When Your Earth Quakes

You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you. (Isaiah 26:3)

Many of us have never personally experienced an earthquake, but we still know what one is from watching news reports and scenes in movies. The textbook definition of “earthquake” reads as follows:

The shaking of the surface of the Earth resulting from a sudden release of energy in the Earth’s lithosphere that creates seismic waves. Earthquakes can range in size from those that are so weak they cannot be felt to those violent enough to propel objects and people into the air and wreak destruction across entire cities.

That definition paints an accurate picture of what happens to all of us when a significant life event suddenly confronts us: when a family member calls to tell you someone close to you has died . . . when the doctor’s office calls to tell you to come in to discuss the results of your biopsy . . . when a work email shows up in your inbox informing you of the rumored layoff . . . when your child tells you they no longer believe in the faith you raised them in. The are a great many occasions for these “earthquakes” in your life, but you are not powerless to endure them, and the cross makes this perfectly clear.

The earth quaked for our Lord Jesus Christ when He was nailed to a cross to pay the penalty for our sins. Jesus endured the judgment and wrath of God, crying out, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” Then He gave up the ghost. His body was taken down from the cross and placed in a sealed tomb,

But the story does not end there! On that first Easter morning, the ground began to shake, the stone was rolled away, and Jesus Christ walked out of the grave and into the hearts of all those who would trust in Him as Savior and Lord. The effects of that earthquake have been felt all over the world! 

Regardless of what it is you are facing today or will face tomorrow, when your earth quakes and you feel like you have lost your way, don’t look out at your circumstances. Look up to your Christ, who is the solid Rock that no life experience can ever shake. Circumstances that might cause you to tremble are no match for the Christ, who was delivered from death to cause you to trust in Him.

Remember, Jesus has conquered sin, Satan, and death; He can and will help you conquer anything that causes your earth to quake. As David wrote, “[God] is my mighty rock, my refuge. Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge” (Psalm 62;7-8). Perfect peace is always available for those who trust in the Prince of Peace.

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

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God Is Enough

To him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us . . . (Ephesians 3:20)

Those who walk by faith and not by sight have learned the deep truth that God is enough, no matter what is going on in life. Is this the foundation upon which you have built your life? Is God enough for you?

  • Is God ENOUGH when your health is failing?
  • Is God ENOUGH when your relationships are in turmoil?
  • Is God ENOUGH when you have been betrayed by a friend?
  • Is God ENOUGH when your check is returned NSF?
  • Is God ENOUGH when your nest goes empty?
  • Is God ENOUGH when you suffer loss?

One of the most important lessons we can learn in life is to realize that God IS enough. God is enough to meet our every need, both physical and spiritual. God has not only met our eternal needs through the free and full forgiveness of our sins, but He has also promised to meet our everyday needs through the faithfulness of His service.  

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. (Ephesians 1:3)

My God will meet all your needs according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:19)

English missionary Helen Roseveare said it beautifully: “There is a wonderful truth that God has enough to supply all our needs. Enough for salvation, enough for forgiveness, enough to overcome temptations, enough to persevere in adversities, enough to calm our fears and anxieties. Enough grace, enough love, enough power. His supply is sufficient to meet not only all our needs, but the needs of everyone else in the world now and at all times.”

So how will you know that you really know that God is enough? You know when God is everything to you, in both life and death. Is this the confession of your life?

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

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Christ at the Center

To live is Christ and to die is gain. (Philippians 1:21)

Even a casual reader of the New Testament recognizes that Christ was at the center of the apostle Paul’s life. The question that each of us should ask ourselves — and answer — is this: Is Christ at the center of my life too?

It is all too easy to push Christ out to the circumference of our lives. If someone called us to account on this, we might indignantly insist that we still have Him sitting on the throne of our lives . . . but in the quietness of our hearts we would have to admit that there are times when we move His throne out to the outer edges of our lives. There are a great many voices vying for our attention and we are all too easily distracted.

You may remember how the Tree of Life was located in the center of the Garden of Eden. God’s Word is giving us a vivid picture, teaching us that God, who is the very source of life itself, must always be at the center of our lives in every way. We were made by Him and we were made for Him — for in Him we live and move and have our being (Acts 17:28).

God created us all for worship, so everyone — both Christians and non-Christians alike — will always be worshiping something. The question is, What is that something? If God is not at the center of our lives, something else will be. And that “something” is not necessarily a bad thing. Family is a good thing. Work is a good thing. Prosperity is a good thing. Health is a good thing. Recreation is a good thing. All these things are good things, but they can very easily become bad things when they become ultimate things – when we allow them to move to the center of our lives.

What is at the center of your life right now? What are you most passionate about? Into what are you investing your time, talent, and treasure? If you aren’t sure, ask those who are closest to you, because it is impossible to hide what we worship. Our deepest passions always rise to the surface of our lives. For those of you who, like Paul, have Jesus at the center, it will be obvious to those around you. They will hear you talk about Him. They will see you walk with Him. They will recognize that your greatest goal in life is to glorify God and expand the cause of His Kingdom, not your own.

Remember, it is “the fear of the Lord” (Psalm 19:9) — the constant, reverent awareness of the presence of a God who loved us enough to die on a cross for us — that keeps Him at the center of our lives. Of course, we will do this imperfectly. We are, after all, saved sinners; we have been saved by grace through faith, but we are still sinners nonetheless. We will fail, fall, and even forsake Jesus at times. The goal is perfection, but the best we can hope for is progress. May this progress, however slow and stumbling it may be, become the confession of our lives, as we seek to keep Him at the center of our lives.

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

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No Mistakes

I know that your rules are righteous, and that in faithfulness you have afflicted me. (Psalm 119:75)

Now there is a biblical truth that every child of God — beginning with me — needs to have etched upon his or her heart when the storm winds of life are howling around us.

Everything God does is good and right. “He is the Rock,” Deuteronomy 32:4 assures us, “his works are perfect, and all his ways are just. A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is he.” There are no mistakes or missteps in God’s economy. Everything that happens in this world happens for only two reasons: for God’s glory and for the ultimate good of all those for whom He gave his Son.

To be sure, we all must process the challenges we face, but we are to process them in faith, not fear. When we do this, we will always reach the same conclusion that the psalmist confidently declared:

In faithfulness you have afflicted me.

You see, it is during those times of great difficulty and challenge that God is doing the most work in our lives. When I look back over the years in my walk with Christ, my periods of deepest pain have produced my greatest progress, because God was afflicting me in faithfulness. Think about it for a moment; would you not agree that this has been true for you also? Our God is too wise, too faithful, too loving, too good to do anything that is not for our ultimate good — that ultimate good being conforming us to the image of His Son. It is always in faithfulness, not fickleness, that God sends storms our way.

Now, it’s human nature that that we do not rejoice in the experience of the storms we endure in this life. Let me quickly add that the Spirit of God commands us to “Consider it pure joy whenever you face trials of many kinds” (James 1:2). This is the command, but I would have to be the first to admit that I am not very good at keeping it! I am far more likely to fret and fuss and fume at trials, rather than rejoice in them. Can I get a witness?

However, even when we fail to rejoice in the midst of our trials, we should rejoice in the results of them. No one likes to be buffeted by the winds and the waves of challenge that come against us, but because we understand that God is in complete control of all things, including the storms of life, we can rest in the results that He has promised. As the poet A. M. Overton wrote,

My Father’s way may twist and turn, My heart may throb and ache,

But in my soul I’m glad to know, He maketh no mistake!

So regardless of the storms you may be facing today, or the ones you may see looming on the horizon, remember that you can trust God to lead you safely through to the other side because He knows the way. And if God does not change your circumstances, it is only because He is changing you. He is faithful in His love for you! No mistakes can ever come from the hand of your Master.

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

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Our Holy Helper

The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. (Hebrews 13:6)

Did you know that you have a Holy Helper standing at the ready as the Source of every solution you seek? Because God does not change, you can count on Him to help you through every set of circumstances you face.

The Hebrew appellation Jehovah Ezrah is one of the names of God; it is literally translated as “The Lord my Help.” The psalmist tells us, “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1). Take a second look at that word “ever-present.” God is always available to you, no matter what you are going through. The Bible does not tell us that our God is “sort-of-present” or “half-way-present” or even “most-of-the-time present.” No! Our God is “ever-present,” and nothing can distract Him or keep Him at a distance from us.

When Jesus was preparing to finish His mission on this earth and return to His Father in heaven, He promised to send our Holy Helper:

I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever – the Spirit of truth . . . The Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. (John 14:16, 26)

What a powerful promise we have received! The One whose sinless nature makes it impossible for Him to lie has assured us that our Holy Helper is with us every step of the way through this life. He is with us through the sunshine and the rain. He is with us through the good times and the bad. He is with us through our joy and despair and every emotion in between.

Because of this Gospel truth, we will not be afraid. What is there to fear when the Creator and Sustainer of the universe has promised to be our Helper, no matter what we are facing? “Do not fear, for I am with you,” He assures us; “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). Omnipotence will guide you around every obstacle that stands in your way, because greater is the power that is at work within you than any power that can come against you.

Where do you turn in times of trouble? Friends are good; family perhaps is better. But God is the best One to go to. Remember, our Holy Helper is not only willing to help, he is able to help, and he has promised to meet your every need.

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

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Seek His Face!

Look to the Lord and his strength; seek his face always. (1 Chronicles 16:11)

Think of all the things you may be seeking throughout this new year. Is the face of your Lord on your list? The Hebrew word translated “face” in today’s verse can also be rendered “presence.” To seek the Lord’s face is to seek His presence.

You may be thinking, “Wait a minute! I believe that I am always in the presence of Jesus! He promised never to leave me.” That is certainly true. But isn’t it also true that there are times when you do not sense His presence in your life? If you are anything like me, the answer, sadly, is “Yes. I definitely experience those moments when I don’t feel like Jesus is anywhere close to me.”

There are times when we get so preoccupied with life that we may forget or even forsake our Lord. There are times when we trust ourselves rather than trust our Savior; at those times we find Him “unmanifested” in our lives. It is easy to shroud His face behind the curtain of our carnal desires and the shawl of our sinful pursuits. That is why God tells us not only to seek His presence, but to seek Him always. Just as we are to pray without ceasing, we are to seek the presence of our God continually.

So how do we do it? How do we seek God’s face always? The Old and the New Testaments provide us with the same answer:

Now set your mind and heart to seek the Lord your God. (1 Chronicles 22:19 ESV)

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. (Colossians 3:1-2)

Seeking God’s face does not happen by accident. It will only happen when we are intentional about fixing our focus on Him. To be sure, this too is a gift of God’s grace. I think of Paul’s prayer: “May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christ” (2 Thessalonians 3:5 ESV). The desire and the discipline to seek the Lord are gifts of grace, but we must appropriate this grace as we go through life.

There are many ways to do that; as I often say here, reading the Word and prayer are at the top of the list. Remember, the degree of the presence of God you experience in your life will always be in direct proportion to the amount of time you spend with Him in His Word and in prayer. The promise for this is clear, “If you seek him, he will be found by you” (1 Chronicles 28:9).

So seek the Lord and His strength; seek His presence continually! He has assured us that He will draw near to those who draw near to Him.

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

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A New Thing

Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! (Isaiah 43:18-19)

As you launch out into yet another new year, remember these words that God gave us through the prophet Isaiah: “I am doing a new thing!” And that “new thing” begins with you.

God is in the business of creating new things, which means He wants us to move through the year ahead with a forward focus filled with hope and expectation. But we simply cannot do that if we are dwelling on the past — “the former things.” As I said last week, we are to learn from the past, not live in the past. We are to treat the past like a school, taking the lessons we have learned there and pressing on into our promised future. We simply must refuse to let our past possess us or persuade us, or it will paralyze us.

So let me ask you this question: How are you doing at forgetting the former things and not dwelling on your past? God has a formula for doing new things. He will not put new wine into old wineskins (Matthew 9:17), and He will not begin a new thing in your life until he does away with the old “stuff” that is holding you down.

So the next question to consider is this: What “old thing” is standing in the way of you becoming all that God is calling you to be?” Could it be . . .

  • Your old way of living?
  • Your old way of thinking?
  • Your old way of doing?
  • Your old way of desiring?

The most important new thing that God is doing in your life is conforming you to the image and likeness of Jesus Christ . . . and He will do that by any means necessary. Christian, embrace this glorious new thing He is doing in your life with all your heart and soul and mind and strength, regardless of the cost or circumstance. You can be sure that this new thing He is doing in you is the greatest good you will ever receive.

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

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Looking Ahead

Do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go. (Joshua 1:9)

On Wednesday, we took a moment to “look back” and consider all the wonders God has done throughout 2021. Today we will “look ahead” as we prepare to launch out into 2022.

“Happy New Year!” is a greeting you frequently hear at this time of year. That well-wishing will be particularly prevalent tomorrow, on New Year’s Day. Yet if “wishes” were all we had as believers to launch out into the year ahead, it would be a scant portion indeed. Christians have much more than a “hopeful greeting” given to us by the Creator and Sustainer of the universe. Today’s verse gives us the promise that God gave to Joshua – and to you and me as well: I will be with you wherever you go.

You may remember that Joshua was preparing to lead the people of Israel into the Promised Land after Moses had completed his ministry of service to God. Joshua knew quite well the challenges he would face in leading God’s people. He had learned from Moses just how difficult the task would be. But he also knew that, just like Moses, he would not be alone in the work God had called him to perform. And the same is true for you and me as we begin our “forward march” into this new year.

To be sure, the new year brings with it questions and concerns . . . doubts and fears . . . obstacles and opportunities. Will the doctor give us a negative report on our health? Will we encounter professional challenges? Will our marriage of many years march on for many more? Will we suffer the loss of a loved one? Will the cost of living continue to rise? Will a deadly new variant of COVID sweep the country? The list of uncertainties is almost endless. Yet we can hold on to something infinitely greater than the mere hope for a “Happy New Year!” Why? Because God has promised that He will be with us wherever we go, and He has further promised never to leave us or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5).

I want you to remember something in that promise. This “going with God” is not a going by chance. It is not a random roll of the dice. God is guiding, governing, and directing your every step. He is in sovereign control of everything; nothing is left to chance (Romans 11:36). So do not be discouraged! God’s promise is delivered to us to help us set aside every doubt, every fear, and to lean into God’s perfect plan and purpose for our lives.

One final point: Approximately 3,400 years after God told Joshua that He would be with him wherever he went, Jesus reaffirmed that promise before He ascended back to heaven: “Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:20). Let me encourage you to look ahead into the year 2022 with confidence and boldness, knowing that Jesus goes before you as He goes with you, making your way straight, regardless of how many twists and turns you may encounter throughout this new year.

Now that is a great reason to greet people with a bright smile and exclaim, “Happy New Year!”

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

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Looking Back

Look to the Lord and his strength; seek his face always. Remember the wonders he has done, his miracles, and the judgments he pronounced. (Psalm 105:4-5)

Today and Friday we will close out yet another year of seeking “Grace for the Race.” Today I want to encourage you to take a look back over the past year . . . to remember and reflect on the many and multiplied wonders that God has done in your life. On Friday we will look forward to the starting line of another year, and, if God is so pleased to grant it to us, to live 2022 out with both the freedom and faithfulness that is available to us in Jesus Christ.

Someone wisely observed that “It is difficult to climb to the summit of the mountain when you are always looking over your shoulder.” That’s certainly true, but taking a look back is wonderfully beneficial for the Christian believer to remember all that God has done: His care, His provision, His protection, and His many gracious answers to our prayers. To be sure, that look back must be brief if we are to begin making forward progress throughout 2022. But make no mistake, it is the best way to close out another year of blessings that our loving Lord has bestowed on us. 

It’s important to point out that taking a look back is not the same thing as walking backward. We cannot go back, nor should we want to. God is moving us forward into His perfect plan and purpose for our lives, inasmuch as we will live it out imperfectly. I’ve said here several times that we must always treat the past as a school; we are to learn the lessons from our past but not live in our past. I meet far too many people — believers and unbelievers alike — who live in the past, which inevitably prohibits any measurable forward progress. But this is not for you!

Take some time today to reflect on the past year and make sure your look back encompasses both your successes and your storms. There is much to glean from both life experiences, because God has delivered both to us in order to conform us into the image and likeness of His beloved Son, Jesus Christ. Let your looking back bring to mind God’s . . .

  • Faithfulness and Friendship
  • Discipline and Devotion
  • Mercy and Ministry
  • Love and Leading

I pray that your look back over 2021 will encourage you and strengthen you to embark on another year with Jesus sitting upon the throne of your life, guiding you through every twist and turn, and growing you through all the ups and downs . . . every step of the way.

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

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About Your Workout . . .

Work out your salvation with fear and trembling. (Philippians 2:12)

We all know about the importance of taking good care of our body, which is the temple of the Holy Spirit, utilizing a workout plan that includes consistent exercise, sound nutrition, and adequate rest. Today I want to encourage you to engage in another kind of “workout,” one that builds your temple from the inside out.

First, let me make something perfectly clear; the apostle Paul was not suggesting that we need to “work out” a salvation that we might lose if we do not engage in the “right” kind of works and produce the right kind of results. That would cause us to live in a condition of continual fear, which would violate not only the good news of the Gospel, but all of sacred Scripture, which assures us that God has not given us a spirit not of fear, but of power and love and self-discipline (2 Timothy 1:7).

No, the “fear” that Paul was speaking about in Philippians 2:12 is best understood as reverence, awe, and respect for our Redeemer. I like the rendering that the English Bible translator J. B. Phillips gave to the verse: “Work out the salvation that God has given you with a proper sense of awe and responsibility.”

So what does it look like for the Christian to “work out” his or her salvation? It starts with a desire to live obediently before the face of God. The primary witness of our “work out” is to be found in our practice of obedience to the Lord. Please note that I did not say “our perfection of obedience,” because none of us will come close to perfection until we cross the Jordan and are received into glory. Until that time, we will live lives marked by both obedience and disobedience, because the old, sinful nature is in a constant struggle with the new, sinless nature (Galatians 5:17). 

The secondary witness of our “work out” is found in the environment we are working out in. An attitude of reverence and respect for the Almighty is the environment we must work out in, remembering that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. In other words, we are to take the call of Christ to live as obedient disciples seriously. Even though we know we will work out our salvation imperfectly on this side of the grave, nonetheless, we are to desire to be obedient in all things. True disciples want to live in a way that is pleasing and acceptable to God. True disciples seek to use all of their time, talent, and treasure for the advancement of the kingdom of God. True disciples look to glorify God in all things.

What has the witness of your “work out” been saying to those around you? In what areas are you working well? In what areas do you need to put in a little extra effort? Remember, the grace that saved you is the same grace that is sanctifying you . . . and it is all of grace. Yet God has called each one of us to work out the salvation He has given us with the proper sense of awe and responsibility. May this be the confession of our lives.

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

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