ALMIGHTY ACCESS

Praying child.

When was the last time you sensed the silence of heaven? You have lifted your prayers to the throne room of Grace, but you feel like no one is listening. Well, I have a word of incredible encouragement for you today from the conversion experience of Saul (Paul).


In Damascus there was a disciple named Ananias. The Lord called to him in a vision, “Ananias!” “Yes, Lord,” he answered. The Lord told him, “Go to the house of Judas on Straight Street and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying. In a vision he has seen a man named Ananias come and place his hands on him to restore his sight.”

(Acts 9:10-12)


There is great comfort in the words “He is praying,” wouldn’t you agree? God noticed Saul’s prayer immediately. And He notices your prayers immediately too!

There is no delay in your access to the Almighty. In fact, even before you utter a single word, God knows exactly what you are going to ask for and what you actually need (Psalm 139:4). The reason we sometimes feel that our prayers are bouncing off the ceiling is because of the delay in the answer. There are those times when God answers our prayer with an immediate “YES.” However, there are also those occasions when His answer to us is “NO” . . .  or “WAIT.” God alone knows what is best for His children, and He knows exactly when to deliver it.

So . . . what have you been praying for lately? When the response is not immediate, just remember that your God is working out His perfect plan in your imperfect life—in His timing, not yours.

Charles Spurgeon put it this way in his devotional, Morning and Evening:


Prayer is never out of season: in summer and in winter its merchandize is precious. Prayer gains audience with heaven in the dead of night, in the midst of business, in the heat of noonday, in the shades of evening. In every condition, whether of poverty, or sickness, or obscurity, or slander, or doubt, your covenant God will welcome your prayer and answer it from His holy place. Nor is prayer ever futile. True prayer is evermore true power. You may not always get what you ask, but you shall always have your real wants supplied. When God does not answer His children according to the letter, He does so according to the spirit.


Prayer is never futile, as Mr. Spurgeon said. You have Almighty access to your Father in heaven 24/7 – 365 days a year – and 366 days on leap year! Like any good father, God desires to hear from you. There is never a bad time to commune with the Father.

Go to Him now! Tell Him what is burdening your heart today . . . and use words if necessary. Remember, He collects your tears in His bottle (Psalm 56:8) and loves you infinitely beyond what words can ever express.

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

 

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OTHER-ORIENTED

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The inertia of sin continually pulls us toward self and away from our Savior. But when Jesus shows up, our lives begin to assume the shape of the cross, both vertically —loving God—and horizontally—serving others.


Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—when you see the naked, to clothe them, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?

(Isaiah 58:6-7)


When Adam and Eve turned away from God they not only denied their humanity, they derailed their calling. And what was their calling from God? To expand the borders of their lives to the boundaries of God’s kingdom. They were to be cultural caretakers; they had been given the awesome privilege of caring for everything God had created. But sin changed all that. Instead of being other-oriented, they began living for themselves. They pursued their goals. They chased after their dreams. They were determined to accomplish their agenda. They shrank the size of their lives down to the size of their lives . . . and that is how we all live by nature.

Even after Jesus takes His rightful place on the throne of our lives, sin still has a tendency to atrophy our commitment to God and arrest our concern for others, just like the Israelites Isaiah was addressing in the passage above. Instead of loving God and serving others, they were busily engaged in demonstrating how “religious” they were. Their primary focus was inward, not upward and outward. As the children of God, they had to be reminded of their purpose in this world, which was the very same purpose Adam and Eve had: to put God’s steadfast love on display by caring for all that He created.

God wants all of us to be other-oriented. He wants us to put the Gospel on display and make Him attractive. And that can only be done when we expand the borders of our lives back to the boundaries of God’s creation. We are to live each day for the expansion of God’s kingdom, not our own. When we are living for God’s kingdom, we begin impacting the lives of those around us. His concern becomes our concern; what breaks God’s heart breaks our hearts.

This level of living means we often get involved in things that don’t personally impact our own little lives. Why? Because we are living for something bigger than ourselves. We are living for the glory of God and the good of others, regardless of whether it meets the needs of our own self-interest. Only those who are other-oriented experience this kind of transcendent living.

Let me encourage you with a closing word from C. S. Lewis:


If you read history, you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were those who thought most of the next. The Apostles themselves, who set on foot the conversion of the Roman Empire, the great men who built up the Middle Ages, the English who abolished the Slave Trade, all left their mark on Earth, precisely because their minds were occupied with heaven. It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this one. Aim at Heaven and you will get earth thrown in. Aim at earth and you will get neither.


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

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PAST DELIVERANCE – PRESENT DEVOTION!

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God is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8). Your past deliverance should produce present devotion, because what God did for you back then, He will do again.

Even as a boy, David knew this truth by way of personal experience:


David said moreover, “The Lord that delivered me out of the paw of the lion, and out of the paw of the bear, he will deliver me out of the hand of this Philistine.”

(1 Samuel 17:37)


David believed that his past deliverances provided irrefutable proof of God’s present and future deliverances. Do you know this truth? David knew it so well that he did not hesitate to meet the giant Goliath in battle.

Think about the times your God has delivered you out of the paw of the lion and of the bear. . .

  • Burdens at school
  • Troubles at the office
  • Parenting prodigals
  • Difficulties at home
  • Relationship challenges
  • Financial reversals
  • Health issues

When you give it some thought, such a list of difficulties and heartaches could easily fill this blog! Yet in spite of the numerous troubles and trials which beset us, all those who are, by grace through faith, in Christ can rest assured that every promise of God is “yes and amen” in Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 1:20).

Here is one thing you and I must keep in view: God is the one who defines the deliverance. His deliverance is guaranteed, but it may not always look like we want it to! Deliverance sent by the hand of God may even be found in a crushing defeat, simply because God was in it with us. Only God knows what is best for us, and He will deliver it to us, regardless of the cost or circumstance.

The lion, the bear, and the Philistine will always be different. The attacks, challenges, and problems we face always take different forms. But our God will always be the same, and He is with us in every battle. The key is to remember what David remembered about the strength he would be fighting the giant in. The giant David faced was big; David’s God was bigger. David knew that God would give him everything he needed in order for victory to be won.

So regardless of what the world throws against you with today—whether sword, spear, or javelin . . . or a layoff, terrible test result, or tax audit—remember that your deliverance will come because you fight in the name of the Most High God. Let every remembrance of past deliverance move you to a deeper and stronger daily devotion to your God!

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

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ALMIGHTY ARCHITECT

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We are in a season of a new babies at Cross Community Church. Many of our young married couples are happily engaged in what I call “Church-Growth 101,” as we watch our numbers increase through the miracle of life . . . beautiful, newborn babies.

It’s easy to see great events such as the birth of a child as the handiwork of our Holy God. We all marvel at this great miracle. But all too often, we can miss His handiwork in our daily lives. We may sense God’s presence, but we feel like we’re the one fitting all of life’s puzzle pieces together in our own strength and in our own time. Not true!

Consider these words:


Our life contains a thousand springs,

and dies if one be gone;

strange that a harp of a thousand strings

should keep in tune so long!


Did you recognize these words? They are from the pen of the great hymn writer Isaac Watts; the title of this particular composition is “Let Others Boast How Strong They Be.” God has not only uniquely made each and every one of us, but He is busily engaged in keeping us “tuned” as a hymn to His glory. God did not form you in your mother’s womb (Psalm 139:13) and then move you off to the periphery of life, merely to watch as a spectator. God is with you every step of the way!


In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord established their steps.

(Proverbs 16:9)


Whether in seasons of scarcity or plenty, sickness or health, God is shaping our existence and moving us in the direction of our eternal destiny. In your times of scarcity and sickness, God is giving you lessons to learn and a Lord to lean upon. And in your times of plenty and health, God is giving you opportunities to show what you have learned and how much more He can trust you with.

When was the last time you saw every appointment in life as a divine appointment arranged by God? God has brought you to this very place today. Nothing in your past has been wasted. He has used and continues to use every life experience. Our Almighty Architect takes our good, our bad, and even our ugly, and turns it all into a masterpiece.

We have all had some good, some bad, and some ugly in our past. God doesn’t just use our good—if the truth is told, nothing we ever do is really that good! Everything we do is stained by our sinful hearts. God takes all of experiences and refines them in His fiery furnace, bringing a better version of us out the other side. And what is “a better version of us”? Simply one that is more conformed to the image and likeness of the Lord Jesus Christ.

With this as God’s primary goal in our lives, there is never a moment that God is not at work refining and remaking us. “From life’s first cry to final breath”—whether the sun is brightly shining or the storm winds are howling—God is at work in your life. From the classroom to the boardroom to the family room, God is calling you further in and further up into your redemption . . . which ultimately leads to a deeper walk with your Redeemer.

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

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JEALOUS JESUS!

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When you think of the word “jealous,” what comes to mind? I’m confident that it’s highly unlikely your thoughts would run to Jesus!

The dictionary defines the word jealous this way:


Intolerant of rivalry or unfaithfulness

Disposed to suspect rivalry or unfaithfulness

Hostile toward a rival


You think that doesn’t describe the Lamb of God? Upon closer inspection, this is exactly how our Lord views His relationship with us! However, there is a clear distinction between the jealousy of man and the jealousy of God: our jealousy is sinful, but God’s is sacred.


The Lord is a jealous and avenging God.

(Nahum 1:2)


Jesus will tolerate NO RIVAL in the lives of His people . . . nor should He! When you think of the cost Jesus paid for you, it makes all the sense in the world that He would be very jealous for your love and fidelity. God did not choose you so that you would choose another. He left the throne of grace, came into this sin-filled world took on flesh, knowing that He would be denied, betrayed, spit upon, jeered at, and put to death . . . all so that He could have an intimate, personal, loving relationship with you.

What a wonderful attribute of our God! His jealousy is directed at us for all the right reasons. Jesus knows there is nothing or no one we should love more than Him. Only Jesus loves perfectly; only Jesus meets our needs perfectly. He knows there is nothing our hearts should beat for stronger and faster than for Him, because all other things are flawed and imperfect.

Oh, the joy in the heart of Jesus Christ when we are leaning totally upon Him! But when we transfer our dependence to anything lesser, He is jealous for our return. How often the human heart beats for things smaller than Jesus! We seek lesser loves in every aspect of life and we are continually disappointed, because they simply cannot deliver on their promises.

But Jesus delivers and surpasses every promise uttered in His faithful love to us. When God created Adam and Eve, they were never intended to meet their needs in any aspect of the creation. Every need was to be met vertically by their personal relationship with their Creator. Tragically, they turned away from God and brought all creation into ruin. But God, in His jealous love, pursued those stubborn rebels on the run and reentered into relationship with mankind through Jesus Christ.

God in Christ is jealous for your trust, your service, your fellowship, and your love. Jesus did not die to make you “good” . . . He died to make you alive—alive to Him and nothing smaller. Only in Him will you find the things that matter most in life: meaning, significance, purpose, and identity. Only in Him will you begin to plumb the depths of who you are in Christ and all He is calling you to be.

Praise God that Jesus is jealous for His people!

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

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THE MASTER’S MATH

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Regardless of who you are and where this finds you today, if you are faithfully serving Jesus, you can be sure that God takes your “little” and makes it a lot!


The least of you will become a thousand, the smallest a mighty nation. I am the Lord; in its time I will do this swiftly.

(Isaiah 60:22)


The Master’s math is a source of great encouragement for every child of God. It doesn’t matter where you come from, what level of education you have, or the resources you have at hand; God makes it clear that the least of His servants can do great things. Why? Because it is God who always supplies the increase.

Make no mistake, we water and we plant, but it is always God who supplies the increase. The “prince of preachers,” Charles Spurgeon, put it this way:


Works for the Lord often begin on a small scale, and they are none the worse for this. Feebleness educates faith, brings God near, and wins glory for His name. Prize promises of increase! The Mustard seed is the smallest among seeds, yet it becomes a tree-like plant with branches that lodge the birds of heaven. We may begin with one, and that “a little one,” and yet it will “become a thousand.” The Lord is great at the multiplication table. How often did He say to His lone servant, “I will multiply you!” Trust in the Lord, you ones and twos; for He will be in the midst of you if you are gathered in His name.


 

Think back over your own personal experience. Has not the Lord multiplied mercies in your life in spite of what you expected because of the little you had to offer? You see, when we are working for the Lord, in His strength and in His time, we are guaranteed a good harvest . . . even when we are the “least” and the “smallest.”

Every great saint has this truth as their personal testimony. In our weakness we are strengthened by our Lord. Every area of lack becomes an area of abundance in the hand of the Almighty. In fact, you cannot serve your God in your strength, because then it is not service to your God; it is service to yourself. God will never accept that kind of service!

There was a time in my life when I believed in “personal power” and would frequently utter the phrase, “If it is to be, it’s up to me!” Today I know better. The truth is, “If it is to be, it’s up to God!” With that foundational truth firmly planted in our minds, we are free to venture out into the deep waters that we may have avoided before; we can confidently let our nets down for a catch, trusting in God to supply the increase.

Remember, God chose the foolish to shame the wise; He chose the weak to shame the strong (1 Corinthians 1:27). What has God chosen for you to do for His glory today—professionally . . . personally . . . relationally?

If you go in your strength—with your plans and your resources—regardless of the outcome, you will be left weary, weak, and wanting. Only those who go in the strength of the Almighty, even those who are the least and the smallest, will reach a place where these words ring true: “Well done, good and faithful servant!”

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

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THE BELIEVER AS A WALL OF BRONZE

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In your daily walk with the Lord Jesus Christ, how do you picture yourself? Have you ever pictured yourself as a wall of bronze? Well, after reading today’s word of encouragement, I believe you will!


I will make you a wall to this people, a fortified wall of bronze; they will fight against you but will not overcome you, for I am with you to rescue and save you.

(Jeremiah 15:20)


Notice the work of grace in the life of the believer. The Lord does not say that we are to make ourselves like a fortified wall of bronze through our own efforts. He assures us that this is all the work of our Great God. And when God says He will make you a wall of bronze, you can be assured, that is exactly what He will do in your life!

In a day when the witness of far too many in the church is so thoroughly diluted by worldliness, we need believers who truly are like fortified walls of bronze, Christians who can withstand the slings and arrows of the evil one. We need believers who are not afraid to be “politically incorrect” and stand for the truth claims of Christianity. We need believers who have been made strong in the Lord through the preaching of the whole counsel of God, Christians who are not “tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming” (Ephesians 4:14).

I have learned that those who love the doctrines of grace are those who possess the doctrines of grace. They understand that the same grace that saved them is the same grace that is sanctifying them, fortifying them in the face of increasing unbelief and even outright hostility from the world around them.

Please don’t miss the last part of the Lord’s words to Jeremiah: even when you have been made as a wall of bronze, God is still with you! The reason we cannot be overcome is because our God is with us . . . our God is in us . . . and our God is for us! Make no mistake, God is the One who rescues; God is the One who saves; and it is God who sanctifies us and makes us as a wall of bronze.

So regardless of where this finds you today and what storm winds may be swirling around you, remember that God has made you a fortified wall of bronze. You will not be blown over! “I will strengthen you and help you,” He has promised us; “I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10). You shall stand firm because your God is with you every step of the way. Even if all around you is crumbling, you can rest in the promised truth that you will stand in your place and not be moved.

Praise God this day for this splendid truth: God has fortified you and He continues to strengthen you, moment by moment!

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

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