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Soldier4Christ
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« Reply #6450 on: January 10, 2012, 08:00:42 AM »

Read: Psalm 27
The LORD is my light and my salvation—whom shall I fear? - Psalm 27:1
TODAY IN THE WORD
One technique of cognitive behavioral therapy is a practice called “self-talk.” The idea is that a person can overcome subconscious fears or negative patterns of thinking by choosing to engage with different internal messages. The idea that addressing our thought life can affect our behavior is hardly new. It’s actually ancient biblical truth.

The Bible emphasizes the importance of our thoughts. We’re commanded to give careful attention to the kinds of thoughts we dwell on. It’s no wonder that in addressing fear, we need to consider our mind as an important battlefront. As we read in Psalm 27, David is providing an example of godly “self-talk.” The context of the psalm indicates some kind of opposition: perhaps David was facing the advancement of enemy troops. It’s also plausible that David faced the betrayal of someone close to him.

The psalm divides into three parts. The first six verses resonate with confidence. David acknowledges the character of God. He’s confident that God is stronger than his enemies, and he longs for an intimate awareness of God’s nearness. The tenor of the passage changes, however, starting in verse seven. David becomes a bit more plaintive, less assured, almost desperate for reassurance that God is fighting for him. And then beginning with verse thirteen, David returns to his former confidence, as if the interlude of verses 7 through 12 were nothing more than the emergence of temporary fears which have since been courageously and successfully beaten back by remembering the character and work of God.

The structure of the psalm shows us a realistic trajectory of facing fear. We’re not always steadfast when fears hound us. There are good days and bad days, moments of great confidence and faith and also dark nights of the soul. When fear is near, we’ve got to get on our knees with an open Bible. We can speak aloud what we know of God’s character, praising God as well as proclaiming this truth to ourselves.

APPLY THE WORD
In the psalm, David reminds himself of truth, and that will be a sure source of protection for him. One of the enemy’s first lines of attack is to discredit the Word of God and incriminate the character of God (Gen. 3:1). When we’re afraid, we’re especially vulnerable to the enemy and his lies. Seek the protection of truth, immersing yourself in verses and passages and stories that remind you of God’s loving intentions toward you, His child.
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« Reply #6451 on: January 11, 2012, 07:09:12 AM »

Read: 1 Samuel 25:1-35
Teach me knowledge and good judgment, for I trust your commands. - Psalm 119:66
TODAY IN THE WORD
In September 2009, Sergeant Dakota Meyer, along with other American and Afghan troops, headed toward a village in the Kunar Province where they were to meet with local elders. In the pre-dawn darkness, they walked straight into an ambush. Corporal Meyer, who was securing a flank, was ordered by radio to stay put. Meyer defied those orders, fighting his way five times through the ambush to rescue three-dozen comrades.

Meyer stayed calm in the heat of battle, and men’s lives were saved as a result. Abigail is the hero of our story today, and her level-headedness averted disaster. Her situation was tense, and lives were at stake. Her husband, Nabal the “Fool,” denied David and his men the ordinary courtesies of Hebrew hospitality, despite the fact that it was well within his means to share. David grew frustrated and then angry. He ordered that 400 of his men arm themselves and advance with the intention of wiping out absolutely everything and everyone in Nabal’s household.

Abigail’s servant recounted to her the grim details (v. 14). That he went to Abigail for help indicates that she already had a reputation as someone who was creative, strategic, wise, and level-headed—everything her husband was not. She lived up to this trust, “acting quickly” (v. 18).

Her decisions were calculated and calm. She organized a parade of gifts to meet David and his men, hoping that such lavish generosity would smooth ruffled feathers. She was not simply handling the situation from afar, though, because she mounted her donkey to follow the parade of gifts. Meeting David on the road, she delivered a speech for which she’s had little time to prepare. She was extraordinarily persuasive, turning David from his murderous intentions.

Abigail’s example of good judgment in the face of fear is one to imitate when we’re afraid. It grew from the soil of her godly character.

APPLY THE WORD
Courage requires more than a sudden and momentary injection of superhuman strength. A godly person is not Superman, donning a cape when danger looms. Courage is an aspect of godly character. To be courageous, one must develop the capacity for self-control and calm when situations are tense. Courage also requires a surprising kind of creativity and strategic thinking. These are qualities formed in us by God over the years in a variety of situations.
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« Reply #6452 on: January 12, 2012, 07:45:02 AM »

Read: Psalm 3
From the ends of the earth I call to you, I call as my heart grows faint; lead me to the rock that is higher than I. - Psalm 61:2
TODAY IN THE WORD
Francis Marion, known as the “Swamp Fox,” was a native of South Carolina who fought against the British during the Revolutionary War. Often credited as the father of guerrilla warfare, Marion infuriated the larger British forces by launching surprise attacks and then eluding capture. Though General Tarleton had put a premium on having Marion killed or captured, his superior knowledge of the terrain allowed him to survive.

Like Francis Marion, King David was once a fugitive in his own land. Psalm 3 records one of the many prayers with which he must have battered heaven’s doors during this tumultuous time. His family had been in turmoil for over a decade. Eleven years earlier, David’s son, Amnon, had raped his half-sister, Tamar. Absalom, Tamar’s brother and another of David’s sons, spent the next two years calculating how he would exact revenge. Absalom eventually killed Amnon and fled the country.

Five years passed before Absalom was granted audience with the king. Absalom was not the kind of person to forget any injury or forego any grudges. Absalom conspired against his own father, making plain his ambition for the throne.

Psalm 3 finds David having fled from Jerusalem. Absalom and his men had occupied the palace and declared Absalom king. One of David’s most prominent counselors had betrayed him and allied with Absalom. On his way out of the city, David’s enemies hurled stones and curses at him.

Second Samuel 15 through 18 detail David’s great uncertainty at this time. He had no guarantee that he would ever return to Jerusalem or reclaim the throne. But Psalm 3 reveals the deep faith of King David. While he was uncertain of his future, he remained confident about the character and action of God. God answers, God sustains, God delivers, and God blesses. These truths anchor David even though he was tempted to feel isolated and abandoned. Friends had become foes, and danger lurked on every side. But the Lord draws near.

If there were ever a night for tossing and turning, it was the night David sang this song. But David could lie down and sleep, resting in the protection of His God.

APPLY THE WORD
When we’re afraid, we can lie awake at night, tortured by the “what ifs,” scripting the scenes of horror or impossibility that tomorrow might bring. The mental frenzy can be quieted by calling out to the Lord. Like David did at the beginning of this psalm, talk with God about the fears and dangers you face. Name them. But then watch them shrink as you begin to realize the protection of your great and loving God. Listen to Him reassure you of His plans to deliver and bless you.
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« Reply #6453 on: January 13, 2012, 08:52:10 AM »

Read: Proverbs 1
Do not let wisdom and understanding out of your sight. . . . When you lie down, you will not be afraid. - Proverbs 3:21, 24
TODAY IN THE WORD
On January 12, 2010, a 7.0 magnitude earthquake caused catastrophic damage in the western hemisphere’s poorest country, Haiti. The world rallied to give aid to the devastated country. Nine months later, an earthquake of equal magnitude struck New Zealand’s second largest city. There, not a single life was lost. How could two comparable earthquakes have such dissimilar effects? Most say that Haiti’s inferior infrastructure and shoddy building codes were to blame.

When disaster strikes, the buildings left standing have secure foundations designed to allow them to survive calamity. So it is spiritually. Today, looking at the first chapter of the book of Proverbs, we see that the fear of the Lord is the only sure foundation for one’s life. As we’ve already seen through this month’s study on fear, we don’t have guarantees from God that our lives will be trouble-free. We can’t control life’s outcomes, and this uncertainty makes us deeply afraid.

The good news is that when we walk in the fear of the Lord, we are preserving ourselves from any number of harmful people and circumstances. In the prologue to this book of wisdom, Proverbs makes the case that sin is itself a source of trouble and difficulty. Keeping company with sinners means inviting pain into your life. The plans they concoct lead to their own ruin.

The fear of the Lord is more than a refusal to participate in evil. Fearing the Lord means that we are actively seeking out and heeding God’s wisdom. Primarily, we look to the Word of God as our source of wisdom, but beyond that, we listen to the instruction of our parents, we give priority to the public teaching of God’s Word, and we obey those in authority over us.

Thankfully, everyone is invited to learn wisdom. None are excluded from the course: the young, the simple-minded, the new-to-faith, and the already wise. God’s invitation for each of us is to listen, to learn, and to grow in the fear of the Lord. Then we experience His blessing.

APPLY THE WORD
We live in an information age, so it’s no wonder that wisdom is often confused with knowledge. Knowledge is content that we can acquire through study. Wisdom, on the other hand, requires the engagement of our hearts. And that’s the key to real transformation. God calls us to identify what we really love and treasure. When the affections of the heart are divided, or when we find ourselves desiring things other than God, we need to confess and repent.
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« Reply #6454 on: January 14, 2012, 08:56:26 AM »

Read: Luke 16:1-15
If you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches? - Luke 16:11
TODAY IN THE WORD
In his sermon, “The Use of Money,” John Wesley spoke of the virtue of prudence. The first rule: “Gain all you can, without hurting either yourself or your neighbor, in soul or body, by [working diligently] and with all the understanding which God has given you.” What next? “Having gained all you can, by honest wisdom and unwearied diligence, the second rule of Christian prudence is, ‘Save all you can.’” In particular, Wesley exhorted believers, “Expend no part of [your money] merely to gratify the desire of the flesh, the desire of the eye, or the pride of life.” Finally, the third rule is: “Give all you can, or, in other words, give all you have to God.”

Prudence is perhaps the concept closest to the word translated “shrewd” in today’s text. This parable presents us with several puzzles. The first is that Jesus seems to be encouraging us to follow a bad example. Some have sought to explain the manager’s actions as culturally appropriate or even indicating a change of heart, but this seems to be reading in quite a bit. Jesus Himself called the man “dishonest” (v. 8), and the manager explicitly stated his motive as self-preservation (v. 4).

A second puzzle is why the rich man in the story commends the manager. “Because he had acted shrewdly.” What does this mean? An additional puzzle is what Jesus meant by recommending shrewdness and why He linked it to trustworthiness and integrity (vv. 10-12). The Greek word at the center of these puzzles is phronimos, also translated as “prudent,” “sensible,” or “wise” in the sense of being mindful of one’s own interests. For example, the man who built his house on a rock was phronimos (Matt. 7:24), as were the bridesmaids who brought oil for their lamps (Matt. 25:2).

In light of all this, the parable gives us a valuable lesson. In the same way that the manager used the resources available to him for temporal personal gain, so we should use the resources available to us for eternal personal (but not self-centered) gain. To use worldly wealth for heavenly purposes (v. 9) is a very shrewd investment!

APPLY THE WORD
Before spending money, Wesley recommended this prayer, slightly modified here: “Lord, you see I am going to expend this sum on that food, apparel, or furniture. And you know I act in this matter with a single eye as a steward of your goods. . . . You know I do this in obedience to the Lord, as you command, and because you command it. Let this, I pray, be a holy sacrifice, acceptable through Jesus Christ. Let my conscience bear witness in the Holy Spirit that this plan is well-pleasing to God.”
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« Reply #6455 on: January 15, 2012, 08:21:42 AM »

Read: Luke 12:22-34
Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. - Luke 12:32
TODAY IN THE WORD
Teddy Roosevelt, an avid outdoorsman, believed strongly in the protection of the nation’s natural resources. Under his presidency, 230 million acres of land were protected as national parks and nature preserves. A century later, millions of people still flock to U.S. national parks like Yellowstone and Yosemite and marvel at the beautiful vistas and majestic landscapes.

As Christians, we understand that it is God, not creation, whom we’re called to worship. At the same time, the natural world is spiritual in one sense, revealing God’s attributes, and (as Jesus taught here in the Gospel of Luke) offering object lessons about trusting God. In challenging His disciples to abandon worry and fear, He calls their attention to the birds of the air and the flowers of the field. The birds have no impulse to build barns where they might store their grain. The flowers do not work to dress themselves each day. It’s their Creator who cares for them.

By contrast, we as humans have superior faculties to the animals and the plants. We are created in the image of God, endowed with the capacity to work and plan. It’s by our work that we provide for ourselves food and clothes and shelter. And while the capacity for work reflects the divine image (for God Himself works), that image has been disfigured. Now worry and fear is embedded even in our work. Jesus calls us back to faith, reminding us that ultimately it’s still the Creator’s job to care for us. Only He guarantees life, breath, and health, all of which make our work possible.

It’s another lesson in smallness, similar to the themes we found in the concluding chapter of Ecclesiastes and Psalm 90. Worry and fear have as their root a kind of misunderstanding about who’s in charge. If we’re ultimately in charge, there is great cause for fear! But if God is the Creator who still watches over His creation, we can find peace.

APPLY THE WORD
In this sermon Jesus contrasts the perspective of the pagan and believer. To be in ultimate control (as a pagan believes himself to be), is to lead a life riddled with worry. The pagan assumes the job title of Creator, but lives with the knowledge of his inadequacy. Believers, on the other hand, rest in their smallness. It’s good to be a creature, trusting the Creator for His protection and His provision. When fear rises in your throat, prayerfully celebrate, “I am a creature. He is the Creator.”
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« Reply #6456 on: January 16, 2012, 07:55:23 AM »

Read: John 12:1-43
He had to be made like them, fully human in every way, in order that he might become a merciful . . . high priest. - Hebrews 2:17
TODAY IN THE WORD
John Newton turned to Christ in a moment he felt certain was his last. As a child, he had been taught the truths of the Christian faith, but as a young man and sailor, he had betrayed his early upbringing. On March 21, 1748, aboard a sinking ship headed back to England from Africa, Newton found himself doing something he had not done in years: he prayed, “Lord, have mercy on us!” The ship made it through the storm, and all throughout his life, Newton would mark March 21 as the anniversary of his “great turning day.”

Moments of terror can drive us to our knees. For some of us, God uses our fear to bring us to our spiritual senses.

In our passage today, Jesus was in the final days of His earthly life. The chief priests, helped by one of Jesus’ very own disciples, were plotting His death. Jesus knew that His arrest, trial, and crucifixion were imminent, and the sheer weight of this knowledge troubled Him. The Greek word used in verse 27 conveys confusion, disturbance, even terror. Jesus did not face the reality of His death with stoicism or some sort of “stiff upper lip.” The text indicates that Jesus was in deep emotional and spiritual agony. The fully human Son of God did not wear bullet-proof armor through which fear could not penetrate. No, He was like us. He carried the weight of fear. He knew its heavy burden.

But even though Jesus felt the terror of impending suffering and death, He was resolute. He could not be dissuaded from His mission of salvation. Yes, there may have been fear, but there was not reluctance. Jesus knew His purpose: to glorify His Father and complete the work He had been given to accomplish for all of humanity.

Contrast Jesus’ allegiance to the Father and steadfast obedience in the midst of fear with the rulers’ cowardice. Despite their belief in Jesus, they dared not proclaim it for fear they would be excluded from the synagogue.

APPLY THE WORD
Our key verse reminds us that Jesus faced all the temptations that we ourselves face. Sometimes we imagine that Jesus never experienced fear or doubt or anger or temptation as we do every day. But we have a glimpse through today’s narrative that this isn’t true. Jesus had emotions, and emotions are not bad or sinful. Fear as a feeling is not wrong. Often it’s an indicator that we’re in danger! But what we do with our fear and where we run when we’re afraid is the test of our faith.
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« Reply #6457 on: January 17, 2012, 07:49:32 AM »

Read: Acts 5:1-16
Great fear seized the whole church and all who heard about these events. - Acts 5:11
TODAY IN THE WORD
Reciting the text of Deuteronomy 32:35, 38-year-old Jonathan Edwards opened what would become his most famous sermon: “Here the Lord warns us that sudden destruction falls upon the wicked. There is nothing that keeps wicked men at any one moment out of hell but the mere pleasure of God. O sinner, consider the fearful danger you are in.” The sermon, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God,” left the congregants of Enfield, Connecticut, quaking with fear, some even crying aloud for God’s mercy.

That’s the kind of fear inspired by today’s story. Luke, the author of the book of Acts, records for us a turning point for the early Christian church. The followers of Jesus were just beginning to understand their new identity in Jesus. They were figuring it out day by day as they met together for meals and worship and to sit under the Apostles’ teaching. They knew the gospel of Jesus Christ demanded a sharing of resources, and they became radically generous with one another. Wealthy disciples sold property and donated the proceeds to the church. The poor were being cared for in their midst.

Ananias and Sapphira saw this generous outpouring. They, too, sold property, but rather than donate all of the proceeds (which was not commanded), they chose to hold back a portion. Their sin was not in withholding some of the money from the sale; rather, their sin was in claiming that they had turned over all the proceeds to the disciples.

The consequence for their sin was swift and severe. It sent shivers down the spine of every believer and nonbeliever alike. God knew the secrets of men’s hearts. And not only that, He was revealing those secrets to the Apostles! The church was altered by this event, for now it was unmistakable that the gathering of believers in Jesus was a holy assembly where God’s presence was real.

APPLY THE WORD
What would it look like for the church today to walk in the fear of the Lord? What would change if we became acutely aware that God was witness to all we said and did? Pray for the leaders in your church today, that they would walk in the fear of the Lord. Pray that your church would experience growth as the result of new believers being added to your numbers when they marvel at the visible work of God in your midst.
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« Reply #6458 on: January 18, 2012, 08:14:27 AM »

Read: 1 Tim. 4:11-16; 2 Tim. 1:3-7
For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline. - 2 Timothy 1:7
TODAY IN THE WORD
Jonathan Edwards, considered one of America’s greatest theologians and pastors, wasn’t always highly regarded. In fact, after serving for 23 years as pastor of Northampton Church, he was dismissed over a disagreement about the Lord’s Supper. The church had traditionally served the bread and wine to all who wished to participate, whether or not they professed a personal faith in Jesus. Edwards came to believe that was wrong—and he was fired when he tried to change it.

The work of ministry is incredibly difficult. The hours are long, the pay is usually meager, and the criticism sometimes intense. In the book of 1 and 2 Timothy, we have the apostle Paul’s words to a young pastor whom he had appointed to serve in Ephesus, where false teaching had taken root. This was not an easy appointment for Timothy, who was himself just a young man. He didn’t have Paul’s pastoral experience and apostolic authority, and the text indicates that his natural personality wasn’t terribly bold. Given all these factors, Timothy probably struggled with fear.

In the opening words of the letter, Paul commands Timothy to stay in Ephesus. Throughout the letter, Paul affirms the call and character of Timothy, reaffirming his own confidence that Timothy can lead the church of Ephesus effectively. He recalls the prayers and prophecies that had been spoken over Timothy. Paul’s words to Timothy call us back to our source of courage in times of fear.

Our initial response when we’re afraid is to run. But just like Paul advises Timothy, it’s best to stay put, especially when you know that you’re exactly where God has called you to be. When God calls us to be on mission for Him, He grants the necessary strength and resources.

It’s not as if we won’t face fear. Fear is normal—but we can’t follow our inclination to run for cover. When we’re afraid, we look to the Spirit of God, because He is courageous in us even when our courage fails. And we stand behind the authority of God’s Word, which is eternally true.

APPLY THE WORD
Doing something for God is never easy. It requires sacrifice, and it very often inspires fear. We’re aware of our inadequacies. Our resources never feel sufficient. And Satan wields the weapons of fear and discouragement to paralyze us. Ephesians 6:10-18 is a great passage to memorize when we’re facing fear. There we learn to dress ourselves in the full armor of God, including the shield of faith, which extinguishes Satan’s arrows.
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« Reply #6459 on: January 19, 2012, 08:52:45 AM »

Read: Exodus 14:10-29
Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the LORD will bring you today. - Exodus 14:13
TODAY IN THE WORD
Last summer, during her visit to Boston, Sarah Palin spoke of Paul Revere’s historic ride on the eve of the Revolutionary War, mistakenly saying that he had warned the British rather than the colonists. Michele Bachmann, giving a speech in New Hampshire, confused the battles of Lexington and Concord as having been fought there rather than in Massachusetts. Why did their gaffes make headlines? It’s because these stories are sacred to us as Americans. We’re supposed to know them.

The story of the parting of the Red Sea has that same kind of historic importance. It is the story of Hebrew identity and consciousness in the Old Testament. Biblical writers return again and again to this story as the fundamental principle for understanding their God and their nation. This was the story that all Hebrew children would learn and retell to their own children.

For the next six days, we’re going to take a brief, sweeping overview of Israel’s history, examining how they were called to be a holy people who lived in the fear of the Lord, how they rejected the fear of the Lord, and how, in the wake of the exile, they were called back to their identity as God’s people.

The parting of the Red Sea was meant as a definitive reminder for the generations to come that the only one to fear was God Himself. No army was too strong for Him. He would protect and deliver His people supernaturally and miraculously if they would only trust Him. What was at stake in this moment of sheer terror with the Red Sea in front of them and the pursuing Egyptian army behind wasn’t simply whether they would live or die. God was fighting for His own glory and fame! He had named Himself their God, and their story would forever tell His greatness. This moment in their history was meant to inspire them with unshakable courage for every danger yet to come. They were His people, and He was their God!

Tragically, the nation would forget time and again what happened here at the Red Sea.

APPLY THE WORD
We have the entire Bible, which has recorded for us the wonder of the character and work of our God. We also have our own personal stories, which are filled with examples of how God has worked in our lives. Do you recount these stories to your loved ones? Do you remember who God is and how He has worked? When we are filled with fear, we need to remember that the God who has delivered us in the past is still faithful and true to His Word.
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« Reply #6460 on: January 20, 2012, 06:46:46 AM »

Read: Exodus 19:16-19; 20:18-21
Do not be afraid. God has come to test you, so that the fear of God may be with you to keep you from sinning. - Exodus 20:20
TODAY IN THE WORD
The Broadway musical Spiderman ran for a record 183 preview performances before it finally opened in June 2011. With a $70 million budget, it is Broadway’s most expensive—and dangerous—production. Before the musical had even opened, four actors were injured attempting the production’s ambitious technical stunts. Although the early reviews from critics were generally negative, audiences still flocked to the show in part to see if the stunts would be successfully performed.

Even the thrilling (and terrifying) stage effects for Spiderman don’t compare with the scene from today’s reading in Exodus. Three months earlier, the Israelites had left Egypt, leaving behind their status as slaves and journeying toward the new land of promise. They were only just discovering what it meant to be God’s people, free to serve and obey Him. They had no written record of God’s dealings with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. They had no formal covenant or code by which to live. Like assembling pieces of a puzzle, they were constructing an image of who He was, this Yahweh, as He revealed Himself along the way.

The parting of the Red Sea showed the unparalleled power of this great God. And the giving of the Law, as we see today, revealed the terrifying holiness of this God. They were commanded to observe rituals of cleansing and purification for three days prior to meeting with God. They were strictly commanded to neither approach nor touch the mountain upon which God would descend. And everything indicated that meeting with God was serious business. One did not approach Him casually.

The scene inspired palpable fear: the ground beneath them shook, their ears rang with the sound of the heavenly trumpet call, and their eyes clouded with smoke as the mountain itself seemed to catch fire. The scene taught them to fear God and to remember His intolerance for sin and His position as judge.

APPLY THE WORD
The Israelites were called to be set apart from the idolatrous practices of their neighbors. “You shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (Ex. 19:6) was the call they received from God. These words are echoed in Peter’s letter, describing the covenant people of God in Christ: “You are . . . a royal priesthood, a holy nation” (1 Peter 2:9). How do we grow in holiness? Fear the Lord. J. I. Packer said, “The life of true holiness is rooted in the soil of awed adoration.”
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Joh 9:4  I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work.
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« Reply #6461 on: January 21, 2012, 08:05:11 AM »

Read: Psalm 78
We will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the LORD, his power, and the wonders he has done. - Psalm 78:4
TODAY IN THE WORD
Writer Christopher Hitchens admits he’s not just an atheist; he’s an anti-theist. The distinction underlines his absolute intolerance for any kind of faith system. According to Hitchens, “Faith is the surrender of the mind; it’s the surrender of reason.”

Hitchens’ critique isn’t new; Christians have often been described as naïve, weak, and needing faith simply to hold them up. If faith were only a collection of spiritual warm fuzzies and hopeful thoughts about the Divine, maybe this kind of skepticism would be on target.

But the Bible never calls people to an unreasoned, unthinking faith. Faith, according to the Bible, is a response to God’s revelation. And God’s revelation happened not just in private, personal moments in the lives of the biblical authors. God also revealed Himself spectacularly on history’s stage, and all the nations trembled.

Faith was Israel’s calling. Yahweh invited them to see and believe in His goodness, holiness, and power. He revealed Himself in history through events that were witnessed and recorded for future generations. Each act of deliverance was a shout echoing from the halls of heaven: Our God saves! From the ten plagues that God brought upon the Egyptians, to the parting of the Red Sea and the manna from heaven, God had intervened to rescue His people and to fulfill His good promises made to them. The psalmist recounts the indisputable evidence of God’s faithfulness.

But Psalm 78 records how Israel tragically rejected the truth of God. They are faulted for having forgotten the miracles of God—and when they did remember, they still didn’t believe. God’s revelation was never sufficient for them. It didn’t matter that He had fed them bread from heaven and brought water from a rock. They doubted whether He would do it again.

At its root, fear doubts God: will He save? And does He even care? Faith answers with a resounding “yes!”

APPLY THE WORD
Fear can have a dizzying effect. When spiritual vertigo sets in, it’s as if we don’t know a truth from a lie. We doubt the character of God. We doubt His power to save and His promises for our good. We find ourselves confused, and like the Israelites, forgetful! How do we protect against this kind of spiritual amnesia? Stay rooted in God’s Word. Stay connected with God’s people. Stay committed to sharing the gospel. And stay honest with God.
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Joh 9:4  I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work.
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« Reply #6462 on: January 22, 2012, 08:38:34 AM »

Read: Jeremiah 5
“Should you not fear me?” declares the LORD. “Should you not tremble in my presence?” - Jeremiah 5:22
TODAY IN THE WORD
Former Vice President Dick Cheney released his memoir, In My Time, last fall. In it, he recounts how in June 2007, he had urged President Bush to authorize the bombing of a suspected Syrian nuclear reactor. The President polled the other advisors around the table: “Does anyone here agree with the vice president?’ Not a single hand went up around the room.

In the forty years preceding Judah’s exile to Babylon, Jeremiah was a lone voice in the administrations of five kings. Judah’s religious and political leaders were all corrupt. The prophets no longer proclaimed the words of God. The political leaders of the day no longer defended the cause of justice. Jeremiah was not at all certain that if he walked Jerusalem’s streets, he’d find even one righteous, God-fearing person.

Israel had completely abandoned her allegiance to God and no longer walked in the fear of the Lord. On a practical level, this meant that people felt a license to sin. Fear of God’s judgment, which had once been a restraining force, was discarded. They no longer believed that God would involve Himself in any kind of meaningful way in their lives, and certainly not to judge their sin. Dishonesty, adultery, rebellion, greed, injustice: these had all become commonplace in the lives and culture of Israelites of that time. And perhaps worst of all, no one showed remorse. No one had any sense of having offended God and the requirements of His Law. Instead, the culture they had created, both political and religious, affirmed all of their wrong choices. They had completely rejected God’s authority.

This is what it looks like to refuse to fear the Lord, and God promises judgment on such a people. Is it not sobering to consider how much our culture resembles theirs? In our day, people feel freedom to sin. The thought of a divine being judging our sin seems out-of-date, medieval almost. And sadly, even churches and entire denominations no longer preach the authority of God’s Word.

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Digging deeper into today’s passage, we see that when we abandon the fear of the Lord, it often happens gradually. First, we forget to see God as the provider of all good things. Our hearts aren’t grateful for all that we’ve been given. Second, we think we are self-reliant. Our blessings become the very things that have turned our hearts from God, convincing us that we don’t really need Him. Third, we lose sensitivity to sin. We no longer hate it.
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Joh 9:4  I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work.
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« Reply #6463 on: January 23, 2012, 08:56:21 AM »

Read: Ezra 3:8-4:6
He is good; his love towards Israel endures forever. - Ezra 3:11
TODAY IN THE WORD
James Meredith was the first black student to attend the University of Mississippi. His application was rejected twice until the Supreme Court finally ruled that Meredith had a right to be admitted. Riots broke out the university’s campus and Meredith’s life was threatened, but his resolve did not waver: “I believe now that I have a Divine Responsibility . . . I am familiar with the probable difficulties involved in such a move as I am undertaking and I am fully prepared to pursue it all the way to a degree from the University of Mississippi.”

Meredith showed courage in the face of opposition, and so did the Israelites in the wake of their return from exile. As we read yesterday, the nations of Israel and Judah abandoned covenant faithfulness to Yahweh, and as punishment for their sin, God allowed enemy nations to overrun the land, capture the people, and send them into exile. Samaria fell to Assyria in 722 B.C.; Judah fell to Babylon in 586 B.C.

By God’s mercy, He granted them a return to the land of Judah, which had been virtually uninhabited for a period of 70 years. The walls of defense encircling Jerusalem had been torn down; the temple had been destroyed. The exiles faced the work of rebuilding their capital, their house of worship, and their lives.

At first, the work proceeded quickly, and the foundation for the temple was laid. But the neighboring nations did not support the reconstruction, and the Israelites met with fierce opposition. It slowed their work considerably for at least a decade.

The challenge facing them was to refuse to be discouraged. They needed to continue to believe that God was good and that God would allow them to complete the work He had called them to do. At the end of the book of Ezra, the author records that the people did indeed persevere and see the completion of the temple.

APPLY THE WORD
Courage comes when we’ve convinced that God has commissioned us for a particular work. But the challenge is always to tune our ears to the voice of God and to silence the voices of our opponents. Can we hear what God is saying to us? When He speaks, it is to strengthen us, to encourage us, and to remind us that all of His resources are sufficient and available to us. Enemy voices seek to discourage and disempower us. Which voice gets airtime in your heart and mind?
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Joh 9:4  I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work.
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« Reply #6464 on: January 24, 2012, 08:22:45 AM »

Read: Nehemiah 4
Don’t be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your families. - Nehemiah 4:14
TODAY IN THE WORD
In the movie Braveheart, the Scottish knight William Wallace (played by Mel Gibson) delivered a memorable speech. An outnumbered and frightened Scottish army faced the English, and Wallace rallied the army before leading them to victory: “Aye, fight and you may die. Run and you’ll live—at least a while. And dying in your beds many years from now, would you be willing to trade all the days from this day to that for one chance, just one chance to come back here and tell our enemies that they may take our lives, but they’ll never take our freedom!”

Nehemiah gave a motivational speech to the exiles who had returned from Judah. The work before them was daunting. The city of Jerusalem lay in rubble, and they were rebuilding the walls. The enemies ridiculed their efforts at first, trying to discourage them to stop building. When those efforts failed, their enemiesplotted more violent opposition.

Nehemiah showed courageous leadership when the people were tempted to give up. The dangers and threats were real, but his confidence was rooted in what he believed to be true of God. He believed God to be a God who sees and cares, and that truth inspired him to pray boldly, even asking for divine retribution on his enemies.

Notice how the prayer is embedded in the text. This probably mirrors what Nehemiah’s prayer life must have been like: a kind of natural, almost involuntary, reflex. Nehemiah was a man who made it his habit to cry out to God!

Nehemiah called the people to trust God and remember His power. They needed to remember that they were not alone—God would fight for them. But it didn’t mean that they should do nothing: Nehemiah also called them to take action. Keep at the work and be prepared for attacks.

APPLY THE WORD
Nehemiah’s words to the exiles contain a tension that is true in all of our Christian lives. The Israelites needed to realize that God was fighting for them, and yet they were commanded to prepare themselves. Even though we are always called to rely upon God for everything, that doesn’t mean that we sit idly by, doing nothing. We are to see our work and our efforts as an obedient response to God who’s in ultimate control.
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Joh 9:4  I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work.
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