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God’s Marvelous Plan for the Gentiles- Ephesians 3

3 So I, Paul, am a prisoner because I serve Christ Jesus for you who are not Jews. 2 Surely you know that God gave me this work through his grace to help you. 3 God let me know his secret plan by showing it to me. I have already written a little about this. 4 And if you read what I wrote, you can see that I understand the secret truth about Christ. 5 People who lived in other times were not told that secret truth. But now, through the Spirit, God has made it known to his holy apostles and prophets. 6 And this is the secret truth: that by hearing the Good News, those who are not Jews will share with the Jews in the blessings God has for his people. They are part of the same body, and they share in the promise God made through Christ Jesus.

7 By God’s special gift of grace, I became a servant to tell that Good News. He gave me that grace by using his power. 8 I am the least important of all God’s people. But he gave me this gift—to tell the non-Jewish people the Good News about the riches Christ has. These riches are too great to understand fully. 9 And God gave me the work of telling all people about the plan for his secret truth. That secret truth has been hidden in him since the beginning of time. He is the one who created everything. 10 His purpose was that all the rulers and powers in the heavenly places will now know the many different ways he shows his wisdom. They will know this because of the church. 11 This agrees with the plan God had since the beginning of time. He did what he planned, and he did it through Christ Jesus our Lord. 12 In Christ we come before God with freedom and without fear. We can do this because of our faith in Christ. 13 So I ask you not to be discouraged because of what is happening to me. My sufferings are for your benefit—for your honor and glory.

The Love of Christ

14 So I bow in prayer before the Father. 15 Every family in heaven and on earth gets its true name from him. 16 I ask the Father with his great glory to give you the power to be strong in your spirits. He will give you that strength through his Spirit. 17 I pray that Christ will live in your hearts because of your faith. I pray that your life will be strong in love and be built on love. 18 And I pray that you and all God’s holy people will have the power to understand the greatness of Christ’s love—how wide, how long, how high, and how deep that love is. 19 Christ’s love is greater than anyone can ever know, but I pray that you will be able to know that love. Then you can be filled with everything God has for you.

20 With God’s power working in us, he can do much, much more than anything we can ask or think of. 21 To him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus for all time, forever and ever. Amen.

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Wisdom Will Keep You From Adultery- Proverbs 7

7 My son, remember my words. Don’t forget what I have told you. 2 Consider my teaching as precious as your own eyes. Obey my commands, and you will have a good life. 3 Tie them around your finger. Write them on your heart. 4 Treat wisdom like the woman you love and knowledge like the one dearest to you. 5 Wisdom will save you from that other woman, the other man’s wife, who tempts you with such sweet words.

6 One day I was looking out my window 7 at some foolish teenagers and noticed one who had no sense at all. 8 He was walking through the marketplace and came to the corner where a certain woman lived. He then turned up the road that goes by her house. 9 The day was ending. The sun had set, and it was almost dark. 10 Suddenly, there she was in front of him, dressed like a prostitute. She had plans for him. 11 She was a wild and rebellious woman who would not stay at home. 12 She walked the streets, always looking for someone to trap. 13 She grabbed the young man and kissed him. Without shame, she looked him in the eye and said, 14 “I offered a fellowship offering today. I gave what I promised to give, 15 and I still have plenty of food left. So I came out to find you, and here you are! 16 I have clean sheets on my bed—special ones from Egypt. 17 My bed smells wonderful with myrrh, aloes, and cinnamon. 18 Come, let’s enjoy ourselves all night. We can make love until dawn. 19 My husband has gone on a business trip. 20 He took enough money for a long trip and won’t be home for two weeks.[a]”

21 This is what the woman said to tempt the young man, and her smooth words tricked him. 22 He followed her, like a bull being led to the slaughter. He was like a deer walking into a trap, 23 where a hunter waits to shoot an arrow through its heart. The boy was like a bird flying into a net, never seeing the danger he was in.

24 Now, sons, listen to me. Pay attention to what I say. 25 Don’t let your heart lead you to an evil woman like that. Don’t go where she wants to lead you. 26 She has brought down some of the most powerful men; she has left many dead bodies in her path. 27 Her house is the place of death. The road to it leads straight to the grave.

A David Song, Which He Sang to God After Being Saved from All His Enemies and from Saul-Psalm 18

18 1-2 I love you, God—
you make me strong.
God is bedrock under my feet,
the castle in which I live,
my rescuing knight.
My God—the high crag
where I run for dear life,
hiding behind the boulders,
safe in the granite hideout.
3 I sing to God, the Praise-Lofty,
and find myself safe and saved.
4-5 The hangman’s noose was tight at my throat;
devil waters rushed over me.
Hell’s ropes cinched me tight;
death traps barred every exit.
6 A hostile world! I call to God,
I cry to God to help me.
From his palace he hears my call;
my cry brings me right into his presence—
a private audience!
7-15 Earth wobbles and lurches;
huge mountains shake like leaves,
Quake like aspen leaves
because of his rage.
His nostrils flare, bellowing smoke;
his mouth spits fire.
Tongues of fire dart in and out;
he lowers the sky.
He steps down;
under his feet an abyss opens up.
He’s riding a winged creature,
swift on wind-wings.
Now he’s wrapped himself
in a trenchcoat of black-cloud darkness.
But his cloud-brightness bursts through,
spraying hailstones and fireballs.
Then God thundered out of heaven;
the High God gave a great shout,
spraying hailstones and fireballs.
God shoots his arrows—pandemonium!
He hurls his lightnings—a rout!
The secret sources of ocean are exposed,
the hidden depths of earth lie uncovered
The moment you roar in protest,
let loose your hurricane anger.
16-19 But me he caught—reached all the way
from sky to sea; he pulled me out
Of that ocean of hate, that enemy chaos,
the void in which I was drowning.
They hit me when I was down,
but God stuck by me.
He stood me up on a wide-open field;
I stood there saved—surprised to be loved!
20-24 God made my life complete
when I placed all the pieces before him.
When I got my act together,
he gave me a fresh start.
Now I’m alert to God’s ways;
I don’t take God for granted.
Every day I review the ways he works;
I try not to miss a trick.
I feel put back together,
and I’m watching my step.
God rewrote the text of my life
when I opened the book of my heart to his eyes.
25-27 The good people taste your goodness,
The whole people taste your health,
The true people taste your truth,
The bad ones can’t figure you out.
You take the side of the down-and-out,
But the stuck-up you take down a peg.
28-29 Suddenly, God, you floodlight my life;
I’m blazing with glory, God’s glory!
I smash the bands of marauders,
I vault the highest fences.
30 What a God! His road
stretches straight and smooth.
Every God-direction is road-tested.
Everyone who runs toward him
Makes it.
31-42 Is there any god like God?
Are we not at bedrock?
Is not this the God who armed me,
then aimed me in the right direction?
Now I run like a deer;
I’m king of the mountain.
He shows me how to fight;
I can bend a bronze bow!
You protect me with salvation-armor;
you hold me up with a firm hand,
caress me with your gentle ways.
You cleared the ground under me
so my footing was firm.
When I chased my enemies I caught them;
I didn’t let go till they were dead men.
I nailed them; they were down for good;
then I walked all over them.
You armed me well for this fight,
you smashed the upstarts.
You made my enemies turn tail,
and I wiped out the haters.
They cried “uncle”
but Uncle didn’t come;
They yelled for God
and got no for an answer.
I ground them to dust; they gusted in the wind.
I threw them out, like garbage in the gutter.
43-45 You rescued me from a squabbling people;
you made me a leader of nations.
People I’d never heard of served me;
the moment they got wind of me they listened.
The foreign devils gave up; they came
on their bellies, crawling from their hideouts.
46-48 Live, God! Blessings from my Rock,
my free and freeing God, towering!
This God set things right for me
and shut up the people who talked back.
He rescued me from enemy anger,
he pulled me from the grip of upstarts,
He saved me from the bullies.
49-50 That’s why I’m thanking you, God,
all over the world.
That’s why I’m singing songs
that rhyme your name.
God’s king takes the trophy;
God’s chosen is beloved.
I mean David and all his children—
always.

 

 

Matthew 3

Matthew 3

New International Version (NIV)

John the Baptist Prepares the Way

3 In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea 2 and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” 3 This is he who was spoken of through the prophet Isaiah:

“A voice of one calling in the wilderness,
‘Prepare the way for the Lord,
make straight paths for him.’”

4 John’s clothes were made of camel’s hair, and he had a leather belt around his waist. His food was locusts and wild honey.5 People went out to him from Jerusalem and all Judea and the whole region of the Jordan. 6 Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River.

7 But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to where he was baptizing, he said to them: “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? 8 Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. 9 And do not think you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham.10 The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.

11 “I baptize you with[b] water for repentance. But after me comes one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with[c] the Holy Spirit and fire. 12 His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”

The Baptism of Jesus

13 Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John. 14 But John tried to deter him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?”

15 Jesus replied, “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.” Then John consented.

16 As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. 17 And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”

What Does the Bible Say About Fasting?

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is fasting?
  • How should one fast, and for how long?
  • Does the Bible say to fast?
  • Are there different kinds of fasting?
  • What foods can I eat while fasting?

What is Fasting?

Fasting means self-denial by going without food for a period of time. Fasting may be total or partial — avoiding certain foods or eating smaller than normal quantities. The origin of fasting as a religious practice is unclear, but both the Old and New Testaments of the Bible mention a number of instances of fasting for various reasons.

Reasons for Fasting

Distress and Grief

Loss of appetite is a natural reaction in times of distress, grief and mourning, and fasting was considered appropriate at these times. David fasted as a sign of grief when Abner was murdered (2 Samuel 3:35). There was a seven-day fast at the death of Saul (1 Samuel 31:13).

Spiritual Preparation

Fasting is a self-sacrifice that makes one humble and more accepting of God’s will. Moses fasted for forty days in preparation for receiving the Ten Commandments (Exodus 34:28). Daniel fasted for three weeks before receiving his vision (Daniel 10:2-6). Elijah fasted forty days before speaking with God (1 Kings 19:8). Jesus fasted for forty days in preparation for His temptation by the devil (Matthew 4:1-11Luke 4:1-13).

In both the Old and New Testaments, fasting is seen as useful for humbling oneself as a sign of commitment or repentance and for increasing faith, especially when accompanied by prayer. Fasting allowed one to be devoted to spiritual matters without distraction from earthly things. However, fasting was not to be considered an end in itself, nor a substitute for obedience to God and doing good deeds (Isaiah 58:3-10).

Repentance and Atonement

When Jonah predicted the downfall of Nineveh, The Ninevites fasted as a sign of repentance in hopes God would spare their city (Jonah 3:3-9). The Day of Atonement was an annual obligatory day of rest and fasting for the Israelites (Numbers 29:7). When the Israelites had sinned, they often humbled themselves and fasted in hopes of regaining God’s favor (Judges 20:261 Samuel 7:6).

Jesus’ Teachings on Fasting

Jesus said that fasting, like prayer, should be done in private and not for show (Matthew 6:16-18, cf., Matthew 6:5-7). John the Baptist’s disciples routinely fasted according to Jewish custom, but Jesus and His disciples did not. However, Jesus said His disciples would mourn and fast after He had left them (Matthew 9:14-15Mark 2:18-20Luke 5:33-35). The early Christians practiced fasting at least occasionally (Acts 13:314:232 Corinthians 6:511:27).

Fasting Not Required

Despite the tradition of fasting in the Bible, and Jesus’ references to it, the New Testament teachings do not require fasting, and neither Jesus nor His disciples made fasting obligatory. However, a tradition of partial fasting on Wednesdays, and especially on Fridays dates back to the early days of Christianity.

Church Traditions

Church teachings about fasting vary. Many Catholics observe partial fasting traditions during Lent (the period between Ash Wednesday and Easter). Orthodox Christians observe even more fasting days. Most Protestant churches do not have any firm rules or traditions about fasting.

Health Effects

The partial and token fasts observed by some churches are not known to cause health problems. However, more severe fasting regimens could result in an array of health problems and even death.1,2 Medical advice is recommended before beginning a fasting program.

James 1.

1 Greetings from James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ.

To God’s people[a] who are scattered all over the world.

Faith and Wisdom

2 My brothers and sisters, you will have many kinds of trouble. But this gives you a reason to be very happy. 3 You know that when your faith is tested, you learn to be patient in suffering. 4 If you let that patience work in you, the end result will be good. You will be mature and complete. You will be all that God wants you to be.

5 Do any of you need wisdom? Ask God for it. He is generous and enjoys giving to everyone. So he will give you wisdom. 6 But when you ask God, you must believe. Don’t doubt him. Whoever doubts is like a wave in the sea that is blown up and down by the wind. 7-8 People like that are thinking two different things at the same time. They can never decide what to do. So they should not think they will receive anything from the Lord.

True Riches

9 Believers who are poor should be glad that God considers them so important. 10 Believers who are rich should be glad when bad things happen that humble them. Their riches won’t keep them from disappearing as quickly as wildflowers. 11 As the sun rises and gets hotter, its heat dries up the plants, and the flowers fall off. The flowers that were so beautiful are now dead. That’s how it is with the rich. While they are still making plans for their business, they will die.

Temptation Does Not Come From God

12 Great blessings belong to those who are tempted and remain faithful! After they have proved their faith, God will give them the reward[b] of eternal life. God promised this to all people who love him. 13 Whenever you feel tempted to do something bad, you should not say, “God is tempting me.” Evil cannot tempt God, and God himself does not tempt anyone. 14 You are tempted by the evil things you want. Your own desire leads you away and traps you. 15 Your desire grows inside you until it results in sin. Then the sin grows bigger and bigger and finally ends in death.

16 My dear brothers and sisters, don’t be fooled about this. 17 Everything good comes from God. Every perfect gift is from him. These good gifts come down from the Father who made all the lights in the sky. But God never changes like the shadows from those lights. He is always the same. 18 God decided to give us life through the true message he sent to us. He wanted us to be the most important of all that he created.

Listening and Obeying

19 My dear brothers and sisters, always be more willing to listen than to speak. Keep control of your anger. 20 Anger does not help you live the way God wants. 21 So get rid of everything evil in your lives—every kind of wrong you do. Be humble and accept God’s teaching that is planted in your hearts. This teaching can save you.

22 Do what God’s teaching says; don’t just listen and do nothing. When you only sit and listen, you are fooling yourselves.23 Hearing God’s teaching and doing nothing is like looking at your face in the mirror 24 and doing nothing about what you saw. You go away and immediately forget how bad you looked. 25 But when you look into God’s perfect law that sets people free, pay attention to it. If you do what it says, you will have God’s blessing. Never just listen to his teaching and forget what you heard.

The True Way to Worship God

26 You might think you are a very religious person. But if your tongue is out of control, you are fooling yourself. Your careless talk makes your offerings to God worthless. 27 The worship that God wants is this: caring for orphans or widows who need help and keeping yourself free from the world’s evil influence. This is the kind of worship that God accepts as pure and good.

Being A man of Integrity

10 The proverbs of Solomon:

A wise son brings joy to his father,
but a foolish son brings grief to his mother.
2 Ill-gotten treasures have no lasting value,
but righteousness delivers from death.
3 The Lord does not let the righteous go hungry,
but he thwarts the craving of the wicked.
4 Lazy hands make for poverty,
but diligent hands bring wealth.
5 He who gathers crops in summer is a prudent son,
but he who sleeps during harvest is a disgraceful son.
6 Blessings crown the head of the righteous,
but violence overwhelms the mouth of the wicked.[a]
7 The name of the righteous is used in blessings,[b]
but the name of the wicked will rot.
8 The wise in heart accept commands,
but a chattering fool comes to ruin.
9 Whoever walks in integrity walks securely,
but whoever takes crooked paths will be found out.
10 Whoever winks maliciously causes grief,
and a chattering fool comes to ruin.
11 The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life,
but the mouth of the wicked conceals violence.
12 Hatred stirs up conflict,
but love covers over all wrongs.
13 Wisdom is found on the lips of the discerning,
but a rod is for the back of one who has no sense.
14 The wise store up knowledge,
but the mouth of a fool invites ruin.
15 The wealth of the rich is their fortified city,
but poverty is the ruin of the poor.
16 The wages of the righteous is life,
but the earnings of the wicked are sin and death.
17 Whoever heeds discipline shows the way to life,
but whoever ignores correction leads others astray.
18 Whoever conceals hatred with lying lips
and spreads slander is a fool.
19 Sin is not ended by multiplying words,
but the prudent hold their tongues.
20 The tongue of the righteous is choice silver,
but the heart of the wicked is of little value.
21 The lips of the righteous nourish many,
but fools die for lack of sense.
22 The blessing of the Lord brings wealth,
without painful toil for it.
23 A fool finds pleasure in wicked schemes,
but a person of understanding delights in wisdom.
24 What the wicked dread will overtake them;
what the righteous desire will be granted.
25 When the storm has swept by, the wicked are gone,
but the righteous stand firm forever.
26 As vinegar to the teeth and smoke to the eyes,
so are sluggards to those who send them.
27 The fear of the Lord adds length to life,
but the years of the wicked are cut short.
28 The prospect of the righteous is joy,
but the hopes of the wicked come to nothing.
29 The way of the Lord is a refuge for the blameless,
but it is the ruin of those who do evil.
30 The righteous will never be uprooted,
but the wicked will not remain in the land.
31 From the mouth of the righteous comes the fruit of wisdom,
but a perverse tongue will be silenced.
32 The lips of the righteous know what finds favor,
but the mouth of the

Lord Be Meriful Psalm:56

For the director of music. To the tune of “A Dove on Distant Oaks.” Of David. A miktam.[b] When the Philistines had seized him in Gath.

1 Be merciful to me, my God,
for my enemies are in hot pursuit;
all day long they press their attack.
2 My adversaries pursue me all day long;
in their pride many are attacking me.
3 When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.
4 In God, whose word I praise—
in God I trust and am not afraid.
What can mere mortals do to me?
5 All day long they twist my words;
all their schemes are for my ruin.
6 They conspire, they lurk,
they watch my steps,
hoping to take my life.
7 Because of their wickedness do not[c] let them escape;
in your anger, God, bring the nations down.
8 Record my misery;
list my tears on your scroll[d]—
are they not in your record?
9 Then my enemies will turn back
when I call for help.
By this I will know that God is for me.
10 In God, whose word I praise,
in the Lord, whose word I praise—
11 in God I trust and am not afraid.
What can man do to me?
12 I am under vows to you, my God;
I will present my thank offerings to you.
13 For you have delivered me from death
and my feet from stumbling,
that I may walk before God
in the light of life.
Footnotes:

Psalm 56:1 In Hebrew texts 56:1-13 is numbered 56:2-14.
Psalm 56:1 Title: Probably a literary or musical term
Psalm 56:7 Probable reading of the original Hebrew text; Masoretic Text does not have do not.
Psalm 56:8 Or misery; / put my tears in your wineskin

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How to Avoid Temptation to Sin

Human beings are naturally inclined towards sin. Everyone feels the urge to sin at some point because sinning gives us tangible yet fleeting benefits at the cost of moral and spiritual ones. Temptation is the urge to sin. We’re judged by the degree to which we thwart our temptations. Because of humanity’s sinful nature, everyone, at some point, fails to resist their temptations. Luckily, we’re never alone in our quest to thwart our temptations. In the words of the Bible: “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man.” (1 Corinthians 10:13 English Standard Version) In this guide, you’ll learn strategies for avoiding temptation and for combating it when it does find you.

STEP 1–Identify your temptations and the personal flaws that create them. Everyone has their own temptations. Though Jesus never sinned, even he was tempted to. (Hebrews 4:15) Spend a few moments self-reflecting to identify your personal temptations. Then, pin down the personality traits that lead you to temptation – maybe you’re insecure or you’re never satisfied with yourself. Perhaps you prioritize pleasure over responsibility. No two people are exactly alike. Your temptations might resemble those of your friends, family, or other associates, but there’s also a chance that they’re unique to you. A priest, counselor, or other trusted person can help you discover your unique temptations and the flaws from which these temptations developed.If you’re having a hard time defining exactly what your temptations are, begin by pinpointing the things in your life that make you sad, then try to find a thought process or habit you possess that leads to these things. For instance, let’s say you’re in a committed relationship with a woman you love but you frequently feel intense guilt because you flirt with other women. Search your heart. Ask yourself, “what do I think or do that makes me want to act like this?” After some reflection, you may find, for instance, that you’re worried about whether you’re still attractive. The source of your temptation in this case is your sense of insecurity.

STEP 2—Set reasonable goals for fighting temptation. Your aim when fighting temptation should take into account the fact that, as a human being, you’re incapable of perfection. Don’t set an un-achievable goal like “I will never sin again.” If you do, you’re setting yourself up for disappointment. Realize that you will inevitably sin again (and again and again). Set a realistic goal that takes this into account.For instance, if you’ve been neglecting your child’s vocal recitals in favor of nights spent at home watching TV, you might set a goal of never missing another vocal recital (except for emergencies) and of reducing your time spent watching TV every week by four hours. This goal is well within your grasp.
For a few very serious sins, it is absolutely necessary to set a zero-tolerance goal – for instance, you should obviously never commit murder or marital infidelity. These sins can cause irreparable damage to others’ lives.

STEP 3—Take responsibility for yourself. You were blessed with free will for a reason. Don’t waste your opportunity to act decisively against your personal temptation by giving into the separate temptation of inaction! Stand up and take action now. Make it your goal going forward to not give in to your temptation. The hardest part of overcoming your temptation can be getting started. Don’t sabotage your journey before it’s begun by telling yourself you can’t do it.When Jesus died, he gave us authority over the forces of evil. (Mark 16:17) Never fear or run from the forces of evil in your own life. With hard work and sincere faith, nothing is beyond your grasp.

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January 17, 2014

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