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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THE WITNESS OF WAITING

In the pblog waitingrevious blog, we took a look at the testimony of thirst. Today we will focus on the witness of waiting.

Those who wait on the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.(Isaiah 40:31)

Waiting is a part of life. We wait at traffic lights. We wait in traffic jams. We wait in check-out lines at stores. We wait on hold on the telephone. We wait for a promotion at work. We wait for the doctor’s report to come back. We wait for the start of our vacation! Frequently our attitudes during these “wait times” could in no way be described as “Christlike.”

But there is a witness of waiting for those who wait on the Lord. And that witness is strength! The apostle Paul prayed that the Christians at Colossae would be “strengthened with all power, according to [God’s] glorious might, so that you may have great endurance and patience” (Colossians1:11).

There is a special kind of strength that can only be found on the other side of waiting on the Lord. Waiting on the Lord strengthens the saints of God in a supernatural way. Imagine what it means to soar on wings like eagles! Only eagles and hawks have the ability to soar. They take advantage of air currents and heat risers to soar (fly) with little or no effort at all, simply being carried along in the sky. This is the witness of waiting for those who wait on the Lord.

You see, God has a perfect plan for our lives. But we must remember that this plan is His plan, and it will happen in His time and in His way. As we wait upon the Lord, our strength is renewed, which gives us everything we need to do all that God is calling us to do. There will be times of running toward God’s plan for our lives, and we will not grow weary. There will be times of walking toward God’s plan for our lives, and we will not be fainthearted. And there will be times of waiting on God’s plan for our lives, and we will not be discouraged or disappointed. We will be strengthened according to His glorious might!

So . . . how is your witness of waiting? Remember, the Christian life requires waiting on the Lord, and in that waiting we find a strength that cannot be acquired in any other way. This supernatural strength lifts us above the clouds of life and empowers us to soar with very little effort, because it is our Lord who is carrying us along on Almighty air currents and Holy heat risers to our intended destination!

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

 

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THE TESTIMONY OF THIRST

As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?(Psalm 42:1-2)

blog11Can you picture a deer literally panting with thirst on a blistering August afternoon? Does your soul ache like that for God? Do you thirst so greatly to be in His presence that you feel your breath quicken? Or . . . maybe not so much?

What does your thirst for God—or lack thereof—testify to in your life today?

The best way to glorify the worth of a stream of water is to drink in great gulps of its cool, clear refreshment . . . and to keep coming back for more! The same is true for our God, who is our only source of living water. Whether we acknowledge it or not, our soul does thirst for the living God. The Sovereign Lord “has set eternity in the hearts of men” (Ecclesiastes 3:11); as Augustine said so beautifully, “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.”

We feel that thirst within . . . but all too often we work hard at trying to slake our thirst in countless ways other than coming to the living waters. We look for fulfillment in:

  • Our work
  • Our finances
  • Our relationships
  • Physical intimacy
  • Recreation
  • The applause of man

Yet we all know from personal experience that none of these “false fountains” can deliver on their promises. We are left unsatisfied and far more thirsty after we drink from these soiled streams then we were when we started. There is a God-sized void inside of every one of us that can only be filled by God; only by sipping from the streams of living water will we find the refreshment our soul longs for.

If you want to perform a quick self-evaluation on the testimony of your own thirst, consider how much time you engage in these two means of grace: Bible Intake and Prayer. God has given us His Word that we might drink it in daily; along with His Word, He invites us to come into His presence through prayer. The best gift we can offer our God is a thirst that pants for Him who delights to satisfy us through multiple streams of living waters.

One final thought: when God moved the prophet Isaiah to write, “Come, all you who are thirsty” (Isaiah 55:1), he made it clear that the waters are available to all who thirst. Isaiah did not identify a special few who have access to these waters; the invitation is made to all . . . the invitation is made to you. If you have never come to these waters, come today, just as you are, and drink. If it has been too long since your last drink, come back and sip from the sublime streams of your Savior. You’ll be glad you did!

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

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A LION FOR THE LAZY

BLOG 9Do you know what the world’s greatest labor-saving device is? Tomorrow! That’s right; why do today what you can put off until tomorrow, right?

But this is not for you!

The sluggard says, “There is a lion outside!” or, “I will be murdered in the streets!” (Proverbs 22:13)

Notice that it is not the fearful who cry, “There is a lion outside,” but rather the lazy. Why? Because they’re lazy! The sluggard creates all sorts of reasons in his mind for his inactivity. Rebellion always finds its reasons, and what better reason for being lazy than a lion?

You see, deep down the sluggard knows that his laziness is a bad thing and that he will receive no sympathy—and certainly no reward—for his procrastination. But who could fault someone who postponed his work because there is a lion on the loose, looking for someone to devour?

OK, perhaps you never actually talked about lions, but . . . have you been making any excuses for not doing what you know you ought to be doing at home, at work, or for your church family? Scripture is piercingly painful in its description of our procrastination: “As a door turns on its hinges, so a sluggard turns on his bed (Proverbs 16:24). There will always be a lion for the lazy to rationalize laziness. We all have a tendency to put off what we ought to do in order to do what we would rather do.

So how do we overcome this tendency? We stay focused on the Lord, rather than the lions!

Think about this truth for a moment: Jesus was born to die. He came into this world to pay the price for your sins and mine with His precious blood. When our Savior said, “There is a lion crouching at the door,” there really was one—Satan, the roaring lion who would stop at nothing to disrupt and destroy our Lord’s perfect purpose. Yet even though Jesus knew that pressing on meant that He would die the most horrible of all deaths, He rejected the way of the sluggard. “He steadfastly set his face to go to Jerusalem” (Luke 9:51) and kept pressing on in His amazing work of love and grace.

This is what the Bible means when it says we are to keep God’s mercy in view. God’s mercy is to both the motive and motivation put aside procrastination and set our hearts to do what we have been called by God.

Procrastination is simply not an option for the people of God, if for no other reason than that it boasts in what it will accomplish tomorrow. But Scripture warns us clearly:

Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring forth(Proverbs 27:1)

As I have said many times before, the past is gone, the future is promised to no one; all we have is the now, and that is why it is called “the present”—because that is exactly what it is: a gift from God!

Remember, even if there truly was a lion outside, it should not keep us from doing what God has called us to do. As disciples of Christ, we are to be devoted to Christ. That devotion may lead us down lonely paths of pain and persecution, but what better road to travel than the one that our Savior travelled before us—the road that makes us more like Him!

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

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ADVERSITY DOES NOT EQUAL ABANDONMENT!

blogFar too many in the church today mistakenly believe that the adversity they are currently facing is a sign of God’s abandonment. NOT TRUE! Regardless of the reason for the adversity, God has not abandoned His children, and in the end it will prove to be for their good and His glory.

Think of all the adversity the children of Israel experienced shortly after their divine deliverance from over four hundred years of captivity in Egypt. They experienced the adversity of an army of angry Egyptians thundering up behind them, with the Red Sea blocking their only means of escape. God led His children through the Red Sea—they passed through on dry ground—and annihilated the Egyptians. Israel experienced the adversity of hunger; God provided manna from heaven. They experienced the adversity of thirst; God provided water from the rock.

Adversity did not equal abandonment for the Israelites. God was with them in every adversity they faced, teaching them to call out to Him in every circumstance. One of the most important lessons you and should take away from the Exodus is that, despite the difficulties they faced, God could and indeed did bless them every step of the way into the Promised Land.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding;in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.(Proverbs 3:5-6)

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”(Hebrews 13:5)

Adversity has been promised from the Almighty. But in every adversity we will see that our God is with us. Not only does adversity not equal abandonment, but adversity is actually a stepping stone upon which we advance in the direction of God’s call in our lives. Peter exhorted us to remember that adversity has come “so that your faith — of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire — may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed” (1 Peter 1:7).

So . . . what adversity have you been facing lately?

  • Trouble at the office?
  • Difficulties in your marriage?
  • Tough times at school?
  • Struggles in your singleness?
  • Prodigals in your parenting?

Adversity and hardships are designed by God to humble us and strengthen us. Trials remind us to depend more on our Savior than on ourselves. Remember, some blessings in life can only be found on the other side of adversity. Keep on keeping on, knowing that Jesus is with you every step of the way. Adversity does not equal abandonment; it’s the necessary precursor of blessing!

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

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