Archive | July 2012

July 28 Transformation Garden

 

“Being confident of this very thing, that He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.”
Philippians 1: 6
K.J.V.

“God is on my side. He makes Himself responsible for my being. If I will only entrust myself to Him with the cordial return of trustful love, then all that He has ever breathed into my heart of human possibility He will realize and bring to perfection.”
Charles Gore

Today’s Study Text:

“When she (the Queen of Sheba) had come to Solomon, she communed with him about all that was in her mind. Solomon answered all her questions; there was nothing hidden from the king which he failed to explain to her.”
1 Kings 10: 2, 3
Amplified Bible

EXPLORATION:

“Lessons Taught By the Lady From Sheba” Part 3

Lesson #3 – From the words of Jesus found in Matthew: “Are you listening to this? Really listening?…God’s kingdom is like a jewel merchant on the hunt for excellent pearls. Finding one that is flawless, he immediately sells everything and buys it.”
Matthew 13: 43,45
The Message Bible

“It is a great thing, this reading of the Scriptures! For it is not possible ever to exhaust the mind of the Scriptures. It is a well that has no bottom.”
John Chrysostom

If I had been in the Queen of Sheba’s “sandals,” what kind of questions and thoughts would I have had for Solomon?

Knowing that the Queen of Sheba came to Solomon to find out about the God he served, how do I imagine Solomon responded to her questions?

“The Bible is the greatest traveler in the world. It penetrates to every country, civilized and uncivilized. It is seen in the royal palace and in the humble cottage. It is the friend of emperors and beggars. It is read by the light of the dim candle amid Arctic snows. It is read under the glare of the equatorial sun. It is read in city and country, amid the crowds and in solitude. Wherever the message is received, it frees the mind from bondage and fills the heart with gladness.”
A.T. Pierson

INSPIRATION:

“Every part of Scripture is God-breathed and useful…showing us truth, exposing our rebellion, correcting our mistakes, training us to live God’s way. Through the Word we are put together and shaped up for the tasks God has for us.”
II Timothy 3: 16
The Message Bible

An Arabian Queen with an inquisitive mind. Oh, how I would have loved to call the gracious lady from Sheba my BFF! And through the study of God’s Word, the Bible, God’s daughters and sons around the world can come to receive a much sharper image of this woman who came to visit Solomon, first and foremost, because she wanted to more clearly understand “his connection with the Name of God,” as The Message Bible tells us.

I like the way The Message Bible paraphrases our study text for today:

“She came to Solomon and talked about all the things that she cared about.”

At a time in history when “intellectual” pursuits were mainly left to the male gender, I find it notable that King Solomon not only answered the Queen of Sheba’s questions, but in no way did he try to dissuade her with demeaning words, questioning why a “woman” was so interested in the deeper things of God. Frankly, this exchange reminded me of a day in Bethany where the events were recorded by Dr. Luke, whom I believe, was an eye-witness to what transpired in the home of Martha.

Having stopped for some rest and refreshment in this welcoming abode, Jesus found time to share what was on His heart. The Bible tells us that another female trendsetter, Mary, chose to sit at Jesus’ feet, listening to all He said while her sister Martha was absorbed, or as the Amplified Bible notes, she was “distracted with much serving.”

Feeling frustrated by her sister’s lack of interest in what Martha deemed important, she took her complaint directly to Jesus, basically ordering Him to intercede on her behalf and tell her sister, Mary, to get into the kitchen — post haste!

It is at this juncture we find Jesus weighing in with these words, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things. There is need of only one! Mary has chosen the good portion that which is to her advantage, which shall not be taken away from her” (Luke 10: 38-42, Amplified Bible).

What a correlation there is between the Queen of Sheba in the Old Testament and Mary of Bethany in the New Testament. They were both women who longed to learn about spiritual things and they were both rewarded by those they sought to study with.

Both defied the tradition of society. In the words of Jesus, they chose to “learn of God!” And both were honored as they came away from their spiritual encounters feeling blessed and renewed.

But it wasn’t only to these two women that encouragement was given to learn of God and His kingdom. is kingdomIn the book of Matthew, we find that Jesus shared multiple parables with those who came to listen to His words. But in one particular story, He told about the quest of a gem specialist — a jewel dealer — who was on the hunt for pearls. When this man found the “One,” he came to the conclusion that this single “flawless” pearl was so valuable, that he must sell everything to purchase this unique and unparalleled discovery!

When I look at the great lengths the Queen of Sheba went to as she pursued the knowledge she wished to obtain about the God of heaven and earth, I find myself awed by the fact that an individual who appeared to be outside the “family circle” of God’s chosen people, the children of Israel, had such a longing and desire to know about the God, who had profoundly blessed King Solomon. There was no impediment which she allowed to block her way from making, what I imagine to be, a very grueling journey across a windswept desert perched atop a camel.

And this brings us to the third lesson we can learn from the “Lady From Sheba.” She teaches us to seek, with unfailing vigor, after the knowledge and understanding buried in God’s Word about His kingdom. Just as the one, precious pearl was buried treasure, waiting to be revealed to the person who would take the extra time to make its discovery, so God’s Word is to you and me a field full of gems, revealing truths that will guide our lives and prevent us from traveling outside the will of God. I love the way Thomas Watson highlighted this exact point when he wrote: “The Bible is a rock of diamonds, a chain of pearls, the sword of the Spirit, a chart by which the Christian sails to eternity; the map by which (she) daily walks; the sundial by which (she) sets (her) life; the balance in which (she) weighs (her) actions.”

What a lesson for us to take away from the life of the Queen of Sheba, whose  mission to find answers to her questions and to find out about King Solomon’s connection to the God of heaven and earth, left her with a vision of God’s infinite wisdom, knowledge.

“I believe that the Bible is the best gift that God has ever given to man. All the good from the Savior of the world is communicated to us through this book. I have been driven many times to my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had nowhere else to go.”
Abraham Lincoln

AFFIRMATION:

“Your word is a lamp to my feet, and a light to my path.”
Psalm 119: 105
K.J.V.

“O Lord, You have given us Your Word for a light to shine upon our path; inspire us to meditate on that word and to follow its teaching, that we may find in it the light that shines more and more until the perfect day; through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
Jerome
(347-420)

Your friend,

Dorothy Valcárcel, Author
When A Woman Meets Jesus
Dorothy@TransformationGarden.com

P.S. Just to let you know, Transformation Garden is now on FACEBOOK. Please come and see us and share the garden with your friends. The Daily Devotional is posted everyday, Monday through Friday on Facebook, too.

My book, When A Woman Meets Jesus, is available wherever books are sold and on the internet at www.amazon.com, and www.Christianbook.com, or by calling toll-free, 1-800-Christian.  You may also call Transformation Garden at 480-281-1508.

 

Everywhere and Yet Forgotten

 

“Who knoweth not in all these that the hand of the Lord hath wrought this? In whose hand is the soul of every living thing, and the breath of all mankind.” Job 12:9,10

Suggested Further Reading: Deuteronomy 8:11-20

This forgetfulness of God is growing upon this perverse generation. Time was, in the old puritanic days, when every shower of rain was seen to come from heaven, when every ray of sunshine was blessed, and God was thanked for having given fair weather to ingather the fruits of the harvest. Then, men talked of God as doing everything. But in our days where is our God? We have the laws of matter. Alas! Alas! That names with little meaning should have destroyed our memory of the Eternal One. We talk now of phenomena, and of the chain of events, as if all things happened by machinery; as if the world were a huge clock which had been wound up in eternity, and continued to work without a present God. Nay, not only our philosophers, but even our poets rant in the same way. They sing of the works of nature. But who is that fair goddess, Nature?

Is she a heathen deity, or what? Do we not act as if we were ashamed of our God, or as if his name had become obsolete? Go abroad wherever you may, you hear little said concerning him who made the heavens, and who formed the earth and the sea; but everything is nature, and the laws of motion and of matter. And do not Christians often use words which would lead you to suppose that they believed in the old goddess, Luck, or rested in that equally false deity, Fortune, or trembled before the demon of Misfortune? Oh for the day when God shall be seen, and little else beside! Better, my brethren, that philosophical discoveries were lost, than that God should be concealed behind them. Better that our poets had ceased to write, and that all their flaming words were buried with their ashes, than that they should serve as a cloud before the face of the eternal Creator.

For meditation: When men replace Father God by mother nature, God leaves them to behave in ways which are unnatural and opposed to their false new deity (Romans 1:21-27).

Sermon no. 326
29 July (1860)

 

July 28 Verse

 

Philippians 3:14

I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.

 

Fields white for harvest

 

‘Say not ye, There are yet four months, and then cometh harvest? behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest.’ John 4:35

Suggested Further Reading: 3 John 5–12

Grind your sickles; you must go to work with such cutting truths as justification by faith, as the total ruin of mankind, as the hope that is laid up in the cross, as the energy of the Holy Spirit; and when you know these truths, and know how to use them, you shall then be made great reapers in the Master’s harvest. It is idle to say, ‘I will go,’ and then go with no tool in your hand. Get the truth; get a hold of it well, get it sharp and in good order, and who knows, under the blessing of God the Holy Spirit, what you may do! The next want of harvest is some close binders. When the wheat is cut down you must tie it up with sheaves. We want some of you who cannot preach, who cannot use the sickle, to go and gather up the wheat which falls under the sickle when it is used by others.

Invite them to come into church fellowship; talk to them, get them into union with the people of God. And if you happen to be in the church yourselves, try to keep the church knit together in love. Bind the sheaves together. We cannot have good harvest work without loving hands to bind the people of God in one. Then we want beside these some to take the sheaves home. The church of God is the barn; it is the Master’s garner here; he has another garner yonder on the hill-top in heaven, but here we want you to assist in bringing them into the church of Christ. When God has saved them, try if you can get them to practise the ordinances of God, and to be joined with his people. And we want some of you, if you cannot do anything yourselves either in reaping, or binding, or bringing the sheaves home, at least by kind words and loving speeches to bring refreshments to the reapers.

For meditation: There is a great mission-field to be harvested. What part do you play?—praying, labouring (Luke 10:2); sowing, reaping (John 4:36–38) or just sleeping (Proverbs 10:5)?

Sermon no. 706
29 July (1866)

 

July 27 Transformation Garden

 

“Unto You, O Lord, do I bring my life. O my God, I trust, lean on, rely on, and am confident in You.”
Psalm 25: 1,2
Amplified Bible

“Lord, You are my lover,
My longing,
My flowing stream,
My sun,
And I am Your reflection.”
Mechtild of Magdeburg
(1207-1292)

Today’s Study Text:

“She came to Jerusalem with a very great train, with camels bearing spices, very much gold, and precious stones.”
1 Kings 10: 2
Amplified Bible

EXPLORATION:

“Lessons Taught By the Lady From Sheba” Part 2

Lesson #2 – From the words of Jesus: “Give, and there will be gifts for you; a full measure, pressed down, shaken together, and overflowing, will be poured into your lap; because the standard you use will be the standard used for you.”
Luke 6: 38
N.J.B.

“It is well with those who deal generously and lend, who conduct their affairs with justice.”
Psalm 112: 5
N.R.S.V.

“Generosity”: Magnanimous. Liberal in giving. Bounteous. Marked by abundance.

“A man there was, though some did count him mad, the more he cast away, the more he had.”
John Bunyan

What does the word ‘generous’ mean in my own life?

In what ways do I feel I could be more generous in my life?

Are there other ways than just “giving” money that I can show a spirit of generosity?

“A cheerful giver does not count the cost of what (she) gives. (Her) heart is set on pleasing and cheering (the person) to whom the gift is given.”
John of Norwich

INSPIRATION:

“The truly generous is the truly wise, and (she) who loves not others, lives unblest.”
Henry Home

I love this familiar Persian Proverb:

“What I kept, I lost;
What I spent, I had;
What I gave, I have.”

What true words, for it is what we share throughout life’s journey that not only blesses the recipient, but also showers abundant blessings upon the giver as well.  And this becomes an important element in today’s study, as we come to the second lesson we can learn from the “Lady From Sheba.”

Because of her desire to find out more about the wisdom of Solomon, and as was revealed yesterday, in the God who he served, she decided to make the long, arduous journey to Jerusalem to see if what she had heard about Solomon was really true.

But here’s where Lesson #2 shines out immediately. The Queen didn’t arrive at Solomon’s doorstep empty-handed. She came bearing gifts.

While there are some scholars who note that there was a huge potential for a political alliance between the Queen of Sheba’s country and Israel, the idea that she would arrive with gifts would not necessarily be out of the ordinary. However, if we take the Bible as it is written, which we do here in Transformation Garden, the key reason noted in 1 Kings 10 for the Queen’s visit was her desire specifically to learn from Solomon. And to zero in more closely on her special aim, she wanted to find out more about the God he served, the God who had blessed him so abundantly with wisdom and understanding as well as bountiful prosperity.

We find that as the Queen’s caravan arrived in Jerusalem, there were camels laden with “spices, much gold and precious stones.” There’s every indication that the Queen of Sheba came with an over-abundance of gifts, and I asked myself, “Why?”

First, she may have wanted to impress Solomon with her own wealth and that of her country.

Second, indeed, she may have wanted to use these gifts as “carrots” dangling before Solomon, hoping to draw him into a trade alliance.

However, since I’ve read the entire story of the “Lady From Sheba,” I’d like to offer a third reason she came bearing gifts and it is simply this — she was a generous-hearted person who came to Jerusalem with an unselfish heart and not an empty hand. Just as the Magi from the East arrived at the manger of the baby Jesus bearing gifts, so the Queen from Arabia came to learn about the God of heaven and earth and from an open and inquiring heart, she generously shared the bounty with which she was blessed.

What an important lesson for you and me to take away from this God-ordained encounter between an Arab Queen and an Israelite King.

Recently I read words from a writer who noted that in today’s modern society, we have replaced the spirit of generosity with a word we call “charity.” Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not demeaning charitable giving in the least. I’ve worked for literally hundreds of charitable organizations in my 30-year career. I’ve witnessed first-hand, the tremendous benefits which come to “givers” and “receivers” who share in the blessings provided by unselfish hearts that serve.

But how often I’ve wondered, just what the consequence would be, if generous hearts were so prevalent and gave with such unfettered abundance that there was no need for organizations to have to pay for the costs associated with funding complete departments in their organizations with staff whose job it is to do nothing but ask for money.

In the life of the Queen of Sheba, I find an individual who gave without being asked. And I’ll even go another step further. We find throughout the Bible, that while the word “generous” or “generosity” is not used, both in the Hebrew and Greek, a word used by Webster’s Dictionary to define “generosity” is used over-and-over, and it is the word abundance, which in the Hebrew means majesty and greatness and in the Greek means abounding copiously or in large quantity.

Interestingly, in the Old Testament, the word “abundance,” which can mean generosity, is not used to denote God’s ability to give us wealth and make us live on “Easy Street.” Instead, this word is used to define God’s mercy, His long-suffering nature and His unfailing kindness. And I’d like to interject, this was exactly why the Queen of Sheba made her lengthy desert trip to Jerusalem. She wanted to get a glimpse into the life which God envisioned for those of His children who had open hearts and generous spirits like hers.

In doing some study for today’s devotional, I was led to the book of Ecclesiastes, written by Solomon, and I wondered to myself if it was wisdom like this that he shared with the Queen of Sheba:

The profit of the earth is for all; the king himself is served by the field and in all, a king is an advantage to a land with cultivated fields. He who loves silver will not be satisfied with silver, nor he who loves abundance with gain. This also is vanity, (emptiness, falsity, and futility.)
Ecclesiastes 5: 9, 10
Amplified Bible

What we come to understand from the Queen of Sheba is that a generous heart, a giving hand, and a spirit of unselfishness brings untold joy to the bearer of gifts. Please remember, it is not the size of the gift, it is the act of giving which releases a torrent of blessings in our lives. Jesus made this profoundly clear, when one day, at the Temple offering bucket, He witnessed a small gift being put into the “treasury.” This is how Mark tells the story in Mark 12: 41-44 (Amplified Bible):

“And (Jesus) sat down opposite the treasury and saw how the crowd was casting money into the treasury. Many rich people were throwing in large sums. And a widow who was poverty-stricken came and put in two copper mites, the smallest coins, which together make half of a cent. And He called His disciples to Him and said to them, ‘Truly and surely I tell you, this widow has put in more than all those contributing to the treasury. For they all threw in out of their abundance, but she, out of her deep poverty, has put in everything that she had — even all she had on which to live.”

As Sir Henry Talor so eloquently penned, “He who gives what he would as readily as he throws away, gives without generosity, for the essence of generosity is self-sacrifice.” These words mirror those spoken by Jesus and are a clear call to each of us to cultivate a heart of generous giving in our own lives.

“You do not have to be rich to be generous. If he has the spirit of true generosity, a pauper can give like a prince.”
Corrine U. Wells

AFFIRMATION:

“We let the world overcome us; we live too much in continual fear of the chances and changes of mortal life. We let things go too much their own way. We try too much to get what we can by our own selfish wits, without considering our neighbour. We follow too much the ways and fashions of the day, doing and saying and thinking anything that comes uppermost, just because there is so much around us. Free us from our selfish interests, and guide us, good Lord, to see Thy way and to do Thy will.”
Charles Kingsley
1814-1875

Your friend,

Dorothy Valcárcel, Author
When A Woman Meets Jesus
Dorothy@TransformationGarden.com

P.S. Just to let you know, Transformation Garden is now on FACEBOOK. Please come and see us and share the garden with your friends. The Daily Devotional is posted everyday, Monday through Friday on Facebook, too.

My book, When A Woman Meets Jesus, is available wherever books are sold and on the internet at www.amazon.com, and www.Christianbook.com, or by calling toll-free, 1-800-Christian.  You may also call Transformation Garden at 480-281-1508.

 

Put Your Faith Where Your Action Is!

 

Gwen Smith

Today’s Truth 
Faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead – (James 2:17, NIV).

Friend to Friend
I remember a time, back in 1993, when I was swept up in the whimsical world of wedding planning. Every detail mattered. I was excited to be marrying Brad Smith and I wanted our wedding day to be a magical springboard to a life filled with amazing adventures and deep years of God-centered love. From the cake choices – to the dress choices – to the music choices – to the guest list choices – to the bridal registry choices: I was all about the business of wedding prep!

The bride of Christ is purposed to be all about the Father’s business – to prep for eternity by making choices to bring Him glory throughout our days; to intentionally worship the Lord through our service. As daughters of God, we are called to connect our believing to our behaving; our convictions to our conversations; our lip-service to our life-service.

The Biblical mandate for each believer is this: put your faith where your action is. “Faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead” (James 2:17).

Hear me out here. Service is not the key to gaining salvation. Salvation comes by faith in Christ alone (Romans 10:9-10). Service is, however, essential for the believer as a response to her salvation. “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Ephesians 2:10).

No matter who you are or what your platform is in life, the truth remains that whatever you do and say is being watched. Everyone emanates something. A radiant Christian woman – a radiant bride of Christ – emanates the saltiness and light of Jesus through her life; displayed through the things she does and doesn’t do. Through things she says or doesn’t say.

Jesus said, “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men.

You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:13-16, NIV).

Today, I pray that you are spurred on to be a woman of action for Christ – no matter what the circumstances of your life or the complexities of your relationships may be. From your word choices – to your tone choices – to your television choices – to your music choices – to your service choices – to your activity choices … be all about your Father’s business. Go in His strength, and put your faith where your action is.

Let’s Pray 
Holy Father, I pray that You will help my actions to line up with Your perfect will. Help me to be Your hands and feet to those around me. Shine through my actions so others might be drawn to Your healing hope.
In Jesus’ Name,
Amen.

Now It’s Your Turn 
What does your life radiate? What are your actions saying about your faith? Are you salty for Christ in what you do and say? Spend a few moments reflecting on this and then spend some time in prayer.

How can you serve someone today? Perhaps God is leading you to bless someone in your household … or someone in your church … or someone in your neighborhood.

Could you reach out to a single mom, a family member, a widow, or a hurting friend? Ask God to direct you to opportunities to put your faith into action in the lives of others.

Got some great ideas about this? I would love to hear about them! Visit my Facebook page and tell me all about it: http://www.Facebook.com/GwenSmithMusic.

More from the Girlfriends 
Trust me, friend, in no way am I trying to place the burden of “you-must-do-more-things-in-order-to-please-God” on you. I just want to encourage you to make the most of every choice and every action. If you are drained and weary and can’t imagine being able to give anyone anything right now, get alone with God. His presence and His Spirit will strengthen you for each moment.

NEED HELP in putting your actions where your faith is? Gwen’s book, Broken Into Beautiful, will take you by the hand and shows you how God delights to transform lives. Yes. Even yours!! To order the book, go to Amazonor visit the store on Gwen’s website: www.gwensmith.net.

 

The Church is One

 

John 17 “Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one” (v. 11b).

Our study of Matthew 18 now complete, we have seen how the church is to exhibit pastoral concern, guard the church’s holiness, and readmit to communion all those who, though they have broken fellowship, turn from their sins and seek restoration. Before returning to Matthew’s gospel, however, we need to look at the nature of the church in order to understand why discipline and forgiveness are needed to preserve the purity of the church. Dr. R.C. Sproul will guide our study through this subject with his teaching series The Bride of Christ.

John 17, which records the longest prayer in the New Testament, provides some of the most important teaching on the church. As we can see in this chapter, Jesus is concerned with the unity of His people, praying for His disciples and all those who come after them to be one in purpose and mission even as He and His Father are one (vv. 11b, 22–23). It is therefore regrettable that the church of Jesus Christ in our day evidences little visible unity. In the United States alone, there are hundreds of different Protestant denominations, including dozens of varieties each of Presbyterians, Baptists, Lutherans, and so on.

Faced with this scandalous reality, there has been a tendency in the twentieth century and now, in the twenty-first century, to try and correct this problem. As a result of the ecumenical movement, many new denominations have formed through the mergers of old ones, and there has been a push for believers to affirm what unites them over and against what divides them. This is laudable when those professing unity agree on the fundamental tenets of the Christian faith, but such is not often the case. Many times those seeking “unity” are those who are most eager to jettison any real adherence to the confessional standards of the church. Such unity is merely visible, and cracks begin to show when Bible-believers in the church begin to rightly protest the excesses of the liberal wings of their denominations.

If unity is to mean anything, Jesus also affirms in John 17, it must be a unity grounded in the truth (vv. 17–19). Unity is meaningless when church members do not confess the same Lord and Savior.

Coram deo: Living before the face of God

Consider today the importance of true Christian unity, one that is a unity of faith and not only an organizational unity. What type of unity is your particular church concerned to promote? What type of unity is your passion? Take time today to pray for your particular church and denomination that they would seek to be one with other Christians, but not at the expense of the faith once given to the saints. Do what you can to promote such unity with other believers.

For further study:  Amos 3:3

The Bible in a year:  Psalms 68–69

For the weekend:  Psalms 70–72

INTO the WORD daily Bible studies from TableTalk Magazine, Matthew Studies. Copyright © 2008 by Ligonier Ministries.