In Touch Ministries; Charles Stanley – In Life’s Storms

God never promised believers would live an easy life, but He does promise our hardships aren’t in vain.

Matthew 14:22-33

When difficulties arise, are you surprised that the Lord would allow them? Such thinking assumes that being an obedient believer exempts us from problems. Consider today’s passage—the disciples did exactly what Jesus said by getting into the boat and setting sail for the other side. Yet before long, they found themselves battered and tossed about by a powerful storm. 

Then there are other believers who automatically assume that if trouble comes, they’re the problem. Even though God does use trials to correct us from time to time, not all difficulties result from our sins and failures. But He can use all situations to mature and conform us to Christ’s likeness. 

And that’s what was happening in Matthew 14 with the disciples. Jesus knew what lay ahead, and He was training them for the work He was calling them to do. In this case, the lashing winds created an environment that would help them learn key lessons about trust that would be invaluable for future ministry. 

God uses a variety of means to help us become strong, vital servants of Jesus Christ. Instead of keeping our heads bent low against the struggles of life, let’s look up to the Lord and seek His strength and purposes. 

Bible in One Year: 2 Samuel 20-22

Our Daily Bread — Making Every Moment Count

Bible in a Year:

Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come.

Matthew 24:42

Today’s Scripture & Insight:

Matthew 24:36–44

The halted hands of a pocket watch in a library’s archives at the University of North Carolina tell a harrowing tale. They mark the exact moment (8:19 and 56 seconds) the watch’s owner Elisha Mitchell slipped and fell to his death at a waterfall in the Appalachian Mountains on the morning of June 27, 1857.

Mitchell, a professor at the university, was gathering data to defend his (correct) claim that the peak he was on—which now bears his name, Mount Mitchell—was the highest one east of the Mississippi. His grave is located at the mountain’s summit, not far from where he fell.

As I ascended that mountain peak recently, I reflected on Mitchell’s story and my own mortality and how each of us has only so much time. And I pondered Jesus’ words about His return as He spoke to His disciples on the Mount of Olives: “So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him” (Matthew 24:44).

Jesus clearly indicates that none of us knows either the moment He’ll return and establish His kingdom forever or when He may summon us to leave this world and come to Him. But He tells us to be prepared and “keep watch” (v. 42).

Tick . . . tick . . . The “clockwork” of our lives is still in motion—but for how long? May we live our moments in love with our merciful Savior, waiting and working for Him.

By:  James Banks

Reflect & Pray

How are you preparing to meet Jesus? What do you look forward to the most about being with Him?

Loving Savior, please help me to be ready to meet You at any time. Help me to serve You and prepare for Your return today.

Grace to You; John MacArthur – The Unjust Conspiracy

“The chief priests and the whole Council kept trying to obtain false testimony against Jesus, in order that they might put Him to death” (Matthew 26:59).

The only evidence of guilt against Jesus was man-made and contrived.

The essence of the Jews’ ancient legal system is found in the Lord’s words to Moses and Israel: “You shall not distort justice; you shall not be partial” (Deut. 16:19). Therefore, it is truly amazing to consider what twisted measures the Jewish leaders resorted to in their trial of Jesus.

The Council, or Sanhedrin, was authorized to judge only those cases in which charges already had been brought. But in Jesus’ case, with no formal charges yet made and with the Jews’ rush to judgment, the Council had to act illegally as a prosecuting body to keep the chief priests’ murder plot moving forward.

As the sinless Son of God, Jesus was innocent of any wrongdoing. Therefore, the only way for the Jews to convict Him was to obtain false testimony against Him. And to do that, the leaders had to pervert the very heart of their judicial system and endorse the words of liars.

But the Jews quickly found it was not easy even to manipulate and assemble false charges. As is so often the case with liars, what they testified to was not only false but inconsistent. Mark’s Gospel notes that even the two witnesses’ more usable charges about Jesus and the destruction of the temple were not consistent (14:57-59).

It is one of the strongest affirmations in the Bible to Christ’s moral and spiritual perfection that not a single human witness could make an accusation that would convict Him of a crime. After all the desperate maneuvering by the Jews to come up with even the flimsiest testimony against the Lord, He stood innocent of any violation of God’s moral or spiritual law. Instead, it is the unjust, hateful group of men that will one day stand before God condemned for their sinful actions in falsely accusing the Savior.

Suggestions for Prayer

Pray for wisdom and integrity in the judges who make decisions in today’s courtrooms.

For Further Study

Read Deuteronomy 16:18-20 and 19:15-20. How do these passages show that Jesus’ trial before the Sanhedrin was based on wrong principles (list several factors)?

From Strength for Today by John MacArthur

Joyce Meyer – The Path of Forgiveness.

And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him and let it drop (leave it, let it go), in order that your Father Who is in heaven may also forgive you your [own] failings and shortcomings and let them drop.

— Mark 11:25 (AMPC)

“Why me, God?” was the cry of my heart for many years. Because of my wounded emotions from a lifetime of suffering, I lived in a wilderness of self-pity and unforgiveness. It was a huge problem that kept me from fulfilling the plan of God for my life.

Many people are hurting terribly and are crying out for help, but they aren’t willing to receive the help God has to offer. It is amazing how often we want things our way. When someone hurts you, you feel they owe you something, yet Jesus wants you to let it go. No matter how much you may want His help, you will receive only when you become willing to do things God’s way.

Prayer Starter: Lord, I know that Your way is forgiveness, so please help me to forgive others, forgive myself, and receive Your forgiveness once and for all.

Truth for Life; Alistair Begg – Bring Your Sorrows and Sins

Consider my affliction and my trouble, and forgive all my sins.

Psalm 25:18

It is good for us when prayers about our sorrows are linked with pleas concerning our sins—when, being under God’s hand, we do not focus exclusively on our pain, but remember our sins against God. It is also good to take both sorrow and sin to the same place. It was to God that David carried his sorrow: It was to God that David confessed his sin.

Notice, then, we must take our sorrows to God. Even your little sorrows you may cast upon God, for He counts the hairs of your head; and your great sorrows you may commit to Him, for He holds the ocean in the hollow of His hand. Go to Him, whatever your present trouble may be, and you will find Him able and willing to relieve you. But we must take our sins to God too. We must carry them to the cross, that the blood may fall upon them, to purge away their guilt and to destroy their defiling power.

The special lesson of the text is this: we are to go to the Lord with sorrows and with sins in the right spirit. Note that all David asks concerning his sorrow is, “Consider my affliction and my trouble”; but the next petition is vastly more explicit, definite, decided, plain—“Forgive all my sins.”

Many sufferers would have reversed it: “Remove my affliction and my pain, and consider my sins.” But David does not; he cries, “Lord, when it comes to my affliction and my pain, I will not dictate to Your wisdom. Lord, look at them—I will leave them to You. I would like to have my pain removed, but do as You will. But as for my sins, Lord, I know what needs to happen—I must have them forgiven; I cannot endure to live under their curse for a moment.”

A Christian counts sorrow lighter in the scale than sin; he can bear to have troubles continue, but he cannot bear the burden of his transgressions.

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

Kids4Truth Clubs Daily Devotional – Attitudes Matter to God

“If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me.” (Psalm 66:18)

Outwardly, Jenna was dusting the coffee table. But inwardly, she was stewing. She could think of at least fifty other things she would rather do than clean the house for company. A new family from the church was coming over for supper, and her mother had given each of the children a task to help prepare the house. Not only did Jenna dislike having extra work, but she also dreaded eating lasagna again, her mother’s favorite dish to make whenever company came. Furthermore, the children in the new family were all under school age, and Jenna was not looking forward to babysitting them after dinner while the adults talked.

Nothing about the plans for the evening appealed to her. The more she thought about it, the more her resentment grew. Why didn’t her mother consider what Jenna wanted? Why shouldn’t her mother do all the cooking and cleaning, since she was the one who wanted to have company in the first place?

Stepping into the living room, Jenna’s mother glanced around and smiled approvingly. “That looks much better, honey. Thanks for your help.” Suddenly Jenna felt ashamed. She realized that her mother had no idea what she had been thinking. She had fooled her mother, but Jenna knew that her attitude was not right.

It is sometimes easy to hide from others what is going on in our hearts. We can act as though everything is okay and pretend to be sweet, obedient Christians. Still, the secret sins of our heart cause our fellowship with God to be broken. God does not want our service if our attitude is not right.

Psalm 19:12b says, “Cleanse thou me from secret faults.” What kind of attitude do you have when it comes to serving God? A holy heart is much more valuable to God than busy hands.

God will accept our acts of service only if our hearts are right toward Him.

My Response:
» Am I serving the Lord out of love for Him or for some other reason?
» Am I trying to fool others or myself, or am I genuinely trying to please God from my heart?
» If I need to change my attitude to one that will glorify God, how should I do that?

Denison Forum – University of Texas to allow cohabitation on campus regardless of gender or sexual identity

“Blessed are the people whose God is the Lᴏʀᴅ!” (Psalm 144:15).

Let’s consider three very different stories as metaphors for our culture today.

One: The University of Texas will allow students to live together regardless of their gender or sexual identity. The university explained, “This helps enhance our residents’ sense of belonging and improve our competitiveness with the Austin market and other institutions. It also allows us to be more responsive to student needs.” The fact that you’re probably not surprised by this news is my point.

Two: on a lighter note, Major League Baseball will allow pitchers and catchers to use technology intended to prevent sign stealing. A catcher uses a pad with buttons on the wrist of his gloved hand to communicate the intended pitch and location to the pitcher through a listening device. This is intended to speed up the game and keep the other side from stealing signs. However, it says something about us that “America’s pastime” has to adopt such unprecedented means to prevent cheating.

Three: in other sports news, Scottie Scheffler won yesterday’s Masters tournament, solidifying his status as the world No. 1 golfer. Before Scheffler could win the tournament, however, he had to do something very important a few months ago: RSVP to his invitation to play. According to the New York Times, Augusta National sends invitations each year to golfers it wishes to invite to the tournament. They must signal their intention to play before they are permitted to compete.

There was a time when I played golf every week and practiced several times a week. However, no matter how much I worked on my game, I would never have received such an invitation. There are some things we cannot do for ourselves, no matter how hard we try.

It’s not a “Holocaust” museum

I returned Saturday after spending fifteen days in the Holy Land. I have led more than thirty study tours of Israel; each time I am deeply impressed by the continued courage and resilience of the Jewish people.

For example, terror attacks escalated in Jerusalem once again as Ramadan began. One of the victims was a former Israeli Olympian and father of three; another victim became engaged to his fiancé last month and was planning his wedding.

And of course, every visit to Israel is a reminder of the Holocaust. It is difficult to meet an Israeli who did not lose a family member to the Nazis and their collaborators.

Last Thursday, our group visited Yad Vashem, the Holocaust museum in Jerusalem. Except it’s not actually a “holocaust” museum. “Holocaust” is a Greek word referring to a “sacrifice by fire” made to God. The Nazis did not sacrifice the Jews to God—they murdered six million of them in cold blood.

For this reason, the Jewish people use the word Shoah, Hebrew for “catastrophe,” to describe what happened to their people.

Inside the museum, I noticed a quotation I had not seen before, this one from a poet and philosopher named Benjamin Fondane who was murdered at Auschwitz in 1944: “Remember only that I was innocent and, just like you, mortal on that day. I, too, had a face marked by rage, by joy and pity, quite simply, a human face!”

“The best friend you have ever known”

From rising anti-Semitism around the world to the tragic death of twenty-four-year-old NFL quarterback Dwayne Haskins to the continuing tragedy in Ukraine to senseless violence against teenagers in the US and an epidemic of mental health challenges for American children, each day’s news proves again that fallen humans are incapable of changing fallen human nature. But what we cannot do, the Spirit of God can.

As Oswald Chambers noted, “It is gloriously and majestically true that the Holy Ghost can work in us the very nature of Jesus if we will obey him.”

Let’s apply his observation personally: identify an aspect of your life that you wish were different—something you are doing that you should stop or something you are not doing that you should begin. What can you do to enable the Spirit to transform that part of your life into the “very nature of Jesus”?

Craig Denison writes: “If you ask for a deeper friendship with the Holy Spirit, you will find he is the best friend you have ever known.” This is because “friendship with the Spirit is like any other friendship in that it develops over time. Like a new friend, you must get to know his character and personality. Spend time just talking with him, listening to him and allowing him to work in your heart and life.”

If we do, Craig assures us, “He is your gateway to experiencing the things of God. Walk in relationship with him, follow his guidance, and make a new best friend in the Holy Spirit.”

“The firstborn among many brothers”

We cannot change our hearts as the Spirit can. However, we can hinder the Spirit from doing his transforming work in our lives. Craig notes that “the Holy Spirit has a personality. He has likes and dislikes. He feels, thinks, enjoys, likes, suffers, and desires.”

As a result, it is vital that we “do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God” (Ephesians 4:30) and that we “do not quench the Spirit” (1 Thessalonians 5:19). To this end, I want to encourage you to make a “spiritual inventory” part of your life each morning: ask God to bring to your mind anything that is hindering the Spirit from making you more like Jesus, then confess whatever comes to your thoughts and claim your Father’s forgiving and cleansing grace (1 John 1:9).

In addition, I encourage you to take time periodically for a deeper inventory. Offer the same prayer but with paper and pen in hand. Write down what comes to mind, giving the Spirit as much time as he needs to answer your prayer. Once again, confess these sins specifically and claim God’s forgiveness and mercy.

As Christians around the world noted yesterday, Jesus rode into Jerusalem triumphantly on Palm Sunday. As we will remember this Holy Week, he died in agony on Good Friday and rose in victory on Easter Sunday. All of it was not only to save humanity but to transform humans until we are “conformed to the image of [God’s] Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers” (Romans 8:29).

Your Lord will settle for nothing less.

Will you?

Denison Forum