Miraculous Math

population-growth

The least of you will become a thousand, the smallest a mighty nation.  I am the Lord; in its time I will do this swiftly.  (Isaiah 60:22)

Have you been feeling small lately? In other words, have you been feeling insignificant, irrelevant, unimportant, or of no consequence? Well, today I have a word of incredible encouragement for you, rooted in what the prophet Isaiah tells us about miraculous math.

These words remind me of the language of the apostle Paul. He knew what he was before his conversion—a sinner in need of a Savior—and he knew what he was after his conversion: a sinner in need of a Savior. This truth was so deeply impressed upon Paul’s heart that he frankly acknowledged that his place in kingdom work was, as far as he was concerned, not a place of glory. “I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle,” he wrote, “because I persecuted the church of God” (1 Corinthians 15:9).

God is in the business of increase—taking a little and making it much. I cannot think of many ministries that did not start small. That certainly was true when we planted Cross Community Church. We began with few people and scant resources, meeting in a converted movie theater, but God has grown us in His way and in His time.

And remember this: when the beginning is set upon a small scale, there can be no doubt Who has grown it along the way. God took one small, smooth stone in David’s sling and slew the giant Goliath. God took the little boy’s lunch of five loaves and two fish, and more than 5,000 were fed that day.

Regardless of where this message finds you today, God is ready to take what little you have and multiply it for the good of others and for His glory. As you look out into your network of friends, do you feel like you are the least in terms of time, talent, or treasure? Give what you have to the One who can make much out of little. Remember, the world is in the business of looking for those who have great ability to accomplish great things. But God is looking for those who are available, regardless of their ability, so that He can accomplish great things through them.

God says to you today, “The least of you will become a thousand, the smallest a mighty nation.” What more could you ask for?

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

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

No Reply

silence

Pilate asked him, “Don’t you hear the testimony they are bringing against you?” But Jesus made no reply, not even to a single charge—to the great amazement of the governor. (Matthew 27:13-14)

Pilate pressed our Lord to speak on His own behalf, and we read—often with astonishment—that Jesus made no reply. John records that Pilate was afraid; no doubt the Roman governor was accustomed to men pleading for their lives when the slow, agonizing death of crucifixion loomed ahead them. Yet Jesus was silent.

It certainly wasn’t because our Lord could think of nothing to say; elsewhere in Scripture we read, “No one ever spoke the way this man spoke” (John 7:46) and that “The crowds were amazed at his teaching, because he taught as one who had authority,” (Matthew 7:28-29). Jesus was the living Word of God; He certainly was not struggling to find the right words!

One lesson you and I can draw from our Lord’s example is that in the life of every disciple of Christ, there is a time to be silent and a time to speak (Ecclesiastes 3:7). The key is to possess the discernment to know which time is which!

So much can be said about these two words—“no reply”—that can bring great encouragement into the life of the Christian. Jesus made no reply when words might have brought a blessing to Himself . . . but never did He withhold His words when He could bless others.

Jesus said to the fishermen He found by the shore, “Come,” and they became fishers of men.

Jesus said to the man up in a tree, “Come down immediately,” and Zacchaeus rose up into the ministry of the Gospel alongside His Master.

Jesus said to the woman at the well, “Will you give me a drink?” and she was given living water, becoming the first evangelist in her town of Samaria. Thanks to her joyful message of hope, many became believers.

Jesus said to the woman caught in adultery, “Woman, where are your accusers? Has no one condemned you?” and she left His presence forgiven and faithful to Her Lord.

And Jesus said to the disciple who had denied Him three times, “Feed my sheep,” and Peter was restored to a life of ministry and service to the King of kings.

These are just a few of the many examples of the words of Jesus blessing others. He gave no reply to Pilate, refusing to provide a defense against the false accusations leveled against Him, but He never missed the opportunity to defend and bless others.

So . . . where has Jesus spoken into your life that brought you great blessing? Remember, Jesus made no reply because He chose to take our place and die on a cross. Jesus made no reply so that He could drink the full cup of God’s wrath on our behalf. Jesus made no reply because His silence testified to Him being the true Lamb of God, fulfilling the prophecy that he would be silent “like a sheep that before its shearers is silent” (Isaiah 53:7).

But then, at the very moment when the principalities and powers of this dark world expected Him to remain silent, as He hung on the cross, beaten and bleeding and gasping out His last breaths, Jesus the Christ opened His mouth and gave the triumphant victory cry that caused the earth to shake and the rocks to split open: “It is finished!” Your debt of sin has been freely and fully paid; your enmity with God is at an end; you need only appropriate your eternal salvation by placing your trust in Him who died for your sake and was raised to life that you might have life in Him.

And regarding your relationship with Him, He has not stopped speaking words of life to you, nor will He all the way into glory. If by chance God has shone His light into your heart in these recent moments so that you have clearly heard these words of life for the first time, I pray you will hear and accept this gracious invitation from the precious Lamb of God:

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. (Matthew 11:28-30)

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

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Everyone is an Example

father-son

These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the culmination of the ages has come. (1 Corinthians 10:11)

Make no mistake about this biblical truth: your life . . . my life . . . everyone’s life . . . will serve as either an example to follow or a warning sign telling others to turn away.

I have coached athletes for decades, and I have always been amazed at this statement from high-profile athletes: “I am not a role model!” The painful truth is, they may not want to be a role model, but they most definitely are for someone who is watching them. The same can be said for everyone who professes faith in Jesus Christ.

Did you know that you are the only Bible that some people will ever read? There are tens of millions of men and women and boys and girls who know nothing about the 66 books of sacred Scripture, but they do know a great deal about the life they see you living before their eyes. And because you claim to be a follower of Jesus Christ, the way you live is the way they form their opinion about the Jesus of the Bible.

So the question that needs to be asked is this: Does your life serve as an example that encourages others to follow Jesus? Or will they turn away from Him after watching you?

Let me make something perfectly clear: I am not speaking about living a perfect life. Only Jesus did that. We live every aspect of our lives imperfectly; we all do things we ought not do . . . say things we ought not say . . . and think things we ought not think. But what I am talking about is manifesting a consistent desire to live a life that is pleasing to God, even though we know that life will not be perfect on this side of the grave.

Peter’s life was far from perfect. He was impulsive and frequently spoke when he should have been listening. He denied our Lord three times and was later rebuked by Paul for refusing to eat with Gentile Christians (Galatians 2:11-14). And yet in spite of his many failures, the life Peter lived serves as a wonderful example of what it means to live for nothing smaller than Jesus, even while living it imperfectly.

Every great saint in Scripture and in the history books has their share of blemishes and warts which all the world can see. But those blemishes just make them more real to us. And even if others don’t see our own short-comings, we know they are there. We know when we do not measure up to Jesus’ standard of perfection; we are painfully aware that we fail to measure up several times each day. But in spite of our many imperfections, God has chosen us to put the Gospel on display for a watching world. Remember, God uses imperfect people because they are all He has to use!

So . . . have you considered what kind of example you set for those who are watching you? When you mess it up—and you will—confess your sin and ask for forgiveness from God and those you may have offended or hurt. Then get on with life and live it, asking God for the grace to live each day for His glory and for the good of others.

Everyone is an example; what kind of example are you?

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

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Sold-Out Saints

friendship

A few days later, when Jesus again entered Capernaum, the people heard that he had come home. They gathered in such large numbers that there was no room left, not even outside the door, and he preached the word to them. Some men came, bringing to him a paralyzed man, carried by four of them. Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus by digging through it and then lowered the mat the man was lying on. (Mark 2:1-4)

Every time I read this passage I wrestle with two questions: First, do I have any sold-out friends like that . . . people who would rip a hole in someone’s roof to get me in front of Jesus? Second, am I a sold-out friend like that to anyone in my life right now? Would I refuse to be denied in bringing my friends before Jesus?

Powerful questions, don’t you think? How would you answer them?

Sold-out saints have a way of making things happen for the good of others and the glory of God. They simply refuse to be denied. Blocked doors do not keep them out. Crowded rooms do not cause them to shy away. And if they cannot bring someone to Jesus by the ordinary way that has been set before them, they simply make a new way! They do not stop until they get before our Lord.

When Luke delivered his account of these events, he wrote: “When they could not find a way to do this because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and lowered him on his mat through the tiles into the middle of the crowd” (Luke 5:19). What great risk these men took to get their paralyzed friend before the Christ! Just the sound of them on the roof would have drawn the attention of those in the home. Then when they started digging and tearing away at the roof tiles, everyone below would be looking up as dust and pieces of the roof began to cascade down into the room below. I would imagine that the owner of the home would have been looking up with indignant anger!

I cannot think of any better phrase than “sold-out saints” to describe the men in this gospel account. They let nothing stand in the way of getting their friend an audience with Jesus. And how did Jesus respond?

When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralyzed man, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” Then Jesus said, “I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.” (Mark 2:5, 11)

Their sold-out faith not only brought their friend physical healing, but spiritual healing as well. So the question I want to leave you with today is this: Do you have the kind of sold-out faith that would tear through roof tiles to get someone you know before the Savior of the world? May that be the confession of all our lives as we look for opportunities to bless those God has put into our lives . . . and may we do it for the praise of the glory of His name!

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

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Powerful Promise

scripture

No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it. (1 Corinthians 10:13)

I long ago lost count of how many times people have told me during pastoral counseling sessions that the temptations they are dealing with are sin. And each time they tell me that, I reply, “Not true!” Jesus was tempted. The author of the letter to the Hebrews tells us that Jesus was “tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin” (Hebrews 4:15). We are all tempted. Temptation is simply a part of living in a fallen and broken world. So being tempted is not sinful; it is giving in to that temptation that is sin. And who reading this right now does not know this truth by way of personal experience?

So what is the key to fighting against the temptations we all face? Perhaps there is no better section in all of sacred Scripture that can strengthen us when we are facing temptation than the wilderness experience of our Lord Jesus Christ. After forty days of fasting, the devil came to Jesus and tempted Him—not once, but three times. And each time Jesus dealt with the temptations of the devil the same way: with Scripture. With each temptation, Jesus used Scripture to strengthen His resolve not to be overtaken by temptation . . . and also to put the devil to flight!

It is important to note one thing in the encounter between Jesus and the devil in the wilderness: both quoted Scripture. Both Jesus and the devil know the Word of God; they are both students of Scripture. They were both in the Word of God, but there was one great difference between Jesus and the devil. Inasmuch as both were in the Word of God, the Word of God was only in Jesus. You see, it’s not enough to simply know and be able to quote Scripture. We must be submitted and surrendered to its authority and rule in our lives.

So . . . what temptations have you been wrestling with lately . . . in your personal life . . . in your professional life? Again, I encourage you to remember that temptation is not sin; giving in to the temptation is. The more we get into the Word of God, the more the Word of God will get into us, and the better we will be able to resist the temptations that inevitably will come to us.

One final thing: when temptation does overtake you, remember the cross. Jesus has already paid for that sin and you have already been forgiven for that sin. Yes, grieve over your sin. Be filled with a godly sorrow, confess your sin to the Lord, and repent of your sin. But never forget, nothing can separate you from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus—not Satan nor your sin . . . nor even any sins you may commit in the future (Romans 8:38-39). Now that is a powerful promise.

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

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Our Faithful Filling Station

A driver refuels his car at a gas station in Milan

“And my people will be filled with my bounty,” declares the Lord. (Jeremiah 31:14)

Just as our cars need to be filled with fuel to keep running, you and I must be filled with God’s grace (fuel), His bounty, in order to keep doing what He has called us to do.

So . . . are you filled with the bounty of the Lord? Or do you feel a bit like you are running on empty?

Notice in the verse above from the prophet Jeremiah that the word “my” appears twice; these two words are as encouraging as they are equipping. God is making a promise to “my people” . . . the people whom He sought, caught, and bought with His precious blood. These are the people He has claimed as His own.

Is that you today? It is if you have believed the Gospel and received the Lord Jesus Christ as your Savior . . . if you have placed your trust in Christ alone, by grace alone, through faith alone, for the glory of God alone . . . if you recognize that you cannot save yourself and have, by God’s grace, transferred your trust from yourself to your Savior . . . if these phrases describe you, you are part of God’s “my.”

God also speaks of “my bounty.” He is not referring to a bounty of the world, rooted in power, position, prosperity, pleasure, or prestige. Rather, God’s bounty is rooted in God Himself. When God says, “my people” He is saying we are His portion. When God says, “my bounty” God is saying He is our portion. He is satisfied with us and we are to be satisfied in Him. It is in Him that we find everything we need. God is our Faithful “Filling Station,” and you can be fully assured that He will never take a day off or run out of the fuel we need to do what He has called us to do.

Think about it this way: God has promised to fill us with His bounty. If His bounty will not satisfy us, what will? We all run to things smaller than God to find our filling from time to time. But if we are honest, we would freely admit that we are left more empty after our worldly wandering than we were before. No matter how many times we go to the wells of this world, we are never filled to satisfaction, and each time we try to get filled apart from God, it takes more and more to reach the previous level of filling.

May this year be different than last year! May we rest in God’s first “my,” knowing that nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:38-39). And may we rest in God’s second “my,” knowing that our God has promised to meet our every need in the glorious riches of Christ Jesus. There is only one Faithful Filling Station—and He is our Faithful Savior!

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

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

The Press Is On

running away

Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:13-14)

In looking back over 2016, we can all reflect on many times and circumstances when we were simply not at our best—times when we were not “firing on all cylinders”—times, perhaps, when the wheels came off the track for a bit. In our verse today, the apostle Paul gives us some insight into producing better results this year. Let’s take a look.

Forgetting what is behind We are to learn from the past, but not live in the past. If anyone could have been paralyzed by his past, it was Paul. As Saul, he persecuted the early church, putting many Christians into prison and even some to death. Paul frankly acknowledged that he had guarded the clothes of those who stoned godly Stephen to death, giving his full approval to the killing (Acts 22:20). Saul had many failures in his past that, had he dwelt on them, could have frozen him into inactivity, preventing him from advancing into his future. God’s grace in Paul’s life allowed him to treat the past as a school—to learn from it but not live in it.

Straining toward what is aheadAfter learning from his past, Paul leaned into his future. His focus was on where he was going—where God was calling him to serve—not where he had been. And as he was moving forward, Paul did so with a sense of urgency (“straining” ahead) because the day is short and the night is coming when no one will work (John 9:4). Paul’s forward focus was filled with a holy zeal to do the Lord’s work.

I press onPaul did not take a casual approach to accomplishing his goals and the work God had set before him. The best way I can describe this phrase, “press on,” is to call to mind the picture a basketball team running a “full-court-press,” where every player on one team is closely covering (pressing) every player on the other team. This is intense, aggressive activity of the highest order.

So . . . is the press on in your life today? If not, why not? What are you waiting for? God has called you into an incredible future filled with unlimited possibilities. It is true that everything you do for His glory will be done because of His grace. And yet you have a role to play, and that role can be summed up in the three phrases we’ve looked at today: Forget what is behind . . . Strain toward what is ahead . . . and Press on!

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

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized