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RiverOL

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Anteroom to Glory
For reading & meditation: Ephesians 1:15-23
"... he raised [Christ] from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms ..." (v. 20)

Young Christians who have just come into the faith often ask: Why is the resurrection so important? How can an event which took place 2,000 years ago have any relevance for us today? Three very simple statements (not original to me) will bring us to the heart of the matter. First, the resurrection of Christ assures us of God's forgiveness. Forgiveness is one of humanity's greatest needs. Jack Winslow, in his book Confession and Absolution, says that the head of a large English mental hospital remarked that he could dismiss half of his patients immediately if they could be assured of forgiveness.

The resurrection is convincing proof that Christ's sacrifice on the cross was accepted, and thus gives us the assurance that all our sins can be forgiven. Second, the resurrection of Christ assures us of God's power. It is one thing to be forgiven; it is another to live above the power of sin. "Men may change their ways," say some writers (as we saw) from non-Christian religions, "but they can't change their character." Well, God can change people's character. He did so with the apostle Paul, with Peter, and with countless others.

Paul's prayer in the passage before us today focuses on this - that we might comprehend something of the power released in the world through the resurrection. Third, the resurrection assures us of God's ultimate triumph. Other religions and ideologies have very vague ideas about the future. Some believe in endless cycles of reincarnations; others nirvana. Christians, however, have a hope that is different. Death for a believer is nothing more than the anteroom to glory.

Prayer:
Father, this must be the moment when debate ends and dedication begins. As You have done so much for me, I want to commit myself in a deeper way than ever before to living life in the power of Your resurrection. Help me dear Father. In Jesus' Name. Amen.
 

RiverOL

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Restoring Connections

. . . build up the ancient ruins
. . . repair the ruined cities—Isaiah 61:4


Three relationships broke when man fell, so long ago: the relationship between man and God, the relationship between man and himself, and the relationship between man and other men (and women). Our jobs now, brother, are to repair and rebuild those relationships, in our own unique ways, as much as we can during our lifetimes . . . and to encourage and assist others in doing likewise. Our King, Jesus Christ, gave us our instructions—love “God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” and love “your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:37-39). His two-part directive covers all three relationships: love God more than anything else; love yourself sufficiently; and love other people at least as much as you love yourself. It’s all there.

So how do we begin? Well, we restore relationships with God when we soften our hearts, decide to trust him more than we trust ourselves, and bend ourselves toward obedience. We restore relationships with ourselves when we soften our hearts and decide to care for ourselves as God intends, finally dealing with self-condemnation or idolatry or addiction (to work, to food, to alcohol, to pornography, or anything else). And, we restore relationships with others when we soften our hearts, decide to look around for people who need us, and bend our lives toward loving and serving and forgiving them.



Take a moment to survey your life. Which type of relationship is most broken? If none is obvious, take time for listening prayer. Ask your counselor, God the Holy Spirit, to guide you. Once you’ve focused-in on what’s most in need of rebuilding, what’s most in need of repair, you’ve got your own, individualized blueprint for “what’s next.” Begin working on it this week. Start with something practical.
 

RiverOL

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Study is a Verb
Morning Encounter:
Read:
Young people can live
a clean life
by obeying your word.
I worship you
with all my heart.
Don’t let me walk away
from your commands.
I treasure your word
above all else;
it keeps me from sinning
against you.

I praise you, Lord!
Teach me your laws.
With my own mouth,
I tell others the laws
that you have spoken.
Obeying your instructions
brings as much happiness
as being rich.

I will study your teachings
and follow your footsteps.
I will take pleasure
in your laws
and remember your words.
Psalm 119: 9-16

Reflect:
For the psalmist, the scriptures are the key to living for God. And if we are so far uninspired about the Discipline of Study, the sheer enthusiasm and passion here might be just what we need. Studying does not mean sitting at a desk with a lot of fat, dusty books arrayed around us. It means applying our mind, our concentration and our energy on getting the very most from what we read.
Look at the verbs in our reading today- “I recount,” “I rejoice,” “I meditate,” “I consider,” “I delight.” This is not a dry, dusty exercise. This is exciting stuff.

Respond:
Think about your attitude to reading the Bible. What verbs might you use? What verbs would you like to use? Make this your promise today: “I will not neglect your word.” (NIV 119:16)

Midday Meditation:
“While the initiative in the revival and reformation of the soul originally comes from what lies beyond us, we are never merely passive at any point in the process…It is certainly true, as Jesus said to his friends, ‘apart from me you can do nothing’ (John 15:5). But it is equally true for them that “if you do nothing, it will be without me.” In the process of spiritual formation under grace, passivity does not exclude activity and activity does not exclude passivity.”
(Dallas Willard)

Evening Reflection:
Lord God, thank you for the gift of your Word. I am sorry that sometimes I read it dismissively, passively, with no excitement or enthusiasm. Help me delight and rejoice, meditate and consider. Help me love the Scriptures as your son Jesus did. Amen
 

RiverOL

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Risen... and Exalted
For reading & meditation: Acts 1:1-11
"... he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight." (v. 9)

Before we conclude our meditations on the uniqueness of Christianity, we must mention our Lord's ascension. I much prefer the word exaltation to ascension to describe Christ's return to the throne of God, for that is what it really was - an exaltation. Paul, in some verses in the passage we looked at yesterday (Eph. 1:20-21), points out that following His resurrection our Lord was elevated above all possible rivals: "far [note the word far] above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come."

Jesus has been exalted to the highest place, and it is this "supremacy" which His Father wants Him to enjoy forever. This thrilling truth puts into proper perspective the use of the word superiority which is a word commonly used by Christians when comparing the faithto others. We must be careful how we use the word. Adopting an air of superiority toward people of other faiths displays nothing more than discourtesy and arrogance. John Stott comments: "It is not 'Christianity' as an empirical institution or system for which Christians should claim superiority. It is Christ, and only Christ. We should not be afraid to affirm without embarrassment that Christ is superior to all other religious leaders, precisely because He alone humbled Himself in love even to the cross and therefore God has raised Him 'above' every other person, rank, or title." If God has given this supreme position to Jesus and so honored Him, then we should give Him the same honor also.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, I honor You. Oh how I honor You. May Your Church this day and every day give unto You the honor which You so rightly and richly deserve. Blessed be Your wondrous Name forever. Amen.
 

RiverOL

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Real Men Get Sleep

. . . for I am fearfully and wonderfully made—Psalm 139:14

Our physical frames matter. People see God in and through them. We have spiritual natures, yes, but our physical frames give our spiritual selves home. They also give home to God the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 3:16-17). From an eternal perspective, they’re temporary. But our actions here and now affect our eternities—and we act, here and now, through our physical frames. Spiritual discipline matters more, but physical discipline and physical condition still matter (1 Timothy 4:7-8).

The prevailing culture of this world tells us men our jobs should be our utmost priority—physical care is good, but must be disregarded when and if it interferes with workplace ascent. “Get it done.” “Do whatever it takes.” “Man up.” To these codes we sacrifice our physical selves, and especially our sleep. We stay late at the office; work late at home; live in hotels, on airplanes. But, this is not what our Father God intends:

“It is in vain that you rise up early
and go late to rest,
eating the bread of anxious toil;

for he gives to his beloved sleep” (Psalm 127:2).

God blesses his sons with (and in) sleep. It’s a time to restore and heal; to relinquish worry and stress; to, quite literally, leave everything to him. We should appreciate it fully, be thankful for it, accept it wholeheartedly. We’ve all felt the results when we don’t: racing hearts; pounding heads; clouded thoughts; a lack of productivity, creativity, patience; a compromised resistance to sin. We are never the husbands, fathers, friends, bosses, employees we must be, when we sacrifice sleep.





Fight for sleep. The struggle is hard, but worthy. Minimizing it is neither responsible, nor manly. We’re designed for sleep. You know how much—but, how much are you actually getting?
 

RiverOL

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Know Your Weapons
Morning Encounter:
Read:
The Holy Spirit led Jesus into the desert, so that the devil could test him. After Jesus had gone without eating for forty days and nights, he was very hungry. Then the devil came to him and said, “If you are God’s Son, tell these stones to turn into bread.”
Jesus answered, “The Scriptures say:
‘No one can live only on food.
People need every word
that God has spoken.’”

Next, the devil took Jesus to the holy city and had him stand on the highest part of the temple. The devil said, “If you are God’s Son, jump off. The Scriptures say:
‘God will give his angels
orders about you.
They will catch you
in their arms,
and you won’t hurt
your feet on the stones.’”
Jesus answered, “The Scriptures also say, ‘Don’t try to test the Lord your God!’”

Finally, the devil took Jesus up on a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms on earth and their power. The devil said to him, “I will give all this to you, if you will bow down and worship me.”
Jesus answered, “Go away Satan! The Scriptures say:
‘Worship the Lord your God
and serve only him.’”
Then the devil left Jesus, and angels came to help him.
Matthew 4:1-11

Reflect:
In the ancient near-middle east, the desert wasn’t seen as a romantic retreat location, but was feared as Satan’s territory. Jesus began his ministry by taking on the King of Evil on his own ground, armed only with Scripture. And where Israel had failed all those generations before, Jesus triumphed.
If we look closely at how Jesus responds to the temptations thrown at him, we can see it is not a case of reciting memory verses. Satan himself can quote the Bible (4:6). Jesus has internalised deep truth; his very character and thoughts are shaped by his understanding of the whole Old Testament (the New Testament not being written at that point!). Jesus is armed and he knows how to use his weapons.

Respond:
How might the Bible help you overcome your current struggles against the “spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 6:8)?

Midday Meditation:
“’No weapon forged against you will prevail, and you will refute every tongue that accuses you. This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD, and this is their vindication from me,’ declares the LORD.”
(NIV Isaiah 54:17)

Evening Reflection:
‘Let nothing disturb you,
Let nothing make you afraid,
All things are passing.
God alone never changes.
Patience gains all things.
If you have God you will want for nothing.
God alone suffices.’
 

RiverOL

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No Cross without a Crown
For reading & meditation: Ephesians 4:1-16
"He ... ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe." (v. 10)

In his autobiography, A King's Story, the Duke of Windsor told of a strange thing that happened at the funeral of his father, King George V. He described how, as his father's body was being conveyed on a draped gun carriage through the crowded streets of London, a mishap occurred which only those closest to the scene witnessed. The imperial crown, removed from the Tower of London, had been placed over the Royal Standard and secured to the lid of the coffin. However, the jolting of the vehicle caused the Maltese Cross, which surmounts the crown, to fall. "Suddenly," said the Duke, "out of the corner of my eye, I caught a flash of light dancing along the pavement.

One of the sailors, marching behind the gun carriage, picked it up, took it to his commanding officer, and said, 'This cross fell off, Sir. It must be replaced.' The officer was a little bewildered by the untoward happening and said: 'Must it be replaced now?' 'Yes Sir,' replied the sailor, 'The crown is never complete without the cross.' " In Christian terms the converse is also true - the cross is not complete without the crown. The ascension inevitably followed the atonement; the coronation the crucifixion. One writer says: "One senses a certain embarrassment in some ministers where the subject of the ascension is concerned. They tend to shy clear of the topic or dismiss it lightly as no more than a graphic myth or triumphalist parable." But if there had been no ascension there would be no gospel. The cross would not be complete without the crown.

Prayer:
O Father, how can I ever sufficiently thank You that the work of salvation is complete. Nothing more needs to be done than has been done. Your Coronation spells it out in the clearest of terms. I am so deeply, deeply grateful. Amen.
 

RiverOL

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Life Investment

"I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day [in Heaven]—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing."1

Roger Perkins of Higher Ground writes: "A few years ago I sat and listened to an eighty-year old man who had retired as pastor of a church in New Jersey after serving there for forty years—his only parish. Ten years before, at age seventy, he and his wife moved to Africa to spend their final years in Kingdom work—much of it in prisons.

"He said to our small gathering, 'I don't want to be too harsh, but what are you doing that would cause God to want to extend your life?'

"I was stunned. My old analytical self tried to counter his reasoning, but the Spirit clearly gave me a wakeup call to make every day count by remaining close to God and living out his will. Life is short no matter how long it is.

"The above pastor's name is Grover Wilcox. He started a church in the inner city of Newark after graduating from Wheaton College and was a pastor there for forty years. He knows about faithfulness. He has experienced planting, sowing and reaping. He's still going strong in East Africa—he's about 85 now. And by the way, his denomination wouldn't ordain him when he got out of Wheaton College because they thought he wasn't good material or ready for the pastorate."2

Suggested prayer: "Dear God, help me to carefully examine my life to see if there is any reason why you would choose to extend my life. Thank you for hearing and answering my prayer. Gratefully, in Jesus' name, amen."
 

RiverOL

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Study Buddy
Morning Encounter:
Read:
That same day two of Jesus' disciples were going to the village of Emmaus, which was about seven miles from Jerusalem. As they were talking and thinking about what had happened, Jesus came near and started walking along beside them. But they did not know who he was…
Then Jesus asked the two disciples, “Why can’t you understand? How can you be so slow to believe all that the prophets said? Didn’t you know that the Messiah would have to suffer before he was given his glory?” Jesus then explained everything written about himself in the Scriptures, beginning with the Law of Moses and the Books of the Prophets.

When the two of them came near the village where they were going, Jesus seemed to be going farther. They begged him, “Stay with us! It’s already late, and the sun is going down.” So Jesus went into the house to stay with them.
After Jesus sat down to eat, he took some bread. He blessed it and broke it. Then he gave it to them. At once they knew who he was, but he disappeared. They said to each other, “When he talked with us along the road and explained the Scriptures to us, didn’t it warm our hearts?”
Luke 24:13-16, 25-32

Reflect:
The Bible is not always straightforward and it can seem like a daunting task to try and see how it fits together, what its authors intended as they wrote it, what the grand sweep of the narrative shows us about God and ourselves. These two disciples on the road to Emmaus were certainly struggling.
While we may not have the person of Jesus in physical form to talk us through the nuts and bolts of it, we are certainly not left to study Scripture alone. Our first help is the Holy Spirit, who will “guide us into the full truth” (John 16:13). We also have the help of the scholars, teachers and pastors who have invested their time and talent into wrestling over the big scriptural questions.

Respond:
Ask Jesus, through the Holy Spirit, to walk with you as you grapple with the Bible- to show you more of himself, and to open your eyes to Truth.

Midday Meditation:
“It is uniquely in the Bible that we encounter Jesus. The message of the Bible is not just that help is coming- it has arrived: ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand,’ Jesus said. So before you begin to read, acknowledge that Jesus is present with you. “
(John Ortberg)

Evening Reflection:
O Lord Jesus Christ, open Thou the eyes of my heart, that I may hear Thy word and understand and do Thy will, for I am a sojourner upon the earth. Hide not Thy commandments from me, but open mine eyes, that I may perceive the wonders of Thy law. Speak unto me the hidden and secret things of Thy wisdom. On Thee do I set my hope, O my God, that Thou shalt enlighten my mind and understanding with the light of Thy knowledge, not only to cherish those things which are written, but to do them; that in reading the lives and sayings of the saints I may not sin, but that such may serve for my restoration, enlightenment and sanctification, for the salvation of my soul, and the inheritance of life everlasting. For Thou art the enlightenment of those who lie in darkness, and from Thee cometh every good deed and every gift. Amen.
 

RiverOL

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Christ - Our Precursor
For reading & meditation: Hebrews 6
"... Jesus, who went before us ..." (v. 20)

Out of all the aspects of truth that surround the fact of our Lord's ascension, one of the greatest is surely this - Christ is our Precursor. A precursor is really a forerunner - an advance runner - and that is precisely the term which our text for today applies to the climactic ministry of our ascended Lord. The NIV translates the word prodromos (forerunner) thus: "who went before us." That translation, in my opinion, is not nearly as appealing as that found in other versions, where the word forerunner is actually used. "Forerunner" brings to mind a picture of our Lord as a celestial outrider "bringing many sons to glory" (Heb. 2:10), and reminds us of a petition in the great high priestly prayer: Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory ..." (John 17:24).

Henry Longfellow, in his Golden Legend, put it like this: When Christ ascended Triumphantly, from star to star, He left the gates of heaven ajar! Much as I like Longfellow, I have to disagree. Our Lord left the gates of heaven not just "ajar" but wide open. One of the creeds expresses it more effectively: "When Thou hadst overcome the sharpness of death, Thou didst open the kingdom of heaven to all believers." Whatever the future holds for us, we who are Christ's can be sure of this: our Lord has ascended into heaven. And so, too, shall we.


Prayer:
O Father, I see that not only was there an ascension in the life of Your Son, but there is to be one in mine too. According to Your Word, I am to be "caught up in the clouds" and to be with You forever. Lord Jesus, come quickly. Amen.
 

RiverOL

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Premeditated Sin
Aaron shall lay both his hands on the head of the live goat, confess over it all the iniquities of the children of Israel, and all their transgressions, concerning all their sins, putting them on the head of the goat, and shall send it away into the wilderness by the hand of a suitable man.
—Leviticus 16:21 NKJV

The mention of iniquities, transgressions, and sins in this verse is very specific. Sin means to “miss the mark.” James 4:17 defines sin: “So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin” (ESV).
Iniquity is more deep-seated; it is premeditated. Micah 2:1 warns:
Woe to those who devise iniquity, and work out evil on their beds! At morning light they practice it, because it is in the power of their hand (NKJV).

An example would be David’s liaison with Bathsheba. The planning that led to the death of Uriah, her husband, was well thought out by David. When the king fell on his face before God in repentance, he cried, “Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin” (Psalm 51:2 ESV).
Transgressions are presumptuous sins—intentional disobedience. Samson committed such sins when he transgressed the laws of God in his dalliance with Delilah and revealed the secret of his strength.
David gave us hope in Psalm 32:1 when he wrote, “Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, Whose sin is covered” (NKJV).
 

RiverOL

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The Power of Bible Study
Morning Encounter:
Read:
What God has said isn’t only alive and active! It is sharper than any double-edged sword. His word can cut through our spirits and souls and through our joints and marrow, until it discovers the desires and thoughts of our hearts. Nothing is hidden from God! He sees through everything, and we will have to tell him the truth.
Hebrews 4:12-13

Reflect:
Studying the Bible, as opposed to just reading it, gives it a far greater chance of transforming us. We will be exposed to its power in a more sustained and vulnerable way, and as the writer of Hebrews expresses so vividly, it isn’t exactly a safe thing to do!
Have you ever felt the word of God uncover your desires and thoughts in an uncomfortable or even painful way? Have you felt it “cut through your spirit and soul”? If not, perhaps it is time to stop reading and start studying.

Respond:
“Nothing is hidden from God.” Thank God that he sees you- all of you- and looks on you with love.

Midday Meditation:
“Nothing can be so dry and lifeless for the church as making biblical study purely an academic exercise in historical investigation. Even though the Word was originally given in a concrete historical context, its uniqueness is that that historically given and conditioned Word is ever a living Word.” (Gordon Fee & Douglas Stewart)

Evening Reflection:
You have looked deep
into my heart, Lord,
and you know all about me.
Where could I go to escape
from your Spirit
or from your sight?

Nothing about me
is hidden from you!
Look deep into my heart, God,
and find out everything
I am thinking.
Don’t let me follow evil ways,
but lead me in the way
that time has proven true.
 

RiverOL

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Loyal
Jesus, Yes - Church, No
For reading & meditation: 2 Corinthians 5:11-21
"We implore you on Christ's behalf: Be reconciled to God." (v. 20)

Now that we have looked at the aspects of our faith which make it unique among all world religions, we must face some other important issues before finally drawing to a close. Being Christians does not mean we therefore have to believe that all other religions are completely wrong. As C. S. Lewis pointed out: "If you are an atheist you have to believe that the main point in all religions is simply one huge mistake. But if you are a Christian you are free to think that all religions, even the queerest of them, contain at least some hint of truth.

Being a Christian, however, does mean thinking that where Christianity differs from other religions, Christianity is right and they are wrong. As in arithmetic there is only one right answer to a sum and all other answers are wrong. But some wrong answers are much nearer to being right than others." While never budging from what we believe, we must show a loving disposition toward those of other faiths. A group of adherents to the Muslim faith gathered outside a church in one of Britain's northern cities shouting: "Jesus, Yes; the Church, No." Their complaint was based on the fact that the minister and people of that particular church had pushed thousands of leaflets through local mailboxes stating: "Islam is a devilish religion; only the Christian religion is of God." We can be passionate in our faith without being discourteous to people. We may disagree with what someone believes, but we must disagree agreeably. As one old preacher quaintly put it: "To win some we must be winsome."

Prayer:
Father, I see from the text before me today that You want me to implore people to come to You, not intimidate them. Make me a firm but loving witness - one who can disagree without being disagreeable. In Christ's Name I ask it. Amen.
 

RiverOL

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What God’s Like

I believe; help my unbelief—Mark 9:24

What should we believe about God? We’re told he’s big and powerful—so big and so powerful, in fact, he created . . . everything (Colossians 1:16). We’re told he sees everything and knows everything and can do anything (Isaiah 55:9; Hebrews 4:13; Ephesians 3:20). We’re told it’s always been so (Psalm 90:1-2).

“‘I am the Alpha and the Omega,’ says the Lord God, ‘who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty’” (Revelation 1:8).

We're also told, despite his size and power, he cares about each of us (Matthew 10:29-31); he loves us, no matter what, even to the point of laying down his life for ours (John 3:16); he wants to spend time with us and for us to know him (Revelation 3:20); and he protects and helps us and never wavers (2 Thessalonians 3:3).

We should believe all that, but do we, really? Most of us, if we were honest, would confess much belief, but some unbelief too. That’s okay; God can handle it. As his followers, though, we can’t leave it there. We must seek to learn more about him. We must seek to reconcile our beliefs with who he says he is. You see, how we see him, what we believe about him, affects everything we do. The “most portentous fact about any man is not what he at a given time may say or do,” wrote A.W. Tozer, “but what he in his deep heart conceives God to be like.”



Search your heart and mind, rigorously and honestly. Identify areas of unbelief. Then, be bold. Bring them to God, in prayer. Ask for help. Ask him to teach you about himself. Ask him to help your unbelief.
 

RiverOL

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Godly Diligence
Morning Encounter:
Read:
If you teach these things to other followers, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus. You will show that you have grown up on the teachings about our faith and on the good instructions you have obeyed. Don’t have anything to do with worthless, senseless stories. Work hard to be truly religious. As the saying goes,
“Exercise is good
for your body,
but religion helps you
in every way.
It promises life
now and forever.”

These words are worthwhile and should not be forgotten. We have put our hope in the living God, who is the Saviour of everyone, but especially of those who have faith. That’s why we work and struggle so hard.
Teach these things and tell everyone to do what you say. Don’t let anyone make fun of you, just because you are young. Set an example for other followers by what you say and do, as well as by your love, faith, and purity.
Until I arrive, be sure to keep on reading the Scriptures in worship, and don’t stop preaching and teaching. Use the gift you were given when the prophets spoke and the group of church leader blessed you by placing their hands on you. Remember these things and think about them, so everyone can see how well you are doing. Be careful about the way you live and about what you teach. Keep on doing this, and you will save not only yourself, but the people who hear you.
(I Timothy 4:6-16)

Reflect:
Timothy is a young church leader, who has grown up in the faith (4:6) and who has the spiritual gifting needed for his role (4:14). But Paul’s message to him has a strong emphasis on the work he must do to grow in maturity and lead his people along straight paths: ‘work hard,’ ‘set an example,’ ‘be careful about what you teach.’
Few of us have the responsibility of leading a church, but we all have influence on those around us. We need to work at knowing, understanding and obeying the Bible, because in doing this, like Timothy, we will save not only ourselves, but potentially others too.

Respond:
Lord, help me be diligent in training for godliness. Thank you for your promise of life now and forever. Amen

Midday Meditation:
“A disciple is a learner, a student, an apprentice- a practitioner, even if only a beginner. The New Testament literature, which must be allowed to define our terms if we are ever to get our bearings in the Way with Christ, makes this clear. In that context, disciples of Jesus are people who do not just profess certain views as their own but apply their growing understanding of life in the Kingdom of the Heavens to every aspect of their life on earth.” (Dallas Willard)

Evening Reflection:
God of my mind, help me use the intellect you have given me to the fullness of my ability when I read the Bible. Help me give time and energy to studying your Word, and through it, reveal yourself to me.
 

RiverOL

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Common Grace
For reading & meditation: Acts 17:16-34
"For in him we live and move and have our being." (v. 28)

God is active not only in the Church but in the world and in those belonging to other religions also. Christians believe that God has revealed Himself in Jesus in a unique way, as declared in the Scriptures, and has nothing more to reveal than He has revealed. But does that mean God is interested only in Christians? Not at all. One of the statements in the passage before us today proclaims: "He is not far from each one of us" (v. 27). By creation all men and women are God's offspring, and they live and move and have their being in Him.

Christians believe that because Jesus is the Light of the world, and is described by John in the Fourth Gospel as "the true light that gives light to every man" (John 1:9). Truth and beauty are derived from Him, even though people may be unaware of their source. Theologians refer to this as "common grace" - the kindness God shows to all human beings even though they know Him not. This is not to be confused with "saving grace," which is the kindness and mercy He extends to those who humbly receive the sacrificial offering which His Son made for them on the cross. Clearly, those who belong to other faiths are of deep concern to God, and that same concern ought to be ours. It should show itself in the way we talk to them, deal with them, and pray for them. There is no better way to end a discussion with an adherent of some other faith than to say and mean: "God loves you, and so do I."

Prayer:
O God, can it be that sometimes You are hindered in the process of bringing others to Yourself by those of us who are more interested in winning an argument than winning a soul? Infuse us with Your love - Calvary love. In Jesus' Name we ask it. Amen.
 

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The Final Sacrifice
For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. —2 Corinthians 5:21 ESV


Jesus offered one sacrifice, Himself, and established the plan of forgiveness and reconciliation. He laid aside His robes of glory and donned a robe of flesh so that we might have access to God, the Father.

Blood-bought, forgiven, redeemed, and delivered! Believers are not saved by the character of the sacrifice. Salvation only comes through the shed blood of Christ—the one-time-for-all-time price of atonement. Zechariah foretold the efficacy of the sacrifice of Messiah:
Then I will pour out a spirit of grace and prayer on the house of David and the residents of Jerusalem, and they will look at Me whom they pierced. They will mourn for Him as one mourns for an only child and weep bitterly for Him as one weeps for a firstborn (Zechariah 12:10 HCSB).

The words of a song written by poet and lyricist Fanny Crosby ring with praise:
Redeemed, how I love to proclaim it!
Redeemed by the blood of the Lamb;
Redeemed through His infinite mercy,
His child and forever I am.
 

RiverOL

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Hiding From God
Morning Encounter:
Introduction:
What do you think of when you hear the word ‘confession’? Perhaps it conjures up a police drama, with a sweating criminal chained to a table owning up to the full scope of their terrible deeds? Or maybe it brings to mind a wooden box with a black-clad priest listening through a metal grill to the person on the other side? The spiritual practice of confession is perhaps a little overlooked, but it is a foundational part our life with God, and the gateway to forgiveness and new life.

Morning encounter:
Read:

Late in the afternoon a breeze began to blow, and the man and woman heard the Lord God walking in the garden. They were frightened and hid behind some trees.
The Lord called out to the man and asked, “Where are you?”
The man answered, “I was naked, and when I heard you walking through the garden, I was frightened and hid!”

“How did you know you were naked?” God asked. “Did you eat any fruit from that tree in the middle of the garden?”
“It was the woman you put here with me,” the man said. “She gave me some of the fruit, and I ate it.”
The Lord God then asked the woman, “What have you done?”
“The snake tricked me,” she answered. “And I ate some of that fruit.”
(Genesis 3:8-13)

Reflect:
This is a good way to look at some things confession is not. Confession in a spiritual context doesn’t mean owning up when it is clear you have failed to conceal your wrongdoing (3:11). It doesn’t mean justifying yourself by pointing the blame at someone else (3: 12). And it doesn’t mean simply admitting what you did without any sense of guilt or shame over your actions (3:13). The fact Adam and Eve went scrambling for the bushes in fear when they heard God coming shows they know they are in trouble. It is horrible to be exposed in wrongdoing; we will all know what that feels like. The question is, how to come before a Holy God when the game’s up?

Respond:
Is there anything you are trying to hide from God? Are you accepting responsibility for your failings or passing blame to other people or circumstances? Are you sorry for your wrongdoing? Talk with God about your answers to these questions.

Midday Meditation:
‘For a good confession three things are necessary: an examination of conscience, sorrow and a determination to avoid sin.’
St Alphonsus Liguori

Evening Reflection:
ALMIGHTY God, who seest that we have no power of ourselves to help ourselves: Keep us both outwardly in our bodies, and inwardly in our souls; that we may be defended from all adversities which may happen to the body, and from all evil thoughts which may assault and hurt the soul; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
 

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Three Important Facts
For reading & meditation: Acts 10:23-48
"Now we are all here ... to listen to everything the Lord has commanded you to tell us." (v. 33)

If, as the Scripture declares, Jesus is the only way, what about people in other faiths? First, we must be clear that there is no such thing as self-salvation. Nobody can achieve salvation by his or her religion, sincerity, or good works. Second, Jesus Christ is the only way to God and the only Savior. Our Lord Himself said: "No one comes to the Father except through me" (John 14:6). This effectively ends all argument. Third, we do not know how much knowledge and understanding of the gospel a person needs to have in order to call upon God for mercy and be saved. In the Old Testament, people were justified by faitheven though they had little knowledge or expectation of Christ.

I believe that when people become aware that they cannot save themselves and need to throw themselves upon Gods mercy, in some way God reveals Himself to them and brings them through His Son to a saving knowledge of Himself. I have met many people from other faiths who, realizing that they could not save themselves and yearning to find salvation, were amazingly led by God to a book, a leaflet, or an audiotape, that helped them understand how to come to God through Jesus. Does this mean we don't need to be concerned about presenting the gospel to people? No, it is much easier for people to believe if they have heard. God worked miraculously to bring the gospel to Cornelius. So too He will work for those who are willing to give up all ideas of saving themselves and look to Him alone for salvation.

Prayer:
O Father, what a glimpse this gives me of Your eagerness to save all that will come to You through Your Son. May this inspire me more than ever to do my part in making Your gospel known. In Christ's Name I pray. Amen.
 

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The Story of Deliverance
He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. —Matthew 28:6 ESV

It took the renowned Florentine artist Buonarotti four years to create paintings of God’s works at creation. We know him better as Michelangelo, and his artistry still today adorns the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican.
Three millennia before Michelangelo Buonarotti climbed the ladder to paint a history for all Mankind, God’s story of deliverance was painted with the blood of a perfect Lamb on the doorposts of the houses of the children of Israel in the hot desert of Egypt.

The final eight days of the life of Jesus Christ were the culmination of that plan to save the lost. It was a period of time that would change the world forever, and it was accomplished through the sacrifice of another Lamb.
As the scenes unfolded, angels were moved to stand in silence as the beloved Son of God was viciously crucified. After three days bereft of hope, the joyous announcement of His resurrection was made!
It was a morning that would forever change the world and give hope to you and to all who believe in Him.
 
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