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Saturday, April 23, 2016

God's Dwelling Place (and other devotionals)

God’s Dwelling Place

And let them make Me a sanctuary, that I may dwell among them. Exodus 25:8

Does it matter to you where you live? Are you satisfied with your house or do you hope for something more, something better? For many of us, our physical dwelling place tends to keep us longing for a something a little nicer. If we live in the same house for a long time, we probably have redecorated most of it more than once. As humans, we get bored and want a fresh look at the things around us, especially our homes. As physical structures, our homes deteriorate in the elements and require repairs and fix-ups over time. Regardless of the reasons, we all must deal with where we dwell. So what about where God dwells?
Where does God dwell? The verse above tells us that God had a place made just so He could dwell with His people. But this place was no ordinary dwelling; it was a holy place, a sanctuary where His people could enter into the presence of the Lord. This sanctuary was built to the finest detail using the best fabrics, stones and precious metals. As the Israelites transported this mobile dwelling place throughout their travels in the desert, they never needed to upgrade, redecorate, or fix-up…even after 40 years! The Presence of the Lord kept all things restored, refreshed and renewed.
But were the Israelites completely satisfied with the things given to them by God? How could these people have been anything but eternally grateful and in awe of the Lord’s miraculous power in their lives? But the Bible tells us that they were stiff-necked and continually complaining. What about us? Are we satisfied with what God has given us? Even more so, what about His promise we have that His Holy Spirit lives within us? John1:14 says that the Word became flesh and tabernacled (dwelt) among us. Jesus came to earth to dwell with us. He left us His Holy Spirit who dwells in us today. Paul tells us in First Corinthians 6:19 that our bodies are the “temple” of the Holy Spirit, so we are now God’s dwelling place, for those who have accepted Jesus as Savior.
We should be very thankful that the Lord does not get bored with His temples, or His dwelling places today. What if He became dissatisfied to the point of looking for something better? He is God and He has every right to want more, to want the best. And thankfully for us, that something better is just what He has in store for us, not here but in heaven. Jesus promised that He would go to prepare a place for us (John 14:2). The key for us: get our eyes off our earthly houses and fix them upon Jesus, our eternal home with Him. 

~Daily Disciples Devotional~
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Work It Out

Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.

—Philippians 2:12

I don't necessarily like to exercise, but I try to get out and take a walk every day. I also go to the gym a couple of days a week. I know it makes me feel better, and it helps me to actually do what I am called by God to do.

Just as we need to work out to stay in shape physically, we need to work out spiritually as well. Paul told the Christians in Philippi, "Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure" (Philippians 2:12–13). The phrase work out doesn't mean work for your salvation. It means that you are to work it out. Another way to translate it would be "carry it to the goal and fully complete your salvation."

The idea is that we are to work out what God has worked in. That is our part. But it is God who is working in us both to will and to do for His good pleasure. God plays a part, and we play a part.

But we must be careful that we don't turn our backs on the things of God because we can make a mess of our lives. Hebrews 3:12 says, "Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God." Then we read, "For we have become partakers of Christ if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast to the end" (verse 14). These words were written to believers. So God is saying, "Look, Christian, you make sure that you carry it to the goal."

God will work in you, but you must work it out in your life as well.\
~Greg Laurie~
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DECEITFULNESS OF SIN

by Archibald Alexander

All sin takes its origin from false views of things. Our first parents would never have sinned--had they not been deceived by the tempter. Eve saw that the forbidden fruit was beautiful, and she was persuaded also good for food, that is, pleasant to the taste and nutritious. Here was a deception. This fruit was never intended for nourishment, whatever might have been its flavor. It was intended for trial, and not for food.
But the greatest deception practiced on our first mother by the arch deceiver was, that the eating of this food would make her wise to know good and evil, even as it is known to God. The deceitful words of the tempter wrought this unfounded persuasion in her mind. The desire of knowledge is natural, a part of man's original constitution, as well as the appetite for food; but these natural propensities are not to be indulged by every means, and gratified on all occasions, but should be kept under the government of reason and conscience. The brutes were made to be governed by appetite and instinct; but man is the subject of law, and he cannot but feel the binding obligation of law. He is a moral agent, and may properly be subjected to a trial whether he will obey the law of his Creator.
How widely different does sin appear after it is committed--from what it did before. Passion or craving appetite creates a false medium by which the unwary soul is deceived, and led into transgression. After our first parents sinned, "their eyes were opened." A sense of guilt unknown before now seized them, and this was like a new vision—not of beauty, but odious deformity. Innocence was lost. Shame and confusion take the place of peace and purity. Unhappy change! The guilty pair are now sensible of their great mistake, of their guilty act, of their disgraceful condition, of their ruined state. Their whole race is ruined! What will they do when their Creator shall make his usual visit—heretofore so delightful and instructive? Hark, he comes—his voice is heard in the garden. The wretched culprits are seized with terror and consternation. Guilt causes them to flee from the presence of the best and kindest of fathers. They try to hide themselves. They run into the densest thickets of the trees of the garden. But they cannot conceal themselves from the eye of Omniscience. They cannot escape from the arm of the Almighty, much less resist his power.
Behold, the Creator not finding his creature man in his proper place, sends forth a voice, which must have been like the most terrible thunder, when the awful sound penetrated his ear, and resounded through his whole soul: "Adam, where are you?" Trembling, the guilty pair come forth to meet the frowns of a displeased and righteous Judge. We need pursue the interesting history no farther at present.
From this first transgression, by which sin entered into the world, we may form some idea of its deceitful nature. This first sin is a sort of example of all other sins. As they flow from this as streams from a fountain, they all partake of the poison of their origin. In all sin there is some bait—some apparent good—some expectation of pleasure or profit from unlawful indulgence. In all sin the mind is under a delusive influence. Right thoughts and motives are for the moment forgotten or overborne; the attention, like the eye of a beguiled bird, is fixed on a point from which it cannot be withdrawn. The enticement prevails, and guilt is contracted.
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A far-off Hell is the dread of no man!

(Charles Spurgeon, "Flowers from a Puritan's Garden" 1883)

"The stars, those vast globes of light, by reason of the great distance between us and them--seem but as so many sparks in the sky. Just so, we have but a weak sight of things which are at a great distance, and their effect on us is usually but small."

Hence the need of faith, by which spiritual realities are brought near to us, and made to stand out in their reality.
 
A far-off Hell is the dread of no man
--and a far-off Heaven is scarcely desired by anyone. God Himself, while thought of as far away--is not feared or reverenced as He should be. If we did but ponderupon the matter, we would soon see that a mere span of time divides us from the eternal world, while the Lord Almighty is nearer to us than our souls are to our bodies!

Strange that the brief time which intervenes between us and eternity, should appear to the most of men to be so important--while eternity itself they regard as a trifling matter. They use the microscope tomagnify the small concerns of time. O that they would use the telescope of faith upon the vast matters of eternity!

How differently would they order their lives, if the day of judgment were felt to be at their doors! How eagerly would they seek to escape from infinite wrath, if they felt it to be near!

Lord, arouse me to a due estimate of eternal matters! Enable me to project my soul into the infinite. Break me free of this narrow present--and launch my soul upon the wide and open sea of the infinite ages to come. You are in eternity, and let my soul even now dwell there with You.
"So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal!" 2 Corinthians 4:18\

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Thoughtful Living


Are you living thoughtfully and intentionally—or automatically? It’s so easy to get up each morning, do our work, enjoy some relaxation or entertainment, and fall into bed each night without giving any thought to God’s involvement in our lives. But to be ignorant of how He has blessed, guided, protected, and warned us is a foolish way to live. Just consider the benefits of keeping our spiritual eyes and ears open throughout the day.
Those who are aware of the Lord’s presence during their daily activities enjoy the peace of knowing that He is always in control and working to accomplish His good purposes. Every day’s experiences with Him teach them to know and love Him more.
When we learn to see God’s footprints in our days, we will become aware of the scope of His involvement in our lives. Maybe He strengthened you for a task or opened a door of opportunity. Perhaps He guided your decisions or helped you respond in a godly way to a difficult person.
If our ears are open to the Lord’s warnings and instructions, we won’t repeat the same mistakes again and again. But those who are deaf to His voice will continue in unhealthy thought patterns, negative emotions, and foolish responses.
Each night before you go to sleep, take some time to reflect on the day’s activities. The Lord is constantly with you, guarding and guiding your way. He wants you to see Him in everything and understand life from His perspective as you rely on His wisdom and power to face any challenge. 

~Charles Stanley~
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Their strength is to sit still. (Isa. 30:7).

In order really to know God, inward stillness is absolutely necessary. I remember when I first learned this. A time of great emergency had risen in my life, when every part of my being seemed to throb with anxiety, and when the necessity for immediate and vigorous action seemed overpowering; and yet circumstances were such that I could do nothing, and the person who could, would not stir.
For a little while it seemed as if I must fly to pieces with the inward turmoil, when suddenly the still small voice whispered in the depths of my soul, "Be still, and know that I am God." The word was with power, and I hearkened. I composed my body to perfect stillness, and I constrained my troubled spirit into quietness, and looked up and waited; and then I did "know" that it was God, God even in the very emergency and in my helplessness to meet it; and I rested in Him.
It was an experience that I would not have missed for worlds; and I may add also, that out of this stillness seemed to arise a power to deal with the emergency, that very soon brought it to a successful issue. I learned then effectually that my "strength was to sit still."
--Hannah Whitall Smith
There is a perfect passivity which is not indolence. It is a living stillness born of trust. Quiet tension is not trust. It is simply compressed anxiety.
Not in the tumult of the rending storm,
Not in the earthquake or devouring flame;
But in the hush that could all fear transform,
The still, small whisper to the prophet came.
0 Soul, keep silence on the mount of God,
Though cares and needs throb around thee like a sea;
From supplications and desires unshod,
Be still, and hear what God shall say to thee.
All fellowship hath interludes of rest,
New strength maturing in each poise of power;
The sweetest Alleluias of the blest
Are silent, for the space of half an hour.
0 rest, in utter quietude of soul,
Abandon words, leave prayer and praise awhile;
Let thy whole being, hushed in His control,
Learn the full meaning of His voice and smile.
Not as an athlete wrestling for a crown,
Not taking Heaven by violence of will;
But with thy Father as a child sit down,

And know the bliss that follows His "Be Still!"

~L. B. Cowman~
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Isaiah 53:6
All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all.
Here a confession of sin common to all the elect people of God. They have all fallen, and therefore, in common chorus, they all say, from the first who entered heaven to the last who shall enter there, "All we like sheep have gone astray." The confession, while thus unanimous, is also special and particular: "We have turned every one to his own way." There is a peculiar sinfulness about every one of the individuals; all are sinful, but each one with some special aggravation not found in his fellow. It is the mark of genuine repentance that while it naturally associates itself with other penitents, it also takes up a position of loneliness. "We have turned every one to his own way," is a confession that each man had sinned against light peculiar to himself, or sinned with an aggravation which he could not perceive in others. This confession is unreserved; there is not a word to detract from its force, nor a syllable by way of excuse. The confession is a giving up of all pleas of self-righteousness. It is the declaration of men who are consciously guilty-guilty with aggravations, guilty without excuse: they stand with their weapons of rebellion broken in pieces, and cry, "All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way." Yet we hear no dolorous wailings attending this confession of sin; for the next sentence makes it almost a song. "The Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all." It is the most grievous sentence of the three, but it overflows with comfort. Strange is it that where misery was concentrated mercy reigned; where sorrow reached her climax weary souls find rest. The Saviour bruised is the healing of bruised hearts. See how the lowliest penitence gives place to assured confidence through simply gazing at Christ on the cross!

~Charles Spurgeon~


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