The Believer’s Bread

I am the bread of life. (John 6:35)

When Jesus fed the 5,000 men, plus women and children, He made the remarkable statement that “I am the bread of life.” Jesus had just given the people what they needed to sustain physical life — bread — and then He went on to tell them that He is the bread that came down from heaven and that whoever comes to him will never go hungry. Just as bread satisfies our physical hunger, Jesus, the true bread that came down from heaven, is the only One who can satisfy our spiritual hunger.

Now, don’t miss this! If you fast from food and refuse to eat your daily bread, over time you will grow weak and faint, and eventually you will die. It is no different when it comes to our relationship with Jesus. Just as we need our daily bread to sustain physical life, we must feast daily on Jesus to sustain physical life. We must come into His presence each day through prayer and the study of His Word; as we do that, the life of our Lord Jesus will flow into us and through us into the lives of others.

Feasting on Jesus will strengthen our faithfulness to Him and empower us to live the life God has called us to life. And when we have completed our ministry of service to Him and breathe our last, we will live on in eternity with Jesus and all the saints of God in the new heavens and the new earth.

How are things with you? Have you been feasting on the believer’s bread lately? The more you eat of Jesus, the more you will experience eternal life right here and right now. When we pray, “Give us this day our daily bread,” we must never confine that request to the physical. We must always and in every way rise to the level of our Lord and seek Him each day, all day, early and late and at all times in between; when we do that, we will experience the abundant life that we have been promised in Jesus.

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

Leave a comment

Filed under General

From Grief To Gladness

You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy. (John 16:20)

When we understand what our Lord was telling His disciples then and His disciples today, we recognize that we have been given a promise of unimaginable blessing! Jesus had told His disciples that He was going the way of death, but He promised that they would see Him again after a little while. His death would lead to His resurrection, demonstrating His ultimate power over the entire universe, including the last enemy, death. The searing grief the disciples would experience on Good Friday when Jesus was crucified, dead, and buried, would turn into unimaginable gladness on that first Easter morning when Jesus walked out of the grave alive and well.

We always have a choice in how we will deal with what is going in our lives. We can live frustrated and defeated lives or we can live faithful and victorious lives, which we will do by keeping our focus on our Lord Jesus. Grief is real, and it is right and normal to grieve when we are facing the inevitable storms that are part of life in this fallen, broken world. But we do not grieve as those who have no hope. We hope in the One who conquered sin, Satan, and death. We trust that He is in control of every detail of our lives. When we fix our eyes on Jesus, we will rise above the circumstances we are facing in life, because we are trusting in our Lord’s promise to turn our grief into gladness.

Remember, the power that is at work within you is greater than any power this world can bring against you. By trusting in Jesus and depending upon Him through every set of circumstances we face in life, we can rest in the promise He gave to His disciples 2,000 years ago: No one will take away our joy.

Give every grief to God; in His time and in His way, He will turn it all to gladness.

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

Leave a comment

Filed under General

The Witness of Weakness

My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.  (2 Corinthians 12:9)

Our Lord gave the apostle Paul a “thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan” (2 Corinthians 12:7); no doubt the enemy delighted in messing with Paul’s ministry. Scripture does not reveal what that “thorn” really was, but we are told a few other things about the significance of it. First, the thorn, whatever it really was, was given to Paul to keep him from becoming conceited over the “surpassingly great revelations” he had received from God. Second, we know that Paul pleaded with the Lord to take it away — not once, but three times. God’s answer to this prayer was “No.” Finally, we read God’s reply to Paul’s prayer, which is our verse for today: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

This is what I call the “Witness of Weakness.” Instead of delivering Paul from his painful affliction, God chose to demonstrate His omnipotent power in and through Paul. Think about it this way: God delights in displaying His power through weak people like you and me. Paul was forced to depend wholly on God in order to fulfill his calling in ministry. And the same is true for you and me! Weakness drives us into the presence of God, and we must trust in Him to give us all we need to do all He is calling us to do.

Here’s the all-important question: Do we allow our weakness to bear witness to the awesome power and care of our Lord Jesus in our lives? When we believe that we are strong in our own abilities and resources, we have a tendency to work in our own strength, in our way, and in our time, which can lead to sinful pride. But when we are weak, we have no choice but to ask God to fill us to the overflowing with His Power and His Grace to bear witness to His glory.

Are you feeling weak today? That’s a good thing! Let your weakness bear witness to the perfect power of your Great God and Savior.

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

Leave a comment

Filed under General

Be on Guard Against E.G.O.

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

Perhaps you have seen the acronym E.G.O. – “Edging God Out.” This is a problem for all of us, as we all have a tendency to edge God out of our lives . . . or at the very least to confine Him to the circumference of our lives. We do this because we desire to sit upon the throne of our lives. We all, to a certain extent, have believed the lie that Satan used to plunge humanity into sin: “You will be like God” (Genesis 3:5).

In Amadeus, a film about the life of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, we see Antonio Salieri, an ambitious eighteenth-century composer, uttering this prayer:

Lord, make me a great composer. Let me celebrate Your glory through music and be celebrated myself. Make me famous throughout the world, dear God; make me immortal. After I die, let people speak my name forever with love for what I wrote. In return I will give You my chastity, my industry, my deep humility, my life.

Salieri was a very successful composer, but his skill level never rose to the level of Mozart. He was terribly frustrated by Mozart’s success — Mozart, who lived a debauched life before the face of God. Salieri turned away from God, believing God had betrayed him. He edged God out of his life. In a memorable scene in the movie, Salieri takes a crucifix from the wall of his room and places it in the fire. Selfish ambition blinded Salieri to the good gifts God had given him to be used for the good of others and the glory of God.

How are things with you these days? Have you been comparing yourself to someone else lately? Are you frustrated with the level of your accomplishments compared to others? Have you ever prayed a prayer like the one Salieri prayed, bargaining with God for your blessing? By nature, we all have some Salieri in our hearts — we are sinners, after all — which is why we must be on guard against E.G.O. in our lives.

Like Paul, we must learn to be content with our lot in life — even if, when it is compared to others, our lot is not a lot! Never forget, Christian, that when you have Jesus, you have everything you need.

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

Leave a comment

Filed under General

Maintaining a Strong Spiritual Appetite

Thus you will walk in the ways of the good and keep to the paths of the righteous. (Proverbs 2:20)

How is your spiritual appetite lately? Do you have a hunger for God? Do you believe it is possible to maintain a strong spiritual appetite throughout your life? I want to encourage you today with two simple steps to maintain your spiritual appetite, whether the circumstances you are facing in life are difficult or delightful.

#1 Remember God’s Love For You

The first step in maintaining your spiritual appetite throughout life is to remember “how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ” (Ephesians 3:18). Keeping the love of God in Christ Jesus firmly in mind will keep you hungry and thirsty for the living God. Remember, God does not love you because you are lovable; He loves you because you are His. God loves you perfectly and completely in your every imperfection. He always welcomes you into His presence, no matter how badly you have messed things up. “Draw near to God,” He assures us, “and He will draw near to you” (James 4:8 NKJV).

#2 Forsake Eating “Folly Food

The second step in maintaining your spiritual appetite throughout life is to diligently forsake junk food. The God-sized hole in your heart can only be filled by God. When you try to fill that hole with anything smaller than Jesus, it will always leave you wanting and malnourished. No matter how much success you experience in this life, nothing will satisfy the deepest desire of your heart — the desire for Jesus. We were made to desire Him! He died to make us His and to restore us to right relationship with God, so that we will echo Paul, who exulted that “to live is Christ” (Philippians 1:21).

Remember, “the discerning heart seeks knowledge, but the mouth of a fool feeds on folly” (Proverbs 15:14). What have you been filling up on lately? When you make knowing God your highest priority in life, you will find your spiritual appetite growing throughout life. You will simply be unable to satisfy your hunger for all things holy. Stay in the Word of God. Stay in close communion with Jesus. Stay connected to your family of faith weekly. Remember God’s love for you, forsake eating “folly food,” and God will continue cultivating your appetite for Him until the day you are brought into glory.

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

Leave a comment

Filed under General

No “Plan B” For The Believer

Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in your will carry it on to completion. (Philippians 1:6)

You’ve probably heard someone talking about “Plan B,” referring to an alternative plan of action to use if the original plan should go awry. Well, regardless of where this message finds you today, you are still on God’s “Plan A,” because in His economy there is no such thing as “Plan B” in the life of the believer.

All of us, when we look back over our lives, see a past littered with mistakes and missteps, sins and shortcomings that caused us to fall short of God’s best for our lives. But no matter what we have gone through, no matter how badly we believe we messed things up, God’s “Plan A” is still in operation. God has not revoked His original plan for our lives. God has not repealed His original goal for our lives. God has not rescinded His original desire for our lives. God is using everything that has happened in our lives to bring us into the fulfillment of His “Plan A” for our lives. And that plan for the life of every believer is, in a word, Christlikeness.

Romans 8:28-29 is God’s promise to work everything in our lives to accomplish His eternal plan for conforming us into the image and likeness of His Son. God takes our successes and our failures, our victories and our defeats, our triumphs and our tragedies, and works them all together for our good and His glory, and today’s verse, Philippians 1:6, assures us that nothing will keep God from making His perfect plan come together and be fulfilled. There is no “Plan B” in the life of the Christian. God is in complete control of all things, and He is fitting together every decision we make, both good and bad, even the really bad ones, to make us more like Jesus.

Let that truth set you free to rise above the waves of challenge today, knowing that He who began the good work in you is bringing it to completion in His time and in His perfect way.

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

Leave a comment

Filed under General

Doxological Dementia

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

Age-related memory loss is one of the tragic results of the fall. We get old, we develop an increasing tendency to forget things, and then we die. Yet “Doxological Dementia” is not an age-related disease that afflicts the minds of the elderly; it affects all of us, both young and old alike, when we forget not only who we are, but more importantly, Whose we are.

The doxology of Ephesians 3:20 (a doxology is an expression of praise to God) is designed to deliver us from a form of dementia that robs our joy, restricts our freedom, and retards our growth. The apostle Paul used a profound term — immeasurably more — to express God’s superabundant ability to bless us beyond our imagination. Here are a few other renderings of what Paul was expressing: God is able to do far more abundantly . . . exceedingly abundantly above all . . . infinitely more . . . than all we can ask or imagine. In other words, there is no limit to God’s ability to bless His people according to His supernatural power that is at work in every one of His children. The same power that raised Jesus from the grave is the same power that is at work within us every day, moment by moment.

Now, unlike God, we have finite minds; not only that, but our finite minds are fallen, broken, and sin-stained, so we are incapable of comprehending the cosmic care that God delivers to us, care that is far above anything we can ask, imagine, dream, or desire. God, in His infinite wisdom, authority, and power, is in sovereign control of all things, and He is working all things together for our ultimate good . . . even when it does not appear that way to us.

When you face circumstances that argue against your hope, hope anyway, because you have a God who is ready, willing, and able to bless you immeasurably more than what you could ever imagine.

We are apt to forget these things and allow a bit of “doxological dementia” to seep into our thinking, so it is critical that we come into the presence of Jesus each day through prayer and the study of His Word. When we remind ourselves daily that He who is in us is greater than any power that can come against us, we will begin to personally experience the peace that truly passes all understanding.  

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

Leave a comment

Filed under General

Don’t Settle For Stew!

Jacob gave Esau some bread and some lentil stew. He ate and drank, and then got up and left. So Esau despised his birthright. (Genesis 25:34)

Esau’s appetite got the best of him, and he settled for a bowl of stew, giving his birthright to his brother Jacob in return. How often we find ourselves like Esau, settling for some momentary treasure over and against our eternal destiny . . . despising our birthright?

When was the last time you settled for some stew instead of reaching for your Savior?

Think about it this way: God has given us many promises in His Word. But all too often we are not willing to wait on the Lord to fulfill them in His way and in His timing. Abraham and Sarah had God’s promise that they would be the parents of a son. From their perspective, however, it was taking God way too long to fulfill His promise, so they took matters into their own hands. Sarah gave her servant Hagar to Abraham, and they conceived a child who had no part in the promise of God. When we settle for stew over our Savior, it blinds our eyes, binds our ears, and blocks our forward progress.

The key that keeps us from settling for stew over our Savior is rooted in our focus. If we focus on the here and now, we will likely settle for stew. But if we keep our focus on the there and then — living in the light of eternity — we will look past the temporal and settle for nothing less than the eternal. Only an eternal perspective will positively impact our earthly priorities. Jesus made it clear that we are all treasure hunters. The question we must ask ourselves and answer each day is: What treasure are we hunting for?

We all know from personal experience that it is a pitifully poor trade-off indeed to settle for temporary pleasure when already have received every imaginable eternal treasure in Jesus. We must remember that we are children of the King and a royal priesthood by way of our second birth. We must never sell our birthright to acquire some temporal treasure — some earthly stew — when we have been given the greatest eternal treasure imaginable: Jesus Christ our Lord.   

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

Leave a comment

Filed under General

Supper with Sinners

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

The self-righteous Pharisees and teachers of the law could not comprehend why Jesus would associate with the hated tax collectors and people who were regarded as “sinners” for one simple reason: They were blind to their own sin. Yet their indignant question to Jesus’ disciples, which was meant as an insult, provides a source of great comfort for all those who understand their own sinful, fallen, and broken condition.

To know that Jesus is a friend of sinners — to know that He actually wants to be with us– is to understand a profound and promising biblical truth. First, to be a friend of sinners means that Jesus willingly subjected Himself to living in a sinful, fallen, and broken world. As the second person of the Trinity, Jesus came down off His heavenly throne, took on flesh, and dwelt among us. Now, that is profound! Second, to be a friend of sinners means that Jesus intentionally invites us into an intimate, personal relationship with Him, even though we were rebels on the run away from Him, just like Adam and Eve ran from God back in the Garden. Now, that is promising!  

The self-righteous religious leaders who were scandalized by Jesus’ choice of companions believed their right standing before God was rooted in rigorous following of their rituals and rules. For them, it was all about the externals. But Jesus made it clear that our right standing before God is rooted in a right relationship with Him. And let me make something perfectly clear: The reason Jesus ate with sinners is because they were the only ones He had to eat with, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. Jesus sought out relationship with the outcasts, the socially unwanted, the marginalized, and the ostracized. He came to seek and save the lost.

Regardless of where this message finds you today, whether you are weathering storms or basking in sunshine, Jesus came for you. He lived for you. He died for you. He rose from the dead for you. And He is coming back for you. Remember, Jesus being a friend of sinners did not mean He condones sinful behavior. He didn’t spend time with sinners to join in their sinful ways. Rather, in His infinite love, Jesus was calling sinners like you and me to turn way from our sin and turn toward our Savior. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow,” He promises us; “though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool” (Isaiah 1:18).

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

Leave a comment

Filed under General

Jesus Redeemer . . . Not Re-Doer

I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten. (Joel 2:25)

When I look back over the years, there are some seasons in my life that, if I could, I would like to do over again. Yet I am reminded that God has promised to restore even the years the locusts have eaten. And they have eaten more than their fair share!

I am sure we all feel that way from time to time. When we do, we need to cry out to Jesus and ask Him to rescue us from such “stinking thinking.” We must remember how limited our perspective of life is. We are like a schoolchild peering through a quarter-sized hole in a wooden fence. Not only do we see only a tiny portion of what God is doing in our lives, we understand even less than that! That is why we must always remember that Jesus Christ is all about redemption, not do-overs! Jesus is busily engaged in redeeming all the time that we think was wasted, because there is no such thing as wasted time. God is working all things together for His stated purpose of conforming us to the likeness of His Son.

Now, I recognize that all of us have a past that is littered with losses. There have been painful seasons, fruitless seasons, selfish seasons, and prodigal seasons in our lives. But regardless of where this message finds you today, you must forsake regret and look to your Redeemer, who has promised to make all things new, including you. He is at work in you this very minute, sharpening and shaping you into His image. Live in that confidence, Christian, and that confidence will rise to hope.

Remember, Jesus is Lord, and He has made a seemingly impossible promise: He will restore the one thing we simply cannot save or store up – time. Let us be clear: the lost season will not be restored, but the lost Savior will be. Jesus will deepen our dependence upon Him. Jesus will heighten our hope in Him. Jesus will strengthen our surrender to Him. We do not need Jesus to redo anything in our lives. We simply need Him to do what He has promised: to redeem and restore the years the locusts have eaten.

Oh, what a Savior we have in Jesus!

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

Leave a comment

Filed under General