Month: March 2013

“Resurrection: He Is Risen Indeed!” by Laura Bagby

Easter Sunday. To many it means the Easter bunny, a day of food and celebration. For some it is an obligatory church-attending holiday, after which life goes on as usual.

How sad that we have so quickly forgotten the true meaning of Easter. Our God reigns! Jesus Christ died, yes. But even more importantly, He rose again and is now seated at the right hand of God the Father, as we say in the Lord’s Prayer.

Jesus Christ literally defied death. But He did more than just a Houdini move. We “ooo” and “ahhh” over the narrow escapes by magicians like David Copperfield and others, but eventually even those daredevils will face death. Their power is limited.

But Jesus Christ was greater — He defied death FOREVER. Jesus Christ lives and reigns for eternity, whether you or I believe that fact or not.
And He has reclaimed life for all those who believe in Him. This is the second miracle of Easter. Through God’s work on the cross, we have access to eternal life as well:

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: ‘ The righteous will live by faith’ (Romans 1:16-17).

If you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved (Romans 10:9-10).

Whosoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before men, I will disown him before my Father in heaven (Matt. 10:32-33).

Please consider today the wonder of God’s power and His love for you. He knows you. He knows what you have done. He knows what you are going to do. But He is waiting for your response, my friend. God doesn’t need your praise or your service to Him; He desires it. It is not what we do for God that gets us into heaven and gives us a right relationship with God. It is only by faith in Jesus Christ.

Look at these Scriptures:

Know that a man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law, because by observing the law no one will be justified (Galatians 2:16).

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God — not by works so that no one can boast (Ephesians 2:8-9).

The Biblical Accounts of the Resurrection And Ascension
Read Matthew 28:1-20; Mark 16:1-20; Luke 24:1-53; John 20, 21 for the details about these amazing events in the life of Christ.

The Garden Tomb
Jesus was buried in the Garden Tomb as seen in this photo. It was a new tomb provided by the converted Jew of Arimathea called Joseph (no relation to Joseph the father of Jesus). See Matthew 27:57, 59 and Luke 1:43, 23:50.

Along the entrance to the tomb is a narrow track on which a thin round stone resembling a silver dollar was placed. This stone could be rolled open and closed along this track.

Inside the tomb was a flat slab where Jesus Christ was buried.

Many tombs in the day of Christ had two chambers. The first chamber had a ledge around it as a seat. The second chamber was a niche cut into the wall for the body. If extra room was needed for additional bodies, the bones of the first body were buried in a hole in the floor of the tomb and the new body was placed in the niche.

The Bible distinctly mentions that Christ’s tomb was new. In other words, no bodies had to be removed and no bones had to be buried to make way for the Savior.

March Morning Devotion: Isaiah 53:5

“With his stripes we are healed.” — Isaiah 53:5

Pilate delivered our Lord to the lictors to be scourged. The Roman scourge was a most dreadful instrument of torture. It was made of the sinews of oxen, and sharp bones were inter‐twisted every here and there among the sinews; so that every time the lash came down these pieces of bone inflicted fearful laceration, and tore off the flesh from the bone. The Saviour was, no doubt, bound to the column, and thus beaten. He had been beaten before; but this of the Roman lictors was probably the most severe of His flagellations. My soul, stand here and weep over His poor stricken body.

Believer in Jesus, can you gaze upon Him without tears, as He stands before you the mirror of agonizing love? He is at once fair as the lily for innocence, and red as the rose with the crimson of His own blood. As we feel the sure and blessed healing which His stripes have wrought in us, does not our heart melt at once with love and grief? If ever we have loved our Lord Jesus, surely we must feel that affection glowing now within our bosoms.

“See how the patient Jesus stands,
Insulted in His lowest case!
Sinners have bound the Almighty’s hands,
And spit in their Creator’s face.

With thorns His temples gor’d and gash’d
Send streams of blood from every part;
His back’s with knotted scourges lash’d.
But sharper scourges tear His heart.”

We would fain go to our chambers and weep; but since our business calls us away, we will first pray our Beloved to print the image of His bleeding self upon the tablets of our hearts all the day, and at nightfall we will return to commune with Him, and sorrow that our sin should have cost Him so dear.

“Are You Feeling Like God Isn’t There?” by Rosann Cunningham

Are you feeling like God isn’t there. You pray and pray and yet your prayers go unanswered. You may even wonder if God loves you.

Because if He truly loved you, you’d feel His presence, right? You’d know He was there working in your life. You wouldn’t feel this endless funk.

I know how you’re feeling. Trust me. I totally get it. I’ve been there myself.

And when you’re there, it’s easier to listen to the lies in your head that say “God has abandoned you,” than it is to consider the notion that perhaps God’s answer is for you to wait just a little bit longer. For His timing. For His better answer.

Yet waiting is painful.

You’re so tired of the wait, aren’t you?

I know.

Dear friend, the truth is God has not abandoned you. He is there with you this very moment. But in order to feel His presence, your focus needs to change.

If you are only thinking about what you don’t have, how He hasn’t helped you, or how miserably hopeless your situation is, you’ll miss out on the love God is pouring over your life right now.

Yes.

Right now.

Let’s explore this for a minute.

How do you show your love to your children?

Do you give them everything they ask for, right when they ask for it? Certainly not. Sometimes you know there is a better option for them than what they’re asking for. But maybe circumstances aren’t fitting for that option at this particular time.

So your children don’t get what they want. Does that mean you don’t love them? Does it mean you aren’t gifting them in other ways?

No. You hug them. You tell them you love them. At the store, you surprise them by having them each pick out a special treat. Maybe you let them stay up later than usual on a particular evening. Or perhaps you give them the extra loving gift of your time.

God is no different in showering us with His love. Sometimes His answers, His love, and His gifts come in packages our human eyes and hearts don’t always recognize. Especially when we’re too busy having our own grown up fit about why we aren’t getting what we’ve asked our Heavenly Father for.

Now, let’s consider unemployment.

Many of you know my family went through a 3 year season of unemployment. Talk about a major financial drain. We blew through every dime we had to our name just to survive. There were days I honestly didn’t think we’d ever get our life back. God did eventually answer our prayers and He was no doubt glorified in doing so.

He was so good to us during that difficult time though. We may not have had our prayers answered the way we wanted the very moment we asked, but every day He revealed (and continues to reveal) His love for us in tangible ways.

In the smiles and giggles from our daughters (How can we be SO blessed?)
In the money that would show up right when we needed it.
In the loving support from friends in our community.
In the strength to get through a half marathon (God carried me – I know it!)
In the courage to start a Christian faith blog (hello, persecution?) and to write a book (only God could have put those words together!)
In the protection over our health during the year our family went without health insurance.
In my husband’s endless determination to do something…anything… to provide for our family.
In the surprise free vacation we were able to take to visit family in CA last August.
In the privilege of His forgiveness, each new day, and prayer.
And so so so much more…

If we had only been focused on the bad, we would have missed seeing the abundant gifts God was blessing us with each day.

My husband is back to work and we are rebuilding our life slowly, but surely. Still, it has been frustrating, this financial hardship. I often wonder when it will end. When our bank account will be whole again. When God will give us the answer. A winning lottery ticket, perhaps? Wouldn’t that be nice!

The thing is, through three years of unemployment, my only hope was in God. He took care of us. Every detail. Not a single thing did we need to worry about. God had it all under control. All He wanted was a deeper relationship with us.

And a deepened relationship did indeed occur, although it took intentional effort on our part. We knew that a relationship not nurtured would never grow.

So we leaned into God and we trusted Him. We studied His word. We met Him in quiet prayer every single morning. We responded to Him with obedience – even when what He was asking scared the you know what out of us.

But the joy that comes from a deep relationship with God… Oh the joy!

Change your focus, dear one.

You’ve given enough emotional attention to today’s problems. Step away from them and look a different direction. Look around you. In the everyday details of life. God has special gifts for you everywhere.

Focus, friend.

Focus.

You’ll find them. You’ll find Him. He never left your side. He’s been there all along.

March Morning Devotion: Isaiah 53:12

“He was numbered with the transgressors.” — Isaiah 53:12

Why did Jesus suffer Himself to be enrolled amongst sinners? This wonderful condescension was justified by many powerful reasons. In such a character He could the better become their advocate. In some trials there is an identification of the counsellor with the client, nor can they be looked upon in the eye of the law as apart from one another. Now, when the sinner is brought to the bar, Jesus appears there Himself. He stands to answer the accusation. He points to His side, His hands, His feet, and challenges Justice to bring anything against the sinners whom He represents; He pleads His blood, and pleads so triumphantly, being numbered with them and having a part with them, that the Judge proclaims, “Let them go their way; deliver them from going down into the pit, for He hath found a ransom.” Our Lord Jesus was numbered with the transgressors in order that they might feel their hearts drawn towards Him. Who can be afraid of one who is written in the same list with us? Surely we may come boldly to Him, and confess our guilt. He who is numbered with us cannot condemn us. Was He not put down in the transgressor’s list that we might be written in the red roll of the saints? He was holy, and written among the holy; we were guilty, and numbered among the guilty; He transfers His name from yonder list to this black indictment, and our names are taken from the indictment and written in the roll of acceptance, for there is a complete transfer made between Jesus and His people. All our estate of misery and sin Jesus has taken; and all that Jesus has comes to us. His righteousness, His blood, and everything that He hath He gives us as our dowry. Rejoice, believer, in your union to Him who was numbered among the transgressors; and prove that you are truly saved by being manifestly numbered with those who are new creatures in Him.

“The Third Word From The Cross” by John Piper

John 19:26–27

“So Jesus, seeing his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing there, said to his mother,Woman, behold your son.’ Then he said to the disciple, ‘Behold your mother!’ And from that hour the disciple took her into his family.”

Jesus’ Willingness to Care for You

There are at least three reasons that this word of Jesus to his mother and to the beloved disciple is a tremendous encouragement to our faith. The first reason is this: if Jesus was so eager to care for his mother in her hour of need, how much more is he eager to care for his disciples who hear the Word of God today and do it. Ordinarily one would reason just the opposite: if he loved his disciples who were not his relatives, how much more would he love his own mother. But Jesus didn’t view things in an ordinary way. With him it was strangely true: if he loved his mother with a natural affection, how much more can his obedient disciples bank on his love.

We know this because of an incident recorded for us in Luke 8:19–21:

His mother came to him and his brothers also, and they were unable to get to him because of the crowds. And it was reported to him, “Your mother and your brothers are standing outside, wishing to see you.” But he answered and said to them, “My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it.”

That was not a depreciation of his mother and brothers, but an exaltation of obedience. It means very clearly, those who hear the Word of God and do it have a more ready access to Jesus’ fellowship and help than do his own family members.

In one sense it is very risky to hear and do the Word of God. For the Word of God is always calling us to sacrificial acts of love. “He who would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his own cross and follow me” (Luke 9:23). But in another sense there is nothing safer and more rewarding than to hear and do the Word of God, because Jesus said, those who hear and do the Word of God are my mother and my brothers. Loving obedience to the Word of God puts us in a relationship to Jesus which is more intimate and more certain to be heard and helped than his nearest family relations.

So you can see now what a tremendous encouragement it is to our faith when Jesus makes provision for the needs of his mother at Calvary. Those who hear and do the Word of God have an even greater claim on Jesus’ care than she. So if he took care of her, will he not much more provide for all your needs, “O ye of little faith”?

Jesus’ Ability to Take Care of You

The second reason that this word to Jesus’ mother is an encouragement to our faith is this: if Jesus could provide for the needs of his own in a moment of his deepest weakness and humiliation, how much more can he provide for your need in his present power and exaltation! Not only are you, as an obedient disciple, in a better position than Jesus’ own mother to receive blessing at the hand of the Lord, but he is now in a better position to give it to you than he was to her then.

According to Ephesians 1:19, 20 the greatness of God’s power which is working on behalf of us who believe “accords with the working of the strength of his might which God generated by raising Christ from the dead and seating him at his right hand in heaven.” The satisfaction made for our sin at Calvary was so complete that God honored this sacrifice by raising Jesus from the dead and giving him incomparable glory and power and wealth of all things. And so when the apostle contemplates whether we can bank on Christ for the provision of our need, it is this wealth of glory that gives him assurance. He says, “My God shall supply all your needs according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19). The risen Christ is so full of glorious riches that he need not turn anyone away. As Paul says in Romans 10:12: “There is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, abounding in riches to all who call upon him.”

Therefore, the word of Jesus to his mother from the cross is a great encouragement to our faith. For if he could provide for his own in the moment of his weakness and humiliation, how much more can he meet all our needs today from the right hand of God, full of power and wealth and glory.

The Church as a New Spiritual Family

The third reason Jesus’ word to his mother encourages our faith is that it illustrates for us the benefits of the church, the body of Christ. Notice that contrary to custom and expectation, Jesus did not admonish his own brothers to care for their mother. Whatever the reason for not putting Mary in the care of her other sons, the new relationship between Mary and John illustrates for us the provision made for us in the body of Christ.

You recall how Jesus told the rich man to sell all he had and follow him. The man turned away, and Jesus said, “How hard it will be for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” And Peter said, “Behold we have left everything and followed you.” And Jesus said, “Truly I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or farms for my sake and the gospel’s, but that he will receive a hundred times as much now in the present age, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and farms, along with persecutions; and in the world to come eternal life.” Now where in this life are we going to receive 100 children and 100 mothers? Answer: in the church, the family of God.

When Jesus says to Mary: “Look on John as your son”; and to John: “Look on Mary as your mother”; he is showing us how our needs are to be met when we have left everything to follow him. Paul said in Acts 20:28 that Christ “purchased the church of God with his own blood.” Therefore, one of the gifts Jesus gave to us from the cross was the church: a loving, caring, sustaining, encouraging family beyond family. And it is a great encouragement to our faith that he illustrates the meaning of the church the way he did in the relationship between John and Mary.

So let us all take courage in the care and power and provision of our Lord. If he was eager to care for his mother, how much more eager will he be today to care for those who hear and do the Word of God! If Jesus could provide for the needs of his own in the moment of his greatest weakness and humiliation, how much more can he provide for your need in his present wealth of power and exaltation. And if Jesus purchased the church with his own blood and ordained that in it bereft mothers find sons and sons find mothers, then no one should be without a caring family today in the body of Christ. Amen.

©2013 Desiring God Foundation. Used by Permission.

Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that you do not alter the wording in any way and do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction. For web posting, a link to this document on our website is preferred. Any exceptions to the above must be approved by Desiring God.

By John Piper. ©2013 Desiring God Foundation. Website: desiringGod.org

Pity Party

Self-pity is a common temptation faced by many homeschooling parents. After all, we have such a heavy burden to bear, right? If the daily duties of homeschooling are not enough, we also face ridicule and a lack of appreciation for the hard work of teaching our children. Our martyr syndrome assumes we’re the only ones who really care about our children’s education. Foolishly we say, “No one else sacrifices or suffers for what they believe like we do.” Sadly, we actually believe these lies from Satan and sink into homeschooling despair because of them.

God doesn’t want us to feel sorry for ourselves, and He teaches us that lesson with the stories of two pouting prophets in the Bible. Consider Elijah and the great demonstration of God’s power at Mount Carmel. When Elijah prayed, the Lord proved Himself mighty to the prophets of Baal (1 Kings 18:20-39). Forgetting what God had just done, Elijah ran for his life to Mount Horeb to hide in a cave because the evil Queen Jezebel threatened him. When God asked why he was there, Elijah claimed, “And I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away” (1 Kings 19:14b). Then, there was Jonah who preached to the city of Nineveh and watched as the entire population repented of their sins. Jonah became so angry at God for sparing them that he said, “It is better for me to die than to live” (Jonah 4:3b). Both these prophets went from tremendous highs to the depths of despair as they felt sorry for themselves and forgot God’s deliverance.

What about you? Are you having a one-person pity party to celebrate your homeschooling difficulties? Why be like a foolish prophet who forgets the mighty miracles of God’s blessings? Rejoice instead in the precious opportunity God has given you to teach your children. Enjoy the wonderful gift of having fun together as a family. After experiencing the joys of homeschooling, why not throw a different party tonight and celebrate all that God has done for you?

Lord, I praise You for the love You show me each day. I am so thankful to be my children’s teacher and rejoice in the blessings of homeschooling. I recommit my heart and thoughts to You today. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

March Morning Devotion: Hebrews 5:8

“Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered.” — Hebrews 5:8

We are told that the Captain of our salvation was made perfect through suffering, therefore we who are sinful, and who are far from being perfect, must not wonder if we are called to pass through suffering too. Shall the head be crowned with thorns, and shall the other members of the body be rocked upon the dainty lap of ease? Must Christ pass through seas of His own blood to win the crown, and are we to walk to heaven dryshod in silver slippers? No, our Master’s experience teaches us that suffering is necessary, and the true‐born child of God must not, would not, escape it if he might. But there is one very comforting thought in the fact of Christ’s “being made perfect through suffering”—it is, that He can have complete sympathy with us. “He is not an high priest that cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities.” In this sympathy of Christ we find a sustaining power. One of the early martyrs said, “I can bear it all, for Jesus suffered, and He suffers in me now; He sympathizes with me, and this makes me strong.” Believer, lay hold of this thought in all times of agony. Let the thought of Jesus strengthen you as you follow in His steps. Find a sweet support in His sympathy; and remember that, to suffer is an honourable thing—to suffer for Christ is glory. The apostles rejoiced that they were counted worthy to do this. Just so far as the Lord shall give us grace to suffer for Christ, to suffer with Christ, just so far does He honour us. The jewels of a Christian are his afflictions. The regalia of the kings whom God hath anointed are their troubles, their sorrows, and their griefs. Let us not, therefore, shun being honoured. Let us not turn aside from being exalted. Griefs exalt us, and troubles lift us up. “If we suffer, we shall also reign with Him.”