Standing Through The Storm: Love Your Neighbor

 
 
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LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR

You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Galatians 5:13-14

The scriptures teach that God is committed to one major objective in the lives of all His people; conforming us to the image of His Son. What is the “image of His Son?” It is found in the words of Jesus, Himself, “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark10:45).

It makes sense then to say that God desires the same for us. After bringing us into His family through faith in His Son, the Lord sets His sights on building into us the same qualities that made Jesus distinct—a servant’s heart and a giving spirit. It’s so easy to lose sight of our primary calling as Christians. Even those who lead must do so with an attitude of genuine humility and an authentic desire to help others.

The best-known symbols of Christianity are the cross, theichthus (fish symbol), and the dove symbolizing the Holy Spirit. Probably the least known—yet most appropriate for the Christian—is the symbol of the towel and basin. The towel Jesus used when in humility and service, he washed and wiped his disciples dirty feet. Jesus instructed his disciples after washing their feet that they were to wash one another’s feet.

J. Dudley Woodbury tells a poignant true story that occurred in the dismal refugee camps of Peshawar, Pakistan. The fighting between the Majahideen in post-Soviet Afghanistan and the rise of the Taliban resulted in thousands of refugees flooding into the camps near the border. Most of the children in the camps ran around barefoot in both the intense heat and intense cold.

A Christian organization brought in hundreds of sandals for the children but decided not to just distribute them but care for the children’s feet as well. So they utilized as many Christian volunteers as possible who washed the children’s filthy feet, put medication on their sores and prayed for them silently as they gave out the sandals.

As he tells the story, some months later a Muslim primary school teacher in the camp asked her students who the best Muslims were. One little girl raised her hand and responded, “The kafirs.” (unbelievers).

After the teacher recovered from cardiac arrest, she asked, “Why?” The little girl said, “The Mujahedeen killed my father, but the kafirs washed my feet!”

Missions to the Muslims, he concludes, will be affected less by the flames of 9/11, or even the flames that started the Arab Spring, than by the inner flames that are ignited if we so follow our Lord.[1]

RESPONSE: Today I will look for ways to serve others in genuine humility as a disciple of Jesus Christ.

PRAYER: Lord, help me love as You did, serve others as You did and give of myself as You did!

1. J. Dudley Woodberry, “Muslim Missions: Then & Now,”Christianity Today (September 2011), p. 36.

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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Tabletalk Devotions with R C Sproul: Jesus Laments Over Jerusalem

 

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Jesus Laments Over Jerusalem

Matthew 23:37–39 “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem…! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not!” (v. 37).

Today we return to Matthew’s gospel and resume our study of the last week of Jesus’ life, during which the Jerusalem authorities will crucify the Lord (chap. 27). Passion week, however, is not the first time Jesus’ countrymen reject Him as the Christ. Herod would not tolerate any rival and tried to kill the newborn king (2:16–18). Many Pharisees said He was of the Devil (9:32–34), and the towns of Chorazin, Tyre, and Nazareth did not repent when Jesus preached the Gospel to them (11:20–2413:53–58). Both Sadducee and Pharisee have asked trick questions of Jesus (22:15–40), falsely believing themselves pious when they denied Jesus’ messianic office. Yet those who reject Christ reject God Himself, and they will suffer for their impudence (23:1–36; see Luke 10:16).

Matthew 23:37–39 records Jesus’ lament over Jerusalem after declaring woes on the city’s leaders (vv. 1–36). He expresses sorrow that Israel has continually rejected God’s call for repentance in a metaphor that likens the Godhead to a mother hen, a rare biblical use of a feminine image for deity (see Isa. 42:14). Such imagery reminds us that our Creator is not male, though neither is He female — He is spirit (John 4:24). Nevertheless, we call God “Father,” not “mother,” for that is how He has told us to address Him (Matt. 6:9Rom. 8:15). God is our head and initiates salvation when He pours out His grace; male images for Him remind us of this fact, for men are given headship in the church and the family and thus, the right and duty to initiate (1 Cor. 11:31 Tim. 2:12–15).

Jesus’ lament shows us that human suffering, considered in itself, does not please the Almighty. Although God has ordained Jerusalem’s destruction, His revealed will in Scripture proves He has “no pleasure in the death of the wicked (Ezek. 33:11). But, as John Calvin writes, “the will of God is exhibited to us in two ways,” and there is a sovereign will, unrevealed to us, that governs all that ever occurs (Deut. 29:29). By this hidden will God may ordain events that by themselves do not please Him but nonetheless contribute to His glory, which is supremely pleasing to Him (Isa. 48:9–11). God finds pleasure not in the suffering, but in the good He works for His glory through the suffering.

Coram deo: Living before the face of God

We are not perfectly holy and have no inherent right to execute wrath. How then can we take pleasure in the death of the sinner if God finds no pleasure in the death of the wicked? Our hearts should be broken, not gleeful, when we see someone destroy himself on account of his evil. As you lament the moral degeneracy of our culture, can others hear sadness in your voice? Are you grieved when the unrighteous remain impenitent?

For further study:

Ezekiel 18:31–32

The Bible in a year:

Isaiah 62–64

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.

Proverbs 31 ministries: Encouragement for Today: Where can I Find Joy

 

Encouragement For Today
Wendy Blight October 15, 2013

Where Can I Find JOY?
Wendy Blight

“Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy.” James 1:2 (NLT)

My daughter’s journey with scoliosis was a heart-breaking time for me as a mother. There were days I couldn’t see past Lauren’s extreme physical pain and my wondering heart questioned, why hasn’t God healed her yet?

Through those years, I struggled. I felt empty … void of hope … void of joy. I knew what God’s Word said about joy: “Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy” (James 1:2 NLT). But in the midst of Lauren’s circumstances, her broken heart and wounded body, it was hard to follow that command.

How could I obey this scripture and find joy when someone I loved was in such pain? God graciously answered the cry of my heart by revealing to me these three words … Jesus Only You.

I noticed the first letter of each of those words spelled J O Y. And it clicked with me. Jesus is our joy!

When God says in James 1:2 to consider trials as opportunities for joy, He’s not talking about the joy found in earthly things. Circumstances turning out how we desire, possessions and positions, and even good health only offer happiness. They are temporary. What God longs for us to have is deep, lasting joyfound in Jesus.

The King James Version says we are to “count it all joy” when we walk through trials. This word “count” means “evaluate.”

When trials come, we must evaluate them in light of God’s truths and promises. It’s not the trial itself we consider a joy. Rather, it’s the results that will come from the trial that we consider pure joy.

This involves trusting that God is actively working for our good even in the midst of painful circumstances. And as we trust Him, we will find an inner gladness rooted not in our circumstances, but in the reality of the living God who transcends our circumstances.

After years of praying, asking God to heal my daughter, He did. It still hurts to remember the excruciating pain Lauren suffered. But God was and is faithful. God didn’t heal my girl in the miraculous way I was expecting. Instead, she endured a seven-hour surgery to place two rods in her spine. She missed nearly six weeks of school and labored through months of relearning how to sit and walk and move. She had to quit competitive cheerleading. But in and through that time, God did a new thing.

Looking back, I can see how He held us up, deepened Lauren’s faith, and drew our family closer to each other. In real and personal ways, God showed us His tender, loving care. And He taught me the meaning of true J O Y.

Jesus alone is the source of our joy.

When discouragement comes and you feel you cannot take one more step, remember these three words, Jesus Only You!

Jesus came so that I . . . so that you . . . can experience His joy fully and completely in us through any and all circumstances.

Heavenly Father, thank You for Jesus. Thank You for the joy that is ours in Him. Every time our thoughts turn to our hurt, cause our pain to bring us back to J O Y . . . Jesus Only You. We ask this in the Name of Jesus, amen.

Related Resources:
Read about how Wendy Blight found joy in her book Hidden Joy in a Dark Corner.

Visit Wendy’s blog to enter to win a copy of her book and to sign up for her newest online Bible study on the names of God: Who is God and Why Should I Care? It begins October 30th and runs through December 3rd.

Meet every day with the only One Who brings true joy through reading the NIV Real-Life Devotional Bible for Women, filled with 366 devotions. Pick up your copy by clicking here.

Reflect and Respond:
What does it mean to be filled with the joy of the Lord?

What keeps you from receiving the fullness of His Joy? Memorize and personalize James 1:2 so that you can recall it the next time you walk through a difficult trial and feel the absence of joy.

Power Verses:
Galatians 5:22, “But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness.” (NLT)

Nehemiah 8:10b, ” Do not grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.” (NIV)

© 2013 by Wendy Blight. All rights reserved.

Proverbs 31 Ministries
630 Team Rd., Suite 100
Matthews, NC 28105
www.Proverbs31.org

RC Sproul: Tabletalk Magazine: Persecutors of the Prophets

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Persecutors of the Prophets

Matthew 23:29–36 “On you may come all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of innocent Abel to the blood of Zechariah the son of Barachiah” (v. 35).

Christ’s reference to the scribes and Pharisees being like whitewashed tombs (Matt. 23:27–28) allows for an easy transition to His final woe. Though the religious leaders think they are honoring the prophets when they build and embellish tombs and monuments, they are actually acknowledging themselves as being in league with those who killed the holy men (vv. 29–31).

In Jesus’ day, a period known as Second Temple Judaism, there was a boom in monument construction. These structures were intended to pay tribute to the prophets. They were also supposed to point out the piety of the builders, who in building meant to show that they would have obeyed the prophets their forefathers condemned. Yet in rejecting Jesus, the prophet par excellence, these men allied themselves with their wicked ancestors; in fact, they were worse than their forefathers because in Christ they saw truth more clearly (12:1–6John1:17–18). Jesus’ woe tells us that the scribes and Pharisees would have happily buried the prophets just as they gleefully sought to bury Jesus.

Since they are plainly evil, these enemies might as well get on with it and fill the cup of transgression to overflowing (Matt.23:32), a metaphor for making oneself fit for judgment beyond the shadow of a doubt (Gen. 15:12–16). Basically, Jesus is telling the Pharisees: “God’s wrath is coming on you anyway, why not hurry it along?” Our Savior knows there is more evil for them to do before they are judged. He is going to send them prophets, wise men, and teachers who will also be rejected, as if rejecting Christ is not enough (Matt. 23:33–34). Apostles, evangelists, prophets, and teachers will come to this evil generation and offer one more opportunity for repentance, but just like the Master, the bearers of good news will also be killed (Luke 21:17Acts 12:1–2).

Jesus’ foes will not miss a chance to spurn God’s grace; thus, on them will fall the blood of all the saints from Abel to Zechariah (Matt. 23:35–36). Abel is the first martyr (Gen. 4:1–8) in Old Testament history; Zechariah is the last (2 Chron. 24:20–21). Those who kill the Messiah and His apostles will feel the anger the Creator has stored up against all those who have hated His own.

Coram deo: Living before the face of God

Matthew Henry says it is easy for us to assume that we would be unlike the scribes and Pharisees and follow Jesus willingly. Yet even centuries later, he writes, “Christ in his Spirit, in his word, in his ministers, is still no better treated.” Are we quick to follow the Lord as He presents Himself today through the preaching of the Word? We have no right to think ourselves better than Pharisees if we are not quick to obey His Word this day.

For further study:

Isaiah 63:1–6

The Bible in a year:

Isaiah 41–42

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.


RC Sproul: What happens to children who die before they can accept the gospel?

Tough Questions with RC Sproul

What happens to children who die before they can accept the gospel?

In my own theological tradition, we believe that those children who die in infancy are numbered among the redeemed. That is to say, we hope and have a certain level of confidence that God will be particularly gracious toward those who have never had the opportunity to be exposed to the gospel, such as infants or children who are too disabled to hear and understand.

The New Testament does not teach us this explicitly. It does tell us a lot about the character of God—about his mercy and his grace—and gives us every reason to have that kind of confidence in his dealings with children. Some will make a distinction between infants in general and those who are children of believers, the reason being that when God made a covenant with Abraham, he made it not only with Abraham, but with Abraham’s descendants. In fact, as soon as God entered into that relationship with Abraham, he brought Isaac into it—when Isaac was still an infant and didn’t have an understanding of what was going on. This is the reason, incidentally, that a large number of Christian bodies practice the baptism of infants; they believe that children of believers are to be incorporated into full membership in the church. We see this relationship within the family in biblical history.

We also see David’s situation in the Old Testament when his infant child dies. Yet David is given the confidence that he will see that child again in heaven. That story of David and his dying child gives a tremendous consolation to parents who have lost infants to death.

Now the point that we have to make is that infants who die are given a special dispensation of the grace of God; it is not by their innocence but by God’s grace that they are received into heaven. There are great controversies that hover over the doctrine of original sin. Lutherans disagree with Roman Catholics, who disagree in turn with Presbyterians, etc., on the scope and extent of what we call original sin. Original sin does not refer to the first sin that was committed, but rather to the result of that—the entrance of sin into the world so that all of us as human beings are born in a fallen state. We come into this world with a sin nature, and so the baby that dies, dies as a sinful child. And when that child is received into heaven, he is received by grace.

Proverbs 31 Ministries: Encouragement for Today: Lord, I Need Your Help

 

Encouragement For Today
Renee Swope October 8, 2013

Lord, I Need Your Help
Renee Swope

“In my distress I called to the LORD; I cried to my God for help.” (Psalm 18:6 NIV)

One evening after an intense “discussion,” my husband, J. J., told me that no matter what he did or how hard he tried, it was never enough for me. He was right. I constantly found fault with him as a husband and as a dad.

But when he implied that I was impossible to please … well, that sent my already-out-of-control emotions reeling. I grabbed my coat and stormed out the front door. Hot tears streamed down my cheeks as I replayed our conversation in my head.

I was determined to figure out what J. J.’s problem was and get Jesus to fix him. So I started filing complaints against my husband in what you might call a prayer. And I finally heard myself—all the ugliness, all the anger. That’s when I realized, I need help. I needed God to help me figure out how—after seven years of a happy marriage—we had gotten to this ugly place.

Instead of just crying, I found myself crying out to God for help.

King David was much better at this than I was that day. He had a habit of crying out to God for help when he was in distress. One Bible scholar notes that the phrase, “‘In my distress’ refers, most probably, not to any particular case, but rather indicates [David’s] general habit of mind, that when he was in deep distress and danger he had uniformly called upon the Lord, and had found him ready to help.”*

That night, when I stopped talking and started listening, I sensed God showing me I wanted J. J. to make up for all the ways my dad had fallen short as a father to me and as a husband to my mom. Years as a child in a broken home with a broken heart had led to a significant sense of loss and deep disappointment. Yet, up to that point, I had never grieved the happily-ever-after that I longed for but didn’t have.

My unfulfilled hopes had become bitter expectations. I became controlling and critical, thinking that if I could get J. J. to be the husband and dad I wanted him to be, maybe my broken dreams could be put back together. But I was wrong. Instead of expecting my husband to make up for my losses, I needed to cry out to God with my hurts and call on Him for help.

Are there hurts that hold you hostage? Expectations no one could really ever meet? Need some help today? I know I do. And I know God is there, waiting for us to cry out to Him.

As I continued to process what had happened in my childhood and how it affected my marriage, I learned to ask God for help through each step of my healing journey. It took time, prayer, and courage, but God was my very present help.

By the way, I’m crazy about my husband. And so very thankful for that day several years ago when I finally asked the Lord for help.

Dear Lord, I need Your help, especially with _______________. Please show me where to start and be my help each step of the way. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Related Resources
For 20 years Proverbs 31 Ministries has been a trusted friend to offer comfort in knowing you’re not alone in your day-to-day struggles, questions, and hopes. Today’s devotion is a sample from our newest book, Encouragement for Today: Devotions for Everyday Living.

We’ve compiled 100 of our favorite devotions to share with you. They are hopeful. Relevant. Trustworthy. And offer God’s perspective and a bit of humor to help you through the rough patches. Pick up your copy by clicking here.

Visit Renee Swope’s blog for more encouragement.

Remember
Hurts from your past can hold you hostage. God is there, waiting to heal you.

Reflect
In what ways do you file complaints against your husband (or other loved one) in what you might call a prayer?

Respond
Determine if your hurts are too deep to heal without outside help. If they are, consider seeing a pastor or counselor.

Power Verses
Psalm 46:1Deuteronomy 4:7

*Albert Barnes, Barnes’ Notes on the Old and New Testaments (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1983).

Taken from Encouragement for Today: Devotions for Everyday Living by Renee Swope, Lysa TerKeurst and Samantha Evilsizer and the Proverbs 31 Ministries Team. © 2013 Proverbs 31 Ministries. Used by permission of Zondervan.www.zondervan.com.

Proverbs 31 Ministries
630 Team Rd., Suite 100
Matthews, NC 28105
www.Proverbs31.org

Women’s Devotions: Humble Competence

Humble Competence

2 Corinthians 3:4–18

You probably know someone who overestimates her competence. She might be a member of your Bible study who has a subtle way of telling others how to run their lives. Maybe it’s a coworker who takes control of everything around her.

On the other end of the scale are those (often women) who revel in false humility. They tell themselves and everyone else how incapable of anything they are.

In contrast, there are those who understand that their abilities are God-given. They realize that their talents are gifts, recognize their limitations and welcome others’ input. They don’t think of themselves as superior but consider others’ needs before their own. Being around these people frees others to be the best they can be.

True competence begins with humility, recognizing our natural abilities but acknowledging that they can only carry us so far. With that knowledge, we begin to realize that our incompetence is merely a starting point. We don’t have to be perfect; we have the freedom to be the uniquely gifted, talented and competent women God created.

Elisa Morgan, president of MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) International, wrote:

>“I’m probably the least likely person to head a mothering organization. I grew up in a broken home. My parents were divorced when I was 5. My older sister, younger brother, and I were raised by my alcoholic mother.

>“While my mother meant well—truly she did—most of my memories are of me mothering her rather than her mothering me. Alcohol altered her love, turning it into something that wasn’t love.

>“Ten years ago, when I was asked to consider leading MOPS International, a vital ministry that nurtures mothers, I went straight to my knees—and then to the therapist’s office. How could God use me—who had never been mothered—to nurture other mothers?

>“The answer came as I gazed into the eyes of other moms around me and saw their needs mirroring my own. God seemed to take my deficits and make them my offering.”

Reflection

  1. How have you found your natural abilities insufficient?
  2. How does knowing that you can rely on God’s competence give you confidence?
  3. What might you try to do for God’s kingdom if you knew you could not fail?

2 Corinthians 3:4–5
Such confidence we have through Christ before God. Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God.

Related Readings

Exodus 4:10–122 Corinthians 12:7–10James 1:16–18