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Table of Contents
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1. Bible Readings for This Sunday (Jul 12)
2. Sermons for This Sunday (Jul 12)
11. The Cookie Thief
12. Humor: Dying
This Sunday in Church
Seventh Sunday after Pentecost
Before Holy Qurbana
This Week's Features
|Inspiration for Today|
My presence shall go with thee, and I will give thee rest.
Be strong and of a good courage, fear not, nor be afraid of them: for the LORD thy God, he it is that doth go with thee; he will not fail thee, nor forsake thee. The LORD, he it is that doth go before thee; he will be with thee, he will not fail thee, neither forsake thee: fear not, neither be dismayed. -- Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the LORD thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest. -- In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.
He hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me. -- Our sufficiency is of God.
Lead us not into temptation. -- O LORD, I know that the way of man is not in himself: it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps. -- My times are in thy hand.
EXO. 33:14. Deut. 31:6,8. Josh. 1:9. Prov. 3:6. Heb. 13:5,6. II Cor. 3:5. Matt. 6:13. Jer. 10:23. -Psa. 31:15.
Matthew 12:24-32 "Whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come" ( v. 32).
Of all the teachings of Jesus, perhaps none troubles us more than His warning about blaspheming the Holy Spirit. When reading today's passage it is only natural to ask, "What is the unforgivable sin?" and, "Have I committed it?"
Many in church history have identified the unforgivable sin as divorce, adultery, or another grievous sin, or they have said God will not forgive those who do even one evil deed after baptism. That so many options have been suggested illustrates the complexity of Matthew 12:24-32. We must, therefore, humbly approach the topic of the unforgivable sin, aware that we cannot be too cautious when applying today's verses. Let us also note that even heinous sins are forgivable. Christ pardoned Peter for denying Him (John 18:15-27; 21:15-19). David repented and was forgiven for murder and adultery ( 2 Sam. 11:1-12:15a). Paul was made an apostle even though He once persecuted Jesus (Acts 9:1-19).
The meaning of Matthew 12:32 is clearer when we consider the passage in its totality (vv. 22-32 ). Even though they should know better, the Pharisees attribute Jesus' exorcisms to the power of the Devil (v. 24). This is absurd since it is irrational for Satan to cast out his own minions and tear down his own kingdom (vv. 25-26). Moreover, if Jesus exorcises demons by the Devil's power, then the followers of the Pharisees who do the same must also be acting under the Adversary's influence, a deduction these scholars cannot endorse ( v. 27). These teachers inconsistently accuse Jesus of being in Satan's thrall while seeing God at work among their own students. Stubbornly and persistently, the Pharisees are attributing the work of the Holy Spirit in Christ's ministry to the Devil.
Dr. R.C. Sproul says the unforgivable sin is blaspheming against the Holy Spirit by calling Jesus a devil after being enlightened by that same Spirit. According to John Calvin, we commit such sacrilege "only when we knowingly endeavor to extinguish the Spirit." There can be no salvation if the work of the Spirit is knowingly rejected. This act reveals a heart so hard that repentance is impossible (Heb. 3:7-19). Ultimately, as Augustine says, "It is unrepentance that is a blasphemy against the Spirit" (Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 1, 6:325).
Coram deo: Living before the face of God
Pastors both past and present agree that a person who worries that he has committed the unforgiveable sin has not really done so. Those who do the unforgivable act are so calloused that they do not care about their spiritual state and therefore will never be troubled by the possibility that they have gone too far in their wickedness. Matthew Henry comments, "Those who fear they have committed this sin, give a good sign that they have not."
For Further Study:
Source: INTO the WORD daily Bible studies from TableTalk Magazine, Matthew
by Dr. James Emery White
It's difficult to describe a visit to Dachau. Yes, there are buildings and reconstructions. Historical markers abound helping you grasp the significance of your surroundings. But there's more. When you walk into Dachau, you walk into a mausoleum of human pain and suffering. No one laughs or talks above a whisper, even in the open air of the barracks or assembly grounds. There is a blanket of sobriety, a weight of gravitas.
It is as if you are on holy ground.
How ironic that space drenched with such a sense of the sacred is the seed of so much spiritual doubt. While many found faith of its deepest and most vibrant nature on the grounds of Dachau, others lost it forevermore.
Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel put the memory of the horrors of his experience to words in a book that was appropriately called Night. One of the nightmares he describes has to do with the hanging of a young boy who was suspected of sabotage in a Nazi death camp by the German Gestapo.
They began by torturing the boy. When he would not confess, they sentenced him to death with two other prisoners, leading all three in chains to the gallows. It was to be a public execution, and thousands of prisoners were forced to watch.
While the head of the camp read the verdict, all eyes were on the child. His face was pale, and he was nervously biting his lips. No more than 12 years old, Wiesel writes that he had the face of a sad angel. The three victims mounted the chairs, and their necks were placed within the nooses.
The child said nothing.
Suddenly, someone cried out, "Where is God? Where is He?"
No one answered.
The executioner then tipped the three chairs over so that the bodies fell, jerking to a stop at the end of the ropes. Though the crowd was large, not a sound was heard. The only movement was the setting of the sun on the horizon. The only noise was the sound of men weeping.
The two adults died instantly. Their tongues hung swollen, tinged with blue. But the third rope, the one holding the little boy, was still moving. For more than half-an-hour, he hung there, struggling between life and death, dying in slow agony under their eyes. Unfeeling and insolent, the guards ordered the prisoners to march past the two dead bodies, along with the still struggling boy.
As Wiesel passed, he writes that he could not help but turn and gaze into the boy's eyes. As he did, behind him, he heard the voice say again, "Where is God now?" And Wiesel said that the inner voice of his heart answered, "Where is He? Here He is -- He is hanging here on this gallows."
For Elie Wiesel, that ended any chance of Him relating to God. For him, God died that day.
But God didn't "die" for everyone.
I read an interview of a man by the name of Christian Reger who spent four years as a prisoner at Dachau for nothing more than belonging to the Confessing Church, the branch of the German state church which opposed Hitler. Later he became a leader of the International Dachau Committee, and returned to the grounds in order to restore the camp as a monument so that the world would not forget.
In the interview, Reger reflected how the German philosopher Nietzsche said a man can undergo torture if he knows the why of his life. "But I, here at Dachau, learned something far greater. I learned to know the Who of my life. He was enough to sustain me then, and is enough to sustain me still."
Are you there yet? In the face of staggering questions and assaults against your faith, and even against God's character, are you content with the Who of your life as opposed to the often-empty nature of the why?
Throughout our faith journey we will experience doubt -- doubt about the goodness of God, the wisdom of God, even the truth of God. Dachau moments. Moments when you wonder what God is really like. Sometimes it can seem that the God of the Bible acts in ways that we would never dream of acting, which makes it hard to believe that God -- or what we think we know about that God -- is right; much less that He is worthy of worship and obedience.
For what it's worth, such moments are normal. They are simply moments of questions, of doubt, of facing the mystery of God in light of the reality of our broken world. It's what you do with them that matters.
Of course, much that we lay at God's feet belongs at our own. Much of the evil and suffering and insanity of this world is self-inflicted. Dachau itself was a reflection of human depravity, and was meant to be as evil as it was. Even the first camp commandant, an SS officer named Theodor Eicke, had been plucked from a psychiatric hospital due to his sanity being questioned by the local Nazi leadership.
Fitting, in a way, as Dachau was insanity made manifest.
But it was human insanity, not God's.
When Susan (my wife) and I went to Dachau, we took a taxi from our hotel in Munich. We told the driver where we wanted to go. He didn't say anything for a long time. He just drove. Then, out of the blue, he said in a thick German accent,
"Where you go, it is a very painful place."
Then he paused again, and said, "When I was 10 or 11 years old, my teacher took us here. She said, ‘We were responsible for two world wars – now we are responsible for freedom.'"
Then he paused again, and said, "Those were the right words to say, I think."
I think so, too.
by Stuart Briscoe
"We have an issue with the blood test. We are sending it to the lab," he said.
"What is it?" I asked.
"Either mono or leukemia," he said.
For twelve days, my prayer life went through the roof, as I struggled to find stability in a situation where I had no control, no certainty, and nothing on earth that could contain my fear. There was nowhere I could put my trust and expect return. Over and over I begged Jesus do something, that He would be enough for me, that He would heal my heart as it was constantly being crushed with worry.
It was my son's blood that was in question, after all. Our elementary-aged Cameron. His life was teetering on the brink of the unknown and there was nothing I could do about it.
Well, maybe one thing:
God has given us a shield of faith, a defense against the flaming arrows of fear and doubt. Again and again we must lift it up to protect our hearts and minds. During those two weeks I was suspended in the fog of uncertainty and fear. During those days I learned to pray, "Jesus, I trust You with the next 30 minutes. I know a whole bunch of stuff is going to happen, and I give it to you." 31 minutes later I'd add, "Jesus I give you the next 30 minutes…."
It's not always easy to do. Sometimes, big problems affect my concentration. Sometimes I can't even focus on the words I'm reading in my Bible. Instead of just fighting through it, I'll take out my journal and I'll write my thoughts down so I can capture them on the page and take them to Christ. "All right, Jesus, here's what I'm scared of, worried about, concerned about, what needs to be fixed." At the end I say, "Jesus, I'm officially giving this stuff to You. Be enough for me and take away my worry. Your will be done."
After twelve days, Cameron's blood showed that he had mono instead of leukemia. While we were hugely relieved, I learned again what it means to be fully honest with God, emotional with God, surrendered to God, resting in God.
Satan's arrows will come. He HAS given you the shield of faith. Will you raise it over your heart and mind today?
Lord, many are saying of my soul, "There is no deliverance for him in God." But You, O Lord, are a shield about me, My glory, and the One who lifts my head. I am crying to You, the Lord, with my voice. You have answered me from Your holy mountain. Selah. (from Psalm 3:3-4)
Source: Experiencing LIFE Today
Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
At the risk of sounding old, what I usually complain about these days is either how poor quality of sleep I got the night before or the state of the weather. Either or.
See? I'm officially old.
But today, a few weeks into the summer season, I feel like I have every right to complain about the heat. Because it is hot in my neck of the woods. Triple-digit hot, in fact. And we still have about ten weeks of summer left to go. Oy vey.
I had to laugh as I was lamenting the heat, because a song from my youth popped into my head. At the risk of sounding old again, I'll just go right on ahead and share. If you grew up in the church in the ‘70s (and this was back when youth musicals were popular the first time around ... so take that, Glee), then you might remember the youth choir musical, It's Cool in the Furnace.
The music was catchy, and the message was the story of Daniel, King Nebuchadnezzar and three fireproof amigos: Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. In fact, it's hard not to snap my fingers while remembering some of the lyrics ...
Yes, it's cool ... ahhhh ... in the furnace, man ...
I just loved the words from this jazzy title song with a hook that got stuck in your head for days (and, in my case, years). But what did they really mean? How could the fiery furnace in which King Nebuchadnezzar threw Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego not have been hot?
"Look!" King Nebuchadnezzar said when peering into the furnace after binding and throwing the three of them in," I see four men walking around in the fire, unbound and unharmed, and the fourth looks like a son of the gods" (Daniel 3:25).
Well, was it God or not? Who was with Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in the midst of the fire? Bible commentators believe it was the pre-incarnate Christ. And even though King Nebuchadnezzar did not know the son of God, he did recognize that this was someone supernatural.
That was some pretty powerful divine protection to say the least. Yes, it was extra crispy in that furnace (heated "seven times hotter than usual," thank you very much to the king). But Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego's faith didn't waiver, and they were delivered.
Well, as I've been dealing with my own heat issues thanks to the weather this week, I have been doing what I can to protect myself. During the day, I keep the blinds closed and the drapes drawn. This helps to keep the heat out and the cool inside. It's not perfect, but I am more insulated and it's bearable.
Perhaps that's a good analogy for you and me today, as we walk through fiery trials and land in life's hot spots where we feel bound and about to get burned. What's wonderful for us to remember when it feels "hot" like this, is that when we're walking with the Lord we are protected and surrounded by the "peace that passes all understanding."
And when we're in the Word—and are living according to the guidelines and words of caution given to us there—we see that it isn't so hot in "the furnace" after all in our lives. Because when you know the Lord, the power of his life-saving blood certainly makes it "cool."
Intersecting Faith & Life:
It may "feel" hot in the furnace of your life, but how do you "know" that it is cool? Isaiah 43:2 says: "When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned." Meditate on this scripture and be reminded from God's Word of who is walking with you and protecting you today.
Source: Crosswalk.com - The Devotional
by Greg Laurie
Adversity prepares us for what God has ahead. God's people will be better off eternally because they suffered temporarily. The tradeoff in eternity will bear this out.
Our troubles won't last forever. As 2 Corinthians 4:17 says, "For our present troubles are small and won't last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever!"
The argument for the greater good may be the strongest biblical case for the whys of human suffering. But it requires great trust on our part. This means that we need to look at our suffering and say, "It will all make sense in eternity, and it will produce something that would not have been there otherwise. So in faith, I am going to accept this truth and wait to see the outcome."
Despite the worst tragedy, God can bring good out of bad. That doesn't mean He makes bad things good. But it does mean that despite bad things, He can bring good. This is an important distinction, because often people are looking for cause and effect. They try to connect the dots: This bad thing happened so this good thing would happen. . . . And this even better thing happened. Now I get it.
Sometimes life works that way. It did for Joseph. After being betrayed by his brothers, he was able to tell them, "You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people" (Genesis 50:20).
But sometimes we can't see the outcome. Still, "God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them" (Romans 8:28).
Ultimately, all things work together for good.
Summary sentence: Despite the worst tragedy, God can bring good out of bad!
Source: Greg Laurie Daily Devotions.
by Wes Hopper
We often are inclined to complain about the everyday demands on us, the little annoyances and problems that disrupt our day.
After all, we have WORK to do! And we're so proud of it.
But as Stephen King points out, those annoyances are the grit that shapes and polishes us.
We're forced to give up our belief that we're in charge of the Universe and go with the flow.
That's actually a big step on the road to spiritual maturity.
If we resist all those things that interrupt us, if we complain and struggle against them, we lose the gift.
In King's wonderful metaphor, we're asked to do what the oyster does with irritation: accept it, welcome the lesson and enfold it in love.
Make it part of you, and you'll be supporting your growth and learning.
You might not need any more pearl making seminars, either!
And that would be OK, too!
In North America, we had been experiencing record hot weather. So, here is a drink that will cool you with this refreshing cranberry beverage. It is also healthy. Great for picnics.
• 40 oz. Cranberry Juice Cocktail, chilled
1. In 2-quart nonmetal pitcher, combine juices; mix well.
Yield: 8 Servings
by Michael Josephson
There's a nice poem by Valerie Cox circulating on the Internet about a woman who bought some cookies and a book at an airport and sat down to read and nibble while waiting for her plane. She soon noticed a man sitting next to her, who casually took a cookie from the bag.
Although shocked and seething, the woman remained silent as the man, without the slightest sign of shame or gratitude, quietly helped himself, matching her cookie for cookie.
When there was one cookie left, she watched in amazement as he picked it up, smiled at her as if he were being gracious, and broke it in half. He ate one half and gave her the other. Congratulating herself for maintaining her cool, she said nothing to this rude cookie thief, astonished at the nerve of some people.
Later, when she was settling into her seat on the plane, she rummaged through her purse and discovered the bag of cookies she'd purchased, still unopened. The moral message is contained in the poem's closing stanza:
"If mine are here," she moaned with despair,
Being sure is not the same as being right. Certainty without humility can lead to self-righteousness that distorts our view and understanding of the world and of people.
Humility doesn't require us to be equivocal or doubtful about our deepest convictions. What it asks is that we hold and advocate our beliefs without dismissing the possibility that others may be right instead.
This is Michael Josephson reminding you that character counts. www.charactercounts.org
During an impassioned sermon on death and facing judgment, the visiting evangelist said forcefully, "every member of this church is going to die and face judgment." Early on in the sermon he noticed a gentleman smiling on the front row.
The minister kept pushing his theme, "Every member of this church is going to die." The guy smiled even more while everyone else in the congregation had a very somber look. In an effort to get through to the guy, the preacher repeated it several more times forcefully, "EACH MEMBER OF THIS CHURCH IS GOING TO DIE."
Each time the phrase was repeated, the man smiled more. This really got the preacher wound up and he preached even harder. The man still smiled. The preacher finally walked down off the platform to stand just in front of the smiling man and shouted, "I SAID EACH MEMBER OF THIS CHURCH IS GOING TO DIE."
At the end of the service the man was smiling from ear to ear. While everyone else was looking pretty grim from the prospect of entering eternity, the man seemed quite happy. After the service the preacher jumped down off the platform and worked through the crowd to find the man. Pulling him aside, the preacher said, "I don't get it. Every time I said, 'Every member of this church is going to die,' you were laughing. I want to know why you did that?"
The man looked the preacher square in the eye and said confidently, "I'm not a member of this church." (from James Merritt)
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