Daily Archives: March 31, 2018

March 31: Gifts and Grace

Numbers 35:1–36:13; 1 Corinthians 16:1–24; Psalm 30:1–12

“Yahweh spoke to Moses on the desert plains of Moab beyond the Jordan across Jericho, saying, ‘Command the children of Israel that they give to the Levites from the inheritance of their property cities to live in; and you will give to the Levites pastureland all around the cities’ ” (Num 35:1–2).

The idea of giving is ancient. Before God’s people even enter the promised land, they’re commanded to help the Levites—who will be serving them as spiritual leaders—by giving them cities. Now that God has given to the people, He asks that they give back to His work. There is an opportunity for obedience, and this obedience will come with the blessing of continued spiritual guidance from the people to whom they are giving the land. But giving is not the only concept at play here.

Shortly after this, God asks the people to provide refuge cities for murderers (Num 35:6–8). He institutes a system of grace—a type of house arrest. The idea that synagogues and churches are places where criminals can find refuge (sanctuary) likely finds its origins in this.

This system of grace also manifests itself in types of hospitality. We see this several times in Paul’s letters. For example, Paul’s relationship with the Corinthians was on the rocks, yet he still requests hospitality for his fellow ministry worker: “But if Timothy comes, see that he is with you without cause to fear, for he is carrying out the Lord’s work, as I also am. Therefore do not let anyone disdain him, but send him on his way in peace in order that he may come to me, for I am expecting him with the brothers” (1 Cor 16:10–11).

God is gracious, and He calls us to be the same way—even when we don’t want to, and even when our sense of justice makes being gracious frustrating.

Is God calling you to be gracious to someone? How are you going to give?

John D. Barry[1]


[1] Barry, J. D., & Kruyswijk, R. (2012). Connect the Testaments: A One-Year Daily Devotional with Bible Reading Plan. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

March 31 Applying the Disciples’ Prayer

“For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen” (Matt. 6:13).

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The Disciples’ Prayer is a pattern to follow for life.

The implications of the Disciples’ Prayer are profound and far-reaching. An unknown author put it this way:

“I cannot say ‘our’ if I live only for myself in a spiritual, watertight compartment. I cannot say ‘Father’ if I do not endeavor each day to act like His child. I cannot say ‘who art in heaven’ if I am laying up no treasure there.

“I cannot say ‘hallowed be Thy name’ if I am not striving for holiness. I cannot say ‘Thy kingdom come’ if I am not doing all in my power to hasten that wonderful day. I cannot say ‘Thy will be done‘ if I am disobedient to His Word. I cannot say ‘in earth as it is in heaven’ if I will not serve Him here and now.

“I cannot say ‘give us … our daily bread’ if I am dishonest or an ‘under the counter’ shopper. I cannot say ‘forgive us our debts’ if I harbor a grudge against anyone. I cannot say ‘lead us not into temptation’ if I deliberately place myself in its path. I cannot say ‘deliver us from evil’ if I do not put on the whole armor of God.

“I cannot say ‘thine is the kingdom’ if I do not give to the King the loyalty due Him as a faithful subject. I cannot attribute to Him ‘the power’ if I fear what men may do. I cannot ascribe to Him ‘the glory’ if I am seeking honor only for myself. I cannot say ‘forever’ if the horizon of my life is bounded completely by the things of time.”

As you learn to apply to your own life the principles in this marvelous prayer, I pray that God’s Kingdom will be your focus, His glory your goal, and His power your strength. Only then will our Lord’s doxology be the continual song of your heart: “Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen” (v. 13).

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Suggestions for Prayer:  Ask God to use what you’ve learned from the Disciples’ Prayer to transform your prayers.

For Further Study: Read John 17, noting the priorities Jesus stressed in prayer.[1]


[1] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1993). Drawing Near—Daily Readings for a Deeper Faith (p. 103). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.

MARCH 31 POWER OF THE CROSS

The cross…by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.

Galatians 6:14

Only a person with a perfect knowledge of mankind could have dared to set forth the terms of discipleship that our Lord Jesus Christ expects of His followers.

Only the Lord of men could have risked the effect of such rigorous demands: “Let him deny himself” (Matthew 16:24).

Can the Lord lay down such severe rules at the door of His kingdom? He can—and He does!

If He is to save the man, He must save him from himself. It is the “himself” which has enslaved and corrupted the man. Deliverance comes only by denial of that self.

No man in his own strength can shed the chains with which self has bound him, but in the next breath the Lord reveals the source of the power which is to set the soul free: “Let him take up his cross.”

The cross was an instrument of death—slaying a man was its only function. “Let him take his cross,” said Jesus, and thus he will know deliverance from himself!

Dear Lord, I have much to learn about denying myself and bearing my cross daily—especially in the midst of so many mundane activities. Have Your way with me, Lord.[1]


[1] Tozer, A. W. (2015). Mornings with tozer: daily devotional readings. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.

There Are Worse Things Than Hiding Easter Eggs

I’m not worried about churches that hide Easter eggs for kids once a year – I’m worried about churches that hide the Gospel from people every week. – Clayton Pruett

Dr. Jack Graham’s Prestonwood Baptist Church is having their annual Easter Egg Drop – in which they dump thousands of eggs out of a helicopter for an egg hunt at their Dallas campus. Graham, a two time president of the SBC and big fan of Beth Moore and Word-Faith, Hillsong pastors Brian Houston and Christine Caine, is a proven #DOWNGRADE specialist and so a helicopter egg drop (a Stephen Furtick specialty) at Graham’s church seems hardly newsworthy. Prestonwood’s press announcements about the egg drop, devoid of Christ altogether, narrowly avoided becoming the focus of Friday’s Daily #DOWNGRADE segment.

But the words of Clayton Pruett, circulating in social media, stung me back into focus and put things into perspective.

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Clayton is dead-on the money.

As odd as it seems that a church would adopt a once-pagan ritual associated with the celebration of Spring – which Catholics adopted in the 13th century as part of a fasting from eggs during Lent – there are worse things than letting children scurry around looking for plastic eggs with trinkets and sugary treasures inside. As a Protestant that’s still protesting, with a fundamentalist Baptist streak who’s just naturally adverse to such acts of irreverent tom-foolery, I can’t find it in myself to anathematize the whole endeavor. I keep hearing the hillbilly slogan common in my Ozarkian upbringing, “There are bigger fish to fry.”

Easter egg hunts to me, therefore, are a matter of Christian liberty and so I let it go, remembering there are hills upon which Zion’s flag of Gospel is yet to wave and upon which might make a fairer hill to die.

What’s far more concerning, as Pruett points out, than hiding eggs from children is hiding the Gospel from church-goers every week. And even worse (at least in principle) is hiding the Gospel from church-goers on Resurrection Sunday.

Millions of American Christians will gather in church tomorrow to hear that “Easter is About Second Chances.” second-chance-church-a1Many will hear that Easter is about a chance at a “clean slate” or “fresh start.” Members at Saddleback will hear an allegorization of the Gospel from Rick Warren, as his Easter promopromises to explain that the death, burial and resurrection are symbolic of three days you’ll have to go through over and again in your life to overcome “depression and discouragement.”

Oh, sure. The Gospel can perhaps be found in these places, and if you listen hard enough, perhaps it will even be spoken of in the pulpit through subtle hints and passing references. It’s like an Easter egg hunt, except for believers that are desperate to hear the story of Christ’s resurrection wash over them like a treasured hope and weekly reminder that all in Christ will be made alive (1 Corinthians 15:22).

As the fuddy-duddy that I am, I would rather buy my kids a bag of candies or marshmallow Peeps than have them scour the church grounds for an hour to find scattered in the dirt what hasn’t already been pillaged by the rest of the mob of chocolate-faced carpet-crawlers on a savage sugar-high (although the kids would have far less fun). But maybe, that’s part of the nonsensical  and hard-won fun that makes being a kid memorable and exciting. And yet, finding the Gospel in church shouldn’t be this way.

There’s enough Gospel to go around; it’s not in short supply. If I find more Gospel, it doesn’t mean someone else has to find less. There’s no expiration date on this Gospel, and the more of it that’s consumed, somehow the more room you have for greater and greater amounts. And unlike the treats you may find in plastic eggs, there’s no sugar crash in the end that leaves you feeling lethargic or feeling as though a diabetic comma might be inevitable. Furthermore, the Gospel isn’t a luxury afforded to affluent children in suburban neighborhoods dressed in pastel colors, belonging to parents in pretty dresses or pressed slacks. The Gospel is for everyone – every economic bracket, every neighborhood, every ethnicity. And Gospel-preaching can’t be an annual affair, for unlike the goodies found inside plastic eggs, the Gospel feeds and nourishes the believer as our primary source of sustenance.

In the end, searching for a plastic egg or two (or thousands dropped out of a helicopter) may not sit well with some of you, but it won’t be the end of the true and apostolic, New Testament Church. Forsaking the Gospel or hiding it away for those ambitious enough to look for it like a hidden egg, however, might just kill it (if Christ were to allow such a thing). So, hunt for those eggs if you want. But please, find a church where you don’t have to hunt for Gospel.

The post There Are Worse Things Than Hiding Easter Eggs appeared first on Pulpit & Pen.

Apologetics: 10 Quotes on the Resurrection of Jesus

The central claim of the NT is that Jesus was physically resurrected after being crucified. If this claim arose from decades of embellishment instead of historical truth, then Jesus is dead, the apostles were liars, and our faith is worthless (1 Cor. 15:14–17). But evidences from the first and second centuries reveal that eyewitness testimony about Jesus emerged rapidly and circulated reliably. The NT texts relied on testimonies from apostolic eyewitnesses, and all of these texts were completed while the eyewitnesses were still alive. That’s why we can declare with confidence: Don’t worry; I read the book. He didn’t stay dead. — Timothy Paul Jones (from, How Do You Know Jesus Really Rose from the Dead?)

At its foundation, Christianity is based on evidence. First Corinthians 15 recounts the critical core of Christianity: the resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. Without Jesus’ resurrection (a historical event), there is no Christianity and no hope for a future in heaven (a theological assertion). If Jesus is nothing more than an embellished legend, then the hope of heaven is little more than a wish. In order for Christianity to be true, it must include a belief in certain historical facts and a belief that the Bible preserves an accurate account of those events. This establishes the identity of Jesus as the resurrected Savior. In this sense, theology can’t be separated from history. Rather, theology depends on history. — Kenneth Samples (from, 5 Levels of Christian Faith)

After studying the historical origins of the Christian faith, I came to these conclusions: that Jesus died on the cross is as certain as anything historical can be; that he rose from the dead is by far the best explanation of the events surrounding his death; and that Jesus claimed to be God is the best explanation for the immediate Christian proclamation of Jesus’ deity. Putting it all together: Jesus claimed to be God, and he proved it by rising from the dead. The case for Christianity is powerful. Despite my ardent desire to believe in Islam, I had to admit that history was in favor of Christian claims, and even more reluctantly, that it challenged Islamic teachings. — Nabeel Qureshi (from, No God but One: Allah or Jesus?: A Former Muslim Investigates the Evidence for Islam and Christianity)

The wise do not believe in the resurrection of the dead. It is really quite absurd. So everything from the Easter morning to the Ascension had to be made up by the groveling enthusiasts as part of their plan to get themselves martyred. — U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia (cited in, Evidence for the Resurrection by Josh & Sean McDowell)

The real cover-up [of Watergate], the lie, could only be held together for two weeks, and then everybody else jumped ship in order to save themselves. Now, the fact is that all that those around the President were facing was embarrassment, maybe prison. Nobody’s life was at stake. But what about the disciples? Twelve powerless men, peasants really, were facing not just embarrassment or political disgrace, but beatings, stonings, execution. Every single one of the disciples insisted, to their dying breaths, that they had physically seen Jesus bodily raised from the dead. Don’t you think that one of those apostles would have cracked before being beheaded or stoned? That one of them would have made a deal with the authorities? None did. Jesus is Lord: That’s the thrilling message of Easter. And it’s an historic fact, one convincingly established by the evidence—and one you can bet your life upon. Go ahead researchers—dig up all the old graves you want. You won’t change a thing. He has risen. — Chuck Colson (cited in, Did Jesus Really Rise From the Dead?)

When we turn to the Gospels, we find multiple, independent attestation of this burial story, and Joseph of Arimathea is specifically named in all four accounts. On top of that, the burial story in Mark is so extremely early that it’s simply not possible for it to have been subject to legendary corruption. When you read the New Testament, there’s no doubt that the disciples sincerely believed the truth of the resurrection, which they proclaimed to their deaths. The idea that the empty tomb is the result of some hoax, conspiracy, or theft is simply dismissed today. — William Lane Craig (cited in, Case-Making 101: A Resurrection Apologetic)

There is an important difference between the apostle martyrs and those who die for their beliefs today. Modern martyrs act solely out of their trust in beliefs that others have taught them. The apostles died for holding to their own testimony that they had personally seen the risen Jesus. Contemporary martyrs die for what they believe to be true. The disciples of Jesus died for what they knew to be either true or false. ― Gary Habermas, (from, The Case For The Resurrection Of Jesus)

None of [the] major figures who constituted the inner circle of Jesus would have become or remained followers of Jesus after the crucifixion if there was no resurrection and no resurrection appearances of Jesus. The church, in the persons of its earliest major leaders, was constituted by the event of the resurrection, coupled with the Pentecost event! The stories of these figures, especially their post-Easter stories, are the validation of this fact. There would be no church without the risen and appearing Jesus. ― Ben Witherington III (from, What Have They Done with Jesus? Beyond Strange Theories & Bad History)

In order for the Resurrection of Jesus to be a late legend, the story would have to be both late and a legend. It is neither. The earliest New Testament documents include the Resurrection story, and the record of the early Church fathers demonstrates that the story was not altered over time. The truth of the Gospel accounts and the Resurrection of Jesus is still the most reasonable inference from the evidence. — J Warner Wallace (from, Investigating Easter: Is The Resurrection A Late Legend?)

If the Resurrection [of Jesus] had not happened, obviously the disciples would have known it. I can find no way that these particular men could have been deceived. Therefore they not only would have died for a lie—here’s the catch—they would have known it was a lie. It would be hard to find a group of men anywhere in history who would die for a lie if they knew it was a lie. — Josh McDowell (from, More Than a Carpenter)

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