What defiles A Man?

 What Defiles a Man   Matthew 15:11

10   Jesus called the crowd to Him and said, “Listen and understand.

11   A man is not defiled by what enters his mouth, but” by what comes out of it.

12   Then the disciples came to Him and said, “Are You aware that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this?”…

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Trash Talk

Get more Strength.org

5/23/2017

“The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil . . . . It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.” James 3:6

One morning when I was pulling out of our driveway on my way to work, I noticed that someone had thrown a beer can on our lawn. I picked it up, tossed it into our garbage can and drove away without giving it much thought.

A little further down the road, the thought hit me: What will the garbage man think when he sees a beer can tumble out of the minister’s trash can? I suppose, if my trash can could have talked, it would have set the garbage man straight. But unfortunately, trash cans don’t say much these days. So, my reputation was left to whatever the sanitation engineer would conclude. And while beer cans in your trash may not be the worst thing that could happen, I wondered what would have been the conclusion if a neighbor boy had dumped his porn magazines into our garbage?

We have all jumped to a conclusion about somebody without knowing all the facts, only to hear the rest of the story and then feel terrible about what we have said about that person to others. To make matters worse, there is no way that we can retrace all our false information to rescue the victim’s reputation. No wonder James warns, “The tongue is a fire, a world of evil.”

When we draw conclusions quickly—without careful consideration of the consequences and risks, we stoop to the level of tabloid reporting. We carelessly trash valued reputations and do irreparable damage. This lethal habit of our tongues is called the sin of beguilement—the sin of drawing wrong conclusions and then passing them on.

Avoiding this kind of “trash talk” means that we refuse to make any firm conclusions until the facts are in. When in doubt, go to the person for clarification. If your conclusions are true, you can help them repent and lead them lovingly to recovery. If they are not true, you can stick up for them if others are spreading beguilement about them. And, when someone comes to you with some “trash talk” about another person, be quick to ask, “Do you know that for sure?” Tell them that you really don’t want to know about the situation until you both can be certain about the facts. Encourage them to go directly to the person before they say anything else to others.

Reputations are too important to throw in the trash. I’m a raving fan of protecting people in love rather than getting some sort of sick joy out of speaking poorly about others. After all, Scripture tells us that “Love covers over a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8)!

Do You Worship The Work?

From: Utmost.org

Do You Worship The Work?

Beware of any work for God that causes or allows you to avoid concentrating on Him. A great number of Christian workers worship their work. The only concern of Christian workers should be their concentration on God. This will mean that all the other boundaries of life, whether they are mental, moral, or spiritual limits, are completely free with the freedom God gives His child; that is, a worshiping child, not a wayward one. A worker who lacks this serious controlling emphasis of concentration on God is apt to become overly burdened by his work. He is a slave to his own limits, having no freedom of his body, mind, or spirit. Consequently, he becomes burned out and defeated. There is no freedom and no delight in life at all. His nerves, mind, and heart are so overwhelmed that God’s blessing cannot rest on him.

But the opposite case is equally true– once our concentration is on God, all the limits of our life are free and under the control and mastery of God alone. There is no longer any responsibility on you for the work. The only responsibility you have is to stay in living constant touch with God, and to see that you allow nothing to hinder your cooperation with Him. The freedom that comes after sanctification is the freedom of a child, and the things that used to hold your life down are gone. But be careful to remember that you have been freed for only one thing– to be absolutely devoted to your co-Worker.

We have no right to decide where we should be placed, or to have preconceived ideas as to what God is preparing us to do. God engineers everything; and wherever He places us, our one supreme goal should be to pour out our lives in wholehearted devotion to Him in that particular work. “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might…” (Ecclesiastes 9:10).

 

The Shrinking Piano

From: Our Daily Bread

The Shrinking Piano

He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. Philippians 1:6

For three consecutive years, my son participated in a piano recital. The last year he played, I watched him mount the steps and set up his music. He played two songs and then sat down next to me and whispered, “Mom, this year the piano was smaller.” I said, “No, it’s the same piano you played last year. You’re bigger! You’ve grown.”

Spiritual growth, like physical growth, often happens slowly over time. It is an ongoing process that involves becoming more like Jesus, and it happens as we are transformed through the renewing of our minds (Rom. 12:2).

When the Holy Spirit is at work in us, we may become aware of sin in our lives. Wanting to honor God, we make an effort to change. Sometimes we experience success, but at other times, we try and fail. If it seems like nothing changes, we get discouraged. We may equate failure with a lack of progress, when it’s often proof that we are in the middle of the process.

Spiritual growth involves the Holy Spirit, our willingness to change, and time. At certain points in our lives, we may look back and see that we have grown spiritually. May God give us the faith to continue to believe that “He who began a good work in [us] will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Phil. 1:6).

Dear God, give me a desire to grow spiritually. I want to honor You with my life and experience the joy of the Spirit’s work inside of me.

Spiritual growth is a process.

Abandoned

 Jesus may have felt abandoned on the cross. But the worst thing of all is to be abandoned by God at the judgment. Pray that no one has that horrible outcome.

 

Revelation 20:11-15

Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire

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Abandoned

From: Get More Strength

“When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.” Genesis 3:6

If you were ever a freshman in college, you may remember how cool you felt if an upperclassman showed some interest in you.

T. J. Evans lived across the hall from me my freshman year. He was a self-assured upperclassman with that I’ve-got-it-all-together swagger in his walk. It didn’t take long to realize that he was a big man on campus. So you can imagine how flattering it felt when he took an interest in the freshmen on our floor.

Well, take an interest in us he did. But we were soon to find out that he had a sinister agenda up his sleeve. After curfew, he would hang out with us and suggest brilliant pranks that we could pull off under the cover of darkness. He’d help us design the strategy and off we’d go, only to get caught and find ourselves in a lot of trouble. When we got caught, we always noticed that T. J. was nowhere to be seen. He had sent us off and stayed in his room taking great delight in seeing us freshmen end up in a heap of trouble. In retrospect, I can’t believe we let him do that to us—not just once but we were dumb enough to have it happen a lot! It’s the old, “Fool me once, shame on you; Fool me twice, shame on me!” routine.

When I think about it, T. J.’s delight in getting us in trouble is not much different than Satan’s interest in you and your life. He comes along with nifty schemes that look like fun—things he assures will make you happy, fulfilled, and satisfied. When someone hurts you, he has an I don’t get mad, I just get even strategy that makes you feel really good about not being taken advantage of. Instant trips into pleasure-land and debt-increasing spending sprees offer quick kicks of adrenalin. If you have a need, if you have a desire—believe me, he has a plan! But when you execute his strategy, he’ll be nowhere to be found. He won’t be there to deliver on his promise that you will be happy and fulfilled. He won’t even have the decency to help you pick up the pieces and to apologize for messing up your life. In fact, all the time he had a sinister agenda up his sleeve! He loves to see our lives complicated with shame, guilt, and regret. He is the master of ruined lives. As Peter warns us, he’s on the prowl looking for someone he can devour (1 Peter 5:8)!

We should have known. When he lured Adam and Eve with an offer they found hard to refuse, he didn’t stay around to make good on his promise but slithered off leaving them fearful, ashamed, and full of regret. And that strategy was so good that he continues to find it useful in your life and mine thousands of years later.

Peter Berger said it well when he wrote:

He who sups with the devil had better have a long spoon, because he who sups with the devil will find that his spoon gets shorter and shorter until that last supper in which he is left alone at the table with no spoon at all and an empty plate. But the devil, one may guess, will have then gone on to more interesting company.

Fool us once, shame on Satan! Fool us twice, shame on us!

Always Listening

From: Our Daily Bread

Always Listening

The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth. Psalm 145:18

Dad was a man of few words. He had hearing damage due to years of military duty and wore hearing aids. One afternoon when Mom and I were talking a little longer than he thought necessary, he responded playfully, “Whenever I want peace and quiet, all I have to do is this.” Lifting both hands in a single motion, he turned off both hearing aids, folded his hands behind his head and closed his eyes in a serene smile.

We laughed. As far as he was concerned, the conversation was over!

My father’s actions that day remind me how different God is from us. He always wants to hear His children. This is underscored by one of the shortest prayers in the Bible. One day Nehemiah, a servant to King Artaxerxes of Persia, was visibly sad in the king’s presence. Fearful when the king asked him why, Nehemiah confessed it was because Jerusalem, the conquered city of his ancestors, lay in ruins. Nehemiah recounts, “The king said to me, ‘What is it you want?’ Then I prayed to the God of heaven, and I answered the king…” (Neh. 2:4–5, italics added).

Nehemiah’s prayer lasted only a moment, but God heard it. It set in motion God’s merciful response to the many prayers Nehemiah had already offered for Jerusalem. In that moment, Artaxerxes granted Nehemiah’s request to rebuild the city.

Isn’t it comforting to know that God cares enough to listen to all of our prayers—from the shortest to the longest?

Thank You, loving Father, for blessing me with the beautiful privilege and opportunity of prayer.

Our God is big enough to hear the smallest voice.

 

 

Songs Before Dawn

From: Our Daily Journey

Songs Before Dawn

Read:

Matthew 3:1-17
He is a voice shouting in the wilderness, “Prepare the way for the Lord’s coming!” (Matthew 3:3).

While spending a few days in the great outdoors, a bird woke me up one morning before dawn. His persistent singing eventually roused the rest of his winged friends, who also sang until the trees teemed with excitement. It was as if the first tweets I heard were a lullaby for the night animals and an alarm clock for the day creatures. One bird appeared to prepare an entire forest for the sun to rise.

The early bird’s song reminded me of John the Baptist—“a voice shouting in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord’s coming!’ ” (Matthew 3:3). John’s off-the-grid life in the Judean wilderness included camel-hair clothing and a diet of bugs and wild honey. His no-nonsense life mirrored his message: “Repent of your sins and turn to God, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near” (Matthew 3:2).

People from Jerusalem, Judea, and the Jordan Valley came to hear God’s “mountain man” preach. Hearing led to believing and then baptism in the Jordan River. Eventually, the religious officials learned about John and came to question him. They wanted to know if he was the Messiah. Of course, John told the truth: “I baptize with water . . . . But someone is coming soon who is greater than I am” (Matthew 3:11).

God used John—a humble, unsophisticated person—to wake the world to Jesus’ identity as the Messiah (John 1:32-34). Like the bird that heralded the dawn, the prophet announced that the long-expected One was about to arrive on the scene.

Maybe, like John, you value simple living. Maybe you feel as if you don’t fit in with those around you. It doesn’t take money or style to have passion and purpose. By the work of the Holy Spirit, Jesus provides all you need to sing His song.

Don’t Hurt The Lord

Being angry with God and having a bad attitude hurts you not God.

 

Deuteronomy 6:5-7

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.

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Don’t Hurt the Lord

From: Utmost.org

Don’t Hurt the Lord

Our Lord must be repeatedly astounded at us— astounded at how “un-simple” we are. It is our own opinions that make us dense and slow to understand, but when we are simple we are never dense; we have discernment all the time. Philip expected the future revelation of a tremendous mystery, but not in Jesus, the Person he thought he already knew. The mystery of God is not in what is going to be— it is now, though we look for it to be revealed in the future in some overwhelming, momentous event. We have no reluctance to obey Jesus, but it is highly probable that we are hurting Him by what we ask— “Lord, show us the Father…” (John 14:8). His response immediately comes back to us as He says, “Can’t you see Him? He is always right here or He is nowhere to be found.” We look for God to exhibit Himself to His children, but God only exhibits Himself in His children. And while others see the evidence, the child of God does not. We want to be fully aware of what God is doing in us, but we cannot have complete awareness and expect to remain reasonable or balanced in our expectations of Him. If all we are asking God to give us is experiences, and the awareness of those experiences is blocking our way, we hurt the Lord. The very questions we ask hurt Jesus, because they are not the questions of a child.

“Let not your heart be troubled…” (14:1, 27). Am I then hurting Jesus by allowing my heart to be troubled? If I believe in Jesus and His attributes, am I living up to my belief? Am I allowing anything to disturb my heart, or am I allowing any questions to come in which are unsound or unbalanced? I have to get to the point of the absolute and unquestionable relationship that takes everything exactly as it comes from Him. God never guides us at some time in the future, but always here and now. Realize that the Lord is here now, and the freedom you receive is immediate.

The Gift of Giving

From: Our Daily Bread

The Gift of Giving
Read: Luke 3:7–14 | Bible in a Year: 2 Samuel 12–13; Luke 16

Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion. 2 Corinthians 9:7

A pastor breathed life into the phrase “He’d give you the shirt off his back” when he gave this unsettling challenge to his church: “What would happen if we took the coats off our backs and gave them to the needy?” Then he took his own coat and laid it at the front of the church. Dozens of others followed his example. This was during the winter, so the trip home was less comfortable that day. But for dozens of people in need, the season warmed up just a bit.

When John the Baptist roamed the Judean wilderness, he had a stern warning for the crowd that came to hear him. “You brood of vipers!” he said. “Produce fruit in keeping with repentance” (Luke 3:7–8). Startled, they asked him, “What should we do then?” He responded with this advice: “Anyone who has two shirts should share with the one who has none, and anyone who has food should do the same” (vv. 10–11). True repentance produces a generous heart.

Because “God loves a person who gives cheerfully” (nlt), giving should never be guilt-based or pressured (2 Cor. 9:7). But when we give freely and generously, we find that it truly is more blessed to give than to receive.

Lord, thank You for the many ways You bless us. Forgive us for so often taking Your goodness for granted. Show us what we have that we might use to bless someone else today.

Whoever refreshes others will be refreshed. Proverbs 11:25

 

Uber Conversations

From: Our Daily Journey

Uber Conversations

Read:

Genesis 2:15-25
It is not good for the man to be alone (Genesis 2:18).

Jasper Fu drives two hours a day for Uber, an app-based taxi service. He doesn’t do it for the money, since he already has a fulltime job. He says he does it because it’s a good way to “talk to people.” Chinese culture encourages quiet restraint, so it can seem inappropriate to walk up to a stranger and start a conversation. It’s different when you’re picking them up in your car. Jasper says, “Under no other circumstance can I find a stranger to talk with me for like 10 to 20 minutes.”

Jasper isn’t alone in his desire to connect with others. A lot of us long to matter to someone, and we receive little help from our culture. If an evil villain wanted to make sure we have as little human contact as possible, this is the society he would have created. We’re separated by houses with backyards but no front porches. We’re separated by cars, in which we travel alone. We buy groceries, pump gas, and withdraw money from our bank—all without making eye contact with others. We’re separated by technology. In our free time we scroll and text alone.

In our isolation we might feel like David crying out from his cave, “No one gives me a passing thought! No one will help me; no one cares a bit what happens to me” (Psalm 142:4). But we won’t go down without a fight, for we know it’s not good for us “to be alone” (Genesis 2:18).

Since our triune God created us for relationship, may we follow Jasper’s lead and find ways to foster friendship. We can text our friends to meet up face-to-face. We can bring cookies next door to share with neighbors. And we can view unexpected visits not as interruptions, but opportunities to reflect the relational nature of our loving God who never leaves us nor forsakes us.

Cheer Leading For Jesus Christ

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(cheer leading  outfits have changed but praise to Jesus Christ is the same).

Matthew 28:19-20  NIV version

19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

 

 Are you a cheer follower or a cheer leader for Jesus?

 

Cheer leading for Jesus

From: Get More Strength.org

“It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill.… Whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice.” Philippians 1:15,18

It was my second pastorate and, like many pastors, I had a few nagging insecurities about other churches in town that were outstripping us in terms of head count. To compound my sense of inadequacy, one of those churches took great delight in flaunting their success, with “KOKOMO’S LARGEST SUNDAY SCHOOL” painted in large letters on their buses as they trundled around town each weekend. They were laying claim to being the best church in town. Which meant, according to their self-promoting boasts, that we weren’t the best church in town. That bothered me a little!

To make matters worse, on one Easter Sunday morning they announced an Easter egg hunt on their front lawn to attract even more kids and to no doubt become the “largest” largest Sunday school in town. “Aha!” my evil heart thought, “Now everyone will see how shallow and commercial they are.” I was convinced that my orthodox stand against trivializing the Resurrection with Easter eggs on church lawns would win the day. Then “Kokomo’s Largest Sunday School” church decided to also make that Easter “Friendship Sunday.” Which meant that their members would invite friends—some of whom were members of our church—to this Easter-egg hunting, fastest-growing church in town. To top it off, a prize would be given to the person who brought the most friends. I must admit that their competitive spirit had my spiritual britches in a bunch.

On that Easter Sunday night, before the evening service, I was getting a drink at the drinking fountain in the hallway at our church when I heard someone approaching. I stood up, no doubt with water dripping from my chin, only to be assaulted by a very intense woman.

“Pastor,” she began, “do you know how many people were at that church this morning? They had 1,500 people there. And you know what really bothers me? Some of those people were from our church. They should have been here this morning!”

I’m not always this spiritually good—especially when it comes to dealing with Easter-egg-hunting-friendship-churching competitive Christians—but I had recently been studying Philippians 1, so the Spirit immediately brought verse 18 to mind. “Wow!” I said, “Are you telling me that this morning 1,500 people in our town heard the good news of the resurrection of Jesus Christ? Doesn’t that just thrill your heart?” Needless to say that was a real “show stopper” for her.

The apostle Paul was no stranger to the rivalries and factions that crop up in church-world. Even while he is imprisoned for the gospel, he tells the Philippians that other Christians are slandering his name and seeking to profit from his incarceration by competitively seeking to outdo him. And yet Paul, in a staggering moment of humility, says that ultimately it doesn’t matter. All he cares about is that the gospel is being preached. He is nothing, and the good news of Jesus is everything!

So let’s measure our attitudes. Do you mutter when you hear news of the success of other churches or get upset when your friends go there instead of to your church? As Paul reminds us, envy and jealousy have no place in God’s kingdom. The stakes are too high for us to focus our energies on interchurch food fights and petty rivalries.

The reality is that when other biblically healthy churches grow, the kingdom grows. It’s not about “they win” and “we lose.” Rather, it’s a genuine win-win situation. Be a cheerleader for the gospel in your town!

Letting Go

From: Our Daily Bread

Letting Go

The Lord had said to Abram, “Go . . . to the land I will show you.” Genesis 12:1

For our wedding anniversary, my husband borrowed a tandem bike so we could enjoy a romantic adventure together. As we began to pedal on our way, I quickly realized that as the rider on the back my vision of the road ahead was eclipsed by my husband’s broad shoulders. Also, my handlebars were fixed; they didn’t affect the steering of our bike. Only the front handlebars determined our direction; mine served merely as support for my upper body. I had the choice to either be frustrated by my lack of control or to embrace the journey and trust Mike would guide us safely on our route.

When God asked Abram to leave his homeland and family, He didn’t offer much information concerning the destination. No geographic coordinates. No description of the new land or its natural resources. Not even an indication of how long it would take to get there. God simply gave the instruction to “go” to the land He would show him. Abram’s obedience to God’s instruction, despite lacking the details most humans crave, is credited to him as faith (Heb. 11:8).

If we find ourselves grappling with uncertainty or a lack of control in our lives, let’s seek to adopt Abram’s example of following and trusting God. The Lord will steer us well.

Help me, Lord, to trust You with the uncertainty in my life.

God can be trusted to guide us.

 

Prayer on an Airplane

From: Our Daily Journey

Prayer on an Airplane

Read:

Romans 1:15-17
I am not ashamed of this Good News about Christ. It is the power of God at work, saving everyone who believes—the Jew first and also the Gentile (Romans 1:16).

“Could you pray for us?” asked the French woman sitting next to me on the airplane. We were experiencing violent turbulence. Just minutes earlier this med student and I had been having a lively discussion about God and science. With my broken French and her broken English, I had used a Chinese-English pamphlet to share the good news about Jesus with her. To my new friend, the gospel message seemed like a fairy tale; but when our airplane began to dip and shake, her inclination was to ask God for help, allowing me the opportunity to share my faith and pray with her.

Sharing the good news is a great privilege. In the book of Romans, the apostle Paul describes his passion for sharing God’s plan to rescue people from the effects of sin and spiritual death through faith in Jesus (Romans 1:15-17). He was not at all ashamed; rather, he was compelled to share the gospel.

On another occasion, Paul was in the public square in Athens speaking “to all who happened to be there” (Acts 17:17). As a result, he was asked by the high council of the city to tell them about this new teaching. This gave him the amazing opportunity to share with those who believed in many gods about “the Lord of heaven and earth, [who] doesn’t live in man-made temples and . . . gives life and breath to everything” (Acts 17:24-25).

Followers of Jesus today continue to have the privilege and challenge to share His good news with those they meet (1 Peter 3:15). At times, as with the woman on my flight, people may even call out to us for spiritual help. May we prayerfully and intentionally look for God-provided bridges to the gospel in everyday situations. As we listen to those around us and carefully take in their stories, God will open doors for us to share His good news.

The Significance of Suffering

 

The Sheep and the Goats           Matthew 25: 35-37
35    For I was hungry and you gave Me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave Me something to drink, I was a stranger and you took Me in,
36    I was naked and you clothed Me, I was sick and you looked after Me, I was in prison and you visited Me.’
37    Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You something to drink?…
(Pictures of people being set free from captivity)
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The Significance of Suffering

From: Get More Strength

“Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” Hebrews 12:3

Let’s be honest, most of us would have to admit that we have a natural aversion to suffering. It may not bother us so much when “bad” people suffer, but we often get bent out of shape when suffering happens to “good” people—especially to us! We think that life owes us happiness, comfort, wealth, and a bit of prosperity. So when life deals us a blow, it’s no wonder we are prone to “grow weary and lose heart.”

Thankfully the writer of Hebrews helps put things into perspective by instructing us to “consider” the suffering of Jesus. When we fully grasp the terrible suffering that Jesus Christ—the only perfect person to walk this planet—endured on our behalf, it makes all the difference.

It’s significant to note that Jesus knew exactly what was coming. The night before His death, He told His disciples, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer” (Luke 22:15, italics mine). I have often thought that it would have been a lot easier for Him to die a different way—something more sudden and less violent. Why was such deep agony required?

Jesus knew that suffering is part and parcel of Satan’s grip on our lives. Satan loves to bring it on, because he believes the more suffering he can throw at us, the more we will become defeated, discouraged, and disengaged from God. That’s his plan. And so the enemy threw the book at Jesus. Satan entered the heart of Judas, which meant that Jesus would suffer the bitter betrayal of a trusted friend. The kangaroo courts and crowds declared Jesus to be a criminal, beat and mocked Him, and inflicted terrible agony on Him. He stumbled up the cobblestone steps carrying His own cross, felt the stab of the sword in His side, the nails in His hands and feet, the thorns on His brow. He tasted suffering for us, and all the while Satan said, “Take that!”

What Satan did not know was that behind the scenes, God was working to use Jesus’ experience of suffering to turn the tables on Satan and defeat him through the suffering. The suffering of Jesus was a prelude to the ultimate defeat of sin, death, and hell.  Because He died on the cross and suffered for us, we too can be assured that in the depths of suffering there is the reality that victory will be God’s end game for us. So, when Satan heaps suffering on your life, you can be certain that God, who works all things together for good (Romans 8:28), is ready to turn the tables on Satan to bring victory out of defeat for you.

I don’t know about you, but I’m really thankful that Jesus was not only willing to die, but to defeat the stronghold of suffering in the process. He willingly walked into the arena of suffering in order to achieve complete, final victory over the ravaging effects of sin. And what’s more, He proved that there’s life beyond the grave.

So don’t miss the significance in your time of suffering! When Satan throws his best stuff at you, because of Jesus you can believe that God is both able and ready to turn the tables on him—and to bring you out with hands held high in victory!

 

Sweet Scent

From: Our Daily Bread

Sweet Scent

Thanks be to God, who . . . uses us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of him everywhere. 2 Corinthians 2:14

Author Rita Snowden tells a delightful story about visiting a small village in Dover, England. Sitting outside a café one afternoon enjoying a cup of tea, she became aware of a beautiful scent. Rita asked a waiter where it was coming from, and was told it was the people she could see passing by. Most of the villagers were employed at a nearby perfume factory. As they walked home, they carried the fragrance that permeated their clothes out into the street.

What a beautiful image of the Christian life! As the apostle Paul says, we are the aroma of Christ, spreading His fragrance everywhere (2 Cor. 2:15). Paul uses the image of a king returning from battle, his soldiers and captives in tow, wafting the smell of celebratory incense in the air, declaring the king’s greatness (v. 14).

We spread the aroma of Christ in two ways. First, through our words: telling others about the One who is beautiful. Second, through our lives: doing deeds of Christlike sacrifice (Eph. 5:1–2). While not everyone will appreciate the divine fragrance we share, it will bring life to many.

Rita Snowden caught a scent and was driven to seek its source. As we follow Jesus we too become permeated with His fragrance, and we carry His aroma into the streets through our words and deeds.

Lord Jesus, make us carriers and communicators of Your beauty to the people in our homes, offices, and neighborhoods.

We are the aroma of Christ to others.

 

Adding Interest?

From: Our Daily Journey

Adding Interest?

Read:

Exodus 22:16-31
If you lend money to any of my people who are in need, do not charge interest as a money lender would (Exodus 22:25).

We can take for granted the idea that any money loaned to someone should be paid back with interest; this is seen as normal. Secular culture often judges things on a purely functional basis, whereby acquiring wealth and even gaining at the expense of another is simply the way things are. In contrast, God has always judged things from a “heart perspective.” What’s the motivation behind our actions? Are we fueled by desire for our own gain, or by compassion, love, and a desire to glorify God?

God’s laws in Exodus 22 were designed to ensure that His people always acted fairly, possessing a heart attitude of compassion and justice that reflected His own. The Israelites were to display integrity, honesty, kindness, and love to one another. In charging interest to one of your own people, it was possible that you were taking advantage of someone’s financial hardship. This showed a lack of love and misrepresented the character of God.

In verse 26, note how God told His people to return a person’s cloak, even if it was taken as a pledge. It didn’t matter to Him what the business transaction was—He required His people to care about a person’s well-being at all times, including those who couldn’t defend themselves (Exodus 22:16,22).

God has put His laws in the hearts of believers in Jesus. The Holy Spirit guides us from within—helping us to understand and live out the wisdom of Scripture (2 Timothy 3:16-17). How can we be more generous today, not only with our money, but—even more—with our time, our kindness, and our love for all people? When we give, let’s not always expect a return, but simply rejoice in God using us to build His kingdom.

Be Ready

We should be ready to fight any enemy that would enslave us.
And we should be ready for our Lord Jesus to return. We should be alert and watchful at all times.

Matthew 24:36 

“But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only. 

1 Corinthians 15:52

In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed.

Matthew 25:13 

Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.

Matthew 24:27 

For as the lightning comes from the east and shines as far as the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.

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Readiness

From: Utmost.org

Readiness

When God speaks, many of us are like people in a fog, and we give no answer. Moses’ reply to God revealed that he knew where he was and that he was ready. Readiness means having a right relationship to God and having the knowledge of where we are. We are so busy telling God where we would like to go. Yet the man or woman who is ready for God and His work is the one who receives the prize when the summons comes. We wait with the idea that some great opportunity or something sensational will be coming our way, and when it does come we are quick to cry out, “Here I am.” Whenever we sense that Jesus Christ is rising up to take authority over some great task, we are there, but we are not ready for some obscure duty.

Readiness for God means that we are prepared to do the smallest thing or the largest thing— it makes no difference. It means we have no choice in what we want to do, but that whatever God’s plans may be, we are there and ready. Whenever any duty presents itself, we hear God’s voice as our Lord heard His Father’s voice, and we are ready for it with the total readiness of our love for Him. Jesus Christ expects to do with us just as His Father did with Him. He can put us wherever He wants, in pleasant duties or in menial ones, because our union with Him is the same as His union with the Father. “…that they may be one just as We are one…” (John 17:22).

Be ready for the sudden surprise visits of God. A ready person never needs to get ready— he is ready. Think of the time we waste trying to get ready once God has called! The burning bush is a symbol of everything that surrounds the person who is ready, and it is on fire with the presence of God Himself.

Enjoy the View

From: Our Daily Bread

Enjoy the View

Praise him, sun and moon; praise him, all you shining stars. Psalm 148:3

Sunsets. People tend to stop what they are doing to watch them . . . snap pictures of them . . . enjoy the beautiful view.

My wife and I watched the sun setting over the Gulf of Mexico recently. A crowd of people surrounded us, mostly strangers who had gathered at the beach to watch this nightly phenomenon. At the moment the sun fully slipped below the horizon, the crowd broke out with applause.

Why do people respond like that? The book of Psalms offers a clue. The psalmist wrote of God ordering the sun to praise its Creator (Ps. 148:3). And wherever the rays of the sun shine across the earth, people are moved to praise along with them.

The beauty that comes to us through nature speaks to our souls like few things do. It not only has the capacity to stop us in our tracks and captivate our attention, it also has the power to turn our focus to the Maker of beauty itself.

The wonder of God’s vast creation can cause us to pause and remember what’s truly important. Ultimately, it reminds us that there is a Creator behind the stunning entrance and exit of the day, One who so loved the world He made that He entered it in order to redeem and restore it.

I enjoy the world You have created with its variety and color. You and what You have made are awesome, Lord!

Join God in taking delight in all that He has made.

 

Lord of the Cosmos

From: Our Daily Jourey

Lord of the Cosmos

Read:

Colossians 1:15-20
He existed before anything else, and he holds all creation together (Colossians 1:17).

As you read this, the moon is circling the earth at 2,300 miles per hour. Even at that speed, it will take it nearly a month to make a full rotation. Meanwhile, despite circling the sun at 66,000 miles per hour, the earth will take a whole year to make one orbit. And our sun is just one of 200 million other suns spinning around the Milky Way at 483,000 miles per hour—a speed which necessitates 225 million years to circle around once. And the Milky Way is but one of 100 billion other galaxies shooting through space at over 1 million miles an hour. The universe is immense!

In Scripture, the vastness of the universe is said to reflect God’s own grandeur. It is He who stretched out the stars of heaven, covered the earth with the seas, and made the mountains rise (Psalm 104:1-9). “Through everything God made,” Paul says, “[we] can clearly see his invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature” (Romans 1:20). Modern telescopes help us see God’s power and divinity—not just in our earth and sky, but in faraway galaxies too.

Paul knew nothing of the universe being 100 billion galaxies large, but consider these inspired words he wrote about Jesus. “He made the things we can see and the things we can’t see” (Colossians 1:16)—including not only “kingdoms, rulers, and authorities in the unseen world,” but everything in the cosmos. All those luminous galaxies were made by and for the divine Creator Jesus, and He holds them all together in His hands (Colossians 1:17).

This is mind-boggling! The One who walked this earth two millennia ago is the same One who keeps the galaxies spinning like carousels. Jesus isn’t just the Lord of you or me. He’s the Lord of the cosmos.

All Or Nothing

 

When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his outer garment…and plunged into the sea. —John 21:7

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(When Simon Peter Realized that it was the risen Christ calling to them, he dove into the water and swam to shore to talk with Him).

All or Nothing?

From: Utmost.org

All or Nothing?

Have you ever had a crisis in your life in which you deliberately, earnestly, and recklessly abandoned everything? It is a crisis of the will. You may come to that point many times externally, but it will amount to nothing. The true deep crisis of abandonment, or total surrender, is reached internally, not externally. The giving up of only external things may actually be an indication of your being in total bondage.

Have you deliberately committed your will to Jesus Christ? It is a transaction of the will, not of emotion; any positive emotion that results is simply a superficial blessing arising out of the transaction. If you focus your attention on the emotion, you will never make the transaction. Do not ask God what the transaction is to be, but make the determination to surrender your will regarding whatever you see, whether it is in the shallow or the deep, profound places internally.

If you have heard Jesus Christ’s voice on the waves of the sea, you can let your convictions and your consistency take care of themselves by concentrating on maintaining your intimate relationship to Him.

At Home With Jesus

From: Our Daily Bread

At Home With Jesus

I go and prepare a place for you. John 14:3

“There’s no place like home.” The phrase reflects a deeply rooted yearning within us to have a place to rest, be, and belong. Jesus addressed this desire for rootedness when, after He and His friends had their last supper together, He spoke about His impending death and resurrection. He promised that although He would go away, He would come back for them. And He would prepare a room for them. A dwelling-place. A home.

He made this place for them—and us—through fulfilling the requirements of God’s law when He died on the cross as the sinless man. He assured His disciples that if He went to the trouble of creating this home, that of course He would come back for them and not leave them alone. They didn’t need to fear or be worried about their lives, whether on earth or in heaven.

We can take comfort and assurance from Jesus’s words, for we believe and trust that He makes a home for us; that He makes His home within us (see John 14:23); and that He has gone ahead of us to prepare our heavenly home. Whatever sort of physical place we live in, we belong with Jesus, upheld by His love and surrounded in His peace. With Him, there’s no place like home.

Lord Jesus Christ, if and when we feel homeless, remind us that You are our home. May we share this sense of belonging with those we meet.

Jesus prepares a place for us to live forever.

 

Farming Hope

From: Our Daily Journey

Farming Hope

Read:

Joel 3:17-21
In that day the mountains will drip with sweet wine, and the hills will flow with milk (Joel 3:18).

I’m not a farmer, but I once attempted to be one as the guest of a self-sustaining community. The group lived together in dormitories, eating their meals together as a family. They grew most of the food they consumed and raised cattle for milk and meat. During my stay, I performed a number of barnyard chores, from shoveling dung to taking the old cow on her morning walk around the property—leash and all!

The ancient Hebrews understood both the hard work of farming and their dependence on creation. Their lifestyle was tied closely to agriculture. In order to survive, they depended upon the vitality of their produce, healthy livestock, and the availability of fresh water. If a plague or enemy destroyed their crops, they despaired (Joel 1:2-20).

Joel 3:17-21 is a depiction of the future for all believers in Jesus. It refers to that hopefully-someday-soon time when God will completely eliminate wickedness and return His creation to peace and vitality in His presence (Joel 3:21). Joel illustrated this great day with agricultural images: sweet wine (vegetation, produce), milk (birth, cattle), and a fountain that waters arid places (Joel 3:18).

Although many of us likely buy our food without knowing the farmers who produce what we consume, we are all dependent on an earth that often struggles to be fruitful. But a time is coming when God will renew the earth for farming and provide an endless river of life (2 Peter 3:13; Revelation 22:1-2). As Paul wrote, “With eager hope, the creation looks forward to the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay” (Romans 8:20-21). In whatever trial we’re facing, with whatever unmet need, we can place our trust in God. The future He’s preparing is full of hope and life!

Jesus Is Alive

 

  • Mark 16:5-7

    5 As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed. 6 “Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him. 7 But go, tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.’ ”
  • Luke 24:6-7

    6 He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: 7 ‘The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’ ”
  • John 20:16-18

    16 Jesus said to her, “Mary.”She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means “Teacher”). 17 Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’ ” 18 Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: “I have seen the Lord!” And she told them that he had said these things to her.

Resurrection: He Is Risen, Indeed!

From: CBN

Easter Sunday. To many it means the Easter bunny, a day of food and celebration. For some it is an obligatory church-attending holiday, after which life goes on as usual.

How sad that we have so quickly forgotten the true meaning of Easter. Our God reigns! Jesus Christ died, yes. But even more importantly, He rose again and is now seated at the right hand of God the Father, as we say in the Lord’s Prayer.

Jesus Christ literally defied death. But He did more than just a Houdini move. We “ooo” and “ahhh” over the narrow escapes by magicians like David Copperfield and others, but eventually even those daredevils will face death. Their power is limited.

But Jesus Christ was greater — He defied death FOREVER. Jesus Christ lives and reigns for eternity, whether you or I believe that fact or not.

And He has reclaimed life for all those who believe in Him. This is the second miracle of Easter. Through God’s work on the cross, we have access to eternal life as well:

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: ‘ The righteous will live by faith’ (Romans 1:16-17).

If you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved (Romans 10:9-10).

Whosoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before men, I will disown him before my Father in heaven (Matt. 10:32-33).

Please consider today the wonder of God’s power and His love for you. He knows you. He knows what you have done. He knows what you are going to do. But He is waiting for your response, my friend. God doesn’t need your praise or your service to Him; He desires it. It is not what we do for God that gets us into heaven and gives us a right relationship with God. It is only by faith in Jesus Christ. Look at these Scriptures:

Know that a man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law, because by observing the law no one will be justified (Galatians 2:16).

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God — not by works so that no one can boast (Ephesians 2:8-9).

He Understands and Cares

From: Our Daily Bread

He Understands and Cares

Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering. Isaiah 53:4

When asked if he thought that ignorance and apathy were problems in modern society, a man joked, “I don’t know and I don’t care.”

I suppose many discouraged people feel that way about the world today and the people in it. But when it comes to the perplexities and concerns of our lives, Jesus fully understands, and He deeply cares. Isaiah 53, an Old Testament prophecy of the crucifixion of Jesus, gives us a glimpse of what He went through for us. “He was oppressed and afflicted . . . led like a lamb to the slaughter” (v. 7). “For the transgression of my people he was punished” (v. 8). “It was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the Lord makes his life an offering for sin, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the Lord will prosper in his hand” (v. 10).

On the cross Jesus willingly bore our sin and guilt. No one ever suffered more than our Lord did for us. He knew what it would cost to save us from our sins and, in love, He willingly paid it (vv. 4–6).

Because of Jesus’s resurrection from the dead, He is alive and present with us today. Whatever situation we face, Jesus understands and cares. And He will carry us through.

Lord, we give thanks for Your knowledge of our circumstances and Your care for us. Today we want to walk with You and honor You in all we do.

 He is not here; He has risen! Luke 24:6

Because of Sunday

From: Our Daily Journey

Because of Sunday

Read:

Mark 10:32-34
The angel said, “Don’t be alarmed. You are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead!” (Mark 16:6).

What would you do if you only had one week to live? Would you touch base with a few friends? Spend time with your family?

Knowing He had less than a week to live, Jesus responded very differently than many of us would—courageously making the journey to Jerusalem while preparing His followers for His death.

On Sunday, the crowds cheered His entrance into Jerusalem (Mark 11:1-11). Monday, He chased thieves out of the temple—calling it “a house of prayer” (Mark 11:15-17). Tuesday, the temple leaders questioned His authority (Mark 11:27-28). The Pharisees and other religious leaders also questioned Him about paying taxes and the greatest commandment (Mark 12:13-34). On Wednesday, one of Jesus’ disciples, Judas Iscariot, began to plot His demise (Mark 14:10-11).

On Thursday, after a Passover meal during which Jesus prepared His disciples for life after His death, Judas betrayed Him to religious leaders who had Him arrested (Mark 14:43-46). On Friday, they handed Jesus over to Roman authorities who had Him beaten and then crucified on a cross (Mark 15:15).

As the reality of Jesus’ death sank into the hearts of His followers on Saturday, so did despair—for their hopes died with Him. But then came His amazing resurrection on Sunday morning! (Mark 16:1-7).

The events of Jesus’ last week shows that because of Jesus and His love we can face the trials of today in His strength. Because of Easter Sunday, we can enter the conflicts of Monday through Wednesday; we can embrace the betrayal of Thursday, the suffering and humiliation of Friday, and the despair of Saturday.

Jesus’ resurrection gives us the ultimate assurance that even the most difficult realities of life in our present broken world will not have the final say.

The Price Of Redeeming Love

The Burial of Jesus     John 19: 40

39  Nicodemus, who had previously come to Jesus at night, also brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds.
41  Now there was a garden in the place where Jesus was crucified, and in the garden a new tomb in which no one had yet been laid.…
(Pictures of loved ones and followers taking Jesus down from the cross.)
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The Price of Love

From: Our Daily Bread

The Price of Love

He poured out his life unto death. Isaiah 53:12

Our daughter burst into tears as we waved goodbye to my parents. After visiting us in England, they were starting their long journey back to their home in the US. “I don’t want them to go,” she said. As I comforted her, my husband remarked, “I’m afraid that’s the price of love.”

We might feel the pain of being separated from loved ones, but Jesus felt the ultimate separation when He paid the price of love on the cross. He, who was both human and God, fulfilled Isaiah’s prophecy 700 years after Isaiah gave it when He “bore the sin of many” (Isa. 53:12). In this chapter we see rich pointers to Jesus being the suffering Servant, such as when He was “pierced for our transgressions” (v. 5), which happened when He was nailed to the cross and when one of the soldiers pierced His side (John 19:34), and that “by his wounds we are healed” (Isa. 53:5).

Because of love, Jesus came to earth and was born a baby. Because of love, He received the abuse of the teachers of the law, the crowds, and the soldiers. Because of love, He suffered and died to be the perfect sacrifice, standing in our place before the Father. We live because of love.

Lord Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God who takes away our sins, have mercy on us, and help us to extend mercy and love to others. Show us how we might share Your love with others today.

Jesus was the perfect sacrifice who died to give us life.

The Failure To Pay Close Attention

The Failure To Pay Close Attention

Asa was not completely obedient in the outward, visible areas of his life. He was obedient in what he considered the most important areas, but he was not entirely right. Beware of ever thinking, “Oh, that thing in my life doesn’t matter much.” The fact that it doesn’t matter much to you may mean that it matters a great deal to God. Nothing should be considered a trivial matter by a child of God. How much longer are we going to prevent God from teaching us even one thing? But He keeps trying to teach us and He never loses patience. You say, “I know I am right with God”— yet the “high places” still remain in your life. There is still an area of disobedience. Do you protest that your heart is right with God, and yet there is something in your life He causes you to doubt? Whenever God causes a doubt about something, stop it immediately, no matter what it may be. Nothing in our lives is a mere insignificant detail to God.

Are there some things regarding your physical or intellectual life to which you have been paying no attention at all? If so, you may think you are all correct in the important areas, but you are careless— you are failing to concentrate or to focus properly. You no more need a day off from spiritual concentration on matters in your life than your heart needs a day off from beating. As you cannot take a day off morally and remain moral, neither can you take a day off spiritually and remain spiritual. God wants you to be entirely His, and it requires paying close attention to keep yourself fit. It also takes a tremendous amount of time. Yet some of us expect to rise above all of our problems, going from one mountaintop experience to another, with only a few minutes’ effort.

 

Our Real and Present God

From: Our Daily Journey

Our Real and Present God

Read:

John 14:8-17
The Father . . . will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you (John 14:16).

In 2005, two researchers coined “moral therapeutic deism” (MTD) as a description for the prevailing religious views of younger Americans. MTD is a constellation of beliefs that can be summed up this way: God exists and provides a moral way of ordering your life so that you can fulfill the ultimate goal of your life—to be happy and feel good about yourself. Although God is mostly removed and uninvolved in your life, He will welcome you to heaven when you die if you’ve been good.

Unfortunately, MTD describes many people’s religious views, not only the younger generation’s. While we may balk at some of the assertions above, practically speaking, many of us grapple with the idea that God is actively present in our lives. Perhaps we’ve prayed desperately for the healing of someone we love, only to find ourselves weeping at a grave. Perhaps we’ve asked God to change a relationship or provide a job or bring justice to the oppressed—only to have loneliness, unemployment, or injustice threaten to overwhelm us in the end.

Scripture promises us, however, that God is near and that He is active in our lives. He’s never far away; He surrounds us. Before Jesus ascended to the Father, He told His bewildered, fearful disciples that He would send the Holy Spirit who would never leave them (John 14:16-17). The Spirit would continue to lead them “into all truth,” the same truth that Jesus brought to us and that He announced on the cross and in His resurrection (John 14:17).

Whatever our experiences—including at times being disappointed or troubled by our inability to understand God’s actions or silence—we have Jesus’ promise that His Spirit is here. God is a very real and present God.

Remember What Christ Did For You

People still remember the cross of Christ with reverence and love.
“Surely this man was the Son of God!” Mark 15:39
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Remember the Cross

From: Our Daily Bread

Remember the Cross

“Surely this man was the Son of God!” Mark 15:39

In the church I attend, a large cross stands at the front of the sanctuary. It represents the original cross where Jesus died—the place where our sin intersected with His holiness. There God allowed His perfect Son to die for the sake of every wrong thing we have ever done, said, or thought. On the cross, Jesus finished the work that was required to save us from the death we deserve (Rom. 6:23).

The sight of a cross causes me to consider what Jesus endured for us. Before being crucified, He was flogged and spit on. The soldiers hit Him in the head with sticks and got down on their knees in mock worship. They tried to make Him carry His own cross to the place where He would die, but He was too weak from the brutal flogging. At Golgotha, they hammered nails through His flesh to keep Him on the cross when they turned it upright. Those wounds bore the weight of His body as He hung there. Six hours later, Jesus took His final breath (Mark 15:37). A centurion who witnessed Jesus’s death declared, “Surely this man was the Son of God!” (v. 39).

The next time you see the symbol of the cross, consider what it means to you. God’s Son suffered and died there and then rose again to make eternal life possible.

Dear Jesus, I can’t begin to thank You enough for taking care of my sin when You died on the cross. I acknowledge Your sacrifice, and I believe in the power of Your resurrection.

The cross of Christ reveals our sin at its worst and God’s love at its best.

 

Gift of Tears

From: Our Daily Journey

Gift of Tears

Read:

1 Samuel 20:30-41
Both of them were in tears as they embraced each other and said good-bye, especially David (1 Samuel 20:41).

The old lumberjack always strode with a purpose. But not today. Today the world clawed at his soul. As the gruff Swedish immigrant trudged up the hill to his family farm, tears rolled down his cheeks. The date was December 7, 1941, and Axel Gustafson had just heard the news of the attack on Pearl Harbor. His sons would be going to war.

My dad was one of those sons. He never forgot the tears of his outdoorsman father. He learned that men with true strength cry too.

King David cut the mold for ruggedness. As a youth he’d killed a lion, a bear, and then of course Goliath—and no, he didn’t use a rifle to do it. He would become the man of whom Israelite women sang, “Saul has killed his thousands, and David his ten thousands” (1 Samuel 18:7). Yet, as the warrior poet, David also displayed an artistic side. In 1 Samuel 20 we read the bittersweet story of David and Jonathan’s friendship. When it became clear that Jonathan’s father King Saul intended to kill David (1 Samuel 20:30-33), the two had an emotional farewell. “Both of them were in tears” (1 Samuel 20:41).

It’s not only a male trait to suppress tears. Women can also cling to stoicism. “I don’t cry,” a female friend told me. Yet the pain in her life was obvious to anyone who knew her.

The ultimate example of a man with true strength was Jesus. He cried over Jerusalem because it would reject Him (Luke 19:41). He cried at the grave of His friend Lazarus (John 11:35). He endured such emotional turmoil the night before His crucifixion that “his sweat fell to the ground like great drops of blood” (Luke 22:44). Jesus freely showed His emotions.

Our emotions are a gift. They reflect the image of a God who gets angry at evil, and who loves us with all His heart.

 

Glynnis Whitwer April 14, 2017
Finding Faith in the Dark
GLYNNIS WHITWER

From: Crosswalk.com

“Then Jesus told him, ‘Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.’” John 20:29 (NIV)

“Why would he tell me he would never break my heart, and then he did? He lied!”

Her eyes brimmed with tears as she pleaded for answers I didn’t have. “People change,” I offered helplessly. “He probably meant it when he said it, but something happened.”

I floundered. The response wasn’t good enough as the right words eluded me. Then, in the wounded moments after her first breakup, my daughter declared she would never trust again.

Betrayed. I’ve been there too, and it marks you for life. I’ve had someone abandon a promise when it became inconvenient … choose a selfish path that left me standing alone, paying the price. The scars of betrayal creep around your heart, a little more each time, making it very hard to trust again.

So often, trust is like spun sugar, beautiful and fragile. We offer it like a delicate gift, only to snatch it back when it’s not honored, and hold it more tightly the next time. Why give such a valuable gift to someone who won’t care for it?

I wonder, Is that how the disciples felt the day Jesus was crucified?

They’d put all their hope and faith in Him, only to have Jesus submit to arrest, an unfair trial and death like a common criminal.

Did the disciples doubt everything Jesus had said in their three years together as they hid behind closed doors? They must have been filled with questions that all started with “Why.” Why did He leave us? Why did He make that choice?

Maybe you’ve felt that way too, as you’re left standing alone in a dark place. The other side of betrayal is bleak, lonely and hopeless. You can feel like things will never be good again. Certainly the disciples felt some of those emotions.

However, what the disciples didn’t know on that devastating Friday was Jesus hadn’t betrayed them. In fact, the opposite was occurring as they sat in despair. Jesus was honoring the hardest promise ever: Follow His Father’s path to the cross. Jesus wasn’t selfishly leaving them alone, He was selflessly leading them to the Father for all eternity.

In the moments that looked most hopeless, Jesus was working out our greatest hope. In the moments that looked darkest, Jesus was forging a path to the light.

And Jesus still does that for us today.

A friend once told me, “Don’t doubt in the dark what you know to be true in the light.”

Faith truly is a choice. We can choose to doubt, or we can choose to believe. I’ve come to discover faith isn’t fragile when it’s placed in the right person. Faith in Jesus is rugged, strong and sustaining when we make the brave choice to trust Him.

Easter Sunday is proof. The Bible records that on Sunday, three days after Jesus’ crucifixion, Jesus fulfilled His promise as He rose from the dead!

Imagine the shock, joy and hope that exploded when Mary saw Him first in the garden. Imagine how the disciples felt when they saw Jesus in person that evening. It was all true! He was faithful!

But there was one disciple missing that Sunday evening: Thomas. Thomas didn’t get to see the resurrected Lord, and He doubted the reports of Jesus alive. So one week later, Jesus came to the disciples again, this time to show Himself in the flesh to Thomas.

Thomas finally believed, after putting his fingers on Jesus’ wounds. And I’m pretty sure Jesus was thinking of us when He said these words to Thomas, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (John 20:29).

Today might be your dark Friday. Hope may be lost. Doubt and fear might be all you have left to give. But might I encourage you to try and trust one more time?

Jesus wants to breathe a fresh wind of hope into your heart. It may look dark now, but He is forging a path to escort you into the light. And though you can’t see Him with your eyes, He invites you to trust Him with your heart.

Today is Friday, but Sunday’s coming. Jesus will hold your faith secure and show He is worthy of it now and forever. Jesus will keep every promise He’s ever made. He proved it then, and He proves it today.

Lord, thank You for being completely trustworthy. Help me take every doubting thought captive and trust that even when I can’t see You with my eyes, I can trust You with my heart. Thank You for Your sacrifice on the cross so I can walk in the light of Your love for eternity. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.