Monthly Archives: March 2021

God’s Greatest Gift To Man

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Pin on Faith! Loving God!22 Bible verses about Christ's Love
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Bound to the Cross by Love

 

Gordon Robertson – President and CEO, CBN

Jesus … who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross. Hebrews 12:2

The last supper Jesus shared with His disciples was a Seder, commemorating how God set the Israelites free from bondage. It helps us see the enormous significance of Jesus taking the cup and saying,

“This is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins” (Matthew 26:28).

He added, “I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father’s kingdom.”

He was essentially saying, “I’m forsaking the pleasures of this world until the day when all the redeemed can gather in My Father’s kingdom. I’m doing this for your sake.”

After the Seder, they sang a hymn as they went to the Mount of Olives. There, Jesus would pray in Gethsemane, “Can this cup pass from me?” He understood what was ahead. He knew Isaiah had prophesied that His visage would be marred more than any man. Given that Jesus sweat drops of blood while praying in the garden, imagine what happened to Him on the cross as He became sin on our behalf, and God turned His face away.

It makes what the Romans did to Him seem small. It makes the scourging, the crown of thorns, and the nails in His hands and feet seem small in comparison.

If I were preparing for this, I would not be singing. Yet that’s what Jesus did on the way to Gethsemane.

A Seder’s last song is Psalm 118, which begins, “Oh, give thanks to the LORD, for He is good!” It then commands Israel and those who fear the Lord—which includes the Gentiles and us today—to say, “His mercy endures forever.” So as Jesus was singing, He was declaring, “This is for all people, for all time.”

The psalm continues,

“The LORD is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me? The LORD is my strength and song, and He has become my salvation. I shall not die, but live, and declare the works of the LORD. The LORD has chastened me severely, but He has not given me over to death” (vv. 6, 14, 17-19).

Verse 24 says, “This is the day the LORD has made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.” It’s amazing to think that as Jesus went to Gethsemane, He could rejoice that the day appointed for the salvation of all people had come.

Then verse 27 states, “Bind the sacrifice with cords to the horns of the altar.” In Jewish tradition, sacrifices were not bound to an altar; yet Jesus sings this while preparing to be bound—nailed to a cross.

We’re the reason Jesus went to the cross—giving us freedom, forgiveness, mercy, and new life. And He was bound there by love so we can live with Him for all eternity. God bless you.

 

Easter: All That Matters vs All I Live For

By: Shawn McEvoy, crosswalk.com

He has risen, just as He said. – Matthew 28:6, NIV

What would I ever do if someone I knew came back from the dead? Especially if he had said he would, and if he had spent a couple nights in a grave already?

Seriously, what would I do? What would you do? Wouldn’t I blab to everyone I know – and most people I don’t – about this miraculous event? Heck, I tell everyone when I’m feeling under the weather or when I saw a good movie.

Then factor in that the same guy was now telling us that because of what he had done, none of the rest of us would ever have to suffer death. What’s more, simply by believing what we had seen, no matter our background, history, race, or education, we could restore our long-lost connection with the Almighty, and live forever.

Man… unfortunately, I’m having a hard time conceiving what I would do. Or, even if I can conceive it, I can’t quite believe it, because honestly, I have seen this, I do believe this, and yet my daily reaction to it doesn’t exactly line up with The Acts of the Apostles.

Has the news of a resurrected savior really become passe?

Why don’t I want to read Acts?

What am I afraid of?

That I’ll be rejected?

(He who rejects this instruction does not reject man but God, who gives you his Holy Spirit (1 Thess. 4:8)).

That I won’t be powerful enough?

(God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline (2 Tim. 1:7)).

That the good news isn’t relevant enough?

Salvation and the message of the resurrection, the miracle of born again-ness, is a salve to all wounds.

This Easter I’ll join choruses like “He’s Alive” while pondering and praising the miracle, but when it comes time for the next day of my life to begin, a day and a life that means nothing if not lived for my Savior, it’ll be all about me again and my troubles and making my way and who cut me off and what I have to get done and who I don’t like and what can we complain about today.

Yuck.

I want this Easter to be real. Because I did see it happen (so to speak; the resulting spread of those who ran to the corners of the earth to tell the story with no regard for personal safety is traceable to this day), it is real, and I’m cheating life and people God loves if I’m not shouting those facts from every corner and rooftop I can find. Everything else is just window dressing; “Christian living” is often just how we pass all our extra time in this country where so many of our basic needs are so easily met, and where we can cordon ourselves off from each other. What matters in life?

That there is life, and…
how it came about that there might never be death, but…
there are still dead men walking.
Really, why else are we here if not to keep excitedly shouting the truth of the miracle as if we’d just experienced it with our own eyes yesterday?

 

Making Sense of the Olivet Discourse

(Jesus taught about the end times and his return. This was two days before his death on the cross). 

Matthew 24 begins what is sometimes called “The Olivet Discourse.”  In it, Jesus talks about the near and far future for the church.  Bible scholars often point out the importance of recalling the precise question the disciples asked that precipitated this entire discourse: “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” (Matthew 24:3 ESV)

There are clearly two parts to that question.  Jesus had just prophesied the destruction of the temple, and the disciples asked when that would happen AND what will be the sign of your coming and the end of the age.

The trick is that Jesus understood those two events were not concurrent.  The temple was destroyed in AD 70, yet Jesus still hasn’t returned as of today in 2017—but the disciples didn’t and couldn’t have known that.  They assumed that the destruction of the temple would be the climactic event of the end times.  They didn’t realize that it would only be the beginning.  Therefore, as we listen to what Jesus said by way of response, we have to remember that he is talking about a near future and a far future and we have to understand which is which.  There are a couple of key indicators in the text.  Look for examples at verse 6 and verse 8.  After talking about some things that would happen he says: “but the end is not yet” (v. 6) and “All these are but the beginning of the birth pains” (v. 8).

The end is not yet.  This is just the beginning.  Jesus seems to be saying that a bunch of things are going to happen that are NOT the end times events the disciples were thinking they were.  Things like wars, things like the rise and fall of empires, things like massive natural disasters.  Those things ARE NOT SIGNALS OF THE END—rather they are more like table setters.  They are like birth pangs.  They open the door, but they are not the baby.

After these things, you want to watch for a couple of indicators.  Watch for the Great Commission to be completed in an environment of increasing persecution, tribulation, false religion and apostasy; then the end will come. Look at verse 14: “And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come” (Matthew 24:14 ESV).

Following that, there will be a short season of intense persecution and tribulation after which:

the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then will appear in heaven the sign of the Son of Man, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.  And he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other. (Matthew 24:29–31 ESV)

That is the end.  After that, according to Matthew 13:43, the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father, forever.

Even so, come Lord Jesus.

Jesus Curses The Fig Tree

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Figuring Out the Fig Tree

by Ryan Duncan, crosswalk.com

“Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.” – John 2:19

Have you ever read the story of Jesus and the fig tree? It’s a curious moment in the New Testament, and for a long time, I had no idea what to make of it. It all begins in Mark 11, when Jesus grows hungry and approaches a fig tree looking for food.

“The next day as they were leaving Bethany, Jesus was hungry. Seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to find out if it had any fruit. When he reached it, he found nothing but leaves, because it was not the season for figs. Then he said to the tree, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.” And his disciples heard him say it.” – Mark 11:12-14

Now, everyone experiences low blood-sugar from time to time, but for Jesus, this seems remarkably out of character. After all, didn’t he fast in the desert for forty days? Surely he could handle the disappointment of not finding a fig. Even then, why not just make the tree bloom? If he could turn water into wine, why didn’t he command the tree to bear fruit?

Later, I learned it was because figs had very little to do with this story. You see, after his run-in with the unfortunate shrub, Jesus made his way to the temple where the money changers were cheating worshipers (Mark 11:20-25). By driving them out, Jesus incurred the anger of the chief priests, and the next morning he and his disciples leave the city again. This is where Jesus encounters the fig tree a second time,

“In the morning, as they went along, they saw the fig tree withered from the roots. Peter remembered and said to Jesus, ‘Rabbi, look! The fig tree you cursed has withered!’ ‘Have faith in God,’ Jesus answered. ‘I tell you the truth, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart but believes that what he says will happen, it will be done for him. Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.’” – Mark 11:20-24

Like the fig tree, the Jewish faith looked good on the outside, but despite its appearance, it wasn’t producing any fruit. Because it wasn’t providing for his people, Jesus decreed that he would let it fade, and raise up something new in its place: the Church. We are the new creation God planted for those hungry to know God; let’s make sure we yield a bountiful harvest.

 

A Lesson From a Fig Tree

Ligonier. org. source

“Seeing a fig tree by the wayside, he went to it and found nothing on it…. And He said to it, ‘May no fruit ever come from you again!’ And the fig tree withered at once” (v. 19).

– Matthew 21:18–22

Anti-Christian philosophers often misuse today’s passage to defame Jesus and deny that He is God incarnate. How can a good man curse an “innocent” fig tree? they ask. And, if Jesus is omniscient, why does He expect figs when it is not fig season (Matt. 21:18–19Mark 11:12–14)?

These objections are easily answered. First, Christ, as God the Son, has de facto authority over His creation and the sovereign right to do with it what He wills. Jesus, therefore, can curse the fig tree if He so desires. Second, understanding what it means for figs to be in season shows us how Jesus can expect fruit when it is not fig season. During springtime, Palestinian fig trees begin producing taksh — Arabic for immature, edible figs. Ripe, sweet figs are harvested in the summer, the season for figs to which Mark’s gospel refers. Lush foliage signals that taksh are present; thus, Jesus rightly expects fruit when He combs through the leaves; yet appearances are deceiving in this case.

Our Savior’s malediction does more than just express His righteous anger at the lack of figs. As John Calvin comments, Christ intends “to present in this tree an outward sign of the end which awaits hypocrites, and at the same time to expose the emptiness and folly of their ostentation.” Jesus curses the fig tree in the context of His teaching on hypocrisy: He casts out temple merchants who exploit others while claiming to serve God (Matt. 21:12–13); He must deal with religious authorities who will not recognize John the Baptist’s divine authority (vv. 23–27); He tells a parable that condemns those who pledge service but then do nothing (vv. 28–32). Moreover, the Old Testament sometimes speaks of covenant-breaking Israel as a barren fig tree (Hos. 2:12Mic. 7:1–6). Christ’s curse is a foreshadowing of what will happen to hypocrites — those Israelites who, like the fig trees with leaves, promise fruit but fail to deliver.

This lesson escapes the Twelve, who are more amazed at the speed with which Jesus’ words come true (Matt. 21:20). Christ does not focus in on hypocrisy; that will come later (vv. 28–32). Instead, He teaches on prayer, informing His followers that believing prayer can accomplish great things (vv. 21–22).

 

The Disappointing Fig Tree

Kevin DeRaaf, Reframemedia

Scripture Reading — Mark 11:12-1420-25

Peter … said … “Rabbi, look! The fig tree you cursed has withered!” Mark 11:21 —

As Jesus and his disciples walked along toward Jerusalem, they came across an unexpected surprise: a fig tree in full leaf. This was a surprise because it was too early in the year for figs. But where there was a fig tree in leaf, you could expect figs. So Jesus and the disciples went over to the tree to see if it had any fruit. It had none. What seemed at first to be a remarkable tree turned out to be a disappointment. So Jesus said to the tree: “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.” And he walked away.

The next day, as they left Jerusalem and passed by the same tree, the disciples were astonished to find the tree totally withered.

When Peter expressed his surprise about the tree, Jesus used the opportunity to teach two lessons. The first lesson was about failure. The empty tree serves as a warning that we cannot pretend to be spiritually alive, for we won’t bear any fruit.

The second lesson is about faith. Jesus says, “Have faith in God.” We are to trust in him for all the life and strength we need in order to serve him. When we are rooted in Jesus through sincere prayer, our faith will bear fruit. Our faith in Christ will be strong enough to help move people to believe in Jesus and enter his kingdom. Through his strength in us, we’ll show he’s alive!

Prayer

Lord, help us to have strong faith in you. Fill our lives with the kind of fruit that brings honor to you and blesses the people around us. In your name we pray. Amen.

 

Walking in the Light of Your Own Fire – Streams in the Desert – March 30

Times have changed, but life’s hard times haven’t

Behold, all ye that kindle a fire, that compass yourselves about with sparks: walk in the light of your fire, and in the sparks that ye have kindled. This shall ye have of mine hand; ye shall lie down in sorrow” (Isa. 50:11).

What a solemn warning to those who walk in darkness and yet who try to help themselves out into the light. They are represented as kindling a fire, and compassing themselves with sparks. What does this mean?

Why, it means that when we are in darkness the temptation is to find a way without trusting in the Lord and relying upon Him. Instead of letting Him help us out, we try to help ourselves out. We seek the light of nature, and get the advice of our friends. We try the conclusions of our reason, and might almost be tempted to accept a way of deliverance which would not be of God at all.

All these are fires of our own kindling; rushlights that will surely lead us onto the shoals. And God will let us walk in the light of those sparks, but the end will be sorrow.

Beloved, do not try to get out of a dark place, except, in God’s time and in God’s way. The time of trouble is meant to teach you lessons that you sorely need. Premature deliverance may frustrate God’s work of grace in your life. Just commit the whole situation to Him. Be willing to abide in darkness so long as you have His presence.

Remember that it is better to walk in the dark with God than to walk alone in the light.
–The Still Small Voice

Cease meddling with God’s plans and will. You touch anything of His, and you mar the work. You may move the hands of a clock to suit you, but you do not change the time; so you may hurry the unfolding of God’s will, but you harm and do not help the work. You can open a rosebud but you spoil the flower. Leave all to Him. Hands down. Thy will, not mine.

Jesus Cleanses The Temple

Jesus Got Angry

While on an outing with two special little friends, we went to a gift shop that had a basket of colorful hair clips displayed near the floor. It was like a magnet to Megan, the 18-month-old. Her four-year-old sister, Mollie soon joined her.

My correction, “No, no. Don’t touch” had no effect in getting little hands out of the basket, even when repeated. Finally, I spoke a little stronger, “Obey.” Immediately, both girls withdrew their hands and backed away. Mollie’s eyes filled with hurt and confusion.

I’d been studying anger in the Bible for several months, and I realized that Mollie reacted, as if to anger. I didn’t feel angry. Nor, did I think I was angry. Yes, my voice became harsh for the final word, but I reasoned that I needed to be firm to let them know I meant business. The more I thought about it, however, the more I realized that my actions showed all the signs of using anger to get what I wanted. Their reaction told me that I must have been angry, whether I thought I was or not. I had manipulated the girls with harshness.

Obedience is important. If they don’t learn to obey earthly authority, they won’t obey God. It would be irresponsible not to address the issue. However, what appeared to be sound logic and justification did not erase the memory of both girls pulling away from me. They obeyed, but I had alienated them to gain obedience.

But Jesus got angry when He drove the traders and the livestock out of the temple. Therefore, it’s okay for me to get stern when I have just cause. Right?

When I looked more closely at the passage, I discovered that is not right.

Anger is generally a reaction rather than a response of action. However, because Jesus only did what He saw His Father doing, we know that His demonstration in the temple was not a reaction to the moneychangers. It was action in response to His Father.

Furthermore, if we are around someone who has an angry outburst, we want to fight back or withdraw and run. But that is not how people responded to Jesus.

  1. The disciples were reminded of a verse from Psalms. (Mark. 11:17)
  2. The multitude was listening to Jesus, making the chief priests and scribes afraid. (Mark 11:18)
  3. The blind and lame came to Him for healing.(Matthew 21:14)
  4. He taught in the temple the rest of the day and “the chief priests and scribes saw the wonderful things He did.”(Matthew 21:15)
  5. The children were crying “Hosanna to the Son of David.” (Matthew 21:15)

People were drawn to Jesus after His “angry” outburst. Nobody pulled back like Mollie and Megan. The chief priests and scribes allowed Him to continue teaching and healing in the temple, and then reacted because of the response of others to Him. Could it be that rather than reacting in anger, Jesus was acting under authority?

Was He also taking authority – authority which was rightfully His as the Son of God? After questioning Him, the chief priests allowed Him to teach because He was acting as One under authority.

I’m grateful my relationship with my young friends was not permanently damaged, and that they have continued to learn and grow. I am especially grateful because I believe in this incident God’s purpose was for me to learn something.

Thanks to them, my eyes were opened to see that I was angry more often than I thought. I also saw how easily anger affects relationships. My harshness came from defending my own authority, not from a motivation to train in righteousness. I was seeking conformity to my way, not following the leadership of God. While trying to make them come under authority, I was out from under mine.

I still believe it is important to teach obedience, and that there needs to be consequences for disobedience. However, I’m learning to do it under authority so it will draw people to me — and to Jesus — rather than driving them away.

Jesus Cleanses the Temple

ligonier.org, source

John 02:13-25, “Christ Cleanses the Temple” | Ezra Commentary

“Jesus entered the temple and drove out all who sold and bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons” (v. 12).

– Matthew 21:12–13

Messianic expectations were at a fever pitch after Jesus came into Jerusalem on a donkey (Matt. 21:1–11), and the next action He performed only added fuel to the fire. We will today look at our Lord’s cleansing of the temple in Matthew 21:12–13 and examine what it teaches us about the Christ.

Of Herod’s building projects, none were greater than the Jerusalem temple, which he expanded. It sat on what we now call the Temple Mount, an area of some thirty-five acres. Only priests could enter the temple itself, which took up a small part of the mount and was surrounded by three courts: Israelite men could enter the court closest to the temple. Israelite men and women could occupy the next court. But the Court of the Gentiles, which was the court farthest from the temple, was the closest any non-Jew could get to the sanctuary.

From around the world, first-century Jews came to the temple at Passover to sacrifice to the Lord (Ex. 12:1–28Lev. 23:4–8). It was impractical to bring sacrificial animals long distances; so, they were available in Jerusalem — for a price. Most Jews also paid the temple tax at Passover, and money-changers were there to convert Roman coinage into appropriate currency: pagan mottoes on Roman money made it unacceptable for Yahweh’s house. Though not inherently evil, these practices became occasions for sin. Pilgrims paid exorbitant rates to change money, and sellers exploited those in poverty, overcharging for the poor man’s offering of pigeons and doves (Lev. 5:7). To make things worse, these merchants set up shop in the Court of the Gentiles, making it useless as a place of prayer due to the hustle and bustle the buying and selling created.

Therefore Jesus drove out the sellers (Matt. 21:12). These merchants, and the priests who allowed their presence, cared nothing for true worship as long as they could make money and keep up the rituals. Our Savior hated this sacrilege, which kept the nations from learning about the living God in His sanctuary.

We cannot underestimate the importance of this act. It showed Jesus as having authority to purify and take charge of the temple, a messianic task (Ezek. 43:1–12) that only put Him more at odds with the Sanhedrin.

Cleansing the Temple (1)

learnreligions.com, source

Cleansing of the Temple - Wikipedia

Scripture Reading — Matthew 21:12-17

Jesus entered the temple area and drove out all who were buying and selling there.
Matthew 21:12 —

Let’s take some time over the next few days to discover what Jesus is teaching us by his cleansing of the temple. When Jesus entered the temple area after his triumphal entry into Jerusalem, he began driving out everyone who was buying and selling there.

What had stoked the fires of his divine wrath and anger? We know from Scripture that the “the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil” (1 Timothy 6:10). Jesus knew that too. Jesus became angry because religious hucksters were using God to make extra money. You see, people traveling into Jerusalem for the Passover needed to buy animals for the sacrifices they would offer to God during this festival. Most of those people also needed to exchange their money for temple currency in order to buy the animals. The trouble, though, was that the money changers and sellers were often dishonest and took advantage of those travelers.

I have met people who were turned off by the church. When I once asked a neighbor why he no longer attended church, he said he had quit because the church didn’t care for him—they just wanted his money. I don’t know if that was true or just an excuse. But I do know that many people have been turned off because they’ve been fleeced by some unscrupulous person who claimed to be a Christian. When that happens, Jesus gets angry.

Prayer

Lord, what needs to be cleansed in our lives? Is it a love for money? Is it a desire to exploit people for our own purposes? Lord, cleanse what is offensive in me. In your name, Amen.

Secret Plots

by Inspiration Ministries

“Hide me from the secret plots of the wicked … they talk of laying snares secretly … God shall shoot at them with an arrow … He will make them stumble over their own tongue … All men … shall declare the work of God.” – Psalm 64:2, 5, 7-9 NKJV

David had been the victim of secret plots and wounded by words spoken from deceptive hearts. He had been deceived by men who promised to act honorably but who were preparing to trap him.

As David discovered, some people make a habit of acting in secretive ways. They feel that this secrecy allows them to mask their true motivations and makes it easier to deceive and fool others. This willingness to be secretive can lead to a lifetime of engaging in gossip, spreading rumors, lying, and deceiving.

As believers, we can feel vulnerable to these types of secretive plots. They can fill us with fear and uncertainty. Others may plot against us, but, as David learned, we always can trust God. We can be confident that He knows the “secret plots of the wicked.” We can know for sure that He will take care of us and defend us.

At the same time, we can be tempted to engage in secretive actions ourselves against others. We are often tempted to be like the world around us. But God calls us to be different. We are not to be deceptive, but rather transparent and honest. We must keep our promises and always act with integrity.

Today, seek to live in the light before God. Seek to have a pure heart. Make a practice of telling the truth. Be faithful and trustworthy.

The Triumphal Entry

This scene is commonly known as the Triumphal Entry or Palm Sunday. Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem is cause for celebration, the welcoming of the long-awaited Messiah/King. It is the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy in Zechariah 9:9:

Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your King is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

By riding on a donkey, Jesus was claiming to be the expected Messiah of Israel, and the crowd responded appropriately. But what does it mean for Jesus to be our Messiah?

The word “Messiah” is the Hebrew word for “anointed one” or “king.” Because of the many Old Testament prophecies about God sending this figure to them, the Jewish people were waiting expectantly for a “king” who would free Israel from the clutches of the Roman government. This warrior/king would overthrow the Romans and re-establish Israel as a separate nation once again. Jesus was not what they expected, but in this event, they still hoped He would fulfill this expectation.

To be sure, Jesus was the Messianic figure spoken of in the Old Testament. Yet, He transformed all conceptions of what the term meant. Jesus was more focused on building the kingdom of God and not the kingdom of Israel. This confused the Jews, which explains why they would cry out in victory over Him on Sunday, but on Friday would scream, “Crucify Him!” Oh how quickly our loyalty shifts when we don’t get what we want.

What does Jesus the promised Messiah mean to you and me today? Jesus is more than just our Savior. He is our King. To better understand Jesus as king, we should look at the “kingdom story” found in the Bible.

The kingdom story is about God being king of His creation. God has always desired to be the reigning king of our lives.

When God created the world, He was King. His Plan A was to be King of His creation. Even after sin entered the world, God was still King of His people. God led His people through Moses and Joshua, then through priests and prophets and judges. God was the only rightful king of His people.

In 1 Samuel 8, God’s people decided they wanted an earthly king like the other nations. Out of God’s desire to give His creation free will, He granted this request. He gave them an earthly king. He still desired to be King of His people, but He allowed His people to choose another king in place of Him. This was Plan B.

The remaining portions of the Old Testament are record after record of humanity struggling to be their own king. Plan B did not work out very well. Remember: God didn’t initiate Plan B. Man did. People give God a hard time for what is written in the Old Testament, but God didn’t endorse the activities in the Old Testament as much as He allowed the consequences of sinful man to be played out on the big screen of Scripture for the rest of us to see.

Jesus came on the scene when people were looking for an earthly king to restore the kingdom back to its original glory. They had in mind the kingdom of David. God had in mind the kingdom of original creation. Jesus ushered in this new kingdom and this new way of living. Then Jesus died on a cross and made the final payment for the brokenness that resulted from the first sin in the garden. He redeemed humanity on the cross. And He will one day return to consummate the relationship. But until then, Jesus is king of His people (the church) and we are now living in a day where God’s Plan A is being realized once again!

As we prepare our hearts for the Easter celebration, let’s be sure to see Jesus as He really is. Immediately after He ascended into heaven in Acts 1:9, He was seated at the right hand of the Father on the throne of the universe. This is the Jesus we get to talk with today. He is not some small, insignificant genie we bring our wishlist to. He is the King of the universe and is worthy of respect and honor.

The great news for you and me is He desires a relationship with us and if we are Christians then we are children of the King! If we are children of the King then let’s be sure we begin to act like royalty today.

The Triumphal Entry

by Inspiration Ministries

“Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout in triumph, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; He is just and endowed with salvation, humble, and mounted on a donkey, even on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” – Zechariah 9:9 NASB

When Jesus rode into Jerusalem in the days before His crucifixion, He was fulfilling a prophecy given to Zechariah hundreds of years earlier. Through eyes of faith, this prophet saw how a King would come to Jerusalem. Even though a King, He was humble and would be mounted on the “foal of a donkey.”

When the day finally came, “a very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road” in preparation for Jesus’ arrival. They shouted praises, “Hosanna to the Son of David,” and cried “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.”

This was a major event, for “all the city was stirred.” People wondered what could have caused such an uproar. The crowds announced, “This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth in Galilee” (Matthew 21:8-11).

The whole community seemed to join together to praise and honor Jesus. Yet, just a few days later, Jerusalem crowds would cry for His crucifixion. But Jesus was not surprised.

At an earlier Passover celebration, many people said that they believed in Him. But Jesus knew that this belief was shallow and superficial. They may have spoken words of praise, yet their hearts were not totally committed. Faced with new circumstances or pressures, they easily could change. Jesus did not entrust Himself to them, for He “knew what was in man” (John 2:23-25).

Today, many people say that they are Christians but have not made Jesus their Lord. They say they believe but only have a superficial commitment.

How about you? Is Jesus the Lord of your life? Is He your Lord all the time? Praise Him from your heart, and commit your life to Him.

The Triumphal Entry

“This took place to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet, saying, ‘Say to the daughter of Zion, Behold, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden’” (vv. 4–5).

– Matthew 21:1–11

Riding on a humble beast of burden is not the way in which most people would expect a king to enter into His reign, but that is exactly how the Lord of glory entered His. Though almost no one could see it at the time, Jesus’ arrival in Jerusalem on Palm Sunday marked the beginning of the final events that would lead to His exaltation (Matt. 21:1–11).

When we say that almost no one could see it at the time, we are not speaking of what the crowd of Passover pilgrims first thought when they saw Jesus approaching Jerusalem on a donkey. The greatest king in their history, after all, often rode through the Holy City and the Promised Land in a similar manner (2 Sam. 13:291 Kings 1:33). Thus, the people who cried “Hosanna to the Son of David!” on Palm Sunday expected a mighty, conquering king, one who would throw off the yoke of their Gentile oppressors just as David had defeated the Philistines centuries earlier.

Yet the people failed to see the true import of the Davidic king riding on a lowly beast of burden. Yes, David was a conquering king, but he defeated his enemies not in his own strength but in the strength of the Lord. Moreover, for all of his military prowess, David could not provide permanent rest to his people. After his death, his son Solomon enjoyed peace for a time, but this golden age came to an end when God brought enemies against Solomon to discipline him for his idolatry (1 Kings 11:9–40).

The true enemies that had to be defeated were not pagan Gentiles but rather sin and death. This could not be done on a white horse and with great armies. Instead, it took humility, a willingness to take the form of a servant and submit to the punishment that God’s people deserve for their sin (Phil. 2:5–11). Only by receiving the worst that sin and death could throw at him could the Davidic king “outsmart” our enemies. In thinking that they were gaining the upper hand, sin, death, and even Satan himself did not see that their actions were ultimately working under the sovereignty of God so that His wrath would be satisfied in the death of His Son. They did not see that by killing Jesus they were actually ensuring their own defeat, for the Son of David whom they murdered was stronger than death itself. Passing through death, He conquered it by rising again. Jesus took the worst that His foes could do and triumphed over it. His humble entry into Jerusalem in fulfillment of Zechariah’s prophecy anticipated His final conquering act.

Simple Faith In Christ Saves You

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Give Me Simple

fancy remote control

This remote control nearly takes my breath away. Complicated. That’s the only word I can think of when I look at it. Sixty-two buttons. And four of the buttons are color codes, which, in various combinations with other buttons, vastly increases the possible functions. A killer remote. That’s what this is. It will wreak havoc on the brain functions of the poor soul who tries to make sense of the whole thing. On the other hand, some people would probably love it because it does so much.

Complicated. This remote tells me that life is too busy and stuffed, that we want every conceivable electronic function—or every conceivable thing or activity. We fill up our lives the way the manufacturer loaded buttons on this remote. And if I ask ten people if their life is too complicated, probably nine will say it is.

Simple. This remote inspires me to long for more simplicity in life—both mine and the world I live in. Simplicity of less stuff and less busyness, of focus on what’s important, and of the freedom that follows.

A key factor in pursuing and maintaining simplicity is my values and calling. They give me clarity in every area of life on what’s most important and what’s secondary.

Jesus did this his entire time on earth. When word spread that he was a miracle man, and crowds came to receive a touch from God, he got up and left. Left! He walked away and said,

“I must announce the good news of God’s kingdom to the other towns also. That is why I was sent” (Luke 4:43 NIRV).

He could have done a gazillion things, but he focused on why he was here.

And when he visited Martha and Mary’s house, Martha was living the complicated life and doing all the work needed to serve the meal, and I appreciate Martha. It would have been a miserable supper without her. But Mary sat at Jesus’ feet and focused in simple attention to what was most important (Luke 10:38–42).

Jesus said, “… only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better. And it will not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:42 NIRV).

Many things are good but not needed. Mary’s focused hunger for God put everything else in its proper secondary place in a life of blessed simplicity.

What is that worth to you?

 

Through The Bible Devotions

Deuteronomy 7:7-8 (NIV) 7The LORD did not set his affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples. 8But it was because the LORD loved you and kept the oath he swore to your forefathers that he brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the land of slavery, from the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt.

Why does the LORD set His love on certain ones? In the case of Israel, we see that He simply chose to love them, and it was in keeping with the oath He made to their forefathers. That oath began with the man of faith, Abraham. Our relationship with God can affect future generations that follow us.

God chose to love the world. He set His love upon the world because of what Jesus did. The result of Jesus’ life of faith is the same type, but it is the ultimate fulfillment of the shadow in Abraham. We, too, were delivered from the land of slavery, slavery to our old nature. We, too, are delivered from the master of this world, Satan. He no longer has a claim to our lives. He has no right to our souls. God made a promise to crush the head of Satan so that we could be redeemed and out from under the power of the enemy.

This verse applies to us today. God has set His affection on you and chosen you. Thank Jesus for making that possible. Live in the knowledge of the truth that God has set His affection on you because of Jesus’ life of faith and death in your place.

Consider: You are delivered from the power of the enemy. Don’t let him tell you anything else. You are loved, and you are free!

 

Streams in the Desert – March 28

Times have changed, but life’s hard times haven’t

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

A Total Commitment

by Inspiration Ministries

“When the large crowd … heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, they took the branches of the palm trees … and began shouting, ‘Hosanna! Blessed is He Who comes in the Name of the Lord.’” – John 12:12-13 NASB

Eager with anticipation, the crowds greeted Jesus as He approached Jerusalem, shouting loud praises! He had done amazing things, most recently raising Lazarus from the dead. This was a moment of celebration. It could have seemed like a great triumph for Jesus. But He understood what really was taking place and what really was important.

During the feast that would be taking place in Jerusalem, Jesus was approached by some Greeks. His words might have surprised them. He did not talk like a conqueror or king. He did not speak about power, overthrowing Roman rule, or building a movement. Instead, He spoke about being a servant. Instead of talking about life, He talked about death.

He had committed everything to doing the Father’s will and completing His work – even if this meant death. If these Greeks wanted to bear much fruit, they, too, needed to commit everything to serve God. They needed to obey Him without reservation, no matter the cost and to understand that He honors servants and rewards those who give up everything to serve Him.

We are reminded of these truths today, on this Palm Sunday. This day reminds us of the importance of praising Jesus and committing everything to follow Him. Always seek first God’s Kingdom. Be a servant. Focus on serving God. Fill your life with praise and worship. Seek to be a living sacrifice, pleasing to Him.

Our Punishment Fell On Christ

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Easter Baskets or Empty Tombs

easter-empty-tomb

 

I was living up North several years ago when I first heard the phrase, “He Is Risen; He Is Risen Indeed!” The pastor loved to say the first part, He Is Risen, and wait with a big smile on his face for the congregation to finish the statement. (He Is Risen Indeed.) This was a favorite ritual every Easter Sunday morning.

Why did the pastor like saying it? I guess He knew it would fit with the sermon that day. He was sort of priming the pump, so to speak, for what was to come. Then a wonderfully, well-organized, properly prepared sermon on the death and resurrection of Christ would soon follow. Previous to this were three or four songs from the hymnal such as He LivesHe AroseAt Calvary, and At The Cross. It was the only Sunday we would sing these songs, so sing we did. We sang loudly and with a lot of heart.

I remember as a child that everyone wore fancy clothes on that day. It was the only Sunday that all the kids had new white shoes and pretty hats. Some of the girls even wore white gloves. Several of the moms and dads had a flower on their suits or dresses. Excitement was in the atmosphere. We knew an Easter egg hunt for all the children would begin after the service. There would be lots of beautifully colored hard-boiled eggs, jelly beans inside plastic eggs, hard candy-coated marshmallow eggs, and a very special large chocolate-covered candy egg. At home, I had a wonderful Easter basket filled with lots of candy and gum waiting for me too.

It marked the coming of spring. Pastel colors were everywhere. Flowers were blooming and the air was much warmer than a few weeks ago. It was such a happy time.

Now, I am older and I know Easter Sunday in a much different way. I now realize Easter is about death, burial, and resurrection. Jesus the Son of God was born so that one day He would die. He chose to become the sacrifice for your sins and mine.

The Bible says,

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16 NIV).

“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…” (Romans 3:23 NIV).

“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23 NIV).

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9 NIV).

It’s so wonderful. By faith we simply believe in the great price that was paid for us. We sinned, Jesus died on a cross to pay for our sins, and on the third day rose from the grave. He is seated at the right hand of God making intercession for us.

He paid a very high price. He gave His life. He suffered so that we can live forever with God. If we believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, we are saved. There is no condemnation for the things we have done. And with each mistake we now make, forgiveness is still ours to receive.

The tomb where Jesus was buried and from where He rose was left empty. Only the grave clothes were left behind. Because of His great love for us, and the power of God living in us, we too will one day be caught up with Him in the air.

“After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever” (1 Thessalonians 4:17 NIV).

Jesus is coming again for those of us who have asked Him to forgive us our sins. We are waiting for that day when the heavens will open and we will meet Him in the skies.

So you see, Easter isn’t at all about Easter baskets full of candy, pretty clothes, or spring flowers. It’s about an empty tomb. He is Risen, He is Risen Indeed!

 

Show Me the Money

by Ryan Duncan, crosswalk.com

Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the LORD Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it. – Malachi 3:10

Like many younger Christians, I have never been very good at tithing. Sure, I try to be generous, but I am never very consistent in my giving. Once in a while I’ll write a check for a good cause, support the occasional mission trip, but when it comes to the genuine, 10-percent of my labors tithes; I usually just give whatever happens to be in my wallet. There are a lot of excuses for my miserly behavior, but in all honesty, I think the real reason I didn’t tithe was because I just didn’t believe it was that important. Then I learned about Todd Stiefel.

Todd Stiefel is one of the major forces behind the modern atheist movement. His organization, the Stiefel Freethought Foundation, is behind the majority of atheist campaigns like flashy billboards, high-profile rallies, and other news-making efforts. According to CNN, Stiefel has poured over 3.5 million dollars of his own fortune into these projects. When asked why he would give so much to help fund these endeavors, Stiefel responded,

“I wanted to try to help the world. I wanted to give back and this seemed like the most productive way to help humanity.”

I can remember feeling very cold when I read that. Here was a man who did not believe in God. Here was a man who believed, fervently, that best way to help humanity was through the erosion of my faith. Worst of all, here was a man better at freely giving to what he believed in than I had ever been in all my years as a Christian. God had commanded me to give cheerfully, and my generosity was being upstaged by an atheist.

All dramatics aside, I think it’s important for us Christians to understand that tithing is a vital part of our faith. It teaches us not to put our faith in financial gain, it helps the Church support its leaders, and I think the act of giving helps us remain humble before God. He did not instruct tithing to rob us of our wealth; he commanded it so that the Church could provide for one another in times of need. Remember the words of Proverbs 11:24,

“One gives freely, yet grows all the richer; another withholds what he should give, and only suffers want.”

Through The Bible Devotions

March 27

Deuteronomy 7:2 (NIV) 2and when the LORD your God has delivered them over to you and you have defeated them, then you must destroy them totally. Make no treaty with them, and show them no mercy.

Many people stumble at this portion of Scripture. It is amazing how modern “science” justifies the brutality of some cultures and condemns Christian history as un-Christian. If a culture is faithful to its beliefs, though those beliefs slaughter innocents and destroy indiscriminately, we are told we just don’t understand their culture. But when power mongers live in disregard to Christian principles, yet operate in the name of Christ, it is condemned as Christianity’s dark side.

Look at any culture today that does not have a Christian heritage and ask yourself if you would honestly want to live there. Yet, few educators will acknowledge the wonderful blessing faith in Christ has brought to the world.

The passage today is often cited as an example of the brutality of the Old Testament God. What is ignored is that the Children of Israel were in Egypt 400 years while the cup of iniquity of these people was filling up. They had the truth during the time of Melchizedek, at the beginning of that 400 year period, but they turned from it and became increasingly wicked. By the time Israel entered the land, the people there were slaughtering babies by the thousands to Moleck, burning them alive. (12:31) The other god they worshipped, Baal, included self-mutilation and perverse sexual practices in public worship. When cultures become that evil, life becomes unbearable and filled with misery and disease. It was God’s mercy to command (and only the Creator has the right to) that those cultures be wiped out. They were influencing the world for evil, and God was replacing them with Israel to influence the world for good.

Consider: Education’s perspective changes yearly. God’s Word never changes.

Passover Promises

by Inspiration Ministries

“The blood shall be a sign for you, on the houses where you are. And when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague will befall you to destroy you, when I strike the land of Egypt.” – Exodus 12:13 ESV

As a final step in the liberation of His people, God warned that He would strike down all the firstborn males – human and animal – in Egypt. But He also offered protection to the Israelites. An angel would pass by homes with blood on the doorpost, as long as this was blood from a one-year-old male lamb “without blemish” (v. 5).

This protection was provided for the Jews and also for anyone who agreed to His conditions (v. 48). God kept His Word. At midnight, all the firstborn males were killed except in the houses protected by the blood.

This became the foundation for the Passover feast. It was to be “a memorial day,” a “feast to the Lord” to be kept throughout all generations (v. 14). And it was to be a sign, a day to remember how God had delivered them and set them free (Exodus 13:3).

These Passover principles still are true for believers. The Bible tells us that Jesus is “the Lamb of God, for He takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). Just like the lamb of the Passover, Jesus’ blood provides deliverance, protection, and freedom. His blood “cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:7).

Passover begins at sundown today. Make this a season of reflection, to remember all God has done for you. Be sure you are protected by the blood of Jesus and that your sins have been forgiven.

God’s Great Gift To Us

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What a Gift!

 

Have you ever forgiven a loved one who wronged you and said they were sorry? It’s difficult, but to save the relationship, often we find it in our heart to forgive – especially if the other person is sincerely sorry. But how about the person who wrongs you and is not sorry? Would they be dead to you? Should that relationship be pursued? Should they be shown forgiveness? Actually, it happened to each of us … about 2,000 years ago.

All of us, at one time or another, chooses wrong over right: to lie, steal, curse, or to be resentful, bitter, or jealous of another person. Because we are made in God’s image and created to be in relationship with Him, when we violate His character, we separate ourselves from Him and sever the relationship. Still, as a loving Father, God wants to restore this relationship and is willing to forgive even when we’re not sorry. Romans 5:8 says:

“But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (NASB)

God did not wait for us to come to Him; for God knew that left to ourselves, it would never happen:

“The Lord has looked down from heaven upon the sons of men to see if there are any who understand, Who seek after God. They have all turned aside, … There is none who seeks for God.” Psalm 14:2-3Romans 3:11 (NASB)

And so, before the beginning of time, God arranged a rescue mission to extend forgiveness to those who didn’t know to ask.

Easter is the celebration of this amazing gift. 2,000 years ago, the Son of God willingly left the glory of Heaven and came to earth, wrapped in human flesh, to become the complete sacrifice for sin. Yet, when we look at the Cross, we often forget that Jesus suffered something far greater than physical death: He suffered spiritual separation from God the Father so we wouldn’t have to. Jesus laid bare His greatest agony when He cried out,

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46)

The eternal God-head was torn apart for us. The penalty for sin is not the Cross; that’s the symbol. The penalty for sin is eternal separation from God, and only the eternal God could pay that price.

The greatest gift ever given is not God’s forgiveness that is now available to us, but rather God’s Son through whom forgiveness was made possible.

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” John 3:16 (NASB)

The person who looks upon God’s Son who, as He was being nailed to the Cross, said,

“Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” Luke 23:34 (NASB)

… and turns away, will not spend an eternity regretting his sin – that’s done and paid for. Rather, he will be left to agonize over all the ways God tried to reach out to him, reveal Himself to him, and demonstrate His love in an endless pursuit to have a relationship with him — that God even decided he was worth dying for — but he turned away … however:

“But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, …” John 1:12 (NASB)

On that first glorious Easter morning, the dark tomb was empty. God the Father raised Jesus from the dead, restoring Him to His rightful throne in Heaven, demonstrating God’s complete satisfaction that the penalty for all sin, for all people, for all time, has been paid in full. Easter is resurrection day! The day Christians all over the world celebrate that their relationship to God the Father, once dead, has been restored to life — and not just life, eternal life!

God wants to restore a relationship with you and He is only a prayer away. If you want to receive Jesus as your Lord and Savior – God’s greatest gift — you can pray a simple prayer something like this:

Father, thank you for loving me and sending your beloved Son to pay the penalty for my sin. Jesus, thank you for dying for me on the Cross. I am sorry for living my life apart from You and choose today to follow You. Please come into my heart and make me the person You created me to be. Amen.

And one day, when you enter your heavenly Home, you will run to your Father who will scoop you up into His arms saying, “Welcome home, my child!”

“Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:13 (NASB)

What love! What a gift! What an amazing God!

 

Look Up

by Sarah Phillips, crosswalk

But he answered and said to his father, “Look! For so many years I have been serving  you and I have never neglected a command of yours; and yet you have never given me a young goat, so that I might celebrate with my friends; but when this son of yours came , who has devoured your wealth with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him.” ~ Luke 15:29 – 31

I recently ran across a forum discussion about being single that stuck with me, a fellow single. The original posting went something like this:

“I really want to be married. I’ve waited years and years to be married. I’ve saved myself for my wedding night and lived a life pleasing to God. So it really pains me to see all these people who compromised their purity getting married and having children when I’ve lived chastely but remain single and dateless. They are being rewarded while I stay sad and alone. It’s just not fair.”

Have you ever felt this way? It’s natural to feel frustrated when we make good choices and get burned while those who made poor choices seem to have it easier. Yes, most of us have empathized with the older brother of the prodigal son at some point. After all, he is the son that did everything right. We understand his pain in the opening verse.

But truthfully, the older brother wasn’t much different from the younger. Both brothers believed a fallacy: If I do things my way, I’ll win out. The consequences of a prodigal son’s actions are often obvious – life often crumbles around them as they break away from God’s truth and embrace reckless living. But what exactly happens when we embrace the attitude of the older brother?

We may still attend church, continue to make righteous decisions, and maintain the appearance of wellbeing, but we begin to rot on the inside as we internally pull away from the Father’s life-giving love. As I observed this forum thread unfold and reread the scriptures above, I saw three subtle dangers to the soul who suffers with Older Brother Syndrome:

Loss of spiritual clarity. When we embrace the stance of the older brother, our spiritual vision darkens because we turn our gaze away from Christ to fixate on someone else’s life. The older brother travels down an ungodly path because he fails to see things from his merciful father’s perspective. From his corner, he cannot see that the prodigal brother suffered for his transgressions and repented with sorrow, nor can he see his own blessings clearly. He festers with envy over the celebration, and misinterprets his father’s forgiveness as a personal slight. While the older brother may justify his anger in light of the pain his younger brother inflicted on their father, the oldest son only increases his father’s pain with his bitter, ungrateful heart.

Pride finds a foothold.  Let’s face it – comparing our “goodness” to another’s faults can only lead to a full-blown case of spiritual pride. And pride is deadly to the soul. It causes us to lose gratitude towards our Father, obscures our own need for mercy, and misleads us into thinking God owes us something. We may make ineffective — even destructive — attempts to grasp at the blessing we no longer trust God to provide for us.

Misery settles in. “Son, you have always been with me, and all that is mine is yours.” (Luke 15:31) Unlike the prodigal, the eldest brother had access to his loving father for his entire life. Yet his response to his father’s joy does not reveal a joyful heart. Pride, envy, judgmental attitudes and perfectionism squeeze peace and happiness out of our lives. My sister wisely pointed this out to me recently: there’s no point in comparing your life to another, “unless you are bent on being miserable.”

So what can we do to find peace when we feel life treats us unfairly? When your frugal family reels from job layoffs while the Jones’ still enjoy stable employment? When your godly parenting skills fall on deaf ears while the neighbors boast over their accomplished kids? I think its okay to acknowledge feelings of sadness, frustration, and even confusion. But at the end of the day, it’s best to stop looking at others, and start looking up.

Streams in the Desert – March 26

Times have changed, but life’s hard times haven’t

Look from the place where thou art, northward, and southward, and eastward, and westward: for all the land which thou seest, to thee will I give it (Gen. 13:14-15).

No instinct can be put in you by the Holy Ghost but He purposes to fulfill. Let your faith then rise and soar away and claim all the land you can discover.
–S. A. Keen

All you can apprehend in the vision of faith is your own. Look as far as you can, for it is all yours. All that you long to be as a Christian, all that you long to do for God, are within the possibilities of faith. Then come, still closer, and with your Bible before you, and your soul open to all the influences of the Spirit, let your whole being receive the baptism of His presence; and as He opens your understanding to see all His fulness, believe He has it all for you. Accept for yourself all the promises of His word, all the desires He awakens within you, all the possibilities of what you may be as a follower of Jesus. All the land you see is given to you.

The actual provisions of His grace come from the inner vision. He who puts the instinct in the bosom of yonder bird to cross the continent in search of summer sunshine in the Southern clime is too good to deceive it, and just as surely as He has put the instinct in its breast, so has He also put the balmy breezes and the vernal sunshine yonder to meet it when it arrives.

He who breathes into our hearts the heavenly hope, will not deceive or fail us when we press forward to its realization.
–Selected

“And they found as he had said unto them” (Luke 22:13).

 

God Made The Stars and Named Them

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Diamonds in the Night

 

Have you noticed the stars lately? Taken the time to look up? Shining above us, they silently declare their obedience with stationary positions. The sky is endless — God’s blackboard of promises. It’s also the venue displaying His glory. I don’t know about you, but my night sky gets cloudy from time to time. Obscured by stormy circumstances, I lose sight of God’s tailored plan.

Clouds shrouded Abram’s view too. Dedicated to God and the original pattern of a surrendered life, like me, he felt a questioning that ebbed and flowed with passing years. The Bible reveals how God unwrapped His secret plans to this committed servant.

And He took him outside and said, “Now look toward the heavens, and count the stars, if you are able to count them.” And He said to him, “So shall your descendants be” (Genesis 15:5 NASB).

Sparkling diamonds against black velvet skies. Stars used to tally a new nation. Abram stared up in wonderment as celestial promises were made regarding his posterity. From the expanse of heaven, Israel twinkled down, illuminating the darkness. Holy astronomy.

Sometimes, I stay indoors too long. Life’s demands keep me busy. So busy, that I’m focused inward with restricted vision; trained only on what’s before me. Like He did with Abram, I’m led outside, into the fresh air of purpose and inhale deeply. My eyes need adjusting to the view. His view. I’m invited to leave earth’s confines and move freely about God’s domain. Everything looks different from this vantage point. Suddenly, what appeared as insurmountable problems are now reduced to manageable sizes. Worries and concerns melt away in God’s majestic presence. Weights and pressures drug about like millstones become airborne as His faithfulness envelops me. My outlook assumes His, and I find myself lying down once more in His contented green pastures.

There are times the Lord must take us outside and separate us from what has become our routine, to look up instead of down, and reestablish His pristine rhythm. He must change the status quo and shift the gear for our acceleration. After all, His reputation is on the line. Over the decades of knowing Him personally, I’ve received numerous promises from Him. Hope for things unseen, yet authorized for fulfillment. A hallowed “Purchase Order” already in hand but the transaction incomplete. In this silent interim, we grow. Likened to pregnancy, each month, each trimester brings us closer to birth. We are secluded inside our tent. Waiting on a word we sometimes question will manifest. It’s easy to believe the promise, but what about the prolonged delivery?

“Not one of the good promises which the LORD had made to the house of Israel failed; all came to pass.” (Joshua 21:45 NASB)

Just like Abram, we must exit our tents and look up toward heaven, counting the innumerable. For unless we’re willing to change our geography and go outside, we’ll never see the stars. Our destiny is not inside the dusty tent, but rather in the open and displayed above us. God intentionally chooses the dark to reveal His light. Have you tried looking at the stars in the daylight? It’s in the dark, the secret places, that the Lord shines brightest and we see Him clearest. None are tasked to find stars at noon, only to exit our pre-conceived expectations that often lead to misunderstanding God’s movements. Without that shift, our purpose is hidden in plain sight and we can become hopeless. Or worse, think that God has stopped working on our behalf. He hasn’t. It’s all about perfect timing. We simply need to unfold that yellowed, dog-eared paper and reread our personal promises. After all, time crawled long before Isaac ever did. Let God take you outside. Maybe it’s time the two of you went stargazing again.

 

Paul’s first prayer

Psalms Chapter 147 KJV!! | Kristi Ann's Haven

By: Charles Spurgeon

“For, behold, he prayeth.” Acts 9:11

Suggested Further Reading: Colossians 4:2-12

Whenever a Christian backslides, his wandering commences in his closet. I speak what I have felt. I have often gone back from God—never so as to fall finally, I know, but I have often lost that sweet savour of his love which I once enjoyed. I have had to cry:

“What peaceful hours I once enjoyed! How sweet their memory still!
But they have left an aching void, The world can never fill.”

I have gone up to God’s house to preach, without either fire or energy; I have read the Bible, and there has been no light upon it, I have tried to have communion with God, but all has been a failure. Shall I tell you where that commenced? It commenced in my closet. I had ceased, in a measure, to pray. Here I stand, and do confess my faults; I do acknowledge that whenever I depart from God it is there it begins. Oh Christians, would you be happy? Be much in prayer. Would you be victorious? Be much in prayer.

“Restraining prayer, we cease to fight; Prayer makes the Christian’s armour bright.”

Mrs Berry used to say, “I would not be hired out of my closet for a thousand worlds.” Mr Jay said, “If the twelve apostles were living near you, and you had access to them, if this intercourse drew you from the closet, they would prove a real injury to your souls.” Prayer is the ship which brings home the richest freight. It is the soil which yields the most abundant harvest. Brother, when you rise in the morning your business so presses, that with a hurried word or two, down you go into the world, and at night, jaded and tired, you give God the fag end of the day. The consequence is, that you have no communion with him.

For meditation: Jonah’s backsliding was accompanied by a total lack of prayer, even when pagans were trying to pray (Jonah 1:5,6,14). God sometimes resorts to drastic measures to bring the believer back to himself and to prayer (Jonah 2:1).

 

Streams in the Desert – March 25

Bible Verses About Stars (Page 1) - Line.17QQ.com

Times have changed, but life’s hard times haven’t

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.

A Servant’s Attitude

Heartlight Gallery: "Star"

by Inspiration Ministries

“Do not boast in the presence of the king, and do not stand in the place of great men; for it is better that it be said to you, ‘Come up here,’ than for you to be placed lower in the presence of the prince.” – Proverbs 25:6-7 NASB

How do we advance in our careers? How do we receive the recognition we think we deserve? For many, the logical strategy is through self-promotion and bringing attention to ourselves. Seeking credit for successes and pointing the blame at others for failures are other strategies often employed for advancement.

It’s being sure others know us by name and being aggressive to lobby for the best seat, the greatest rewards. The Bible describes these attitudes as claiming honor “in the presence of the king.”

But the Bible gives us another, godlier model: to have the attitude of a servant in everything we do, to seek to serve God and others with a selfless attitude. We are not to be proud or focus on ourselves but to stay humble. We are always to work as unto the Lord, being sure that He is pleased with what we do and how we do it.

We are urged to remember that “those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted” (Matthew 23:12 NLT). If we humble ourselves before God, He will exalt us (James 4:10).

Remember that others may see outward appearances, but God looks at your heart. Remember to seek first His kingdom. Sow seeds with the gifts and talents you have been given. Be confident that He will provide all you need and bless you abundantly.

The Victory Of The Cross

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Victory at the Cross

 

“But I tell you truly, there are some standing here who shall not taste death till they see the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:27).(NKJV)

After the miracle of feeding the five thousand, Jesus had been alone praying when His disciples joined Him. Jesus asked, “Who do the crowds say that I am?” They answered, “John the Baptist, but some say Elijah; and others say that one of the old prophets has risen again.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered and said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God'” (Luke 9:18-20). (NKJV)

Jesus knew people would be talking about the miracle. But who did they think performed it? He warned them to tell no one, saying, “There are some standing here who shall not taste death till they see the kingdom of God.”

The first time I studied this, I thought “What did Jesus mean? His disciples died a long time ago and we are still waiting to see the kingdom of God.” But I lacked revelation. I assumed He was speaking of heaven, but in actuality, He was referring to retrieved authority.

In the beginning, when Adam sinned, the authority and dominion God had given man was transferred to Satan. Jesus came to retrieve this authority. The Bible says:

“For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil” (1 John 3:8). (NKJV)

After the miracle of feeding the multitudes, Jesus said, “I tell you truly, there are some standing here who shall not taste death till they see the [retrieved authority] of God.” He was speaking of His victory at the cross. It was drawing near.

This is proven in another context of scripture:

“Now it came to pass, about eight days after these sayings, that He took Peter, John, and James and went up on the mountain to pray. As He prayed, the appearance of His face was altered, and His robe became white and glistening. And behold, two men talked with Him, who were Moses and Elijah, who appeared in glory and spoke of His decease which He was about to accomplish at Jerusalem” (Luke 9:28-31). (NKJV)

This passage is often referred to as the Transfiguration. As He prayed and talked with His two visitors, the countenance of Jesus changed this day. But what’s more interesting is their use of the words “decease” and “accomplish” in the same sentence. The words “endure” or “suffer” might seem more appropriate, but not the word accomplish, right?

Wrong.

“But I tell you truly, there are some standing here who shall not taste death till they see the [retrieved authority] of God.” His disciples didn’t understand. Then a week later, a couple of cheerleaders from heaven encouraged Jesus of what was about to take place. Moses and Elijah spoke with Him about His coming death, which was about to be ACCOMPLISHED at Jerusalem. Their mission was to encourage our Savior, for He was about to retrieve authority for all humanity for all time! His death on the cross, as hard as it might be in the flesh, was going to be a great victory for God and man.

Hebrews 12:1-2 (NKJV) says, “…for the joy that was set before Him [He] endured the cross].”

In other words, He looked ahead at the victory that would be accomplished. He wasn’t focused on the cross itself, or the pain of the moment. Instead, His focus was on the resurrection!

This passage says He “endured the cross” which is absolutely true. But Moses and Elijah came to remind Him of His purpose—He was about to accomplish the greatest victory that has ever been or ever will be! The cross wasn’t going to be easy, and God didn’t want His Son to lose heart, so He sent these messengers to remind Him His coming decease would be a great victory.

No wonder His countenance changed! “As He prayed, the appearance of His face was altered, and His robe became white and glistening.” Our countenance changes too when our focus and meditation is on the right thing (our victory in Christ).

So be encouraged today! God has rallied all of heaven behind you and I that we might run with endurance the race that is set before us. Remember, we are of those who have not tasted death, yet have seen the retrieved authority of God—for JESUS HAS RISEN!

 

Through The Bible Devotions

March 24

Deuteronomy 6:4-5 (NIV) 4Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. 5Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.

The Jewish people refer to this passage as the Shema. Jesus said it was the greatest of all the laws of God. He also said that all the Law could be summed up in this passage. First it tells us that JHWH (LORD in all caps) is our Elohim (plural for God in Hebrew). Then it tells us JHWH is one. Here we have the mystery of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. They are one. There is no difference amongst them. Religions with many gods distinguish the differences and purposes for each god, but the God of the Hebrews is one. We refer to that as monotheism. A perfect God can only be one.

Then we are commanded to love our JHWH our Elohim with all our heart. In other words, all our desire should be focused upon Him. In Hebrew, this word includes our thoughts. We should love our God with all our soul. That is all our will and emotions, our very life. We should love the LORD our God with all our strength. Our best and most diligent efforts should be exerted in glorifying Him out of love. It seems impossible to do one of these completely without combining all the other parts of our makeup. An abbreviated form of this command might be expressed as, “love your God with all you are!”

As we focus on just what this is saying, we should get a sense of just how short we fall and of areas in our life that are competing with the first place in our hearts. The Jews put this verse in a small container and put it on the entryway of their homes. When the orthodox Jews worship, they put it in a box on their foreheads. We should keep it before us always as a check of where our heart and soul and strength are being exerted.

Admonition: Do all to the glory of God.

 

Streams in the Desert – March 24

Times have changed, but life’s hard times haven’t

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

Practical Tools

by Inspiration Ministries

“Any enterprise is built by wise planning, becomes strong through common sense, and profits wonderfully by keeping abreast of the facts.” – Proverbs 24:3-4 TLB

With God, nothing is impossible! He is the God of the supernatural. But His Word also stresses the importance of being practical. If we want to be successful, we need to do the practical things He encourages.

The Bible urges us to keep “abreast of the facts.” This means not just following our emotions but doing the necessary research on history and backgrounds and evaluating the experiences of others.

The Bible also stresses the importance of being wise planners – not just leaping into projects but being sure about our goals and creating a path to keep us on course. These practical steps can help bring us success. But the real key is being guided by God’s wisdom and having His blessing.

Approaching each project, we need to be sure to pray about the matter and are confident we are in tune with God. Our actions must be consistent with His Word. We must prayerfully evaluate our options and develop strategies that are pleasing to Him.

Make sure to commit every project to God. Be confident that He desires to help you succeed, but be careful to submit every idea to Him. Seek His wisdom. Do the necessary research. Study the facts. Develop a wise plan, guided by Biblical principles. Always seek to be in tune with His Spirit. It’s important to make plans, but it is more important to allow God to direct our steps (Proverbs 16:9).