Author Archives: Pastor Tommy

About Pastor Tommy

Pastor Tommy is the senior pastor of Cross Community Church (PCA) in Deerfield Beach, FL. Rev. Tommy Boland is his official title. Pastor Tommy often seems too formal. Most everyone calls him "Coach".

Ups and Downs

hills and valleys

The land you are crossing the Jordan to take possession of is a land of mountains and valleys that drinks rain from heaven.  (Deuteronomy 11:11)

Notice that the Promised Land God was giving to His people Israel was a land that was identified by both mountains and valleys. This provides the perfect picture of the life of the child of God today. We walk through this life knowing that valleys inevitably follow mountains. In other words, life will be a series of ups and downs.

If this message finds you on the mountaintop today, basking in the sun, know the valley is not far away. And if this finds you in the dim light of the valley, you can be sure that it won’t be long before you will begin to ascend the mountain again. May this truth encourage and empower you to keep pressing on.

There are times in life when we feel like we are riding the crest of the waves . . . and there are times when we feel overwhelmed by the waves that are crashing all around us. Take just a cursory glance through the pages of Scripture and you will see this truth in the lives in the saints of God. Let’s look at one example in the Old Testament and one in the New Testament.

Abraham had his moments on the heights of the mountain as he followed God faithfully, not knowing where God was leading him. The Lord God Almighty had appeared to him in the form of a smoking firepot and a blazing torch, covenanting with Abraham to give him and his descendants a vast inheritance of land (Genesis 15:12-20). Yet Abraham also trudged through the valley when he refused to trust in the promises of God. Fearing for his own life, Abraham instructed his wife to tell the people in Egypt that she was his sister instead of his wife (Genesis 12). And if that wasn’t bad enough, Abraham sank even lower when he told the same lie a second time to Abimelech, king of Gerar (Genesis 20).

Peter, “the Rock,” also had his moments on the mountaintop and in the valley. He left his nets to follow the Lord Jesus Christ; he walked and talked with Jesus Christ every day! When Jesus asked His disciples, “Who do you say I am?” Peter promptly replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” This earned a warm blessing from the King of kings: “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church” (Matthew 16:15-18). Peter must have thought that the glow from that mountaintop experience would last forever!

But in no time at all, Peter tumbled into the valley when he thought to rebuke Jesus for telling the disciples that He would soon suffer and die and then be resurrected, earning our Lord’s sharp rebuke: “Get behind me, Satan!” (Matthew 16:23). Peter followed that gaffe up with his three dreadful denials in the courtyard on the night Jesus was betrayed. But our Lord didn’t leave Peter floundering in the valley; Peter was restored, and God used his preaching at Pentecost to add 3000 to the family of faith. I think we would all agree that Peter’s life was a constant series of ups and downs.

Here is the key to making progress through both the ups and the downs of life: We must keep our eyes of faith firmly fixed on Jesus, knowing that both peaks and pits have been promised to the disciple of Christ. Looking back over my life, I can tell you this has been my pattern of progress, and I will also tell you that I learned much more in the valleys of life than I ever would have learned had I remained on a mountain.

So take a moment to prayerfully consider where this finds you and thank God for the promise of getting you to the other side of both the valley and the mountaintop, which He will do for two certain reasons: your good and His glory.

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

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Inspired By The Invisible

HeartSky

By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.  (Hebrews 11:8-10)

May this passage serve as a source of great encouragement to you today, regardless of where this message finds you.

Abraham had no idea where he was going, but he knew Who was calling him, so he went by faith, “longing for a better country—a heavenly one” (Hebrews 11:16). Abraham was inspired by the invisible! Can the same be said about you?

As disciples of Christ, we are to set our hearts on things above, not things below (Colossians 3:2). We are not to long for the temporal realm of this world, because everything in this world is passing away. Everything in the visible world is in the process of decay . . . and that includes you and me.

That is why we are to be inspired by the invisible! To be sure, we must live in the now, but we hold loosely to everything we have been given. There should be no “white-knuckle” grip by the children of God on the things of this world. Think about it this way: if you live long enough, everything you have will be taken away from you. Whether it breaks down or is given to someone else, everything visible, since the fall in the Garden of Eden, is destined to deteriorate.

Christian, there is so much more to life than what you see! Abraham knew this truth by faith, so he went where God was calling him, longing for the invisible Celestial City that was his promised inheritance. And it is your promised inheritance also! How instructive it is to read from the inspired pen of the apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 13 that the three things that remain have nothing to do with the stuff of this physical world; these are:

FAITH . . . HOPE . . . LOVE!

Faith, hope, and love are the foundational pillars of the city whose architect and builder is God. If we are disciples of Christ, we must always keep the invisible in view; when we do, we will be good stewards of all that we have been given in the visible world.

  1. S. Lewis beautifully summed up this kind of living in his book, The Joyful Christian

“Aim at Heaven and you will get Earth thrown in: aim at Earth and you will get neither.”

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

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A “Yet” Mind-set

humble blog

I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior.  (Habakkuk 3:18)

The prophet Habakkuk had a “yet” mind-set in the midst of unimaginable lack and scarcity; he refused to respond to his circumstances rather than his God.

The question before the house is this: Do you and I possess the same mind-set, regardless of the cost or circumstances we are facing? Take a moment to marinate in these words before you consider your answer.

Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior. (Habakkuk 3:17-18)

To fully grasp the Habakkuk “yet” mind-set, we must understand what this kind of calamity would mean to the people of Habakkuk’s time. Crop failure would be devastating to the people of Judah. Add the death of the animals to that, and you have the makings of a financial disaster of catastrophic proportions, leading ultimately to death through starvation.

But even in those most dire circumstances we read, “Yet I will rejoice in the Lord.” Those words might come easily to those of us today who live in the midst of so much abundance. But what about those times when the abundance is taken away? How will we respond when the business closes . . . when the biopsy comes back showing a malignancy . . . when the son or daughter leaves home, seeming to have utterly abandoned the Christian faith? How will we respond then? Without Habakkuk’s “yet” mind-set, we will never rise above the challenges of daily living and reach the place where we truly believe that Jesus plus nothing equals everything.

Make no mistake, our Master wants all His disciples to develop a “yet” mind-set on this side of the grave. How easy it is to praise our God when the sky is blue, the clouds are fleecy, and the sun is shining brightly! How much more difficult it is to rejoice when the storm winds are blowing and the waves of challenge are crashing over us. Praise flows from our lips when the pantry is full, but what about when the cupboard is bare? The promotion gives us reason to praise our God, but what about the pink slip? Habakkuk was able to say, “Yet I will rejoice in the Lord.” Can you and I do the same?

Habakkuk’s prophecy offers us one of those Gospel keys that unlocks the door leading to the “yet” mind-set: “The righteous person will live by faith” (Habakkuk 2:4). Faith, not sight, is the key to the “yet” mind-set. Faith fixes its focus on the Faithful One, not our ever-changing circumstances. Faith keeps us firmly standing on the Rock of our salvation, knowing that He who began the good work within us will complete it in His time and in His way. And often that way will include scarcity, lack, and emptiness. When we face those difficult—perhaps even devastating—circumstances, may we say with Habakkuk, “YET . . . !”

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

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Craving For Comfort…Or Christ?

bible-bed

Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”  (Matthew 8:20)

Today’s passage comes from a conversation Jesus had with a religious scribe who professed a desire to be a follower of Jesus. The scribe boasted, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.” And Jesus gave him this famous reply—which is directed not just to the scribe in that moment, but to every person who desires to follow Christ today.

We all desire comfort, but that desire must never eclipse our relationship to our Savior and our calling as Christians in this world. If we are to be like our Lord, we must recognize that the time will come when the world will forsake us, just as it did Jesus. But this is not to be our concern, for we are to crave Christ . . . not comfort. And the truth is, the more we have of Christ, the less we will experience comfort in this world.

Reading through the gospel accounts of the life of our Lord, we don’t read much about creature comforts for Christ. Our Lord did not have a home or money. Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a borrowed donkey, ate His final meal in a borrowed upper room, and was buried in a borrowed garden tomb. To be sure, He found comfort in the relationships He had with His disciples. But at the end of His life, most of them were nowhere to be found. One close friend betrayed Him. Another denied Him. All abandoned Him for fear of the Jews.

The comfort our Lord Jesus experienced was the comfort from above, and it is this comfort we too are to experience as Christians in this world. Returning to today’s Scripture, we see that when Jesus said these words to the religious leader, He was in essence asking one who was considered very rich in that culture, “Do you really want to leave all of your creature comforts behind to be My disciple?” If the scribe craved comfort, it would not be long before he would forsake Christ and return to the comfortable life he had come to know and love. The same is true for you and me today. If we crave comfort, it won’t be long before we will abandon our pursuit of Christ and pursue the comfortable life.

Now, let’s be clear on what this passage does not mean; Jesus was not saying that a life of poverty is the pathway for every disciple of Christ. There were some followers of Jesus (Mary, Martha, Lazarus, Joseph of Arimathea) who had many of creature comforts. And there are some disciples of Jesus today who are incredibly wealthy. Remember, it is not what you possess, but what possesses you that matters most to Jesus.

Here is the key: we must be ready, willing, and able to give up everything for Jesus. Whether we are called to do it or not is up to our Lord. If we seek comfort, we will stifle our relationship with Christ. If we seek Christ, we may not have the comforts of the world, but we will have the greatest comfort in the universe—and His name is Jesus Christ.

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

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The Master Multiplier

fish-and-bread

My God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.  (Philippians 4:19)

One of the most important life lessons that we must learn as disciples of Christ is this: with God all things truly are possible for those who believe. The problem is that, by nature, the way we think often does not align with the way we should be thinking in our new nature. God wants to raise our understanding above the natural to the supernatural, and the sooner we do that, the better! We are to fix our eyes on Jesus, not on earthly things (Colossians 3:2; Hebrews 12:2).

Let me ask you to consider two questions:

  • How many loaves of bread does it take to feed a hundred men?
  • How many loaves of bread does it take to feed more than five thousand people?

The answer, of course, depends upon who is doing the feeding. The abundance of the feeding will never be found in the number of loaves, but rather, in the nature of our Lord.

The answer to the first question is found in the Old Testament.

A man came from Baal Shalishah, bringing [Elisha] the man of God twenty loaves of barley bread baked from the first ripe grain, along with some heads of new grain. “Give it to the people to eat,” Elisha said.

“How can I set this before a hundred men?” his servant asked.

But Elisha answered, “Give it to the people to eat. For this is what the Lord says: ‘They will eat and have some left over.’” Then he set it before them, and they ate and had some left over, according to the word of the Lord. (2 Kings 4:42-44)

It took only twenty loaves of bread in the hand of our Lord to feed 100. The answer to the second question is found in the New Testament.

[T]he disciples came to [Jesus] and said, “This is a remote place, and it’s already getting late. Send the crowds away, so they can go to the villages and buy themselves some food.”

Jesus replied, “They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.”

“We have here only five loaves of bread and two fish,” they answered.

“Bring them here to me,” he said. And he directed the people to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the people. They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over. The number of those who ate was about five thousand men, besides women and children. (Matthew 14:15-21)

Here we read that it took only five loaves of bread in the hand of our Lord to feed more than 5,000. God has promised to meet our every need, and He will do it regardless of what resources are available to Him. The resources you have today may appear meager to you, but in the hands of the Master, they are massive and will be multiplied, not only to meet, but exceed your every need.

The key is to keep our eyes on our Savior, the Master Multiplier, not on our small supply, or we will never launch out into deep water and let down our nets for a catch.

I pray this word will encourage you to do something you have never done for the One who has never let you down. You’ll be glad you did!

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

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The Sword of Suffering

sword

“And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”  (Luke 2:35)

These were the prophetic words that Simeon, a righteous man who had been waiting for the promised Messiah, spoke to Mary, the mother of the child Jesus. Simeon’s prophecy was fulfilled when Mary witnessed the awful process of crucifixion carried out in the life of her son, our Lord Jesus Christ.

At the deepest level, Simeon’s inspired words are spoken to all the saints of God. When we submit our will to the will of God, as Mary did, we should count on the sword of suffering piercing our own souls along the way to the Celestial City.

Let’s consider just a small sampling of the many Scriptures that bear witness to this truth.

  • Peter’s first epistle encourages Christians, “Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you” (1 Peter 4:12).
  • James exhorts us to “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything” (James 1:2-4).
  • Paul wrote to the church at Philippi that “It has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him” (Philippians 1:29).

God has given us the gift of faith, so that we may believe in the Lord Jesus and be saved . . . and a sword will pierce our souls too. These “swords” take many forms. We will suffer as we fight the good fight of faith against the world, the flesh, and the devil. We will suffer sorrows. We will suffer sickness. We will suffer slander. We will suffer separation and loss. We will suffer shame. We will suffer at the hands of both sinners and saints. Yet this sword of suffering, wielded by the mighty right hand of our loving God and Father, does more to conform us to the image and likeness of Christ than anything else in this world. It is by that sword that we will, as James said, become mature and complete in our faith.

If you have been a Christian for any length of time, you know from personal experience that the sword of suffering must be a lifelong experience, because our “self” is still with us every step of the way. As John the Baptist said, “I must decrease and He must increase,” and that process of “decreasing,” cutting away everything that is part of the old, sinful self, is a painful one. As the sword of suffering is doing its supernatural work, our old self is fighting tooth and nail against it. “For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit,” Scripture warns, “and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want” (Galatians 5:17). As the oft-quoted Pogo comic strip once observed, “We have met the enemy and he is us.”

So . . . what are Christian believers to do with this truth? Mary treasured it in her heart (Luke 2:19) and watched the Christ child grow and become strong and be filled with wisdom and the grace of God (Luke 2:40). In the end, He would be crucified as the Savior of the world, offering His life as an atoning sacrifice for all who will come to Him, by grace through faith, to receive the gift of eternal life.

We, too, are to treasure the truth of the sword of suffering, as we align our will with the will of God, who has promised to form Christ in us. We, too, are to grow and become strong in our faith and be filled with the Spirit of the wisdom and grace of God. Yes, it is a painful process, but it is the only place where we will learn to put off our old self, to put on the new nature, and begin living a life that really matters, because we will be living a life that points others to Jesus Christ.

Christian, how are you progressing in the process of Christ being formed in you? Are you joyfully allowing the sword of suffering to do its work? As you decrease and He increases in you, others will see more of Jesus, and more of Jesus is exactly what this world needs!

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

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Unfathomable

victory

Do you not know?

Have you not heard?

The Lord is the everlasting God,

the Creator of the ends of the earth.

He will not grow tired or weary,

and his understanding no one can fathom. (Isaiah 40:28)

So much of the Christian life is unexplainable. We know God is present, and we know God is working for our ultimate good; yet, more often than not, we are unable to explain the “Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How” He is doing it.

Does this thought resonate with you today, right where this finds you? Well, I have a word of great encouragement for you, so read on!

Often, when we look to God for help, we are looking for the wrong God. We are looking for the God we want, rather than the God who is—the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Perhaps our frequent misconception of God might best be described as looking for a genie in a bottle, rather than the sovereign Lord of all the universe. Our God will not fit into any box we have devised for Him. He does things in His way and in His time. He accomplished His purposes and plans for our lives, not ours. He may or may not give us something we want, but He always gives us everything we need.

God is God, and we are not. God will be God the way He wants to be God . . . and we don’t get a vote! Throughout sacred Scripture we see just how “unfathomable” our God truly is. God sent Moses back into Egypt with his brother Aaron and a staff in his hand to free God’s people from bondage. Moses thought God’s plan was absurd and wanted no part in it. He argued against it and finally asked God to send someone else. He simply could not fathom how God could use a mere man like him to free the people of Israel from more than 400 years of slavery in Egypt. But He did, and you know the rest of the story.

God sent the shepherd boy David to battle against the giant Goliath. Most people would expect to see God sending out King Saul, who was “an impressive young man without equal among the Israelites — a head taller than any of the others” (1 Samuel 9:2), or perhaps one of Saul’s mighty men of war, but God chose the youngest son of Jesse, who had never been to war, to go out and slay the Philistine giant. Wearing no helmet or armor, armed only with the power of God and five smooth stones and a sling, David did just that.

David’s older siblings thought it was unfathomable that God would use their kid brother to rid Israel of this blaspheming giant, but He did! Over and over again, we find one unfathomable story after another in Scripture, where God does things His way and in His timing.

His Word to us today is to simply follow Him wherever He leads, whether it makes sense to us or not. God does not need to explain Himself to us nor explain His ways. We just need to trust in Him enough to follow, especially when where He is leading makes no sense to us at all.

So . . . are you facing something that seems unfathomable today? Remember, you are not facing it alone. Advance confidently in the strength of your Savior, and you will become unstoppable in the face of the unfathomable, to the praise and glory of His mighty name.

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

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