images (1)We hear a lot of talk these days about “self-confidence” and how important it is to have it in order to succeed in life. I used to teach and coach this worldly “wisdom” for years before Jesus showed up. Now, instead of self-confidence, I teach Savior-confidence. It is Christ alone who is worthy of our confidence. When we place our trust in ourselves, we can never be sure of anything! We might have a good day or a bad day. But when we put our confidence in our Savior, regardless of the kind of day we experience, our confidence is in the right place and it need never waver.

Because the Sovereign LORD helps me, I will not be disgraced.  (Isaiah 50:7)

The psalmist had his confidence in the right place. He looked up instead of in. He looked to his Savior and not himself. This is the key to living a life that truly matters. You see, when we are totally convinced that our God is there to give us strength, there is nothing we will not risk for Him. Why? Because we know we will never be disgraced in His eyes. Oh, we may risk and lose in the eyes of this world; they may even laugh and jeer at us. But in the eyes of the only One who matters, when we place our confidence in Him, we are never disgraced, regardless of the results.

Think about this for a moment; marinate in this truth. If your God is helping you in whatever area of life you need His help, who can actually hinder you? You might even expand on the assurance given us in Romans 8:31; in addition to saying, “If God is for me, who can be against me?” say, “If God is for me, why should I care who is against me?” Make no mistake: no obstacle you face is more powerful than the Omnipotence who has promised to help you.

Where is your confidence today? Are you confident in your strength … your smarts … your success … your significance … your skill … you sincerity … your service … your sacrifice? There is someone better—so much better—to put your confidence in, and His name is Jesus. Trust in the One who took your beating, your nails, your crown of thorns, and your cross. If He did that for you, what do you think He will withhold from you today?

All the way back in the Garden of Eden, the lying serpent convinced Eve to question God’s goodness. Don’t let that happen to you today . . . or any day! God is good and He wants the best for you. Granted, His best for us may not always look like the “best” we were hoping for, but know this: whatever His best is at that time is the very best! Divine support will deliver you from the hollow promise of “self-confidence” and give you a confidence that will never let you down. Trust in Christ alone and know that trust will bring you to the Fount from which all blessings flow.

This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!

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imagesThe comfort in today’s message is found in the promise of God, given to the people of God, who believe in the Son of God as the promised Messiah.

Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.  (Acts 16:31)

Last month our congregation saw this promised fulfilled in the Malecki family. Daughter Jane started bringing her father Bill to Cross Community Church when he was 100 years and 4 months old. Bill’s body is weakening, but his mind is still very sharp; he told Jane that there was “something about” the messages he was hearing that intrigued him; he was happy to keep coming back week after week. Two months later, at age 100 years and six months, God fulfilled the promise of Acts 16:31 for Jane and her household by bringing Bill to faith in Jesus. We received him into our family of faith by both profession and baptism. There were a great many tears of joy shed, and not just by Bill’s immediate family!

What a promise to the people of God! “. . . You and your household.” Jane never gave up on that promise as she continued praying, year after year, decade after decade, for her father’s salvation. Should you or I ever give up on praying for anyone? God forbid! Pray for the conversion of parents. Pray for the conversion of wayward children. Pray for the conversion of extended family members. Pray for the conversion of future generations yet to come. Pray for that person you know (or know of) who currently seems so hardened to the things of God. Pray for them daily and by name. God’s arm is not shortened; He can reach anybody . . . at any time in this life.

Here is the promise in a nutshell. We never know when God might move in the lives of those we love. Yet, we know that God’s timing is always perfect and His plan of salvation is far better than our plan. God has given us this promise and we simply need to stay on our knees at His throne of grace . . . just as Jane did so faithfully for so many years.

I simply cannot tell you what an encouragement this “eternal event” was at The Cross. Bill’s conversion encouraged so many people—not only in our congregation but throughout our community. Many of us have been praying for decades for family members who have not yet placed their trust in Christ’s atoning work at Calvary. Never give up! Never give in!

Never lose sight of this promise from God: “You and your household.” Let us never rise from our knees nor give our petitions any rest until we see that our household is firmly rooted in the faith of our loving Lord, Jesus Christ.

This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!

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UnknownWhen was the last time someone told you that you were “full of goodness”? If it’s been a while, cheer up! I have a wonderful word of encouragement for you today.

I myself am convinced, my brothers, that you yourselves are full of goodness, complete in knowledge and competent to instruct one another. (Romans 15:14)

The apostle Paul was absolutely convinced that the saints in Rome were full of goodness. Wouldn’t that be well said of all of us! This word “goodness” in the original Greek means to benefit others, and its highest expression is found in sacrificial service. It is living a life that is other-oriented for two reasons: God’s glory and the good of all others. Someone once said, “The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow. Do good anyway!”

This goodness is not manufactured by man. It is a gift from God that comes to us by virtue of our union, by faith, with Jesus Christ and is manifested as one of the fruits of His Holy Spirit.

The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. (Galatians 5:22-23)

This heavenly gift, given to those who have trusted in Christ Jesus, is meant to be poured out on all others out of love for God and for the glory of God. We must remember that genuine faith always produces this fruit because “a good tree bears good fruit” (Matthew 7). I have written this here several times, but it bears repeating here: the Christian life is not about perfection on this side of the grave. It is about a change in direction, and that change is produced by our union with Jesus.

When we are united by grace through faith to Jesus, everything changes! Our desires change. Our goals change. Our dreams change. Our plans change. Our ultimate destination changes, and along the way we become more and more like our Master, who “went around doing good” (Acts 10:38).

If Jesus went around doing good, His ambassadors—that means you and me, beloved—should go around doing good also. And it is important to note that Jesus went around personally. He did not send angels or disciples for the work He was here to do. He did not send money so that others could do good. He went personally to the woman at the well. He went personally to the tax collector. He went personally to the tomb of Lazarus. He went personally to the sick, the lame, the blind, the deaf, and the lost.

So . . . is your life marked by going around doing good personally? This is what I call the ministry of the presence. Just showing up is one of the best ways to minister and do good to someone. Let them hear and feel . . .

  • Your high five
  • Your helping hand
  • Your holy hug
  • Your healing hope
  • Your heavy heart
  • Your hallelujah

Ecclesiastes 9:10 tell us, “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might.” In other words, do what you can do while there is still time to do it. Perhaps someday someone will say that you are full of goodness!

This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!

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images-3When Jesus spoke with the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well, He made it clear that there are two different “wells” we can drink from: one will sustain everyday life . . . the other will sustain eternal life.

Jesus was returning to Galilee from Judea, and John’s gospel tells us our Lord “had to go through Samaria,” which means He had a divine appointment with the woman at the well. Around noon, the woman came to the well to draw water to meet her physical needs. But Jesus engaged her in a conversation about a different kind of water than what she had come looking for, a “living water.” And after Jesus reviewed her past for her, she realized that Jesus was the long-awaited Messiah. Notice what she did next:

Leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town and said to the people, “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Christ?”  (John 4:28-29)

After her encounter with the Lord Jesus Christ, the woman abandoned the very reason she came to the well in the first place! She forgot all about her water jar and ran back to town to tell everyone about the Messiah. For the very first time in her life, this sinful woman knew the truth that there was something greater than meeting physical needs. Everything this woman had been looking to in order to meet her in her deepest place of need was now met in her Messiah.

So . . . the question we must ask ourselves is this: What water jar are we willing to abandon in order to embrace Jesus and drink from His well of living water?

  • Climbing the ladder of success
  • Applause of man
  • Acceptance of others
  • Financial security
  • Physical pleasure

The list could go on and on. When we are looking to meet our needs in anything smaller than Jesus, we are looking to fill our “water jar.” Like the Samaritan woman at the well, we must be willing to leave it behind in order to have the deep thirst of our soul slaked by the living water that only our Savior can offer.

Some readers may be worrying about the jar the woman left behind at the well. You might well ask, “She does need the physical water to sustain life, doesn’t she?” Don’t worry about that; Jesus has promised to meet all of our physical needs too!

“So do not worry,” He tells us, “saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matthew 6:31-33). Our loving Lord promises to meet us at our every point of need, in this world and the next.

Truly, when we drink from His well, we will never grow thirsty again!

This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!

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images-2I’ll often ask members of our congregation this question: “How many extra Christians has God made?” How would you answer? The answer, of course, is NONE! Every Christian is both needed and valuable in order for the body of Christ to become all God is calling it to be. In other words, every member matters . . . and that includes you!

Is the name Edward Kimball familiar to you? Don’t feel badly; not many people do. Edward taught Sunday school at Boston’s Mount Vernon Congregational Church in the mid-1800’s. One day an 18-year-old boy entered Edward’s Sunday school class; this is what Edward Kimball recalled about that first meeting:

I can truly say, and in saying it I magnify the infinite grace of God as bestowed upon him, that I have seen few persons whose minds were spiritually darker than was this boy’s when he came into my Sunday school class, and I think that the committee of Mount Vernon Church seldom met an applicant for membership more unlikely ever to become a Christian of clear and decided views of Gospel truth, still less to fill any extended sphere of public usefulness.

Not long after this encounter, Edward went to this young man’s workplace, a shoe store. He hesitated outside; Edward later admitted that he almost passed by the store altogether. But he went in, determined to share Christ’s love, and found the young man in the back wrapping shoes. Edward Kimball put his hand on the boy’s shoulder and asked, “Will you not give your heart to Jesus?” Moments later, the young man gave his life to Christ. His name was Dwight L. Moody, and he went on to become one of the greatest evangelists of that century, a man who led thousands to Christ.

Moody befriended F.B. Meyer and is often credited with encouraging Meyer to fully commit himself to evangelistic ministry. Meyer, in turn, had a profound influence on the Presbyterian evangelist John Wilbur Chapman. Chapman declared that F. B. Meyer’s teaching changed his entire ministry, saying, “I shall never be able to express in words my appreciation of what this man of God . . . did for me by personal influence.”

Chapman hired a former baseball player named Billy Sunday to work in his evangelistic outreach. In 1924 Billy Sunday conducted a series of revival meetings in Charlotte, North Carolina. A group of citizens, inspired by Sunday’s impassioned oratory, formed the Billy Sunday Layman’s Evangelistic Club, later renamed the Christian Men’s Evangelistic Club. Ten years later, this group was instrumental in inviting another evangelist, Mordecai Ham, to conduct a series of meetings in Charlotte in November of 1934. A sixteen-year-old boy was persuaded to attend one of those meetings, and that boy went forward to give his life to Jesus Christ. His name was Billy Graham.

You probably never heard of Edward Kimball . . . but you very likely heard of D.L. Moody, and who hasn’t heard of Billy Graham? And it all began with the faithfulness of one man: Edward Kimball.

So . . . what about you? You name may not be known by many, but God wants to use you, right where you are, to expand the cause of His kingdom. God has called, equipped, and empowered you to do His work in this world. But He won’t force you to do it. Perhaps God is calling you to lead a Bible study . . . a prayer group . . . a service project . . . or to speak the love of God into the life of someone who does not know this truth today.

Remember, there are no extra Christians! God has put you in the perfect place to do His work right now. Perhaps years from now, someone will tell the story of their conversion . . . the day you shined the light of Christ into their darkness. I cannot imagine anything better than that!

One last thought: years later after that day in the shoe store, as Dwight L. Moody was concluding one of his evangelistic outreaches, a young man came up to Mr. Moody and introduced himself as the son of Edward Kimball, Moody’s old Sunday school teacher. Moody inquired as to the young man’s spiritual condition, and finding no evidence of faith in Christ, led him to the throne of grace, where God converted his soul.

You just never know what God can do with a heart yielded to His will. If not you . . . who? If not now . . . when?

This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!

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imagesAs a pastor, I spend a great deal of time reading through the Bible over and over again, yet it never ceases to amaze me just how much God cares for us. You are likely familiar with the oft-quoted text that God even knows the number of hairs on our head (Matthew 10:30), which reveals that He cares about even the most infinitesimal details of our lives!

I’d like to offer you another word of incredible comfort today from the one of David’s psalms:

You number my wanderings; put my tears into Your bottle; are they not in Your book? (Psalm 56:8 NKJV)

David knew how intimately God cared for him. Before David was crowned king of Israel, he spent years on the run from King Saul, who wanted to kill David because he burned with jealousy over David’s success and popularity. David was comforted in the knowledge that God had kept a detailed list of his years of wanderings. In other words, God kept track of David’s tracks! But that’s not all . . . God tracked David’s tears as well.

The Holy Spirit moved David to offer this lovely image of God collecting his tears in His bottle, a reference to an ancient custom among the Greeks and Romans, who would collect their tears shed for the death of a loved one in a bottle or container of remembrance and then place the bottle in the tomb of the deceased. Clearly, David was greatly encouraged by the knowledge that God cares so much for us that He keeps track of our tears. Christian, if that doesn’t light the fire of your faith, your wood is wet!

You and I have shed our share of tears in this lifetime, have we not?

  • Tears of sorrow
  • Tears of pain
  • Tears of grief
  • Tears of frustration
  • Tears of joy
  • Tears of laughter
  • Tears of loneliness

God is not some distant, disconnected deity who is indifferent to the trials and tears of His people. God cares for every one of us, and that includes you! God cares about even the smallest details of your life, and He is with you every step of the way.

I know there are times when it seems like God is distant, heaven is silent, and the weight of the world is pressing down on your shoulders. But remember this: Jesus came into this world and God the Father collected His tears in His bottle also . . . tears that Jesus shed for you.

Regardless of where this finds you today, whether you are shedding tears of joy or tears of pain, God is tracking your tears. He cares so much for you that He took your place on a cruel cross and paid the penalty for your every sin . . . past, present, and still to come. Christ’s cry of unimaginable anguish from the cross—“My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?”—is your cry of cosmic comfort. You can be utterly and eternally assured that because Jesus was forsaken, you never will be!

This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!

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Those of us who have placed our trust in Jesus Christ’s atoning work on our behalf must be careful and not think that this amazing, gracious salvation is all about “me.” To be sure, we were saved individually . . . BUT we were saved to community. Every Christian believer is part of one body with many members, in which each person is needed and valuable. And as members of this one body, you and I have received instructions for how we are to treat one another.

Here are just a few examples:

  • We are to love one another                           (John 13:34)
  • We are to honor one another                         (Romans 12:10)
  • We are to serve one another                         (Galatians 5:13)
  • We are to bear one another’s burdens          (Galatians 6:2)
  • We are to forgive one another                       (Ephesians 4:32)
  • We are to encourage one another                 (1 Thessalonians 5:11)
  • We are to pray for one another                     (James 5:16)

One of the distinguishing marks of the early church that caught the eye of the watching world was the way the Christians “one anothered” each other. They continually devoted themselves to meeting others in their place of need. The Gospel truths helped them rise above the natural sinful human tendencies for avarice and self-protection. Instead, they lived lives marked by self-sacrifice, regardless of the cost or circumstance.

Can the same be said about you and me? What would those closest to us say about the visible evidences of self-sacrifice in our lives right now? Here is what we must keep in view. We love because He first loved us. We forgive because He first forgave us. And we “one another” because He first one anothered us!

Are there people in your life you find hard to love? Love them anyway! Are there people in your life you simply cannot bring yourself to forgive? Forgive them anyway! Are there people in your life you find difficult to “one another”? One another them anyway!

You see, the key to “one anothering” is to fix our hearts on the One who, in spite of our sin, one anothered us. When we keep God’s mercy in our hearts and His love in our lives, how can we not be merciful and loving in the lives of others? Jesus took our place on the cross and paid the penalty for our sins . . . all our sins—past, present, and still to come. And don’t forget this: while He hung, bleeding and dying on that cruel cross, Jesus cried out to His Father in heaven, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34 KJV).

That truth—that amazing love and grace—should set us free to put others first and lay our lives down for others. These are the marks of the Christian. This is the foundation upon which a life of “one anothering” is to be built.

This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!

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