Today’s Reading

Morning

“The upright love thee”
Song of Solomon 1:4

Believers love Jesus with a deeper affection than they dare to give to any other being. They would sooner lose father and mother than part with Christ. They hold all earthly comforts with a loose hand, but they carry him fast locked in their bosoms. They voluntarily deny themselves for his sake, but they are not to be driven to deny him. It is scant love which the fire of persecution can dry up; the true believer’s love is a deeper stream than this. Men have laboured to divide the faithful from their Master, but their attempts have been fruitless in every age. Neither crowns of honour, now frowns of anger, have untied this more than Gordian knot. This is no every-day attachment which the world’s power may at length dissolve. Neither man nor devil have found a key which opens this lock. Never has the craft of Satan been more at fault than when he has exercised it in seeking to rend in sunder this union of two divinely welded hearts. It is written, and nothing can blot out the sentence, “The upright love thee.” The intensity of the love of the upright, however, is not so much to be judged by what it appears as by what the upright long for. It is our daily lament that we cannot love enough. Would that our hearts were capable of holding more, and reaching further. Like Samuel Rutherford, we sigh and cry, “Oh, for as much love as would go round about the earth, and over heaven–yea, the heaven of heavens, and ten thousand worlds–that I might let all out upon fair, fair, only fair Christ.” Alas! our longest reach is but a span of love, and our affection is but as a drop of a bucket compared with his deserts. Measure our love by our intentions, and it is high indeed; ’tis thus, we trust, our Lord doth judge of it. Oh, that we could give all the love in all hearts in one great mass, a gathering together of all loves to him who is altogether lovely!

Evening

“Satan hindered us.”
1 Thessalonians 2:18

Since the first hour in which goodness came into conflict with evil, it has never ceased to be true in spiritual experience, that Satan hinders us. From all points of the compass, all along the line of battle, in the vanguard and in the rear, at the dawn of day and in the midnight hour, Satan hinders us. If we toil in the field, he seeks to break the ploughshare; if we build the wall, he labours to cast down the stones; if we would serve God in suffering or in conflict–everywhere Satan hinders us. He hinders us when we are first coming to Jesus Christ. Fierce conflicts we had with Satan when we first looked to the cross and lived. Now that we are saved, he endeavours to hinder the completeness of our personal character. You may be congratulating yourself, “I have hitherto walked consistently; no man can challenge my integrity.” Beware of boasting, for your virtue will yet be tried; Satan will direct his engines against that very virtue for which you are the most famous. If you have been hitherto a firm believer, your faith will ere long be attacked; if you have been meek as Moses, expect to be tempted to speak unadvisedly with your lips. The birds will peck at your ripest fruit, and the wild boar will dash his tusks at your choicest vines. Satan is sure to hinder us when we are earnest in prayer. He checks our importunity, and weakens our faith in order that, if possible, we may miss the blessing. Nor is Satan less vigilant in obstructing Christian effort. There was never a revival of religion without a revival of his opposition. As soon as Ezra and Nehemiah begin to labour, Sanballat and Tobiah are stirred up to hinder them. What then? We are not alarmed because Satan hindereth us, for it is a proof that we are on the Lord’s side, and are doing the Lord’s work, and in his strength we shall win the victory, and triumph over our adversary.

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Encouragement

Alicia Bruxvoort August 7, 2018

Because Band-Aids Can’t Fix Everything
ALICIA BRUXVOORT

“For You, O Eternal One, have come to my aid and offered me relief.” Psalm 86:17b (VOICE)

When our daughter, Hannah, was in kindergarten, we lovingly called her “Little Nightingale.”

She may have been an elementary-school rookie, but it didn’t take long for our 6-year-old to realize that recess is both the happiest and most hazardous time of day. While a playground is the perfect palette for sliding and swinging, chasing and racing, it can quickly become a canvas of boo-boos and tears.

It was this unspoken paradox that prompted Hannah to create her own “kindergarten first-aid kit.” She emptied an old plastic pencil box and filled it with Band-Aids and cotton swabs, gauze strips and tissues. Then she slipped it into her backpack right beside her library books and lunch box.

Without flamboyance or fanfare, Hannah carried that little pencil box out to recess each day, and she looked for kindergartners in need. She tended to bruised elbows and stubbed toes, monkey bar mishaps and merry-go-round woes.

And when we gathered around our kitchen table after school, our Little Nightingale often told tales of kindergarten calamities. She spoke of Gracie’s slip from the swings and Johnny’s run-in with a tree, Samantha’s bloody nose and David’s skinned knee. Hannah never seemed to run out of classmates in a fix. Nor did she run out of mercy.

But as the school year progressed, we began noticing Hannah’s recess reports were shifting in a subtle way. Our tender-hearted girl spoke less about her classmates’ scrapes and scabs and more about their bruised feelings and aching hearts.

It was as if our Little Nightingale began to realize that the greatest wounds on the playground weren’t always the bloodied lips or the clumsy trips, but the saddened spirits and the heavy hearts.

Maybe that’s why I eventually discovered a bright orange shoebox in Hannah’s backpack where that plastic pencil box had always been.

“What’s this?” I asked as I lifted the bulky box out of her bag and shook it like it was a Christmas present waiting to be unwrapped.

“Oh, that’s my new first aid kit,” Hannah replied with a shrug of her shoulders.

“It’s so heavy!” I exclaimed. “Are you carrying Band-Aids made of steel?”

“No-oooo, Mom,” she said with a giggle. She took the box out of my hands and set it on the counter. Then she lifted the lid to reveal what lay inside. “I put my Bible in there,” she said, “Cause a Band-Aid can’t fix everything, ya know.”

She held my gaze for a moment and then skipped off to play with her sister, leaving me alone with that bulky orange box and a kindergartner’s wisp of wisdom.

I stared at that well-worn children’s Bible tucked beneath a pile of Band-Aids and cotton balls, bandages and tissues, and I thought of all the times in my own life I’d opened God’s Word with a hurting heart and a cry for help. And I felt a lump of tears rising in my throat as I realized the timeless truth of my daughter’s words.

We may have hurts our friends can’t fix or wounds our family can’t bind. But we have a God who sees our pain (Genesis 16:13) and a Heavenly Father who hears our cries (Psalm 18:6).

And when we seek Him on the pages of His Word, He meets us in the depth of our need.

Psalm 86:17b reminds us we can secure tonics for our troubles and seek mends for our mishaps, but our source of surest aid is the One who loved us first — “For You, O Eternal One, have come to my aid and offered me relief.”

So the next time we find ourselves in need of a little spiritual first aid, let’s reach for our Bibles and seek God’s presence.

Let’s allow God’s truth to mend our hearts and buoy our hope.

Because according to a Little Nightingale I know, Band-Aids just can’t fix everything.

Dear Jesus, help me turn to You first when I’m in need. Give me a hunger for Your Word. Use Your timeless truth to buoy my soul, bind my wounds, and make me whole. I love You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

TRUTH FOR TODAY:
Psalm 147:3, “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” (ESV)

Psalm 107:20, “He sent out his word and healed them; he rescued them from the grave.” (NIV)

RELATED RESOURCES:
Do you ever wish you had biblical examples of courageous women to look up to when you were younger? Proverbs 31 Ministries is partnering with Bible Belles, a collection of children’s books aimed at teaching young girls about real women in the Bible. It’s easier (and more fun!) than ever to connect young readers with the truth, excitement and life found in the Bible! Click here to see the collection

CONNECT:
For more encouragement and a chance to win a special gift — a first aid kit for your heart — visit Alicia Bruxvoort’s blog today.

REFLECT AND RESPOND:
Carve out some time to seek Jesus in His Word. Tell Him about your wounds, and ask Him to highlight a promise as you read your Bible. Then turn that promise into a prayer of faith.

Join the conversation! We’d love to hear your thoughts about today’s devotion in the comments section.

© 2018 by Alicia Bruxvoort. All rights reserved.

Proverbs 31 Ministries
630 Team Rd., Suite 100
Matthews, NC 28105
www.Proverbs31.org

The Marks of the Church

1 Corinthians 11:17–34 “In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me’” (v. 25).

Today we conclude our study on the church by noting that there are many different bodies that call themselves churches, whether or not they are true manifestations of the church of Jesus Christ. How then can we tell when a church in name is also a church in reality?

Faced with this same problem, the Reformers and Roman Catholics answered this question very differently. Rome has said that the bishop is the mark of the church, that is, the true church is present when you have a duly consecrated bishop who is part of a line of succession going back to the apostles. Ultimately, a bishop is a true bishop only if he submits to the pope; thus, in Roman Catholicism only Roman Catholic parishes constitute the true church.

Protestants recognize the biblical failings of this view and, in studying Scripture, traditionally define a true church according to two criteria:

1. The Word — there is no true church without the right proclamation of the Word of God. In other words, a group that denies any of the essential truths of the Christian faith is not a church. The essential truths of Christianity are clearly taught in Scripture, and the Nicene Creed is one document that helpfully summarizes them. A truth like justification by faith alone is included in this list even though it is not specifically mentioned in the creed, because Paul lists it as a defining mark of the Gospel (Gal. 1:6–9; 2:15–16), and it is a necessary deduction from the creed’s emphasis on salvation through Christ alone.

2. The Sacraments — a true church rightly celebrates the Lord’s Supper and baptism. That is, the sacraments must be conducted in line with Scripture’s clear teaching, and we must allow for latitude where such things are not so plain. For example, the biblical instruction on the mode of baptism is not as clear as we might like; thus, we cannot anathematize those who disagree with us in this specific area. Celebrating the sacraments correctly also involves keeping unrepentant sinners from partaking in these means of grace (church discipline). Though inseparably linked to the sacraments, sometimes we make special mention of church discipline as the third mark of the church (1 Cor. 5).

Coram deo: Living before the face of God

First Corinthians 11:17–34 gives us the marks of the church specifically and through good and necessary deduction. The whole passage concerns the Lord’s Supper, a reference to the sacraments. Paul also gives the words of institution, a reference to the Word of God since these words were first spoken by Jesus. How highly do you value these means of grace and marks of the church? They are necessary for your spiritual growth and maturity.

For further study:

Exodus 12:43–51

The Bible in a year:

Psalms 96–98

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View today’s reading at Bible Gateway

View today’s reading at Bible Gateway

Romans 9:1-15

Paul’s Anguish Over Israel

I speak the truth in Christ—I am not lying, my conscience confirms it through the Holy Spirit— I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my people, those of my own race, the people of Israel. Theirs is the adoption to sonship; theirs the divine glory, the covenants, the receiving of the law, the temple worship and the promises. Theirs are the patriarchs, and from them is traced the human ancestry of the Messiah, who is God over all, forever praised! Amen.

God’s Sovereign Choice

It is not as though God’s word had failed. For not all who are descended from Israel are Israel. Nor because they are his descendants are they all Abraham’s children. On the contrary, “It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.” In other words, it is not the children by physical descent who are God’s children, but it is the children of the promise who are regarded as Abraham’s offspring. For this was how the promise was stated: “At the appointed time I will return, and Sarah will have a son.”

10 Not only that, but Rebekah’s children were conceived at the same time by our father Isaac. 11 Yet, before the twins were born or had done anything good or bad—in order that God’s purpose in election might stand: 12 not by works but by him who calls—she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” 13 Just as it is written: “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”

14 What then shall we say? Is God unjust? Not at all! 15 For he says to Moses,

“I will have mercy on whom I have mercy,
and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.”

New International Version (NIV)Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

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