Have you ever watched a runner near the end of a race? Every muscle strains with the athlete’s desire to finish first. The moment is full of intensity and determination. This is the same kind of fervent desire God wants to see in the believer’s prayer life. “The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much” (James 5:16).
Believers at times use certain key phrases—“in Jesus’ name” or “if it is Your will”—as if such expressions were enchanted. People convince themselves that if a particular phrase is used, God will surely be pleased and answer the petition. But strength is not found in the words we say, because the Lord cannot be forced to do anything outside His will. The power of prayer is in God’s reaction. He responds to petitions of the righteous by releasing His supernatural power toward the object of their concern.
A prayerless person is a powerless person. When we devote little time to communicating with the heavenly Father, we can’t expect to see dramatic results. God’s power is released in response to our zealous desire for His intervention. A fervent petitioner, believing his Lord will intercede, is determined to pray through every barrier that Satan erects. He stops only when God answers or if the Father makes clear that the request is outside His will.
Wise believers devote time and energy to requests of great importance. Through our relationship with Christ, we have been made righteous, which means that we have the opportunity to communicate with the Lord through prayer.
|Read: Revelation 22:1-5
Bible in a Year: 1 Samuel 30-31; Luke 13:23-35
He was caught up into Paradise and heard inexpressible words. —2 Corinthians 12:4
My friend Gus passed away a few months ago. Gus was a fellow trout fisherman. Weekends usually found him in his little boat on a nearby lake, casting for fish. I got a letter from his daughter Heidi the other day. She told me she’s been talking about heaven with her grandkids since Gus went to his home in heaven. Her 6-year-old grandson, who also loves to fish, explained what heaven is like and what Great-Grandpa Gus is doing: “It’s really beautiful,” he mused, “and Jesus is showing Grandpa Gus where the best fishing holes are.”
When Paul reported his God-given vision of heaven, words failed him. He said, “I was caught up to paradise and heard things so astounding that they cannot be expressed in words” (2 Cor. 12:4 nlt). Words cannot convey the facts of heaven—perhaps because we humans are unable to comprehend them.
While we might gain some comfort from knowing more details about heaven, it is not the knowledge of heaven that assures us; it is our knowledge of God Himself. Because I know Him and I know how good He is, I can leave this life and everything in it with utter confidence that heaven will be beautiful and Jesus will show me “where the best fishing holes are”—because that’s the kind of God He is! —David Roper
Let us beg and pray Him day by day to reveal Himself to our souls more fully, to quicken our sense, to give us sight and hearing, taste and touch of the world to come. —John Henry Newman
Nothing on earth compares to being with Christ in heaven.
INSIGHT: In the book of Revelation, the apostle John writes of the new heaven and earth and the heavenly city of Jerusalem (21:1–22:5). In this marvelous scene we are brought back to a garden setting, reminiscent of the garden of Eden at the dawn of human history (Gen. 2–3). What was ruined by sin in Eden is now fully restored (Gen. 3:1-19; Rev. 22:1-3). The Tree of Life, representing never-ending physical life that was denied humanity because of sin, is now readily available and accessible (Gen. 3:22-24; Rev. 22:2). The curse brought about by sin is completely reversed (Gen. 3:14-19; Rev. 22:3). There will be purity, perfect service, and perfect communion with God. The greatest blessing will be the unhindered fellowship with God Himself, for we “shall see His face” (Rev. 22:4).
Over the last couple of weeks, Kenya, my homeland, has been thrust into the international news headlines due to the senseless massacre of students at the Garissa University. I am deeply saddened by the horrific nature of this tragedy, and I join the many across the world who have been praying for the victims. I especially pray with all sincerity for the parents, siblings, relatives, and friends of the 148 people who lost their lives, and those who were injured. I cannot even begin to imagine the agony the victims of this brutality have been going through.
It has been said that human beings are the only creatures in the world who have learned to ask questions instead of relying on instincts. In times like these, our questions are unleashed upon us in the fullest of force. What can we do? Where was God? These are perhaps two of the most frequent and important questions.
Short of turning back the clock, there is nothing any human being can do to erase the pain of what has taken place. But I would begin by encouraging you to pray sincerely for those affected by this tragedy. Only God can touch the hearts of the victims with his comforting presence. Pray that the authorities will be able to do all they can to bring the terrorists to justice. And yes, pray also for the perpetrators of this evil. From the very pages of the Scriptures to our own day, we meet people, like the Apostle Paul, who singled out others for extermination and who later became heroes of the faith.
In addition to prayer, we also need to remember the victims in an active manner. We are grateful that many world leaders have condemned these attacks, and a few have promised to stand with Kenya in the aftermath of this tragedy. But judging from previous experiences, it is reasonable to expect that the world will soon forget, and move on to another crisis. It can be overwhelming to think of trying to help in the midst of all that goes wrong in our world.
But if we really mean it when we ask what we can do, we need to identify whatever is within our power to do and get involved. These acts of terror and brutality are not just a problem for the victims; they are an affront to humanity. It is incumbent upon all of us to act, including those who insist that their religion has been hijacked by fanatics and that it has nothing to do with terrorism.
We need to let the victims know that they are not forgotten, and our promise to stand with them must be backed by action. Those who work with organizations like Wellspring International, RZIM’s humanitarian arm, know firsthand how meaningful it is to reach out to those who feel abandoned when their crisis no longer makes the headlines. We need to live up to the conviction many of us claim to hold: that all lives, from Los Angeles to Lagos and from Geneva to Garissa, matter.
So then, where was God? This is one question that inevitably comes up when tragedy strikes. It is most pertinent for those who claim that God is all-good and all-powerful. In other words, it is the very goodness of God that gives rise to the question. Deny God, and you lose the right to raise the question of evil, for without God there is no particular way things ought to be. But why would a morally perfect God fail to intervene to stop these atrocities?
One can approach this question in two ways: (1) from an intellectual perspective or (2) from an emotional perspective. In the face of tragedy, the most vexing issue is not whether or not there is a logical contradiction between believing in a perfect God given the reality of evil at the same time. That is actually easier to handle. By creating us as moral beings, God gave us the ability to choose, and with that ability came the possibility of evil.
Our ability to choose is at once God’s most powerful means of conferring dignity upon us as well as a deadly gift, depending on how we choose to use it. Nevertheless, we need to note that God’s jurisdiction extends beyond this life, and when all is said and done, every human being will be held accountable for his or her actions. So the intellectual side of the equation is easier to address. The most difficult problem is the emotional angst one inescapably feels while trying to understand why God would seemingly stand by and watch as these horrendous activities take place.
But it is in the very face of this troublesome question that the gospel message speaks with unparalleled authority and beauty. A day after the Garissa massacre, Christians all over the world celebrated Good Friday—a day in which we remember the ghastly murder of God’s innocent Son, Jesus Christ, on a Roman cross. The crucifixion was preceded by many hours of unbelievable flogging and humiliation.
In the face of this untold horror, Jesus raised this very question with God the Father: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”(1)
So, where was God when his Son suffered a slow, excruciating death on the cross? In biblical terms, God made the arrangement for this event before the world began.(2) And about seven hundred years before the crucifixion, the prophet Isaiah wrote,
But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.(3)
God knew the choices we would make and the depth of the evil in the human heart. God made arrangements for a rescue plan—a plan that has proven to be incredibly effective to multitudes.
A story that has emerged from Garissa offers us a powerful analogy. One of the students, Hellen Titus, told the Kenyan media how she was able to escape from the tragedy as the shooters hovered over her and her fellow students. She covered herself with someone else’s blood and was thereby mistaken for dead.
That is exactly what Jesus has done for us; he invites us to be covered with his blood so that we can live. And when we are thus protected, we may grieve, but we do not grieve like those without hope, and we do not fear those who can only kill the body but cannot touch the soul.
So, why doesn’t God intervene in these types of situations? He has.
J.M. Njoroge is a member of the speaking team at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Atlanta, Georgia.
(1) Matthew 27:46
(2) Revelation 13:8
(3) Isaiah 53:5
…the precious blood of Christ.1 Peter 1:19
Standing at the foot of the cross, we see hands and feet and side all distilling crimson streams of “precious blood.” It is “precious” because of its redeeming and atoning efficacy. By it the sins of Christ’s people are atoned for; they are redeemed from under the law; they are reconciled to God, made one with Him.
Christ’s blood is also “precious” in its cleansing power; it cleanses from all sin. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow.”1 Through Jesus’ blood there is not a spot left upon any believer; no wrinkle nor any such thing remains. O precious blood that makes us clean, removing the stains of our iniquity and permitting us to stand accepted in the Beloved despite the many ways in which we have rebelled against our God.
The blood of Christ is also “precious” in its preserving power. We are safe from the destroying angel under the sprinkled blood. Remember, it is God’s seeing the blood that is the true reason for our being spared. Here is comfort for us when the eye of faith is dim, for God’s eye is still the same.
The blood of Christ is “precious” also in its sanctifying influence. The same blood that justifies by taking away sin also quickens the new nature and leads it onward to subdue sin and to obey the commands of God. There is no greater motive for holiness than that which streams from the veins of Jesus. And “precious,” unspeakably precious, is this blood because it has an overcoming power. It is written, “And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb.”2 How could they do otherwise? He who fights with the precious blood of Jesus fights with a weapon that cannot know defeat.
The blood of Jesus! Sin dies at its presence; death ceases to be death: Heaven’s gates are opened. The blood of Jesus! We shall march on, conquering and to conquer, so long as we can trust its power!
- Isaiah 1:18 2. Revelation 12:11
Devotional material is taken from “Morning and Evening,” written by C.H. Spurgeon, revised and updated by Alistair Begg.
“For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.” 2 Corinthians 5:21
Suggested Further Reading: Isaiah 53:10-12
In no sense is he ever a guilty man, but always is he an accepted and a holy one. What, then, is the meaning of that very forcible expression of my text? We must interpret Scriptural modes of expression by the words of the speakers. We know that our Master once said himself, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood;” he did not mean that the cup was the covenant. He said, “Take, eat, this is my body”—none of us conceives that the bread is the literal flesh and blood of Christ. We take that bread as if it were the body, and it actually represents it. Now, we are to read a passage like this, according to the analogy of faith. Jesus Christ was made by his Father sin for us, that is, he was treated as if he had himself been sin. He was not sin; he was not sinful; he was not guilty; but, he was treated by his Father, as if he had not only been sinful, but as if he had been sin itself. That is a strong expression used here. Not only has he made him to be the substitute for sin, but to be sin. God looked on Christ as if Christ had been sin; not as if he had taken up the sins of his people, or as if they were laid on him, though that were true, but as if he himself had positively been that noxious—that God-hating—that soul-damning thing, called sin. When the judge of all the earth said, “Where is sin?” Christ presented himself. He stood before his Father as if he had been the accumulation of all human guilt; as if he himself were that thing which God cannot endure, but which he must drive from his presence for ever.
For meditation: God regarded Christ crucified just as if he were sin, not Son. The substitutionary atonement is the key which enables the Christian to make use of the description “Just as if I’d never sinned.”
Sermon no. 310
16 April (Preached 15 April 1860)
“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy” (Matt. 5:7).
God commends merciful people but condemns the merciless.
Scripture shows that those whom God blessed most abundantly were abundantly merciful to others. Abraham, for example, helped rescue his nephew Lot even after Lot had wronged him. Joseph was merciful to his brothers after they sold him into slavery. Twice David spared Saul’s life after Saul tried to kill him.
But just as sure as God’s commendation is upon those who show mercy, His condemnation is upon those who are merciless. Psalm 109:14-16 says, “Let the iniquity of [the merciless person’s] fathers be remembered before the Lord, and do not let the sin of his mother be blotted out . . . because he did not remember to show [mercy].”
When judgment comes, the Lord will tell such people, “Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry, and you gave Me nothing to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me nothing to drink; I was a stranger, and you did not invite Me in; naked, and you did not clothe Me; sick, and in prison, and you did not visit Me” (Matt. 25:41-43). They will respond, “Lord, when did we see You hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not take care of You?” (v. 44). He will reply that when they withheld mercy from those who represented Him, they were withholding it from Him (v. 45).
Our society encourages us to grab everything we can for ourselves, but God wants us to reach out and give everything we can to others. If someone wrongs you, fails to repay a debt, or doesn’t return something he has borrowed from you, be merciful to him. That doesn’t mean you excuse sin, but you respond to people with a heart of compassion. That’s what Christ did for you—can you do any less for others?
Suggestions for Prayer; If there is someone who has wronged you, pray for that person, asking God to give you a heart of compassion for him or her. Make every effort to reconcile as soon as possible.
For Further Study; Read Romans 1:29-31. How did Paul characterize the ungodly?
And God saw everything that He had made, and behold, it was very good (suitable, pleasant) and He approved it completely. Genesis 1:31
In order for you to enjoy life, you need to know where your strengths lie. Thinking about what you’re good at is not conceited; it is merely preparation to do your job with confidence. I know anything I am good at is because God has gifted me in that area, and I thank Him all the time for the abilities He has equipped me with. Make a list of what you are good at and rehearse it daily until you gain confidence in your abilities.
Here’s my list:
I am a good communicator
I am a hard worker
I am decisive
I am determined
I am disciplined
I am a loyal friend
I have a good short-term memory
I love to help people
I love to give
In Psalm 139 David describes how God creates us in our mother’s womb with His very own hand, how He delicately and intricately forms us. Then he says, “Wonderful are Your works, and that my inner self knows right well.” Wow! What a statement. David is basically saying, “I am wonderful, and I know that in my heart.” He is not bragging on himself, but on God Who created him.
I also realize everything I need in life isn’t on this list. I need God to bring people into my life who are strong in the areas where I’m weak—this keeps me humble and reminds me that it’s not all about me.
What are you good at? Do you even know? Have you seriously thought about it, or have you been so busy thinking about what you are not good at that you have not even noticed your abilities?
Trust in Him Make a list of what you are good at and read it out loud to yourself every morning until you are convinced. Remember, God created you to be great—and you can trust His design.
“Instead, we will lovingly follow the truth at all times – speaking truly, dealing truly, living truly – and so become more and more in every way like Christ who is the Head of His body, the church. Under His direction the whole body is fitted together perfectly, and each part in its own special way helps the other parts, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love” (Ephesians 4:15-16).
I am concerned, as you no doubt are, that God’s ideal church, in which the whole body is fitted together perfectly, becomes a reality. And if that is to happen, it will mean that I must become a part of that perfect fit.
Within the body of Christ, each of us has a unique function. True, two people might have similar functions just as a body has two hands that function similarly. But those two hands are not identical. Just try to wear a lefthand glove on your right hand!
The hands have similar functions, not identical functions. You and I might have similar abilities, but we are not identical. We are unique creations of God.
Therefore, we should not look upon our abilities with pride or be boastful of them. On the other hand, we should not be envious or look with disdain on others because of their different abilities.
Spiritual gifts include (1 Corinthians 12): wisdom, knowledge, faith, healing, miracles, prophecy, discerning of spirits, tongues, interpretation of tongues, apostleship, teaching, helping, and administration; (Romans 12, additional): leadership, exhortation, giving and mercy.
Bible Reading: Ephesians 4:7-14
TODAY’S ACTION POINT: So that I might fit more perfectly into God’s whole body, I will prayerfully seek the leadership of the Holy Spirit to enable me to make a maximum contribution to the body of Christ.
Christian author Tim LaHaye wrote in a recent book, “Christ could come today, and no prophecy of the end times necessary for His coming would go unfulfilled.” In His discourse at the Mount of Olives, Jesus outlined many of the essentials that would precede His return – and He cautioned that the time would be soon. For over 2,000 years, believers have been asking, “How soon is soon?” and the answer the Lord gives today is the same as it was then: “Stay awake!”
Therefore, stay awake.
A rehashing of the signs of the end times isn’t necessary – you are living it! Ready, on the other hand, does not seem to be an apt description of what was gloriously once called “Christian America.” Readiness first requires repentance and faith…acknowledgment and sorrow for sin and belief that Jesus died and rose again to save sinners. Only then is a person positioned to go about the business of sharing the message of God’s love.
Don’t be an asleep-in-your-comforts Christian. Stay watchful so as not to be deceived or robbed of your faith. But don’t be in a panic, either. Live out your salvation by pursuing the power of prayer for your family, friends, community, and national leaders…while “soon” still delays.
Recommended Reading: Matthew 24:32-44
So let us stop going over the basic teachings about Christ again and again. Let us go on instead and become mature in our understanding. Surely we don’t need to start again with the fundamental importance of repenting from evil deeds and placing our faith in God. —Hebrews 6:1
With five grandchildren, I have discovered that it is actually enjoyable to go out and shop for babies. Today products for infants are so much cooler and high-tech than when Cathe and I had our boys. It is fun to get all of the little things for children that help them along in their growth process.
At first babies don’t do a whole lot because they are completely dependent on their mothers. But then they get a little bit older and start eating baby food. After a while, they can start eating food that has been chopped up in very small pieces for them. But you still have to keep them interested in what they’re eating by making airplane noises with the spoon.
That is all fine. But it is not fine when a child is thirteen years old and you still have to do airplane noises. You want to teach a child to grow up. You want to teach a child to eat adult food. Eventually you want to teach a child to be a young adult and ultimately to take care of himself or herself. That is part of growing up.
There are believers today who have known the Lord for ten, fifteen, or twenty years, and they are still like infants. They need their spiritual food in small pieces. Everything needs to be entertaining. Everything needs to be fun.
But the Bible says, “So let us stop going over the basic teachings about Christ again and again. Let us go on instead and become mature in our understanding” (Hebrews 6:1).
I think it is time for all of us to grow up and be mature men and women of God, because the Christian life is following Jesus not only as our Savior but also as our Lord.
Some of us have tried to have a daily quiet time and have not been successful. Others of us have a hard time concentrating. And all of us are busy. So rather than spending time with God, listening for his voice, we’ll let others spend time with him and then benefit from their experience. Let them tell us what God is saying. After all, isn’t that why we pay preachers? Isn’t that why we read Christian books?
If that’s your approach, I’d like to challenge you with this thought: Do you do that with other parts of your life? I don’t think so. You don’t let someone eat on your behalf, do you? Do others take vacations as your surrogate? Listening to God is a firsthand experience. When he asks for your attention, God doesn’t want you to send a substitute. He wants you!
From Just Like Jesus