Faithful Faith

A few days later, when Jesus again entered Capernaum, the people heard that he had come home. They gathered in such large numbers that there was no room left, not even outside the door, and he preached the word to them. Some men came, bringing to him a paralyzed man, carried by four of them. Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus by digging through it and then lowered the mat the man was lying on. (Mark 2:1-4)

Every time I read this passage I am confronted by two questions: First, do I have any faithful friends like that who would make a hole in someone’s roof because that was the only way to get me to Jesus? Second, am I a faithful friend like that to anyone in my life right now, for whom I would refuse to be denied in bringing them to Jesus? Powerful questions, don’t you think?

Faithful friends have a way of making things happen for the good of others and the glory of God. They refuse to be denied. Blocked doors will not keep them out. Crowded rooms will not cause them to shy away. And if they cannot bring someone to Jesus by the ordinary way that has been set before them, they will simply make a new way and not stop until they come before our Lord.

Luke, ever the careful historian, gave added insight into this event: “When they could not find a way to [to take him into the house to lay him before Jesus] because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and lowered him on his mat through the tiles into the middle of the crowd” (Luke 5:19). What great risk these men took to get their paralyzed friend before the Christ! Just the sound of them clambering onto the roof would have drawn the attention of those in the home. Then when they started digging and tearing away at the roof tiles, everyone below would have been looking up, probably with great indignation, as dust and pieces of the roof began to cascade down into the room below. 

I simply cannot think of any better phrase than “faithful friends” when I read this account. They would let nothing stand in their way in getting their friend an audience with Jesus. And how did Jesus respond?

When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralyzed man, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” . . . Then Jesus said, “I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.” (Mark 2:5, 11)       

Their “faithful faith” not only brought their friend physical healing, but spiritual healing as well. So the question I want to leave you with today is this: Do you have the kind of “faithful faith” that will push past any obstacle to bring someone you know before the Savior of the World? May that be the confession of all our lives as we look for opportunities to bless those God has put in our lives, to the glory of the praise of His name! 

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


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Personal Promise

No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind.  And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear.  But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it. (1 Corinthians 10:13)

I long ago lost count of how many times I have heard people say that they are struggling with temptations and telling me that is sin. Not true! Jesus was tempted. We are all tempted. Temptation is simply a part of living in a fallen and broken world. It is giving in to temptation that is sin, and who reading this right now does not know this truth by way of personal experience? 

So what is the key to fighting against the temptations that we all face? There may be no better section in all of sacred Scripture that can strengthen us when we are facing temptation than the wilderness experience of our Lord Jesus Christ. After forty days fasting, the devil came to Jesus and tempted Him — not once, but three times. And each time Jesus dealt with the temptations of the devil in the same way: with Scripture. With each new temptation, Jesus used Scripture for strength, so as not to be overtaken by Satan’s schemes.

It is important to note one thing in the encounter between Jesus and the devil in the wilderness. Both quoted Scripture; both Jesus and the devil know the Word of God. Both were students of Scripture. They were both in the Word of God, but there was one great difference between Jesus and the devil. Inasmuch as both were in the Word of God, the Word of God was only in Jesus. You see, it’s not enough to simply know and be able to quote Scripture.  We must be submitted and surrendered to its authority and rule in our lives. 

What temptations have you been wrestling with lately? In your personal life? In your professional life? Remember, temptation is not sin; giving in to the temptation is. The more we get into the Word of God, the more the Word of God will get into us and the better we will be able to resist temptation.

One final thing. When temptation does overtake you, remember the cross. Jesus already paid for that sin and you have already been forgiven for that sin. Yes, grieve over your sin. Yes, be filled with a godly sorrow and repent of your sin. But never forget, nothing can separate you from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus — not Satan or even your sin. Now, that is a powerful, personal promise. 

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

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Always A New Thing

“See, I am doing a new thing!” (Isaiah 43:19)

When was the last time you ran into someone you knew and asked, “How’s it going?” To which they responded with something like, “Same stuff . . . different day!” That is a response the child of God ought never give. It comes from someone who sees life from inside of a rut. (A rut, by the way, is nothing more than an open grave with both ends knocked out.) But this is not for you! In our passage for today we have before us what I believe is a word of eternal encouragement, regardless of where this message finds you today.

For many, the past is paralyzing, which is why I often say from the pulpit, “Learn from the past, but don’t live there!” When we cannot forget and rise above the former things, we are unable to focus on the new things God intends to do in our lives. We allow ourselves to be mired in a painful past — stuck in a rut — that is marked by unforgiveness, bitterness, betrayal, and regret.

Today’s passage provides us with the key that unlocks the door that opens to a new thing: focusing on the faithful One who has promised to do a new thing in our lives. Notice what God says next in the same verse: “I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert” (Isaiah 43:19). “The wilderness” represents any desolate and lonely place we have visited in the past – mentally, emotionally, physically, or spiritually. Eventually we all find ourselves wandering through such a wilderness. But God is telling us something that will change our perspective and ultimately our predicament – “I am doing a new thing!” God is healing our past wounds . . . breaking down strongholds . . . shining light into our darkness.

In all my years as a pastor, perhaps the greatest “new thing” I have seen God consistently doing in our lives is giving us a renewed, living hope . . . even when things seem utterly hopeless. That is the picture of rivers in the desert. God does what is impossible with man.

What “new thing” do you need in your life right now? Personally? Professionally? Relationally? Look up and see the heavens open right before your eyes, because your God is about to do a “new thing” in your life today. God is in the business of always doing a new thing!

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

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Our Set-Apart Savior

For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified. (John 17:19)

When Jesus said, “I sanctify myself,” we are not to understand it in the way that statement would apply to sinful humanity. Jesus was not talking about personal sanctification, for He had no sin. Rather, Jesus was making it clear that He was setting Himself apart for the work His Father in heaven had sent Him to do.

Read on, and be greatly encouraged today!

Jesus consecrated Himself completely to the service of God. He willingly separated Himself from His throne in heaven to take on flesh and dwell among us. He willingly separated Himself from His inherent power as the second person of the Trinity and served completely in the power of the Holy Spirit. Yet it is important to understand that Jesus never separated Himself from the society of sinners. To be sure, Jesus was completely separated from fallen and sinful human nature, but He never separated from human beings.

When we read through the gospel accounts regarding the ministry of our Lord, it was the ones whom society disregarded and discarded that Jesus invested in. He did that so frequently and consistently that the religious leaders continually condemned Him for it.

When the teachers of the law who were Pharisees saw him eating with the sinners and tax collectors, they asked his disciples: “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?” (Mark 2:16)

In the religious Jewish society, the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law avoided sinful society like they would people with the plague. As strict adherents to the Law, they believed that being near sinners would defile them. What they resolutely refused to acknowledge was their own sin and their own need of a Savior. Jesus replied to the Pharisees’ indignant question by saying, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners” (Mark 2:17). Now, Jesus certainly was not saying that those religious leaders were in any way righteous. Rather, they were blind to their own sin because of their religious traditions and the wrongheaded belief that they could attain righteousness through their own efforts.

Is it not a great encouragement to know that Jesus came to save sinners just like me and you? And is it not an even greater encouragement to know that Jesus does not require us to change or “clean up our act” before coming to Him for salvation? Jesus meets all of us sinners right where we are, refusing to separate Himself from us, and then He graciously leads us to where He is calling us to be.

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

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Comforting Cosmic Contrasts

He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion. (Philippians 1:6)

I pray that the contrasts I will share with you today will be a source of great comfort to you, because they come from the God who is faithful to finish what He has begun.

In the beginning everything was very good. God placed His special creation, the two who were His image-bearers, in a perfect paradise garden, and all was well until that terrible day when Adam and Eve chose to turn away from serving God to satisfy themselves. Sin stained everything and brought God’s judgment on the entire creation. But even in the midst of judgment, we see His mercy and grace expressed in His promise to redeem those sinful rebels on the run.

Now, against that backdrop of amazing grace, let’s look at those comforting cosmic contrasts:

When you eat this, you will die (2:17)No more death (21:4)
You will experience intense pain (3:16) No more pain (21:4)
I have placed a curse on the ground (3:17)No more curse (22:3)
Adam and Eve banished from God’s presence (3:23) We will see His face (22:4)

The sinless life, sacrificial death, and supernatural resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ reversed the curse that resulted from sin. Because of what Jesus has done for us, everything has changed. The original heavens and earth that God created will be recreated as the new heavens and the new earth. And the most stunning contrast of all is that by trusting in Christ alone for our salvation, we have been raised from death to life. And it’s not just us! In the beginning there were just two people, but in the end there will be a multitude that no one can number (Revelation 7:9), and there is no possibility that we can ever be separated from our Savior because of sin (Romans 8:38-39).

Are these cosmic contrasts not a comfort to you today? But remember, until we cross the Jordan and reach the other side, these contrasts will not be experienced in their completed form. We will still deal with the effects of the fall in the Garden, and that means we will deal with sin – our own sin and the sin of others – as well as the fall of the creation itself. So keep these cosmic contrasts in view as you continue fighting the good fight of faith, knowing that He who began this good work will one day bring it to completion . . . and on that day the comforting cosmic contrasts will be consummated.

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

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The Almighty Always Answers

“What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked him. (Mark 10:51)

Passing through Jericho, the popular resort city rebuilt by Herod the Great, Jesus and His disciples encountered a blind beggar named Bartimaeus. It was not uncommon in the ancient world to encounter beggars who had a variety of different reasons for begging. Any significant physical disability would have made it difficult to find work, as most work in that day required manual labor. Bartimaeus was begging due to blindness, an affliction which many people believed to be a punishment from God levied because of sin. (You’ll recall that Job’s three friends immediately assumed that the terrible tragedies that suddenly befell Job were brought on my some sin in Job’s life.) Jesus would dispel this misconception when His disciples asked this very question about a man who had been born blind (John 9:2).

Blind Bartimaeus called out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me,” identifying Jesus as the promised Messiah. Bartimaeus asked in faith and Jesus answered. But notice the response from Jesus that is highlighted by our verse for today: “What do you want me to do for you?” It would seem obvious that Bartimaeus wanted to be able to see, but Jesus asked a clarifying question. What kind of mercy did the man desire? Did he want some money or food? Was he merely looking for another hand-out? In asking Bartimaeus, “What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus was moving the man beyond his broken condition to his blessed cure.

“Rabbi, I want to see,” Bartimaeus replied (Mark 10:51).

It’s important to keep in mind what had happened just before this encounter with the blind man. Jesus had asked the very same question of His disciples James and John, and their response was to ask for positions of honor in heaven. To this Jesus replied, “You don’t know what you are asking” (Mark 10:38). You see, James and John were also afflicted with a broken condition, which was evidenced by their desire for positions of honor. They too needed Jesus to lead them beyond their broken condition, and that is exactly what this clarifying question is designed to do.

Regardless of where this message finds you today, how will you answer Jesus when He asks you, “What do you want me to do for you?” Remember, ask and He will answer, but, as it was with James and John, who had demonstrated that they were every bit as blind as Bartimaeus when they asked for the wrong blessing, Jesus will always answer with what you need . . . but not necessarily with what you want.   

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

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Hard Soil Softeners

A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path. (Matthew 13:3-4)

The soil of the sanctified life can get a bit hard from time to time. It can happen when we face unexpected challenges. It can happen when we face unmet expectations. It can happen when we encounter unforeseen loss. Life is hard; it can, from time to time, harden us. So we must always be on the lookout for any signs of “hard soil” in our hearts and allow God to till it with the truths of the Gospel. Below are two simple steps to take that will help the process of softening hard soil in our hearts.


The first step is to take time for self-reflection. Set aside to let the Scriptures search your heart and uncover any areas that may be growing cold, distant, or hard. We must first identify where the hard soil is before we can go to work on softening it.

Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. (Psalm 139:23-24)

In this passage David was asking God to make sure that his hatred for his enemies was not man-centered, but God-centered. David was zealous for the justice of God, and he wanted God to point him in the direction of any wrong motives so that God could change them.


The second step is to let the Lord do His work in softening our hard soil by digging down into the depths of our hearts through the truths of Scripture.

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. (Psalm 51:10)

Here David was asking God to excavate his heart, which had been hardened through his sins of adultery and murder. He knew it would take the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit to till the hard soil so that God could then begin to plant new and better thoughts and desires.

When we read the parable of the soils (Matthew 13:3-8) we must understand that, unlike our paved roads today, most of the roads in Jesus’ day were hardened, dirt-packed paths. The more they were traveled on, the harder they became. The consequences were clear: When the “seed” of the Word of God is distributed, some of those seeds fell on that hardened surface and was not absorbed; “The birds came and ate it up” (Matthew 13:5).

Perhaps you have been trampled on by the difficulties or disappointments of life. Don’t let the birds steal the seed of the Word that have been planted in your heart. Look to Jesus, and He will soften the soil of your heart; the seed will take root and produce new fruit.

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

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Moonbeam Believers

Let your light shine before men. (Matthew 5:16)

The moon is a wonderful picture of a Christian. Just like the moon, which has no light of its own and reflects the light of the sun, Christians have no light of their own; they are to reflect the light of the Son. Read on and be encouraged today!

We live in a very dark world that desperately needs to see the light. Now, there is natural light that is needed to sustain physical life and there is the supernatural Light that is needed to sustain eternal life. Jesus Christ is the Light of the World; when we are in Christ, we are given the great privilege of reflecting His light for all the world to see (2 Corinthians 3:18). But there are two cosmic conditions that we see in nature which we must guard against in our own lives to make sure we do not obscure His light in any way from those who need to see it.

Solar Eclipse – When the moon comes between the sun and the earth, the moon blocks the light of the sun. This is the picture of the Christian who gets in the way of God, boasting, “Look at me and all I have done!” This person is building a monument to man’s glory, not God’s glory; he or she is no longer shining the reflected light of the Son. As the moon is the lesser light, we must remember we too are the lesser light. “Therefore, as it is written: ‘”‘Let him who boasts boast in the Lord'” (1 Corinthians 1:31).

Lunar Eclipse – When the earth comes between the sun and the moon, the earth blocks the light of the sun. This is the perfect picture of worldliness. Jesus warned us in the parable of the soils not to be “the man who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke it, making it unfruitful” (Matthew 13:22). When the cares of this world capture our hearts and we get bogged down in the things of this world, we no longer reflect the glorious light of the Son.  

If we are going to be the moon God intends us to be and avoid what I call the believer’s blackout, we must keep our focus directly on the Son. By fixing our eyes on the Author and Perfecter of our faith, we will reflect His light into a dark world that needs Jesus for healing and sanity.

Let me offer you a final word of encouragement before we close. We are all different; thus we simply need to be the person God intends us to be and not try to be someone else. So if you are being yourself when reflecting the light of Jesus and you make some waves along the way, don’t fret about a negative response or let it water down your witness. The moon makes waves every day! Be a moonbeam believer and reflect the Son; what the moon is to the physical world, you are to the spiritual world.

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

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Happy 30th Anniversary, Kim

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. (1 Corinthians 13:4-8)

Dear Kim,

I wish I had the right words to express how I truly feel in my heart after 30 years in God’s holy covenant of marriage with you. Some years were easy. Others were hard. We both know that I am not easy to live with. But I count every year with you as the greatest gift God has given me after salvation.

God blessed us with four incredible children: Brock, Jenna, Katie, and Tank. We have seen His powerful hand working miracles in each one of their lives. God has multiplied that blessing with Brock’s fiancé, Meg, and Katie’s boyfriend, Brandon, both bringing their own special blessings into our family that has absolutely rocked my world. What an incredible privilege of being dad to all of them! This past Christmas, game night was filled with the joy and laughter of the Lord unlike anything I have ever experienced. My heart overflowed with praise to God and thanksgiving to you as the greatest mother in the world.

God has given us the grace to always team up together and never give up, and for that I am eternally grateful. You have been my best friend and my one true love in this life. I know that there have been too many times throughout our marriage when I have not demonstrated the patient, kind, selfless love that God calls us to, and for that I am truly sorry. I don’t know how many more anniversaries God will give us, but I do know this: For whatever time is left, I vow once again, as I did 30 years ago today, to love you with all my heart — for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, for as long as we both shall live. To God be the glory for the incredible gift of being your husband!

I love you, Kim. As we celebrate this special day, I want to offer up the following prayer to the One who has kept us faithful to Him and to each other throughout all these years together.

Gracious Jesus,

Thank you for your love, mercy, and grace that has been sanctifying our marriage for the past 30 years. Without you sitting on the throne of our lives and always getting the last word, we would have ended up as another sad statistic. In those moments when we thought we had reached rock bottom, it was you who reminded us that you are the Rock we were standing on. I pray that you strengthen the bonds of our love for you and for each other in order to accomplish your purpose for marriage: to put the Gospel on display and to point others — especially our children — to you. As you laid down your life for us, help me to lay down my life for Kim — and in so doing, lift her up to your throne of grace as the cherished wife she is, bringing all honor, glory, and praise to your great name. Amen.

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Patience? Or Folly?

Whoever is patient has great understanding, but one who is quick-tempered displays folly. (Proverbs 14:29)

Did you hear the story about the man who went to his doctor to be tested for patience and the results came back negative? Those who know me best will tell you that I am that man far more often than I would care to admit. There seems to be nothing harder to do than to wait on God’s perfect timing in our imperfect lives.

Impatience is harmful in so many ways. It harms us physically. It harms us emotionally. It harms us mentally. And it harms us spiritually. Every relationship in our lives is negatively impacted by our impatience. Our Scripture verse for today show us how impatience can turn into the folly of man-centered, unrighteous, sinful anger. Yet there is great hope for all of us who struggle with impatience.

The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. (Galatians 5:22-23)

Patience from a biblical perspective bears up under a burden and remains steadfast in the midst of trying and difficult circumstances. Patience is the power to live totally surrendered to the will of God, especially when His will makes no sense to us. And this power is given to us by the indwelling Holy Spirit. The patient person keeps focused on Christ, not his or her circumstances. The patient person lives in the light of eternity, knowing that God is working all things together for the good of those who love Him. The patient person leaves room for God to work in His way, in His time, and for His ultimate glory. In others words, the patient person lets God be God!

Is your life marked by patience or folly? Remember, patience does not come naturally to us. We are impatient by sinful nature, both vertically with God and horizontally with the people in our lives . . . even with ourselves. That is why we must keep Jesus on the throne of our lives, allowing Him to work His will in His way and in His timing, knowing that He who began a good work in us will one day bring it to completion.

The popular saying, “Patience is a virtue” is true. Whatever you might be facing today that is testing your patience, take it to Jesus and He will give you everything you need to bear up under it with freedom, joy, and faithfulness to Him.

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

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