Monthly Archives: March 2015

Help Others Turn To Jesus

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1 Peter 3:15 – But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and [be] ready always to [give] an answer to every man that asks you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear:

Mark 16:15-16 – And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.

Colossians 4:6 – Let your speech [be] alway with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man.

 

Heedfulness or Hypocrisy in Ourselves?

From: Utmost.org

If we are not heedful and pay no attention to the way the Spirit of God works in us, we will become spiritual hypocrites. We see where other people are failing, and then we take our discernment and turn it into comments of ridicule and criticism, instead of turning it into intercession on their behalf. God reveals this truth about others to us not through the sharpness of our minds but through the direct penetration of His Spirit. If we are not attentive, we will be completely unaware of the source of the discernment God has given us, becoming critical of others and forgetting that God says, “…he will ask, and He will give him life for those who commit sin not leading to death.” Be careful that you don’t become a hypocrite by spending all your time trying to get others right with God before you worship Him yourself.

One of the most subtle and illusive burdens God ever places on us as saints is this burden of discernment concerning others. He gives us discernment so that we may accept the responsibility for those souls before Him and form the mind of Christ about them (see Philippians 2:5). We should intercede in accordance with what God says He will give us, namely, “life for those who commit sin not leading to death.” It is not that we are able to bring God into contact with our minds, but that we awaken ourselves to the point where God is able to convey His mind to us regarding the people for whom we intercede.

Can Jesus Christ see the agony of His soul in us? He can’t unless we are so closely identified with Him that we have His view concerning the people for whom we pray. May we learn to intercede so wholeheartedly that Jesus Christ will be completely and overwhelmingly satisfied with us as intercessors.

Running In The Right Direction

Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” —John 6:68

One of the most difficult experiences in my years as a pastor was telling a member of our church that her husband, her son, and her father-in-law had all drowned in a boating accident. I knew the news would shatter her life.

In the days following their tragic loss, I was amazed as she and her family responded with unusual faith. Sure, there was deep brokenness, haunting doubt, and confusion. But when nothing else made sense, they still had Jesus. Rather than deserting Him in the midst of their desperately difficult days, they ran to Him as the only source of hope and confidence.

This reminds me of the reaction of the disciples to Jesus. After some of them “went back and walked with Him no more” because He was hard to understand (John 6:66), Jesus turned to His inner circle, and asked, “Do you also want to go away?” (John 6:67). Peter got it right when he responded, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life” (John 6:68).

Whatever you face today, be encouraged by the words of Peter and by the example of a family who went through the fire with their faith intact. As long as you’re running in the right direction—to Jesus—you’ll find the grace and strength you will need.

Jesus is the One to run to
When our lives bring grief and pain;
He provides His strength and guidance
With a peace we can’t explain. —Sper

When all is lost, remember that you haven’t lost Jesus. Run to Him.

 

MARCH 31, 2015From: Crosswalk.comMoving From Grief to Grace
Susan B. Mead

“He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” Psalm 147:3 (NIV)

Grief hits each one of us and can come from so many different directions.

A romantic relationship gone awry. The loss of a cherished friendship. A puppy put down. Empty arms and a broken heart due to abortion. Infertility. Abuse. The death of a loved one.

Dreams with a hope and future dashed in an instant. I know. I’ve lived it, too.

A phone call changed my hopes and future as Matt, my older son, wailed into the phone about my younger son, “Kyle died last night!”

Oh, God.

NO, GOD!

Hopes, dreams, future …

Wedding invitations from his friends simply ripped my heart apart. Birth announcements of babies from those now married friends rekindled the loss. And the realization that there would be no grandchildren from him — running to me, holding their pudgy little hands or him tossing them into the sky showered with shouts of glee — hit hard.

Yes, weddings, graduations, birth announcements — all reminders of those hope-filled dreams that had been shattered — caused weeping, groaning and bitterness. My heart often wondered: Will I remain bitter or will I get better? Will I continue to dissolve into tears, or will I ever erupt into cheers for these precious friends?

At one of my lowest moments, realization and remembrance flooded my heart and mind: God lost His Son too, His only Son. The Father knew my loss, pain and brokenness oh so well.

That revelation was like supernatural glue applied to bind my wounded soul. The lost, dark, broken part receded as God proceeded to heal my broken heart with His love and light.

How about your lost plans, hopes and dreams?

Are you bitter?

Do you want to be better?

Are you ready to lay your heavy cares at the foot of the cross … and leave that burden there, so you can step into God’s plans for you? Jesus promised, “For My yoke is easy and My burden is light,” (Matthew 11:30, NKJV).

God’s plan for His Son was not what the people hoped for and expected as they celebrated the arrival of Jesus in Jerusalem that first Palm Sunday, then experienced His death on the cross by week’s end. They did not know Easter Sunday — His Son’s day — was coming.

Remember, friend … Sunday’s coming! Jesus arose from the grave by the grace of God to save and redeem us. He has plans for us that include a hope and a future, even when our plans are dashed and we can’t see beyond the overwhelming loss of now.

“‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future,’” (Jeremiah 29:11, NIV).

We lost Kyle seven years and three days ago today. Yet, out of the ashes of grief a story of grace rises — the grace of our Lord, Jesus.

Father, help me ease the grip on my grief and lay it at the foot of Your Son’s cross. Thank You that You can bind our wounds and heal our broken hearts. Remind us of Your magnificent plans for us, Lord God. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

TRUTH FOR TODAY:
1 Peter 5:8-11, “Keep a cool head. Stay alert. The Devil is poised to pounce, and would like nothing better than to catch you napping. Keep your guard up. You’re not the only ones plunged into these hard times. It’s the same with Christians all over the world. So keep a firm grip on the faith. The suffering won’t last forever. It won’t be long before this generous God who has great plans for us in Christ — eternal and glorious plans they are! — will have you put together and on your feet for good. He gets the last word; yes, he does.” (MSG)

 

Morning

Spurgeon, Morning and Evening Devotion, From: Biblegateway

“With his stripes we are healed.”
Isaiah 53:5

Pilate delivered our Lord to the lictors to be scourged. The Roman scourge was a most dreadful instrument of torture. It was made of the sinews of oxen, and sharp bones were inter-twisted every here and there among the sinews; so that every time the lash came down these pieces of bone inflicted fearful laceration, and tore off the flesh from the bone. The Saviour was, no doubt, bound to the column, and thus beaten. He had been beaten before; but this of the Roman lictors was probably the most severe of his flagellations. My soul, stand here and weep over his poor stricken body.

Believer in Jesus, can you gaze upon him without tears, as he stands before you the mirror of agonizing love? He is at once fair as the lily for innocence, and red as the rose with the crimson of his own blood. As we feel the sure and blessed healing which his stripes have wrought in us, does not our heart melt at once with love and grief? If ever we have loved our Lord Jesus, surely we must feel that affection glowing now within our bosoms.

“See how the patient Jesus stands,

Insulted in his lowest case!

Sinners have bound the Almighty’s hands,

And spit in their Creator’s face.

With thorns his temples gor’d and gash’d

Send streams of blood from every part;

His back’s with knotted scourges lash’d.

But sharper scourges tear his heart.”

We would fain go to our chambers and weep; but since our business calls us away, we will first pray our Beloved to print the image of his bleeding self upon the tablets of our hearts all the day, and at nightfall we will return to commune with him, and sorrow that our sin should have cost him so dear.

Evening

“And Rizpah the daughter of Aiah took sackcloth, and spread it for her upon the rock, from the beginning of harvest until water dropped upon them out of heaven, and suffered neither the birds of the air to rest on them by day, nor the beasts of the field by night.”
2 Samuel 21:10

If the love of a woman to her slain sons could make her prolong her mournful vigil for so long a period, shall we weary of considering the sufferings of our blessed Lord? She drove away the birds of prey, and shall not we chase from our meditations those worldly and sinful thoughts which defile both our minds and the sacred themes upon which we are occupied? Away, ye birds of evil wing! Leave ye the sacrifice alone! She bore the heats of summer, the night dews and the rains, unsheltered and alone. Sleep was chased from her weeping eyes: her heart was too full for slumber. Behold how she loved her children! Shall Rizpah thus endure, and shall we start at the first little inconvenience or trial? Are we such cowards that we cannot bear to suffer with our Lord? She chased away even the wild beasts, with courage unusual in her sex, and will not we be ready to encounter every foe for Jesus’ sake? These her children were slain by other hands than hers, and yet she wept and watched: what ought we to do who have by our sins crucified our Lord? Our obligations are boundless, our love should be fervent and our repentance thorough. To watch with Jesus should be our business, to protect his honour our occupation, to abide by his cross our solace. Those ghastly corpses might well have affrighted Rizpah, especially by night, but in our Lord, at whose cross-foot we are sitting, there is nothing revolting, but everything attractive. Never was living beauty so enchanting as a dying Saviour. Jesus, we will watch with thee yet awhile, and do thou graciously unveil thyself to us; then shall we not sit beneath sackcloth, but in a royal pavilion.

Practice Holiness Toward God

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Holiness or Hardness Toward God?

From: Utmost.org

The reason many of us stop praying and become hard toward God is that we only have an emotional interest in prayer. It sounds good to say that we pray, and we read books on prayer which tell us that prayer is beneficial— that our minds are quieted and our souls are uplifted when we pray. But Isaiah implied in this verse that God is amazed at such thoughts about prayer.

Worship and intercession must go together; one is impossible without the other. Intercession means raising ourselves up to the point of getting the mind of Christ regarding the person for whom we are praying (see Philippians 2:5). Instead of worshiping God, we recite speeches to God about how prayer is supposed to work. Are we worshiping God or disputing Him when we say, “But God, I just don’t see how you are going to do this”? This is a sure sign that we are not worshiping. When we lose sight of God, we become hard and dogmatic. We throw our petitions at His throne and dictate to Him what we want Him to do. We don’t worship God, nor do we seek to conform our minds to the mind of Christ. And if we are hard toward God, we will become hard toward other people.

Are we worshiping God in a way that will raise us up to where we can take hold of Him, having such intimate contact with Him that we know His mind about the ones for whom we pray? Are we living in a holy relationship with God, or have we become hard and dogmatic?

Do you find yourself thinking that there is no one interceding properly? Then be that person yourself. Be a person who worships God and lives in a holy relationship with Him. Get involved in the real work of intercession, remembering that it truly is work— work that demands all your energy, but work which has no hidden pitfalls. Preaching the gospel has its share of pitfalls, but intercessory prayer has none whatsoever.

Hey, You Can’t Eat Ketchup In That

From: Getmorestrength.org

“You were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body” 1 Corinthians 6:20

My granddaughter, Mary Catherine, affectionately known to me as Cate the Great, is all-girl. Just put her in a princess outfit with glittering slippers, wand, and a crown, and she is in sheer ecstasy!  Which explains the recent blowout at Target.

She and her mom were passing the dress section when a beautiful short-sleeved white dress with a big yellow daisy smack dab in the middle of the dress caught Cate’s eye. Immediately taken with the dress, she begged her mom to buy it for her. Having recently bought Cate a new dress, my daughter Libby explained that since she had just gotten some new clothes, they wouldn’t be able to buy the dress. Libby tried to console her. Maybe they would wait to see if the dress would be on sale in the near future. Cate refused to be comforted, and for the next few aisles sobbed with a broken heart that the beautiful dress she wanted couldn’t be hers.

Her big brother Gabe, who is all of 11 years old, finally whispered in his mom’s ear, “Could I buy the dress for Cate with the money I’ve saved?” Libby said, “Sure if that’s what you’d like to do.”

And Cate got her dress.

It was the middle of winter in Grand Rapids, but that didn’t stop Cate. She wore her sleeveless dress indoors everyday. She loved how pretty she thought she looked in daisy-clad white! One day as she began dipping her lunchtime toasted cheese sandwich in a deep pile of ketchup, Gabe turned to her and said, “Hey, Cate, you can’t eat ketchup in that dress! I paid a lot of money for it!”

I have to tell you that this may be my best grandchild story to date! I love the thought of Gabe’s love for his little sister and how precious it is that he was willing to voluntarily sacrifice to bless her with the dress. But having paid a big price, he remains interested in taking good care of the dress.

After I got done laughing about the episode, it struck me that what Gabe did for Cate and what Jesus has done for us have a lot in common. Except that Jesus’ gift is far more significant. He paid a great and sacrificial price to bless us with far more than we deserve. Hopelessly lost and guilty before a holy God, we are condemned and can’t do a thing to help ourselves. So Jesus died to take our rap and cleanse us from all our sin. And Scripture tells us that we are then clothed in His righteousness, which in turn gives us access to our God in fellowship and prayer (Philippians 3:7-9). As the old hymn says, “Dressed in His righteousness alone, faultless to stand before the throne!”

Having invested deeply in our new look, I can just hear Jesus saying, “I paid a lot for you, don’t say that; don’t go there; don’t think that; don’t do that!”

Paul told the Corinthians, who were tempted to wallow in the muck of their pagan culture, “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit? . . . you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.”

So, let’s not forget what we are wearing. It’s a thing of beauty, and Jesus paid a big price for it!

Israel at the Red Sea

Charles Spurgeon,  sermon

From: Biblegateway

“He rebuked the Red sea also, and it was dried up: so he led them through the depths, as through the wilderness.” Psalm 106:9

Suggested Further Reading: Psalm 136

How sweet is providence to a child of God, when he can reflect upon it! He can look out into this world, and say, “However great my troubles, they are not so great as my Father’s power; however difficult may be my circumstances, yet all things around me are working together for good. He who holds up the starry heavens can also support my soul without a single apparent prop; he who guides the stars in their well-ordered courses, even when they seem to move in mazy dances, surely he can overrule my trials in such a way that out of confusion he will bring order; and from seeming evil produce lasting good. He who bridles the storm, and puts the bit in the mouth of the tempest, surely he can restrain my trial, and keep my sorrows in subjection. I need not fear while the lightnings are in his hands, and the thunders sleep within his lips; while the oceans gurgle from his fist, and the clouds are in the hollow of his hands; while the rivers are turned by his foot, and while he digs the channels of the sea. Surely he whose might wings an angel, can furnish a worm with strength; he who guides a cherub will not be overcome by the trials of a worm like myself. He who makes the greatest star roll in dignity, and keeps its predestined orbit, can make a little atom like myself move in my proper course, and conduct me as he pleases.” Christian! There is no sweeter pillow than providence; and when providence seems adverse, believe it still, lay it under your head, for depend upon it there is comfort in its bosom. There is hope for you, child of God!

For meditation: You may find it easy to think like this when all seems to be going well. The Christian is still able to look up spiritually when circumstances would make him look down naturally (Romans 8:28,31,35-39).

Sermon no. 72
30 March (1856)

The old, old story

Charles Spurgeon, sermon

From: Biblegateway

‘In due time Christ died for the ungodly.’ Romans 5:6

Suggested Further Reading: John 5:39–47

Unbeliever, if God cannot and will not forgive the sins of penitent men without taking their punishment, rest assured he will surely bring you to judgment. If, when Christ, God’s Son, had imputed sin laid on him, God smote him, how will he smite you who are his enemy, and who have your own sins upon your head? God seemed at Calvary, as it were, to take an oath—sinner, hear it!—he seemed, as it were, to take an oath and say, ‘By the blood of my Son I swear that sin must be punished,’ and if it is not punished in Christ for you, it will be punished in you for yourselves. Is Christ yours, sinner? Did he die for you? Do you trust him? If you do, he died for you. Do you say, ‘No, I do not?’ Then remember that if you live and die without faith in Christ, for every idle word and for every ill act that you have done, stroke for stroke, and blow for blow, vengeance must chastise you. Again, to another class of you, this word. If God has in Christ made an atonement and opened a way of salvation, what must be your guilt who try to open another way; who say, ‘I will be good and virtuous; I will attend to ceremonies; I will save myself’? Fool that you are, you have insulted God in his tenderest point, for you have insulted his Son. You have said, ‘I can do it without that blood;’ you have, in fact, trampled on the blood of Christ, and said, ‘I need it not.’ Oh, if the sinner who repents not be damned, with what accumulated terrors shall he be damned, who, in addition to his impenitence, heaps affront upon the person of Christ by going about to establish his own righteousness. Leave it!

For meditation: The readings for most of the past week have concentrated on the shed blood and atoning sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ. Do these truths cause you relief, satisfaction and grateful thanksgiving in response to his love (1 John 4:10,19)? If not, you either hate him or couldn’t care less about him, which in God’s sight boils down to the same thing. ‘How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation?’ (Hebrews 2:3).

Sermon no. 446
30 March (1862)

How Does Jesus’ Gift of Salvation Benefit Believers? (1 Thessalonians 5:9–10)

From: Biblegateway

When humans sin, they create a barrier between themselves and God. The price for sin is death (see Romans 6:23); however, 1 Thessalonians 5:9–10 indicates that by his grace God provided a substitute for us: Jesus, who “died for us” to pay the penalty for our sin.

To better understand the salvation Jesus provides, we must view it in the broader context of the story of the Bible. Genesis details the creation and rebellion of the human species. Humankind’s rejection of God and God’s response is the theme of the remaining narrative of the Bible—it colors every page. Old Testament prophecies point to a time when the world as we know it will end and judgment will take place. However, these prophecies also point to the coming Messiah who will redeem the lives of those who trust in him.

Salvation is not only a future reality but also a present one. Jesus rewarded the faith of the bleeding woman and of the blind man and literally saved them from their afflictions, as the Greek word translated “healed” actually means “saved” (see Mark 5:34; 10:52). Faith has a reward dimension in this life, sometimes in tangible benefits like physical healing and sometimes in intangibles such as comfort, peace, security and freedom.

Salvation also has a spiritual quality that benefits believers—both now and in eternity. Paul says in 1 Thessalonians 5:9–10 that believers will live with Christ in this world (when we are “awake”) and in the next (when we are “asleep”). Because of Jesus’ salvation, believers can be confident about both the present and the future.

Taken from The Case for Christ Study Bible

©2014 HarperCollins Christian Publishing

The Triumphal Entry Of Jesus

 

Take a few minutes today to read the four Gospel accounts of the Triumphal Entry and try to imagine what it would have been like to be standing and singing in that crowd:

 

The Triumphal Entry of Jesus into Jerusalem

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Our Lord’s Surprise Visits

From: Utmost.org

A Christian worker’s greatest need is a readiness to face Jesus Christ at any and every turn. This is not easy, no matter what our experience has been. This battle is not against sin, difficulties, or circumstances, but against being so absorbed in our service to Jesus Christ that we are not ready to face Jesus Himself at every turn. The greatest need is not facing our beliefs or doctrines, or even facing the question of whether or not we are of any use to Him, but the need is to face Him.

Jesus rarely comes where we expect Him; He appears where we least expect Him, and always in the most illogical situations. The only way a servant can remain true to God is to be ready for the Lord’s surprise visits. This readiness will not be brought about by service, but through intense spiritual reality, expecting Jesus Christ at every turn. This sense of expectation will give our life the attitude of childlike wonder He wants it to have. If we are going to be ready for Jesus Christ, we have to stop being religious. In other words, we must stop using religion as if it were some kind of a lofty lifestyle— we must be spiritually real.

If you are avoiding the call of the religious thinking of today’s world, and instead are “looking unto Jesus” (Hebrews 12:2), setting your heart on what He wants, and thinking His thoughts, you will be considered impractical and a daydreamer. But when He suddenly appears in the work of the heat of the day, you will be the only one who is ready. You should trust no one, and even ignore the finest saint on earth if he blocks your sight of Jesus Christ.

 

 

Don’t Get Stuck

From: Getmorestrength.org

“Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.” Hebrews 11:16

I had just landed in Phoenix for some meetings when the clerk at the rental car desk told me they were all out of cars except for one expensive luxury car that he would give me for the compact rate.

Admittedly, I was a little worried that someone seeing me drive up in this cool over-the-top auto would think that I had lost any sense of good stewardship. But it was, take the car or walk. So I took the car! And, I must admit, I loved driving the car—until my trip back to the airport.

Gliding down the highway in style, I heard an ominous thumping noise and knew immediately that it was a flat tire. I was stuck, and regardless of how nice the car was, I was going nowhere and would probably miss the plane. You probably know the feeling. You need to get somewhere and suddenly you’re stuck in a snowdrift or a muddy ditch—or you get a flat tire. No matter what, getting stuck is not a good thing.

And as bad as it is when you’re traveling, it’s even worse if you get stuck spiritually. You probably know what it’s like. Someone special to you wounds you with their words or actions, and rather than forgiving and turning the other cheek you get stuck in a fight with them only to realize that the more you try to get even the more stuck you become. Or perhaps in the midst of difficult circumstances, seeds of disappointment and bitterness take root and you get stuck in discouragement land. To say nothing of the fact that the spiritual blow of unconfessed sin can completely immobilize us.

All of this makes me love what I read in Hebrews 11: 6-16 . Real people, living in a world like yours and mine, refused to get stuck by the disappointing and discouraging circumstances of their lives. The common thread woven through these individuals is the fact that they saw themselves as “aliens and strangers” in this world, on their way to a “better country—a heavenly one.” Simply put, they caught sight of the fact that they were on a journey and that something greater awaited them. Nothing, or no one, would deter them from keeping their eyes on where they were headed. They refused to get stuck! And in Hebrews 11:16, we get a glimpse of God’s pleasure and delight in the way they persisted in their journey when we read that He is not “ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them.”

So, the next time someone’s words or actions threaten to mire you down—the next time life’s circumstances give you an excuse to blow out and get stuck—remember who you are and where you’re headed. There isn’t a person or thing in your life that is worth getting stuck for! You’re headed home. They can duke it out by themselves if they choose!

 

 

MARCH 27, 2015

From: Crosswalk.com

Real Love Bleeds
CHRYSTAL EVANS HURST

“We love because he first loved us.” 1 John 4:19 (ESV)

Once while attending a conference I found myself browsing through the vendor section.

Most, if not all, of the vendors had products available where the proceeds would be invested directly into a ministry or mission project designed to change the lives of people near and far.

The idea that my purchase could in some way be a small contribution to Kingdom work propelled me to actively seek something that I wanted to wear, use or display in my home.

I paused in front of a table featuring art prints with various inspirational quotes and verses. It was like a sea of words.

I figured that somewhere on that table were words I would want to display in my home. Words that would inspire me and spur me on to be the person God wanted me to be.

I found those words. But they weren’t the warm and fuzzy words I was looking for. The kind that would make me want to smile when I walked by them in my home.

Instead I found words that cut deep and convicted me beyond my expectation. Words that inspired me … but solemnly. Words that did not yield a cozy experience, but certainly lit a fire within my heart and soul. The print said:

“Real love bleeds.”

I bought it.

Loving people can be hard work. It can be even harder when the love you give requires the very essence of who you are to flow through wounds inflicted by the ones your heart beats for.

When I read these three small words penned by this artist-turned-missionary, I stopped in my tracks because I knew I had been doing exactly the opposite in my life.

Instead of being willing to “bleed” for the ones I loved the most, I had slipped into full-on apathy.

Why? Because sometimes caring for and loving others doesn’t feel good.

Sometimes, it’s easier not to love.

Over time, and unbeknownst to me, I had become an expert at self-preservation and pain avoidance.

Anything that hurt, I didn’t touch — including the people I loved the most.

I grieved as I realized that the very love Jesus continually offered me — the same love that came at His own great personal discomfort and eventual agony — was unfortunately the kind of love I’d become unwilling to consistently offer.

Why? Because sometimes loving others hurts.

As I stood there and pulled out my wallet to purchase the simple yet beautiful print, I realized that great love comes at a great cost — as evidenced by the example of Jesus Christ and His sacrifice for my sins, which we see in today’s key verse.

I remembered His illustration of love for me and recalled His command that I follow in His steps: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another” (John 13:34, ESV).

Now, let me concede this. I am completely aware that everyone who causes us pain should not be an automatic recipient of our deepest level of sacrifice. However, I am acutely aware of my own need to assess my willingness to love like Christ loves me and to sacrifice for those to whom I am called.

What I know for certain is this: There are times when the love I have for others is not a matter of feeling, but rather a matter of my decision to be obedient to Him — and it won’t feel good.

The question is, when real love results in my personal discomfort or even a heart-wrenching level of pain, am I willing to love well anyway?

Streams in the Desert

Consider the lilies, how they grow (Matt. 6:28).

I need oil,” said an ancient monk; so he planted an olive sapling. “Lord,” he prayed, “it needs rain that its tender roots may drink and swell. Send gentle showers.” And the Lord sent gentle showers. “Lord,” prayed the monk, “my tree needs sun. Send sun, I pray Thee.” And the sun shone, gilding the dripping clouds. “Now frost, my Lord, to brace its tissues,” cried the monk. And behold, the little tree stood sparkling with frost, but at evening it died.

Then the monk sought the cell of a brother monk, and told his strange experience. “I, too, planted a little tree,” he said, “and see! it thrives well. But I entrust my tree to its God. He who made it knows better what it needs than a man like me. I laid no condition. I fixed not ways or means. ‘Lord, send what it needs,’ I prayed, ‘storm or sunshine, wind, rain, or frost. Thou hast made it and Thou dost know.'”

Yes, leave it with Him,
The lilies all do,
And they grow–
They grow in the rain,
And they grow in the, dew–
Yes, they grow:
They grow in the darkness, all hid in the night–
They grow in the sunshine, revealed by the light–
Still they grow.
Yes, leave it with Him
‘Tis more dear to His heart,
You will know,
Than the lilies that bloom,
Or the flowers that start
‘Neath the snow:
Whatever you need, if you seek it in prayer,
You can leave it with Him–for you are His care.

You, you know.
–Selected

 

March 29

From: Through the Bible

Deuteronomy 8:3-4 (NIV) 3He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your fathers had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD. 4Your clothes did not wear out and your feet did not swell during these forty years.

God tested Israel in the wilderness in order to know what was in their heart. It was not as if our all-knowing God couldn’t see their hearts. They needed to see how faithless and proud their own hearts were. So do we! Because of our sinful nature we get the ridiculous idea that we are independent creatures. We think we can take care of ourselves. That is why we are taken through wilderness experiences.

When the LORD sets his love upon you, the most gracious thing He can do for you is to show you truth. The truth is that you are a dependent creature, dependent upon the word of God for air, water, food, ability, and life itself. God alone is ascient (self-sustaining). How do you think Moses survived two forty-day fasts without water? The Word of God sustained him. How could the nation of Israel live for 40 years in a desert? The Word of God brought water from the rock, bread from the sky, and kept their clothing from wearing out.

When we realize this fact of total dependency, we are humbled. Jesus knew it to be true. He said, “I can do nothing by myself.” As a man, He knew He had become dependent on the Word of His Father, and so He spoke and acted what He heard and saw of the Father. The affect of the humbling truth that we are totally dependent on the Word of God should change the way we speak and act if we are to accomplish anything of lasting value. Recognize the reality of how needy you are.

Consider: The trials of life are to humble us and show us our need.

Evening

March 29

Matthew 25:38-40 (NIV) 38When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ 40“The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’

At the final judgment, every man will appear before the King to give an account of the things done during their life. The Son of Man will divide them into just two groups. He doesn’t ask them about theology. There are no quizzes. The deciding factor is how they lived. Did they meet the needs of their fellow man? Or did they ignore the pain and suffering around them? One might argue that the only way a person is willing to give of themselves out of unselfish motives is that the Spirit of Christ indwells them. Indeed, these who did meet the needs of others seem to be unaware that they did so. They did not boast about all the good things they had done, but instead asked when they did them.

Notice, also, that Jesus says they did it to Him. They ask how that could possibly be, and He explains that doing it to one of the least of His brothers is the same as doing it to Him. This reminds us of the Good Samaritan story.

I once asked the Lord how I could wash His feet. He showed me that washing the feet of His children was the same as doing it to Him. As I proceeded to do so, the realization that I was washing Jesus’ feet on my brother overwhelmed me. Can we see our brothers’ need as Jesus’ need?

There is a story about three Catholic priests whose church was in continual decline. They asked a traveling Jewish rabbi if he had any ideas. The rabbi told them that he had heard Jesus was among them. Each of the priests suspected it was one of the other priests. They began to treat one another as if they were Christ. They began to prefer each other with great respect. The congregation began to grow again and its fame spread throughout the country. It is just a story, but it contains a great truth. Jesus lives in our brothers.

Remember: Let us treat one another as we would treat Jesus. He’ll honor that. His life in us makes that possible.

 

God Gives Direction

 

Jeremiah 33:3
Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known.

John 6:35

Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.

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I Corinthians 6: 19
Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own,

John 5:30

“I can do nothing on my own. As I hear, I judge, and my judgment is just, because I seek not my own will but the will of him who sent me.

Isn’t There Some Misunderstanding?

From: Utmost.org

Just because I don’t understand what Jesus Christ says, I have no right to determine that He must be mistaken in what He says. That is a dangerous view, and it is never right to think that my obedience to God’s directive will bring dishonor to Jesus. The only thing that will bring dishonor is not obeying Him. To put my view of His honor ahead of what He is plainly guiding me to do is never right, even though it may come from a real desire to prevent Him from being put to an open shame. I know when the instructions have come from God because of their quiet persistence. But when I begin to weigh the pros and cons, and doubt and debate enter into my mind, I am bringing in an element that is not of God. This will only result in my concluding that His instructions to me were not right. Many of us are faithful to our ideas about Jesus Christ, but how many of us are faithful to Jesus Himself? Faithfulness to Jesus means that I must step out even when and where I can’t see anything (see Matthew 14:29). But faithfulness to my own ideas means that I first clear the way mentally. Faith, however, is not intellectual understanding; faith is a deliberate commitment to the Person of Jesus Christ, even when I can’t see the way ahead.

Are you debating whether you should take a step of faith in Jesus, or whether you should wait until you can clearly see how to do what He has asked? Simply obey Him with unrestrained joy. When He tells you something and you begin to debate, it is because you have a misunderstanding of what honors Him and what doesn’t. Are you faithful to Jesus, or faithful to your ideas about Him? Are you faithful to what He says, or are you trying to compromise His words with thoughts that never came from Him? “Whatever He says to you,do it” (John 2:5).

 

Streams in the Desert

God’s Will Is Realized
And it shall come to pass, as soon as the soles of the feet of the priests that bear the ark of the Lord, the Lord of all the earth, shall rest in the waters of Jordan, that the waters of Jordan shall be cut off from the waters that come down from above; and they shall stand upon a heap. (Joshua 3:13).

Brave Levites! Who can help admiring them, to carry the Ark right into the stream; for the waters were not divided till their feet dipped in the water (ver. 15). God had not promised aught else.

God honors faith. “Obstinate faith,” that the PROMISE sees and “looks to that alone.” You can fancy how the people would watch these holy men march on, and some of the bystanders would be saying, “You would not catch me running that risk! Why, man, the ark will be carried away!” Not so; “the priests stood firm on dry ground.” We must not overlook the fact that faith on our part helps God to carry out His plans. “Come up to the help of the Lord.”

The Ark had staves for the shoulders. Even the Ark did not move of itself; it was carried. When God is the architect, men are the masons and laborers. Faith assists God. It can stop the mouth of lions and quench the violence of fire. It yet honors God, and God honors it.

Oh, for this faith that will go on, leaving God to fulfill His promise when He sees fit! Fellow Levites, let us shoulder our load, and do not let us look as if we were carrying God’s coffin. It is the Ark of the living God! Sing as you march towards the flood!
–Thomas Champness

One of the special marks of the Holy Ghost in the Apostolic Church was the spirit of boldness. One of the most essential qualities of the faith that is to attempt great things for God, and expect great things from God, is holy audacity. Where we are dealing with a supernatural Being, and taking from Him things that are humanly impossible, it is easier to take much than little; it is easier to stand in a place of audacious trust than in a place of cautious, timid clinging to the shore.

Like wise seamen in the life of faith, let us launch out into the deep, and find that all things are possible with God, and all things are possible unto him that believeth.

Let us, today, attempt great things for God; take His faith and believe for them and His strength to accomplish them.
–Days of Heaven upon Earth

 

 

Morning

From: Biblegateway.com

“The love of Christ which passeth knowledge.”
Ephesians 3:19

The love of Christ in its sweetness, its fulness, its greatness, its faithfulness, passeth all human comprehension. Where shall language be found which shall describe his matchless, his unparalleled love towards the children of men? It is so vast and boundless that, as the swallow but skimmeth the water, and diveth not into its depths, so all descriptive words but touch the surface, while depths immeasurable lie beneath. Well might the poet say,

“O love, thou fathomless abyss!”

for this love of Christ is indeed measureless and fathomless; none can attain unto it. Before we can have any right idea of the love of Jesus, we must understand his previous glory in its height of majesty, and his incarnation upon the earth in all its depths of shame. But who can tell us the majesty of Christ? When he was enthroned in the highest heavens he was very God of very God; by him were the heavens made, and all the hosts thereof. His own almighty arm upheld the spheres; the praises of cherubim and seraphim perpetually surrounded him; the full chorus of the hallelujahs of the universe unceasingly flowed to the foot of his throne: he reigned supreme above all his creatures, God over all, blessed forever. Who can tell his height of glory then? And who, on the other hand, can tell how low he descended? To be a man was something, to be a man of sorrows was far more; to bleed, and die, and suffer, these were much for him who was the Son of God; but to suffer such unparalleled agony–to endure a death of shame and desertion by his Father, this is a depth of condescending love which the most inspired mind must utterly fail to fathom. Herein is love! and truly it is love that “passeth knowledge.” O let this love fill our hearts with adoring gratitude, and lead us to practical manifestations of its power.

 

Evening

“I will accept you with your sweet savour.”
Ezekiel 20:41

The merits of our great Redeemer are as sweet savour to the Most High. Whether we speak of the active or passive righteousness of Christ, there is an equal fragrance. There was a sweet savour in his active life by which he honoured the law of God, and made every precept to glitter like a precious jewel in the pure setting of his own person. Such, too, was his passive obedience, when he endured with unmurmuring submission, hunger and thirst, cold and nakedness, and at length sweat great drops of blood in Gethsemane, gave his back to the smiters, and his cheeks to them that plucked out the hair, and was fastened to the cruel wood, that he might suffer the wrath of God in our behalf. These two things are sweet before the Most High; and for the sake of his doing and his dying, his substitutionary sufferings and his vicarious obedience, the Lord our God accepts us. What a preciousness must there be in him to overcome our want of preciousness! What a sweet savour to put away our ill savour! What a cleansing power in his blood to take away sin such as ours! and what glory in his righteousness to make such unacceptable creatures to be accepted in the Beloved! Mark, believer, how sure and unchanging must be our acceptance, since it is in him! Take care that you never doubt your acceptance in Jesus. You cannot be accepted without Christ; but, when you have received his merit, you cannot be unaccepted. Notwithstanding all your doubts, and fears, and sins, Jehovah’s gracious eye never looks upon you in anger; though he sees sin in you, in yourself, yet when he looks at you through Christ, he sees no sin. You are always accepted in Christ, are always blessed and dear to the Father’s heart. Therefore lift up a song, and as you see the smoking incense of the merit of the Saviour coming up, this evening, before the sapphire throne, let the incense of your praise go up also.

 

Is accepting Jesus the only way for people to get to heaven? (John 14:6)

Yes. The Bible clearly identifies Jesus as the only means of salvation (Jn 14:6; Ac 4:12; Php 2:9–11). Believing in Jesus and his unique work (Ac 2:37–39; 16:31; Ro 10:9) is the only way to gain access to God’s forgiveness. No number of good deeds can earn a person an eternal reward. No other faith system leads people to the one true God. Some people chafe at such an exclusive stance, but the words of Jesus and the apostles leave no other option (Ac 4:12; 1Ti 2:5).

 

Come Up Here

 

There Are Many People who think Rev. 4:1 is the rapture before the Great Tribulation Starts. ” Come Up Here,” has been seen as the Church (universal) being taken up to Heaven to be with Jesus.

 

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Spiritual Vision Through Personal Character

From: Utmost.org

A higher state of mind and spiritual vision can only be achieved through the higher practice of personal character. If you live up to the highest and best that you know in the outer level of your life, God will continually say to you, “Friend, come up even higher.” There is also a continuing rule in temptation which calls you to go higher; but when you do, you only encounter other temptations and character traits. Both God and Satan use the strategy of elevation, but Satan uses it in temptation, and the effect is quite different. When the devil elevates you to a certain place, he causes you to fasten your idea of what holiness is far beyond what flesh and blood could ever bear or achieve. Your life becomes a spiritual acrobatic performance high atop a steeple. You cling to it, trying to maintain your balance and daring not to move. But when God elevates you by His grace into heavenly places, you find a vast plateau where you can move about with ease.

Compare this week in your spiritual life with the same week last year to see how God has called you to a higher level. We have all been brought to see from a higher viewpoint. Never allow God to show you a truth which you do not instantly begin to live up to, applying it to your life. Always work through it, staying in its light.

Your growth in grace is not measured by the fact that you haven’t turned back, but that you have an insight and understanding into where you are spiritually. Have you heard God say, “Come up higher,” not audibly on the outer level, but to the innermost part of your character?

“Shall I hide from Abraham what I am doing…?” (Genesis 18:17). God has to hide from us what He does, until, due to the growth of our personal character, we get to the level where He is then able to reveal it.

 

The Glory Given To Us

From: Streams in the Desert

I do not count the sufferings of our present life worthy of mention when compared with the glory that is to be revealed and bestowed upon us” (Rom. 8:18, 20th Century Trans.).

A remarkable incident occurred recently at a wedding in England. A young man of large wealth and high social position, who had been blinded by an accident when he was ten years old, and who won University honors in spite of his blindness, had won a beautiful bride, though he had never looked upon her face. A little while before his marriage, he submitted to a course of treatment by experts, and the climax came on the day of his wedding.

The day came, and the presents, and guests. There were present cabinet ministers and generals arid bishops and learned men and women. The bridegroom, dressed for the wedding, his eyes still shrouded in linen, drove to the church with his father, and the famous oculist met them in the vestry.

The bride entered the church on the arm of her white-haired father. So moved was she that she could hardly speak. Was her lover at last to see her face that others admired, but which he knew only through his delicate finger tips?

As she neared the altar, while the soft strains of the wedding march floated through the church, her eyes fell on a strange group. The father stood there with his son. Before the latter was the great oculist in the act of cutting away the last bandage.

The bridegroom took a step forward, with the spasmodic uncertainty of one who cannot believe that he is awake. A beam of rose-colored light from a pane in the chancel window fell across his face, but he did not seem to see it.

Did he see anything? Yes! Recovering in an instant his steadiness of mien, and with a dignity and joy never before seen in his face, he went forward to meet his bride. They looked into each other’s eyes, and one would have thought that his eyes would never wander from her face.

“At last!” she said. “At last!” he echoed solemnly, bowing his head. That was a: scene of great dramatic power, and no doubt of great joy, and is but a mere suggestion of what will actually take place in Heaven when the Christian who has been walking through this world of trial and sorrow, shall see Him face to face.
–Selected

Just a-wearying for you,
Jesus, Lord, beloved and true;
Wishing for you, wondering when
You’ll be coming back again,
Under all I say and do,
Just a-wearying for you.
Some glad day, all watching past,
You will come for me at last;
Then I’ll see you, hear your voice,
Be with you, with you rejoice;
How the sweet hope thrills me through,
Sets me wearying for you.

 

 

Can Christians Lose Their Salvation? (Luke 8:13)

From: Biblegateway

Salvation is the work of God. It came through Jesus Christ by the shedding of his blood on the cross (see Jn 3:17; Ro 5:9). Those who experience salvation are given eternal life as a gift of grace that they receive by faith (see Eph 2:5,8)—this gift comes because of God’s mercy, not as a result of human effort (see 2Ti 1:9; Titus 3:5).

Since salvation is a work of God’s grace from beginning to end (see Ro 1:17; Gal 3:1–3), those who belong to Christ can be assured that they will never lose their salvation. They have been appointed to receive salvation, not to suffer wrath (see 1Th 5:9). There is also a subjective dimension to this assurance. The Holy Spirit “testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children” (Ro 8:16). In other words, when we are children of God, the Holy Spirit helps us know with confidence that we are heirs of eternal life.

But assurance is no excuse for complacency. God’s grace transforms those who are in Christ (see 2Co 5:21; Jas 2:14–26; 1Jn 3:3). Therefore, those whose lives show no evidence of this transformation should examine themselves to see if they have genuinely trusted in Christ (see 2Co 13:5; Heb 6:1–8). For such people the question is not whether they might lose their salvation but whether they ever possessed it in the first place.

Taken from NIV Essentials Study Bible

©2014 HarperCollins Christian Publishing

The way to God

From: Biblegateway

“No man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” John 14:6

Suggested Further Reading: Genesis 28:10-17

From the moment when Adam touched the forbidden fruit, the way from God to man became blocked up, the bridge was broken down, a great gulf was fixed, so that if it had not been for the divine plan of grace, we could not have ascended to God, neither could God in justice come down to us. Happily, however, the everlasting covenant, ordered in all things and sure, had provided for this great catastrophe. Christ Jesus the Mediator had in eternity past been ordained to become the medium of access between man and God. If you want a figure of him, remember the memorable dream of Jacob. He lay down in a solitary place, and he dreamed a dream, which had in it something more substantial than anything he had seen with his eyes wide open. He saw a ladder, the foot whereof rested upon earth, and the top thereof reached to heaven itself. Upon this ladder he saw angels ascending and descending. Now this ladder was Christ. Christ in his humanity rested upon the earth, he is bone of our bone, and flesh of our flesh. In his divinity he reaches to the highest heaven, for he is very God of very God. When our prayers ascend on high they must tread the staves of this ladder; and when God’s blessings descend to us, the rounds of this marvellous ladder must be the means of their descent. Never has a prayer ascended to God save through Jesus Christ. Never has a blessing come down to man save through the same Divine Mediator. There is now a highway, a way of holiness wherein the redeemed can walk to God, and God can come to us. The king’s highway:

“The way the holy prophets went-
The road that leads from banishment.”

Jesus Christ, the way, the truth, and the life.

For meditation: The crucifixion of God the Son was the opening ceremony of the way to the Father. As soon as the Son announced “It is finished”, the Father marked the occasion by cutting the veil of the temple from top to bottom (Mark 15:37,38; Hebrews 10:19,20).

Sermon no. 245
27 March (1859)

 

 

‘Alas for us, if thou wert all, and nought beyond, O earth.’

‘If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.’ 1 Corinthians 15:19

Suggested Further Reading: Titus 2:11–14

The most practical thing in all the world is the hope of the world to come; and you see the text teaches this, for it is just this which keeps us from being miserable; and to keep a man from being miserable, let me say, is to do a great thing for him, for a miserable Christian—what is the use of him? Keep him in a cupboard, where nobody can see him; nurse him in the hospital, for he is of no use in the field of labour. Build a monastery, and put all miserable Christians in it, and there let them meditate on mercy till they learn to smile; for really there is no other use for them in the world. But the man who has a hope for the next world goes about his work strong, for the joy of the Lord is our strength. He goes against temptation mighty, for the hope of the next world repels the fiery darts of the adversary. He can labour without present reward, for he looks for a reward in the world to come. He can suffer rebuke, and can afford to die a slandered man, because he knows that God will avenge his own elect who cry day and night unto him. Through the Spirit of God the hope of another world is the most potent force for the product of virtue; it is a fountain of joy; it is the very channel of usefulness. It is to the Christian what food is to the vital force in the animal frame. Let it not be said of any of us that we are dreaming about the future and forgetting the present, but let the future sanctify the present to highest uses.

For meditation: It was this hope that marked the lives of even the Old Testament heroes of faith (Hebrews 11:10,13–16,35). But what men and women of action they were in God’s service! Who would dare accuse them of being dreamers and of being no earthly use?

Sermon no. 562
27 March (1864)

Personal Purity

 

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Spiritual Vision Through Personal Purity

From: Utmost.org

Purity is not innocence— it is much more than that. Purity is the result of continued spiritual harmony with God. We have to grow in purity. Our life with God may be right and our inner purity unblemished, yet occasionally our outer life may become spotted and stained. God intentionally does not protect us from this possibility, because this is the way we recognize the necessity of maintaining our spiritual vision through personal purity. If the outer level of our spiritual life with God is impaired to the slightest degree, we must put everything else aside until we make it right. Remember that spiritual vision depends on our character— it is “the pure in heart” who “see God.”

God makes us pure by an act of His sovereign grace, but we still have something that we must carefully watch. It is through our bodily life coming in contact with other people and other points of view that we tend to become tarnished. Not only must our “inner sanctuary” be kept right with God, but also the “outer courts” must be brought into perfect harmony with the purity God gives us through His grace. Our spiritual vision and understanding is immediately blurred when our “outer court” is stained. If we want to maintain personal intimacy with the Lord Jesus Christ, it will mean refusing to do or even think certain things. And some things that are acceptable for others will become unacceptable for us.

A practical help in keeping your personal purity unblemished in your relations with other people is to begin to see them as God does. Say to yourself, “That man or that woman is perfect in Christ Jesus! That friend or that relative is perfect in Christ Jesus!”

Price Tags

From: Getmorestrength.org

“I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord” Philippians 3:8

You may have heard the story about the pranksters who broke into a hardware store. Strangely enough, they didn’t steal a thing. Yet what they did created chaos of epic proportions—they switched all the price tags!

The store owner was unaware of anything amiss until the first customer stepped to the cash register with a hammer that rang up at $199.95. Naturally, the customer’s jaw dropped. “What’s that thing made of?” he demanded. “Platinum?”

On further inspection, employees noticed that a big screen TV in the appliance section was selling for $14.95. The goods were all the same, resting on the same shelves as the night before, but the assigned values were hopelessly jumbled.

I can’t help but think that Satan likes to pull the same stunt with us. Unaware of his stealth work, we go through life with mixed-up price tags on our accomplishments and accolades. We assign the wrong value to who we are and what we have—not to mention the lack of value we assign to God who unequivocally deserves the highest value.

Paul had the price tags right when he wrote to the Philippian believers: “The very credentials these people are waving around as something special, I’m tearing up and throwing out with the trash—along with everything else I used to take credit for. And why? Because of Christ. Yes, all the things I once thought were so important are gone from my life. . . . I’ve dumped it all in the trash so that I could embrace Christ and be embraced by Him” (Philippians 3:7-8, The Message).

There’s Paul at the cash register, looking at all the price tags attached to his experiences, achievements, and treasures. He’s got a red pen in his hand, and all those things that used to be so valuable, so precious, so terribly important to him have been slashed down to zero. In fact, Paul’s loading them up in boxes, headed for the dumpster out back.

I find it interesting that this same Paul who once assigned no value to Jesus at all—and in fact hated Him—now can’t even put a price on the privilege of experiencing Him. After his unforgettable personal encounter with the living Christ (Acts 9), Paul’s whole world was reordered, and he never looked back. The value of his relationship with Jesus became “priceless.” What’s more, he lived like he really meant it.

And for us, it’s more than just giving mental or verbal assent to the “surpassing value” of knowing Jesus. Many of us have been doing that for a long time—and then we go on to live like He is eighth or ninth on the list. Unfortunately in this glitz-and-glamour world, we are far too prone to place great value on all that is temporal and seductive. And believe me, we pay a high price for that. It means that we miss out on the most valuable asset of all—the joy of a deep, abiding relationship with the only One who can meet all of our needs and fill us with His joy. His invitation still stands: “Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6:33).

Find time for Him and make His will and His ways your greatest treasure! For what you value will capture your heart (Matthew 6:21)!

 

Today’s Devotions

From: Through the Bible

Morning

March 26

Deuteronomy 6:23 (NIV) 23But he brought us out from there to bring us in and give us the land that he promised on oath to our forefathers.

All through the wilderness wondering, the people complained that God had brought them out to let them die in the wilderness. Someone had their ear. Does someone have yours? God’s intention is to bring you out of the world to bring you into fellowship with Him. The Israelites kept complaining that God was going to let them die in the wilderness. They feared never making it. That was the worst of both worlds. They couldn’t enjoy Egypt nor could they enjoy the Promised Land. All they had was the Desert wandering. When they finally were ready to go in, they had such a lack of faith in God’s ability to conquer their enemies that they requested dying in the desert.

The Apostle Paul wrote that if we have no hope of resurrection, if all we have is here, eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die. In other words, if this desert wandering is all we have, lets go back to Egypt. In today’s verse God declares that His whole purpose in bringing us out is to bring us in. It is not to take away pleasurable things. It is to give you real pleasures (Psalm 16:11).

God will finish the work He started when He first drew you to Himself. He will change you into His image (Romans 8:29). He will bring you into the Promised Land of unbroken fellowship with Him. We struggle with all the distractions of life and wonder if we will ever get there. He brought you out to bring you in! Don’t get comfortable in this desert, pilgrim.

Meditation: He has brought you out to bring you in. Are you entering in?

Evening

March 26

Matthew 24:37-39 (NIV) 37As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. 38For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; 39and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man.

Jesus taught that His return would not be in secret. He said it would be more like lightening shining in the east and visible in the west. The prophet Zechariah details some of the earth shaking things that will happen at that moment. Then Jesus warned that no one in heaven or earth knew when that would be. He said that only the Father knew. He gave us signs to look for (see yesterday’s evening devotion). Yet, He taught that it will be a shock to everyone.

Jesus compares His Second Coming to the great flood in the days of Noah. Noah built that ark over a period of time as he preached to the people (2 Peter 2:5). Yet, the people did not listen or even consider that their world was about to end. They were going about their lives, doing the things that people normally do. If you knew the world was about to end, you wouldn’t stop to eat, drink or marry. The last moments would be too precious. Jesus said they knew nothing about what would happen until it came to pass. How could they hear Noah’s preaching and see the great boat and yet know nothing? There are none so blind as those who refuse to see.

Jesus has given us signs to look for. When they come to pass, only the righteous will take it to heart and be prepared. Jesus is the great ark. Only those in Him will be ready for the flood that is to come upon the earth. If any man has ears to hear, let him hear (Matthew 11:15). The world will be going about its self-gratifying ways when destruction comes upon it. Though the message is preached and the warnings are given, only those that are willing will hear. The cares and pleasures of life can deaden our ears to the truth that is preached to us.

Consider: Are your ears willing to hear?

Christ Is The Eternal Relationship

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Maintaining the Proper Relationship

From: Utmost.org

Goodness and purity should never be traits that draw attention to themselves, but should simply be magnets that draw people to Jesus Christ. If my holiness is not drawing others to Him, it is not the right kind of holiness; it is only an influence which awakens undue emotions and evil desires in people and diverts them from heading in the right direction. A person who is a beautiful saint can be a hindrance in leading people to the Lord by presenting only what Christ has done for him, instead of presenting Jesus Christ Himself. Others will be left with this thought— “What a fine person that man is!” That is not being a true “friend of the bridegroom”— I am increasing all the time; He is not.

To maintain this friendship and faithfulness to the Bridegroom, we have to be more careful to have the moral and vital relationship to Him above everything else, including obedience. Sometimes there is nothing to obey and our only task is to maintain a vital connection with Jesus Christ, seeing that nothing interferes with it. Only occasionally is it a matter of obedience. At those times when a crisis arises, we have to find out what God’s will is. Yet most of our life is not spent in trying to be consciously obedient, but in maintaining this relationship— being the “friend of the bridegroom.” Christian work can actually be a means of diverting a person’s focus away from Jesus Christ. Instead of being friends “of the bridegroom,” we may become amateur providences of God to someone else, working against Him while we use His weapons.

 

Streams in the Desert

Faith Pleases God
But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” (Heb. 11:6).

We all need faith for desperate days. The Bible is full of such days. Its record is made up of them, its songs are inspired by them, its prophecy is concerned with them, and its revelation has come through them. The desperate days are the stepping-stones in the path of light. They seem to have been God’s opportunity and man’s school of wisdom.

There is a story of an Old Testament love feast in Psalm 107, and in every story of deliverance the point of desperation gave God His chance. The “wit’s end” of desperation was the beginning of God’s power.

Recall the promise of seed as the stars of heaven, and as the sands of the sea, to a couple as good as dead. Read again the story of the Red Sea and its deliverance, and of Jordan with its ark standing mid-stream. Study once more the prayers of Asa, Jehoshaphat, and Hezekiah, when they were sore pressed and knew not what to do. Go over the history of Nehemiah, Daniel, Hosea, and Habakkuk. Stand with awe in the darkness of Gethsemane, and linger by the grave in Joseph’s garden through those terrible days. Call the witnesses of the early Church, and ask the apostles the story of their desperate days.

Desperation is better than despair. Faith did not make our desperate days. Its work is to sustain and solve them. The only alternative to a desperate faith is despair, and faith holds on and prevails.

There is no more heroic example of desperate faith than that of the three Hebrew children. The situation was desperate, but they answered bravely, “Our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning, fiery furnace; and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king. But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.” I like that, “but if not !”

I have only space to mention Gethsemane. Ponder deeply its “Nevertheless.” “If it is possible…nevertheless!” Deep darkness had settled upon the soul of our Lord. Trust meant anguish unto blood and darkness to the descent of hell–Nevertheless! Nevertheless!

Now get your hymn book and sing your favorite hymn of desperate faith.
–Rev. S. Chadwick

When obstacles and trials seem
Like prison walls to be,
I do the little I can do
And leave the rest to Thee.
And when there seems no chance, no change,
From grief can set me free,
Hope finds its strength in helplessness,
And calmly waits for Thee.

 

Romans 12:2

From: Biblegateway

Do not conform. “Conform” refers to assuming an outward expression that does not reflect what is really inside, a kind of masquerade or act. The word’s form implies that Paul’s readers were already allowing this to happen and must stop. this world. Better translated, “age,” which refers to the system of beliefs, values—or the spirit of the age—at any time current in the world. This sum of contemporary thinking and values forms the moral atmosphere of our world and is always dominated by Satan (cf. 2Co 4:4). transformed. The Gr. word, from which the Eng. word metamorphosis comes, connotes a change in outward appearance. Matthew uses the same word to describe the Transfiguration (Mt 17:2). Just as Christ briefly and in a limited way displayed outwardly His inner, divine nature and glory at the Transfiguration, Christians should outwardly manifest their inner, redeemed natures, not once, however, but daily (cf. 2Co 3:18; Eph 5:18). renewing of your mind. That kind of transformation can occur only as the Holy Spirit changes our thinking through consistent study and meditation of Scripture (Ps 119:11; cf. Col 1:28; 3:10, 16; Php 4:8). The renewed mind is one saturated with and controlled by the Word of God. good, pleasing . . . perfect. Holy living of which God approves. These words borrow from OT sacrificial language and describe a life that is morally and spiritually spotless, just as the sacrificial animals were to be (cf. Lev 22:19–25).

 

Morning

From: Biblegateway

“Betrayest thou the Son of Man with a kiss?”
Luke 22:48

“The kisses of an enemy are deceitful.” Let me be on my guard when the world puts on a loving face, for it will, if possible, betray me as it did my Master, with a kiss. Whenever a man is about to stab religion, he usually professes very great reverence for it. Let me beware of the sleek-faced hypocrisy which is armour-bearer to heresy and infidelity. Knowing the deceivableness of unrighteousness, let me be wise as a serpent to detect and avoid the designs of the enemy. The young man, void of understanding, was led astray by the kiss of the strange woman: may my soul be so graciously instructed all this day, that “the much fair speech” of the world may have no effect upon me. Holy Spirit, let me not, a poor frail son of man, be betrayed with a kiss!

But what if I should be guilty of the same accursed sin as Judas, that son of perdition? I have been baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus; I am a member of his visible Church; I sit at the communion table: all these are so many kisses of my lips. Am I sincere in them? If not, I am a base traitor. Do I live in the world as carelessly as others do, and yet make a profession of being a follower of Jesus? Then I must expose religion to ridicule, and lead men to speak evil of the holy name by which I am called. Surely if I act thus inconsistently I am a Judas, and it were better for me that I had never been born. Dare I hope that I am clear in this matter? Then, O Lord, keep me so. O Lord, make me sincere and true. Preserve me from every false way. Never let me betray my Saviour. I do love thee, Jesus, and though I often grieve thee, yet I would desire to abide faithful even unto death. O God, forbid that I should be a high-soaring professor, and then fall at last into the lake of fire, because I betrayed my Master with a kiss.

Evening

“The Son of man.”
John 3:13

How constantly our Master used the title, the “Son of man!” If he had chosen, he might always have spoken of himself as the Son of God, the Everlasting Father, the Wonderful, the Counsellor, the Prince of Peace; but behold the lowliness of Jesus! He prefers to call himself the Son of man. Let us learn a lesson of humility from our Saviour; let us never court great titles nor proud degrees. There is here, however, a far sweeter thought. Jesus loved manhood so much, that he delighted to honour it; and since it is a high honour, and indeed, the greatest dignity of manhood, that Jesus is the Son of man, he is wont to display this name, that he may as it were hang royal stars upon the breast of manhood, and show forth the love of God to Abraham’s seed. Son of man–whenever he said that word, he shed a halo round the head of Adam’s children. Yet there is perhaps a more precious thought still. Jesus Christ called himself the Son of man to express his oneness and sympathy with his people. He thus reminds us that he is the one whom we may approach without fear. As a man, we may take to him all our griefs and troubles, for he knows them by experience; in that he himself hath suffered as the “Son of man,” he is able to succour and comfort us. All hail, thou blessed Jesus! inasmuch as thou art evermore using the sweet name which acknowledges that thou art a brother and a near kinsman, it is to us a dear token of thy grace, thy humility, thy love.

“Oh see how Jesus trusts himself

Unto our childish love,

As though by his free ways with us

Our earnestness to prove!

His sacred name a common word

On earth he loves to hear;

There is no majesty in him

Which love may not come near.”

Praising God Is The Answer

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Decreasing for His Purpose

From: Utmost.org

If you become a necessity to someone else’s life, you are out of God’s will. As a servant, your primary responsibility is to be a “friend of the bridegroom” (John 3:29). When you see a person who is close to grasping the claims of Jesus Christ, you know that your influence has been used in the right direction. And when you begin to see that person in the middle of a difficult and painful struggle, don’t try to prevent it, but pray that his difficulty will grow even ten times stronger, until no power on earth or in hell could hold him away from Jesus Christ. Over and over again, we try to be amateur providences in someone’s life. We are indeed amateurs, coming in and actually preventing God’s will and saying, “This person should not have to experience this difficulty.” Instead of being friends of the Bridegroom, our sympathy gets in the way. One day that person will say to us, “You are a thief; you stole my desire to follow Jesus, and because of you I lost sight of Him.”

Beware of rejoicing with someone over the wrong thing, but always look to rejoice over the right thing. “…the friend of the bridegroom…rejoices greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is fulfilled. He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:29-30). This was spoken with joy, not with sadness— at last they were to see the Bridegroom! And John said this was his joy. It represents a stepping aside, an absolute removal of the servant, never to be thought of again.

Listen intently with your entire being until you hear the Bridegroom’s voice in the life of another person. And never give any thought to what devastation, difficulties, or sickness it will bring. Just rejoice with godly excitement that His voice has been heard. You may often have to watch Jesus Christ wreck a life before He saves it (see Matthew 10:34).

 

MARCH 24, 2015

From: Crosswalk.com

Going Nowhere or Getting Ready?
GLYNNIS WHITWER

“Now then, you and all these people, get ready to cross the Jordan River into the land I am about to give to them …” Joshua 1:2b (NIV)

I was poised to take the next step in my career and ministry. My three boys were getting older. Life was moving in a sweet groove. Finally, after years of childrearing I was ready to take my work to the next level. Then God stepped in with a shocking request that changed everything.

One minute I was sitting in a woman’s conference, enjoying the speaker’s story. The next, God was pounding on my heart to adopt from Africa. Surprised would be an understatement. Terrified was more like it. But the surety of the request was undeniable.

It took my husband about 60 seconds to agree, and then about six months for us to be certified. But just months after that, two little Liberian sisters (ages 8 and 11) walked into our hearts and homes, and my professional plans came to a halt.

Although we knew their needs would be great, we hadn’t fully understood the multiple wounds those years of deprivation would cause them. Nor the complicated issues we would face. But one thing was certain: My physical and emotional presence was required.

So I started to say “no” to other things. No to new opportunities. No to my old dreams. No to going where my heart thought I was finally headed. And “yes” to caring for my two daughters.

In my prayers, I clearly heard God say this time of stepping back would be three years. I think God didn’t want to overwhelm me, because it’s going on 10 now. And in the beginning, I thought for sure God had replaced my career and ministry dreams with His calling to care for two little girls. And I was completely fine with that.

What I know now, is that not only did God give me the assignment of raising my daughters, He also equipped me for a future I didn’t see coming.

God was taking me somewhere, only I couldn’t see where. And those years that felt like I was going nowhere in my career? They were years of preparation for what God had planned next.

In the Bible, God often told His people to get ready for what was coming next — even when they had no idea what that meant. In our key verse, the Israelites had left Egypt 40 years prior and were close to the land God had promised them. Yet it still must have looked impossible to get there. Not only was there a nation to conquer, but there was a swollen river before them. And yet God said, “Now then, you and all these people, get ready to cross the Jordan River into the land I am about to give to them …” (Joshua 1:2b).

Getting ready takes on many forms. There’s the practical side of getting ready, like packing a tent. But getting ready for what God has planned next is often a spiritual task. The Israelites had to reaffirm their trust in God to do the impossible. They had to submit to His lead and not their own, and they definitely had to wait on God’s perfect timing.

And that’s what happened to me. God needed me to get ready for the next step in my life. In order to do that, I needed to become more dependent on His strength, and less on my abilities. My heart had to be stripped of any remnants of pride and judgment of others. I had to discover the power of the Name of Jesus in a way I’d never experienced from just reading about Him. All of this took time.

What I didn’t see 10 years ago were the doors of opportunity God would open from my home, allowing me to work around my family commitments. I didn’t see how the Internet would grow and allow ministry around the world. But God did.

God knew his plans for me 10 years ago, and they involved my getting ready.

Maybe you feel like your plans have come to a screeching halt. Do you think opportunities are passing you by that won’t come again?

Don’t despair. The Israelites didn’t see that God was about to do multiple miracles. All they were told was, “Get ready.” Maybe that’s just where God has you. If so, what’s coming next is going to be amazing. So get ready.

 

God Deals Well With Us

From: Streams in the Desert

And Jacob said, O God of my father Abraham, and God of my father Isaac, the Lord which saidst unto me, Return unto thy country, and to thy kindred, and I will deal well with thee: Deliver me, I pray thee (Gen. 32:9, 11).

There are many healthy symptoms in that prayer. In some respects it may serve as a mould into which our own spirits may pour themselves, when melted in the fiery furnace of sorrow.

He began by quoting God’s promise: “Thou saidst.” He did so twice (9 and 12). Ah, he has got God in his power then! God puts Himself within our reach in His promises; and when we can say to Him, “Thou saidst,” He cannot say nay. He must do as He has said.

If Jacob was so particular for his oath’s sake, what will not our God be? Be sure in prayer, to get your feet well on a promise; it will give you purchase enough to force open the gates of heaven, and to take it by force.
–Practical Portions for the Prayer-life

Jesus desires that we shall be definite in our requests, and that we shall ask for some special thing. “What will ye that I shall do unto you?” is the question that He asks of every one who in affliction and trial comes to Him. Make your requests with definite earnestness if you would have definite answers. Aimlessness in prayer accounts for so many seemingly unanswered prayers. Be definite in your petition. Fill out your check for something definite, and it will be cashed at the bank of Heaven when presented in Jesus’ Name. Dare to be definite with God.
–Selected

Miss Havergal has said: “Every year, I might almost say every day, that I live, I seem to see more clearly how all the rest and gladness and power of our Christian life hinges on one thing; and that is, taking God at His word, believing that He really means exactly what He says, and accepting the very words in which He reveals His goodness and grace, without substituting others or altering the precise modes and tenses which He has seen fit to use.”

Bring Christ’s Word–Christ’s promise, and Christ’s sacrifice–His blood, with thee, and not one of Heaven’s blessings can be denied thee.
–Adam Clarke


The silver trumpet

From: Biblegateway

“Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.”Isaiah1:18

Suggested Further Reading: Zechariah 3:1-6

When a man believes in Christ, he is in that moment, in God’s sight, as though he had never sinned in all his life. Nay, I will go further, he is that day in a better position than though he had never sinned; for if he had never sinned, he would have had the perfect righteousness of man; but by believing, he is made the righteousness of God in Christ. We had once a cloak that is taken away: when we believe, Christ gives us a robe; but it is an infinitely better one. We lost but a common garment, but he arrays us royally. Strangely indeed is that man clothed who believes in Jesus. Yon thief who is hanging on the cross, is black as hell: he believes, and he is as white as heaven’s own purity. Faith takes away all sin, through the precious blood of Jesus. When a man has once gone down into that sacred laver which is filled with Jesus’ blood, there “is no spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing,” left upon him. His sin has ceased to be; his iniquity is covered; his transgressions have been carried into the wilderness, and are gone. This is the most wonderful thing about the gospel. This does not take away part of our sin, but the whole of it; it does not remove it partially, but entirely; not for a little time, but for ever. “He that believeth on him is not condemned.” And though today you should have committed every crime in the world, yet the moment you believe in Jesus, you are saved; the Spirit of God shall dwell in you to keep you from sin in the future, and the blood of Christ shall plead for you, that sin shall never be laid to your charge.

For meditation: How Satan must hate the doctrine of justification by faith in Christ alone! Never give him the satisfaction of seeing you grow weary of it. “Being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Romans 5:1).

Sermon no. 366
24 March (1861)

 

Future punishment a fearful thing

From: Biblegateway

‘It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.’ Hebrews 10:31

Suggested Further Reading: Romans 5:6–11

It is the highest benevolence to warn men of their danger, and to exhort them to escape from the wrath which will surely come upon them, for ‘It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.’ We feel that it must be a fearful thing to be punished for sin when you remember the atonement. It is our full belief as Christians, that, in order to pardon human sin, it was necessary that God himself should become incarnate, and that the Son of God should suffer excruciating pains, to which the dignity of his person added infinite weight. Brethren, if the wrath of God be a mere trifle, there was no need of a Saviour to deliver us; it were as well to have let so small a matter take its course; or, if the Saviour came merely to save us from a pinch or two, why is so much said in his praise? What need for heaven and earth to ring with the glories of him who would save us from a small mischief? But mark the word. As the sufferings of the Saviour were intense beyond all conception, and as no less a person than God himself must endure these sufferings for us, that must have been an awful, not to say infinite evil, from which there was no other way for us to escape except by the bleeding and dying of God’s dear Son. Think lightly of hell, and you will think lightly of the cross. Think little of the sufferings of lost souls, and you will soon think little of the Saviour who delivers you from them. God grant we may not live to see such a Christ-dishonouring theology dominant in our times.

For meditation: As Spurgeon feared, vital and inseparable biblical doctrines such as the atonement and eternal damnation have come under tremendous attack in recent years in favour of more sophisticated teaching which is more acceptable to human taste. The Bible contrasts the words of the holy prophets and the apostles of our Lord, with the words of ‘scoffers, walking after their own lusts’ (2 Peter 3:2–3). Beware of people who twist the Scriptures to suit themselves (2 Peter 3:16–17).

Sermon no. 682
24 March (1866)

Be Spiritually Minded

 

New American Standard Bible
For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace,

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Romans 8:27
And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.

 

Am I Carnally Minded?

From: Utmost.org

The natural man, or unbeliever, knows nothing about carnality. The desires of the flesh warring against the Spirit, and the Spirit warring against the flesh, which began at rebirth, are what produce carnality and the awareness of it. But Paul said, “Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh” (Galatians 5:16). In other words, carnality will disappear.

Are you quarrelsome and easily upset over small things? Do you think that no one who is a Christian is ever like that? Paul said they are, and he connected these attitudes with carnality. Is there a truth in the Bible that instantly awakens a spirit of malice or resentment in you? If so, that is proof that you are still carnal. If the process of sanctification is continuing in your life, there will be no trace of that kind of spirit remaining.

If the Spirit of God detects anything in you that is wrong, He doesn’t ask you to make it right; He only asks you to accept the light of truth, and then He will make it right. A child of the light will confess sin instantly and stand completely open before God. But a child of the darkness will say, “Oh, I can explain that.” When the light shines and the Spirit brings conviction of sin, be a child of the light. Confess your wrongdoing, and God will deal with it. If, however, you try to vindicate yourself, you prove yourself to be a child of the darkness.

What is the proof that carnality has gone? Never deceive yourself; when carnality is gone you will know it— it is the most real thing you can imagine. And God will see to it that you have a number of opportunities to prove to yourself the miracle of His grace. The proof is in a very practical test. You will find yourself saying, “If this had happened before, I would have had the spirit of resentment!” And you will never cease to be the most amazed person on earth at what God has done for you on the inside.

Gate Crashers

“I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.” Matthew 16:18

There is a new twist in the war on terror.

The Pentagon is building a new breed of warships that are designed to fight terrorism. This new class of battleship will carry a crew of 360 sailors and 700 combat-ready Marines to be delivered ashore by helicopters and assault craft. But, get this: One of the fleet, the USS New York, has been built from 24 tons of scrap metal from the wreckage of the World Trade Center terrorist attack on September 11, 2001. Steel from the World Trade Center was melted down in a foundry in Amite, Louisiana, to cast the ship’s bow section. Talk about turning the tables on terrorists. The fallout of terrorism’s best moment is used to defeat it. What a great idea!

But it’s no better than the idea that our God had when He took us, scraped and trashed by the terrorism of sin, and processed us through a redemptive meltdown to re-tool us for war against the terror of hell. As Paul said, we are a new creation in Jesus (2 Corinthians 5:17), having been delivered from the grip of darkness and placed into the kingdom of God’s dear Son (Colossians 1:13)!  Why the meltdown and re-creation? To equip us to aggressively go against the forces of darkness in our world. To crash the gates of hell (Matthew 16:18)!

I remember my wrongheaded thinking about this verse. When Jesus said that the gates of hell would not stand against His church, I always pictured His words as a statement about how safe we are from the power of hell. It probably was a mindset leftover from the fortress mentality of my early days in church. Back then we spent a lot of time talking about how hellish our world was and encouraged each other to hunker down ’til Jesus comes. But Jesus never intended that we would hunker down. Christ’s words mean that we are to pummel the gates of hell by aggressively taking its territory with the superior power of acts of righteousness.

In a world where we have forgotten how to treat each other, we crash the gates of division and alienation with acts of kindness and the healing power of forgiveness. We cleanse the toxic dumps of prideful acts and self-serving agendas with the power of humility and servanthood. Into a world run by the hellish treachery of genocide, oppression, and greed, we are to become advocates for the abused and the poor. In the face of prejudice and injustice, the church is to rise up with open arms to all people regardless, and seek to bring justice to bear on behalf of the marginalized and maligned. And, for those captives still chained in sin, we storm the gates to set the captives free with the power of the gospel!

Amazing, isn’t it?! Taken from the scrap pile of hell, we former captives have been melted down and recreated in the likeness of Jesus, who as our champion leads the charge and guarantees the victory!

While the Pentagon is building new warships, Jesus is busy building His church. And while I don’t know if we can win the war on terror, I do know this—if we will follow our leader, hell doesn’t stand a chance!

 

Maintaining the House of God

From: Streams in the Desert

Out of the spoils won in battle did they dedicate to maintain the house of the Lord (1 Chron. 26:27).

Physical force is stored in the bowels of the earth, in the coal mines, which came from the fiery heat that burned up great forests in ancient ages; and so spiritual force is stored in the depths of our being, through the very pain which we cannot understand.

Some day we shall find that the spoils we have won from our trials were just preparing us to become true “Great Hearts” in the Pilgrim’s Progress, and to lead our fellow pilgrims triumphantly through trial to the city of the King. But let us never forget that the source of helping other people must be victorious suffering. The whining, murmuring pang never does anybody any good.

Paul did not carry a cemetery with him, but a chorus of victorious praise; and the harder the trial, the more he trusted and rejoiced, shouting from the very altar of sacrifice. He said, “Yea, and if I be offered upon the service and sacrifice of your faith, I joy and rejoice with you all.” Lord, help me this day to draw strength from all that comes to me!
–Days of Heaven upon Earth

He placed me in a little cage,
Away from gardens fair;
But I must sing the sweetest songs
Because He placed me there.
Not beat my wings against the cage
If it’s my Maker’s will,
But raise my voice to heaven’s gate
And sing the louder still!

 

March 23

From: Through the Bible

Deuteronomy 5:29 (NIV) 29Oh, that their hearts would be inclined to fear me and keep all my commands always, so that it might go well with them and their children forever!

The church of the last century took a giant swing from preaching the fear of God to preaching the love of God. Both are important and both are needed. We need to see all of the character of God, as a focus on only one aspect is sure to get us off balance. When Jonathan Edwards preached his famous sermon, Sinners in the Hand of an Angry God, the listeners had such a vision of hell that they clung to their pews for fear of falling in. Today we almost laugh at that image, but remember that people were coming to Christ and confessing their sins. When Moody began to be popular he preached along this same vein, until he heard a young evangelist preach on the love of God. He saw people accepting Christ and was upset. Then he began to realize what a wonderful drawing power the love of God has on man. “We love Him because He first loved us.” He saw it was true in the Scriptures. Gradually American preaching started to shift from hellfire and damnation to the love of God.

Neither emphasis is wrong, for both are true of the nature of God. God hates sin because it destroys us. He hates sin because it is contrary to who He is and because He is good. He is a just and righteous God that will give a just sentence to those who insistently rebel against His goodness. Hell is real and is perfect justice for all who will be sent there.

In today’s passage, we see again that God has good intentions for us. To disobey means to walk toward destruction and evil. That is why we need to fear the Holy One and heed His commands. We can love Him and fear Him when we realize His commands are out of concern and love for us, to keep us from the Destroyer.

Consider: Incline your heart to fear Him and keep His commands.

Evening

March 23

Matthew 23:5-8 (NIV) 5“Everything they do is done for men to see: They make their phylacteries wide and the tassels on their garments long; 6they love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues; 7they love to be greeted in the marketplaces and to have men call them ‘Rabbi.’ 8“But you are not to be called ‘Rabbi,’ for you have only one Master and you are all brothers.

The religious leaders of Jesus’ day had one motivating force, ‘what will men think of me?’ Their religion was about pride in being the spiritual elite. They prayed in public with flowery words, distorted their faces when fasting, and publicly gave their tithes that were accurate down to the last mint leaf. They wore boxes that contained Scripture, which the Law encouraged, but they made extra large. They believed the tassel of the Messiah’s garment would have the power to heal, so they made theirs extra long as if to say, “Perhaps I am He.” Jesus said their reward for such effort was the respect of man. They had the titles, the best seats, and the places of honor. That is all.

Jesus taught His disciples that the way of the Pharisee was not to be their way. They were to please God not man. They were not to seek after the title, Rabbi, which means teacher. Why? There is only one Master. We are all on equal footing as brothers. We are all being taught by the Teacher, the Holy Spirit. Man so desires to have a king, a hero, an elevated figure to look to. We have one King, one Hero, one elevated One. When we get our eyes on a man, we are taking them off of Jesus. The Apostle Paul said to follow him, but he is quick to add, “as I follow Christ”. Look past the leader to Jesus. If the leader is following closely in the footprints of the Leader, follow on.

This is not a word for us to judge others, but to search our own hearts. Why am I acting as I do? Who do I want others to observe my actions? Would I do this if no one ever knew? Jesus encourages us to act in secret so that only our Father will see. Then our reward will be entirely from Him.

Consider: As you do things for the Lord, make every effort to see that no one knows. Keep it between you and God.

The Burning Hearts

 

New American Standard Bible
And behold, two of them were going that very day to a village named Emmaus, which was about seven miles from Jerusalem. Luke 24:13

New American Standard Bible
They said to one another, “Were not our hearts burning within us while He was speaking to us on the road, while He was explaining the Scriptures to us?” Luke 24:32

 

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The Burning Heart

From: Utmost.org

We need to learn this secret of the burning heart. Suddenly Jesus appears to us, fires are set ablaze, and we are given wonderful visions; but then we must learn to maintain the secret of the burning heart— a heart that can go through anything. It is the simple, dreary day, with its commonplace duties and people, that smothers the burning heart— unless we have learned the secret of abiding in Jesus.

Much of the distress we experience as Christians comes not as the result of sin, but because we are ignorant of the laws of our own nature. For instance, the only test we should use to determine whether or not to allow a particular emotion to run its course in our lives is to examine what the final outcome of that emotion will be. Think it through to its logical conclusion, and if the outcome is something that God would condemn, put a stop to it immediately. But if it is an emotion that has been kindled by the Spirit of God and you don’t allow it to have its way in your life, it will cause a reaction on a lower level than God intended. That is the way unrealistic and overly emotional people are made. And the higher the emotion, the deeper the level of corruption, if it is not exercised on its intended level. If the Spirit of God has stirred you, make as many of your decisions as possible irrevocable, and let the consequences be what they will. We cannot stay forever on the “mount of transfiguration,” basking in the light of our mountaintop experience (see Mark 9:1-9). But we must obey the light we received there; we must put it into action. When God gives us a vision, we must transact business with Him at that point, no matter what the cost.

We cannot kindle when we will
The fire which in the heart resides,
The spirit bloweth and is still,
In mystery our soul abides;
But tasks in hours of insight willed
Can be through hours of gloom fulfilled.

A Tongue That Moves Dirt

From: Getmorestrength

“A gossip betrays a confidence, but a trustworthy man keeps a secret.” Proverbs 11:13

R. G. LeTourneau, the owner of a large earth-moving equipment company, often told this story: “We used to have a scraper known as the Model G. Somebody asked one of our salesmen what the ‘G’ stood for. The salesman promptly replied, ‘Well, I guess the G stands for gossip, because like gossip, this machine moves a lot of dirt, and moves it fast!’”

Have you ever had “the dirt” on someone? Through some turn of events, maybe you know of another person’s misfortune or mistake, and the news is burning a hole in your tongue. Is it okay to tell others? Is it okay to tell someone so that both of you can pray more intelligently about it? Or is telling it to anyone just plain old gossip?

Gossip is defined as idle chatter that can injure another’s integrity and reputation. This category of verbal sin does not always have malicious intent, but it’s always damaging. Closely linked with gossip is the idea of whispering. One of the Hebrew words for gossip means “whispering that is damaging.” In the New Testament, the Greek word for gossip is pronounced beginning with the sound “p-s-s-s,” which is often how gossip is communicated. Gossip can be true information but is always information that is not in the best interests of those who it is about or those who are hearing it.

So, why is it so tempting to look both ways, and then whisper juicy tidbits into the ear of the person next to us? Perhaps it’s because gossip is a way of promoting ourselves. Having the latest news means that we are on the inside track—that we have “the scoop.” It has been said that if a person known as a gossip doesn’t know about it, it’s not worth knowing—which isn’t a compliment! Gossip makes us the center of attention; all ears are tuned in to our frequency. Having and spreading information about others gives us a sort of power—or at least the illusion of it. In the spirit of self-promotion, gossip neutralizes our failures by making sure that others know the failures of someone else. To put it bluntly, we like to gossip because it makes us feel good. But then, a lot of sins make us feel good. Like poisoned sugar, gossip seems sweet but is deadly.

The problem with gossip is that it often backfires. Proverbs 11:13 says: “A gossip betrays a confidence, but a trustworthy man keeps a secret.” If you like to gossip, you probably have friends or acquaintances who wonder if they can trust you with confidential information. Or, you can understand why they might think: If they are telling me about that, who are they talking to about me? It’s no wonder that Proverbs tells us that a gossiper separates the best of friends (Proverbs 16:28).

We should also note with concern that gossips are listed among the defiled people who are “God-haters” (Romans 1:28-30). That’s a serious charge!

It may be true, it may be hot, and it may be interesting, but if it’s not constructive and helpful, it’s gossip. And it’s a problem! If you have to tell someone, take it to the Lord in prayer. Everyone else is out of bounds.

 

God Sees Your Affliction

From: Streams in the Desert

And when forty years were expired, there appeared to him in the wilderness of Mount Sinai an angel of the Lord in a flame of fire in a bush… saying… I have seen the affliction of my people which is in Egypt, and I have heard their groaning, and am come down to deliver them. And now come, I will send thee into Egypt (Acts 7:30-34).

That was a long wait in preparation for a great mission. When God delays, He is not inactive. He is getting ready His instruments, He is ripening our powers; and at the Appointed moment we shall arise equal to our task. Even Jesus of Nazareth was thirty years in privacy, growing in wisdom before He began His work.
–Dr. Jowett

God is never in a hurry but spends years with those He expects to greatly use. He never thinks the days of preparation too long or too dull.

The hardest ingredient in suffering is often time. A short, sharp pang is easily borne, but when a sorrow drags its weary way through long, monotonous years, and day after day returns with the same dull routine of hopeless agony, the heart loses its strength, and without the grace of God, is sure to sink into the very sullenness of despair.

Joseph’s was a long trial, and God often has to burn His lessons into the depths of our being by the fires of protracted pain. “He shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver,” but He knows how long, and like a true goldsmith He stops the fires the moment He sees His image in the glowing metal.

We may not see now the outcome of the beautiful plan which God is hiding in the shadow of His hand; it yet may be long concealed; but faith may be sure that He is sitting on the throne, calmly waiting the hour when, with adoring rapture, we shall say, “All things have worked together for good.”

Like Joseph, let us be more careful to learn all the lessons in the school of sorrow than we are anxious for the hour of deliverance. There is a “need-be” for every lesson, and when we are ready, our deliverance will surely come, and we shall find that we could not have stood in our place of higher service without the very things that were taught us in the ordeal. God is educating us for the future, for higher service and nobler blessings; and if we have the qualities that fit us for a throne, nothing can keep us from it when God’s time has come.

Don’t steal tomorrow out of God’s hands. Give God time to speak to you and reveal His will. He is never too late; learn to wait.
–Selected

He never comes too late; He knoweth what is best;
Vex not thyself in vain; until He cometh–REST.

Do not run impetuously before the Lord; learn to wait His time: the minute-hand as well as the hour-hand must point the exact moment for action.

 


 

Morning

From: Biblegateway.com

“And he went a little farther, and fell on his face, and prayed.”
Matthew 26:39

There are several instructive features in our Saviour’s prayer in his hour of trial. It was lonely prayer. He withdrew even from his three favoured disciples. Believer, be much in solitary prayer, especially in times of trial. Family prayer, social prayer, prayer in the Church, will not suffice, these are very precious, but the best beaten spice will smoke in your censer in your private devotions, where no ear hears but God’s.

It was humble prayer. Luke says he knelt, but another evangelist says he “fell on his face.” Where, then, must be thy place, thou humble servant of the great Master? What dust and ashes should cover thy head! Humility gives us good foot-hold in prayer. There is no hope of prevalence with God unless we abase ourselves that he may exalt us in due time.

It was filial prayer. “Abba, Father.” You will find it a stronghold in the day of trial to plead your adoption. You have no rights as a subject, you have forfeited them by your treason; but nothing can forfeit a child’s right to a father’s protection. Be not afraid to say, “My Father, hear my cry.”

Observe that it was persevering prayer. He prayed three times. Cease not until you prevail. Be as the importunate widow, whose continual coming earned what her first supplication could not win. Continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving.

Lastly, it was the prayer of resignation. “Nevertheless, not as I will, but as thou wilt.” Yield, and God yields. Let it be as God wills, and God will determine for the best. Be thou content to leave thy prayer in his hands, who knows when to give, and how to give, and what to give, and what to withhold. So pleading, earnestly, importunately, yet with humility and resignation, thou shalt surely prevail.

 

Evening

“Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am.”
John 17:24

O death! why dost thou touch the tree beneath whose spreading branches weariness hath rest? Why dost thou snatch away the excellent of the earth, in whom is all our delight? If thou must use thine axe, use it upon the trees which yield no fruit; thou mightest be thanked then. But why wilt thou fell the goodly cedars of Lebanon? O stay thine axe, and spare the righteous. But no, it must not be; death smites the goodliest of our friends; the most generous, the most prayerful, the most holy, the most devoted must die. And why? It is through Jesus’ prevailing prayer–“Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am.” It is that which bears them on eagle’s wings to heaven. Every time a believer mounts from this earth to paradise, it is an answer to Christ’s prayer. A good old divine remarks, “Many times Jesus and his people pull against one another in prayer. You bend your knee in prayer and say Father, I will that thy saints be with me where I am;’ Christ says, Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am.'” Thus the disciple is at cross-purposes with his Lord. The soul cannot be in both places: the beloved one cannot be with Christ and with you too. Now, which pleader shall win the day? If you had your choice; if the King should step from his throne, and say, “Here are two supplicants praying in opposition to one another, which shall be answered?” Oh! I am sure, though it were agony, you would start from your feet, and say, “Jesus, not my will, but thine be done.” You would give up your prayer for your loved one’s life, if you could realize the thoughts that Christ is praying in the opposite direction–“Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am.” Lord, thou shalt have them. By faith we let them go.