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The Appearance of Religion (Thursday, August 30, 2017)

James 1:26 If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man’s religion is vain.

Introductory Thoughts

Many people have the appearance of being religious, but few seem to truly love God and follow His word. As a rule, men want to feel and look religious. They want to appear as though they are submitted to some higher authority. They do not want others to look down upon them as though they are godless and vile. This inner desire has, unfortunately, been the source and cause of much of the hypocrisy among men. The appearance of religion is of no help to mankind. If a man does not love God and follow His holy words, no amount of religion can help him. Other men may marvel at another man’s goodness, but God does not judge simply based upon the appearance (John 7:24). If a man’s religion cannot change his heart, it is a vain religion making most religion vain.

Devotional Thoughts

• (For children): The Pharisees were religious people who made a show of their supposed faithfulness, but their hearts were not right. Jesus likened them to a cup and platter that were clean on the outside but dirty on the inside (Matthew 23:5-7, 23, 25-26). Sadly, many are like this today (2 Corinthians 5:12c; 2 Timothy 3:1-5).
• (For everyone): Do you appear religious to those around you? If so, why? Is it because you have the outward form of being religious or because you genuinely love God?
• Has your faith made any changes to your inner man? Has what you believe changed your heart or merely your appearance?

Prayer Thoughts

• Ask God to change you on the inside.
• Ask the Lord to help you to be real with Him.

SONG: COME TO THE SAVIOUR NOW!

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Zealous For Religion (Tuesday, August 28, 2017)

Galatians 1:13 For ye have heard of my conversation in time past in the Jews’ religion, how that beyond measure I persecuted the church of God, and wasted it:
14 And profited in the Jews’ religion above many my equals in mine own nation, being more exceedingly zealous of the traditions of my fathers.

Introductory Thoughts

Historically, men have been willing to go to great lengths for their religion. Paul said he persecuted and wasted the church of God (Galatians 1:13) and hauled men and women to prison (Acts 8:3). He was so zealous for his religion, he consented unto the death of Stephen as he preached the truth (Acts 8:1). According to Paul’s own testimony, he went “beyond measure” (Galatians 1:13) “above” many his equals (Galatians 1:14) being “more exceedingly zealous” (Galatians 1:14). This should come as no surprise; men are often willing to do anything for their religion, even breaking the law or killing those who do not accept their religious precepts. Unfortunately, far too many people have forsaken the simplicity which is in Christ and have instead pursued the complexity and labour of religion (2 Corinthians 11:3).

Devotional Thoughts

 (For children): The Jews wanted to be saved by keeping the law and worked hard at doing so, but they were wrong and were not saved (Romans 10:1-5). They were zealous in reaching out to others, but their belief was wrong (Matthew 23:15).
 (For everyone): Read the testimony of Naaman (2 Kings 5:9-14). Why was Naaman upset? What did his servants suggest was the problem? How is this similar to what men want from religion?
 What are some things you have witnessed in your lifetime that others were willing to do for their religion? How much better of a Christian could you be if you had their zeal?

Prayer Thoughts

 Ask God to give you zeal for Him like others have for their false religions.
 Ask the Lord to burden your heart for the religiously lost people.

SONG: COME THOU ALMIGHTY KING

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Religious But Lost (Monday, August 28, 2017)

Acts 26:1 Then Agrippa said unto Paul, Thou art permitted to speak for thyself. Then Paul stretched forth the hand, and answered for himself:
2 I think myself happy, king Agrippa, because I shall answer for myself this day before thee touching all the things whereof I am accused of the Jews:
3 Especially because I know thee to be expert in all customs and questions which are among the Jews: wherefore I beseech thee to hear me patiently.
4 My manner of life from my youth, which was at the first among mine own nation at Jerusalem, know all the Jews;
5 Which knew me from the beginning, if they would testify, that after the most straitest sect of our religion I lived a Pharisee.

Introductory Thoughts

Paul testified that he was one of the most religious people that ever lived. When defending himself before the religious leaders of his day, he said that he “lived a Pharisee” “after the most straitest sect” of his religion. He “profited in the Jews’ religion above many” of his equals (Galatians 1:14). Paul’s devotion to his religion was so striking that many heard of his “conversation [lifestyle] in time past in the Jews’ religion” (Galatians 1:13). If any individual could have had confidence in his religious efforts, it would have been the apostle Paul (Philippians 3:4-6). After all, he was blameless “touching the righteousness which is in the law” (Philippians 3:6). However, in spite of his religious fervor and devotion, the apostle Paul was lost and on his way to hell until he trusted Jesus Christ as Saviour (Philippians 3:7-11). Paul later considered his earlier “service to God” to be nothing more than dung.

Devotional Thoughts

• (For children): Read Luke 18:9-14. The Pharisee was proud of what he did and did not do. The publican was willing to admit that he had sinned and depended on God’s mercy to clear his guilt. This again proves that works can never save (Titus 3:5-7; Ephesians 2:8-9).
• (For everyone): What are some religious credentials of which Paul could boast (Philippians 3:4-6)? Why did these credentials fall short of satisfying Paul’s needs?
• What are some religious credentials that people most often boast of today (i.e., baptism, church membership, tithing)? How do each of these fall short of giving man what he truly needs?

Prayer Thoughts

• Ask God to help you rely on His Son rather than upon your religion.
• Ask the Lord to open the eyes of those trusting in their religion for salvation.

SONG: WHY DO YOU WAIT?

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Church Day (Sunday, August 27, 2017)

Religion—found seven times in six verses

Variations: religion, religious

First usage: Acts 13:43 (religious)

Last usage: James 1:27 (religion)

Defined: devotion or piety

Interesting fact: Paul’s religious beliefs led him to persecute “the church of God” (Galatians 1:13). The Lord Jesus warned of a future time when “whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service” (John 16:2). This prophetic persecution is what caused John to wonder “with great admiration” (Revelation 17:6) when he saw a religious institution cruelly ruling the world.

Bible study tip: An adjective is a word or phrase declaring an attribute. It is generally provided to modify or describe a noun. To a great extent, the presence of an adjective not only describes a noun, but the inclusion of the adjective indicates the neutrality of the noun when appearing by itself. For example, the phrase “pure religion” suggests several varying points: (1) religion can be pure, (2) religion can be impure, and (3) the word religion is not inherently good or evil.

Sunday, Day 232—Church Day (no devotional)
Monday, Day 233—Religious But Lost
Tuesday, Day 234—Zealous for Religion
Wednesday, Day 235—Church Night (no devotional)
Thursday, Day 236—The Appearance of Religion
Friday, Day 237—Vain Religion
Saturday, Day 238—Pure Religion
Day 232: Church Day
James 1:27 Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.

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Resting Neath the Yoke (Friday, August 25, 2017)

Matthew 11:28 Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.
30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

Introductory Thoughts

The implications of this passage may seem like an oxymoron to most readers! The Lord invited all that labour and are heavy laden to accept a yoke. (A yoke is to be placed upon a pair of animals to attach to a plow or cart in order to help them labour together.) Why would the Lord invite those weary from labour to wear a yoke? And then, why would the Lord promise rest by inviting people to labour? The answer lies in Matthew 11:30 where the Lord said, “For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Rarely will one find labour in this world that can refresh the labourer, but the Lord promises to labour with those who labour for Him (1 Corinthians 3:9), therefore making His labour refreshing.

Devotional Thoughts

• (For children): Our work should never be a burden because the Lord is always working with us (Exodus 33:14; Isaiah 41:13; Mark 16:20; 2 Corinthians 6:1a). Jesus knew this (John 16:32) and so did Paul (2 Timothy 4:16-17).
• (For everyone): Are you weary from labouring for the things of this world? Are you weary from labouring for the Lord in your own strength? Are you willing to take the Lord’s yoke upon you and be His colabourer?
• Are you tired? Are you on the verge of giving up on life? Will you take the Lord’s easy yoke and light burden?

Prayer Thoughts

• Thank the Lord for the rest He provides in labour.
• Ask God for the rest you so desperately need.

SONG: COME UNTO ME (JONES)

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Come Ye Yourselves Apart (Thursday, August 24, 2017)

Mark 6:31 And he said unto them, Come ye yourselves apart into a desert place, and rest a while: for there were many coming and going, and they had no leisure so much as to eat.
32 And they departed into a desert place by ship privately.

Introductory Thoughts

Most Christians know the commandment of Christ given to the apostles to go “into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15), but far too few recognize the same Lord commanded these same apostles to separate themselves “into a desert place, and rest a while” (Mark 6:31). It is better to obediently rest than to prematurely burn out in the service of God. It has been said that one will either come apart (in rest) or he will come apart in spiritual disintegration. The Lord obviously wanted to demonstrate this truth and commanded the disciples to separate themselves for the purpose of finding some rest. The disciples obeyed and departed into a desert place. Each believer today should examine whether he or she is obeying this command of the Lord.

Devotional Thoughts

• (For children): Jesus cared for His disciples and wanted them to rest (cp. Psalm 23:1-2a). If they did not, He knew they would become frustrated with their work as did Martha (Luke 10:38-42). He brought them to a desert place (no distractions) so they could be with Him (Psalm 46:10a).
• (For everyone): Are you burnt out in the work of God? Are you presently going through the motions and doing so in the strength of the flesh rather than joyfully doing God’s work God’s way?
• When is the last time you withdrew yourself into a “desert place” to rest for a while? Do you feel guilty when you require some time away from the work of God?

Prayer Thoughts

• Thank the Lord for showing you your need for rest.
• Ask God to help you know when it is time for rest.

SONG: BLESSED ASSURANCE

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When He Heard, He Departed (Tuesday, August 22, 2017)

Matthew 14:1 At that time Herod the tetrarch heard of the fame of Jesus,
2 And said unto his servants, This is John the Baptist; he is risen from the dead; and therefore mighty works do shew forth themselves in him.
3 For Herod had laid hold on John, and bound him, and put him in prison for Herodias’ sake, his brother Philip’s wife.
4 For John said unto him, It is not lawful for thee to have her.
5 And when he would have put him to death, he feared the multitude, because they counted him as a prophet.
6 But when Herod’s birthday was kept, the daughter of Herodias danced before them, and pleased Herod.
7 Whereupon he promised with an oath to give her whatsoever she would ask.
8 And she, being before instructed of her mother, said, Give me here John Baptist’s head in a charger.
9 And the king was sorry: nevertheless for the oath’s sake, and them which sat with him at meat, he commanded it to be given her.
10 And he sent, and beheaded John in the prison.
11 And his head was brought in a charger, and given to the damsel: and she brought it to her mother.
12 And his disciples came, and took up the body, and buried it, and went and told Jesus.
13 When Jesus heard of it, he departed thence by ship into a desert place apart: and when the people had heard thereof, they followed him on foot out of the cities.

Introductory Thoughts

Life is full of pressures. At times, these pressures are so overwhelming that a man must get alone. The Lord Jesus cared dearly for his cousin John. When He learned of John’s death, He was so moved at the event that He desired to get away and be alone. According to the scripture, He got in a ship and departed “into a desert place apart” (Matthew 14:13). If the Lord Jesus dealt with a difficult event in His life by departing and seeking some quiet rest time, it would be wise for Christians to consider the same thing. Life will present difficult situations. The only viable solution will, at times, involve taking a step back and regrouping mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.

Devotional Thoughts

• (For children): When the following men heard unpleasant news, they got alone with God to heal, and mend, and get courage to go on: Jacob (Genesis 32:6-7, 9-11, 22-24); David (1 Samuel 30:3-6); Hezekiah (2 Kings 19:14). Before Jesus became sin for us, He at times needed to be alone (Matthew 26:36-44).
• (For everyone): Have you recently endured heartrending events? Have you taken the necessary quiet time and rest to properly recover?
• When the Lord sought to depart and find a time of rest, the people heard of His departure and followed Him. What will likely happen when you seek a time of rest and quiet?

Prayer Thoughts

• Ask God to help you get your alone time.
• Thank God for ministering to you in your times of need.

SONG: DOES JESUS CARE?

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He Would Have No Man Know It (August 21, 2017)

Mark 7:24 And from thence he arose, and went into the borders of Tyre and Sidon, and entered into an house, and would have no man know it: but he could not be hid.

Introductory Thoughts

It may come as a surprise to most people, but there were times when the Lord Jesus desired to go from place to place without attracting the attention of the multitudes. The constant thronging by the crowds of people apparently physically drained the Saviour. As God, Christ never grows weary. As man, Christ needed rest. According to scripture, the One who came to give Himself a ransom for all had moments where He wanted to hide Himself. It should come as no surprise that Christians today will, at times, find themselves desiring to hide from the very ones to whom they have been called to minister. This is part of man’s natural need for rest. Even the Saviour had times when He desired rest and seclusion.

Devotional Thoughts

• (For children): Jesus did many miracles and the crowds followed Him. There were times when He told those who received healing not to say anything. Jesus knew He needed rest (Matthew 9:27-31; Mark 1:40-45).
• (For everyone): Do you ever have times where you wish you could go into hiding and rest from the daily burdens of ministry? Is this a sinful desire? Can it become a sinful desire?
• The news of the Lord’s arrival could not be hidden. Do you ever feel as though there are times that you cannot go into hiding? Why is it imperative that you find times to go into seclusion?

Prayer Thoughts

• Ask the Lord to give you the wisdom to know when to rest.
• Ask God to help you find times to go into hiding.

SONG: COME, YE DISCONSOLATE

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