Someone once wisely said, “Close your eyes; whatever you see is exactly what you actually possess!” Yet we often live in a way that shouts to the world, “God was the previous owner of my stuff!”

We look at the money we earned . . . the house we bought . . . the car we drive . . . the clothes we wear . . . even the food we eat as if we are the proud owner of it all. In reality, everything we have is on loan to us from God.

Remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth.

(Deuteronomy 8:18)

Wealth and honor come from you.

(1 Chronicles 29:12)

A man can receive only what is given him from heaven.

(John 3:27)

Who makes you different from anyone else? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?

(1 Corinthians 4:7)

These verses, two from the Old Testament and two from the New, are only a small sampling of the verses of Scripture which declare that we are owners of NOTHING and stewards of EVERYTHING! When we keep this biblical truth in view, we begin the process of understanding that everything we have is a gift from God, and we are responsible to steward those gifts in such a way as to bring glory to Him and good to others.

So . . . how are you doing with the stuff you have been given? Remember, it not what you possess that becomes the problem; it’s what possesses you. That was the Achilles’ heel of the Rich Young Ruler whom we meet in the eighteenth chapter of Luke’s gospel. This man had great possessions and could have been using them for the glory of the One who had given them to him. But instead, his great possessions possessed him. Jesus knew the young man’s wealth was his functional savior, so He told him to sell it all and follow Him. But the young man went away sad. He could not part with the earthly possessions in which he sought to find his identity, meaning, significance, and purpose. He was unable to trust in Jesus and transfer ownership!

How is it with you? Is there anything you possess that currently possesses you? Wouldn’t this be a great time to “transfer” ownership back to the One who is the rightful owner? Remember, you can’t take any of it with you when you go, so why not begin stewarding all of your stuff for the expansion of the kingdom of Christ rather than your own? The reason God pours out His blessings on His people is so that they will flow through them to others.

When you close your eyes, you see everything you own. And when you open your eyes you see everything God owns and has loaned to you. With that thought in mind, is there anything you would do differently today with your possessions if God were not the “previous owner?” If yes, what are you waiting for?

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

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City overlooking desolate desert landscape with cracked earth

Storms, suffering, and seasons of scarcity have all been promised to the child of God on this side of the grave. Should we not expect to experience what our Master experienced if we truly are His disciples? Why would we expect a crown of glory when the world gave our Lord a crown of thorns?

In all of Scripture, no one—other than the Lord Himself—experienced such terrible storm winds as did Job. God gave Satan permission to afflict Job, and his affliction was almost unimaginable; Job lost all of his children, his health, and his considerable wealth. How did Job get through such a terrible storm with his broken heart still beating for his beloved God?

If only I knew where to find him; if only I could go to his dwelling.

(Job 23:3)

It the midst of such a terrible storm, Job desired to see His God. His friends meant well when they came to comfort him. And for the first seven days, they did meet Job in his deepest place of need. They spoke not a word to Job, and he was indeed comforted simply by their presence. But on that eighth day, they opened their mouths, and comfort turned into condemnation. Even Job’s wife refused to be the comfort God had ordained her to be as his helpmeet. Instead, she told her husband to curse his God and die! But Job did not give up or give in; instead, he sought the presence of God.

Job knew where to turn in times of trouble. Do we? The place for the afflicted child of God is at the feet of the Almighty. The first prayer is to be in the presence of God. Job did not ask for relief from his sick body; he did not ask for a restoration of his wealth; he did not cry out for the return of his children. No doubt his broken heart ached for those things, but it ached even more for the presence of God.

Job acted very much like a child who is playing down the street with friends and falls and scrapes a knee; crying, bleeding, and in pain, he immediately seeks the comfort of home, because no other comfort compares.

So . . . where do you turn when you’re in pain? What is your first prayer to God? When we remember that nothing happens to us that first doesn’t pass through His nail-scarred hands, we can be assured of two things: it is happening for God’s glory and our good. As difficult as that may be for us to see in the middle of the storm, we know it is true.

You see, we serve and love a God who came into this world and willingly walked straight into the most horrific storm in the history of mankind. Jesus lost everything . . . even His relationship with His Father while He hung on that cross in our place, bleeding and in terrible pain, paying the penalty for our sin and drinking our cup of God’s wrath.

Job did not have a complete understanding of this price that God Himself would pay to redeem Job’s soul, yet he still ran to God in his most desperate hour of need. We do have the complete understanding of the price paid by Jesus Christ. Why would we ever run to anything smaller than Jesus to find comfort?

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

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When was the last time you were anxious? For most, anxiety rears its ugly head when we find ourselves lying awake at night, tossing and turning over the challenges of daily living, counting sheep (or tubs of ice cream or whatever it is you count) . . . which gives us something new to worry about: how tired we’ll be the next morning!

So how do we rid ourselves of this “respectable sin,” as Jerry Bridges calls it, knowing that this is a battle we will anxiously fight all the way into glory? The key is to keep preaching the Gospel to ourselves—not only daily, but moment by moment.

The Gospel tells us that Jesus came and took away our sin, the wrath of God, and our death through His sinless life, sacrificial death, and supernatural resurrection. If Jesus did all this for us, surely He can handle our anxiety when it comes calling.

Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.

(Luke 12:6-7)

If Jesus knows the number of hairs on your head, He knows all about the anxiety that is attacking you at every moment. And for those of you who are losing much of your hair, Jesus also knows the number of them left behind in your brush!

The Bible tells us, time and time again, not to be anxious . . .

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.

(Joshua 1:9)

Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous fall.

(Psalm 55:22)

So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

(Isaiah 41:10)

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.

(Matthew 11:28-29)

Do not be anxious about anything

(Philippians 4:6)

Cast all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you

(1 Peter 5:7)

Why is it that we should not be anxious? Because God can be trusted. If we trust Him for our eternal life, we should have no trouble at all trusting Him for our everyday life. We must continually transfer our anxiety to the Almighty, who cares for us moment by moment.

A missionary was teaching a Hindu woman who had just become a Christian how to pray through the Lord’s Prayer. The woman prayed, “Our Father, who art in heaven . . .” Then she suddenly said, “Stop!” She asked, “Do you mean to tell me that God is our Father—my Father in heaven?

“Yes!” the missionary replied.

“That’s enough for me!” the Hindu Christian woman said. “If God is our Father, there is nothing for me to worry about!”

To be sure, anxiety is one of the great temptations we all face. But we have been given a way over, under, around, and if necessary, through our fears. We are never to simply accept anxiety as part of the fabric of daily living. We must shift our focus away from our circumstances and put it on our Savior.

The Gospel tells us we have been sought, caught, bought, and are currently being taught by the Spirit of Christ. Remember, Christian, that you are so deeply loved that Jesus shed His blood on a cross to have you as His bride for all eternity.

Let this truth set you free; when anxiety comes knocking, let Jesus answer the door!

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

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Pearls of Wisdom

It never ceases to amaze me how many objections I hear regarding the truths of the Gospel which simply spring from lack of the intellect to understand it. Well, I want to offer a word of great comfort to you today contained in this truth: WHAT YOU CANNOT GLEAN BY INTELLECT . . . GAIN BY AFFECTION!

The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever. (Deuteronomy 29:29)

Right there, in those 21 Spirit-inspired words, there is a Gospel truth that should ease our mind and comfort our hearts. The secret things belong to the Lord . . . which means there are secret things. Everything is not revealed to us, simply because we are not able to take it all in. God is infinite, but we are finite; our capacity for understanding is limited. Omniscience is reserved for God alone.

This limitation was true for Adam and Eve, even before their catastrophic fall in the Garden. How much more is it true of you and I, after sin has corrupted everything, including our minds?

Job was instructed in this truth by the Almighty:

Have you journeyed to the springs of the sea or walked in the recesses of the deep? Have the gates of death been shown to you? Have you seen the gates of the deepest darkness? Have you comprehended the vast expanses of the earth?

(Job 38:16-18)

There are countless things in creation that will forever remain a mystery to the creature. And if this is true of the temporal creation that can be seen, how much more for all that is eternal and cannot be seen? We are no more able to plumb the depths of understanding when it comes to the “springs of the sea” and the “recesses of the deep” than we are able to comprehend the spiritual springs of our so-great salvation.

Mystery is simply part of God’s plan for us. If we could grasp everything and have all knowledge . . . we would be God!

For years I struggled to understand where and how divine sovereignty and human responsibility intersected with each other. I don’t struggle with that anymore. God said it . . . and that settles it! I understand that God is sovereign and we are responsible to Him. I keep those two truths in view, and what I cannot glean by intellect . . . I gain by affection. You see, when our hearts beat for nothing smaller than Jesus, we can take Him at His Word and receive the deep truths of Scripture without knowing everything there is to know about them.

“Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror . . .” (1 Corinthians 13:12). God gives us the exact amount of understanding we need in order to do all He is calling us to do with everything He has given us to do it with. And He has equipped us for service through the life, death, and resurrection of His beloved Son. Jesus lived the life we should have lived and died the death we should have died. What cannot be gained by affection rooted in this truth is not worth gaining! Understanding that we have been purchased by the precious blood of the Lamb should bring us to such a place of affection that mystery no longer matters . . . because we have our Master.

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

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I’m hoping that this biblical account of an event that took place well over 3,000 years ago will both comfort and strengthen you today, regardless of where this message finds you.

The Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “When Pharaoh says to you, ‘Perform a miracle,’ then say to Aaron, ‘Take your rod and throw it down before Pharaoh’ and it will become a snake.”

So Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and did just as the Lord commanded. Aaron threw his rod down in front of Pharaoh and his officials, and it became a snake. Pharaoh then summoned wise men and sorcerers, and the Egyptian magicians also did the same things by their secret arts: Each one threw down his rod and it became a snake. But Aaron’s rod swallowed up their rods.

(Exodus 7:8-12)

The rods of Pharaoh’s wise men and sorcerers and the Egyptian magicians were simply no match for Aaron’s rod. Why? Because Aaron’s rod was in the hand of Almighty God! Aaron trusted God and did what he was instructed to do; when he threw his rod down before Pharaoh, he lifted up his God before the watching world.

Make no mistake, our God is victorious over every opponent and swallows up every adversary that attempts to stand in His way. To be sure, the enemy has his counterfeits, rooted in the incomplete joys of this world, that will oppose us at every turn. The world would have us find our pleasure in everything other than Jesus; but in the end, God will tolerate no rival and will swallow up everything that attempts to divide our affections from Him.

Charles Spurgeon said it beautifully:

If God’s grace takes possession of a man, the world’s magicians may throw down all their rods, and every rod may be as cunning and poisonous as a serpent; but Aaron’s rod will swallow them up! The sweet attractions of the cross will woo and win the man’s heart, and he who lived only for this deceitful earth will now have an eye for the upper spheres, and a wing to mount into celestial heights . . . What multitudes of foes has our faith had to meet! Our old sins—the devil threw them down before us, and they turned to serpents. What hosts of them! Ah, but the cross of Jesus destroys them all.

You must remember that the power that God has given you is greater than any power that will ever come up against you. There is nothing we face in our lives today that the power of the cross has not already defeated. We are confronted by toothless lions and fangless snakes that can do little more than startle us when they show up.

I’m sure there was a moment when Aaron was startled by the snakes that slithered out of the Egyptians’ secret arts and converged around his single snake . . . but only for a moment. A few moments later, there was only one snake still in their midst, and that snake would return to the hand of Aaron, once again, as God’s rod.

Remember, if God is for you, it really doesn’t matter what comes up against you! Trust in God and lean not on your own understanding. As you do, you will see your God swallow up every snake Satan sends your way. You have His Word on it!

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

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Let my People Think

The Ravi Zacharias International Ministries has a radio broadcast entitled Let My People Think, which is dedicated to helping the thinker believe and helping the believer think. It airs on over 2,000 outlets worldwide. If you have not visited their web site, I highly recommend that you do.

When God said, “Let my people go that they may serve me” (Exodus 5:1), He always intended it to be a service rooted in a transformed mind.

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.

(Romans 12:2)

Far too many Christians in the church today have renewed hearts but not renewed minds. Their worldview has never been transformed by the truths of the Gospel. They have never become serious students of the Scriptures, which is the primary means God uses to renew the minds of His people. To be sure, God uses the power of the Holy Spirit and the posture of prayer as agents of transformation in the life of the believer, but He has authored a book so that we would read it. The Bible was never meant to collect dust on a bookshelf.

The more we are in the Word of God, the more the Word of God will be in us. And the more the Word of God is in us, the more we will be transformed by it. It was God Himself who said, “Come now, let us reason together” (Isaiah 1:18). In all of the created order, we are the only image-bearers of the Most High God. We have been given the capacity to use our minds as well as our bodies to bring honor and glory to God.

When we come to the Scriptures, we are to come hungry and thirsty for the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. We are to marinate in it and meditate on it and begin living out its truths. To be sure, Jesus is in the business of renewing the mind of all those He has raised from death to life, but if we leave our brains in neutral and neglect pursuing the profound truths revealed in the pages of Scripture, we will make very little forward progress. Instead, our lives will be marked by careening from wall to wall all the way into glory.

So . . . how have you been using your mind for the glory of God and the good of others lately? What Paul said to Timothy, he says to us today: “Think over what I say, for the Lord will grant you understanding in everything” (2 Timothy 2:7). That is good advice for those who desire to go from being conformed to this world to being transformed by the renewing of the mind. God has set us free to think His thoughts after Him and to serve others in the love of Christ. These actions together allow us to bring greater glory to God than either one will ever do separately.

As my friend Steve Brown is fond of saying, “You think about that!”

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

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Leftover loaves and fish

In the feeding of the 5,000, which would have actually numbered anywhere between 10,000–20,000 people, because the women and the children were not numbered in those days, Jesus fed the multitude with only five loaves and two fish.

And then we read this:

When they all had enough to eat, [Jesus] said to his disciples, “Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted.” So they gathered them and filled twelve baskets with the pieces of the five barley loaves left over by those who had eaten.

(John 6:12-13)

With only five loaves and two fish on hand, Jesus multiplied the meal to feed thousands on the hillside near the Sea of Galilee at Bethsaida. When the meal was done and everyone had eaten all they wanted, there were still leftovers!

So . . . what is the lesson our Lord wants us to learn in the leftovers? God takes our little and makes a lot, giving an abundance of blessings to all of His children.

What “little” do you have to offer Jesus today? Perhaps your thoughts have been much like Andrew’s: “Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?” With man, such a meager inventory would not have gone far; but in the hands of the Almighty, even among so many, the young boy’s offering went far beyond meeting their needs; his little went all the way to exceeding their needs. And the same is true for us today.

God takes whatever we offer him—our little time . . . our little talent . . . our little treasure—and multiplies it immeasurably beyond all we ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20). If God can make something out of nothing, which He did in making the universe and everything in it, He can surely take our “little” and make it a lot!

Moses had only a shepherd’s staff, but in the power of God, it swallowed up the staffs of the Egyptian magicians. David had only a sling and five smooth stones, and in the strength of the Almighty, he slew the giant Goliath. Samson had only an ox goad, and in the strength of the Almighty, he slew a thousand Philistines. The woman who was bleeding for twelve years had just a little faith, only enough to reach out and touch the hem of Jesus’ garment, and she was instantly healed by the power of God.

Here is the key to the lesson in the leftovers: we must be willing to offer what God has given us in order for God to bless it. God multiplied the five talents and the two talents that were used in faithful service to Him (Matthew 25:14-22). But He did nothing with the talent that was hidden away. We must be willing to put in whatever we have been given, however insignificant our offering may seem to us, trusting that God will make it work for His glory and the good of all who love Him.

So, what “little” have you been holding back lately? Surrender control to Jesus, and watch Him multiply what little you have until you discover you have an abundance of leftovers . . . because God Himself supplied the increase.

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

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