The Father’s “Face Time”

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God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness, made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.  (2 Corinthians 4:6)

When I was younger, “face time” referred to the amount of time you would spend meeting with someone face-to-face or the amount of time someone would have when appearing on television. Today, however, “face time” is something my youngest son Tank encourages me to do with Brock, our oldest, who is away at Stetson University. Many of you know that FaceTime was introduced with the iPhone 4 in 2010 as an Internet video calling application that is used by millions the world over.

As cool as the iPhone FaceTime is in modern day communication, there is a “face-time” that is infinitely cooler . . . because it is rooted in Jesus Christ. In the Old Testament days, the presence of God dwelt among His people during the Exodus, beginning with the pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night (Exodus 13). This manifestation of God’s presence was followed by His filling the Holy of Holies in the tabernacle during the time of Moses and the temple in the time of Solomon. But the sins of the people caused the glory of God’s visible presence to depart from Israel.

But this all changed when Jesus showed up!

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14)

When John said, “We have seen his glory,” he was essentially speaking about the Father’s face time, which was displayed in the face of the living Word who became flesh and dwelt among men. Jesus Christ is the visible manifestation of the Father in heaven; when you have seen the Son, you have seen the Father. “No one has ever seen God,” John wrote, “but God the One and Only, who is at the Father’s side, has made him known” (John 1:18).

The Father’s face time is so much better than the face time we experience with modern technology! Eventually my FaceTime calls with Brock must end, but this is not so with Jesus. Once we have made the deep connection with our Lord Jesus Christ, by grace through faith, we have been promised continual access to God twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. God’s glory shines brightly in the face of Christ; it never fades and it never goes away.

The key to enjoying this glorious access to God is to keep the line open on our side of the communication. Through reading the Word, our prayer life, and active participation in the life of our local church, we keep that connection strong and find all the grace and strength we need to do everything God is calling us to do . . . through the Father’s face time that is found only in Jesus Christ.

So . . . how is your face time connection with Jesus? If you have been feeling a bit disconnected lately, remember that He has promised never to log off—not today, nor tomorrow, not for all eternity. Log back in! He is waiting to hear from you.

Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me. (Revelation 3:20)

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

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The Pit of Pride

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Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.  (Proverbs 16:18)

Here is a great question to get this day started: Do you think you have a problem with the sin of pride at any level of your life? If you answered with an emphatic “No,” it is likely you are very proud of that fact!

You get the point; the sin of pride is something we all struggle with . . . all of the time. Pride was the foundation upon which the first sin was built, and it is the foundation upon which all of your sins and mine are built too.

It’s important to note that sinful pride can be difficult to detect at times. Do you remember when Peter denied Jesus on the night He was betrayed—not once, but three times—just as our Lord had prophesied? Pride did indeed go before a fall here; Peter responded to our Lord’s prediction of his denials with these words:

Even if all fall away on account of you, I never will. . . . Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.” (Matthew 26:33, 35)

At first glance, it might not seem like sinful pride had taken up residence in Peter’s heart. We might think that Peter’s love for Christ simply prompted him to declare that he would stand up for His Lord no matter what he had to face. Yet upon closer inspection, we see Peter demeaning all the other disciples with his assertion that “Even if they all fall away . . . I never will!” In other words, “They may be weak, but I am strong; they may waver but I am the rock; they may be marked by fear, but I am faithful.”

You know the rest of the story. Peter denied the Lord three times before the rooster crowed—just as Jesus said he would—and Peter went away and wept bitter tears of shame and remorse. Peter had trusted in his own strength, rather than the strength of his Lord.

So how do we begin the climb out of the pit of pride? By trusting in God’s Word, just as Peter learned to do from his bitter experience.

Who makes you different from anyone else? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?  (1 Corinthians 4:7)

Paul is telling us that the key that unlocks the door leading out of the pit of pride is found in the understanding that everything we are and everything we have is a gift from our God. EVERYTHING! “From him and through him and to him are all things,” Paul wrote elsewhere. “To him be the glory forever! Amen” (Romans 11:36).

Your strength is a gift from God. Your faith is a gift from God. Your success in anything is a gift from God. Keeping that truth in its proper perspective will keep you out of the pit of pride. Scripture tells us that it is perfectly alright to boast . . . but not about what you can do. Boast about what Jesus has already done on your behalf and will continue doing for your good and His glory.

This is what the Lord says:

“Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom

or the strong man boast of his strength

or the rich man boast of his riches,

but let him who boasts boast about this:

that he understands and knows me,

that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness,

justice and righteousness on earth,

for in these I delight,”

declares the Lord. (Jeremiah 9:23-24)

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

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Everlasting Eraser

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“I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more.”  (Isaiah 43:25)

If you were to meditate on and marinate in that verse from the prophet Isaiah for a even just a few moments . . . what kind of positive impact do you think that would have in your life right now?

One of Satan’s sharpest strikes against the saints of God is to cause them to focus on their past sins rather than their present Savior . . . a Savior who has promised to forgive and forever forget. That’s right! Our God has an EVERLASTING ERASER. When God forgives, He forgets . . . over and over and over again. He doesn’t “forget” like you and I forget where we left our sunglasses or the remote control . . . only to remember again later.

Check this out for a little extra encouragement today.

You will again have compassion on us; you will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea. (Micah 7:19)

Picture yourself on a boat out on the open ocean; you inadvertently knock your keys over the side and watch them slowly disappear as they sink to the bottom of the ocean. You know that your keys are lost forever. Well, Micah’s picture of God’s everlasting eraser is far more powerful. God does not simply drop our sins overboard; rather, He hurls them into the depths of the sea, never to bring them up against us again.

It is Satan, the accuser of the brethren who continues flinging our sins in our faces to shift our focus away from God’s forgiveness and onto our failures. But this is not for you! Corrie ten Boom famously said, “God takes our sins—the past, present, and future—and dumps them in the sea and puts up a sign that says NO FISHING ALLOWED.”

Even a cursory glance through the Bible will show you just how big God’s everlasting eraser really is. Moses struck down an Egyptian, hid his body, and then fled; if he did not understand God’s everlasting eraser, he never would have answered his call to go back into Egypt as the deliverer of God’s people. Peter promised never to leave his Lord and then denied Him three times; if he did not understand God’s everlasting eraser, he never would have answered his call to preach and pastor the first century church. Paul referred to himself as the chief of sinners; if he did not understand God’s everlasting eraser, he never would have answered his call to pen more than half of the New Testament epistles.

So what about you? Do you understand this truth? Do you know deep down in your heart of hearts that God has nailed your every sin to the cross . . . and therefore has forgiven all of them? Is there anything holding you back from answering the call God has placed in your life right now? Is there a past you are living in rather than learning from?

Remember, God is for you . . . so much so, He uses His everlasting eraser each day—placing your sins as far away from His remembrance as the east is from the west—to give you a fresh start in life each day. There is simply no telling what you could do to expand the kingdom of Christ if you would begin to live in this truth from this day forward!

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

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Choices…Not Chances!

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If serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods our ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord. (Joshua 24:15)

Life is all about choices. It has been wisely said, “You are because of God. But you are where you are because of the choices you have made in life.”

So . . . as you look at your life up to this point, where have your choices brought you?

The Bible is chock-full of examples of the consequences of choices . . . some good and some bad. For every person who has ever lived, except one—our Lord Jesus Christ—life consists of a mixture of both wise and foolish choices. Adam and Eve made both wise and foolish choices. Abraham . . . Moses . . . Peter . . . Paul  . . . all these great heroes of the faith made both wise and foolish choices. Today I want to encourage you with a wonderful example of wise choices and show how God blessed them in the life of Joseph. But first, let’s overview the story.

Joseph grew up in a typical Hebrew household. He had several brothers and his parents loved him dearly. Jacob, Joseph’s father, made a poor choice by showing favoritism to Joseph, causing Joseph’s brothers to become jealous and hateful toward him. When Joseph was 17 years old, his brothers’ resentment boiled over; they attacked Joseph and threw him into a well to die. Then they changed their minds and decided to profit from their evil; they pulled Joseph up out of the pit and sold him to traveling merchants on their way down into Egypt.

Joseph prospered in Egypt, however, and rose to the position of administrator in the house of Potiphar, the captain of the palace guard. Scripture tells us that Joseph was a handsome young man; Potiphar’s wife lusted after Joseph, repeatedly propositioning him, but Joseph refused to have anything to do her. Furious, Potiphar’s wife falsely accused Joseph of trying to rape her, and he was imprisoned for a crime he did not commit.

In prison, Joseph interpreted the dreams of Pharaoh’s chief baker and the forgetful cup-bearer, who did not tell Pharaoh about Joseph’s gift until two years later, when Pharaoh had a dream that no one could interpret. Pharaoh summoned Joseph, who, because of God’s gifting, rightly interpreted Pharaoh’s dreams of a coming severe famine. And so Joseph was elevated from the pit, by way of the prison, all the way into the palace and the position of Pharaoh’s prime minister, second in command in all of Egypt.

After the famine hit, Joseph’s brothers were sent by their father Jacob from the land of Canaan down to Egypt to buy food for the family. When they arrived, they had no idea it was their brother Joseph who was in this position of great authority and power under Pharaoh. Eventually Joseph revealed his true identity, and his brothers were terrified, remembering how they had schemed to kill Joseph and then lined their pockets by selling him into slavery. What would Joseph do? How would he avenge himself? But in an act of astonishing forgiveness, Joseph uttered some of the most memorable words in all the Old Testament, words which the Holy Spirit undoubtedly intended to point us toward the amazing grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. Joseph told his brothers:

You meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. So do not fear; I will provide for you and your little ones. (Genesis 50:20-21 ESV)

This is truly a remarkable story! Throughout his time in Egypt, Joseph might have cursed his God for seemingly abandoning him, and he certainly could have cursed his brothers for absolutely abandoning him. But he did not none of these things. Instead he chose the route of obedience, worship, and forgiveness. Joseph chose . . .

  • Acceptance over anger
  • Self-sacrifice over self-pity
  • Expanding God’s Kingdom over expanding his own kingdom
  • Forgiveness over bitterness

Because Joseph never took his eyes off of his God, he made the right choices in the areas that mattered most in life. Joseph accepted his situation from the hand of the Almighty. Joseph refused self-pity and instead allowed self-sacrifice to mark his life. Joseph could have expanded the cause of his own kingdom when Pharaoh raised him up to the position of prime minister of Egypt, but he remained focused on expanding the kingdom of God. And finally, with every reason to condemn his brothers for the years of hardship and bitterness they had subjected him to, Joseph forgave them and was ultimately used by God to save His people from the famine.

We too, are faced with choices every day. Some of our choices are wise and others are foolish. Some choices will bring glory to God and other choices will not. So let me close today with a simple question: “Whom do you choose to serve today . . . your Savior or yourself?”

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

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From Sadness to Gladness

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Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit to sustain me.  (Psalm 51:12)

These words came from the inspired pen of King David in what is often called “The Psalm of Repentance.” David had committed several truly wicked sins, including adultery with Bathsheba and sanctioning the murder of her husband. A number of months had passed since those events when the prophet Nathan was sent by God to confront David in his sin.

Oh, the blessings on a Nathan-like confrontation! God used Nathan to drive David to his knees and deliver perhaps the most magnificent prayer of penitence ever penned. David was finally and fully crushed under the weight of his sin, bringing a kind of cosmic sorrow into his life. Now he was living in the wake of his wickedness.

Make no mistake, sin may seem pleasurable for a season, but in the end it will always accomplish three things: it will blind us . . . bind us . . . and grind us into the ashes of utter defeat.

Nathan helped David see that the only way out was UP! First, David understood that, inasmuch as he had sinned against Bathsheba, her husband, and all of Israel, ultimately, his sin was against God. All sin is against God; sin is rebellion against the rule and reign of God. Just like Adam and Eve, whose sinful pride caused them to rebel against God’s command in the Garden of Eden, David’s sin was also rebellion against God, and it injured countless individuals who belonged to God. Once that truth seized David, he was ready for reconciliation and restoration.

David trusted that God could turn his cosmic sadness into God-centered gladness. This is true for every child of God. We all sin. We all rebel against our God. But we need not be buried under the weight of sin’s wickedness. The “joy of salvation” is not a one-time event in the life of the believer; it can and should be a daily, on-going experience. And we can trust our God to restore us to this joy when we humble ourselves before Him with a broken and contrite heart.

Is there anything you need to take to God today that is weighing you down? Going from sadness to gladness is not as difficult as you might think. Cry out like David, trusting that God will do for you what He has promised to do: to restore you to the joy of your salvation over and over and over again. We have his Word on it!

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.  (1 John 1:9)

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

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Winning The War Within

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I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it. (Romans 7:19-20)

And that is why we hate sin! We are in a constant struggle against sin and dealing with the warfare within. And note this: if the great apostle Paul was not immune to struggle with sin living within him, you and I certainly are not.

So how do we get better at winning the war within?

First, we give the struggle over to the Lord and cry out with the apostle Paul, “What a wretched man I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” And the answer? “Thanks be to God – through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:24-25).

Saint Augustine understood this war from his own internal struggle and penned these profound words:

By these links, as it were, a chain was I held, shackled with a hard bondage. So these my two wills—the one old, the other new, the one carnal, the other spiritual—contended together, and by their discord disturbed my soul.

Their discord disturbed my soul . . . This is the daily experience of every child of God. Inasmuch as sin no longer reigns over us because of the cross work of our Lord Jesus Christ, it still remains in us. We will contend with sin during every step on the stairway to heaven.

But sin need not keep us captive as a conquered victim! Jesus gave us probably the greatest weapon for winning the war within, and that weapon is clearly explained in Holy Scripture. All three Synoptic Gospels—Matthew, Mark, and Luke—chronicle Satan’s efforts to tempt Jesus after His forty-day wilderness experience, only to be defeated by Jesus’ use of the power of the Word of God to blunt Satan’s temptation and win the war within. Three times Satan dangled temptation, and three times Jesus quoted Scripture: “It is written,” our Lord said. “It is written . . . It is written.” The devil was defeated and finally left Jesus alone.

So . . . how often are you taking up “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Ephesians 6:17) in your battle against the temptations you face? Remember, if you are going to use the Word of God in your war against sin, you must know the Word of God. In other words, you must be in the Word of God daily so that the Word of God gets in you. Add to that a consistent prayer life and communion with the saints at your local church, and you have the spiritual weapons you need to slay sin and win the war that rages within.

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

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Three Keys To Kingdom Living – Pt. 3

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My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.  (James 1:19)

On Monday we began a three-part series of articles about three keys to kingdom living. I’ve said that these articles are not meant to encourage us to live a self-controlled life, but more specifically a “Savior-controlled” life. Part One presented the first key to kingdom living: being “quick to listen.” Part Two highlighted the second key to kingdom living: being “slow to speak.” Today we will conclude with a discussion of the third key: being “slow to become angry.”

KEY # 3 – Be slow to become angry!

To be sure, this third key flows out of the first two. When we are quick to listen and slow to speak, we will be slow to become angry, and that is a good thing . . . a very good thing indeed! Christian counselors report that more than half of their clients seek help with their inability to control their anger. This further confirms the truth of how poorly we are at being both quick to listen and slow to speak. Scripture often reminds us of the virtue of being slow to become angry:

A man’s wisdom gives him patience; it is to his glory to overlook an offense. (Proverbs 19:11)

Better a patient person than a warrior, one with self-control than one who takes a city. (Proverbs 16:32)

To be sure, there is a righteous anger, and we are right to express it. The challenge is that we are so broken, we often believe we are expressing righteous anger when in fact we are simply sinning with our man-centered anger. This is most often the case when we lash out at those who have differing opinions from us. Angry outbursts do nothing to advance our position and most often leave hurting hearts and seared souls in their wake. In addition, our inappropriate anger hinders us from hearing God’s leading.

In closing out this week, let me ask you one last time: On a scale of 1-10, how would you rate your ability to be slow to become angry? How would those closest to you rate you? The three keys to kingdom living—being quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry—are the keys that unlock the door leading to living the Savior-controlled life God is calling us to live. And that makes all the difference in the world!

Think about it this way: most of our conflicts and unhappiness would dissolve and disappear if we would surrender control of our lives to our Savior and consciously practice being quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry.

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

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