Inspired Invitation

victoryAlfred Lord Tennyson once said, “More things are wrought by prayer than this world dares to dream of.” So, the question I must ask you today is this: When you find yourself in need, where do you turn?

Oh, what a word of encouragement I have for you today!

Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know. (Jeremiah 33:3)

Here the prophet Jeremiah, who had cried to the Lord on behalf of God’s people, is directed to call on the Lord—who would bring restoration to His people in His perfect time. Here too, we find the Creator of the universe providing us with an “inspired invitation” to ask Him to meet us in our deepest place of need.

Sadly, far too many call on the Lord as a last resort, not as a first priority. Whether due to unbelief or feelings of unworthiness, we have a tendency to call on everything else except God.

But this is not for you! The key to developing confident assurance in prayer is the Lord’s word to Jeremiah: “I will answer you.” Not only are we invited to call on the Lord, but we are given this great, unfathomable promise that He will answer us. Our God not only hears our prayers, He responds also responds to them!

Do we always get the answer we want? No, as I have often discussed here, there are times when God says NO to the things we ask for; at other times, God tells us to WAIT. But we are never without an answer, because God has promised to give us one, and if we have placed our trust in Jesus Christ, that answer is always the one that is best for us!

This promise of God should empower us to pray more frequently and more fervently, knowing that our prayer does not fall on deaf or indifferent ears. Heaven is never silent. Our God is working all things for our good, and that includes all of those things that you and I perceive to be “bad.”

To call on God is to trust in God. It does not matter how helpless you might feel or how hopeless the situation might seem, God is standing at the ready to hear and respond to your cry. Just as those who lived in the Old Testament days, we can trust that our Lord will hear our cries to Him.

I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and supplication. (Zechariah 12:10)

There is no need our God cannot meet . . . no obstacle our God cannot overcome . . . no problem our God cannot solve. Omnipotence is always available for the people of God. We need only call on Him, believing that the answer is already on the way.

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

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The Greatest Sight We Will Ever See

god in heaven

Have you ever heard the phrase “Beatific Vision?” Well, I have a word of encouragement for you today that I pray will bless your soul.

Beatific Vision—visio beatific—is the ultimate, direct self-communication of God to us, which will happen when God reveals Himself to us in heaven . . . when we will see him face to face:

Now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. (1 Corinthians 13:12)

Today we see God imperfectly; we see Him through the eyes of faith. But the one great quest and longing of every child of God is to see God unveiled, to know Him exactly as He is, which is the promise to the redeemed on the other side of the grave.

No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. (Revelation 22:3-4)

Not only has this been the desire of theologians, but even scientists have launched out with this goal in mind. Through the observation and examination of the cosmos, scientists sought to see more clearly the Creator of the universe. Sadly, as we know, the wheels came off the track for those scientists who separated the creation from the Creator.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus tells us that this Beatific Vision is reserved for those who are “pure in heart” (Matthew 5:8), which will be the condition of every child of God when he or she is received into glory. But before that day, we can see the face of God in our Lord Jesus Christ. As we read the Gospel accounts, we get a clear vision of what God is like.

Jesus Himself confirms this truth.

Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me?” (John 14:9-10)

Today we are making our way to the Celestial City, living as pilgrims passing through this sin-filled world, looking forward to the greatest sight we will ever see. But we can still see our God in two ways: first, we can see Him with the eye of faith as we experience His love, peace, mercy, and grace. We can also see Him in both the words and works of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Spend time meditating on and marinating in the life of Christ in the Gospels, and you will be filled with a vision of God that will bless your soul and strengthen your heart to face every challenge the world sends your way.

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

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The Promise of Pruning

pruning

Readers who are familiar with the process of pruning trees and bushes know that it involves cutting back (or away) the useless shoots and branches that will slow growth. Today I’d like to offer you a word of encouragement concerning the pruning God does in our lives.

I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. (John 15:1-2)

Here we see that pruning is promised to the people of God—those who are faithful and fruitful—because of their union with Christ. The “branches” that the Great Gardner cuts off are those that were never truly in Christ. They looked like it from the outside, but on the inside, where it counts, their hearts were never in Christ by grace through faith.

In this context, Jesus was referring to Judas Iscariot, who appeared to be one of the disciples outwardly, but was never truly a disciple inwardly.

So, the question we must ask is: “Why does God promise to prune His people?” We see the answer at the end of the second verse . . .

SO THAT WE WILL BE EVEN MORE FRUITFUL!

Every branch that is in Christ is already fruitful, because the same grace that saves an individual also sanctifies an individual. As Martin Luther once said, “We are saved by faith alone, but the faith that saves is never alone.” We are fruitful branches simply by virtue of our connection to the Vine. But, as we all know, we can always be more fruitful, and this is the ultimate goal of God in our lives. And He helps us in this process by pruning us along the way.

Paul gives us two wonderfully encouraging verses that will help to sustain us when we are in seasons of providential pruning.

We are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (Ephesians 2:10)

Live a life worthy of the Lord, bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God. (Colossians 1:10)

Remember, the alternative to pruning is to be cut off; so pruning—which is admittedly painful at times—is a very good thing! And the primary tool God uses in His pruning is the Bible.

Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. (John 17:17)

God uses His Word to cut away everything that would hinder out growth, maturity, and fruitfulness. If those who are truly in Christ resist what the Word is speaking into their lives, God will use other tools for pruning, such as affliction. Charles Spurgeon observed, “It is because the first knife (God’s Word) does not always produce the desired result that another sharp tool (affliction), is used by which we are effectually pruned.”

Either way, our God loves us too much to leave us like we are . . . and for that we are eternally grateful.

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

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Cosmic Confidence

confidence

How confident are you that God will do all that He has promised to do in your life—right now, today, right where this finds you? Regardless of your response, after reading from the Word of God, I promise that your confidence will soar!

I gave my back to those who strike, and my cheeks to those who pull out the beard; I hid not my face from disgrace and spitting. But the Lord God helps me, therefore I have not been disgraced, therefore I have set my face like a flint, and I know that I shall not be put to shame. He who vindicates me is near. (Isaiah 50:6-8)

These are the prophetic words of Isaiah, written some 700 years before our Lord Jesus Christ lived them out in His obedience unto death, even death on a cross. Oh, the complete confidence our Lord Jesus had in His Father, in spite of the crushing abuse He would endure! He willingly gave His back to the whip and His beard to the wicked who would smite His cheeks. Then He offered His brow to receive the crown of thorns and His hands and feet to the nails. Yet through every act of torturous cruelty, His cosmic confidence in His Father sustained Him. “Father,” He cried at the very end, “into your hands I commit my spirit” (Luke 23:46).

So . . . where in your life have you been lacking confidence? In your profession? In a relationship? In your schooling? In your health? In your finances? Remember these words of our Lord:

But the Lord God helps me!

If the Lord God helped Jesus, the Lord God will help you also, because He has adopted you as His son or daughter. As a child of God, you can have the same confidence Jesus had, because the Lord God loves all those who are His. You, too, can “set your face like a flint,” regardless of the fiery furnace you are facing today. Go boldly before the throne of grace and cry out to your God, knowing you have already been heard before the first word was spoken. When you know with utter certainty that you have omnipotence on your side, is there anything too hard to face?

God is not only for you, He is with you and in you. He has called you into His perfect plan and has given you everything you need to do all He has called you to do. Let not doubt delay you. Let not fear freak you out. Jesus faced something none of us will ever face when He cried out to His Father, “Why has thou forsaken me?” Remember, Jesus was forsaken because of you and me and all those who will put their trust in Him by grace through faith.

Let this truth strengthen your resolve to rise above the storm winds that might be blowing today, and know you shall not be put to shame. Your Savior has secured every spiritual blessing for you. You need only walk with the “cosmic confidence” of Jesus Christ, knowing that the Lord God who helps you will never leave you nor forsake you. You have His Word on it!

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

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Peace: The Power IN This Peace

peace

Today is the final installment in a three-part series of articles that were taken from a sermon I preached at Cross Community Church exploring Jesus’ words in John 14:27-28 —

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

On Monday we met The Person OF this Peace; on Wednesday we discovered The Purpose FOR this Peace; today we seek to understand The Power IN this Peace.

I’ll be the first to admit that it will take all eternity to plumb the depths of the full meaning of the power God has given us in this peace. Our Source for this power is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent. We have received it in a full measure to help us through any difficulty we face in life.

The disciples could not have faced any more difficult circumstances then when they watched the crucifixion of their Lord. The mob had howled for Christ’s death, the full power of the hated Roman invader stood against them, and the Jewish leaders were determined to eradicate every last whisper of Christ’s teachings. On that Good Friday, peace seemed as far away from them as the east is from the west. But then, three days later, Jesus suddenly appeared, alive and well, and said the most amazing thing to them:

On the evening of that first day of the week, the disciples were together with the doors locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” Then he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord. Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you!” As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” (John 20:19-22)

The very first words from our Lord Jesus Christ to the disciples after His resurrection were “Peace be with you!” Here we see the power to calm their fears and their doubts. All hope was lost when Jesus was nailed to the cross, and the terrified disciples—who had all scattered like sheep when He was arrested—were now locked in a room, cowering in fear, expecting that the same thing would happen to them. But Jesus showed them His nail-scarred hands and pierced side, proving He was who He said He was, and that He had done what He had said He would do. He connected them to the most incredible power in the universe: the power of His peace.

The peace of Christ can heal the broken heart. The peace of Christ can strengthen our feeble faith. The peace of Christ can comfort the crushed spirit. The power in this peace was given to empower the disciples to take the good news of the Gospel to the ends of the earth, regardless of the cost or circumstance. The disciples had been as low as they could go, but when the risen Savior spoke “peace” into their lives, their hearts were raised to the courts of heaven as He gave them the Holy Spirit. They were now utterly fearless, and they committed themselves to the expansion of the kingdom of Christ everywhere they went.

Do you know this truth today? What have you been doing with the power of the peace God has given to you in Christ? Are you expanding the cause of the kingdom of Christ right now, right where you are? You have the power to do it, because you have the Person who has given you the only purpose in life that truly matters. And there is no need to hide your lamp under a bowl, for He has promised never to leave you or forsake you, no matter what! And you have the peace that passes all understanding, the supernatural peace promised and delivered by the Prince of Peace.

So go forth, Christian, with Jesus’ name on your lips and His love in your heart. Tell them that a dead man got up and walked out of His grave, and that they—by grace through faith—can walk beside Him on streets of gold for all eternity!

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

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Peace: The Purpose FOR This Peace

cross vertical and horizontal

We’re in the middle of a three-part series of articles that were taken from a sermon I preached at Cross Community Church exploring Jesus’ words in John 14:27 —

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

On Monday we looked at The Person OF this Peace; today we will seek to understand The Purpose FOR this Peace.

In a word, the primary purpose for this peace is VERTICAL. When Adam and Eve sinned against God, humanity was sent out of the Garden to live East of Eden. Our vertical relationship to God was severed by sin. But, by God’s amazing grace, we are reconciled back to a right relationship with God through the cross work of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.  (Romans 5:1)

God was pleased to have his fullness dwell in him and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.  (Colossians 1:20)

When you think about it, no matter how peacefully we live with our neighbors, it matters not if we have no peace with God. Theologians often refer to this peace as the “first fruit of justification.” You are probably familiar with the “fruit of the Spirit” described in Galatians 5:22-23, but that only flows from the “first fruit” of our justification.

Now, once we have this peace with God, we are called to be peacemakers with others—to go forth and share the Good News of salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. To be sure, the Gospel will attract some and repel others. But you and I are not to be repulsive as we proclaim God’s truth. As much as it is within our power, we are to live at peace with others.

All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them, committing to us the message of reconciliation. (2 Corinthians 5:18-19)

The apostle Paul made it abundantly clear that the vertical peace we are given in our justification is to be lived out horizontally with others, as both a message and ministry of reconciliation. What a privilege we have: to understand the purpose for the peace that passes all understanding! Peace with God that moves us in the direction of peace with others makes the Gospel attractive and draws the unbeliever toward this supernatural peace.

Check back on Friday for the final installment of this series: the power in this peace.

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

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Peace: The Person OF this Peace

broken wallsI would like to share a portion of a sermon that I preached last month which seemed to be a source of great encouragement and strength to our congregation at Cross Community Church. The sermon was rooted in Jesus’ words recorded in John 14:27 —

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

I delivered the sermon under three headings – The Person OF this Peace; The Purpose FOR this Peace; The Power IN this Peace. I’m planning to devote one blog to each of these headings, so we’ll be looking at them over the course of this week.

The Person OF This Peace

The first thing to unpack is the Person behind this incredible promise of peace. What do we know about the Man who promised to give His peace? Throughout the Old Testament, we see that the Person of this peace is God Himself. Gideon identified God as Jehovah-shalom—“the Lord is Peace”—when God called him to lead Israel out of bondage from the hand of Midian. Gideon’s call was very similar to that of Moses; God provided supernatural signs to strengthen Gideon’s faith and direct him to deliver God’s people from the hand of their oppressors.

Next we see that God in Christ is identified as the Prince of Peace in a prophecy from Isaiah:

For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6)

The key to understanding this incredible promise from God is found in the government that the Prince of Peace will one day establish . . . on earth as it is in heaven! The peace of God will rule and reign throughout the entire cosmos when Jesus returns to finish what He started. This Prince of Peace will establish a universe of peace of which there shall be no end. The lion will once again lie down with the lamb. The little child will handle the poisonous snake and not be bitten. The disorder in the universe that was brought on by the sin of our first parents will return to order and the peace of God will permeate all things.

The apostle Paul, who lived anything but a peaceful life after his Damascus Road conversion, revealed who this Person of peace truly is:

Now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility. (Ephesians 2:13-14)

In Paul’s day, a wall separated Gentiles and Jews in the courts of the temple in Jerusalem, and a sign there read, “No outsider [that is, no non-Jew] shall enter the protective enclosure around the sanctuary. And whoever is caught will only have himself to blame for the ensuing death.”

Those who were not of Jewish descent were prohibited from entering the inner areas of the temple to worship Yahweh—on pain of death! But our Prince of Peace, Jesus Christ, destroyed this dividing wall through His atoning sacrifice for all those who would believe in Him—from every tongue, tribe, and nation. This is the Person of this peace, who offers His mercy and grace fully and freely to all who will come to Him in faith.

On Wednesday we’ll look at the purpose for this peace.

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

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