Locusts – Losses – and Our Lord

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I used to think that all those adult years before Kim and I were saved were simply “lost” years of wasted time. Today I know better. We have a great promise from our good God that every perceived loss in our past will one day be restored.

I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten, the crawling locust, the consuming locust, and the chewing locust, My great army which I sent among you. You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied, and praise the name of the Lord your God, who has dealt wondrously with you; and My people shall never be put to shame. (Joel 2:25-26 NKJV)

The locust can represent anything in our lives that stood in opposition to our God. Here is what “the prince of preachers,” Dr. Charles Haddon Spurgeon, had to say regarding the locust:

The locust of backsliding, worldliness, and luke-warmness are now viewed by us as a terrible plague. Oh, that they had never come near us! The Lord in mercy has now taken them away, and we are full of zeal to serve Him. Blessed be His name, we can raise such harvests of spiritual graces that they will make our former barrenness disappear. Through rich grace we can turn to account our bitter experience and use it to warn others. We can become the more rooted in humility, childlike dependence, and penitent spirituality by reason of our former shortcomings. If we are the more watchful, zealous, and tender, we will gain by our lamentable losses. The wasted years, by a miracle of love, can be restored.

As you look back over your life, are you troubled by seemingly wasted time? Do you see seasons of scarcity when there should have been abundance . . . perhaps because you neglected opportunities your God set before you? Well, you aren’t alone! The locusts have created losses for all of us. We have all given in to less than God’s best for our lives. But God has promised to restore the years the locusts have eaten; in God’s economy, there is no such thing as “wasted time.” God uses every single moment of our existence to ultimately move us in the direction of our eternal destiny.

In his previous life, the apostle Paul was the great persecutor of the early Christian church. To be sure, he must have seen that time of persecuting the church as worse than wasted years—he had engaged in the ultimate sin, because he was persecuting Jesus Himself by persecuting His church (Acts 9:4). Yet what did God do with those years the locust had eaten? He turned Paul’s misguided zeal for religion into a magnificent obsession for his Redeemer. Paul went from persecutor to preacher; and the rest, as they say, is history.

My prayer for you today is that you will rest in this great promise from our great God. Every loss will ultimately be for your gain. Every missed opportunity will be a stepping stone in the direction of something even greater. Remember, because God is for you, it doesn’t really matter what is against you, even the years the locusts have eaten. Your Redeemer will restore it all!

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

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Divine Door of Deliverance

 

 

 

Door

In the gospel of John, Jesus makes His seven great “I AM” statements that remind us of His deity and our destiny. I want to present one of them here to give you a word of encouragement today:

I am the door; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture. (John 10:9)

Our Lord Jesus Christ is the only entrance into the true church, the true faith, and into right relationship with the One True God. After His proclamation of being the Divine Door of Deliverance, Jesus then gives us two incredible promises.

Promise #1—You Will Be Saved

Whoever enters through the Divine Door will be saved. Notice what Jesus did not say: He didn’t say, “Whoever enters through me by good works will be saved,” or “Whoever enters through me by consistent church attendance will be saved,” or “Whoever enters through me by daily devotions and a consistent prayer life will be saved.” He simply and profoundly said, “Whoever enters through me will be saved!” The saving is His work, not ours. We bring nothing to our salvation but our sin, and Jesus has atoned for it all.

Promise #2—You Will Find Pasture

This promise eliminates any concern for not having any of our needs met. Now, we may and often do find ourselves with many unmet wants. We want a raise or a new car or a bigger house. But we will never be without anything that is needful for this life and the next. Jesus will meet all of His people in their place of deepest need, and they will never be without a pasture in which to graze on God’s Word, behold His glory, and grow in godliness.

In closing, this Divine Door of Deliverance is open to all who will, by grace through faith, transfer their trust from themselves to Jesus. There is no other door that leads to eternal life. When Jesus said He was the only way to the Father in heaven, He meant what He said! You need only believe on Him who is the Divine Door of Deliverance and you will be brought out of darkness and into His wonderful light . . . delivered from death to life.

And to those who are already His, remember that Jesus is the Divine Door for every spiritual blessing each and every day. Come in and go out through Jesus every day and your soul shall be as a fountain that overflows with the waters of both eternal life and everyday life . . . and that life will be abundant!

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

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No Stunted Saints or Dwarfed Disciples

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Did you know that the grace that saves us is the same grace that sanctifies us? God’s ultimate goal in your life is to conform you to the image of His beloved Son, so to stay like you were when you were saved is simply not possible. In the Kingdom of God there are no stunted saints or dwarfed disciples. Every child of God is in the process of growing up into Christ. To be sure, some grow faster than others, but we all must grow.

Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and thereby every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. (Ephesians 4:11-15)

Here we have a wonderful promise of guaranteed growth. We start our Christian pilgrimage as infants—babes in Christ. But God does not leave us there! He gives us all the spiritual nourishment we need to grow and mature in our faith until we ultimately reach complete conformity to Christ on the other side of the grave. A “stunted saint” or a “dwarfed disciple” is as much an oxymoron (a phrase that contradicts itself) as a “joyless Christian.”

So . . . are you satisfied with the level of spiritual growth in your life today? It’s important to remember that, unlike our justification (which is wholly a one-way action completed by the Almighty alone) our sanctification is a process we are to participate in. God gives every one of His children numerous means of grace that are designed to grow us and mature us in our faith. God has given us His Word to read, the privilege to pray, and His church to attend. God has provided us with the disciplines of fasting, serving, and watching. God has given us the great honor to worship Him and also to witness for Him. Everything we do for the glory of God is a means of making us mature in our faith.

Hardship is also part of God’s plan for producing holiness in your life. The writer of Hebrews tells us, “Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father?” (Hebrews 12:7). In other words, the pain you experience in your life is never without a purpose. The intended end of every providential pain is to conform you to the image and likeness of our Lord Jesus Christ. Even when the pain we experience is a consequence for poor choices, it is never punitive; God’s chastening is always corrective. It is designing to produce healing and growth, not misery and despair.

God loves us too far much to leave us as He found us. So He is growing us up, by any and every means necessary, into Christ by His grace, because God does not give birth to stunted saints or dwarfed disciples!

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

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Food Of The Faithful

food

So much of life is centered around meals. And who reading this right now doesn’t enjoy a great meal, shared with good friends? God has given us some wonderful things to eat in order to sustain life. But He has also given us something else that needs to be eagerly devoured and thoroughly digested: the Word of God.

When Jesus was just beginning His ministry, He fasted forty days and forty nights in the wilderness. At the end of that time, Satan came to tempt our Lord:

“If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.” (Matthew 4:3)

Was Jesus hungry? You bet He was hungry! Yes, He is fully God, but He was also fully man, just like you and me. He got thirsty, tired, and hungry. But notice how He responded to this temptation to satisfy His hunger apart from the will of His Father in heaven.

Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” (Matthew 4:4)

The food of the faithful is the Word of God. By the Word of God we were created and we are sustained “by the word of his power” (Hebrews 1:3). The Word of God not only sustains life, it strengthens us for the fiery darts that Satan throws our way.

When tempted by the devil to satisfy a normal need that we all have, but in a way God the Father had not commanded, Jesus used God’s Word as a weapon of warfare. Jesus defeated the devil with the Word of God … and we can too!

Without the Word of God, we are like a rudderless ship adrift out on the open ocean; we are at the mercy of the strongest wind that is blowing our way at the time. But armed with the food of the faithful, we are able to withstand gale-force winds that would otherwise drive us onto the rocks.

So here is my challenge for you today: the next time you are eating something, remember the most important food God has given you: His holy, inerrant, inspired, infallible Word. Make the Bible your “go-to-book” and go to it often. Rise with it in the morning and retire with it in the evening. Feast on every word in that Holy Book, knowing that God will sustain you through every storm wind that blows your way, strengthening you for the work He has set before you.

“Man shall not live on bread alone,” but on every word from Genesis to Revelation. As I have said here before, the Book you don’t read won’t help. God could have left it to the Holy Spirit to encourage, inspire, and motivate us to live a life that is pleasing to God. But He did not. He saw to it that His Word was written down so that we would read it. Feast on the food of the faithful, and you will find that the favor of the Almighty will follow you wherever you go!

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

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The Lord Looked

father and son

Growing up playing sports, I was always greatly encouraged when my parents were looking on during the games. Just knowing that they were watching me was a source of great encouragement, even when my performance was less than I had expected.

Well, there is someone who is looking on in your life and mine, One who provides us with eternal encouragement, and I want to tell you about Him today:

The Lord looked at [Gideon] and said, “Go in this your strength and deliver Israel from the hand of Midian. Have I not sent you?” (Judges 6:14 NASB)

God had called Gideon to deliver Israel from the hands of the Midianites, but Gideon was afraid; he didn’t want to follow the Lord’s leading. But “the Lord looked,” and the fear Gideon was facing fled and His doubt was dismantled. What a look that must have been, a look that encouraged Gideon to rise up and deliver His people from the hands of his enemies!

Notice something else that went along with this look from the Lord. When the Lord looked upon Gideon, He sent him off in the strength of the Almighty. Yes, the Lord said, “Go in this your strength,” but He immediately followed that command with “Have I not sent you?” This clearly indicated that “your strength” meant the strength that God had given Gideon. If God had sent Gideon to deliver Israel in Gideon’s strength, surely he would have never prevailed.

Anytime we are called by God to do His bidding and we “bid” in our own strength, we are sure to fall short of the intended mark. When we go in our strength we actually go in weakness! But when we go in the strength of our Savior, we go in a supernatural strength that has no limits. Know this truth:

Who the Lord sends the Lord strengthens for the sending!

So . . . knowing that the Lord looks upon you day and night—moment by moment—where has He sent you to go? Did you go? And if you did go, did you go in His strength? If you did not go, why? Has fear frozen you? Has doubt debilitated you? Has weakness warped your walk? If that is the case, fear not; you are in the same situation as Gideon . . . until He surrendered control of his life to his God.

It is my prayer for you today that you will, by faith, put to good use the strength your Savior has entrusted to you to go forth and expand the cause of His Kingdom—right now, right where you are. Remember, the Lord looked upon Gideon to strengthen him and He is looking upon you right now . . . to strengthen you, help you, and uphold you.

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

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Prayer Is More Than A Privilege

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I think we would all agree that it is a great privilege to be invited to come before the throne of grace and offer our prayers to the Creator of the Universe. But there is something even beyond this great privilege of which we must be mindful: we are commanded by God to pray to Him both day and night.

Pray continually. (1 Thessalonians 5:17)

The command is clear; we are to “pray without ceasing,” as many English translations render this verse. And why would we not want to call on our Lord, who encourages us to, “Call to me” and promises, “I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know” (Jeremiah 33:3)?

Perhaps you should pause for a moment and marinate in that word from the weeping prophet Jeremiah. God promises to answer our prayers. Now, as I have said many times before, we may receive one of three answers: YES, NO, or WAIT. But regardless of which answer we receive, our God promises to tell us great and unsearchable things that we did not know before we came to Him in prayer.

Remember what the psalmist tells us:

Does he who fashioned the ear not hear?

God not only hears our prayers, He knows them before we know them and He is always available to give to us a ready answer. Think about this for a moment: looking back on your life, aren’t you glad God answered some of your prayers with a resounding NO? Or with WAIT? I can tell you from personal experience that I certainly am! So much of what I cried out for years ago did not come about, and I praise God today that He withheld it from me. God always knows what is best for each of us and knows exactly what we need, moment by moment. He may not always give to us everything we want; but He will always give us everything we need, exactly when we need it, which is why WAIT is such a great and gracious response from God.

So . . . how is your prayer life today? Do you find yourself in close communion with Jesus? Or are you in the habit of calling on Him only when you are in desperate need? Remember, if the gates of Hell shall not prevail against our Prince, nothing will stand in the way of your petitions other than God’s omniscient understanding of your needs and the best way to meet them at the best possible time.

Let me close out today’s message with a few verses that I pray will encourage you to pray continually.

This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him. (1 John 5:14-15)

Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. (James 5:13)

I call on you, my God, for you will answer me; turn your ear to me and hear my prayer. (Psalm 17:6)

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

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Cosmic Cultivation

vineyard

Inasmuch as our God is pleased to use us in the process of expanding the cause of His Kingdom, we must never forget that He is the one who is ultimately the Keeper of His Kingdom and the Vinedresser of His Vineyard.

Receive this truth from the prophet Isaiah as a word of encouragement and comfort today:

I, the Lord, watch over it; I water it continually. I guard it day and night so that no one may harm it. (Isaiah 27:3)

To be sure, every Christian has been called by God to cultivate and care for His Vineyard . . . His Kingdom. But behind every Christian is the Christ. Behind all that we do is our God, who is doing it all. Jesus Himself is the Cosmic Cultivator, who waters His Vineyard continually and guards it day and night. Our God never slumbers and never sleeps (Psalm 121:4). He is always at His work and caring for His own. And that, beloved, includes you!

Now if the Cosmic Cultivator is watering you day and night—even moment by moment—oh, how you should be growing up into Christ! Never are you in a season of drought. Never are you overtaken by noxious weeds and busy bugs. God Himself is the Keeper of the gate and will allow no evil or harm to uproot you from Himself. Yes, we are all troubled from time to time by the “little foxes” (Song of Solomon 2:15) that seek to ruin the vineyard, but what harm can truly come our way when our God is the One responsible for watering, tending, and guarding us?

That personal pronoun “I” in today’s verse should give you great comfort and encouragement, regardless of where this message finds you. God says:

  •  I WATCH
  •  I WATER
  • I GUARD

What have we to fear when the great I Am is watching over us—nourishing us and guarding us every step of the way into glory? Who can resist His will? Who can overcome His omnipotence?

So . . . as you consider this great promise today, is your faith flourishing because of His faithfulness to you? Remember God’s immutability—the fact that He changes not. His promise given through the prophet Isaiah centuries ago is as sure today as it was the moment God uttered it! Every promise from God is “Yes” and “Amen” in Christ Jesus (2 Corinthians 1:20).

Remember, what God has promised to cultivate and keep will be cultivated and kept. Leave no room for doubt in your mind today; your God has given this promise to you. Receive it and respond to it by living it out with the joy of the Lord, which is your strength, knowing that even when you mess it up, He will use even your evil to accomplish His good.

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

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