Sustaining Strength

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How often our strength runs out! “The spirit is willing,” our Lord said bluntly, “but the body is weak” (Matthew 26:41). I know I’m not the only one who would utter a hearty “Amen” to that statement!

And yet, time and time again, Scripture reminds us of the supernatural strength that God gives to us to sustain us through life.  Here are just a few verses to encourage you today:

The Lord will give strength to His people. (Psalm 29:11)

The God of Israel Himself gives strength and power to the people. (Psalm 68:35)

He gives strength to the weary. And to him who lacks might He increases power. (Isaiah 40:29)

I [the Lord] will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. (Isaiah 41:10)

With whom my hand will establish; my arm also will strengthen him. (Psalm 89:21)

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:13)

The Lord is faithful, and He will strengthen and protect you from the evil one. (2 Thessalonians 3:3)

The strength of the Lord is a sustaining strength. What God is calling you to do this day, He is giving you the sustaining strength in which to do it. God never sends without supplying! Here is what Charles Spurgeon has to say about this strength:

The same God who directs the earth in its orbit, who feeds the burning furnace of the sun, and trims the lamps of heaven, has promised to supply thee with daily strength. While He is able to uphold the universe, dream not that He will prove unable to fulfill His own promises.

Because God is the same yesterday, today, and forevermore, you can count on His sustaining strength. God gave His sustaining strength to Joseph, who was in prison 13 years before God raised him up to lead His people Israel. God gave His sustaining strength to His people who were in bondage for over 400 years in Egypt. God gave His sustaining strength to Moses to lead the people out of bondage and through the wilderness for 40 years. God gave His sustaining strength to Daniel in the lion’s den and to Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the fiery furnace. God gave sustaining strength to Mary and Joseph as the earthly parents of the promised Messiah. God gave sustaining strength to Paul as he wrote much of the New Testament while in chains.

And God has given you all the sustaining strength you need to do all He is calling you to do! Never think for a single moment that God has changed over the centuries. His promises are yes and amen in Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 1:20). God has brought you this far. Do you think He will stop short of accomplishing His purposes in you? Remember, Omnipotence cannot out-promise Himself; He is ready, willing, and able to ignite your fire of faith with a flame of sustaining strength that will never go out.

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

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“Real” Real Estate

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If you are familiar with the real estate industry, you know the real estate agents’ mantra: “Location, location, location!” The phrase means that location is by far and away the most important factor in determining the value of properties and homes. The value of two properties that are virtually identical in every other respect can differ immensely simply due to their location.

Well, I want to encourage you today with a word from our Lord regarding the greatest location in the cosmos for real estate. Jesus has assured us, “I go to prepare a place for you” (John 14:2). And the apostle John described that place to us:

Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. (Revelation 21:1)

However real we think our real estate is on this side of the grave, Jesus tells us that all of it is passing away, and we will one day inherit a brand new earth and heaven. At that time, location will no longer be a factor in valuing our real estate, because there will be infinite value in every location, simply because our Lord will be there. Regardless of how great our place here may be, we are still living east of Eden. We currently experience only a shadow of the eternal substance that has been promised to us. As the writer of Hebrews tells us, “You knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions” (Hebrews 10:34).

Regardless of where you live—whether you are out in the street, squatting in a shack by the tracks, or reclining in a mansion within a gated community—your future location in the new heavens and the new earth has something you can’t get on this side of the grave: permanence. Even now, you experience this truth at some level because of the promise Jesus has given to you. The only real real estate is that property that has been bought for us by the blood of the Lamb and prepared by the Prince of Peace.

Think about it this way: should not the thought of our eternal estate in the new heavens and the new earth shake us from our slumber in the shadow real estate we currently occupy? What we have been promised in paradise can never be taken away from us. What we have today we can lose in countless ways, from financial reversal to a fire or natural disaster that razes our home to the ground. But what awaits us is the only real real estate in the cosmos . . . and it can never be taken away because of the One who holds it in His nail-scarred hands.

“Location, location, location” from an eternal perspective tells us that regardless of the location that we occupy in the new heavens and new earth, its value will be beyond measure. Why? Because our Lord will be present everywhere, all the time, in the real estate we have been redeemed to receive.

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

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Worthless Weapons of War

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Do you know that the weapons that our enemy, Satan, the accuser of the brethren, employs against us are absolutely and utterly worthless? It’s true, and I want to encourage you with that truth today as it was proclaimed by the prophet Isaiah.

No weapon forged against you will prevail. (Isaiah 54:17)

Notice what Isaiah did not say. He did not say, “Most weapons forged against you will prevail” or “Some weapons forged against you will prevail” or even “One weapon forged against you will prevail.” Instead, He declared:

NO WEAPON FORGED AGAINST YOU WILL PREVAIL!

There is not a weapon forged in all the universe that can come up against you and prevail in the fight. To be sure, our enemy is busily forging one weapon after another, and he has countless flaming arrows at his disposal to hurl at us. The devil is relentless in pressing his fight against the saints. Yet regardless of how many weapons the enemy wields, not one of them can prevail against us . . . unless we allow it!

So . . . how are you doing in your battle against the enemy, who comes to steal your joy, to destroy your godly testimony, and to kill your desire to press on toward the goal? Don’t focus solely on the biggest weapons in Satan’s arsenal, like disease or death or financial downfall. Think for a moment about the weapon of the tongue and how it wages war against you with its slander, gossip, accusation, and ridicule. These “poisoned darts” can do more damage to us than all the others put together if we let them. And that is why we need to keep the truths of the Gospel in view, knowing that our Lord endured everything—so much more than we could ever endure—and overcame it all.

The psalmist reminds us that we have no reason to rise up and fight against our enemies who are wagging their tongues at us, because our God will silence them in His way and in His timing. We need only trust Him and take Him at His word.

The mouths of liars will be silenced. (Psalm 63:11)

Remember, the enemy spoke all kinds of falsehoods against the Captain of our salvation. They called Him a drunkard, a blasphemer, and an insurrectionist. They mocked and laughed at Him as He hung on the cross. How did He respond? “Father forgive them for they know not what they do!”

May that spirit of grace and forgiveness be the confession of our lives, knowing that no weapon forged in the fire of filthiness will ever prevail against us, because every weapon the enemy wields against us is utterly worthless. We have God’s Word on it!

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

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Unimaginable

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I have recently been in one of those seasons of serving at memorial services. One of the songs that is frequently used is Mercy Me’s “I Can Only Imagine.” Each time I hear it, the refrain really hits my heart:

Surrounded by your glory what will my heart feel?

Will I dance for you, Jesus, or in awe of you be still?

Will I stand in your presence or to my knees will I fall?

Will I sing hallelujah? Will I be able to speak at all?

I can only imagine . . . I can only imagine!

In an environment where emotions are already running high, these lovely lyrics amp things up even higher. Often, when the song has ended, I will take everyone back to the Scriptures and these incredible words from the inspired pen of the apostle Paul in his letter to the church at Corinth:

No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him. (1 Corinthians 2:9)

The apostle Paul is reminding the believer of the truths of the Gospel under the headings of “Already” and “Not Yet.” The Christian believer already has the truths of the Gospel in view, things which the unbelieving world knows nothing about because those who do not have the Spirit of God dwelling in them do not have eyes to see, or ears to hear, or minds to comprehend God’s truth (1 Corinthians 2:14). And yet the wisdom of the world is no match for the wisdom of the Word, who became flesh and dwelt among us.

Under the banner of “Not Yet,” Paul reminds the believer that the best is yet to come. No matter how well you see and understand the Gospel today, it is still somewhat shadowed and dim, even to the eye of faith. But one day, when we reach the other side, we will see, hear, and know at the deepest level. When we are surrounded by the glory of our God, we shall stand before Him and know fully, even as we are fully known by Him (1 Corinthians 13:12).

What a comfort Paul gives us in our present state: to look forward to the promised state to come! Indeed, it is unimaginable. God, according to His good pleasure, rains down blessing after blessing in the life of the believer—not because of anything we have done, but because of His kindness and mercy.

Please understand that I am not referring here to the supposed physical blessings, such as health and wealth, which are promised by the teachers of the so-called “prosperity gospel.” I am speaking of the true promise of Scripture, that every spiritual blessing is found in Christ and available for every believer to experience moment by moment, because they have, by grace through faith, been given eyes to see, ears to hear, and minds to conceive the “Already” and “Not Yet” promises of God.

And as awesome as it is to live in the truth of the Gospel today, I can only imagine what it will be like when we get to the other side and stand in His presence!

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

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Authorized To Ask

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Of all the privileges and benefits that are part of our salvation, perhaps the most amazing is the fact that we have been authorized to ask for anything in the name of Jesus. Marinate on that truth for a moment and you will be blessed beyond measure.

You may ask for anything in my name, and I will do it. (John 14:14)

What a comfort that is . . . to know we can ask for anything in the name of Jesus and it will be done for us. Now, that “anything” is not a blank check. Jesus was saying that if we ask for anything that aligns with the will and nature of God, the answer will be “Yes!”

When we attach the name of Jesus to our asking, we know that we must not submit selfish petitions. When self is sitting on the throne of life, all of our asking will be in vain. But when we invite Jesus to take His rightful place on the throne of our lives, we can come to the throne of grace and ask anything in His name, knowing that our God is pleased to give it to us. Those who understand this truth by way of personal experience can hear the sound of the Lord saying . . .

Open your mouth wide and I will fill it. (Psalm 81:10)

It is the good pleasure of our great God to bless His children. Like any father, He loves to hear from His children, and He is delighted to bless us when our petitions have the name of Jesus attached to them.

So . . . what have you been asking for lately? I pray it has been more than that God would bless your food! Know that His promise to us is all-encompassing. It covers those things that are small and those things that are great. Anything we can rightly attach the name of Jesus to, we can submit to the throne of grace, knowing Jesus is pleased to do it.

Most of us have dropped a name to create some kind of advantage or to expand the reach of some opportunity. We were given permission to use someone’s name with the thought that it would help our cause. Well, here we have the King of kings and Lord of lords essentially saying, “Drop my name whenever you enter the throne room and know that my Father will be eager to meet you in your deepest place of need!”

WOW! It’s almost hard to believe! But it is true, and the child of God can freely, confidently and continually storm the gates of heaven in the name of Jesus . . . because we have been authorized to ask!

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

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More Than a Pep Talk

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We all need encouragement. Regardless of our station in life, from time to time we need our hearts to be lifted. There is nothing like a good “pep talk” from someone who cares about us to recharge our spiritual and emotional batteries and help us refocus our energies.

But as good as a pep talk can be, I want to share something with you today that is so much more than a pep talk because it comes from the lips of our Lord.

I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. (John 16:33)

These are the final words Jesus spoke to His disciples before He offered His great High Priestly Prayer and was subsequently arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane. Fully aware of His impending torture and death, Jesus was more concerned about making sure His disciples were ministered to. So He gave them something far greater than a mere pep talk; when Jesus commanded the disciples to take heart, He was also giving them the power with which to do it.

For all those who are in Christ, here is something that we must remember:

Greater is the power in you than any power that comes up against you!

This power, of course, is the promised Holy Spirit that Jesus would send after His crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension. He had promised never to leave the disciples alone and to give them a peace that passes all understanding. Even in the face of the trials that awaited them, they would know, by way of His resurrection, that He had indeed overcome the world.

To be sure, on that Good Friday morning, as Jesus hung on that cruel cross it looked like the world had won its dark victory. The world mocked and laughed and gambled for His garments. Finally, in unimaginable anguish and suffering, Jesus cried out, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me!” To many of those who heard him, this was confirmation that God had abandoned Jesus to die like a common criminal on the cruelest instrument of death in the world at that time. But it was only Good Friday . . . and Sunday morning was coming!

The apparent defeat of Jesus hanging and dying on a cross was the doorway into the greatest victory the world has ever known. On that first Easter morning, a dead man got up and walked out of His grave; His name is Jesus Christ. And that is why what Jesus has to say to us is always more than a pep talk. Jesus speaks life and imparts life to us moment by moment, and He reminds us that no matter what difficulties we face in this life, we are to take heart . . . because He has overcome it all.

May that truth set us all free!

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

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Happy 18th Birthday, Jenna!

jenna-laughingToday you turn 18.  We cannot tell you how much joy and happiness you have brought into our family as our second of four children, and first of two daughters.  Family and friends would often tell us about this day and how quickly it would arrive.  We really didn’t believe just how right they were.  So today, on your 18th birthday, Mom and I want to pause and tell you just how proud we are of the godly daughter you have become, and how incredibly thankful we are to God for giving us the privilege of being your parents.

Unspeakable joy would define the past 18 years.  One of our earliest memories is the special time we shared watching your favorite movie when you were little – Dumbo!  Oh how I (Dad) loved to sing along when the song – Baby Mine – came on, gently rocking you in my arms.  We remember how we could not come home from Disney World without a stuffed Dumbo in your arms (and your bedroom closet testifies to this truth).

As you were growing up with your older brother Brock, we saw the incredible competitive nature that was developing within you.  For you and Brock, EVERYTHING was a competition.  Brock played baseball so you wanted to play baseball and were the only girl on your T-Ball team.  Brock played soccer so you wanted to play soccer.  Brock was in karate so you wanted to be in karate, both of you going all the way to black belt.  We will never forget after one of the US Open Martial Arts competitions in Orlando, when you took first prize in your division for forms and fighting at the age of 8.  On the way home, Brock spotted the Putt Putt place and ask if we could stop and play, so we did.  What happened next we will never forget, especially your brother Brock.  After Brock took the first putt you stepped up and took the second putt.  The only difference was Brock actually putted, and you took a full swing, hitting the ball out of sight, and whacking Brock on the top of the head.  So much for the Putt Putt competition.

Then volleyball became your sport of choice and we remember you telling us that was the only sport you wanted to participate in as a 6th grader with the hopes of one day playing at the next level.  You are now entering your senior season as one of the captains of your team and in November, will be signing your commitment letter to Stetson University to play Division I volley ball, both indoors and on the sand (and you will be once again, joining your older brother Brock who will then be a 3rd year student at Stetson on a music scholarship).  The only thing stronger than your competitive drive is your commitment to doing whatever it takes to be your absolute best.

We will never forget the conversation at the dinner table when we talked about being a church-planting family.  Brock was excited.  Katie wanted to be famous.  And the Tank just wanted to make sure we would have plenty of snacks to eat.  You, on the other hand said these words through a veil of tears, ”Daddy, I really don’t want to leave all of my friends from our church.”  Even though we would only be a few miles up the road, we knew the truth and reality of that statement.  But, as always, you accepted the challenge of church planting and today, four years later, many of your friends have joined you at The Cross.  In fact, last night at youth group, I am told the group of 43 high school students sang happy birthday to you!  And now, Mom and I cannot describe the overwhelming joy we experience in seeing you playing the drums on the praise and worship team on some Sunday mornings.  God is so good.

With these as just a few highlights, let us close with what is most important to us: your love and commitment to Jesus.  Growing up in the church, our greatest concern as your parents was to make sure that your relationship with Jesus was personal and that your faith was your own.  As John said, “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.”  Mom and I are so thankful to God for giving us this kind of joy.  You are an incredible daughter of God, and as beautiful as you are on the outside, you are even more beautiful on the inside.  You truly understand and live out these twin truths:

Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting: but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.  Proverbs 31:30

Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. 4 Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gently and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.  1 Peter 3:3-4

This really is true for you.  You do fear (love and reverence) the Lord and you do have such a gentle and quiet spirit.  Over the years, we have watched your faith in Jesus grow and mature and your relationships with your friends deepen.  We are so very thankful to God for these 18 years and know one thing for certain . . . regardless of what the future holds, we know Jesus is holding on to you and will never let you go!  And for Mom and me, that is enough to know.

Happy 18th Birthday Jenna.  We love you so very much!

Dad & Mom

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