ALMIGHTY ACCOUNTANT

imagesBy nature, we all want to settle the score . . . to get even . . . to give a little payback when someone wrongs us. How many movie “heroes” have we seen who set out on a quest for revenge? We watch, riveted by their pursuit of becoming the hands that deliver retribution.

But this is not for you! The truths of the Gospel free us from this cancerous condition.

Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. (Romans 12:19)

The apostle Paul makes it crystal clear that God’s judgment will reign in the end; we must not try to take these matters into our own hands. As the Almighty Accountant, God has promised to settle all accounts, which frees us from the spirit of unforgiveness and bitterness. It has been well said that unforgiveness does more damage to the vessel in which it is stored than the object upon which it is poured.

So . . . how are you doing in the area of forgiveness?

Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. (Ephesians 4:32)

Because this is the final verse in the fourth chapter of Ephesians, it’s easy to skim right over these words if we’re not careful. God commands us to forgive others just as we have been forgiven. And for how much have we been forgiven? More than we could ever recount! God not only forgave us for all the sins we had committed before we were first saved, He forgives us daily for all the sins we commit from that day forward! I am convinced that those who find it hardest to forgive simply do not recognize just how much God in Christ forgives them every day . . . every hour, for that matter. We like to think of ourselves as being much better than we actually are!

The truth is that you and I are great sinners in need of an even greater Savior . . . not just daily, but moment by moment. Not for a single instant has any one of us ever loved God with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength, as Jesus said we should (Mark 12:30). Only when we see ourselves as Paul saw himself—as “the chief sinner”—will we be able to lay down our vengeance and trust that the Almighty Accountant will settle all accounts in His time and in His perfect way.

Paul had many opportunities to succumb to bitterness and seek revenge against those who wronged him, slandered his good name, and actively sought to kill him. But nowhere in Scripture will we find him wasting any time on this toxic track. Much of what Paul wrote, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, he wrote while he was in chains, sitting on a cold prison floor because he had been falsely accused and wrongly imprisoned. But instead of pursuing revenge against his critics, he preached the righteousness of Christ, trusting that the Almighty Accountant will one day put all things right.

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

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NO GREATER LOVE!

cgErnest Gordon’s book, Miracle on the River Kwai, relates the true story of a group of POW’s working on the Burma Railway during WWII:

At the end of each day the tools were collected from the work party. On one occasion a Japanese guard shouted that a shovel was missing and demanded to know which man had taken it. He began to rant and rave, working himself up into a paranoid fury and ordered whoever was guilty to step forward. No one moved. “All die! All die!” he shrieked, cocking and aiming his rifle at the prisoners. At that moment one man stepped forward and the guard clubbed him to death with his rifle while he stood silently to attention. When they returned to the camp, the tools were counted again and no shovel was missing.

What an incredible story of putting others before yourself in spite of the incredible cost! Instead of everyone dying, an innocent man stepped forward and offered himself in their place.

Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.(John 15:13)

Imagine what all the other men in the work party must have thought when they returned to the camp, only to find there was no shovel missing. I wonder what the guard that clubbed him to death thought? As incredible as this story is for demonstrating selfless love for others, there is another story even more remarkable, because it involves the sinless Savior who went to a cross to save sinners from their sin.

You see, the justice of God demanded payment for sin, and Jesus stepped forward for sinners, took our place, and paid the penalty in full. The POW stood silently at attention while the guard clubbed him to death; Jesus stood silently before His accusers and executioners as He received the penalty that you and I fully deserved. He who knew no sin became sin on our behalf and died a death reserved for the most vile of criminals. He did it so that all those who place their trust in His atoning death will never feel the sting of death and never be punished for their sins.

So . . . have you experienced this amazing grace? Have you acknowledged your sin and need of a Savior? And does the love of Christ now compel you to love others—all others—even to the point of demonstrating this “no greater love,” regardless of cost or circumstance? The more we look to the Savior, the more we are seized and strengthened by this “lay-your-life-down-for-others” love.

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

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HOLY HONEYMOON!

jkWe’ve all heard the sardonic expression, “THE HONEYMOON IS OVER!” Although it is used in a variety of contexts, from business to sports to politics, the phrase refers to the dreary truth that the wonderful, even fantasy-like beginning of a marriage, marked by bliss and unimaginable optimism, has now settled into the relentless burden of “doing life” together. In my pre-marriage coaching sessions, I always emphasize that couples not to do what most people do, which is spending far more time planning the wedding than they do the marriage.

But there is one honeymoon that will never come to an end! As the prophet Isaiah wrote,

As the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you.(Isaiah 62:5)

Notice that Isaiah did not say that the bridegroom rejoices over His bride only during the initial honeymoon phase. Rather, it is a mark of the Master’s unchanging nature (which He reveals in Numbers 23:19 and elsewhere) that He rejoices over His beloved bride. It’s a HOLY HONEYMOON from the moment we are raised from death to life in Christ; it continues throughout our lives; and it will go on for all eternity! Because God is infinite and unchanging and we are His bride, the honeymoon is never over.

I remember the incredible joy Kim and I experienced on our honeymoon back in March of 1993. We went to the place where we got engaged and where we go twice each year with our children to this day: Walt Disney World. It was, as they say, “magical” and we remember it each time we return. However, whatever joy . . . whatever pleasure . . . whatever excitement . . . whatever magic Kim and I experienced together on our honeymoon is only a shadow of the substance to come when we are received into glory by our Bridegroom.

For those of you who are married, think back to how you felt on your honeymoon. To think that God rejoices over us as a Bridegroom rejoices over His bride is almost unimaginable. For the Bridegroom and His bride the honeymoon never ends. In fact, the joy and pleasure simply continues intensifying.

We must remember that our marriages are tainted by sin, so the euphoria we experienced on our honeymoon will not be our experience on a moment-by-moment basis. But this is not the case with our eternal Bridegroom. God’s love for us is perfect and infinite and it never changes. Even when we are unlovely and unlovable, our Bridegroom loves us with an everlasting love. We cannot make God love us more and we cannot cause Him to love us less. God’s love is as unchanging as our holy honeymoon is unending.

So . . . how should this Gospel truth inform our lives? It should cause us to rest in our redemption, knowing that our God is rejoicing over us! It should lift us when we are low, strengthen us when we are weak, comfort us when we are anxious, and give us unwavering hope when we are hurting. Oh, what a Bridegroom we have in Jesus!

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

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LIFE’S THREE T’S

blThere are many metaphors we can use for this life. Some describe it as a race and find pleasure only by increasing its speed. Others describe it as a party and believe we should eat, drink, and be merry—for tomorrow we die. Regardless of our view, every “life metaphor” influences, to an altogether unsuspecting extent, the way we live our lives at every level—personally, professionally, and spiritually.

God has given us the truth about life in the Bible. Our study of Scripture will, by God’s grace and through the working of His Spirit, cause us to develop a biblical worldview. As we grow in that worldview, we’ll discover Life’s Three T’s, which are designed to teach us some basic truths about how we should work out our salvation. Let’s take a brief look.

#1. Life is a TRUST!

God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground.” (Genesis 1:28)

Adam and Eve were given what I call an “Almighty Trust Account.” They were owners of nothing and stewards of everything. God gave them authority and dominion over all of creation, and they were to care for it in such a way that would bring honor and glory to God. Nothing has changed today; you and I are stewards of all God’s creation, just as our first parents were—except that today, the creation has been distorted and disfigured by sin.

#2. Life is a TEST!

Remember how the LORD your God led you all the way in the desert these forty years, to humble you and to test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands. He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your fathers had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD. (Deuteronomy 8:2-3)

Adam and Eve failed their test in the Garden of Eden, and the result is that you and I inherited their sinful nature. Even after we place our trust in Christ and are filled with His Spirit, the results of our own testing will always be a mixed bag: we respond successfully on some occasions; at other times we don’t do so well! Abraham was tested by God, and he responded beautifully, offering his son Isaac . . . but he lied about his wife (calling her his sister) to save his own skin. David was a man after God’s own heart . . . but he committed adultery and murder. Peter was one of the first disciples Jesus called . . . but he denied his Lord three times.

The goal of our testing is progress, not perfection. We will only be perfect when we are taken home to be with our Lord; until that time, we should be making measurable progress in reasonable time . . . even if that progress often feels like one step forward and two steps back!

#3. Life is a TEMPORARY ASSIGNMENT!

Show me, O LORD, my life’s end and the number of my days; let me know how fleeting is my life. (Psalm 39:4)

Because our identity is in Christ, our home is in heaven. We are simply pilgrims passing through this life, and we have been called, equipped, and empowered by God to expand the cause of His kingdom while we are here, regardless of the cost or circumstance.

So . . . how are you doing with Life’s Three T’s? If you are holding on tight to the truth of the trust God has granted you, if you are prayerfully striving to meet every test, and resting in the fact that eternity awaits after this temporary assignment, I congratulate you and exhort you to keep pressing into these truths.

But perhaps you’ve read this article and feel stricken; you’ve been focused only on your own “stuff” . . . you’ve failed a test as dramatically as Abraham, David, and Peter did . . . or you’ve been focused on the things of this world for so long that eternity feels like little more than a fairy tale to you. Let me close with this gracious invitation from our loving, forgiving Lord:

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matthew 11:28-29)

Draw near to the Lord, as James invited, and He will draw near to you. He has promised you His full forgiveness, His eternal power, and everything you need for life and godliness. Don’t let Life’s Three T’s drive you to despair; let them drive you to your knees, where you and I should be every day! It is there that you will find the grace and the power you need for this day.

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

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GRACE: PARDON . . . POWER . . . PROGRESS!

blogGrace for your race starts out as pardon—the forgiveness of your sins; it continues in power—the strength to fight against sin; and it results in progress—growing in Christ-likeness. The apostle Paul wrote to the Christians at Corinth:

By the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them—yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me. (1 Corinthians 15:10)

Paul was explaining the “effect” of the grace that was given to him. God’s grace strengthened Paul for the race God had set before him. You can see that Paul was not boasting in himself when he wrote “I worked harder than all of them,” because he immediately added “yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me.” Paul boasted in the power that had been given him for his progress, power which was rooted in the grace of God poured out into his life.

Sadly, many today only see God’s grace as freedom from the penalty of sin. As stupendous as that grace is, the Word of God makes it clear, here and elsewhere, that grace is also freedom to make progress against sin and to live a life of holiness and obedience to the Lord.

Now, don’t think for a moment I am suggesting you will reach a state of sinless perfection! That will only happen on the other side of the grave. But I am speaking about the power to make progress in the pursuit of the life God has called us to live.

The grace that saves by faith is the grace that sanctifies by faith and it is never without effect. To be sure, every Christian will live the painful truth set forth in the seventh chapter of Romans; we will struggle against the old, sinful nature. But God’s grace will never be without effect; the Christian is empowered to advance in holiness and live a life that is honoring to God. And is there any better life to be living? I think not!

So . . . what kind of effect has God’s grace had on your life? Is God’s grace evidenced in your personal relationships? At home? At the office? In your thought life? In your ability to express your emotions in an appropriate way? Remember, once God’s grace pardons you, it unleashes His power in you to make progress, as you grow by faith in Christ-likeness “in the strength which God supplies, that in everything God may get the glory” (1 Peter 4:11) as you journey toward the Celestial City.

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

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THE HEART IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN THE HAND!

heartGod used Moses to order Pharaoh: “Let my people go that they may serve me!”

This command brings out a biblical truth. We have been saved for service. But if our service is not rooted in love, we have missed the most important aspect of service. Make no mistake; our hearts are more important to God than our hands!

I have no need of a bull from your stall or of goats from your pens, for every animal of the forest is mine, and the cattle on a thousand hills. I know every bird in the mountains, and the creatures of the field are mine. If I were hungry I would not tell you, for the world is mine, and all that is in it. (Psalm 50:9-12)

God does not “need” our service. The Gospel is not a Help Wanted advertisement for the people of God. To be sure, we are called to serve our God, but our primary service is heart-service. God wants our hearts to beat for Him. He will tolerate no rival, for He is a jealous God (Exodus 20:5). Sometimes we can get so caught up in serving our God with our hands that we forget all about bringing our hearts to our service.

But this is not for you! The Pharisees served God, but only with their hands. Jesus said their hearts were far from Him. The psalmist tells us that God owns everything and has everything and needs nothing from us. The logical inference is that whatever we give to Him must be given through a heart of love. David made this crystal clear in the very next chapter of Psalms:

You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it;

you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.

The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;

a broken and contrite heart,

O God, you will not despise. (Psalm 51:16-17)

When our hearts are “broken and contrite,” our hearts are beating for Jesus; when our hearts are beating for Jesus, service is more than simply service. It is a privilege to put a heart on display that beats with humble gratitude for God. The Christian is to be thankful, not only for the finished work of the Lord Jesus Christ, but also for the work He is still completing in the world and in us.

The King of kings will complete what He started . . . and that includes what He has started in you! He is not finished with you yet. And as part of that process, He has ordained service as a sanctifier in the lives of His people. But the only service that sanctifies is service that flows from a heart of love.

So . . . what has your heart been beating for lately? Have you been serving God out of a sense of duty or a sense of devotion? Have you been serving like a slave or like a son? When duty is our motivation for service, there is no joy. But when devotion moves our hands, the joy of the Lord is the strength for the service.

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

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THE MEANING OF MEEKNESS

meak

 

What does it mean to be meek? The unbelieving world would say it is just another word for the kind of weakness that leads others to walk all over you like a door mat. But God’s Word says something quite different:

Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.

(Matthew 5:5)

Meekness, which you can also call humility, is a gift from God that begins with trust in God. It is not weakness. It is strength that transcends the physical. The Old Testament identifies Moses as a man who possessed this quality.

Moses was a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth. (Numbers 12:3)

I don’t think anyone would seriously consider Moses—who boldly declared to Pharaoh, “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘Let my people go’”—to be a “weak” man who allowed others to trample on him like a divine door mat. Moses trusted in God, and in utter meekness he allowed God to use him as the deliverer of Israel. When Moses went before Pharaoh, he went in the strength of the Lord, speaking only the words God had given him to speak. He went in utter weakness and humility. And what was the result? God used meek Moses to overthrow the wealthy, powerful, arrogant Pharaoh.

The story of Moses gives you and I some insight into what we can accomplish when we trust in God. At first, it may seem difficult! When God first spoke to Moses out of the burning bush, Moses did not believe he was the right man to deliver the Israelites from bondage in Egypt. Recall that Moses was forced to flee Egypt because he tried to save his people in his way and in his own strength. So God sent Moses to the back side of the desert for 40 years to prepare him to serve God in humble dependence.

Moses went from trusting in his wisdom to trusting in the wisdom of God . . . from trusting in his strength to trusting in the strength of God . . . from trusting in his plan to trusting in God’s plan. And this could only happen through the gift of meekness.

You see, God doesn’t need our wisdom, our strength, or our plans to accomplish His purposes in this world. He only needs willing servants who will trust Him even when we cannot trace Him. The great “I Am” called Moses and He is calling you and me to surrender complete control of our lives to Him. That is meekness. That is humility. That is the only way we will find meaning, significance, and purpose on this side of the grave.

Blessed are the meek, for they are the ones God will use to expand the cause of His kingdom, regardless of the obstacles we face. May that be the confession of our lives!

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

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