HE IS RISEN!

"For at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord."
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  • Solid Joys John Piper
  • Daily Devotional InTouch Ministries
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  • Morning Devotion C.H. Spurgeon
  • Evening Devotion C.H. Spurgeon

God’s Plan for Martyrs

Published by John Piper for reading on July 29th.

They were each given a white robe and told to rest a little longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brothers should be complete, who were to be killed as they themselves had been. ( Revelation 6:11 11 And there was given them to each one a white robe; and it was said unto them, that they should rest yet for a little time, until their fellow-servants also and their brethren, who should be killed even as they were, should have fulfilled `their course'. )

For almost three hundred years, Christianity grew in soil that was wet with the blood of the martyrs.

Until the Emperor Trajan (about AD 98), persecution was permitted but not legal. From Trajan to Decius (about AD 250), persecution was legal, but mainly local. From Decius, who hated the Christians and feared their impact on his reforms, until the first edict of toleration in 311, the persecution was not only legal but widespread and general.

One writer described the situation in this third period:

Horror spread everywhere through the congregations; and the number of lapsi [the ones who renounced their faith when threatened] . . . was enormous. There was no lack, however, of such as remained firm, and suffered martyrdom rather than yielding; and, as the persecution grew wider and more intense, the enthusiasm of the Christians and their power of resistance grew stronger and stronger.

So, for three hundred years, to be a Christian was an act of immense risk to your life and possessions and family. It was a test of what you loved more. And at the extremity of that test was martyrdom.

And above that martyrdom was a sovereign God who said there is an appointed number. They have a special role to play in planting and empowering the church. They have a special role to play in shutting the mouth of Satan, who constantly says that the people of God serve him only because life goes better ( Job 1:9 9 Then Satan answered Jehovah, and said, Doth Job fear God for nought? –11).

Martyrdom is not something accidental. It is not taking God off guard. It is not unexpected. And it is emphatically not a strategic defeat for the cause of Christ.

It may look like defeat. But it is part of a plan in heaven that no human strategist would ever conceive or could ever design. And it will triumph for all those who endure to the end by faith in God’s grace.



God’s Surprise Visits

Published by InTouch Ministries for reading on July 29th.

Exodus 3:1-6 Chapter 3 1 Now Moses was keeping the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian: and he led the flock to the back of the wilderness, and came to the mountain of God, unto Horeb. 2 And the angel of Jehovah appeared unto him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush: and he looked, and, behold, the bush burned with fire, and the bush was not consumed. 3 And Moses said, I will turn aside now, and see this great sight, why the bush is not burnt. 4 And when Jehovah saw that he turned aside to see, God called unto him out of the midst of the bush, and said, Moses, Moses. And he said, Here am I. 5 And he said, Draw not nigh hither: put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground. 6 Moreover he said, I am the God of thy father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. And Moses hid his face; for he was afraid to look upon God.

I recall a time when I was faced with a particularly difficult decision. The timing, the circumstances—everything about the opportunity in front of me seemed wrong. Choosing to pursue the prospect didn’t really make sense at all. Though I simply wanted to turn it down, I understood the importance of praying first. As I spent time with the Lord, He gave me a clear vision of what He expected next from my life. I accepted that seemingly illogical, ill-timed offer and reaped great blessing for my obedience.

As Christians, we expect the Holy Spirit to direct our thoughts through prayer and Scripture. But sometimes He may choose to intervene more directly in a person’s life, as He did with me that day.

God has been visiting people since the beginning, when He walked with Adam and Eve in the garden (Gen. 3:8). The way He reveals Himself is different in each instance. Moses saw a burning bush (Ex. 3:2), whereas Samuel heard a voice at night (1 Sam. 3:1-14). Yet each was clearly a divine encounter.

When the Lord visits someone, He comes for a purpose. Joshua received specific—and unusual—instructions for defeating Jericho (Josh. 5:13-6:5). Saul of Tarsus was called into ministry ( Acts 9 Chapter 9 1 But Saul, yet breathing threatening and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, went unto the high priest, 2 and asked of him letters to Damascus unto the synagogues, that if he found any that were of the Way, whether men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. 3 And as he journeyed, it came to pass that he drew nigh unto Damascus: and suddenly there shone round about him a light out of heaven: 4 and he fell upon the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? 5 And he said, Who art thou, Lord? And he `said', I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: 6 but rise, and enter into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do. 7 And the men that journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing the voice, but beholding no man. 8 And Saul arose from the earth; and when his eyes were opened, he saw nothing; and they led him by the hand, and brought him into Damascus. 9 And he was three days without sight, and did neither eat nor drink. 10 Now there was a certain disciple at Damascus, named Ananias; and the Lord said unto him in a vision, Ananias. And he said, Behold, I `am here', Lord. 11 And the Lord `said' unto him, Arise, and go to the street which is called Straight, and inquire in the house of Judas for one named Saul, a man of Tarsus: for behold, he prayeth; 12 and he hath seen a man named Ananias coming in, and laying his hands on him, that he might receive his sight. 13 But Ananias answered, Lord, I have heard from many of this man, how much evil he did to thy saints at Jerusalem: 14 and here he hath authority from the chief priests to bind all that call upon thy name. 15 But the Lord said unto him, Go thy way: for he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles and kings, and the children of Israel: 16 for I will show him how many things he must suffer for my name's sake. 17 And Ananias departed, and entered into the house; and laying his hands on him said, Brother Saul, the Lord, `even' Jesus, who appeared unto thee in the way which thou camest, hath sent me, that thou mayest receive thy sight, and be filled with the Holy Spirit. 18 And straightway there fell from his eyes as it were scales, and he received his sight; and he arose and was baptized; 19 and he took food and was strengthened. And he was certain days with the disciples that were at Damascus. 20 And straightway in the synagogues he proclaimed Jesus, that he is the Son of God. 21 And all that heard him were amazed, and said, Is not this he that in Jerusalem made havoc of them that called on this name? and he had come hither for this intent, that he might bring them bound before the chief priests. 22 But Saul increased the more in strength, and confounded the Jews that dwelt at Damascus, proving that this is the Christ. 23 And when many days were fulfilled, the Jews took counsel together to kill him: 24 but their plot became known to Saul. And they watched the gates also day and night that they might kill him: 25 but his disciples took him by night, and let him down through the wall, lowering him in a basket. 26 And when he was come to Jerusalem, he assayed to join himself to the disciples: and they were all afraid of him, not believing that he was a disciple. 27 But Barnabas took him, and brought him to the apostles, and declared unto them how he had seen the Lord in the way, and that he had spoken to him, and how at Damascus he had preached boldly in the name of Jesus. 28 And he was with them going in and going out at Jerusalem, 29 preaching boldly in the name of the Lord: and he spake and disputed against the Grecian Jews; but they were seeking to kill him. 30 And when the brethren knew it, they brought him down to Caesarea, and sent him forth to Tarsus. 31 So the church throughout all Judaea and Galilee and Samaria had peace, being edified; and, walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, was multiplied. 32 And it came to pass, as Peter went throughout all parts, he came down also to the saints that dwelt at Lydda. 33 And there he found a certain man named Aeneas, who had kept his bed eight years; for he was palsied. 34 And Peter said unto him, Aeneas, Jesus Christ healeth thee: arise and make thy bed. And straightway he arose. 35 And all that dwelt at Lydda and in Sharon saw him, and they turned to the Lord. 36 Now there was at Joppa a certain disciple named Tabitha, which by interpretation is called Dorcas: this woman was full of good works and almsdeeds which she did. 37 And it came to pass in those days, that she fell sick, and died: and when they had washed her, they laid her in an upper chamber. 38 And as Lydda was nigh unto Joppa, the disciples, hearing that Peter was there, sent two men unto him, entreating him, Delay not to come on unto us. 39 And Peter arose and went with them. And when he was come, they brought him into the upper chamber: and all the widows stood by him weeping, and showing the coats and garments which Dorcas made, while she was with them. 40 But Peter put them all forth, and kneeled down and prayed; and turning to the body, he said, Tabitha, arise. And she opened her eyes; and when she saw Peter, she sat up. 41 And he gave her his hand, and raised her up; and calling the saints and widows, he presented her alive. 42 And it became known throughout all Joppa: and many believed on the Lord. 43 And it came to pass, that he abode many days in Joppa with one Simon a tanner. ). Others were warned of danger through dreams (Matt. 2:12-13).

God’s personal calls are rare and unexpected. We cannot pray or fast to make Him come. He simply makes His presence known in a believer’s life when He chooses. So be prepared with an open heart and willing spirit if He visits you.

Bible in a Year: Isaiah 28-30 Chapter 28 1 Woe to the crown of pride of the drunkards of Ephraim, and to the fading flower of his glorious beauty, which is on the head of the fat valley of them that are overcome with wine! 2 Behold, the Lord hath a mighty and strong one; as a tempest of hail, a destroying storm, as a tempest of mighty waters overflowing, will he cast down to the earth with the hand. 3 The crown of pride of the drunkards of Ephraim shall be trodden under foot: 4 and the fading flower of his glorious beauty, which is on the head of the fat valley, shall be as the first-ripe fig before the summer; which when he that looketh upon it seeth, while it is yet in his hand he eateth it up. 5 In that day will Jehovah of hosts become a crown of glory, and a diadem of beauty, unto the residue of his people; 6 and a spirit of justice to him that sitteth in judgment, and strength to them that turn back the battle at the gate. 7 And even these reel with wine, and stagger with strong drink; the priest and the prophet reel with strong drink, they are swallowed up of wine, they stagger with strong drink; they err in vision, they stumble in judgment. 8 For all tables are full of vomit `and' filthiness, `so that there is' no place `clean'. 9 Whom will he teach knowledge? and whom will he make to understand the message? them that are weaned from the milk, and drawn from the breasts? 10 For it is precept upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, there a little. 11 Nay, but by `men of' strange lips and with another tongue will he speak to this people; 12 to whom he said, This is the rest, give ye rest to him that is weary; and this is the refreshing: yet they would not hear. 13 Therefore shall the word of Jehovah be unto them precept upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, there a little; that they may go, and fall backward, and be broken, and snared, and taken. 14 Wherefore hear the word of Jehovah, ye scoffers, that rule this people that is in Jerusalem: 15 Because ye have said, We have made a covenant with death, and with Sheol are we at agreement; when the overflowing scourge shall pass through, it shall not come unto us; for we have made lies our refuge, and under falsehood have we hid ourselves: 16 therefore thus saith the Lord Jehovah, Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner -`stone' of sure foundation: he that believeth shall not be in haste. 17 And I will make justice the line, and righteousness the plummet; and the hail shall sweep away the refuge of lies, and the waters shall overflow the hiding-place. 18 And your covenant with death shall be annulled, and your agreement with Sheol shall not stand; when the overflowing scourge shall pass through, then ye shall be trodden down by it. 19 As often as it passeth though, it shall take you; for morning by morning shall it pass through, by day and by night: and it shall be nought but terror to understand the message. 20 For the bed is shorter than that a man can stretch himself on it; and the covering narrower than that he can wrap himself in it. 21 For Jehovah will rise up as in mount Perazim, he will be wroth as in the valley of Gibeon; that he may do his work, his strange work, and bring to pass his act, his strange act. 22 Now therefore be ye not scoffers, lest your bonds be made strong; for a decree of destruction have I heard from the Lord, Jehovah of hosts, upon the whole earth. 23 Give ye ear, and hear my voice; hearken, and hear my speech. 24 Doth he that ploweth to sow plow continually? doth he `continually' open and harrow his ground? 25 When he hath levelled the face thereof, doth he not cast abroad the fitches, and scatter the cummin, and put in the wheat in rows, and the barley in the appointed place, and the spelt in the border thereof? 26 For his God doth instruct him aright, `and' doth teach him. 27 For the fitches are not threshed with a sharp `threshing' instrument, neither is a cart wheel turned about upon the cummin; but the fitches are beaten out with a staff, and the cummin with a rod. 28 Bread `grain' is ground; for he will not be always threshing it: and though the wheel of his cart and his horses scatter it, he doth not grind it. 29 This also cometh forth from Jehovah of hosts, who is wonderful in counsel, and excellent in wisdom. Chapter 29 1 Ho Ariel, Ariel, the city where David encamped! add ye year to year; let the feasts come round: 2 then will I distress Ariel, and there shall be mourning and lamentation; and she shall be unto me as Ariel. 3 And I will encamp against thee round about, and will lay siege against thee with posted troops, and I will raise siege works against thee. 4 And thou shalt be brought down, and shalt speak out of the ground, and thy speech shall be low out of the dust; and thy voice shall be as of one that hath a familiar spirit, out of the ground, and thy speech shall whisper out of the dust. 5 But the multitude of thy foes shall be like small dust, and the multitude of the terrible ones as chaff that passeth away: yea, it shall be in an instant suddenly. 6 She shall be visited of Jehovah of hosts with thunder, and with earthquake, and great noise, with whirlwind and tempest, and the flame of a devouring fire. 7 And the multitude of all the nations that fight against Ariel, even all that fight against her and her stronghold, and that distress her, shall be as a dream, a vision of the night. 8 And it shall be as when a hungry man dreameth, and, behold, he eateth; but he awaketh, and his soul is empty: or as when a thirsty man dreameth, and, behold, he drinketh; but he awaketh, and, behold, he is faint, and his soul hath appetite: so shall the multitude of all the nations be, that fight against mount Zion. 9 Tarry ye and wonder; take your pleasure and be blind: they are drunken, but not with wine; they stagger, but not with strong drink. 10 For Jehovah hath poured out upon you the spirit of deep sleep, and hath closed your eyes, the prophets; and your heads, the seers, hath he covered. 11 And all vision is become unto you as the words of a book that is sealed, which men deliver to one that is learned, saying, Read this, I pray thee; and he saith, I cannot, for it is sealed: 12 and the book is delivered to him that is not learned, saying, Read this, I pray thee; and he saith, I am not learned. 13 And the Lord said, Forasmuch as this people draw nigh `unto me', and with their mouth and with their lips to honor me, but have removed their heart far from me, and their fear of me is a commandment of men which hath been taught `them'; 14 therefore, behold, I will proceed to do a marvellous work among this people, even a marvellous work and a wonder; and the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the understanding of their prudent men shall be hid. 15 Woe unto them that hide deep their counsel from Jehovah, and whose works are in the dark, and that say, Who seeth us? and who knoweth us? 16 Ye turn things upside down! Shall the potter be esteemed as clay; that the thing made should say of him that made it, He made me not; or the thing formed say of him that formed it, He hath no understanding? 17 Is it not yet a very little while, and Lebanon shall be turned into a fruitful field, and the fruitful field shall be esteemed as a forest? 18 And in that day shall the deaf hear the words of the book, and the eyes of the blind shall see out of obscurity and out of darkness. 19 The meek also shall increase their joy in Jehovah, and the poor among men shall rejoice in the Holy One of Israel. 20 For the terrible one is brought to nought, and the scoffer ceaseth, and all they that watch for iniquity are cut off; 21 that make a man an offender in `his' cause, and lay a snare for him that reproveth in the gate, and turn aside the just with a thing of nought. 22 Therefore thus saith Jehovah, who redeemed Abraham, concerning the house of Jacob: Jacob shall not now be ashamed, neither shall his face now wax pale. 23 But when he seeth his children, the work of my hands, in the midst of him, they shall sanctify my name; yea, they shall sanctify the Holy One of Jacob, and shall stand in awe of the God of Israel. 24 They also that err in spirit shall come to understanding, and they that murmur shall receive instruction. Chapter 30 1 Woe to the rebellious children, saith Jehovah, that take counsel, but not of me; and that make a league, but not of my Spirit, that they may add sin to sin, 2 that set out to go down into Egypt, and have not asked at my mouth; to strengthen themselves in the strength of Pharaoh, and to take refuge in the shadow of Egypt! 3 Therefore shall the strength of Pharaoh be your shame, and the refuge in the shadow of Egypt your confusion. 4 For their princes are at Zoan, and their ambassadors are come to Hanes. 5 They shall all be ashamed because of a people that cannot profit them, that are not a help nor profit, but a shame, and also a reproach. 6 The burden of the beasts of the South. Through the land of trouble and anguish, from whence come the lioness and the lion, the viper and fiery flying serpent, they carry their riches upon the shoulders of young asses, and their treasures upon the humps of camels, to a people that shall not profit `them'. 7 For Egypt helpeth in vain, and to no purpose: therefore have I called her Rahab that sitteth still. 8 Now go, write it before them on a tablet, and inscribe it in a book, that it may be for the time to come for ever and ever. 9 For it is a rebellious people, lying children, children that will not hear the law of Jehovah; 10 that say to the seers, See not; and to the prophets, Prophesy not unto us right things, speak unto us smooth things, prophesy deceits, 11 get you out of the way, turn aside out of the path, cause the Holy One of Israel to cease from before us. 12 Wherefore thus saith the Holy One of Israel, Because ye despise this word, and trust in oppression and perverseness, and rely thereon; 13 therefore this iniquity shall be to you as a breach ready to fall, swelling out in a high wall, whose breaking cometh suddenly in an instant. 14 And he shall break it as a potter's vessel is broken, breaking it in pieces without sparing; so that there shall not be found among the pieces thereof a sherd wherewith to take fire from the hearth, or to dip up water out of the cistern. 15 For thus said the Lord Jehovah, the Holy One of Israel, In returning and rest shall ye be saved; in quietness and in confidence shall be your strength. And ye would not: 16 but ye said, No, for we will flee upon horses; therefore shall ye flee: and, We will ride upon the swift; therefore shall they that pursue you be swift. 17 One thousand `shall flee' at the threat of one; at the threat of five shall ye flee: till ye be left as a beacon upon the top of a mountain, and as an ensign on a hill. 18 And therefore will Jehovah wait, that he may be gracious unto you; and therefore will he be exalted, that he may have mercy upon you: for Jehovah is a God of justice; blessed are all they that wait for him. 19 For the people shall dwell in Zion at Jerusalem; thou shalt weep no more; he will surely be gracious unto thee at the voice of thy cry; when he shall hear, he will answer thee. 20 And though the Lord give you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, yet shall not thy teachers be hidden anymore, but thine eyes shall see thy teachers; 21 and thine ears shall hear a word behind thee, saying, This is the way, walk ye in it; when ye turn to the right hand, and when ye turn to the left. 22 And ye shall defile the overlaying of thy graven images of silver, and the plating of thy molten images of gold: thou shalt cast them away as an unclean thing; thou shalt say unto it, Get thee hence. 23 And he will give the rain for thy seed, wherewith thou shalt sow the ground; and bread of the increase of the ground, and it shall be fat and plenteous. In that day shall thy cattle feed in large pastures; 24 the oxen likewise and the young asses that till the ground shall eat savory provender, which hath been winnowed with the shovel and with the fork. 25 And there shall be upon every lofty mountain, and upon every high hill, brooks `and' streams of waters, in the day of the great slaughter, when the towers fall. 26 Moreover the light of the moon shall be as the light of the sun, and the light of the sun shall be sevenfold, as the light of seven days, in the day that Jehovah bindeth up the hurt of his people, and healeth the stroke of their wound. 27 Behold, the name of Jehovah cometh from far, burning with his anger, and in thick rising smoke: his lips are full of indignation, and his tongue is as a devouring fire; 28 and his breath is as an overflowing stream, that reacheth even unto the neck, to sift the nations with the sieve of destruction: and a bridle that causeth to err `shall be' in the jaws of the peoples. 29 Ye shall have a song as in the night when a holy feast is kept; and gladness of heart, as when one goeth with a pipe to come unto the mountain of Jehovah, to the Rock of Israel. 30 And Jehovah will cause his glorious voice to be heard, and will show the lighting down of his arm, with the indignation of `his' anger, and the flame of a devouring fire, with a blast, and tempest, and hailstones. 31 For through the voice of Jehovah shall the Assyrian be dismayed; with his rod will he smite `him'. 32 And every stroke of the appointed staff, which Jehovah shall lay upon him, shall be with `the sound of' tabrets and harps; and in battles with the brandishing `of his arm' will he fight with them. 33 For a Topheth is prepared of old; yea, for the king it is made ready; he hath made it deep and large; the pile thereof is fire and much wood; the breath of Jehovah, like a stream of brimstone, doth kindle it.




Daily Bible - July 29

Published by Grace To You for reading on July 29th.

Reading for Today:

  • Nehemiah 10:1 Chapter 10 1 Now those that sealed were: Nehemiah the governor, the son of Hacaliah, and Zedekiah, –11:36
  • Proverbs 22:1-2 Chapter 22 1 A `good' name is rather to be chosen than great riches, `And' loving favor rather than silver and gold. 2 The rich and the poor meet together: Jehovah is the maker of them all.
  • Psalms 89:19-29 19 Then thou spakest in vision to thy saints, And saidst, I have laid help upon one that is mighty; I have exalted one chosen out of the people. 20 I have found David my servant; With my holy oil have I anointed him: 21 With whom my hand shall be established; Mine arm also shall strengthen him. 22 The enemy shall not exact from him, Nor the son of wickedness afflict him. 23 And I will beat down his adversaries before him, And smite them that hate him. 24 But my faithfulness and my lovingkindness shall be with him; And in my name shall his horn be exalted. 25 I will set his hand also on the sea, And his right hand on the rivers. 26 He shall cry unto me, Thou art my Father, My God, and the rock of my salvation. 27 I also will make him `my' first-born, The highest of the kings of the earth. 28 My lovingkindness will I keep for him for evermore; And my covenant shall stand fast with him. 29 His seed also will I make to endure for ever, And his throne as the days of heaven.
  • Acts 28:1-31 Chapter 28 1 And when we were escaped, then we knew that the island was called Melita. 2 And the barbarians showed us no common kindness; for they kindled a fire, and received us all, because of the present rain, and because of the cold. 3 But when Paul had gathered a bundle of sticks and laid them on the fire, a viper came out by reason of the heat, and fastened on his hand. 4 And when the barbarians saw the `venomous' creature hanging from his hand, they said one to another, No doubt this man is a murderer, whom, though he hath escaped from the sea, yet Justice hath not suffered to live. 5 Howbeit he shook off the creature into the fire, and took no harm. 6 But they expected that he would have swollen, or fallen down dead suddenly: but when they were long in expectation and beheld nothing amiss came to him, they changed their minds, and said that he was a god. 7 Now in the neighborhood of that place were lands belonging to the chief man of the island, named Publius, who received us, and entertained us three days courteously. 8 And it was so, that the father of Publius lay sick of fever and dysentery: unto whom Paul entered in, and prayed, and laying his hands on him healed him. 9 And when this was done, the rest also that had diseases in the island came, and were cured: 10 who also honored us with many honors; and when we sailed, they put on board such things as we needed. 11 And after three months we set sail in a ship of Alexandria which had wintered in the island, whose sign was The Twin Brothers. 12 And touching at Syracuse, we tarried there three days. 13 And from thence we made a circuit, and arrived at Rhegium: and after one day a south wind sprang up, and on the second day we came to Puteoli; 14 where we found brethren, and were entreated to tarry with them seven days: and so we came to Rome. 15 And from thence the brethren, when they heard of us, came to meet us as far as The Market of Appius and The Three Taverns; whom when Paul saw, he thanked God, and took courage. 16 And when we entered into Rome, Paul was suffered to abide by himself with the soldier that guarded him. 17 And it came to pass, that after three days he called together those that were the chief of the Jews: and when they were come together, he said unto them, I, brethren, though I had done nothing against the people, or the customs of our fathers, yet was delivered prisoner from Jerusalem into the hands of the Romans: 18 who, when they had examined me, desired to set me at liberty, because there was no cause of death in me. 19 But when the Jews spake against it, I was constrained to appeal unto Caesar; not that I had aught whereof to accuse my nation. 20 For this cause therefore did I entreat you to see and to speak with `me': for because of the hope of Israel I am bound with this chain. 21 And they said unto him, We neither received letters from Judaea concerning thee, nor did any of the brethren come hither and report or speak any harm of thee. 22 But we desire to hear of thee what thou thinkest: for as concerning this sect, it is known to us that everywhere it is spoken against. 23 And when they had appointed him a day, they came to him into his lodging in great number; to whom he expounded `the matter,' testifying the kingdom of God, and persuading them concerning Jesus, both from the law of Moses and from the prophets, from morning till evening. 24 And some believed the things which were spoken, and some disbelieved. 25 And when they agreed not among themselves, they departed after that Paul had spoken one word, Well spake the Holy Spirit through Isaiah the prophet unto your fathers, 26 saying, Go thou unto this people, and say, By hearing ye shall hear, and shall in no wise understand; And seeing ye shall see, and shall in no wise perceive: 27 For this people's heart is waxed gross, And their ears are dull of hearing, And their eyes they have closed; Lest, haply they should perceive with their eyes, And hear with their ears, And understand with their heart, And should turn again, And I should heal them. 28 Be it known therefore unto you, that this salvation of God is sent unto the Gentiles: they will also hear. 29 `And when he had said these words, the Jews departed, having much disputing among themselves.' 30 And he abode two whole years in his own hired dwelling, and received all that went in unto him, 31 preaching the kingdom of God, and teaching the things concerning the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness, none forbidding him.

Notes:

Nehemiah 10:28 28 And the rest of the people, the priests, the Levites, the porters, the singers, the Nethinim, and all they that had separated themselves from the peoples of the lands unto the law of God, their wives, their sons, and their daughters, every one that had knowledge, and understanding; who had separated themselves. These are those who 1) had followed the demand of Ezra and Nehemiah to divorce pagan spouses or 2) had been left in the land but never joined themselves to any heathen, thus remaining separate. Intermarriage with the nations had previously precipitated an influence in Israel which had culminated in Babylonian slavery, thus playing a major role in Israel’s unfaithfulness to the covenant.

Nehemiah 10:35 35 and to bring the first-fruits of our ground, and the first-fruits of all fruit of all manner of trees, year by year, unto the house of Jehovah; –37 firstfruits…firstborn…firstborn. These laws required the firstfruits of the ground (Ex. 23:19; 34:26; Deut. 26:2), the firstfruits of the trees (Lev. 19:24; Num. 18:13), the firstborn sons redeemed by the estimated price of the priest (Num. 18:15), and the firstborn of the herds and flocks (Ex. 13:12; Num. 18:15, 17). All of this was kept at the storehouses near the temple and distributed for the support of the priests and Levites. The Levites then gave a tenth of what they received to the priests (Num. 18:26).

Psalms 89:27 27 I also will make him `my' first-born, The highest of the kings of the earth. My firstborn. The firstborn child was given a place of special honor and a double portion of the inheritance (Gen. 27; 2 Kin. 2:9). However, in a royal grant covenant, a chosen person could be elevated to the level of firstborn sonship and thus have title to a perpetual gift involving dynastic succession (Ps. 2:7). Though not actually the first, Israel was considered the firstborn among nations (Ex. 4:22); Ephraim the younger was treated as the firstborn (Gen. 48:13–20); and David was the firstborn among kings. In this latter sense of prominent favor, Christ can be called the firstborn over all creation (Col. 1:15), in that He is given the preeminence over all created beings.

Acts 28:8 8 And it was so, that the father of Publius lay sick of fever and dysentery: unto whom Paul entered in, and prayed, and laying his hands on him healed him. sick of a fever and dysentery. The gastric fever (caused by a microbe found in goat’s milk) that was common on Malta. Dysentery, often the result of poor sanitation, was widespread in the ancient world.

Acts 28:16 16 And when we entered into Rome, Paul was suffered to abide by himself with the soldier that guarded him. centurion delivered the prisoners to the captain of the guard. Many Greek manuscripts omit this phrase. If part of the original text, it indicates either that Julius delivered the prisoners to his commanding officer or to the commander of the Praetorian Guard. dwell by himself…guarded. Possibly through Julius’s intervention, Paul was allowed to live under guard in his own rented quarters (v. 30).

DAY 29: How does Nehemiah fit into the time line of world history?

It is unclear how Nehemiah became King Artaxerxes’ cupbearer, but the fact that Esther was the king’s stepmother may have inclined the king to consider a Jew for such a trusted position. When Nehemiah carried out his mission to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem, the Persian Empire had been dominant for almost 100 years. King Cyrus’s decree of repatriation given back in 539 B.C. had instigated a group of Jews to return to Israel under Zerubbabel. Their desperate state almost a century later spurred Nehemiah into action.

Ancient Egyptian documents (Elephantine papyri) dated around the 5th century B.C. independently confirm part of Nehemiah’s account. Sanballat the governor of Samaria (2:19), Jehohanan (6:18; 12:23) and Nehemiah himself receive mention.

The events recorded in Nehemiah, along with Malachi’s prophecies, make up the final inspired writings of the Old Testament. God chose to then remain silent for 400 years. That silence ended with the announcements of John the Baptist’s and Jesus’ births.

From The MacArthur Daily Bible Copyright © 2003. Used by permission of Thomas Nelson Bibles, a division of Thomas Nelson, Inc, Nashville, TN 37214, www.thomasnelson.com.

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July 29 - Faith out of Desperation

Published by Grace To You for reading on July 29th.

“And they came to Him and woke Him, saying, ‘Save us, Lord; we are perishing!’ He said to them, ‘Why are you afraid, you men of little faith?’” ( Matthew 8:25 25 And they came to him, and awoke him, saying, Save, Lord; we perish. –26).

Sometimes God has to bring us to a point of desperate need before He can get us to turn to Him. That’s what happened to the disciples when the storm was about to swamp their boat. They had no other human solutions for their emergency and had to come to Jesus with their need. If He could cleanse lepers and heal every other sort of disease, maybe He could control nature.

Even the greatest believers in redemptive history have wavered in their faith in their most difficult circumstances. The psalmist asked, “Why do You stand afar off, O Lord? Why do You hide Yourself in times of trouble?” (Ps. 10:1; cf. 44:22–23). Isaiah even wondered why God seemed not able to help His people: “Awake, awake, put on strength, O arm of the Lord; awake as in the days of old, the generations of long ago” (Isa. 51:9). Much like the disciples on the lake, the prophet could not see why God was asleep when His people were dying.

God wants people to turn to Him, especially for salvation when it’s a matter of spiritual life and death. We can often get out of dire situations involving finances, health, or family relations without the Lord’s direct intervention. But when it comes to spiritual salvation, there is no other resource but God. After we are saved, the Father still wants to hear from us—in that way we show we have not forgotten Him, even in desperate circumstances.

Ask Yourself

What do we forget on ordinary days, times when we feel like we can manage well enough on our own without God’s help or provision? What would desperate faith look like on a typical, average day?

From Daily Readings from the Life of Christ, Vol. 1, John MacArthur. Copyright © 2008. Used by permission of Moody Publishers, Chicago, IL 60610, www.moodypublishers.com.

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Spiritual Amnesia

Published by Grace To You for reading on July 29th.

“For he who lacks these qualities is blind or short-sighted, having forgotten his purification from his former sins” ( 2 Peter 1:9 9 For he that lacketh these things is blind, seeing only what is near, having forgotten the cleansing from his old sins. ).

If you don’t practice spiritual virtues now, you’ll forget their significance later.

Physical nearsightedness and mental amnesia both are unwanted conditions. Nearsightedness (myopia) causes people’s eyes to focus the parallel rays of light in front of the retina. They can clearly see things right in front of them, but the farther out they look, the more out of focus objects become.

Amnesia, of course, is memory loss. Sometimes it’s selective, but usually it’s total—everything prior to a certain time or incident. It often causes people to forget their name, their family, and everything about their identity and background.

Those two impairments should be even less welcome on the spiritual level. Professed believers who are unfruitful become spiritually nearsighted. They focus on temporal fads and passing earthly fashions. By the time they try to look ahead to eternity, it is so out of focus for them that they can’t see it.

Those with spiritual amnesia, because they see no increase of spiritual virtue in their lives, forget they were supposed to be saved from their sinful lifestyles. They don’t remember the spiritual “purification” (catharsis) that should have occurred in their lives—a reference to a deep internal purging or cleansing.

If you are not diligently pursuing spiritual virtue and moral excellence, you will have a very fuzzy view of your true condition. You may connect an outward action or emotional experience with the time you professed Christ, but you will not have a sense of assurance. Commentator Richard Bauckham explained it this way: “The ‘knowledge of Jesus Christ’ [v. 8], received at conversion, came as illumination to those who were blind in their pagan ignorance (2 Cor. 4:4), but Christians who do not carry through the moral implications of this knowledge have effectively become blind to it again.”

Regarding 1 Peter 1:5-9 5 who by the power of God are guarded through faith unto a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, ye have been put to grief in manifold trials, 7 that the proof of your faith, `being' more precious than gold that perisheth though it is proved by fire, may be found unto praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ: 8 whom not having seen ye love; on whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice greatly with joy unspeakable and full of glory: 9 receiving the end of your faith, `even' the salvation of `your' souls. , it all comes down to this: if you are seeing your life grow in moral virtue, you have proof of salvation and a reason for assurance. If you are not seeing your life grow in virtue, you have no proof of salvation and no reason for assurance. Be diligent to avoid spiritual myopia and amnesia in your life.

Suggestions for Prayer

Pray that you would have clear spiritual vision at all times.

For Further Study

Read Hebrews 6:1-12 Chapter 6 1 Wherefore leaving the doctrine of the first principles of Christ, let us press on unto perfection; not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God, 2 of the teaching of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment. 3 And this will we do, if God permit. 4 For as touching those who were once enlightened and tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Spirit, 5 and tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the age to come, 6 and `then' fell away, it is impossible to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame. 7 For the land which hath drunk the rain that cometh oft upon it, and bringeth forth herbs meet for them for whose sake it is also tilled, receiveth blessing from God: 8 but if it beareth thorns and thistles, it is rejected and nigh unto a curse; whose end is to be burned. 9 But, beloved, we are persuaded better things of you, and things that accompany salvation, though we thus speak: 10 for God is not unrighteous to forget your work and the love which ye showed toward his name, in that ye ministered unto the saints, and still do minister. 11 And we desire that each one of you may show the same diligence unto the fulness of hope even to the end: 12 that ye be not sluggish, but imitators of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises. . How can this passage help you avoid spiritual amnesia?

From Strength for Today by John MacArthur Copyright © 1997. Used by permission of Crossway Books, a division of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, IL 60187, www.crossway.com.

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The Joy of Anticipated Reward

Published by Grace To You for reading on July 29th.
"That the proof of your faith . . . may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ" (1 Pet. 1:7).

Your future reward is directly related to your present service.

The joy you experience after your faith has been tested and proven genuine is largely due to your present blessings and assurance of salvation. But there's a future aspect as well: the joy of anticipating the reward you'll receive from Jesus when you see Him face to face and hear "Well done, good and faithful servant! . . . Come and share your master's happiness!" (Matt. 25:21, NIV). Peter described it as the "praise and glory and honor [you'll receive] at the revelation of Jesus Christ" (1 Pet. 1:7).

"Praise" in that text speaks of verbal commendation. To receive "glory" is to be made like Christ. Jesus is the incarnation of God's glory ( John 1:14 14 And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us (and we beheld his glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father), full of grace and truth. ) and "we know that, when He appears, we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him just as He is" ( 1 John 3:2 2 Beloved, now are we children of God, and it is not yet made manifest what we shall be. We know that, if he shall be manifested, we shall be like him; for we shall see him even as he is. ). Paul spoke of those who "by perseverance in doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality" (Rom. 2:7). As a result they will receive what they seek (v. 10).

Peter probably used "honor" as a synonym for rewards, which God will grant to all who faithfully serve Him. I believe those rewards are various capacities for heavenly service and are directly related to the believer's service in this life. Jesus said, "Behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to render to every man according to what he has done" (Rev. 22:12, emphasis added). Paul said, "He who plants and he who waters are one; but each will receive his own reward according to his own labor" (1 Cor. 3:8, emphasis added).

God alone is worthy of praise, glory, and honor, but He will give you all three because you'll be in the image of Jesus Christ—sinless and fully glorified ( 1 John 3:2 2 Beloved, now are we children of God, and it is not yet made manifest what we shall be. We know that, if he shall be manifested, we shall be like him; for we shall see him even as he is. ). Until that time, "watch yourselves, that you might not lose what we have accomplished, but that you may receive a full reward" (2 John 8).

Suggestions for Prayer

Praise the Lord for the joy of anticipating your future reward.

For Further Study

Peter spoke of a time when Jesus will reward believers. What do these verses teach about that time: Romans 8:18 18 For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed to us-ward. , 1 Corinthians 1:7-8 7 so that ye come behind in no gift; waiting for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ; 8 who shall also confirm you unto the end, `that ye be' unreproveable in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. , 2 Thessalonians 1:5-10 5 `which is' a manifest token of the righteous judgment of God; to the end that ye may be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which ye also suffer: 6 if so be that it is righteous thing with God to recompense affliction to them that afflict you, 7 and to you that are afflicted rest with us, at the revelation of the Lord Jesus from heaven with the angels of his power in flaming fire, 8 rendering vengeance to them that know not God, and to them that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus: 9 who shall suffer punishment, `even' eternal destruction from the face of the Lord and from the glory of his might, 10 when he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be marvelled at in all them that believed (because our testimony unto you was believed) in that day. , and 1 Peter 4:10-13 10 according as each hath received a gift, ministering it among yourselves, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God; 11 if any man speaketh, `speaking' as it were oracles of God; is any man ministereth, `ministering' as of the strength which God supplieth: that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, whose is the glory and the dominion for ever and ever. Amen. 12 Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial among you, which cometh upon you to prove you, as though a strange thing happened unto you: 13 but insomuch as ye are partakers of Christ's sufferings, rejoice; that at the revelation of his glory also ye may rejoice with exceeding joy. ?

From Drawing Near by John MacArthur Copyright © 1993. Used by permission of Crossway Books, a division of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, IL 60187, www.crossway.com.

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Morning Devotional by C.H. Spurgeon for July 29th

Published by C.H. Spurgeon for reading on July 29th.

Psalms 73:23 23 Nevertheless I am continually with thee: Thou hast holden my right hand.

NEVERTHELESS,"—AS if, notwithstanding all the foolishness and ignorance which David had just been confessing to God, not one atom the less was it true and certain that David was saved and accepted, and that the blessing of being constantly in God's presence was undoubtedly his. Fully conscious of his own lost estate, and of the deceitfulness and vileness of his nature, yet, by a glorious outburst of faith, he sings "nevertheless I am continually with Thee." Believer, you are forced to enter into Asaph's confession and acknowledgment, endeavour in like spirit to say "nevertheless, since I belong to Christ I am continually with God!" By this is meant continually upon His mind, He is always thinking of me for my good. Continually before His eye;—the eye of the Lord never sleepeth, but is perpetually watching over my welfare. Continually in His hand, so that none shall be able to pluck me thence. Continually on His heart, worn there as a memorial, even as the high priest bore the names of the twelve tribes upon his heart for ever. Thou always thinkest of me, O God. The bowels of Thy love continually yearn towards me. Thou art always making providence work for my good. Thou hast set me as a signet upon thine arm; thy love is strong as death, many waters cannot quench it; neither can the floods drown it. Surprising grace! Thou seest me in Christ, and though in myself abhorred, Thou beholdest me as wearing Christ's garments, and washed in His blood, and thus I stand accepted in Thy presence. I am thus continually in Thy favour—"continually with Thee." Here is comfort for the tried and afflicted soul; vexed with the tempest within—look at the calm without. "Nevertheless"—O say it in thy heart, and take the peace it gives. "Nevertheless I am continually with Thee."

Evening Devotional by C.H. Spurgeon for July 29th

Published by C.H. Spurgeon for reading on July 29th.

John 6:37 37 All that which the Father giveth me shall come unto me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.

THIS declaration involves the doctrine of election: there are some whom the Father gave to Christ. It involves the doctrine of effectual calling: these who are given must and shall come; however stoutly they may set themselves against it, yet they shall be brought out of darkness into God's marvellous light. It teaches us the indispensable necessity of faith; for even those who are given to Christ are not saved except they come to Jesus. Even they must come, for there is no other way to heaven but by the door, Christ Jesus. All that the Father gives to our Redeemer must come to Him, therefore none can come to heaven except they come to Christ.

Oh! the power and majesty which rest in the words "shall come." He does not say they have power to come, nor they may come if they will, but they "shall come." The Lord Jesus doth by His messengers, His word, and His Spirit, sweetly and graciously compel men to come in that they may eat of His marriage supper; and this He does, not by any violation of the free agency of man, but by the power of His grace. I may exercise power over another man's will, and yet that other man's will may be perfectly free, because the constraint is exercised in a manner accordant with the laws of the human mind. Jehovah Jesus knows how, by irresistible arguments addressed to the understanding, by mighty reasons appealing to the affections, and by the mysterious influence of His Holy Spirit operating upon all the powers and passions of the soul, so to subdue the whole man, that whereas he was once rebellious, he yields cheerfully to His government, subdued by sovereign love. But how shall those be known whom God hath chosen? By this result: that they do willingly and joyfully accept Christ, and come to Him with simple and unfeigned faith, resting upon Him as all their salvation and all their desire. Reader, have you thus come to Jesus?

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