In Touch Ministries; Charles Stanley – Building to Last Forever

1 Corinthians 3:11-15

When a high-rise building goes up in my city of Atlanta, Georgia, I think about all the construction involved. Underneath is a grid of steel and concrete giving strength to all the floors stacked overhead. In a similar way, we need a firm foundation to build a life with purpose. Jesus lays that groundwork for believers when they receive His salvation.

Christ’s saving grace gives His followers a new life. Sins are wiped away so that we have a clean “work site,” so to speak. Empowered by Jesus’ strength and wisdom, we can build on His foundation. The decision that needs to be made is whether to shape our eternal legacy with God-serving activities and habits or selfish ones.

Paul separates spiritual construction material into two categories: durable metal and dry kindling (1 Corinthians 3:12). A grass hut is easily destroyed by fire, but at the judgment, we want to greet the Lord from a sturdy structure, built with gleaming bricks of godly service and a diligent application of Scripture.

The life we create is useful to God only if it is consistent with Jesus Christ’s foundation. You might say that He is the architect and the Bible is the blueprint for successful living—and it’s in our best interest to follow those plans.

Bible in One Year: 1 Samuel 22-24

Our Daily Bread — The Cost

Bible in a Year:

When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

John 19:30

Today’s Scripture & Insight:

John 19:25–30

Michelangelo’s works explored many facets of the life of Jesus, yet one of the most poignant was also one of the most simple. In the 1540s he sketched a pieta (a picture of Jesus’ mother holding the body of the dead Christ) for his friend Vittoria Colonna. Done in chalk, the drawing depicts Mary looking to the heavens as she cradles her Son’s still form. Rising behind Mary, the upright beam of the cross carries these words from Dante’s Paradise, “There they don’t think of how much blood it costs.” Michelangelo’s point was profound: when we contemplate the death of Jesus, we must consider the price He paid.

The price paid by Christ is captured in His dying declaration, “It is finished” (John 19:30). The term for “it is finished” (tetelestai) was used in several ways—to show a bill had been paid, a task finished, a sacrifice offered, a masterpiece completed. Each of them applies to what Jesus did on our behalf on the cross! Perhaps that’s why the apostle Paul wrote, “May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world” (Galatians 6:14).

Jesus’ willingness to take our place is the eternal evidence of how much God loves us. As we contemplate the price He paid, may we also celebrate His love—and give thanks for the cross.

By:  Bill Crowder

Reflect & Pray

How could each meaning of tetelestai be applied to the cross of Jesus and what He accomplished there? Why does each one have meaning to you?

Father, when I consider the sacrifice Jesus made on my behalf, I am humbled and deeply grateful. Thank You for Jesus, and thank You for the cross.

Grace to You; John MacArthur – Peter’s Impulsive Self-Confidence

“Peter answered and said to Him, ‘Even though all may fall away because of You, I will never fall away’” (Matthew 26:33).

Prior to Jesus’ death, Peter’s trust in himself rather than God distorted his judgment concerning loyalty to Jesus.

Like a self-willed child, Peter often heard and believed only what he wanted to. He failed to grasp the Lord’s warning that his faith would be severely tested. At the Last Supper Jesus told Peter, “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat” (Luke 22:31). But Peter was unfazed by these words. Instead, he boasted, “Lord, with You I am ready to go both to prison and to death!” (v. 33).

Christ in His divine wisdom knew that Peter’s claim would not hold true. Therefore, He went further and soberly predicted during the Supper that Peter would soon not only desert His Lord but also deny Him three times. Now in Matthew 26, following Peter’s latest outburst of overconfidence, Jesus is constrained to repeat His prediction. Amazingly, Peter did not believe the thrust of Jesus’ words. He would rather fool himself and believe that Jesus was mistaken about his faithfulness and loyalty.

In reality, Peter’s pride deceptively told him it was impossible for him to deny the Lord. It also deceived him by filling him with a sense of superiority over others and a supreme confidence in his own strength.

Like Peter, we often display our pride and ignorance when we brashly claim great self-confidence about something that turns out just the opposite a short time later. For example, we might presumptuously assert to Christian friends that we always maintain our testimony, no matter what the situation. Then, to our shame, the very next week we lie, cheat, or shade the truth to get ourselves out of a difficult circumstance.

But what a reassurance to know that Jesus was willing to die for proud, thoughtless disciples such as Peter and careless followers such as us. Furthermore, our Lord is constantly in the business of forgiving and restoring those who stumble: “He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).

Suggestions for Prayer

Pray that today and every day God would make you more confident in His grace and power and less reliant on your own wisdom.

For Further Study

Read Matthew 16:13-28. What important principle in verses 24-26 can help you avoid Peter’s impulsive mistakes?

Joyce Meyer – God Helps Us Grow

Let us not become vainglorious and self-conceited, competitive and challenging and provoking and irritating to one another, envying and being jealous of one another.

— Galatians 5:26 (AMPC)

Adapted from the resource Hearing from God Each Morning – by Joyce Meyer

Every person’s relationship with God and ability to hear His voice is different, so feel free to pursue communication with Him in the way He leads you. A relationship with God is not about laboring or striving or trying to perform; it’s simply about talking to Him and listening to His voice. We do not need to try to be where someone else is or hear God with the clarity and accuracy someone else has because that person may be enjoying a relationship with God that has taken years of practice and we may not be as far along in our walk with God as that person is. It’s all right for us to be “younger” than others spiritually; God still hears and answers us, no matter the extent of our experience. Comparing ourselves with others only makes us miserable. God is happy simply because we are learning and growing.

Comparing yourself with others will hinder your spiritual growth. God knows you intimately and He has a personalized plan for your advancement. He knows your background, what you have experienced, your disappointments, and your pain. He also knows just what it will take to make you completely whole and you can be assured that He is working in you as long as you are seeking Him.

I have four children who are all very different and I don’t expect them to be anything other than what they are. I have learned that God is the same way with us. Be yourself, enjoy yourself, and enjoy the level of spiritual growth you have attained so far.

Prayer Starter: Lord Jesus, help me to seek Your presence and listen for Your voice above everything else. I want to know you more. In Jesus’ name, amen.

Truth for Life; Alistair Begg –Slow to Speak

But he gave him no answer, not even to a single charge.

 Matthew 27:14

Jesus had never been slow of speech when He could bless the sons of men, but He would not say a single word for Himself. “No man ever spoke like this man,” and no man was ever silent like Him. Was this singular silence the index of His perfect self-sacrifice? Did it show that He would not utter a word to prevent His crucifixion, which He had dedicated as an offering for us? Had He so entirely surrendered Himself that He would not interfere on His own behalf, even in the smallest details, but be crowned and killed an unstruggling, uncomplaining victim?

Was this silence a type of the defenselessness of sin? Nothing can be said to excuse human guilt; and, therefore, He who bore its whole weight stood speechless before His judge.

Patient silence is the best reply to a world of cruel opposition. Calm endurance answers some questions infinitely more conclusively than the loftiest eloquence. The best apologists for Christianity in the early days were its martyrs. The anvil breaks a host of hammers by quietly bearing their blows. Did not the silent Lamb of God furnish us with a grand example of wisdom? Where every word was occasion for new blasphemy, it was the line of duty to provide no fuel for the flame of sin. The ambiguous and the false, the unworthy and mean will soon enough confound themselves, and therefore the true can afford to be quiet and find silence to be its wisdom.

Evidently our Lord, by His silence, furnished a remarkable fulfillment of prophecy. A long defense of Himself would have been contrary to Isaiah’s prediction: “Like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth.”1 By His silence He declared Himself to be the true Lamb of God. As such we worship Him this morning. Be with us, Jesus, and in the silence of our heart let us hear the voice of Your love.

1) Isaiah 53:7

One-Year Bible Reading Plan

Kids4Truth Clubs Daily Devotional – God Is Never Too Busy

“And as Jesus passed by, he saw a man which was blind from his birth.” (John 9:1)

Have you ever wanted to talk to people, and found they were just too busy? Megan experienced that this past Christmas. The whole family was planning to meet at Grandma’s house for the holiday. This was the one time of the year where every uncle, aunt, and cousin got together. Megan was especially excited about it, because her older cousin Audrey was going to be there.

Megan had always looked up to Audrey. Audrey was the oldest cousin, the coolest cousin, and also the first cousin to go to college. Even though Megan was only in 6th grade, she still could hardly wait to hear all about college life.

The day finally came when Megan’s family loaded up the car and headed to Grandma’s house. Megan’s family was the first to arrive. One by one, the other families came, until finally Audrey’s family came. Megan ran out the door and into the snow without even bothering to put on her coat. As she ran up, she saw someone in the car that she did not recognize. Audrey climbed out of the car and gave Megan a big hug. “Hey, Megan! How are you doing?” Audrey said. “I want you to meet a friend of mine; his name is Derrick.”

It turned out that Derrick was Audrey’s boyfriend. Since he was new to the family reunion, the whole family wanted to talk with him and Audrey. Every time Megan tried to talk to Audrey, someone else would want to be introduced to Derrick. Even when Megan tried to get Audrey to go snow-tubing, she was too busy! Megan finally gave up and went tubing all by herself.

When the time came for everyone to cram back into their cars and head to their own homes, Audrey found Megan. “Megan, I know we didn’t get to spend much time together this year. I am very sorry.” Megan said that it was all right, but deep down she was really disappointed.

On the way home, Megan’s mom asked her what was the matter. “I can’t believe she was too busy for me!” she said quietly.

Megan’s mom thought about it for a moment, and then told her something very important. “Megan, people will let you down from time to time. They don’t want to, but they do. But there is Someone who will never let you down and be too busy for you.”

Megan’s mom pulled a Bible out of her bag and read the story from John 9 about the healing of a blind man. The story starts out like this: “And as Jesus passed by, he saw a man which was blind from his birth.” Megan’s mom asked her, “Where do you think Jesus was, when He ‘passed by’?”

“I don’t know,” Megan replied. Megan’s mom said, “Look at verse 59 of chapter 8 (“Then took they up stones to cast at him: but Jesus hid himself, and went out of the temple, going through the midst of them, and so passed by”). Jesus was in the middle of people trying to hurt Him! But as He was passing by them, He noticed this blind man and took the time to stop and heal him.”

Megan’s mom was trying to help Megan understand that Jesus did not even let people who were trying to hurt Him keep Him from doing His Father’s will. The Bible promises us that Jesus will never leave us nor forsake us. He is never too busy for us. We can go to Him in prayer at any time of day or night–He is always there for us.

People may sometimes have to let us down, but Jesus is never too busy when we need Him.

My Response:
» How do we know that Jesus will always be there for us?
» What are some things that you might need to talk to Jesus about?
» In your life, how can you be like Jesus and take the time to notice other people who might need some attention?

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Denison Forum – Train derailment in Taiwan kills more than three dozen people: Why Good Friday still matters today

The Wall Street Journal is reporting this morning that a passenger train in Taiwan derailed today, killing more than three dozen people and trapping more than seventy others. It is the island’s deadliest rail accident in decades.

Officials say the eight-car train might have hit a construction vehicle that had stopped on the tracks.  

The suffering of Jim Caviezel 

It is terribly appropriate for such a horrible tragedy to occur on Good Friday, the most somber day of the Christian year. This is the day Jesus was tried and convicted illegally by the religious leaders of his nation, then whipped, tortured, and nailed to a cross to die. 

You may have seen Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ. It is the most realistic depiction of Jesus’ suffering I have seen on film. 

Jim Caviezel, the committed Christian who played Jesus, spoke after the movie was completed about the injuries he suffered. He was accidentally whipped twice, leaving a fourteen-inch scar on his back, and he dislocated his shoulder from the weight of the cross. He contracted hypothermia and pneumonia while hanging on the cross. 

In one scene, Caviezel appears to have a blue coloration of his skin. This was not a special effect. It was due to asphyxiation, which is the typical cause of death for victims of crucifixion. Prolonged suspension by the arms in this position can make breathing very difficult and cause slow suffocation. According to scholars, victims died from a combination of suffocation, heart failure, exposure, dehydration, lung embolism, and sepsis from infected wounds endured from flogging and the nails of crucifixion. 

Jesus chose all of this. In the Garden of Gethsemane the previous night, he had every opportunity to flee with his life. He knew that Judas would betray him and that the soldiers were coming to arrest him. He could have appealed to his Father to “send me more than twelve legions of angels” (Matthew 26:53) or he could have retreated back home to Galilee. So long as he was not a threat in Jerusalem, the religious authorities there would likely have stopped their pursuit of him. 

When I lead study tours to Israel, we always visit the Garden of Gethsemane. We look out over the Kidron Valley to the eastern wall of the Old City of Jerusalem. We envision soldiers marching in line by torchlight, down the valley and up the slopes of the Mount of Olives. We watch as Jesus watches them come, choosing to die on a cross that we might live eternally. 

He did all of that, just for you. He would do all of that again, just for you. 

A nine-year-old boy died in his mother’s arms 

The derailment in Taiwan is not the only tragedy in this morning’s news. 

Fox News is reporting that the suspect who killed four people and injured a fifth in an office complex in California last Wednesday knew all of the victims personally. One of them was a nine-year-old boy who apparently died in his mother’s arms as she tried to save him. Meanwhile, CBS News tells us that COVID-19 cases are spiking in Michigan, fueled by infections among children and teenagers. 

I honestly don’t know why an all-knowing, all-loving, all-powerful God allows such suffering. Take the derailment in Taiwan, for example. God obviously knew the accident would happen before it did. He loves each of the victims so much he sent his Son to die for them. If he could create the universe with a spoken word, calm stormy seas, resuscitate dead bodies, and raise his Son from the dead, he is clearly powerful enough to stop a train derailment and spare its passengers. 

It is a fact that our broken world is the cause of much of our suffering (Romans 8:22). Gravity, propulsion, and other realities of nature caused the tragedy in Taiwan. If God intervened every time physical laws could cause someone pain, there would be no physical laws. 

Misused free will causes much suffering as well, as in the California tragedy and other mass shootings in Georgia and Colorado. If God intervened every time someone could use their free will to harm others, there would be no free will. 

My father’s early death 

However, God does sometimes intervene. He saved Peter from Herod’s plot to kill him (Acts 12:3–11), but he did not spare James the same fate (v. 2). Jesus healed a leper who sought his help (Matthew 8:1–4), but presumably he did not heal all lepers. He opened one man’s blind eyes (John 9:1–7), but he did not end all blindness. 

A member of one of the churches I pastored had open heart surgery and could not be revived. After the doctors pronounced him dead, his heart inexplicably began beating again and he returned to life. We were and are convinced that God healed him in response to our prayers. 

And yet, my father died of a heart attack at the age of fifty-five despite my fervent prayers for him over many years. I still grieve his early death and the fact that my father never met my sons. He would have been a wonderful grandfather. 

I don’t know all the reasons why our Father in heaven does not prevent all our suffering. But I do know this: he suffers with us. Good Friday proves that it is so. 

Why Good Friday still matters 

Why was Jesus executed by crucifixion? God in his providence could have arranged for his Son to die by stoning, as with Stephen (Acts 7). Or he could have arranged for Jesus to be beheaded, which is how Rome executed its citizens and was presumably how Paul died. 

Instead, he arranged for his Son to die in the cruelest, most horrific manner ever devised. Crucifixion is so terrible that it is illegal in most nations today. 

As a result, it is a literal and logical fact that you can feel no suffering greater than what Jesus felt. The One who was tempted in every way we are (Hebrews 4:15) felt every pain we feel. Our Lord grieves as we grieve (John 11:35) and walks with us through every valley of the shadow of death (Psalm 23:4). You can “cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7 RSV). 

The fact of Jesus’ solidarity with our suffering matters. It matters to me that my Father loved my father even more than I did and is redeeming his death in ways I will not understand on this side of heaven. 

It matters that Jesus died in the most painful manner ever devised so that we can trust our greatest pain to his providential grace. And it matters that he redeems all he allows, on earth and especially in heaven. 

What pain, grief, or guilt are you carrying today? Take it to the cross. Ask Jesus to reveal his empathy, compassion, and love for you. Ask him to heal you, or forgive you, or sustain you, or do whatever you need most. 

If he would die for you, what won’t he do for you? 

This is the promise of Good Friday. Will you claim it for yourself today?

Upwords; Max Lucado –Unwrapping the Gifts of Grace

Listen to Today’s Devotion

Much has been said about Jesus’ gift of the cross. But what of the other gifts? What of the nails, the crown of thorns, the garments taken by the soldiers? Have you taken time to open these gifts?

He didn’t have to give us these gifts, you know. The only required act for our salvation was the shedding of blood. Yet he did much more, so much more. Search the scene of the cross and what do you find? A wine-soaked sponge. A sign. Two crosses beside Christ. Divine gifts intended to stir that moment, that split second when your face will brighten, and your eyes will widen, and God will hear you whisper, “You did this for me?”

Dare we think such thoughts? Let’s unwrap these gifts of grace as if for the first time. Pause and listen. Perchance you will hear Him whisper, “I did it just for you.”