Sunday, September 4, 2016

Night Light for Couples - What’s Your Motive?

The challenge of sustaining an intimate, faith-based marriage in today's “hurry-up” society has never been greater. Night Light for Couples, the couples' devotional from Focus on the Family ministry founder Dr. James Dobson and his wife, Shirley, brings spouses together each evening, helping them stay connected with each other and their Lord. Stories that strike an emotional chord, Scripture readings, provocative questions, prayers, and personal commentary from the Dobsons encourage men and women in their homes and spiritual lives. More than just another devotional, Night Light is a practical, uplifting guide for every couple who longs to experience the joyous, intimate, “three-person” marriage covenant God intended.

“I belong to my lover, and his desire is for me.” Song of Songs 7:10

Let’s face it: Sex is a topic on the mind of just about every husband and wife. (Some wives claim their husbands think of nothing else!) The physical union of man and woman is one of the most pleasurable and meaningful aspects of marriage. Yet when a couple engages in sex for the wrong reasons, intercourse quickly loses its significance and can become an empty obligation. The late Dr. David Hernandez once offered some common, “non-loving” motives for sex:
  • To fulfill one’s marital duty,
  • To repay or secure a favor,
  • As a conquest,
  • As a substitute for verbal communication,
  • To overcome feelings of inferiority,
  • As an enticement for emotional love,
  • As a defense against anxiety and tension,
  • As a form of self‐gratification without seeking to satisfy the other.
God designed sex as an intimate expression of love between husband and wife. Anything that fails to meet that standard leaves one partner feeling unsatisfied and exploited.

Just between us…
  • When was the last time you thought about making love?
  • Does your motive for sex ever fall into any of the above categories?
  • Have you ever felt sexually “used” by me?
  • How can we move from “having sex” toward “making love”? 
Heavenly Father, You have blessed our union with sexual expression. Bless us with emotional and sexual intimacy as well. Thank You for the pleasure and wonder of married lovemaking. Amen. 

  • From Night Light For Couples, by Dr. James & Shirley Dobson
  • Copyright © 2000 by James Dobson, Inc. All rights reserved.
  • Sexual motives from What Wives Wish Their Husbands Knew about Women by Dr. James Dobson (Carol Stream, Ill.: Tyndale House Publishers, 1975).

The Daily Readings for September 4, 2016 - 16th Sunday after Pentecost

First Reading
Deuteronomy 30:15-20
See, I have set before you today life and prosperity, death and adversity. If you obey the commandments of the LORD your God that I am commanding you today, by loving the LORD your God, walking in his ways, and observing his commandments, decrees, and ordinances, then you shall live and become numerous, and the LORD your God will bless you in the land that you are entering to possess. But if your heart turns away and you do not hear, but are led astray to bow down to other gods and serve them, I declare to you today that you shall perish; you shall not live long in the land that you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess. I call heaven and earth to witness against you today that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Choose life so that you and your descendants may live, loving the LORD your God, obeying him, and holding fast to him; for that means life to you and length of days, so that you may live in the land that the LORD swore to give to your ancestors, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.

Psalm 1 Beatus vir qui non abiit
1   Happy are they who have not walked in the counsel of the wicked, nor lingered in the way of sinners, nor sat in the seats of the scornful!
2   Their delight is in the law of the LORD, and they meditate on his law day and night.
3   They are like trees planted by streams of water, bearing fruit in due season, with leaves that do not wither; everything they do shall prosper.
4   It is not so with the wicked; they are like chaff which the wind blows away.
5   Therefore the wicked shall not stand upright when judgment comes, nor the sinner in the council of the righteous.
6   For the LORD knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked is doomed.

Second Reading
Philemon 1:1-21
Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus, and Timothy our brother, To Philemon our dear friend and co-worker, to Apphia our sister, to Archippus our fellow soldier, and to the church in your house: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. When I remember you in my prayers, I always thank my God because I hear of your love for all the saints and your faith toward the Lord Jesus. I pray that the sharing of your faith may become effective when you perceive all the good that we may do for Christ. I have indeed received much joy and encouragement from your love, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you, my brother. For this reason, though I am bold enough in Christ to command you to do your duty, yet I would rather appeal to you on the basis of love-- and I, Paul, do this as an old man, and now also as a prisoner of Christ Jesus. I am appealing to you for my child, Onesimus, whose father I have become during my imprisonment. Formerly he was useless to you, but now he is indeed useful both to you and to me. I am sending him, that is, my own heart, back to you. I wanted to keep him with me, so that he might be of service to me in your place during my imprisonment for the gospel; but I preferred to do nothing without your consent, in order that your good deed might be voluntary and not something forced. Perhaps this is the reason he was separated from you for a while, so that you might have him back forever, no longer as a slave but more than a slave, a beloved brother-- especially to me but how much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord. So if you consider me your partner, welcome him as you would welcome me. If he has wronged you in any way, or owes you anything, charge that to my account. I, Paul, am writing this with my own hand: I will repay it. I say nothing about your owing me even your own self. Yes, brother, let me have this benefit from you in the Lord! Refresh my heart in Christ. Confident of your obedience, I am writing to you, knowing that you will do even more than I say.

Holy Gospel
Luke 14:25-33
Now large crowds were traveling with him; and he turned and said to them, "Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not first sit down and estimate the cost, to see whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it will begin to ridicule him, saying, 'This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.' Or what king, going out to wage war against another king, will not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to oppose the one who comes against him with twenty thousand? If he cannot, then, while the other is still far away, he sends a delegation and asks for the terms of peace. So therefore, none of you can become my disciple if you do not give up all your possessions.

Luke 14:25-33 - 16th Sunday after Pentecost - "The Rabbit"

Luke 14:25-33 (RSV) [The Cost of Discipleship] "Now great multitudes accompanied him; and he turned and said to them, "If any one comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me, cannot be my disciple. For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation, and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ’This man began to build, and was not able to finish.’ Or what king, going to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and take counsel whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends an embassy and asks terms of peace. So therefore, whoever of you does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple."

Grace and Peace to you from our Lord and Saviour, Jesus who is the Christ. Amen

One day, a young disciple of Christ desirous of wanting to become all that God had for him visited the home of an elderly Christian. He had heard that this old man had never lost his first love for Christ in all the years he had known Him.

The old Christian was sitting on the porch with his dog stretched out before him taking in a beautiful sunset. The young man posed this question:

"Why is it, brother, that most Christians zealously chase after God during the first year or two after their conversion, but then fall into a complacent ritual of church twice a week and end up not looking any different than their neighbors who aren’t even Christians?

I have heard you are not like that. I’ve been told that you have fervently sought after God throughout your years as a Christian. People see something in you that they don’t see in most people who became Christians. What makes you different?"

The old man smiled and replied, "Let me tell you a story: One day I was sitting here quietly in the sun with my dog. Suddenly a large white rabbit ran across in front of us. Well, my dog jumped up, and took off after that big rabbit. He chased the rabbit over the hills with a passion.

Soon, other dogs joined him, attracted by his barking. What a sight it was, as the pack of dogs ran barking across the creeks, up stony embankments and through thickets and thorns!

Gradually, however, one by one, the other dogs dropped out of the pursuit, discouraged by the course and frustrated by the chase. Only my dog continued to hotly pursue the white rabbit."

"In that story, young man, is the answer to your question."

The young man sat in confused silence. Finally, he said, "Brother, I don’t understand. What is the connection between the rabbit chase and the quest for God?"

"You fail to understand," answered the well-seasoned old man, "because you failed to ask the obvious question. Why didn’t the other dogs continue on the chase? And the answer to that question is that they had not Seen the rabbit. Unless you see the prey, the chase is just too difficult. You will lack the passion and determination necessary to keep up the chase."

Have you seen the Lord? Are you willing to count the cost to follow the Lord by keeping your eye on the prize. Not the prize of heaven, but the prize of the one who will get you there Jesus Christ.

Jesus is talking about counting the cost to be his disciple.

Jesus is saying that it is not easy to be a disciple of his.

In our gospel lesson, Jesus is trying to tell us the price we must pay to be his disciple. He says, "If any one comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple".

That is a harsh statement. Does Jesus really mean we should hate our families, we should hate ourselves?

Jesus is trying to drive home a point that to follow Him, to be a disciple of His one must put everything else second in life.

Jesus is saying we need to put at arms length, to put in second place everything in our lives except him. He comes first. He comes first before family, he comes first before our relatives, he comes first before our own lives. As we let the impact of that statement filter into our hearts, we see that Jesus is calling us to a radical kind of life. A life that is lived which sets those who believe in Him apart from the rest of society.

Then in the last part of this text, Jesus, is asking, are you willing to pay that kind price to follow me? In a sense the two parables, or illustrations Jesus uses is asking us if we are willing to pay that kind of cost to be his follower? Are we willing to turn the love we have for him into an action that will separate us, or set us apart from, our families and even from those values and ideals we hold dear in our own life?

Jesus is saying, if you want to be my disciple, if you want to follow me, here is what you are called to do. Place me first above everything else in your life and then before you say you are willing to do that, you had better count the cost, see if you are willing to make such a sacrifice for me, see if you are really willing to pay that kind of price? You need to see if you can really keep your eye on the prize.

Can you keep your eye on the rabbit? on Jesus Christ? Are you willing to count the cost as Jesus says in our gospel lesson, So therefore, whoever of you does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.

As Bonhoeffer says in his book Cost of Discipleship, on p.47

"We have cheapen grace and cheap grace is the deadly enemy of our church. We are fighting for costly grace. Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession, absolution without personal confession.

Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate. Costly grace is the gospel which must be sought again and again, the gift which must be asked for, the door at which a man must know. Such grace is costly because it calls us to follow, and it is grace because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ. It is costly because it costs a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life.

It is costly because it condemns sin, and grace because it justifies the sinner. Above all, it is grace because God did not reckon his Son too dear a price to pay for our life, but delivered him up for us. Costly grace is the Incarnation of God. Costly grace is the living word, the Word of God. Costly grace confronts us as a gracious call to follow Jesus, it comes as a word of forgiveness to the broken spirit and the contrite heart. Grace is costly because it compels a man to submit to the yoke of Christ and follow him; it is grace because Jesus says: "My yoke is easy and my burden is light."

We have made the gift so cheap, we have watered it down so much that it has lost its meaning and its greatness for many people. We have watered down this grace to such an extent that I fear we have become universities meaning that everyone is going to heaven, everyone regardless of their belief or their actions.

But that is not the message of the Bible, that is not the message of this text, Jesus says it costs something. There is a price to be paid. You must be willing to place Jesus and his will above all else in your life, that is the price, that is the cost.

Luther says: A religion that gives nothing, costs nothing, and suffers nothing, is worth nothing.

But we don’t say that loud and clear, we don’t tell people about that, we make this so cheap that for some people belief in Jesus becomes like the line in a church constitution:

"If I give my penny to the church and communion once a year that is all there is to it."

Some feel that they don’t need to be associated with the worshiping community, I don’t need to change my lifestyle, I can cheat my neighbor, I can gossip, I can hold grudges, I can be greedy and not share my wealth with the Lord. I can be disrespectful, I can abuse my body, because God’s grace is cheap, freely given.

Cheap grace does more harm than good. Sure we can say look at all the people who are on our church rolls, but when it come right down to it, if a church gets half of its member to worship the God they believe in, they feel really good. Maybe even 30% is great!

But Jesus isn’t asking for half or 30%, He wants His grace to motivate our lives all the time, every day 24 hours a day, each day that we live on this earth.

Jesus wants us to remember the cost He paid for our lives, so that we don’t cheapen this grace, but value it to the highest degree.

What does it take to follow Jesus? Know that it won’t be cheap, and you can’t get by with half of what’s needed, and that your lackluster, mediocre resolve won’t save you when the great battle of life have to be fought.

A closing story by Max Lucado talks about hearing the music of faith and then dancing to it:

Let’s imagine that you want to learn to dance. Being the rational, cerebral person you are, you go to a bookstore and buy a book on dancing. You take the book home and get to work.

Finally, you think you’ve got it, and you invite your wife to come in and watch. You hold the book open and follow the instructions step by step. You even read the words aloud so she’ll know that you’ve done your homework. “Lean with your right shoulder,” and so you lean. “Now step with your right foot,” and so you step. “Turn slowly to the left,” and so you do.

You continue to read, then dance, read, then dance, until the dance is completed. You plop exhausted on the couch, look at your wife, and proclaim, “I executed it perfectly.”

“You executed it, all right,” she sighs. “You killed it.”


“You forgot the most important part. Where is the music?”


You never thought about music. You remembered the book. You learned the rules. You laid out the pattern. But you forgot the music.

“Do it again,” she says, putting in a CD. “This time don’t worry about the steps; just follow the music.”

She extends her hand and the music begins. The next thing you know, you are dancing-and you don’t even have the book.

We Christians are prone to follow the book while ignoring the music. We master the doctrine, outline the chapters, memorize the dispensations, debate the rules, and stiffly step down the dance floor of life with no music in our hearts.

We measure each step, calibrate each turn, and flop into bed each night exhausted from another day of dancing by the book.

Dancing with no music is tough stuff.

“Let God have you, and let God love you-and don’t be surprised if your heart begins to hear music you’ve never heard and your feet learn to dance as never before.”

Keep you eye on the rabbit, Jesus Christ and you will hear the music and dance like you have never danced before.


Written by Pastor Tim Zingale September 3, 2007

The Forward Day by Day Meditation for September 4, 2016 - 16th Sunday after Pentecost

From Forward Day By Day

Luke 14:31-33 (NRSV) Or what king, going out to wage war against another king, will not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to oppose the one who comes against him with twenty thousand? If he cannot, then, while the other is still far away, he sends a delegation and asks for the terms of peace. So therefore, none of you can become my disciple if you do not give up all your possessions.

The heading in my Bible for this passage, “The Cost of Discipleship,” is misleading. Jesus isn’t asking us to consider if we can, against all odds, defeat our need of God or win God’s favor. Rather, Jesus is saying, “Give up.” According to Jesus, the terms of peace require absolute surrender. The call and cost of discipleship requires nothing less than blind trust that the God of the cross will be enough, that it will be our good and abundant portion.

God knows it is hard for us to come to peace with these terms. Our attachments to other things, people, and our egos keep us from our baptismal identity as God’s beloved. As a part of surrender, the attachments must go. There is no constructing a respectable self apart from Jesus Christ, crucified and risen, in the kingdom of this God.

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Un Dia a la Vez - Sabiduría contra necedad (primera parte)

En los labios del prudente hay sabiduría; en la espalda del falto de juicio, solo garrotazos. Proverbios 10:13

La sabiduría es un don hermoso y tenerla es una ganancia, mientras que la necedad es un defecto y es desobediencia.

Durante este año hemos recordado que cada uno de nosotros tiene una porción de sabiduría. No obstante, también el Manual de Instrucciones nos dice que si nos falta sabiduría, se la pidamos a Dios.

Es un privilegio y una virtud ser sabios en todo lo que hacemos, hablamos y pensamos. Cuando nos tomamos el tiempo para pensar antes de actuar, nos libramos de errores y de muchos dolores de cabeza.

Como todo en la vida, debemos tener un equilibrio. Hay personas que por tratar de ser sabios se van al extremo y se vuelven legalistas. Piensan que teniendo una conducta irreprochable van a ser capaces de evitar una crisis o una situación difícil. Les recuerdo que Dios creó el día bueno y también el malo. Lo importante es discernir los momentos y vivir en consecuencia.

Hay oportunidades que nunca regresan y está en ti tomar una sabia decisión. También hemos experimentado que el infortunio nos lleva a la reflexión y produce el fruto de la sabiduría.

Después de esas grandes dificultades que hemos enfrentado, es increíble cómo la manera de ver la vida cambia de forma radical y aprendemos mucho. Sin darnos cuenta, maduramos, y es de allí que viene el fruto de la sabiduría.

Standing Strong Through the Storm - GLAMORIZING PERSECUTION

For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ. 2 Corinthians 1:5

Reg Reimer, a veteran missionary in Vietnam and with the World Evangelical Alliance counters the idea that some people express which glamorizes persecution and conclude it is therefore good. He says that deprivation, cruelty and dehumanization suffered by victims of persecution are NOT good but from the enemy! He writes in the book Suffering, Persecution and Martyrdom: Theological Reflections:

In Vietnam, for example, it is well documented that in the past 30 years Christians have been harassed, discriminated against, arrested without cause, starved, beaten, imprisoned, raped, dispossessed and chased from home and fields, and even killed for Christ’s sake. Only the Evil One takes pleasure in inflicting these injustices on those made in the image of God!

In September 2005, a Vietnamese pastor was released from a terrifying 15-month imprisonment. He had been rotated to five different prisons, was sometimes in rooms with 100 criminals and other times in a solitary cell. He had been attacked by prisoners with HIV/AIDS. He confessed to feeling alienated from his family and his church after his release. The feeling worsened. Six months after release he uttered the words, “I only discovered real loneliness when I got out of prison. My colleagues, my own brother and even my wife don’t understand and won’t believe what I tell them.” Persecution is not good!

People much prefer the more positive reports of those who seem to flourish in persecution. It is truly amazing that for many, the persecution they suffer becomes a means of receiving grace! They testify of God’s strengthening presence in the harshest conditions. They report on God’s miraculous provisions in times of extreme need. And so persecution and suffering become an occasion for God’s comfort, often through others.[1] 

RESPONSE: Today I will resist the temptation to glamorize persecution and the persecuted. Instead I will pray unceasingly for those being traumatized.

PRAYER: Lord please bring Your comfort to our brothers and sisters who are hurting from persecution today. And bless those who provide much needed trauma counselling for the persecuted church.

1. Christof Sauer and Richard Howell (ed), Suffering, Persecution and Martyrdom: Theological Reflections (Johannesburg, SA: AcadSA Publishing, 2010), pp.331-332.

Daily Devotional by John Piper - Base Your Life on This

The god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. (2 Corinthians 4:4)
Test yourself. What is your mindset? Do you begin with God and his rights and goals? Or do you begin with yourself and your rights and wishes?

And when you look at the death of Christ, what happens? Does your joy really come from translating this awesome divine work into a boost for self-esteem? Or are you drawn up out of yourself and filled with wonder and reverence and worship that here in the death of Jesus is the deepest, clearest declaration of the infinite esteem of God for his glory and for his Son?

Here is a great objective foundation for the full assurance of hope: the forgiveness of sins is grounded, finally, not in my finite worth or work, but in the infinite worth of the righteousness of God — God's unswerving allegiance to uphold and vindicate the glory of his name.

I appeal to you with all my heart, take your stand on this. Base your life on this. Ground your hope in this. You will be free from the futile mindset of the world. And you will never fall.

When God's exaltation of God in Christ is your joy, it can never fail.

Verse of the Day - September 04, 2016

2 Timothy 1:13-14 (NIV) What you heard from me, keep as the pattern of sound teaching, with faith and love in Christ Jesus. Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you—guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us.

Read all of 2 Timothy 1