A LION ON A LEASH!

downloadI want to share a passage of Scripture with you that, on the surface, can be frightening and even paralyzing to some:

Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. (1 Peter 5:8)

To be sure, we do have a malevolent enemy in the devil, and he prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. But he prowls only on the end of the Lord’s leash! Satan is subject to God and under His complete authority at all times. The devil does nothing apart from the sovereignty of God. Yes, the devil is the god of this world (2 Corinthians 4:4; 1 John 5:19), but God is the God of all worlds, and the adversary’s power to prowl is only the power that God gives him in order to fulfill the perfect purposes of God.

When the devil was afflicting Job, as difficult as that biblical narrative is to fully understand, he did only what God allowed . . . and no more! God is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent; Satan is not. He is a creature like you and me—granted, an immensely powerful and formidable creature, but a dependent creature nonetheless. Knowing this infinite difference is the key to understanding the truth that the devil is a lion on a leash.

So . . . have you felt yourself under attack lately in your personal or professional life? God has the perfect prescription for dealing with this lion on a leash.

Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. (James 4:7)

When will the devil flee from your presence? Not just when you are resisting him, but when you have first submitted yourself to God. You see, Satan’s power must always be viewed in the context of God’s sovereignty, which should lead us to submission before our Savior each and every day.

God is not only with us, He is for us. In fact, God is so much for us that He turned against His only Son. You see, you and I were Christ’s Judas kiss. We were the nails in His wrists. We were His crown of thorns. We were His cross. We were His death. God sent His Son to die in our place that we might have eternal life in Him.

Yes, there is a lion on the prowl, seeking to devour everything in its path. But this lion will only do what God has ordained he can do and God always ordains what brings Him the most glory and His people the most good.

I understand that a lion on the leash is still a little frightening. Hey, a lion in a cage at the zoo is a little frightening! But we must always keep in view the nail-scarred hand that is holding that lion on a chain that will never break. Let this Gospel truth bring you great comfort today, regardless of where this finds you!

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

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

TWO THINGS TO REMEMBER

imagesJohn Newton started out as a slave trader, commanding an English slave ship at the age of 25. When his ship nearly sank during a violent storm that battered his vessel, he looked toward heaven and cried out to Jesus.

Throughout his life wrote hundreds of hymns, the most famous, of course, being “Amazing Grace.” Written from personal experience, John Newton lived out the Gospel truth that forgiveness and redemption are always possible, regardless of the depths of one’s sin-filled life.

Physically blind at the age of 82, his memory and his health fading, Newton told a friend, “My memory is nearly gone. But I remember two things:

That I am a great sinner

and

Christ is a great Savior.”

On his tombstone are these words, “John Newton . . . once an infidel was, by the rich mercy of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, preserved, restored, pardoned, and appointed to preach the faith he had long labored to destroy.”

Wow! John Newton got it! He knew what he was and he knew what God in Christ had done for him. Make no mistake; there was no hyperbole in his claim to have lived a less-than-holy life. He knew he was a great sinner, by nature and by habit, and he understood that only a great Savior could redeem him from his wretched, wicked ways. Newton found that redemption in the Lord Jesus Christ.

The Bible makes it clear that we are all in the same desperate straits as John Newton. Folks, without Jesus, the ship is sinking! There is no exception: “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). There is no one who is righteous by virtue of his or her own good deeds, no not one of us (Romans 3:10). And because of these immutable truths, we need something outside of us to change what is going on inside of us. We need a Savior to take away our sin!

So . . . are John Newton’s two things to remember etched upon your heart? If you’re unsure, your answer can be found in understanding what your heart beats for. Does it beat for yourself or your Savior? Does it beat to expand the cause of your kingdom or the Kingdom of God? When we remember what great sinners we really are . . . AND how great a Savior Jesus Christ is, we have all the motivation we need to live for nothing smaller than Jesus.

Let me close out this meditation with those wonderful words from Newton’s great hymn:

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound

That saved a wretch like me.

I once was lost but now am found,

Was blind, but now I see.

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

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

A PROMISE PROSPECTOR

untitledI offer a word of great comfort and consolation to you today . . . and who reading this (or writing this, for that matter) doesn’t need a word of comfort and consolation? We live in a world that is increasingly marked by uncertainty and chaos, and it is enormously reassuring to know we have a God we can count on.

God is not a man, that he should lie, nor a son of man, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill?

(Numbers 23:19)

In all of sacred Scripture it would be hard to find a more reassuring word to the people of God! God is not a man . . . and thank God for that! Man lies; God does not. Man changes his mind; God’s mind is immutable, unchangeable. Man speaks and does not act; when we read “This is what the Sovereign Lord says,” we can count on every word that follows. Man promises and does not fulfill; God promises and you can take every one of them to the bank!

We can all recall times when we made promises that we failed to keep; we all remember times when others made promises to us that they failed to keep. The problem is that we often view God in this same uncertain light . . . “Maybe He’ll do it and maybe He won’t.” And this is exactly what Satan wants us to think!

“Has God really said . . .?” the serpent slyly hissed to our first parents. Adam and Eve hesitated . . . and doubted . . . and the result of doubting God’s certain promise was catastrophic for Adam and for Eve and for all mankind.

Yet can you find a promise God had made that He has not fulfilled? You and I may waver in our promises, but when God makes a promise He keeps it! I’d like to exhort you to become what I like to call a “promise prospector”—one who searches the Scriptures for these nuggets of God’s gold. “There’s gold in them thar hills!” the prospectors from the 1800s cried. Let me assure you that there is gold of infinitely and eternally greater value contained in the promises of God! Here are just three such chunks of pure gold from a Bible that is chock full of them; may they bring you strength and hope, regardless of where this finds you today.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16)

In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. (John 14:2-3)

[I am] confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. (Philippians 1:6)

If you enjoyed these promises, let me encourage you to open your Bible and read the 36th chapter of Ezekiel. See how many promises you can find that God has made to His covenant people. And if you have placed your trust in Jesus Christ as your Savior, you are one of those people . . . and those promises are for you!

Being a promise prospector is one of the most powerful weapons we have in fighting against the flaming arrows of the evil one. You probably recall that in “the believer’s armor,” which is explained in detail in Ephesians 6:10-18, the only weapon for attacking the devil’s schemes is “the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.” Let me encourage you to sharpen your sword every day!

The devil is a liar . . . and God is not. May that truth strengthen your heart today!

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

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

CLOTHES MAKE THE CHRISTIAN!

downloadYou might be familiar with the phrase, “Clothes make the man.” Many attribute the saying to Mark Twain, who, in addition to his writing, was known for his trademark white suits. But Mr. Twain was not the first to identify the natural human tendency to judge a book by its cover. During the Middle Ages, Erasmus, a Catholic priest and theologian said the very same thing—in Latin. Erasmus was quoting Quintilian, who in turn was quoting Homer’s Odyssey.

So . . . what is the most valuable outfit in your closet? Is it some new article of clothing? Perhaps something that has been handed down to you? Today I’d like to share a word of encouragement about the eternal truth that clothes really do make the Christian.

I delight greatly in the Lord; my soul rejoices in my God.  For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness . . . (Isaiah 61:10)

Clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature. (Romans 13:14)

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. (Colossians 3:12)

The world tells us something quite different, doesn’t it? Armani, Chanel, Calvin Klein, Christian Dior, Louis Vuitton, Fendi, Gucci, Yves Saint Laurent, Valentino, Prada, and countless other brands shower us with messages that clothes define the man or woman.

But this is not for you! God’s Word tells us that our identity is in Christ alone. The clothes this world offers us are quite costly; they are available only to those who have enough money to buy them. The clothes that make the Christian are priceless . . . and yet they are available to anyone and everyone who trusts in Christ alone for salvation.

Then [the angel] showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the Lord, and Satan standing at his right side to accuse him. The Lord said to Satan, “The Lord rebuke you, Satan! The Lord, who has chosen Jerusalem, rebuke you! Is not this man a burning stick snatched from the fire?”

Joshua was dressed in filthy clothes as he stood before the angel. The angel said to those who were standing before him, “Take off his filthy clothes.”

Then he said to Joshua, “See, I have taken away your sin, and I will put rich garments on you.” (Zechariah 3:1-4)

Satan hoped to hurl his fiery accusations at Joshua and disqualify him from serving as God’s high priest. But God rebuked Satan, because it was God who chose Joshua, in spite of his lack of qualifications. God removed Joshua’s filthy clothes and gave him rich garments, qualifying him to be His servant.

The same is true for you and me and every other child of God. Our sin clings to us just like filthy clothes. Do you remember the “Pig Pen” character from the Peanuts cartoons, who walked around with a cloud of dirt surrounding him? You and I are just like that! Scripture tells us that we are so far removed from the righteousness of God that even our righteous acts, by comparison, are filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6).

By nature, none of us is qualified to serve God—not even fit to come into His presence! But God comes to us in Christ, removes the foul, filthy, sinful rags of our sin and clothes us in the spotless righteousness of Christ. And now, clothed in this rich robe, we are invited to “approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (Hebrews 4:16). Rejoice in that thought, Christian believer!

And now, wrapped in this incomparably rich garment, we are to go out and tell others of this glorious exchange that is freely offered to them. We are to be the fragrance and the aroma of Christ to a lost and dying world (2 Corinthians 2:14-15). We are, as Colossians 3:12 commands, to model the compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience of Christ to everyone we meet.

So, Christian, let me ask you: What would those around you say about the clothes you’ve been wearing lately? Do they make God attractive? Do they speak of His amazing grace? We must remember that for many people in this world, we will be the only Bible they ever read. May the clothes we wear encourage them to want to read more!

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

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

ETERNAL ERRANDS

images (1)

 

How many errands do you have on your “things-to-do” list today? Personally, I always seem to create a list that is far too long to complete! Experience has taught me that there is never enough time to complete everything that I want to get done, but there is always enough time to complete all that God wants me to get done. And one of the highest priorities on God’s to-do list for me and every one of His children is prayer—what I like to call “eternal errands.”

Look to the LORD and his strength; seek his face always.  (1 Chronicles 16:11)

The LORD is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth.(Psalm 145:18)

The LORD is far from the wicked but he hears the prayer of the righteous.(Proverbs 15:29)

Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up.  (Luke 18:1)

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. (Philippians 4:6)

Pray without ceasing.  (1Thessalonians 5:17)

These are just a few examples of the eternal errands that God would have us run each and every day. The Bible makes it clear that one of the marks of the people of God is to be a posture of prayer. It’s truly unimaginable to think that the Creator of the universe invites us—commands us—to seek Him always through the throne of grace.

How many reasons can you find this day to go before your God in prayer? I’m sure that with even a little thought your list would become too long to count. And that is why we are to be in constant communion with Christ!

And know this: God does not care about the grammar of your prayers! God is not looking for flowing eloquence or grandiose rhetoric or theological exactitude. God does not demand some complicated metaphysical formula for approaching the throne of grace. Because He is “Abba” Father, He simply wants us to come to Him, whether we are praying in words, groanings, cries, or tears.

So . . . have you run any eternal errands today? Will you be running some later? Those people who say they don’t have time to pray really don’t have time not to pray! As a father of four, I love when my children come to me and make their requests. Why would I not? I am their father. So it is with our heavenly Father. He takes pleasure in—He delights in—the prayers of His children. Jesus invites us, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).

How about an “Eternal Errand” right now?

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

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

HEART HEALTH

imagesIn 1995 I was discipled by a brother in Christ who has become a dear friend. Jeff was the first one to show me how to study the Scriptures. A month ago I was praying with him at Holy Cross Hospital as he prepared to undergo a heart procedure to identify what had caused his heart attack. The cardiologist found that one of his arteries was 95% blocked and inserted a stint. Jeff has come through very well and is on the road to full strength.

Jeff has always kept his body and heart in good condition. He is a contractor and has been physically active throughout his entire life. We’ve played softball together for nearly two decades. Walking through this trial with him has reminded me that no matter how well we steward the health of our hearts physically, eventually our hearts will beat their last on this side of the grave. Jeff taught me early on in my walk with Christ: “Physical training has some value, but godliness has value for all things, for both this life and the life to come” (1 Timothy 4:8).

It is good for our hearts to be strengthened by grace.  (Hebrews 13:9)

Here is God’s prescription for true heart health: to be strengthened by grace. The more our hearts are strengthened by God’s grace, the more they beat for God’s glory. As I have said here before, what rules your heart shapes your life. A heart ruled by grace is a cross-shaped life, living vertically for God and horizontally for others—all others. Hearts strengthened by grace will . . .

  • Serve sacrificially
  • Repent rejoicingly
  • Forgive faithfully
  • Love lavishly
  • Give generously
  • Pray passionately
  • Comfort consistently
  • Encourage everyone

By all means, take the time to be a good steward of the health of your heart. Eat the right foods, exercise regularly, and get adequate rest. But never let the physical training of your body crowd out the spiritual training of your heart! For your heart to be strengthened by grace you must spend time with the God of grace. There is simply no substitute for the kind of heart health that truly matters . . . on both sides of the grave. It is, indeed, good—very good—for our hearts to be strengthened by grace.

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

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

THE DEVIL’S DRIFT

imagesWhen I was a boy, my dad would take us out fishing on the drift boats that dock in Fort Lauderdale. After heading out into deep water, the engines would be turned off, the lines dropped, and the boat would drift in the direction of the current. It was a lot of fun, but after a while the boat would drift in too far on the current and we would reel in the lines, start the engines, and head back out into deeper water.

In the Christian life, there is something I call “the devil’s drift,” which happens when we have shut our spiritual engine off for too long and allow the currents of life to take us where they want us to go. And make no mistake, where the currents of life want us to go is not where God is calling us to be!

I want to call your attention to something today: drift happens slowly, silently, almost imperceptibly. In no time at all, it can take us from deep water to dangerously shallow water, and ultimately onto the rocks if we are not paying attention.

What starts as an infection (a little neglect here and a little neglect there) winds us an insidious disease. We skip our time of daily devotion. We miss a service or two. We neglect our prayer closet. We add more and more to our professional plates and before we know it, we find ourselves in a place we don’t want to be and don’t even know how we got there!

So how do we deal with the devil’s drift? INTENTIONALLY! You see, the captain of the drift boat pays close attention to the location of his boat. He focuses intentionally on the position of the boat to ensure it does not drift into danger. The same should be true for the Christian, who must continually fight against the devil’s drift. We must be intentional about our walk with Christ. We must intentionally plan our work and work our plan, making sure we do not push our Lord out to the periphery of our lives.

We must pay more careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away. (Hebrews 2:1)

Note this truth: there is no intention needed when it comes to drifting. Just turn off and tune out and let the currents of life take you where they want you to go. You will inevitably drift away from our Lord. To keep from drifting we must be intentional. As we focus on Christ, even when the currents are their strongest, He is stronger still and will hold fast to us. “No one can snatch [my sheep] out of my hand,” our Lord assures us (John 10:28).

If you have been dealing with a bit of drift in your life lately, fear not. You may feel far from God, but He is not far from you. You may have moved a great distance away but He has not moved an inch! His promise to never leave you or forsake you (Hebrews 13:5) is your power to intentionally turn back toward Him.

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

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized