

      The word “keep” in the Hebrew means “hedge.” It means “protect.” And if we put these two words together, we come up with the visual image of a protecting hedge that keeps out predators and trespassers. Now let’s look at the word “accursed.” The word “cherem” is the Hebrew word for “accursed” which means “usually a doomed object,” and further the idea with this Hebrew word is that the object was meant for destruction.

      Let’s just say I decide to take something God has declared is “doomed for destruction.” What do you think will happen to me? It doesn’t take a genius to figure out if I hold onto something God has warned me will be destroyed, that I might get hurt, too. Especially when God has offered the protective hedge of obedience for me to stay within. All I have to do is listen to what He says and follow His advice – don’t take what’s accursed.

      Problem is, as we see in our text today, Achan had an idea all his own and so he decided to “take” what was accursed.

      Before we all say, “Well, Achan got what was coming to him,” I’d like to make clear, I’ve had an ‘Achan’ heart more than once in my own life and I’ve asked myself, “Why, girl? Why this craving for the accursed? Why do I want what I don’t need?”

      Author Doris Mortman really stimulated my thinking as I tried to answer the, “Why?” with her accurate observation, “Until you make peace with who you are, you’ll never be content with what you have.” Like a spotlight focusing on some big announcement, I began to understand that once I truly embrace my position as a daughter of God and accept all the benefits and blessings that surround this heritage, then and only then, will the desire for more leave my greedy, little heart. Once I recognize “Whose” I am, I will understand “what” I have – everything! That’s right, everything I could ever hope for or need is found in the safety deposit box of my Father’s gracious loving-kindness and long-suffering mercy. As the missionary to Africa, David Livingstone so perfectly penned, “I will place no value on anything I have or may possess, except in relation to the kingdom of Christ.”

      At a time when so many around us are fearful for their money, their possessions and their things, just remember who your Father is and the inheritance He has promised to His precious children.

      I want to share a few verses of a poem by Lucy Larcom:

“I do not own an inch of land,
But all I see is mine,
The orchard and the moving fields,
The lawns and gardens fine.
The winds my tax collectors are,
They bring me tithes Divine.”

May we learn today from the chimp, to loosen our grip on the “accursed things” that hold us back from being all God wants us to be.

“We have very little, so we have nothing to be preoccupied with. The more you have, the more you are occupied, the less you give. But the less you have, the more free.”

Mothers Teresa

AFFIRMATION

Loosen, My Grip

“O God, it is hard for me to let go,
most times,
and the squeeze I exert
garbles me and gnarls others.
So, loosen my grip a bit
on the good times,
on the moments of sunlight and star shine and joy,
that the thousand graces they scatter as they pass
may nurture growth in me
rather than turn to brittle memories.

Loosen my grip
on those grudges and grievances
I hold so closely,
that I may risk exposing myself
to the spirit of forgiving and forgiveness
that changes things and resurrects dreams and courage.

Loosen my grip
on my fears
that I may be released a little into humility
and into an acceptance of my humanity.

Loosen my grip
on myself
that I may experience the freedom of a fool
who knows that to believe
is to see kingdoms, find power, sense glory;
to reach out
is to know myself held;
to laugh at myself
is to be in on the joke of your grace;
to attend to each moment
is to hear the faint melody of eternity;
to dare love
is to smell the wild flowers of heaven.

Loosen my grip
on my ways and words,
on my fears and fretfulness
that letting go
into the depths of silence
and my own uncharted longings,
I may find myself held by you
and linked anew to all life
in this wild and wondrous world
you love so much,
so I may take to heart
that you have taken me to heart.”

 

 

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Dorothy Valcárcel, Author
When A Woman Meets Jesus
Dorothy@TransformationGarden.com

P.S. Over the past few weeks, because of the generous outpouring of gifts from God’s “Garden daughters and sons,” we were able to complete our current projects and send 10,000 bookmarks to Papua New Guinea. We also sent 500 bookmarks in the Hindi language to Northern India. Thank you. Now we are undertaking the challenge of sending bookmarks to Russia, Lithuania and Brazil and to several domestic abuse shelters here in the United States.

My book, When A Woman Meets Jesus, is available wherever books are sold and on the internet at www.amazon.com, and www.Christianbook.com, or by calling toll-free, 1-800-Christian. You may also call Transformation Garden at 480-349-8619.

For more from Dorothy, please visit transformationgarden.com.

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Tabletalk Magazine: Devotions with R C Sproul, Judas Wicked Schemes

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Judas’ Wicked Scheme

Matthew 26:14–16 “One of the twelve, whose name was Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, ‘What will you give me if I deliver him over to you?’” (vv. 14–15).

Commentators on Matthew 26 point out the contrast between Mary’s act of love in verses 6–13 (see John 12:1–8) and Judas’ evil in today’s passage. Judas is treacherously secretive, betraying the Lord behind His back (Matt. 26:14–15), but Mary publicly pours oil upon His head (vv. 6–13). Mary is selfless; she gives something up to bless her Savior (vv. 710). Judas is selfish; he looks to profit by helping to bring the curse of death upon Jesus (v. 15). Finally, Judas sells out Jesus for a relatively small amount of money, but Mary honors Christ with a large amount of her resources — a year’s worth of wages (v. 9John 12:5).

That one of the Twelve is able to turn His back on Jesus tells us there will be no perfect church this side of heaven. After all, if one who saw Jesus with his own eyes was able to betray Him, we cannot be surprised when professing believers who have not seen Jesus betray Him. Judas’ betrayal warns us that even those who seem closest to the Lord may not really love Him, and it encourages us to beware of sin lest we also go astray (Heb. 12:14–17).

What motivates Judas to betray the Christ? Some scholars suggest that Iscariot means “man of Kerioth,” the name of two different cities in Judea and Moab. If so, Judas is the only disciple not from Galilee. Perhaps he envies Jesus’ apparent favor for Galileans like Peter, James, and John (Matt. 4:18–22;17:1) and wants to get even. Or, Iscariot could derive fromsicarii, the Latin term for those zealots who seek the violent overthrow of Rome. If this is the case, Judas betrays Jesus because He has turned out not to be the conquering king Judas expects Him to be. In the end, Judas’ motives are probably mixed, but as John Calvin says, his betrayal shows that he has been “wholly given up to Satan.”

The love of money is in play as well, but it is not the most powerful of Judas’ motivations. Depending on whether a piece of silver (26:15) is a shekel or a denarius, the blood money given to Judas is equivalent to one to four months worth of wages. This sum is not insignificant, but as one commentator states, it is not an amount for which one would completely change his direction in life. Judas is so eager to be rid of Jesus that he will accept next to nothing to betray Him.

Coram deo: Living before the face of God

Judas’ betrayal of the Savior is the most wicked deed ever committed. It warns us to be careful lest sin take hold of our hearts and make us turn our backs on Christ. Those who truly know Jesus will not finally betray Him, but it is possible even for Christians to become disenchanted with the way God works out His plan and fall into transgression. Let us take care to remember that we have no right to call the Lord’s way of doing things into question.

For further study:

Zechariah 11:1–14

The Bible in a year:

Jeremiah 46–48

 

INTO the WORD daily Bible studies from TableTalk Magazine, Matthew Studies. Copyright © 2008 by Ligonier Ministries.

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R.C. Sproul

 

Dr. R.C. Sproul is co-pastor of Saint Andrew’s Chapel, chairman of Ligonier Ministries, and author of the books Defending Your FaithReason to Believe, and Surprised by Suffering

 

Essential Truths: R.C. Sproul: The Fruit of the Spirit

 

Essential Truths of the Christian Faith
 

 

The Fruit of the Spirit

The fruit of the Holy Spirit is one of the most neglected aspects of the biblical teaching on sanctification. There are various reasons for this:

Preoccupation with externals. Though students often murmur and grumble when facing tests in the classroom, there is a sense in which we really want to have them. Tests that measure skill, achievement, and knowledge are even standard fare in magazines. People like to know how they rate. Have I achieved excellence in a certain endeavor, or am I mired in mediocrity?

Christians are no different. We tend to measure our progress in sanctification by examining our performance against external standards. Do we curse? Do we drink? Do we go to movies? These standards are often used to measure spirituality. The real test—evidence of the fruit of the Spirit—is often ignored or minimized. This is the trap the Pharisees fell into.

We recoil from the real test because the fruit of the Spirit is too nebulous. It is far more demanding of personal character than superficial externals are. It is a lot easier to refrain from cursing than it is to acquire a habit of godly patience.

2. Preoccupation with gifts. The same Holy Spirit who leads us into holiness and bears fruit in us also gives spiritual gifts to believers. We seem to be far more interested in the gifts of the Spirit than the fruit, despite the clear biblical teaching that one may possess gifts while being immature in spiritual progress. Paul’s letters to the Corinthians make that abundantly clear.

3. The problem of righteous unbelievers. It is frustrating to measure our progress in sanctification by the fruit of the Spirit when the virtues listed among the fruit are sometimes exhibited to a greater degree by non-Christians. We all know nonbelievers who exhibit more gentleness or patience than many Christians. If people can have the “fruit of the Spirit” apart from the Spirit, how can we determine our spiritual growth in this manner?

There is a qualitative difference between the virtues of love, joy, peace, patience, etc., engendered in us by the Holy Spirit and those exhibited by nonbelievers. Nonbelievers operate from motives that are ultimately selfish. But when believers exhibit the fruit of the Spirit, they are exhibiting characteristics that are ultimately directed toward God and others. Being filled with the Spirit means that one’s life is controlled by the Holy Spirit; nonbelievers can only exhibit these spiritual virtues to the extent of human ability.

Paul lists the fruit of the Spirit in his letter to the Galatians: “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23). These virtues are to characterize the Christian life. If we are filled with the Spirit, we will exhibit the fruit of the Spirit. But, of course, this takes time. These are not superficial character adjustments that happen overnight. They involve a reshaping of the innermost dispositions of the heart, which is a lifelong process of sanctification by the Spirit.

  1. We tend to neglect the study of the fruit of the Spirit because: (1) we are preoccupied with externals; (2) we are preoccupied with spiritual gifts; and (3) we recognize that many nonbelievers exhibit the spiritual virtues better than Christians.
  2. It is easier to measure spirituality by externals than by the fruit of the Spirit.
  3. We can have spiritual gifts and still be immature.
  4. There is a qualitative difference between the presence of the spiritual virtues in nonbelievers and believers. With nonbelievers, it is merely human effort. With Christians, it is God the Holy Spirit producing spiritual fruit in measure beyond mere human ability.

 

 
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Open Doors: Standing Through the Storm: Choosing Love over Hate

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CHOOSING LOVE OVER HATE

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.Romans 12:14

At the early age of eleven, Sam was living a pious Muslim life in the southern Philippines. He prayed at mosques on Fridays and fasted during Ramadan. Sam was the only one of his siblings sent to school where he excelled both in classroom and sports. He was everybody’s favourite, popular and well-loved.

But everything changed one afternoon. After school, Sam passed by his grandfather’s house who happened to be a Christian. He saw a maroon book with ‘Kitab Injil’ (The Gospel) written on the cover. He opened it and started reading. “I was drawn to Jesus because his teachings were so different…Help the needy, obey and respect parents, do not be a false witness…they were not taught in Islam. Before that, I only knew to repay evil with evil.”

So Sam committed his life to following Jesus and His teachings in the Bible. He was just a fifth grader then. Although he was the only Christian in his family, Sam’s parents and siblings respected his new faith. But outside his home, among his friends, it was a different story. “You’re a kafir (infidel)! You are not my friend anymore.”

It was very painful for Sam to be deserted by his friend. His classmates at grade school kept a good distance from him. Some mocked him, calling him kafir. There were times during classes when kids would throw their shoes at him. They bullied him by writing stuffs on his uniform, filling his bag with sand, and even punching him.

One day, a friend-turned-enemy yelled at him. “You Christians are filthy! Christians are garbage!” Sam cried and ran home. There were times when he was tempted to fight back, but he remembered the words of Jesus to love the enemies, to bless and not curse. In his heart, he prayed for those who bullied him and repaid them with a kind smile instead.

Sam, now seventeen, has endured physical harassment, insults, and discrimination from friends and school mates for boldly telling them that he is a Christian.

After Sam joined the Open Doors’ discipleship program for MBB youths, he has become even bolder in seizing every opportunity to share his faith in Jesus. Sam knows that doing so might cost him his life someday.

“When I think of my friends, my heart breaks. I lost them, and though they turned out to be my enemies, I don’t hate them. Instead, I pray for them that one day they will meet my Lord Jesus and be changed.”

RESPONSE: Jesus wants me to not repay evil with evil but rather love, bless and pray for those who are my enemies.

PRAYER: Help me Lord to live among those who oppose me with the character of Jesus and respond to them with love and not hate.

Standing Strong Through The Storm (SSTS)
A daily devotional message by SSTS author Paul Estabrooks

© 2011 Open Doors International. Used by permissionImage

Standing Through the Storm: No Turning Back

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NO TURNING BACK

“Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me.” Matthew 10:38

In northern Nigeria, confessing Christ by word of mouth is not the only test of a believer’s sincere submission to the authority of Christ—particularly one coming to Christ from Islam. A true follower of Jesus must be prepared to carry the cross, or else he falls away.

For 25-year-old Akin, his cross came quickly. His father and uncle took him from the home of one Islamic scholar to another, trying to convince him to compromise his faith in Christ. But all their efforts proved fruitless. Finally, as a last resort, Akin’s family took him to an Islamic reformatory where he must either accept Islam, or die.

“There, I lived with thieves, murderers, alcoholics and drug addicts whose parents or relatives had brought them there to be rehabilitated. I did not belong there…Immediately, they had my hands and feet chained. The chains fastened on my legs were worse, as they joined the metals directly on my legs. They also beat me consistently. The experience was agonizing, but I had to endure, because I had seen the light in Christ and accepted it,” said Akin.

“They maltreated us, but mine was more severe because the Islamic teacher told them I had blasphemed against the prophet of Islam,” said Akin. “I wore the same shirt and trousers for nine months. I could not even wash them since I was chained, hands and feet.”

After nine months in chains and under the cruel treatment of outcasts and the Islamic teacher, the Islamic teacher took Akin back to his father’s house in the village. “My father was very upset and asked the Islamic teacher to take me back, since I had not recanted my faith in Christ,” Akin said. But the teacher refused. “He handed me over to my father and left.”

Because staying with his parents would mean his death, he immediately fled to a pastor’s house for refuge. Akin stayed indoors for two weeks until the church relocated him to a more secure environment. Akin was discipled over the next two years, and then called into ministry.

Now in a Bible school, Akin still cannot go back home. The church in his village is small, with almost no means to support him. His Christian mentor is the only source of help for his school fees, books and provision of food.

“For me the battle continues, although I know it is Christ who rescued me,” says Akin. “This is a constant reminder that Christ actually gave up his life for me…So my experience in that [Islamic reformatory] was just a part of the road that leads to eternity with Christ. He has told us the journey will not be easy, but we must press on, no turning back.”

RESPONSE: Today I will persevere in following Jesus no matter what obstacles I face. I will not turn back!

PRAYER: Thank You, Lord, for the example of believers like Akin whose example imitates Yours in teaching me to follow after You, no matter the cost.

Standing Strong Through The Storm (SSTS)
A daily devotional message by SSTS author Paul Estabrooks

© 2011 Open Doors International. Used by permission

The Gospel Message: Baptist Bible Hour

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Day 6 ThemeThe Gospel Message

He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God– John 3:18

Here is a crystal clear description of the justified sinner, from the lips of Jesus Himself, as well as a depiction of the unbeliever’s state before God.

The repentant, bankrupt sinner who comes to Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God, and trusts in Him is not condemned. He is justified, declared guiltless in the courtroom of heaven.

Notice that it is a present reality, although the believer still sins and falls short here on earth. When we strive to conquer sin, seek to follow Christ, and still find that we daily fall short of the mark, it is a great comfort to know that God already sees us through the perfection of Christ.

But he that believeth not is condemned already. It is interesting and revealing that this, also, is plainly and purposefully in the present tense. Jesus reflects the calmness and control of heaven, even over those who may loudly and persistently reject the claims of Christ upon their lives.

Why is the unbeliever condemned? Because he has not believed in the name of the Son of God. While God is sovereign in condemning the unbeliever, He does not condemn Him without reason. The unbeliever earns his guilty status by rebelling against the authority of Christ.

You have two unmistakable descriptions before you. Which are you? Are you trusting in the Son of God for salvation? If so, Jesus says, you have already been justified in the eyes of God.

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