Charles Stanley – Preparing for the Valley

 

Read | 1 Peter 4:12-19

The primary purpose of a mountaintop experience is to prepare us for the valley. That’s why we can’t stay up there. When Peter, James, and John came down from the Mount of Transfiguration (Matt. 17:1-9), they encountered many difficulties that eventually led to their witnessing Jesus on the cruel Roman cross.

As much as we might long to remain on the summit, God doesn’t keep us floating around in some ethereal counterfeit spiritual experience; eventually we must return to the dusty, empty plains of life. His intention is that we be strengthened by worship and His Word—and then go about our Monday routine, prepared to make an impression upon others. If Jesus walked among us today, He’d spend His time in alleyways, on street corners, and in places where few of us in our dignity would want to be caught.

The three disciples no doubt would have wanted to stay with the Lord on the mountain, but that’s not the purpose of a spiritual high. The point is that God may reveal Himself to us in a fresh way. Then He readies us through that inspiration to go back to the common places where we have to face tasks we might prefer to avoid. Life’s realities aren’t to be escaped. God wants believers to learn to live every day in reliance on His indwelling Spirit.

The Lord was using the time on the summit to prepare Peter, James, and John for their true purpose. When God lifts us up, He doesn’t intend for us to stay there. He gives exceptional spiritual experiences to strengthen us and make us more effective when we engage in everyday life.

Our Daily Bread — Pain With A Purpose

 

 

 

Read: John 16:17-24
Bible in a Year: Judges 13-15; Luke 6:27-49

 

[Jesus said,] “I will see you again and your heart will rejoice, and your joy no one will take from you.” —John 16:22

I asked several friends what their most difficult, painful experience in life had been. Their answers included war, divorce, surgery, and the loss of a loved one. My wife’s reply was, “The birth of our first child.” It was a long and difficult labor in a lonely army hospital. But looking back, she said she considers it joyful “because the pain had a big purpose.”

Just before Jesus went to the cross, He told His followers they were about to go through a time of great pain and sorrow. The Lord compared their coming experience to that of a woman during childbirth when her anguish turns to joy after her child is born (John 16:20-21). “Therefore you now have sorrow; but I will see you again and your heart will rejoice, and your joy no one will take from you” (v.22).

Sorrow comes to us all along the road of life. But Jesus, “who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame” (Heb. 12:2), purchased forgiveness and freedom for all who open their hearts to Him. His painful sacrifice accomplished God’s eternal purpose of opening the way to friendship and fellowship with Him.

The joy of our Savior outweighed His suffering, just as the joy He gives us overshadows all our pain. —David McCasland

Dear Father, Your precious Son Jesus chose suffering for me. Thank You for His sacrifice on my behalf. Thank You that even my pain can be a tool in Your hands to make me more like Your Son.

Suffering can be like a magnet that draws the Christian close to Christ.

INSIGHT: John 16 concludes Jesus’ most extended teaching session recorded in the gospel of John (Chs. 13–16). Jesus had begun the evening by washing the disciples’ feet in a remarkable act of servitude (13:1-17). After this He would go to Gethsemane and, ultimately, to Calvary. There He would make the ultimate sacrifice as He died on the cross for the sins of humanity.

Ravi Zacharias Ministry – No Abstraction

 

There are many virtues that can be turned into abstractions by seeming necessity, though doing so is only damaging to what it means to be human: beauty, forgiveness, hope, peace. They are ideals we might be able to say indeed exist, even in the most complicated situations, but they seem to exist somewhere out there elusive and mocking, always out of reach.

In war-torn relationships of Northern Uganda, forgiveness would seem like this. Betty was a teenager when her village was raided by the Lord’s Resistance Army, a rebel army known for its brutal tactics and widespread human rights violations. She was kidnapped as a sex slave for a commander and ordered to commit callous acts of violence as a child soldier, until gradually she was broken and became an active member of the LRA.

After six years of bloodshed, however, Betty managed to escape, running across the country to freedom. But coming home would not be a simple matter of returning. She had committed violence against the very people she hoped to rejoin. Her own guilt and shame was as palpable as the mistrust and anger of her village. In her absence, two of her own brothers had been killed by the same army Betty fought alongside.

In the midst of such loss, with so many permanent scars, forgiveness seems a foolish hope, at best a naïve ideal, at worst an offensive suggestion to everyone involved. Is reconciliation even to be desired when brokenness is so blatantly irreversible? Does forgiveness cease to be hopeful when neither party can ever be the same again? From where I stand, these are painful questions to even begin to answer. Forgiveness by necessity seems an abstraction.

But the people of Uganda have not settled for abstract. For hundreds and hundreds of children like Betty, terrorized by crimes they were forced to commit and returning home to terrorized villages, tribal elders have adapted a ceremony to make it possible for both. In a ceremony that includes the act of breaking and stepping on an egg and an opobo branch, the returnee is cleansed from the things he or she has done while away. The egg symbolizes innocent life, and by breaking and placing themselves in its broken substance, returnees declare before their village their desire to be restored. In a final step over a pole, the returnees are invited into new life. In many cases, women returnees come home with babies who were born in the bush, usually a result of rape. When they arrive at the broken egg, the child’s foot is also placed in the substance. The spirit of reconciliation, like warfare, must touch everyone. It cannot be abstracted without consequence to what it means to be human. Reconciliation must be as real as the bodies that have been affronted.

In a single week, Christians around the world remember the last moments of Jesus, the betrayals and predictions, the march to crucifixion, his burial on Good Friday, the silence of Holy Saturday, the terror and amazement of Easter Sunday. In a week, we remember the disciples who failed him miserably, falling asleep when he needed them most in prayer, denying ever knowing him while he was convicted for being himself, watching him die alone from a distance. In a single week, Christians move from recognizing ourselves in this list of failures to sensing the hopeful confusion of the disciples, the overwhelm of Thomas, and the timid longing of the women at the tomb. In a single week, we move from complete despair to shocking hope, total darkness to surprising light, the finality of death to the reordering of reality, from broken and sinful to restored and somehow new.

In this solitary week, Christians remember a story that should make the bold and carnal forgiveness of war-torn Ugandans seem natural, expected, and necessary, however shocking or complicated or slow-coming it might be.

After the egg-breaking ceremony with her village, Betty went from rebel to ex-rebel, from shamed to restored. “I feel cleansed,” she said of the ceremony. After a day of being welcomed and celebrated, she adds, “Some of the bad things in my heart: they are gone.”(2) Alex Boraine, deputy chair of South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, notes of such radical forgiveness: “[With its] uncomfortable commitment to bringing the perpetrator back into the family, Africa has something to say to the world.”(3) Indeed it does.

And so does Christ. In one eventful, holy week, we remember the ugly depths of human sin and stare into the deep scars of the human servant of God who bore it away. This utter shift in our condition is as overwhelming as this coming Good Friday, as dumbfounding as Holy Saturday, and as inconceivable as Easter Sunday. But it is our ceremony. Christ is broken, we are covered in his blood, and we emerge as dead men and women walking. How beyond our knowing, how inexplicable is this gift. Yet because it was given, in a single week, we can claim again the mystery; we can claim the power of reconciliation; we can claim Christ, who is no abstraction, but who moves us from perpetrator to family.

Jill Carattini is managing editor of A Slice of Infinity at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Atlanta, Georgia.

(1) Artwork in this article is the work of Ben Roberts, http://www.benrobertsphoto.com, used by permission.

(2) Abe McLaughlin, “Africa After War: Paths To Forgiveness—Ugandans Welcome ‘Terrorists’ Back” International Center for Transitional Justice, October 23, 2006.

(3) Ibid.

There are many virtues that can be turned into abstractions by seeming necessity, though doing so is only damaging to what it means to be human: beauty, forgiveness, hope, peace. They are ideals we might be able to say indeed exist, even in the most complicated situations, but they seem to exist somewhere out there elusive and mocking, always out of reach.

In war-torn relationships of Northern Uganda, forgiveness would seem like this. Betty was a teenager when her village was raided by the Lord’s Resistance Army, a rebel army known for its brutal tactics and widespread human rights violations. She was kidnapped as a sex slave for a commander and ordered to commit callous acts of violence as a child soldier, until gradually she was broken and became an active member of the LRA.

After six years of bloodshed, however, Betty managed to escape, running across the country to freedom. But coming home would not be a simple matter of returning. She had committed violence against the very people she hoped to rejoin. Her own guilt and shame was as palpable as the mistrust and anger of her village. In her absence, two of her own brothers had been killed by the same army Betty fought alongside.

In the midst of such loss, with so many permanent scars, forgiveness seems a foolish hope, at best a naïve ideal, at worst an offensive suggestion to everyone involved. Is reconciliation even to be desired when brokenness is so blatantly irreversible? Does forgiveness cease to be hopeful when neither party can ever be the same again? From where I stand, these are painful questions to even begin to answer. Forgiveness by necessity seems an abstraction.

But the people of Uganda have not settled for abstract. For hundreds and hundreds of children like Betty, terrorized by crimes they were forced to commit and returning home to terrorized villages, tribal elders have adapted a ceremony to make it possible for both. In a ceremony that includes the act of breaking and stepping on an egg and an opobo branch, the returnee is cleansed from the things he or she has done while away. The egg symbolizes innocent life, and by breaking and placing themselves in its broken substance, returnees declare before their village their desire to be restored. In a final step over a pole, the returnees are invited into new life. In many cases, women returnees come home with babies who were born in the bush, usually a result of rape. When they arrive at the broken egg, the child’s foot is also placed in the substance. The spirit of reconciliation, like warfare, must touch everyone. It cannot be abstracted without consequence to what it means to be human. Reconciliation must be as real as the bodies that have been affronted.

In a single week, Christians around the world remember the last moments of Jesus, the betrayals and predictions, the march to crucifixion, his burial on Good Friday, the silence of Holy Saturday, the terror and amazement of Easter Sunday. In a week, we remember the disciples who failed him miserably, falling asleep when he needed them most in prayer, denying ever knowing him while he was convicted for being himself, watching him die alone from a distance. In a single week, Christians move from recognizing ourselves in this list of failures to sensing the hopeful confusion of the disciples, the overwhelm of Thomas, and the timid longing of the women at the tomb. In a single week, we move from complete despair to shocking hope, total darkness to surprising light, the finality of death to the reordering of reality, from broken and sinful to restored and somehow new.

In this solitary week, Christians remember a story that should make the bold and carnal forgiveness of war-torn Ugandans seem natural, expected, and necessary, however shocking or complicated or slow-coming it might be.

After the egg-breaking ceremony with her village, Betty went from rebel to ex-rebel, from shamed to restored. “I feel cleansed,” she said of the ceremony. After a day of being welcomed and celebrated, she adds, “Some of the bad things in my heart: they are gone.”(2) Alex Boraine, deputy chair of South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, notes of such radical forgiveness: “[With its] uncomfortable commitment to bringing the perpetrator back into the family, Africa has something to say to the world.”(3) Indeed it does.

And so does Christ. In one eventful, holy week, we remember the ugly depths of human sin and stare into the deep scars of the human servant of God who bore it away. This utter shift in our condition is as overwhelming as this coming Good Friday, as dumbfounding as Holy Saturday, and as inconceivable as Easter Sunday. But it is our ceremony. Christ is broken, we are covered in his blood, and we emerge as dead men and women walking. How beyond our knowing, how inexplicable is this gift. Yet because it was given, in a single week, we can claim again the mystery; we can claim the power of reconciliation; we can claim Christ, who is no abstraction, but who moves us from perpetrator to family.

Jill Carattini is managing editor of A Slice of Infinity at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Atlanta, Georgia.

(1) Artwork in this article is the work of Ben Roberts, http://www.benrobertsphoto.com, used by permission.

(2) Abe McLaughlin, “Africa After War: Paths To Forgiveness—Ugandans Welcome ‘Terrorists’ Back” International Center for Transitional Justice, October 23, 2006.

(3) Ibid.

Alistair Begg – Affection for the Savior

 

Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth Song of Songs 1:2

For several days we have been dwelling upon the Savior’s passion, and for some little time to come we shall linger there. In beginning a new month, let us seek the Lord with the desire that glowed in the heart of this woman. See how she leaps at once to Him. There are no introductions; she does not even mention His name. She is in the heart of her theme at once, for she speaks of Him who was the only Him in the world to her.

How bold is her love! It was true condescension that allowed the sinful woman to anoint Jesus’ feet with spices–it was rich love that allowed the gentle Mary to sit at His feet and learn of Him; but in this picture we see strong, fervent love, aspiring to higher tokens of affection and closer signs of fellowship. Esther trembled in the presence of Ahasuerus, but the woman in joyful liberty of perfect love knows no fear.

If we have received the same free spirit, we may also ask the same. By “kisses” we suppose to be intended those varied manifestations of affection by which the believer is made to enjoy the love of Jesus. The kiss of reconciliation we enjoyed at our conversion, and it was sweet as honey dropping from the comb. The kiss of acceptance is still warm on our brow, as we know that He has accepted us through rich grace. The kiss of daily, present communion is that which we long to be repeated day after day, till it is changed into the kiss of reception, which removes the soul from earth, and the kiss of consummation that fills it with the joy of heaven. Faith is our walk, but intimate fellowship is our rest. Faith is the road, but communion with Jesus is the well from which the pilgrim drinks.

O lover of our souls, do not be distant. Let the lips of Your blessing meet the lips of our asking; let the lips of Your fullness touch the lips of our need, and immediately our joy will be full.

Devotional material is taken from “Morning and Evening,” written by C.H. Spurgeon, revised and updated by Alistair Begg.

Charles Spurgeon – I shall rise again

 

“But some man will say, How are the dead raised up? and with what body do they come? Thou fool, that which thou sowest is not quickened, except it die: And that which thou sowest, thou sowest not that body that shall be, but bare grain, it may chance of wheat, or of some other grain: But God giveth it a body as it hath pleased him, and to every seed his own body.” 1 Corinthians 15:35-38

Suggested Further Reading: Luke 21:25-33

The seasons are four evangelists, each of them having his testimony to utter to us. Does not summer preach to us of God’s bounty, of the richness of his goodness, of that lavish generosity with which he has been pleased to supply the earth, not simply with food for man, but with delights for both ear and eye in the beauteous landscape, the melodious birds, and the flowers of various hue? Have you never heard the still small voice of autumn, who bears the wheatsheaf, and whispers to us in the rustling of the withered leaf? He bids us prepare to die.“All we” saith he, “do fade as a leaf,” and “all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags.” Then comes winter, crowned with snow, and he thunders out a most mighty sermon, which, if we would but listen to it, might well impress us with the terrors of God’s vengeance, and let us see how soon he can strip the earth of all its pleasantries, and enrobe it in storm, when he shall come himself to judge the earth with righteousness, and the people with equity. But it seems to me that spring reads us a most excellent discourse upon the grand doctrine of revelation. This very month of April, which, if it be not the very entrance of spring, yet certainly introduces us to the fulness of it; this very month, bearing by its name the title of the opening month, speaks to us of the resurrection. As we have walked through our gardens, fields, and woods, we have seen the flower-buds ready to burst upon the trees, and the fruit-blossoms hastening to unfold themselves; we have seen the buried flowers rising from the sod, and they have spoken to us with sweet, sweet voice, the words, “Thou too shalt rise again, thou too shalt be buried in the earth like seeds that are lost in winter, but thou shalt rise again, and thou shalt live and blossom in eternal springs.”

For meditation: Only a fool ignores the lessons of creation (Romans 1:20-22).

Sermon no. 306
1 April (1860)

John MacArthur – Cultivating Beatitude Attitudes

 

“When [Jesus] saw the multitudes, He went up on the mountain; and after He sat down, His disciples came to Him.  And opening His mouth He began to teach them” (Matt. 5:1-2).

Only Christians know true happiness because they know Christ, who is its source.

Jesus’ earthly ministry included teaching, preaching, and healing. Wherever He went He generated great excitement and controversy. Usually great multitudes of people followed Him as He moved throughout the regions of Judea and Galilee. Thousands came for healing, many came to mock and scorn, and some came in search of truth.

On one such occasion Jesus delivered His first recorded message: the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5-7). In it He proclaimed a standard of living diametrically opposed to the standards of His day—and ours. Boldly denouncing the ritualistic, hypocritical practices of the Jewish religious leaders, He taught that true religion is a matter of the heart or mind. People will behave as their hearts dictate (Luke 6:45), so the key to transformed behavior is transformed thinking.

At the beginning of His sermon Jesus presented the Beatitudes (Matt. 5:3-12): a list of the godly attitudes that mark a true believer and insure true happiness. The Greek word translated “blessed” in those verses speaks of happiness and contentment. The rest of the sermon discusses the lifestyle that produces it.

Jesus taught that happiness is much more than favorable circumstances and pleasant emotions. In fact, it doesn’t necessarily depend on circumstances at all. It is built on the indwelling character of God Himself. As your life manifests the virtues of humility, sorrow over sin, gentleness, righteousness, mercy, purity of heart, and peace, you will experience happiness that even severe persecution can’t destroy.

As we study the Beatitudes, I pray you will be more and more conformed to the attitudes they portray and that you will experience true happiness in Christ.

Suggestions for Prayer; Ask the Holy Spirit to minister to you through our daily studies. Be prepared to make any attitude changes that He might prompt.

For Further Study; Read the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5-7).

  • What issues did Christ address?
  • How did His hearers react to His teaching? How do you?

Joyce Meyer – Entering the Rest of God

 

Behold, I long for Your precepts; in Your righteousness give me renewed life…I will keep Your law continually, forever and ever [hearing, receiving, loving, and obeying it].And I will walk at liberty and at ease, for I have sought and inquired for [and desperately required] Your precepts. Psalm 119:40, 44-45

If you truly love the Word of God—if you hear it, receive it, and obey it—you will have freedom and live “at ease.” In other words, life will not be hard, frustrating, or difficult. Your joy is full when you believe God’s promises for your life and obey His commands.

The Bible teaches that those who disobey God’s instructions, who don’t listen to His Word, do not enter into the place of rest He offers to them. So when you feel frustrated or upset or if you have lost your peace and your joy, ask yourself, Am I believing God’s Word?

The only way we will ever be free from struggling is to believe the Word and obey whatever Jesus puts in our hearts to do. Believing God’s Word delivers us from struggling so that we rest in the promises of God. The Word says, For we who have believed (adhered to and trusted in and relied on God) do enter that rest (Hebrews 4:3).

If your thoughts have become negative and you are full of doubt, it is because you have stopped hearing, receiving, and obeying God’s Word. As soon as you start believing God’s Word, your joy will return and you will be “at ease” again. And that place of rest in Him is where God wants you to be every day of your life.

Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – His Mark of Ownership

 

“He has put His brand upon us – His mark of ownership – and given us His Holy Spirit in our hearts as guarantee that we belong to Him, and as the first installment of all that He is going to give us” (2 Corinthians 1:22).

Some time ago, a young Christian came to share his problems. He was very frustrated and confused, and he spoke of the constant defeat and fruitlessness which he experienced in the Christian life.

“You don’t have to live in defeat,” I said to him.

The young man registered surprise.

“You can live a life of victory, a life of joy, a life of fruitfulness,” I assured him. “In fact, by the grace of God – and to Him alone be the glory – for more than 25 years as a Christian I do not recall a single hour of broken fellowship with the Lord Jesus.”

He was really shocked at that.

“Do you mean you haven’t sinned in 25 years?” he asked.

“No, that’s not what I mean, I replied. “I have sinned regrettably, I have grieved and quenched the Spirit at times with impatience, anger or some other expression of the flesh. But when I grieve the Spirit, I know exactly what to do. I breathe spiritually. I confess my sin to God and immediately receive His forgiveness and cleansing, and by faith I continue to walk in the fullness and power of the Holy Spirit.”

Bible Reading: I Corinthians 12:3-11

TODAY’S ACTION POINT:  Realizing that a believer can live a supernatural, holy life only as he yields to the control of the Holy Spirit, I will seek to practice holiness in my personal life and encourage other Christians to do the same.

Presidential Prayer Team; P.G. – Choices Have Consequences

 

Perhaps no other people on the face of the Earth have had as many opportunities to hear the truth about Jesus than Americans. There are over 450,000 churches in the U.S., 600 religious radio stations, and all manner of Christian publishing, music recording and even billboards. But how many Americans can genuinely say they’ve had the all-important salvation-giving encounter with the Lord of the universe?

Then he began to denounce the cities where most of his mighty works had been done.

Matthew 11:20

Some of the people in the six cities that Jesus decried in Matthew 11 probably thought of themselves as good, charitable, decent people – but they were the same in their spiritually darkened hearts. Too many Americans are in the same boat as the people in Chorazin, Bethsaida and Capernaum…cold toward God. Jesus Himself gave a stern warning: choices always have consequences.

Please pray today for Americans to return to the nation’s spiritual roots, to the claims of the risen Christ on their lives, and to choose repentance over their rebellious hearts. Heed the message yourself, and warn others of the serious results awaiting those who reject Jesus. Be sure to include the leaders of the country in your intercession.

Recommended Reading: Matthew 11:20-29

Greg Laurie – The Power of Christ’s Words

 

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. — John 1:1

Christ’s passionate love for the world is evident in His statements from the Cross:

Statement One
“Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” Luke 23:34
Do you realize that you are in need of the Father’s forgiveness?

Statement Two
“Today you will with Me in Paradise.” Luke 23:43
Have you realized and confessed Jesus as your personal Savior?

Statement Three
“Woman, behold your son.” John 19:26
Jesus is concerned for us and provides for all of us.

Statement Four
“My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” Matthew 27:46
Jesus was forsaken so we don’t have to be.

Statement Five
“I thirst!” John 19:28
This personal statement reminds us that Jesus is not only God, but He also was man. Jesus identifies with our needs.

Statement Six
“It is finished!” John 19:30
Jesus paid for our sins, and sin’s control over our lives is broken!

Statement Seven
“Into Your hands I commit My spirit.” Luke 23:46
You can entrust your life into God’s hands.

If you are reading this today and you’ve never committed your life to Jesus Christ, find out how to know God and confess Him as Your Savior and Lord.

Max Lucado – The Sign on Christ’s Cross

 

John 19:19 says, “Now Pilate wrote a title and put it on the cross: Jesus of Nazareth, The King of the Jews.”

Why is a sign placed over the head of Jesus? Could it be that this piece of wood is a picture of God’s devotion? A symbol of his passion to tell the world about his Son? Pilate intended the sign to threaten and mock the Jews. But God had another purpose. Every passerby could read the sign, for every passerby could read Hebrew, Latin or Greek. In the language of culture, Christ was declared King in them all. There’s no language he will not speak. Which leads us to the delightful question: What language is he speaking to you? I’m referring to the day-to-day drama of your life. God does speak, you know. He speaks in any language that we will understand.

From On Calvary’s Hill