ETERNAL ERRANDS

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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!

 

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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!

 

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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!

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GREATNESS . . . GOD’S WAY

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There are countless sermons preached, seminars held, and books written on the pursuit of greatness. Yet we find very few sermons, seminars, and books on the pursuit of service. But did you know that service is God’s way to greatness?

The greatest among you will be your servant. (Matthew 23:11)

Now, the world has its own view on greatness, which it trumpets to us at every opportunity. From movies to music to television to the internet, the devil’s enticements are laid out for us, like a shiny lure designed to shift our focus and our affections from the things above to things below. Things like . . .

  • Fame and fortune
  • Power and prestige
  • Achievements and the applause of man

To be sure, the things of this world often seem quite attractive and make grand promises about the paths that lead to greatness. But they can never deliver on what they promise. The serpent in the Garden of Eden promised Adam and Eve greatness in this life: they would be like gods! All they needed to do, Satan assured them, was reject what God had said and trust in their own wisdom, their own feelings. Tragically, they did, and in so doing passed a death sentence on themselves. Just like a fish that eagerly chomps on the lure, only to feel the sudden, shocking pain of the jagged hook ripping through its mouth, Adam and Eve eagerly bit into the forbidden fruit . . . and the results were catastrophic for them and for the rest of humanity.

But this is not for you! Greatness God’s way is the way of other-orientation. It is putting others first. It is serving others rather than being served. It is giving water to the thirsty and food to the hungry. It is clothing the naked and providing shelter to the homeless. It is walking past the chief seats to stand in the back. And this is just what our Lord did when He came; He chose not to be served, but to serve (Mark 10:45). On the night He was to be betrayed, our Lord knelt before His disciples and washed their feet, one by one (John 13:5)—the King of kings and Lord of lords taking on the posture of a slave! And, of course, the Cross provides the ultimate example our Lord’s other-orientation for all the world to see. He died to demonstrate God’s love for us, so that we who were still sinners might yet have life in Him (Romans 5:8).

We must remember that God has told us that the first will become last and the last will be first (Matthew 20:16). In other words, in order to rise, one must fall; and in order to live, one must die. And the key that unlocks the door leading to greatness God’s way is dying to self.

So . . . how are you doing in the area of death to self—both personally and professionally? Whose feet have you washed lately? Whom have you given a cup of cold water? When was the last time you shared Christ with someone? Greatness God’s way is the only way to lasting greatness, greatness that brings with it unimaginable joy and satisfaction.

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

 

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THE GUARANTEE OF GROWTH

images (3)Because the Christian is a new creation in Christ, growth is guaranteed. The Bible assures us that “He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion” (Philippians 1:6). If you have placed your trust in the saving work of Jesus Christ, that promise is for you. To be sure, we all grow in different ways and at different times; there are even those seasons when it seems like we are growing in the wrong direction! Yet the Scriptures make it clear that we simply cannot not grow when we have been given new life in Christ.

Let’s see how this promise is given in an Old Testament book that you may not peruse too often—the book of Malachi.

To you who fear My name the Sun of Righteousness shall arise with healing in His wings; and you shall go out and grow fat like stall-fed calves. (Malachi 4:2 NKJV)

Think about what this verse teaches us through the imagery of stall-fed calves. First, the stall suggests ownership; someone had to build the stalls and maintain them. Wild animals have no stalls. Second, the stall provides protection from the outside elements. Third, stall-fed calves are well-cared for. They don’t have to go out and scrounge for food because it is brought to them. And finally, the stall-fed calves continue to grow and grow until they finally grow up!

In this verse, those who fear the name of God are likened to stall-fed calves . . . and those who fear the name of God are those who have received the divine gift of faith in God. Those who have been given faith in God find their source of food in the Word of God. Our Lord has commanded us, “Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord” (Deuteronomy 8:3).

So stall-fed calves are like Scripture-fed Christians. Both are given all the food they need to grow up to full maturity. For the Christian, maturity is to grow up in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

But there’s more! Notice that Malachi 4:2 contains a double promise. Not only are we promised that we will grow up, but we will also go out. At Cross Community Church, we print on the front of every bulletin these words:

GATHER … GROW … GIVE … GO

God gathers His people together as a family, and in that process He grows us up into Christ. But growth is not an end; it is only a means to an end. The end is to model our Lord by giving and going. We grow in order to give and go. What a wonderful blessing God has planned for His people! We are not to simply remain in our spiritual “stalls,” munching placidly on what has been given us and growing fat. We are to go out in the strength of our heavenly Father’s care and bring the good news of the Gospel to all people. We are to be a source of nourishment and care to others.

Stall-fed calves shall not be stunted in growth; neither will Scripture-fed Christians! Feast on the Word of God each day and prepare to see the salvation of the Lord break forth in the lives of those you share Him with.

I’d like to offer one final word of encouragement. The ownership represented by the stall points to another Gospel truth: “You are not your own; you were bought at a price” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). And what God bought with His precious blood, He will take good care of. He will grow you so that you can give and go!

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

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RUNNING REDEEMER!

images (2)When was the last time you pictured a “Running Redeemer”? Well, the Scriptures paint just such a picture, and I pray that it will be a word of great comfort for you today. In the parable of the prodigal son, the younger son demanded that his father give him his inheritance, and then went off into the far country and squandered it all. Shamed, hungry, and all alone, when this lost son came to his senses and realized his great wickedness, he longed to return home. He felt sure he had forever destroyed his relationship with his father, but hoped that he might be received as a hired hand.

So he got up and went to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. (Luke 15:20)

We are to see the father in this story as representing God. To those who heard Jesus relate this parable, it would have been remarkable to hear that the father, filled with compassion for the returning son, ran to meet him. At that time and in that culture, the normal response from a father who had been so utterly disrespected by his son was not to run and greet him with kisses upon his return. The neighbors would have been much less surprised to see the father spit in his wayward son’s face, rather than to see him gird up his outer garments and run toward his wayward son. The father’s actions would have been considered undignified and embarrassing. But not for Father God!

Again I ask, when was the last time you pictured a running Redeemer? James urges us, “Come near to God and he will come near to you” (James 4:8). The prodigal’s parable is a wonderful reminder of just how our heavenly father responds to His wicked and wayward children: He is a running Redeemer drawing near to you with amazing love!

Is that not a source of great comfort to you as you go through the struggles and storms of this life? From time to time, we all wander into the far country. The world presents us with so many idols of the heart that seek to ensnare our affections! But when we come to our senses and head back home, our Redeemer does not wait on the porch with a stern, disapproving frown, prepared to lecture us or punish us for our foolish decisions. No, He runs to meet us and wraps his loving arms around us and showers us with grace.

Now, if that does not light the fire of your faith . . . your wood is wet! Perhaps this day you are in a season of great success and faithfulness to God. Continue drawing near to Him and He will continue drawing near to you. But maybe this finds you “eating pods with the pigs” in a season of struggle and raging storms; no matter how badly you have fallen or failed, return to your Father and be prepared to be met by a running Redeemer who will restore you to your rightful place—as a child of the Most High God.

Remember this: a child of God is always a child of God, even when he is not acting like one. And this is the confession of all our lives from time to time. There are those times when you and I have blown it badly! But we need not fear our Redeemer’s response. As we return to Him, He runs toward us. Rest in that comfort today!

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

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WHEN “CAN’T” CAN!

images (1)Have you ever said, “I can’t” only to find out that you can? Well, you are not alone. In fact, you are in some very good and godly company who said the very same thing . . . only to learn “When Can’t Can!” Let’s recall the experience of Jeremiah:

The word of the LORD came to me, saying, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.” “Ah, Sovereign LORD,” I said, “I do not know how to speak; I am only a child.” But the LORD said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am only a child.’ You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you,” declares the LORD.(Jeremiah 1:4-8)

When God first called Jeremiah into his ministry of service, Jeremiah’s response to was, “I CAN’T! I do not know how to speak.” To which God replied, “You CAN” and supplied all the “CAN” Jeremiah needed. Isn’t it amazing to see how God chooses to work out His purposes in this world? He could have decided to use angels, but He did not. Instead God chooses and calls fallible, frail, and fearful men and women into service—people just like you and me—and then He both equips and empowers them to do exactly what He is calling them to do.

Jeremiah’s initial response may have reminded you of Moses, who also balked at God’s call, protesting that “I CAN’T” go back to Egypt and into the court of Pharaoh speaking your words, “Let my people go that they may worship me!” Remember that Moses had struck down the Egyptian who was beating a Hebrew slave, and then Moses fled for his life. He spent forty years tending sheep on the backside of the desert. And when God called him to go back to Egypt as the deliverer of God’s people, Moses said, “I CAN’T.” But God said, “You CAN!”

It’s important to point out here that both Jeremiah and Moses were absolutely right. They could not do what God was calling them to do in their own strength. But God never calls His people without equipping them for the call. Moses and Jeremiah were not going alone, and they were not going in their own strength. They were in the place where “can’t” CAN!

This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: “Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,” says the Lord Almighty. (Zechariah 4:6)

So . . . is God calling you into something today that you believe you cannot do? A new career? Going back to school? A change of address? Forgiving someone who has wronged you? Recommitment in a relationship? If you have been questioning God’s call and fretting that you are up to the task, remember this: You’re right! You are not up for the task, but God is! And the truth the Scriptures teach us is this . . .

WHEN WE CAN’T . . . HE CAN!

Take your “I CAN’T” to God and ask Him to remove your doubt and fear. Freely confess that you have no might, no power, which will enable you to do the work He has called you to. Then get ready to see just what God CAN do, both through and in you, for His glory and your good.

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

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