COSMIC CONCERN

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From heaven the Lord looks down and sees all mankind. (Psalm 33:13)


What a gracious light we view our Lord in when we read how He looks down and sees us! Our God is not some distant Deity who does not care for His creatures. The One who created us is also the One who watches over us and meets all our needs, and that truth should comfort our hearts and bless our souls.

Oh, what a friend we have in Jesus! He numbers the hairs on our heads and promises never to leave us or forsake us. He meets us in our deepest place of need—not just as it relates to eternal life, but everyday life also. Jesus is not only preparing a place for us in heaven, He is also walking beside us every step of the way. When we rejoice, He rejoices with us. When we grieve, He identifies with our grief so closely that Scripture speaks of a special bottle in which He has collected every tear. Now, if that doesn’t light the fire of your faith . . . your wood is wet!

God is for you. God is with you. God is in you. God has you in His heart and on His mind 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Regardless of where you go, God goes with you to guide, govern, and direct your steps. David wrote –

If I go up to the heavens, you are there;

if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.

If I rise on the wings of the dawn,

if I settle on the far side of the sea,

even there your hand will guide me,

your right hand will hold me fast. (Psalm 139:8-10)

God is as concerned for your daily bread as He is your divine destiny. He has promised to meet all of your needs in the glorious riches of His beloved Son. Now, don’t mistake wants for needs. We all want stuff we absolutely don’t need. God never promised to meet all of our wants, because much of what we want is not what God wants for us, nor is it what is best for us. I am sure you can look back over your life and recall something you deeply desired that God did not deliver to you . . . and you are deeply thankful today that He did not! I know I certainly can.

Regardless of where this message finds you today, whether you are standing in the sunshine at the summit or languishing in the shadow of the valley below, you are not alone. The One who came down off of His throne, took on human flesh, died on a wooden cross, and rose from the grave has promised to be with you always. No matter where you go, there He is. Jesus knows your hopes, hears your cries, and sees your struggles. When heaven seems like an infinite distance away from where you currently are, remember that nothing can separate you from the love of God in Christ Jesus. As God looks down upon you from heaven, He is always looking through the eyes of love. Now, that is a cosmic concern that should bring abiding comfort to your heart!

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

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THE MASTER’S MATH

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One of you routs a thousand, because the Lord your God fights for you, just as he promised. (Joshua 23:10)


The Lord delights in giving victory to His people and He delights in making sure everyone knows who is responsible for that victory. When one of God’s saints routs a thousand opponents, who can argue as to the reason for the victory?

Recall the way our Lord dramatically culled the fighting force that Gideon was going to lead against the Midianite army. Gideon started with 32,000 men, but the Lord God selected just 300 of them to fight against 135,000. Why did God reduce Gideon’s army to one man for every 450 Midianites? So that God—not Gideon or his army—would get the glory.

The Master’s math offers us a truly magnificent message of encouragement today. Think about anything that has come up against you today. Do the odds against you seem overwhelming? Does the obstacle that stands in your way seem too much to overcome? Let not your heart be troubled, “because the Lord your God fights for you, just as he promised.” Gideon and his small band of 300 did not fight against the massive Midianite army in their own strength. They did not even carry weapons of war when then went into battle! All they had were trumpets, empty jars, and torches; God fought for them and they won the day.

Therein lies the secret to success, regardless of what you are facing today. If you attempt to conquer your “Goliath” in your own strength, you will not prevail. God does not allow His people to gain the victory apart from His strength and His strategy. For the Lord Almighty has said, “Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit” (Zechariah 4:6). We must always remember that the Lord’s ways are not our ways, and what may seem like foolishness to us is actually faithfulness to God. In God’s economy, one person in ministry is always the majority, because God is leading the way.

God called Abraham to found a nation. God called Moses to lead the people of God out of bondage. God called Esther at precisely the right time to singlehandedly save God’s people. God called Peter to preach at Pentecost. The question that I want to ask you is this:

What has God called you to do for His glory?

Remember, the only way that the shepherd boy David could have victory against the giant Goliath was because he looked away from his own strength and depended completely on God’s power. As David wrote in one of his magnificent psalms of praise –

Our help is in the name of the Lord,

the Maker of heaven and earth. (Psalm 124:8)

Regardless of where this message finds you today, remember that the Master’s math always adds up for your good and for the glory of God.

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

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OPEN WIDE!

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I am the Lord your God, who brought you up out of Egypt. Open wide your mouth and I will fill it. (Psalm 81:10)


Having delivered His people from more than four hundred years of bondage in Egypt, God was just getting started blessing His people. The people of God had witnessed miracle upon miracle from His hand; then, when they were trapped between the Red Sea and the pursuing armies of Egypt, God parted the waters and the people crossed over on dry ground. When the waters came back together, the entire Egyptian army was plunged into a godless grave.

To begin to plumb the depths of today’s word of encouragement, go back and read the verse again. Notice how God reminds His people what He has already done for them. He set His people free from slavery in Egypt and called them to Himself, and He did it all by Himself, entirely apart from anything they had done or could do for Him. And as if that wasn’t enough of a blessing, God says, “Open wide, and I will fill you to the overflowing”—mercies multiplied and blessings beyond compare!

Can you picture a nest full of cheeping baby birds with their mouths wide open in anticipation of the mother bird returning to feed them? How much more will our Father in heaven fill His children if we would but open our mouths? Because of what God in Christ has done for us, we have been given the privilege to boldly come to the throne of grace and make our requests known to the Sovereign Lord of all the universe. We are not to come fearfully. We are not to come hesitantly. We are not to come slowly. We are to come boldly, with our mouths open wide, a song in our hearts, and supplication on our lips. We are to come as the psalmist did: “I open my mouth and pant, longing for your commands” (Psalm 119:131).

Remember, God had already given the people of Israel the unimaginable blessing of freedom from bondage in Egypt. Today He instructs His people to “open wide” because more blessings are on the way. When you come to God in prayer, do you come expectantly? Has He not proven Himself a thousand times over in your life? The only way to come to God is with an attitude of wide-open anticipation, because such a posture tells Him and shouts to the world that we know our God is able to do immeasurably more for us than all we could ever ask or imagine.

Now, it’s true that God can do anything, and He can fill even the mouth that is closed. But He prefers when we come to Him with expectant hearts and our mouths wide open, seeking to slake the deep thirst of the soul for His presence. May this be the confession of our lives!

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

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MY LOAVES AND FISHES

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Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother spoke up, “Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?” (John 6:8)


Here is a biblical principle we all have a tendency to forget, especially when we are in seasons of scarcity: a little with the Lord is a lot! In all four gospel accounts, the Lord preserved a story that offers us great comfort and encouragement. In our passage today, Andrew brought a boy who had only five loaves and two fish, yet when he gave them over to the Lord, his seemingly insignificant offering was transformed into the story of the miraculous “Feeding of the 5,000”—which, in actuality, was probably a crowd of as many as 15,000 to 20,000 people.

We live in a world that insists that the more you have, the more valuable and important you are. But the Bible tells us that God looks not at the outward appearance of man, but rather at the heart. God does not measure our value, worth, and importance based on what we have acquired; rather, we are valuable, worthy, and important simply because of what He has given us: the incomparable inheritance of being made in His image. As image-bearers of God, we are set apart from and high above all of creation. And because we are made in the image of God, we are never to measure our self-worth by our net worth.

Regardless of what you have or don’t have, you are of infinite worth to God . . . so much so that God the Father sent God the Son to die in your place to pay the penalty for your sin. Why? So that He could have an intimate, personal, loving relationship with you for all eternity. Remember, God did not need any of us. No, God wanted us, and to see this any other way is to miss one of the most important messages in all of Scripture. Keep in mind that God was in perfect, eternal relationship with Himself—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. He had no need for anything, especially us. What God did have was an eternal want to create a people He could love and who would love Him back.

Do you know one of the best ways to demonstrate your love for Jesus? Offer all that you are and all that you have in faithful service to Him. Sadly, there are a great many people who say, “I don’t have much to offer up to God.” That simply is not true! You have you, and you are all God wants. God wants you to live for Him, lean on Him, and learn from Him. He wants what’s in your heart, not what’s in your hand. And when He has captured your heart, you will release all that you hold in your hand, and He will use it for His glory and the good of others.

What are your loaves and fishes? What little do you have that, when you release it to your Lord, will become a lot? God wants to use you right now, right where you are. He wants to use the personality, life experiences, gifts, talents, and abilities He has given you. When you surrender those to the Lord, you can count on this: God will bless it and supply a supernatural increase.

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

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A FRIEND INDEED

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Jonathan made a covenant with David because he loved him as himself. (1 Samuel 18:3)


You and I can glean a great deal from the friendship that existed between David and Jonathan. Jonathan was the son of King Saul; David was the king’s servant. When David went out to battle and returned victorious, the people would shout, “Saul has slain his thousands, and David his tens of thousands” (1 Samuel 18:7). Saul became insanely jealous of David, and even tried to kill him several times. But Jonathan never wavered. He was a true friend to David, even when it hurt his own relationship with his father. True friendship is costly and demands sacrifice, a sacrifice which Jonathan willingly made for David.

So what does a true friend like Jonathan look like lived out in the life of another? It is someone who, when you need it most . . .

  • Listens without lecturing
  • Comforts without condemning

Jonathan loved David as himself and refused to follow his father into his sinful murderous plots against David. Jonathan was more concerned for David’s well-being than his own. One day King Saul actually tried to kill Johnathan—his own son! Remarkably, Jonathan defended David to his father even when David was not around, which is truly rare today. Jonathan rejoiced when David rejoiced and grieved when David grieved.

Here are two questions to answer:

  1. Do you have a friend like Jonathan in your life today?
  2. Are you a friend like Jonathan to someone else?

To be sure, Jonathans are a very special gift from God, and they are to be valued above the riches of this world. If you have a Jonathan-like friend in your life, pause to reach out and tell them what they mean to you. We all need a Jonathan and we all need to be Jonathan to others. Remember, as the old saying goes, a friend in need is a friend indeed.

Who right now needs you?

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

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CONGRATULATIONS, BROCK!

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Dear Brock,

Tomorrow at 8:00 a.m. the Boland family will be sitting in the Spec Martin Memorial Stadium for Stetson University’s 133rd Annual Commencement Exercise, watching as you walk across the stage to receive your degree in Music Education. It really does seem like only yesterday when we dropped you off at the campus to start your freshman year . . . and here we are, four years later, preparing for your graduation.

Leaving you at Stetson that first day was a mixture of joy and sadness; no matter how much a parent prepares for that day, emotions run high. Mom was staying for the parents’ weekend and Tank and I were heading back to get ready for weekend services at the Cross. As we started to walk away and the tears began to flow, you stopped me one last time and said something that I will forever hold in my heart: “Thank you, Dad!” We both knew what you were saying, and I thanked God for 18 years of countless mercies He displayed every time I messed it up.

You were our firstborn, and there were so many times I blew it as your dad while you were growing up. I was hardest on you, not just at home, but as your coach in so many sports, including karate. I think back on how many times I hurt your heart growing up, and it still breaks my heart today. I was demanding a level of obedience from you that I could not give to God myself! Often I disciplined you—not in love, but in anger—which is the antithesis of what God does for us. Yet through it all, as Romans 5:20 says, where my sin increased, His grace increased all the more. God was so gracious to protect your precious heart and to begin changing and growing me into the father He was calling me to be for you, Jenna, Katie, and Tank.

To say that Mom and I are proud of you would be an understatement of gargantuan proportions. You are the first of our four children to graduate from college. Our God has truly met your every need in Christ Jesus these past four years, and to see how He has grown your gifting and love for music brings a joy to us that is indescribable. I don’t believe we missed any of your performances, whether singing in the choir or performing in the opera . . . and I even got to watch an intramural championship flag football game!

In addition to your music education, God has given you an incredible girlfriend in Meg. We sat in the same stadium last year and watched her walk across the stage and receive her Bachelor of Music in Vocal Performance. We can see the powerful and positive influence God has caused Meg to have in your life, both in and out of music education and performing. We have also seen the incredible impact you have had in her life and believe God has brought you both together for something truly special and God-glorifying.

And, as if it could not get any better, you are convinced that God is calling you back to Cross Community Church to put your gifts into full-time service as our Director of Music and Media. My son, as I write this my emotions are beginning to get the best of me, making it hard for me to find the right words to truly express my heart. So it is best that I let God’s Word speak for me in a way that I trust will express the depth of my love for you and my gratitude to God.

I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth. (3 John 4)

I love you, Brock!

Dad

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CONTACT – CONNECTION – BUT NOT COPY!

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They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. (John 17:16)


There are two common errors when it comes to understanding the role of the church in the world today. One error is to be believe that Christians should be so insulated from the unbelieving world that we make no impact for the glory of our King. The other error is to become so saturated in the unbelieving world that we make no impact for the glory of our King.

The key to avoiding both these errors is to understand that we are in the world, but not of the world, and we are called to make a difference in this world by being different from this world. We are to make contact and deep connection with unbelievers in the world around us, but we are in no way to copy the behavior and customs of this world. Read on and be encouraged!

In order to encourage sinners (that is, people just like us) to come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ, we must make contact with them and connect with them the deep truths of the Gospel, but we are never to embrace the sinner’s sin in order to fulfill our mission in this world. As Peter said, “Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us” (1 Peter 2:12).

To be sure, there is great tension produced by living in a world that is hostile to God, but we have been given the power of the Holy Spirit to live in such a way that our good deeds do indeed glorify God. Make no mistake, when we live this way, some will accuse, but some will also advance in the direction of the Almighty. We make God attractive to the watching world when we live in a way that is pleasing to Him . . . when we become “the aroma of Christ” (2 Corinthians 2:15) to the people around us.

Here is perhaps the best way of looking at being in the world but not of the world: Our physical location right now is in this world, a world that for the most part lives in defiant opposition to the biblical worldview. The unbelieving world does not not acknowledge God as God or thank Him for the many blessings we receive from His hand. The vast majority of unbelievers have a man-centered worldview which is of this world, and we are not to follow it in any way. We must guard against allowing any man-centered thinking to seep in and saturate our biblical worldview through the movies and shows we watch and the music we listen to. As disciples of Christ, we are to put the biblical worldview on display for the world around us with both our lips and our lives; when we do, we can be assured that God will supply the increase.

Remember, make contact with everyone you can and work to establish some kind of friendship connection, but make sure you don’t copy them! You will be an eternal difference-maker by being different . . . because of the One you love and serve: the Lord Jesus Christ.

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

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