When Going Backward Is Forward Progress

Screen Shot 2018-03-09 at 12.40.47 PM

Go up to Bethel.  (Genesis 35:1)

Perhaps you read that title and felt a stirring of disagreement; you may have recalled that the apostle Paul wrote to the Christians at Philippi that he was “Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead,” and that he would continue to “press on toward the goal” (Philippians 3:13-14). That certainly sounds like forward progress will not be made by going back. But when we look more closely at that passage from Philippians, we realize that Paul was speaking about the times when he fell short of God’s best for His life.

So . . . when is going back actually forward progress? It is progress any time we go back to an encounter with God. Often God sends us back to the place we first encountered Him.

When God told Jacob, “Go up to Bethel,” He was sending Jacob back to the place where he first encountered God. In the 28th chapter of Genesis we learn that Bethel was the place where God first visited Jacob. You will remember Jacob’s dream, in which he saw a ladder reaching up from earth into heaven and the angels ascending and descending on it. This of course, was a forecasting of the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, who would reverse the curse of sin on mankind and once again unite heaven and earth. And there at Bethel, Jacob made his first vow of commitment to God.

What was good for Jacob is also good for us. We too need to revisit that place when we first encountered God. If you grew up in a Christian home and can’t remember a time without Jesus, think of a time when you were a bit older and made your vow of commitment to Him. Going back is forward progress when we are going back to our first, true love. Returning to the roots of our redemption is a return to our Redeemer—and that beloved, is always forward progress.

We can all find ourselves in a rut of religion. We grow up and show up for service without ever really connecting at a heart level with our God. We are simply busy being busy with the challenges of daily living. So, the call of God to “Go back to Bethel,” is a call for all of us to heed today, because we have all experienced a faith that falters and uttered vows that vanished.

  • Let us go back to where we first found forgiveness.
  • Let us go back to where we first found acceptance.
  • Let us go back to where we first found rest.
  • Let us go back to where we first found true love.

Going back is always forward progress when we are going back to the One who has promised that He will never leave us or forsake us.

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


Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

When Least Is Greatest


Even a live dog is better off than a dead lion.  (Ecclesiastes 9:4)

Oh, what a word of encouragement we have today in this verse from the wise preacher! Life with Christ at any level of living is better than a life without Christ. Regardless of where this message finds you today, do you agree with this biblical truth? What does the confession of your life say to those around you?

To be sure, the absolute least in the kingdom of God is better than the greatest in the kingdom of this world. Now, I know this truth flies in the face of the wisdom of this world. The world says the least in anything is to be abhorred and avoided at all cost. The world seeks greatness in its position . . . in its power . . . in its pleasure . . . in its prosperity . . . in its prestige. The world says Caesar in the palace is far greater than the Christian in the pit. Sadly, this kind of thinking has infected many in the church today. Far too many Christians are seeking the things of this world, rather than the things of the world to come.

But this is not for you! The wisdom of the world is wrong—eternally wrong. Who of you reading this right now would disagree with the Bible’s teaching about the brevity and fragility of this life? We are here today and gone tomorrow. The day after we take our last breath, the nameplate on the office door is replaced with another name. The prophet Isaiah hit the proverbial nail of this truth squarely on the head when he wrote these inspired words:

All people are like grass, and all their faithfulness is like the flowers of the field. The grass withers and the flowers fall, because of the breath of the Lord blows on them. Surely the people are grass. The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God endures forever. (Isaiah 40:6-8)

Nothing in this world will endure. Only the Word of God is eternal, and that Word tells us that our God is making a new heaven and a new earth for those who are His. Shouldn’t that change our perspective about who and what is truly “the least” and “the greatest” in this life? Wasn’t the good thief on the cross, who appeared to be least in the eyes of the watching world, far better off than the religious leaders in the Temple, who appeared to be greatest?

The prince of preachers, Charles Spurgeon, powerfully underscored this most encouraging biblical truth in his Morning and Evening devotional:

Lazarus among the dogs is better than Cicero among the senators; and the most unlettered Christian is in the sight of God superior to Plato. Life is the badge of nobility in the realm of spiritual things, and men without it are only coarser or finer specimens of the same lifeless material, needing to be quickened, for they are dead in trespasses and sins.  

Remember, a live dog can do infinitely more than a dead lion. If this truth resonates with you today, celebrate your “least,” knowing that your greatness awaits you on the other side of the grave.

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

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Supernatural Switch


I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. (Galatians 2:20)

To be sure, the flesh is weak, but it will fight tooth and nail, every step of the way, trying everything within its power not to die. How long do you need to prayerfully consider this truth before it resonates deep within you?

The flesh loves to sit atop the throne of life, even when it is engaged in religious and spiritual duties. We have been saved to serve, and there are countless ways in which we invest our time, talent, and treasure for the expansion of the Kingdom of God. Yet we all have that old, proud pharisaical heart within us that beats for the applause of man rather than the approval of God. Make no mistake, the flesh has no problem being dressed in “religious robes,” just as long as it is not required to surrender and die.

The question that we must ask ourselves is this: Who is on the throne of our lives?

Jesus went from the throne to the cross and back to the throne. He no longer hangs upon that old wooden cross, nor does He lie in the tomb. He is back where He belongs, on the throne of the entire universe, upholding and “sustaining all things by his powerful word” (Hebrews 1:3). Jesus is now seated on the throne of grace at the right hand of God the Father.

Did you know that there were no seats in the Tabernacle or the Temple? That was because the work of the High Priest was never done; he never had occasion to sit down, so there was no need to provide a seat for him. But when Jesus said, “It is finished!” He meant what He said. His perfect, atoning work on behalf of all those who will believe is fully accomplished, and He now sits in the position of power, glory, majesty, and dominion.

Is Jesus sitting on the throne of your life? Remember, the cross no longer holds our Lord. It has been emptied for us to carry. This is the great supernatural switch for every saint of God. We are not to fear the crucifixion of the self, because to die to self is not to be dead. Rather, to die to self is to become alive to Christ, as we see in today’s verse.

Don’t mistake the crucifixion of our Lord as a symbol of the crucifixion of the flesh. He died for sins once for all (1 Peter 3:18). We are to die to self daily—not only daily, but moment by moment. Dying to self is never over until it is actually over and we are received into glory.

When the apostle Paul said he had been “crucified with Christ,” he was telling us that Jesus was sitting on the throne of his life. And with Jesus on the throne of his life and Paul off of it, Paul was now free to carry his cross all the way into glory. May that supernatural switch be the confession of our lives!

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

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Change and Our Changeless God


Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.(Proverbs 3:5)

You’ve heard it said that “Nobody likes change except a wet baby!” That certainly is true of me; I’m not that crazy about change. I tend to like routine and living within the walls of my comfort zone. But just when I am settling happily into the “same-old, same-old,” Jesus shows up with a little change He knows I need . . . and that brings me to our verse today.

Every disciple of Jesus must learn the discipline of change. Our God is unchanging (Malachi 3:6), but He constantly introduces change into our lives. We settle on a particular direction, and God steps in and changes it. We start to pursue a certain goal, and God steps in and changes it. We begin a new project in life and God steps in and changes it. The key to growing and maturing in our faith is not getting frustrated every time God sends us a bit of change. Rather, we are to echo Jesus and say, “Yes, Father, for this is what you were pleased to do” (Matthew 11:26).

One of the most important life lessons we can learn is how often God takes us down the path of obedience before understanding. Noah had no understanding of the flood waters that were on the horizon, but he committed to a 100-year boat-building project, acting in obedience before understanding. Abraham had no understanding of where He was going when God called him to leave the home of his fathers, but he walked in obedience before understanding. Moses was adamantly opposed to going back into Egypt as God’s deliverer of His people, but he went in obedience before understanding.

When you think about it, much of life is simply lived in the dark. But this should not surprise us or shake our confidence in the One who is leading us every step of the way. We can face and accept change because we know it comes from the hand of our changeless God, who is working all things for the ultimate good of those who have placed their trust in His Son. When you look back on every change God has brought you through, are you not now thankful? We must remember that God changes us because He loves us. He is conforming us into the image of His Son, and that requires significant change!

Here is a word that can help you along the way as God sends you seasons of cosmic change:

It is not for you to know . . . (Acts 1:7)

We won’t always understand what God is up to in our lives and much of it won’t fit into our plans, but to know our changeless God intimately and personally is to know enough about the inevitable change that will come to all of us.

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

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

No Christian Camoflauge


My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. (John 17:15-16)

When we understand the dictionary definition of the word camouflage—“to disguise personnel or equipment to make them blend in with their surroundings”—we know, beyond a shadow of any doubt, that there must be no such thing as Christian camouflage!

Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world — the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does — comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever. (1 John 2:15-17)

To be sure, Christians are still in this world physically, yet we are not of this world. Having been raised from death to life, we are called to stand out from the world, not to blend in with it. We are saved to serve and to make an eternal difference in this world by being different from this world. We are not to submit to the corrupt values and evil systems of this world. The world says, “Take!” The Word says, “Give.” The world says, “Pay back evil for evil.” The Word says, “Pay back love for evil.” The world says, “Success at the expense of others.” The Word says, “Success is the service of others.”

In order to put the Gospel on display for the world to see, we must be both salt and light. The salt of the saint is designed to slow the corruption of the surrounding world and preserve what good is left. The light of the saint points the way to the Light of the world. But the world must see this salt and light in us. We cannot be camouflaged Christians! To stand out is to stand up for our Lord Jesus Christ. Remember, even the unbeliever knows that “by their fruits you will know them,” so we should be doing everything we can, by God’s grace, to put the pure, unspoiled fruit of the Holy Spirit who dwells within us on display.

There is no greater need in the world today than for our God to become more and more visible. Yes, God is visible in the natural world around us. He created everything and wrote the book of nature. The beauty, creativity, and order of the universe clearly points to our Creator. But we must add our witness to the witness of creation by incarnating (that is, embodying) Christ as we live out our Christianity before the watching world.

How do we incarnate Christ? One word, four letters . . .


So . . . have you been blending in more and more with your surroundings, or have you been standing out for the glory of your Savior? Do those who come in contact with you in this world see the Word that is in you? Can they see how much you love the Lord and others?

The more you do this, the more you will stand out from the surrounding culture and bear witness for the One who died on a cruel cross to save your soul. There must be no Christian camouflage for those who have been bought, sought, and caught by Jesus Christ.

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

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

God Grief!


It was the will of the Lord to crush him; he has put him to grief.  (Isaiah 53:10)

Those of you familiar with the Peanuts cartoons may be thinking I have misspelled the title of today’s word of encouragement. (Charlie Brown was fond of saying, “Good grief!”) No, today I want to look at God grief, because understanding His grief will take us a long way into growing and maturing in our faith.

The dictionary tells us that grief is the pain of mind produced by loss or misfortune, injury or evils of any kind that lead to sorrow. With that in mind, let’s first see that the grief that God the Father put God the Son to was our grief. Jesus suffered our grief. He took our sin, our beating, our crown of thorns, our nine-inch nails, our cross, our condemnation, our death, and our tomb. This God grief was our grief. Yet when Jesus willingly took our place on a cross and paid the full penalty for our sin, drinking the full cup of God’s wrath, He took our grief too.

Second, our God is a grieving God because of His eternal and sacrificial love for His people. We read in the Old Testament that the Lord said of Israel, “I have been grieved by their adulterous hearts, which have turned away from me, and by their eyes, which have lusted after their idols” (Ezekiel 6:9). God is grieved as His people turn, time and time again, to the false gods of the pagan nations. The psalmist lamented, “How often they rebelled against him in the wilderness and grieved him in the desert” (Psalm 78:40).

Like any parent whose children rebel is grieved by their poor choices, so too is our God grieved when we turn away from Him and embrace the way of the world. Jesus Christ, who made God known to us (John 1:18), wept as He drew near to the city of Jerusalem (Luke 19:41), reflecting on His people’s unbelief and idolatry. He told the crowds there, “How often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing” (Matthew 23:37). Christian, God loves you; He is love (1 John 4:16). When we reject His love and follow our own paths, we put Him to grief.

So . . . if you take a few minutes to prayerfully consider the life you are currently living, is it possible you are responsible for a bit of God grief? Fear not; we all find ourselves grieving our God from time to time. There are times when we would rather do our will than do the will of God. There are times when we want what we want rather than what God wants for our lives. Our rebellion which leads to God grief should lead us to a godly sorrow, just like Peter experienced on the night Jesus was arrested. After Peter denied Jesus three times and heard the rooster crow, he went outside the courtyard and wept bitterly.

God grief led to godly grief, and it is my prayer that this would be the confession of our lives. May that godly sorrow produce the good fruit of repentance in you and me.

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

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

A Silver Jubilee to My Sweet Wife


A wife of noble character who can find?
She is worth far more than rubies.
Her husband has full confidence in her
and lacks nothing of value. (Provers 31:10-11)

Dear Kim,

Thank you for spending the last quarter-century with me as my best friend and my wife.
By God’s grace, yesterday marked a great milestone for us as we celebrated our 25th Wedding Anniversary by renewing our vows with our four children by our side in Disney World, the place we got engaged and where we honeymooned.

We were married on March 6, 1993, at the Church by the Sea in Fort Lauderdale; the past 25 years have simply flown by! We truly have lived out the vows we spoke to each other that day, for our life experiences have brought us both good times and bad, plenty and want, sickness and health. And through it all, God has been so good, so merciful, and so faithful to us.

We married as unbelievers, but God was at work behind the scenes, laying the foundation for our conversion in September of 1995. Just more than a year later, on December 28, 1996, God gave us our first child, Brock. Jenna followed on September 12, 1998, then Katie on October 26, 2002, and the Tank on March 20, 2004. How beautifully and sacrificially you demonstrated the truth of what it means to divide your time and multiply your love as God grew our family; you continually put the Gospel on display, even when I did not. And today, because of God’s grace poured out onto our lives, we can say along with the apostle John, “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth” (3 John 4).


Your love for me has been as unconditional as it has been forgiving. You have always been there for me with every dream, hope, and vision I had for our future together. From the Wellness Center to the great gift God gave us as a family in planting Cross Community Church six years ago, you were the one who connected the dots that brought every vision to life. I love you with all my heart, and I look back with awe and wonder at all that God has brought us through as husband and wife, father and mother. God has used all of it, even the broken threads, to weave a tapestry of what it means for two to become one flesh and leave a legacy under the lordship of Jesus Christ.

Looking ahead, whatever life God is pleased to give to us, may we spend it in such a way that demonstrates our gratitude to Him for bringing us together and keeping us together until He carries us across the finish line of this life. Inasmuch as we will not be given to each other in marriage in heaven because of our marriage to Jesus, I so look forward to spending eternity with you in the new heavens and new earth, where we will live in unbroken fellowship with Jesus and each other. Until that day, I pray that God will continue growing me into the godly husband He wants me to be and that you absolutely deserve.


I love you Kim. You are my best friend and my true love. Happy 25th Anniversary! To God be the glory, forever and ever. Amen!

And Kim . . . thank you for saying “I still do!”



Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized