Tag Archives: desire

The Supreme Climb

 

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Lone climber reaching a mountain topLone climber in the Alps
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Hiker stands on pinnacle summit, arms outstretched

The Supreme Climb

A person’s character determines how he interprets God’s will (see Psalm 18:25-26). Abraham interpreted God’s command to mean that he had to kill his son, and he could only leave this traditional belief behind through the pain of a tremendous ordeal. God could purify his faith in no other way. If we obey what God says according to our sincere belief, God will break us from those traditional beliefs that misrepresent Him. There are many such beliefs which must be removed-for example, that God removes a child because his mother loves him too much. That is the devil’s lie and a travesty on the true nature of God! If the devil can hinder us from taking the supreme climb and getting rid of our wrong traditional beliefs about God, he will do so. But if we will stay true to God, God will take us through an ordeal that will serve to bring us into a better knowledge of Himself.

The great lesson to be learned from Abraham’s faith in God is that he was prepared to do anything for God. He was there to obey God, no matter what contrary belief of his might be violated by his obedience. Abraham was not devoted to his own convictions or else he would have slain Isaac and said that the voice of the angel was actually the voice of the devil. That is the attitude of a fanatic. If you will remain true to God, God will lead you directly through every barrier and right into the inner chamber of the knowledge of Himself. But you must always be willing to come to the point of giving up your own convictions and traditional beliefs. Don’t ask God to test you. Never declare as Peter did that you are willing to do anything, even “to go . . . both to prison and to death” (Luke 22:33). Abraham did not make any such statement— he simply remained true to God, and God purified his faith.

For Just Such a Time

From: Christianity.com

“For if you remain completely silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” – (Esther 4:14)

I love the story of Esther because in some ways, it reminds me of a fairy tale, except it is true. Esther was a beautiful Jewish girl who was plucked from obscurity, won a beauty contest, and became the queen of the kingdom. Then there was a wicked man named Haman, who hatched a plot to have all of the Jews put to death. It was Esther’s uncle, Mordecai, who came to her and described the plight of her fellow Jews, saying, “For if you remain completely silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14).

Esther was the queen who saved a nation. She used her influence with the king, the plot was averted, and the people were saved. Then, in perfect poetic justice, Haman, the guy who hatched the plot, ended up hanging on the very gallows he had erected for others. She was there behind the scenes. Esther could have said, “I don’t want to jeopardize my position. No one will ever find out I am a Jew. I am going to be careful and play it safe.” But instead, she put everything on the line.

Who knows that God has not put you where you are right now for such a time as this? You may be the only Christian in your family or the only believer in your neighborhood. You may be the only follower of Jesus Christ in your workplace or in your classroom. Like Esther, will you stand up for such a time as this? Will you use your influence where you can, when you can?

April 26

From: Through The Bible

Joshua 9:14-15 (NIV) 14The men of Israel sampled their provisions but did not inquire of the LORD. 15Then Joshua made a treaty of peace with them to let them live, and the leaders of the assembly ratified it by oath.

After Israel conquered Ai, the Hivites that occupied nearby towns concocted a deception to save their lives. They sent a group of men that pretended they had come on a long journey. They had bags of moldy bread and looked travel weary. Actually they were the next towns that Israel would battle.

The leaders of Israel saw the dry wineskins, the patched sandals, and the worn bags with moldy bread and believed their story. Besides, it was kind of uplifting to hear how people in far off lands had heard the testimony of what God was doing for them. Great testimony wasn’t it?

They ate together and made a treaty with these deceivers. They had believed what their eyes had seen instead of consulting with the LORD. Now there was nothing they could do but put those people to work serving Israel. They could not take their lands as God had purposed for them.

Satan is the Great Deceiver. He often brings in subtle lies that make you feel good about yourself. It may even look like it is giving glory to God. We must consult the LORD. We must ask God to lead and not be led by our natural senses. We are easily tricked, but God is never deceived. He will always give us the best advice. It may not be a total loss, but it is not the highest and best that God had planned for us. Consult God in His Word, in prayer, through godly counsel and walk by faith not by sight.

Consider: Am I trusting God, or my senses?

God’s MIghty Deeds

Luke 1:51-53 (NIV) 51He has performed mighty deeds with his arm; he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts. 52He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble. 53He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty.

Today’s passage is the rest of Mary’s Holy Spirit inspired song upon meeting her cousin Elizabeth. (see April 25 evening) This was an amazing event in history. The woman whose womb holds the forerunner of the Messiah and the last Old Testament prophet had just met her cousin whose womb held the Messiah. They were both filled with the Spirit and uttered prophetic words. Mary’s words are believed to have originally come forth as a song.

In the latter half of the song, we have the passage for today. It is a sweeping view of the work of God. It gives us a principle of the way God works. God is writing history by His mighty acts. Those who are proud, even secretly within their hearts, are scattered. Pride is such an offense to God because He knows how utterly needy and poor man is. Pride denies the true condition of man and the wonder of God. God takes the rulers off their thrones and lifts up the humble. The people who think they have power find that God can take that power from them in a moment. It is the humble that find themselves exalted.

Near Bethlehem is Herod’s incredible structure, the Herodium. Like a giant hill on the landscape, this towering circular structure is an architectural wonder. Underneath it are vast cisterns for water storage. Before it was a giant water arena in which sea battles were performed that included hippos. Surely the King of the Jews would be born in such a magnificent place. No, the incarnate God was born in the shadow of this structure in a little rock grotto. The humble unknown woman from Nazareth, a tiny, despised town in the far north, gave birth to the God-man, Jesus. God lifted up the humble.

Those who are hungering and thirsting for righteousness will be filled. They know they are needy. They know God is great. They know He is their only hope. They touch reality. May we all lose our pride in recognition of the reality of our sinful condition and the awesome sufficiency of God.

Consider: Your view of this reality will determine whether you go away hungry or filled.

Hebrews 7:1-28 (Good News Translation)

From; American Bible Society

God’s Word: Giving Us Hope

Introduction

Hebrews 7:1-28: God sent Jesus to make a new agreement with God’s people. In it God makes a new promise that goes beyond the promises God gave to Moses and the people of Israel. The old agreement was based on the Law, but the new agreement is based on Christ’s sacrifice to take away sins.

Today’s Scripture: Hebrews 7:26a

Jesus, then, is the High Priest that meets our needs. He is holy; he has no fault or sin in him.

Today’s Reading

1 This Melchizedek was king of Salem and a priest of the Most High God. As Abraham was coming back from the battle in which he defeated the four kings, Melchizedek met him and blessed him, 2 and Abraham gave him one tenth of all he had taken. (The first meaning of Melchizedek’s name is “King of Righteousness”; and because he was king of Salem, his name also means “King of Peace.”) 3 There is no record of Melchizedek’s father or mother or of any of his ancestors; no record of his birth or of his death. He is like the Son of God; he remains a priest forever. 4 You see, then, how great he was. Abraham, our famous ancestor, gave him one tenth of all he got in the battle. 5 And those descendants of Levi who are priests are commanded by the Law to collect one tenth from the people of Israel, that is, from their own people, even though they are also descendants of Abraham. 6 Melchizedek was not descended from Levi, but he collected one tenth from Abraham and blessed him, the man who received God’s promises. 7There is no doubt that the one who blesses is greater than the one who is blessed. 8 In the case of the priests the tenth is collected by men who die; but as for Melchizedek the tenth was collected by one who lives, as the scripture says. 9 And, so to speak, when Abraham paid the tenth, Levi (whose descendants collect the tenth) also paid it. 10 For Levi had not yet been born, but was, so to speak, in the body of his ancestor Abraham when Melchizedek met him. 11 It was on the basis of the levitical priesthood that the Law was given to the people of Israel. Now, if the work of the levitical priests had been perfect, there would have been no need for a different kind of priest to appear, one who is in the priestly order of Melchizedek, not of Aaron. 12 For when the priesthood is changed, there also has to be a change in the law. 13 And our Lord, of whom these things are said, belonged to a different tribe, and no member of his tribe ever served as a priest. 14 It is well known that he was born a member of the tribe of Judah; and Moses did not mention this tribe when he spoke of priests. 15 The matter becomes even plainer; a different priest has appeared, who is like Melchizedek. 16 He was made a priest, not by human rules and regulations, but through the power of a life which has no end. 17 For the scripture says, “You will be a priest forever, in the priestly order of Melchizedek.” 18 The old rule, then, is set aside, because it was weak and useless. 19 For the Law of Moses could not make anything perfect. And now a better hope has been provided through which we come near to God. 20 In addition, there is also God’s vow. There was no such vow when the others were made priests. 21 But Jesus became a priest by means of a vow when God said to him,“The Lord has made a solemn promiseand will not take it back:“You will be a priest forever.””22 This difference, then, also makes Jesus the guarantee of a better covenant. 23 There is another difference: there were many of those other priests, because they died and could not continue their work. 24But Jesus lives on forever, and his work as priest does not pass on to someone else. 25 And so he is able, now and always, to save those who come to God through him, because he lives forever to plead with God for them. 26 Jesus, then, is the High Priest that meets our needs. He is holy; he has no fault or sin in him; he has been set apart from sinners and raised above the heavens. 27 He is not like other high priests; he does not need to offer sacrifices every day for his own sins first and then for the sins of the people. He offered one sacrifice, once and for all, when he offered himself. 28 The Law of Moses appoints men who are imperfect to be high priests; but God’s promise made with the vow, which came later than the Law, appoints the Son, who has been made perfect forever.

Reflect

In biblical times, priests made sacrifices as an act of thanksgiving and also to seek God’s forgiveness for the sins of the people. According to verses 20-28, what is the difference between the sacrifice Jesus offered and the ones offered by the priests and high priests of Israel? What does Jesus’ sacrifice mean to you?

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“Ready in Season”

Many of us suffer from the unbalanced tendency to “be ready” only “out of season.” The season does not refer to time; it refers to us. This verse says, “Preach the Word! Be ready in season and out of season.” In other words, we should “be ready” whether we feel like it or not. If we do only what we feel inclined to do, some of us would never do anything. There are some people who are totally unemployable in the spiritual realm. They are spiritually feeble and weak, and they refuse to do anything unless they are supernaturally inspired. The proof that our relationship is right with God is that we do our best whether we feel inspired or not.

One of the worst traps a Christian worker can fall into is to become obsessed with his own exceptional moments of inspiration. When the Spirit of God gives you a time of inspiration and insight, you tend to say, “Now that I’ve experienced this moment, I will always be like this for God.” No, you will not, and God will make sure of that. Those times are entirely the gift of God. You cannot give them to yourself when you choose. If you say you will only be at your best for God, as during those exceptional times, you actually become an intolerable burden on Him. You will never do anything unless God keeps you consciously aware of His inspiration to you at all times. If you make a god out of your best moments, you will find that God will fade out of your life, never to return until you are obedient in the work He has placed closest to you, and until you have learned not to be obsessed with those exceptional moments He has given you.

April 25

From: Through The Bible

Luke 1:46-49 (NIV) 46And Mary said: “My soul glorifies the Lord 47and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, 48for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed, 49for the Mighty One has done great things for me– holy is his name.

The angel Gabriel shared a secret with Mary. He told her that her cousin Elizabeth was six months pregnant. Mary, now pregnant herself, went to see her. As soon as Elizabeth heard Mary’s voice, the baby in her womb jumped. Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke a word of revelation. She knew that Mary was the mother of her Lord! She told Mary she was blessed among women.

Then Mary uttered her song of praise. She acknowledged the blessing God had given her, the greatness of the miraculous conception. Then she added that God’s name is holy. Yes! He is utterly apart from creation and yet He is imminently present. He is completely pure, and yet He even became physically present to redeem fallen man.

In the womb of Mary, tiny hands were forming. Those hands had designed Mary. They had set the earth in motion. They had thrown the stars in space. This was the miracle of all miracles, that God could become physically manifest. It was the greatest expression of love ever seen. It would culminate in the cross and ultimately resurrection. If you can accept this miracle, all the other miracles are only natural results of this one. Either this story is the greatest lie the world has ever known and Christmas is a total distortion of history, or God became a man to redeem you and me. If it is true, and the life of Jesus verified it, then we had better heed the words of the God who physically manifested Himself for our sake.

In a metaphoric way, the baby growing in Mary’s womb is like Christ being formed in us. As time marches on, more and more of the life of Christ should be formed within us, until He is manifested in our lives.

Consider: Let that life in you be expressed in all His fullness.

 

Christ knows our name

From: Streams In The Desert

And there was Mary Magdalene and the other Mary, sitting over against the sepulchre (Matt. 27:61).

How strangely stupid is grief. It neither learns nor knows nor wishes to learn or know. When the sor rowing sisters sat over against the door of God’s  sepulchre, did they see the two thousand years that have passed triumphing away? Did they see any thing but this: “Our Christ is gone!”

Your Christ and my Christ came from their loss; Myriad mourning hearts have had resurrection in the midst of their grief; and yet the sorrowing watchers looked at the seed-form of this result, and saw nothing. What they regarded as the end of life was the very preparation for coronation; for Christ was silent that He might live again in tenfold power.

They saw it not. They mourned, they wept, and went away, and came again, driven by their hearts to the sepulchre. Still it was a sepulchre, unprophetic, voiceless, lusterless.

So with us. Every man sits over against the sepulchre in his garden, in the first instance, and says, “This woe is irremediable. I see no benefit in it. I will take no comfort in it.” And yet, right in our deepest and worst mishaps, often, our Christ is lying, waiting for resurrection.

Where our death seems to be, there our Saviour is. Where the end of hope is, there is the brightest beginning of fruition. Where the darkness is thickest, there the bright beaming light that never is set is about to emerge. When the whole experience is consummated, then we find that a garden is not disfigured by a sepulchre.

Our joys are made better if there be sorrow in the midst of them. And our sorrows are made bright by the joys that God has planted around about them. The flowers may not be pleasing to us, they may not be such as we are fond of plucking, but they are heart-flowers, love, hope, faith, joy, peace–these are flowers which are planted around about every grave that is sunk in the Christian heart.

‘Twas by a path of sorrows drear
Christ entered into rest;
And shall I look for roses here,
Or think that earth is blessed?
Heaven’s whitest lilies blow
From earth’s sharp crown of woe.
Who here his cross can meekly bear,
Shall wear the kingly purple there.

High-Tech Communication

From: Getmorestrength.org.

Now we have received . . . the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God. —1 Corinthians 2:12

When it comes to communication, our world is becoming increasingly high-tech. The popularity of things like Twitter and Facebook might cause some to think the Bible is too old-school. The tech-savvy people of our world might feel deterred because there are no sounds and no nifty graphics in the Bible. But the truth is, there’s more high-tech power in God’s Word than in any cutting-edge communication tool our world will ever know.

It’s not uncommon for a pastor to be told, “When you said that in your message, it was just what I needed.” Somehow during the sermon, God spoke to the person’s heart with a message tailor-made for him or her. If you’ve ever read the Bible and sensed God speaking directly to you, you know what I’m talking about. God has hard-wired you with His Spirit, who illumines your mind to understand His Word.

Imagine getting a “text message” directly from the Creator of the universe telling you exactly what you need at exactly the right time. No matter how high-tech this world gets, you’ll never experience a more powerful mode of communication!

Rejoice in the reality that “we have received . . . the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God” (1 Cor. 2:12).

Give me the insight, Lord,
As I hear Your Word today,
So I will truly understand
Your message and Your way. —Monroe

The Bible may be old, but its truths are always new.

A Worthy Offering

 

A Worthy Offering

From: Get More Strength

If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin lies at the door. —Genesis 4:7

I was delighted when a mutual friend gave my neighbor a Bible. But my neighbor told me she stopped reading it because she couldn’t understand why God would be so unfair as to reject Cain’s offering. “After all,” she said, “as a farmer, he simply brought to God what he had. Did God expect him to buy a different kind of sacrifice?” Sadly, she had missed the point.

It wasn’t that God didn’t like vegetables. Rather, He knew that Cain’s offering was masking an unrighteous attitude. Cain wasn’t fully committed to God, as expressed by the fact that he wasn’t living according to God’s ways.

It’s easy to worship God on the outside while stubbornly keeping territory from Him on the inside. Jude writes about outwardly religious people who use religious activities to cover the reality of their sinful lives: “Woe to them! For they have gone in the way of Cain” (Jude 1:11). We can faithfully serve God, sing His praises, and give sacrificially to His work. But God doesn’t want any of that without our hearts.

Does the Lord take priority over our plans and dreams? Is He worth more than the sin that tempts us? When we express to Him that He is more worthy than anything or anyone else in our lives, it’s an offering He won’t refuse.

Lord, may our worship and our praise,
From hearts surrendered to Your ways,
Be worthy offerings of love
For all Your blessings from above. —Sper

God won’t refuse a heart that is surrendered to Him.

God’s Word: Giving Us Hope

From: American Bible Society

Introduction

Hebrews 4:14—5:14: God made Jesus the High Priest who “became the source of eternal salvation for all those who obey him.” Believers are encouraged to approach God’s throne of grace and mercy with confidence.

Today’s Scripture: Hebrews 4:14b

For we have a great High Priest who has gone into the very presence of God—Jesus, the Son of God.

Today’s Reading

14 Let us, then, hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we have a great High Priest who has gone into the very presence of God—Jesus, the Son of God. 15 Our High Priest is not one who cannot feel sympathy for our weaknesses. On the contrary, we have a High Priest who was tempted in every way that we are, but did not sin. 16 Let us have confidence, then, and approach God’s throne, where there is grace. There we will receive mercy and find grace to help us just when we need it. 1 Every high priest is chosen from his fellow-men and appointed to serve God on their behalf, to offer sacrifices and offerings for sins. 2 Since he himself is weak in many ways, he is able to be gentle with those who are ignorant and make mistakes. 3And because he is himself weak, he must offer sacrifices not only for the sins of the people but also for his own sins. 4 No one chooses for himself the honor of being a high priest. It is only by God’s call that a man is made a high priest—just as Aaron was. 5 In the same way, Christ did not take upon himself the honor of being a high priest. Instead, God said to him,“You are my Son;today I have become your Father.” 6 He also said in another place,“You will be a priest forever,in the priestly order of Melchizedek.” 7 In his life on earth Jesus made his prayers and requests with loud cries and tears to God, who could save him from death. Because he was humble and devoted, God heard him. 8 But even though he was God’s Son, he learned through his sufferings to be obedient. 9 When he was made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all those who obey him, 10 and God declared him to be high priest, in the priestly order of Melchizedek. 11 There is much we have to say about this matter, but it is hard to explain to you, because you are so slow to understand. 12 There has been enough time for you to be teachers—yet you still need someone to teach you the first lessons of God’s message. Instead of eating solid food, you still have to drink milk. 13 Anyone who has to drink milk is still a child, without any experience in the matter of right and wrong. 14 Solid food, on the other hand, is for adults, who through practice are able to distinguish between good and evil.

Reflect

How is Jesus described in verse 4:15? What does this verse teach you about Jesus? Where in your life do you encounter temptation? What does knowing that Jesus can empathize with your experience mean to you?

The Warning Against Desiring Spiritual Success

Worldliness is not the trap that most endangers us as Christian workers; nor is it sin. The trap we fall into is extravagantly desiring spiritual success; that is, success measured by, and patterned after, the form set by this religious age in which we now live. Never seek after anything other than the approval of God, and always be willing to go “outside the camp, bearing His reproach” (Hebrews 13:13). In Luke 10:20  , Jesus told the disciples not to rejoice in successful service, and yet this seems to be the one thing in which most of us do rejoice. We have a commercialized view— we count how many souls have been saved and sanctified, we thank God, and then we think everything is all right. Yet our work only begins where God’s grace has laid the foundation. Our work is not to save souls, but to disciple them. Salvation and sanctification are the work of God’s sovereign grace, and our work as His disciples is to disciple others’ lives until they are totally yielded to God. One life totally devoted to God is of more value to Him than one hundred lives which have been simply awakened by His Spirit. As workers for God, we must reproduce our own kind spiritually, and those lives will be God’s testimony to us as His workers. God brings us up to a standard of life through His grace, and we are responsible for reproducing that same standard in others.

Unless the worker lives a life that “is hidden with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:3), he is apt to become an irritating dictator to others, instead of an active, living disciple. Many of us are dictators, dictating our desires to individuals and to groups. But Jesus never dictates to us in that way. Whenever our Lord talked about discipleship, He always prefaced His words with an “if,” never with the forceful or dogmatic statement— “You must.” Discipleship carries with it an option.

Give God Your Heart

 

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When a Thief Steals Your Heart Suzie Eller From: Crosswalk.com

“He gave his life to free us from every kind of sin, to cleanse us, and to make us his very own people, totally committed to doing good deeds.” Titus 2:14 (NLT)

Melissa was walking home from the bus stop and stopped to talk to the friendly neighbor who always sat in his driveway. He waved her over and invited her to follow him into his garage for a piece of candy.

She walked into the garage an innocent, trusting girl, but she walked out broken.

As she grew up, Melissa spent many years trying to heal herself. Over time she perfected the art of wearing a mask, while on the inside she felt unworthy of any good thing. She often wondered if she’d ever be whole.

Perhaps, like Melissa, a thief stole a piece of your heart. You might have even wondered if God cared that it happened. God does care and to prove it, Titus 2:14 tells us Jesus made the ultimate sacrifice: “He gave his life to free us from every kind of sin, to cleanse us, and to make us his very own people, totally committed to doing good deeds.”

In this verse, the apostle Paul describes the death of Jesus as an offering. It was given for those who couldn’t make it themselves. Jesus gave His life willingly and to free us fromevery kind of sin.

We often give thanks for His sacrifice that removed the debt of our sin. But there is more. Jesus took our sins, but that same act freed us from the effect of others’ sins upon our hearts and lives.

Let that soak into the wounded places for a moment.

A thief may have tried to steal away your heart, but you aren’t destined to be marked by that person’s sin. Hurtful touch no longer defines you, for Jesus’ touch brings you from death to life. From old to new.

Because of His sacrifice, this becomes your truth, your new legacy:

You are beautiful, not because of what you have to give, but because of whose you are.

You have value, not because of what someone wants from you, but because of what has always been inside of you.

You are in the process of restoration, and you have purpose because of Christ’s love.

Healing is a transformative process, peeling away one layer at a time. That process begins as we accept that Jesus boldly walked into the den of a thief on our behalf and reclaimed what was His own. That act took the damage inflicted on your soul and carried the burden you were never intended to bear.

And what happened to that little girl, Melissa? After years of trying to fix herself and hiding her hurt, she asked Jesus to touch the broken places. Today Melissa Taylor is a mom, a wife and a woman who finds joy in pouring out God’s hope to others.

She leads thousands of women across the world in online Bible studies through Proverbs 31 Ministries. If you were to ask Melissa who she is, she would say she doesn’t see herself as a woman marked by a thief, but a woman reclaimed and restored by her Savior.

Father, You see who I am, ready to burst forth because of Your sacrifice. Thank You for touching my heart and my thoughts in a way that is holy and restorative. Thank You for taking away the mark of others’ sins upon my heart. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

  April 23 From: Streams in the Desert Not of the Extraordinary “Now Moses kept the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian: and he led the flock to the backside, of the desert, and came to the mountain of God, even to Horeb. And the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush” (Exod. 3:1,2). The vision came in the midst of common toil, and that is where the Lord delights to give His revelations. He seeks a man who is on the ordinary road, and the Divine fire leaps out at his feet. The mystic ladder can rise from the market place to Heaven. It can connect the realm of drudgery with the realms of grace. My Father God, help me to expect Thee on the ordinary road. I do not ask for sensational happenings. Commune with me through ordinary work and duty. Be my Companion when I take the common journey. Let the humble life be transfigured by Thy presence. Some Christians think they must be always up to mounts of extraordinary joy and revelation; this is not after God’s method. Those spiritual visits to high places, and that wonderful intercourse with the unseen world, are not in the promises; the daily life of communion is. And it is enough. We shall have the exceptional revelation if it be right for us. There were but three disciples allowed to see the transfiguration, and those three entered the gloom of Gethsemane. No one can stay on the mount of privilege. There are duties in the valley. Christ found His life-work, not in the glory, but in the valley and was there truly and fully the Messiah. The value of the vision and glory is but their gift of fitness for work and endurance. –Selected

Today’s Devotions

From: Through the Bible

Morning

April 23

Joshua 5:13-14 (NIV) 13Now when Joshua was near Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with a drawn sword in his hand. Joshua went up to him and asked, “Are you for us or for our enemies?” 14″Neither,” he replied, “but as commander of the army of the LORD I have now come.” Then Joshua fell facedown to the ground in reverence, and asked him, “What message does my Lord have for his servant?”

Joshua was ready to go to war, but He needed direction from His commander in chief. As he approached Jericho, he saw this great warrior with sword drawn. “Whose side are you on?” he asked. “Neither!” came the reply. This is none other than Jesus. He appears a number of times in the Old Testament. These appearances are referred to as Christophanies. Notice that in the following verses He told Joshua that he was on Holy Ground, just as the I Am told Moses at the burning bush.

Whose side is Jesus on? Jew or Gentile? Neither! He is not willing that any should perish. The Canaanites would die because of their iniquity and the devastating pain they were inflicting on one another and their own souls. Their cup of iniquity was full. That does not mean that God did not desire for them to repent, or that He is only for Israel. Rahab and her family were about to be spared. They were the only ones that were receptive to the God of Israel. This Warrior is on her side. He is on the side of anyone of any nationality, in any place and any time, who is willing to receive the truth.

Consider: When we are confronted with the Commander we should do as Joshua did. We should ask, with great reverence, what message our Lord has for His servant.

Jesus Is The Way

 

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Jesus Is The Way

 

From: Streams IN The Desert
He knoweth the way that I take (Job 23:10).
Believer! What a glorious assurance! This way of thine–this, it may be, a crooked, mysterious, tangled way–this way of trial and tears. “He knoweth it.” The furnace seven times heated–He lighted it. There is an Almighty Guide knowing and directing our footsteps, whether it be to the bitter Marah pool, or to the joy and refreshment of Elim.
That way, dark to the Egyptians, has its pillar of cloud and fire for His own Israel. The furnace is hot; but not only can we trust the hand that kindles it, but we have the assurance that the fires are lighted not to consume, but to refine; and that when the refining process is completed (no sooner–no later) He brings His people forth as gold.
When they think Him least near, He is often nearest. “When my spirit was overwhelmed, then thou knewest my path.” Do we know of ONE brighter than the brightest radiance of the visible sun, visiting our chamber with the first waking beam of the morning; an eye of infinite tenderness and compassion following us throughout the day, knowing the way that we take?
The world, in its cold vocabulary in the hour of adversity, speaks of “Providence”–“the will of Providence”–“the strokes of Providence.” PROVIDENCE! what is that? Why dethrone a living, directing God from the sovereignty of His own earth? Why substitute an inanimate, death-like abstraction, in place of an acting, controlling, personal Jehovah?
How it would take the sting from many a goading trial, to see what Job saw (in his hour of aggravated woe, when every earthly hope lay prostrate at his feet)–no hand but the Divine. He saw that hand behind the gleaming swords of the Sabeans–he saw it behind the lightning flash–he saw it giving wings to the careening tempest–he saw it in the awful silence of his rifled home.
“The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord!” Thus seeing God in everything, his faith reached its climax when this once powerful prince of the desert, seated on his bed of ashes, could say, “Though he slay me, yet will I trust him.” –Macduff

Bible Study

From: Back to the Bible

Title: Benefits of Forgiveness Date: Sep 6, 2013 Topic(s): Forgiveness/Unforgiveness Scripture: 1 John 4:20Ephesians 4:31-321 Timothy 1:5Mark 11:25Matthew 6:12-15Matthew 18:15

So, you know you’re supposed to forgive others, but do you ever wonder what’s in it for you? How will you benefit, if and when, you forgive? Let’s look at seven benefits of forgiveness.

Receive

First, forgiveness puts you in a right relationship with God. First John 4:20 tells us, “If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen” (ESV). You can’t have it both ways; loving God means loving others which includes granting and seeking forgiveness.

Second, forgiving others removes any roadblocks to your prayers. “And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses” (Mark 11:25, ESV).

Third, it ensures that God forgives you. In Matthew 6, Jesus taught forgiveness as part of prayer, ” and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors….For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (6:12, 14-15, ESV). When God has forgiven you of so much, why shouldn’t He expect you to forgive others as generously?

A fourth benefit is found indirectly in 1 Timothy 1:5, “The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith” (ESV). Real love comes from a good conscience; it means you’ve taken care of business with God. There is no barrier between you and Him. Nothing makes you feel guilty or ashamed to approach Him. Having real love means you forgive when you should and ask Him for forgiveness when it’s necessary to do that.

Several of these benefits affect your relationship with others.

First, you experience reconciliation. You’re at peace with others. “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother” (Matthew 18:15, ESV).

Secondly, it removes the bitterness which develops when you hold onto hurt or anger and refuse to forgive. “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you” (Ephesians 4:31-32, ESV).

Lastly, forgiveness leads to personal spiritual revival; it energizes your spiritual walk. And it can do the same in your church too. This is why the New Testament instructions to the churches and believers emphasize forgiving others.

The Manna Stopped

From: Through The Bible

Joshua 5:11-12 (NIV) 11The day after the Passover, that very day, they ate some of the produce of the land: unleavened bread and roasted grain. 12The manna stopped the day after they ate this food from the land; there was no longer any manna for the Israelites, but that year they ate of the produce of Canaan.

Israel celebrated their first Passover in the Promised Land. As soon as they ate the food of that land, the manna stopped. I wonder if the next morning they got up by habit to go out and collect it. For forty years God had provided angels’ food for them on a daily basis Now that they are home, they can eat of the good of the land that God has given them.

God provides for us. He is Jehovah Jireh, “the LORD provides”. He won’t give us too much, but He will give us enough to sustain us. As we travel through this life, as long as we have a need, the LORD will provide. We can count on our daily manna. As long as we go out to gather it and don’t try to keep it over night, we will always be able to fill our jars. We will have just enough.

But that land to which we are going will have an abundance and variety. The Lord is still our portion and our cup, but instead of coming from above, He will be all around us. One day, the angel of the second death will pass over us because of what Jesus did in our place. Then we will be home and eating freely of the abundance of the land.

Meditation: I’m on my way to something better. This world is not my home.

Evening

April 22

Mark 15:21-23 (NIV) 21A certain man from Cyrene, Simon, the father of Alexander and Rufus, was passing by on his way in from the country, and they forced him to carry the cross. 22They brought Jesus to the place called Golgotha (which means The Place of the Skull). 23Then they offered him wine mixed with myrrh, but he did not take it.

The beatings and Roman scourging had so weakened Jesus that He could not carry the crossbeam to the site of the crucifixion. Jesus was at the end of physical ability. A man who had journeyed from North Africa to celebrate the Feast of Passover, Simon, was forced to carry the beam. His children later became well known in the early church. This encounter with Jesus would change his life.

There is some debate about where the crucifixion site is. Two popular ones exist in Jerusalem, but no one can say for sure which, if either, is authentic. It would have been near a gate and beside a road. The Scriptures tell us He was brought to a hill, not on a hill. It was probably a place used regularly for executions.

A group of Jewish women regularly met those who were to be crucified to offer a pain deadening mixture of strong wine and myrrh. When Jesus tasted it, He refused it. He had promised not to drink the fruit of the vine until He drank it new with the disciples in the Kingdom. The women pitied Him, but He grieved for them; He knew they were rejecting their only hope. Their pity was a mere human sentimentality. His pity was that of both the suffering Jerusalem was about to endure and an eternal perspective. We would have welcomed anything to deaden the pain. Jesus met death head on, determined not to flinch but to conquer it for us.

There is a lesson in His determination. We often skirt our trials, looking for the easy way out. Jesus faced them with faith in His Father. He knew that total reliance on the Father would see Him through anything, even if it meant obedience unto death. That is faith!

Prayer: Lord, when we are faced with the trials that inevitably come from obedience to You, help us to face them with Your resolute determination.

A Servant of God

From: Back To The Bible

This week, be thankful for the examples of gritty integrity in your life.

Key Passage:  Read Job 2:1-13Shall we indeed accept good from God, and shall we not accept adversity?” In all this Job did not sin with his lips (Job 2:10).   “When the going gets tough,” begins the old locker room slogan. The words are intended to motivate effort, inspire excellence and encourage the worn-down. Do they? The traditional conclusion to the thought is, “the tough get going.” Is that true? Do tough times get tough people moving? Faced with unimaginable tough blows in life, did Job maintain his integrity because he was tough? Or was it something else that kept him from “sin with his lips”? God’s favorite term for Job was “my servant” (see 1:8; 2:3; 42:7-8). Before the going got tough (as well as after), Job remained God’s servant. What we find in the first two chapters of Job is a deeply humble man living out his faith in God Almighty. We also watch as Satan does what he can to destroy Job. Doesn’t God know what Satan is doing? Of course. Does God know Job better than we know him? God knew His servant inside out. God knew Job would not only endure the trials of life and the trials by his friends but also come away from his dark days with a deeper appreciation of God. Nothing that occurred in the Book of Job caught God by surprise. God sees the big picture. Job couldn’t see, and we can’t see, what God sees. If we could, we wouldn’t have to trust Him. It’s worth noting that our opening slogan uses the word “tough” in two ways. The first “tough” refers to difficulty, hardship and sorrow in life. The second describes the fiber of people, what makes them resilient. We often can’t tell who is “tough” until the tough times come. Job was tough, but not because he was physically strong or intellectually nimble. He was strong because he depended on God even though he didn’t understand what was happening. As it turned out, Job’s biggest challenge was his friends’ insistence that he had done something for which God was punishing him. Job never denied God’s right to punish, but he knew that his tragedy had to have another explanation. Job’s final lesson was that God never has to explain. (See Job 38:1-42:16.) We may have to trust Him beyond explanations. This is, possibly, because we may not be able to understand God’s explanation, just as we understand so little about God Himself. So, we understand as much of God as He allows us,and we trust Him with all we’ve got!

Saints Should Cherish God

 

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CAN A SAINT FALSELY ACCUSE GOD?

From: My Utmost For His Highest

Jesus’ parable of the talents recorded in Matthew 25:14-30  was a warning that it is possible for us to misjudge our capacities. This parable has nothing to do with natural gifts and abilities, but relates to the gift of the Holy Spirit as He was first given at Pentecost. We must never measure our spiritual capacity on the basis of our education or our intellect; our capacity in spiritual things is measured on the basis of the promises of God. If we get less than God wants us to have, we will falsely accuse Him as the servant falsely accused his master when he said, “You expect more of me than you gave me the power to do. You demand too much of me, and I cannot stand true to you here where you have placed me.” When it is a question of God’s Almighty Spirit, never say, “I can’t.” Never allow the limitation of your own natural ability to enter into the matter. If we have received the Holy Spirit, God expects the work of the Holy Spirit to be exhibited in us.

The servant justified himself, while condemning his lord on every point, as if to say, “Your demand on me is way out of proportion to what you gave to me.” Have we been falsely accusing God by daring to worry after He has said, “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you”? (Matthew 6:33). Worrying means exactly what this servant implied— “I know your intent is to leave me unprotected and vulnerable.” A person who is lazy in the natural realm is always critical, saying, “I haven’t had a decent chance,” and someone who is lazy in the spiritual realm is critical of God. Lazy people always strike out at others in an independent way.

Never forget that our capacity and capability in spiritual matters is measured by, and based on, the promises of God. Is God able to fulfill His promises? Our answer depends on whether or not we have received the Holy Spirit.

 

April 20

From: Streams In The Desert

Impressions

“The ark of the covenant of the Lord went before them” (Num. 10:33).

God does give us impressions, but not that we should act on them as impressions. If the impression be from God, He will Himself give sufficient evidence to establish it beyond the possibility of a doubt.

How beautiful is the story of Jeremiah, of the impression that came to him respecting the purchase of the field of Anathoth. But Jeremiah did not act upon this impression until after the following day, when his uncle’s son came to him and brought him external evidence by making a proposal for the purchase. Then Jeremiah said: “I knew this was the word of the Lord.”

He waited until God seconded the impression by a providence, and then he acted in full view of the open facts, which could bring conviction unto others as well as to himself. God wants us to act according to His mind. We are not to ignore the Shepherd’s personal voice but, like Paul and his companions at Troas, we are to listen to all the voices that speak and “gather” from all the circumstances, as they did, the full mind of the Lord.
–Dr. Simpson

***

“Where God’s finger points, there God’s hand will make the way.”

***

Do not say in thine heart what thou wilt or wilt not do, but wait upon God until He makes known His way. So long as that way is hidden it is clear that there is no need of action, and that He accounts Himself responsible for all the results of keeping thee where thou art.
–Selected

***

“For God through ways we have not known,
Will lead His own.”

 

Matthew 28:1-20 (Good News Translation)

God’s Word: Giving Us Hope

Introduction

Matthew 28:1-20: An angel rolls the stone from the tomb, revealing that Jesus has been raised to life. The women rush to tell the disciples; and on the way, they meet the risen Christ. Later, Jesus appears to his disciples on a hill in Galilee, calling them to go forth and make disciples of all people.

Today’s Scripture: Matthew 28:20b

[Jesus said], “And I will be with you always, to the end of the age.”

Today’s Reading

1 After the Sabbath, as Sunday morning was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb. 2 Suddenly there was a violent earthquake; an angel of the Lord came down from heaven, rolled the stone away, and sat on it. 3 His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. 4The guards were so afraid that they trembled and became like dead men. 5 The angel spoke to the women. “You must not be afraid,” he said. “I know you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. 6 He is not here; he has been raised, just as he said. Come here and see the place where he was lying. 7 Go quickly now, and tell his disciples, “He has been raised from death, and now he is going to Galilee ahead of you; there you will see him!” Remember what I have told you. ” 8 So they left the tomb in a hurry, afraid and yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples. 9 Suddenly Jesus met them and said, “Peace be with you.” They came up to him, took hold of his feet, and worshiped him. 10 “Do not be afraid,” Jesus said to them. “Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee, and there they will see me.” 11 While the women went on their way, some of the soldiers guarding the tomb went back to the city and told the chief priests everything that had happened. 12 The chief priests met with the elders and made their plan; they gave a large sum of money to the soldiers 13 and said, “You are to say that his disciples came during the night and stole his body while you were asleep. 14 And if the Governor should hear of this, we will convince him that you are innocent, and you will have nothing to worry about. ” 15 The guards took the money and did what they were told to do. And so that is the report spread around by the Jews to this very day. 16 The eleven disciples went to the hill in Galilee where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him, even though some of them doubted. 18 Jesus drew near and said to them, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. 19 Go, then, to all peoples everywhere and make them my disciples: baptize them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, 20 and teach them to obey everything I have commanded you. And I will be with you always, to the end of the age. ”

Reflect

The risen Christ appears first to the women. What does he say to them? Jesus commands his followers to make disciples of all people. In what ways do you carry out Jesus’ command? How can you be an extension of Jesus’ love and grace to others?

Christ Is Risen From The Grave

    • jesus resurrection photo: Resurrection resurrection.jpg

HAPPY EASTER!

JESUS CHRIST HAS RISEN FROM THE GRAVE

AND BECAUSE HE LIVES, WE TOO SHALL LIVE

______________________________________________________________________________

What Easter Means To Me

From: Pamela M. Steiner

Closed Doors, Open Windows

What Easter Means To Me
Because I have a precious son standing on the threshold of heaven’s gate, Easter has a lot more significance to me this year.
Four years ago we received some shocking news regarding our son…a diagnosis so grim that it struck fear into our hearts and caused us to ask, “Why Lord? What good could possibly come from this assault on our son’s body?  We didn’t know what kind of plan God had…and as a mother, to be honest, I truly did not want to see our son go through all the suffering and pain of fighting the formidable foe of cancer.  It just didn’t seem fair.  But don’t stop reading here…
On the day after the crucifixion, Jesus’ mother and his disciples were hiding and afraid. They did not understand what was happening, even though Christ had tried over and over again to tell them what was going to take place, but their hearts were broken, their eyes were still blinded by doubt and confusion, and they just couldn’t see how anything good could come out of His death.  They did not realize that God had a plan…
On Easter morning all of God’s creation was waiting…waiting for the Easter sunrise…waiting for God to show them the next part of His plan…not realizing that they would soon hear an angel proclaim the astounding message,
“Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but is risen!”
(Luke 24:5-6)
The angel reminded the disciples of what Christ had taught them about His death and resurrection, and then “they remembered His words…”
Perhaps they then remembered what Jesus told them in John14:19~
“A little while longer and the world will see Me no more, but you will see Me.
Because I live, you will live also.”
And then His words all began to make sense…both to His disciples…and also to me. When Christ said “It is finished” as He died on the cross, death became a conquered foe. That was not the end of the story, but the beginning.   When (and if) my son loses his earthly battle against this vicious cancer, that will not be the end of his story, but the beginning. As he passes over that threshold, heaven’s gate will open wide to receive him joyfully.  Isaiah 25:8 says, “Death is swallowed up in victory!”  “O Death, where is your sting? O death, where is your victory?” (I Corinthians 15:55)
Since “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son so that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16), I can stare death in the face and not be afraid of saying goodbye to my son when the time comes. Because of Christ’s life, death, and resurection, my son will also live. And so will I. And so will you.
And that’s what Easter means to me.

I just found this video of  a very special  Easter song, “He’s Alive!” by Don Francisco, which is sung from the perspective of the Apostle Peter.  I think you may appreciate it.  I remember singing this song back in the late 70’s…  “He’s Alive! He’s Alive! He’s Alive and I’m forgiven, heaven’s gates are open wide! He’s Alive! He’s Alive! He’s Alive!”    Hallelujah!  That is what Easter is all about!!!

Easter Every Day

A friend of mine, who is a preschool teacher, overheard an animated conversation among her students. Little Maria threw out the question: “Who loves God?” All of them responded, “I do! I do! I do!” Billy said, “I loveJesus.” Kelly protested, “But Hedied.” Billy said, “Yeah, but every Easter He rises from the dead!” Obviously, young Billy’s understanding of the meaning of Easter is still developing. We know that Jesus diedonce for all (Rom. 6:10; Heb. 10:12) and, of course, rose from the dead once. Three days after paying the penalty of our sins on the cross, the sinless Jesus conquered death by rising from the grave and breaking the power of sin. It was this final sacrifice of blood that opened the only way for us to have a relationship with God now and a home with Him forevermore. “Christ died for our sins, . . . He was buried, and . . . He rose again the third day” (1 Cor. 15:3-4). He has promised that He is preparing a place for us (John 14:1-4), and He will someday return. One day we will be with our risen Savior. That’s why every year at Eastertime—in fact, every day of the year—we have reason to celebrate the resurrection of our Savior. “I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth” (Ps. 34:1).
Christ’s resurrection is cause for our celebration.

Insight

In Hebrews 10:14 we see this remarkable statement: “For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified.” How is this possible? Paul in his letter to the church at Corinth answers this question. Since being “good enough” through personal effort is futile (Rom. 7), only a transfer of account from a righteous person to a sinner could remedy the problem. “He made [Christ] who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Cor. 5:21). Christ’s atoning death on the cross appeased the wrath of God (Rom. 3:24-26), and His righteousness was attributed to us that we might be declared justified before God.

GOD’S WORD; GIVING US HOPE

From: American Bible Society

Introduction

Matthew 28:1-20: An angel rolls the stone from the tomb, revealing that Jesus has been raised to life. The women rush to tell the disciples; and on the way, they meet the risen Christ. Later, Jesus appears to his disciples on a hill in Galilee, calling them to go forth and make disciples of all people.

Today’s Scripture: Matthew 28:20b

[Jesus said], “And I will be with you always, to the end of the age.”

Today’s Reading

1 After the Sabbath, as Sunday morning was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb. 2 Suddenly there was a violent earthquake; an angel of the Lord came down from heaven, rolled the stone away, and sat on it. 3 His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. 4The guards were so afraid that they trembled and became like dead men. 5 The angel spoke to the women. “You must not be afraid,” he said. “I know you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. 6 He is not here; he has been raised, just as he said. Come here and see the place where he was lying. 7 Go quickly now, and tell his disciples, “He has been raised from death, and now he is going to Galilee ahead of you; there you will see him!” Remember what I have told you. ” 8 So they left the tomb in a hurry, afraid and yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples. 9 Suddenly Jesus met them and said, “Peace be with you.” They came up to him, took hold of his feet, and worshiped him. 10 “Do not be afraid,” Jesus said to them. “Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee, and there they will see me.” 11 While the women went on their way, some of the soldiers guarding the tomb went back to the city and told the chief priests everything that had happened. 12 The chief priests met with the elders and made their plan; they gave a large sum of money to the soldiers 13 and said, “You are to say that his disciples came during the night and stole his body while you were asleep. 14 And if the Governor should hear of this, we will convince him that you are innocent, and you will have nothing to worry about. ” 15 The guards took the money and did what they were told to do. And so that is the report spread around by the Jews to this very day. 16 The eleven disciples went to the hill in Galilee where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him, even though some of them doubted. 18 Jesus drew near and said to them, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. 19 Go, then, to all peoples everywhere and make them my disciples: baptize them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, 20 and teach them to obey everything I have commanded you. And I will be with you always, to the end of the age. ”

The Burial Of Christ

 

Entrance to the Garden Tomb in Jerusalem, Israel - stock photo
The stone of the Anointing at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in the old city of Jerusalem, Israel. Also known as 'The Stone of Unction', is the spot where Jesus' body was prepared for burial. - stock photo
Holy women in front of Jesus sepulcher. Created by Vent, published on Magasin Pittoresque, Paris, 1845 - stock photo
Burial of Christ from Vienna chruch Kirche am Hof - stock photo

 

God’s Word: Giving Us Hope

From: Daily Bible Reading

Introduction

Matthew 27:57-66: Joseph of Arimathea buries Jesus’ body, and Mary Magdalene and the other Mary keep watch at the tomb. Pilate sends soldiers to guard the tomb as well, in order to prevent Jesus’ disciples from stealing his body and claiming his resurrection.

Today’s Scripture: Matthew 27:59, 60a

So Joseph took it, wrapped it in a new linen sheet, and placed it in his own tomb, which he had just recently dug out of solid rock.

Today’s Reading

57 When it was evening, a rich man from Arimathea arrived; his name was Joseph, and he also was a disciple of Jesus. 58 He went into the presence of Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Pilate gave orders for the body to be given to Joseph. 59 So Joseph took it, wrapped it in a new linen sheet, 60 and placed it in his own tomb, which he had just recently dug out of solid rock. Then he rolled a large stone across the entrance to the tomb and went away. 61 Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were sitting there, facing the tomb. 62 The next day, which was a Sabbath, the chief priests and the Pharisees met with Pilate63 and said, “Sir, we remember that while that liar was still alive he said, “I will be raised to life three days later.” 64 Give orders, then, for his tomb to be carefully guarded until the third day, so that his disciples will not be able to go and steal the body, and then tell the people that he was raised from death. This last lie would be even worse than the first one. ” 65 “Take a guard,” Pilate told them; “go and make the tomb as secure as you can.” 66 So they left and made the tomb secure by putting a seal on the stone and leaving the guard on watch.

Reflect

Mary Magdalene and others keep the first Easter vigil at Jesus’ tomb. Our Easter vigil should be a time of mourning over the past and hoping for the future. On this day before Easter, reflect on your past year, and consider how you can better follow Christ as you prepare to celebrate his resurrection.

 

The Significance of Suffering

 From: Get More Strength.org

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

The Spotlight

From: Our Daily Bread

I’ll never forget the Easter Sunday in 1993 when Bernhard Langer won the Masters golf tournament. As he stepped off the 18th green to receive the green jacket—one of golf’s most coveted prizes—a reporter said, “This must be the greatest day of your life!” Without missing a beat, Langer replied: “It’s wonderful to win the greatest tournament in the world, but it means more to win on Easter Sunday—to celebrate the resurrection of my Lord and Savior.”

Langer had an opportunity to boast about himself, but instead he turned the spotlight on Jesus Christ. It’s exactly what Paul was talking about when he said, “We also rejoice [boast] in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation” (Rom. 5:11).

It’s easy to look for ways to draw attention to our own accomplishments, making mental lists of things that are “cool” about ourselves. Even Paul admitted that he had a lot to brag about—but he considered all of it “rubbish” for the sake of knowing Christ (Phil. 3:8). We would do well to follow his example.

So, if you really want something to boast about, boast about Jesus and what He’s done for you. Look for opportunities to turn the spotlight on Him.

Naught have I gotten but what I received,
Grace hath bestowed it since I have believed;
Boasting excluded, pride I abase—
I’m only a sinner saved by grace! —Gray
You can’t boast in Jesus while you’re preoccupied with yourself.

 

FRIDAY, APRIL 18, 2014

What Easter Means To Me

What Easter Means To Me
Because I have a precious son standing on the threshold of heaven’s gate, Easter has a lot more significance to me this year.
Four years ago we received some shocking news regarding our son…a diagnosis so grim that it struck fear into our hearts and caused us to ask, “Why Lord? What good could possibly come from this assault on our son’s body?  We didn’t know what kind of plan God had…and as a mother, to be honest, I truly did not want to see our son go through all the suffering and pain of fighting the formidable foe of cancer.  It just didn’t seem fair.  But don’t stop reading here…
On the day after the crucifixion, Jesus’ mother and his disciples were hiding and afraid. They did not understand what was happening, even though Christ had tried over and over again to tell them what was going to take place, but their hearts were broken, their eyes were still blinded by doubt and confusion, and they just couldn’t see how anything good could come out of His death.  They did not realize that God had a plan…
On Easter morning all of God’s creation was waiting…waiting for the Easter sunrise…waiting for God to show them the next part of His plan…not realizing that they would soon hear an angel proclaim the astounding message,
“Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but is risen!”
(Luke 24:5-6)
The angel reminded the disciples of what Christ had taught them about His death and resurrection, and then “they remembered His words…”
Perhaps they then remembered what Jesus told them in John14:19~
“A little while longer and the world will see Me no more, but you will see Me.
Because I live, you will live also.”
And then His words all began to make sense…both to His disciples…and also to me. When Christ said “It is finished” as He died on the cross, death became a conquered foe. That was not the end of the story, but the beginning.   When (and if) my son loses his earthly battle against this vicious cancer, that will not be the end of his story, but the beginning. As he passes over that threshold, heaven’s gate will open wide to receive him joyfully.  Isaiah 25:8 says, “Death is swallowed up in victory!”  “O Death, where is your sting? O death, where is your victory?” (I Corinthians 15:55)
Since “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son so that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16), I can stare death in the face and not be afraid of saying goodbye to my son when the time comes. Because of Christ’s life, death, and resurrection, my son will also live. And so will I. And so will you.
And that’s what Easter means to me.

I just found this video of  a very special  Easter song, “He’s Alive!” by Don Francisco, which is sung from the perspective of the Apostle Peter.  I think you may appreciate it.  I remember singing this song back in the late 70’s…  “He’s Alive! He’s Alive! He’s Alive and I’m forgiven, heaven’s gates are open wide! He’s Alive! He’s Alive! He’s Alive!”    Hallelujah!  That is what Easter is all about!!!

 

Be Ready For Christ

Readiness

When God speaks, many of us are like people in a fog, and we give no answer. Moses’ reply to God revealed that he knew where he was and that he was ready. Readiness means having a right relationship to God and having the knowledge of where we are. We are so busy telling God where we would like to go. Yet the man or woman who is ready for God and His work is the one who receives the prize when the summons comes. We wait with the idea that some great opportunity or something sensational will be coming our way, and when it does come we are quick to cry out, “Here I am.” Whenever we sense that Jesus Christ is rising up to take authority over some great task, we are there, but we are not ready for some obscure duty. Readiness for God means that we are prepared to do the smallest thing or the largest thing— it makes no difference. It means we have no choice in what we want to do, but that whatever God’s plans may be, we are there and ready. Whenever any duty presents itself, we hear God’s voice as our Lord heard His Father’s voice, and we are ready for it with the total readiness of our love for Him. Jesus Christ expects to do with us just as His Father did with Him. He can put us wherever He wants, in pleasant duties or in menial ones, because our union with Him is the same as His union with the Father. “. . . that they may be one just as We are one . . .” (John 17:22). Be ready for the sudden surprise visits of God. A ready person never needs to get ready— he is ready. Think of the time we waste trying to get ready once God has called! The burning bush is a symbol of everything that surrounds the person who is ready, and it is on fire with the presence of God Himself.

 

I’m Alive

Laura Brooks, a 52-year-old mother of two, didn’t know it but she was one of 14,000 people in 2011 whose name was incorrectly entered into the government database as dead. She wondered what was wrong when she stopped receiving disability checks, and her loan payments and her rent checks bounced. She went to the bank to clear up the issue, but the representative told her that her accounts had been closed because she was dead! Obviously, they were mistaken. The apostle Paul was not mistaken when he said that the Ephesian believers were at one point dead—spiritually dead. They were dead in the sense that they were separated from God, enslaved to sin (Eph. 2:5), and condemned under the wrath of God. What a state of hopelessness! Yet God in His goodness took action to reverse this condition for them and for us. The living God “who gives life to the dead” (Rom. 4:17) poured out His rich mercy and great love by sending His Son Jesus to this earth. Through Christ’s death and resurrection, we are made alive (Eph. 2:4-5). When we believe in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, we go from death to life. Now we live to rejoice in His goodness!
I know I’m a sinner and Christ is my need; His death is my ransom, no merit I plead. His work is sufficient, on Him I believe; I have life eternal when Him I receive. —Anon.
Accepting Jesus’ death gives me life.

A Place Fit for a King!

 From: Get More Strength.org

“Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you?” 1 Corinthians 3:16

While in seminary I worked as a bellman in a luxury hotel in Dallas. On most days it was a ho-hum job, except for the time when the Vice President of the United States came to town and chose to stay at the hotel. He reserved an entire floor. Secret Service agents and other security swarmed the hotel to guard him. The whole city knew where he was staying, and those of us who worked there felt proud. I must admit, I worked a little harder, looked a little sharper, and operated more efficiently than ever.

Our response ought to be just like that when we wake up to the fact that God dwells in us. His choice to set up residency in our lives should stimulate us to behave and respond differently than we used to before we welcomed Him in. And, by the way, it’s not just a temporary residence. Once He’s in, He’s there to stay! So getting serious about what His dwelling place looks like is a big deal. And, since it’s a big deal, preparing the place for Him means that we need to get it appropriately clean, which means that issues like purity and holiness become really important.

The tabernacle of the Old Testament provides the most graphic picture of the purity that God’s residency requires. Many chapters of Exodus and Leviticus are devoted to the regulations regarding the building of the tabernacle and its use among God’s people. Why all the regulations? To guard and facilitate the presence of a holy God. To make a place fit for God to dwell. It’s important to note that after Moses and the Israelites obeyed all that God had commanded, “The glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle” (Exodus 40:35). The reality of God’s presence within is meant to motivate us to happily pursue a life of personal holiness and purity. It’s no surprise that when Paul talks about God dwelling in us in 1 Corinthians 6:19, it’s in the context of moral purity. Peter recognized this when he urged the early Christians: “As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do” (1 Peter 1:14-15). And just as the Old Testament saints cleansed themselves at the temple, so it is our privilege and responsibility to regularly cleanse ourselves to keep His place clean (1 John 1:7-9)!

Before the Vice President arrived at our hotel, there were long lists of requirements that we had to check off in preparation. Housekeeping was responsible for making sure that everything was white-glove clean! How’s the housekeeping department doing in your life? If it was important for the Vice President, count on it—it’s really important for the King who dwells in you!

An innocent man

Luke 23:26-49 When the Roman officer overseeing the execution saw what had happened, he worshiped God and said, “Surely this man was innocent” (Luke 23:47).

Read Mark 15:39 and consider some additional words from the Roman officer.

What touches you the most about the way Jesus died? How does His selfless sacrifice affect the way you serve Him and others?

On April 15, 1865, family, physicians, and government officials crowded around the bedside of US President Abraham Lincoln. He was unconscious and close to death from an assassin’s fatal bullet.

After Lincoln took his last breath, those keeping vigil stood in silence. Shock and sadness left them speechless. After several minutes, Secretary of War Edwin Stanton reportedly broke the silence with these famous words, “Now he belongs to the ages.”

The gospel of Mark records that after Jesus cried out to His heavenly Father and breathed His last, the Roman officer (who was in charge of overseeing the execution) was so moved by all he witnessed that he declared, “Surely this man was innocent” (Luke 23:47).

Unlike Lincoln’s death, it wasn’t just the fact that Jesus died that deeply touched the officer. It was watching how He died.

Jesus didn’t retaliate against His executioners. He didn’t hurl insults back at the Jewish leaders who scoffed at Him or at the passersby who shook their fists at Him (Mark 15:29). He didn’t respond in kind to the soldiers who mocked Him or gambled for His clothing (Luke 23:34). He didn’t fight evil for evil. Instead, Jesus quietly endured their relentless abuse. And when He did speak, He blessed and prayed for those who persecuted Him—“Father, forgive them” (Luke 23:34). He even showed mercy and reassured the repentant criminal who was executed next to Him (Luke 23:40-43).

No wonder this Roman officer was moved to say what he did!

The way Jesus died reflects the way He lived. And He calls us to live (and possibly die) in the same way, working for and anticipating that day when He will return and once and for all put everything right.

Helping Others

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All Kinds Of Help

In the wake of the shooting at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut, many people have felt strongly compelled to help. Some donated blood for the injured, some provided free lunches and coffee at their restaurants for workers. Others wrote letters of comfort or just gave hugs. Some sent gifts of money and teddy bears for the children; others offered counseling. People found ways to serve according to their personalities, abilities, and resources.

A story in the Bible about Joseph tells how he used his skills to play an important role in helping people survive a 7-year famine (Gen. 41:53-54). In his case, he could prepare beforehand because he knew a difficult time was coming. After Joseph warned Pharaoh, the king of Egypt, that the lean years were coming, Pharaoh put him in charge of the 7-year preparation time. Joseph used wisdom and discernment from God to get his country ready (41:39). Then, when “the famine was over all the face of the earth, . . . Joseph opened all the storehouses” (v.56). He was even able to help his own family (45:16-18).

These stories show the heart of God for the world. He has prepared us and made us who we are that we might care for others in whatever way He leads us.

Lord, help me feel the hurt that others feel
When life inflicts some bitter pain,
And use me in some loving way to heal
The wounds that may through life remain. —D. DeHaan
Compassion offers whatever is necessary to heal.

Let’s Hear it for the Rules

From: Get more Strength.org.

“So then, the law is holy… righteous and good” Romans 7:12

Most of us don’t really like rules. I don’t know why, but deep down inside we have an aversion to people telling us what to do and what not to do. Wanting to dump the rules and “go it on our own” implies that we think we know what is best and that left to ourselves we can manage life in good and productive ways. But you and I both know by experience that this is not always the case.

I wonder if God ever feels like I used to feel as a father. We lived in a neighborhood where the best place to play ball was in the street. One evening, my 5-year-old came to me with his glove and bat slung over his shoulder and said, “Hey, Dad, I’m going to play ball!”

“Where?” I asked, to which he replied, “In the street with my friends.”

Nothing made me happier than seeing my kids have a good time. But the thought of little Joe playing in the street concerned me. So I got down on his eye level and told him that I loved him too much to let him play in the street. “Quite frankly,” I said, “I don’t like to think of your little body getting integrated into the grill of a Mack truck! If you want to have fun playing ball, then get your friends and we’ll pile into the car and go to the park where playing ball is supposed to happen. But you can’t play ball in the street.”

God knows how dangerous Satan’s traffic is. And He is far more interested in our safety than He is in our unbridled pleasure. So, because He loves us, He has given us rules to keep us free from the damage of playing in Satan’s street.

To keep us from the self-destruction of bitterness, He has a rule about forgiving and loving our enemies. To keep us safe from the treachery of dishonesty and deceit, He has told us not to lie and to live instead for what is true. In fact, when you think of it, all of His rules are really for our good. Just take a look at the Ten Commandments. Life works better when we don’t lie to each other, steal from each other, or take each other’s life. We are all better off when we don’t covet each other’s property, sleep with each other’s wives, or gossip and bear false witness against our neighbor. How ridiculous is it that we are trying to put the Ten Commandments in the dumpster in our society? Who’d want to live in the chaos of a world where things like lying, stealing, cheating, sleeping around, greed, and bitterness are the norm? Did I hear you say that we are almost there?

Well, I’m not among those who believe that left to ourselves we can figure out how to do life. God knows we need help and thankfully in His love He blessed us with a few really important rules.

As the psalmist says: Blessed is the person who doesn’t scoff at God’s law! When you delight in the law of the Lord and become “like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither,” whatever you do will prosper (Psalm 1:1-3).

April 17

Satan’s Tools

“Let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and, let us run with patience the race that is set before us” (Heb. 12:1).

There are weights which are not sins in themselves, but which become distractions and stumbling blocks in our Christian progress. One of the worst of these is despondency. The heavy heart is indeed a weight that will surely drag us down in our holiness and usefulness.

The failure of Israel to enter the land of promise began in murmuring, or, as the text in Numbers literally puts it, “as it were murmured.” Just a faint desire to complain and be discontented. This led on until it blossomed and ripened into rebellion and ruin. Let us give ourselves no liberty ever to doubt God or His love and faithfulness to us in everything and forever.

We can set our will against doubt just as we do against any other sin; and as we stand firm and refuse to doubt, the Holy Spirit will come to our aid and give us the faith of God and crown us with victory.

It is very easy to fall into the habit of doubting, fretting, and wondering if God has forsaken us and if after all our hopes are to end in failure. Let us refuse to be discouraged. Let us refuse to be unhappy. Let us “count it all joy” when we cannot feel one emotion of happiness. Let us rejoice by faith, by resolution, by reckoning, and we shall surely find that God will make the reckoning real.
–Selected

***

The devil has two master tricks. One is to get us discouraged; then for a time at least we can be of no service to others, and so are defeated. The other is to make us doubt, thus breaking the faith link by which we are bound to our Father. Lookout! Do not be tricked either way.
–G.E.M.

***

Gladness! I like to cultivate the spirit of gladness! It puts the soul so in tune again, and keeps it in tune, so that Satan is shy of touching it–the chords of the soul become too warm, or too full of heavenly electricity, for his infernal fingers, and he goes off somewhere else! Satan is always very shy of meddling with me when my heart is full of gladness and joy in the Holy Ghost.

My plan is to shun the spirit of sadness as I would Satan; but, alas! I am not always successful. Like the devil himself it meets me on the highway of usefulness, looks me so fully in my face, till my poor soul changes color!

Sadness discolors everything; it leaves all objects charmless; it involves future prospects in darkness; it deprives the soul of all its aspirations, enchains all its powers, and produces a mental paralysis!

An old believer remarked, that cheerfulness in religion makes all its services come off with delight; and that we are never carried forward so swiftly in the ways of duty as when borne on the wings of delight; adding, that Melancholy clips such wings; or, to alter the figure, takes off our chariot wheels in duty, and makes them, like those of the Egyptians, drag heavily.