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".

Wake Up To Mercy!

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. (Lamentations 3:22-23 ESV)

The prophet Jeremiah was writing at a time of great national hardship and despair after Jerusalem had fallen to the invading Babylonians. God had judged His people and sent them into exile in Babylon. Yet even in midst of their divine discipline, there was still reason for hope, because God was not finished with them yet.

God disciplines His children out of His great love. What kind of father would let his children do anything they please without providing discipline and course correction along the way? God never for a moment stopped loving and caring for His people, even when He was disciplining them.

The biblical understanding of the word mercy is God withholding just punishment. Where grace (which theologians frequently define as “unmerited favor”) is God giving us what we do not deserve, mercy is God withholding what we do deserve. Make no mistake, God takes pity on all of His children. And His pity, which is perfect in every way, seeks the highest good of His children, even when that good is delivered through painful providences.

Just at the sun rises each morning to bring new light into the day, God’s mercies rise each morning to bring new hope into our day. We wake up to mercy each day, because God is on the throne of our lives and is working everything together for our good and His glory. Every morning is a new beginning, an opportunity for us to start afresh, secure in the knowledge that He who began this good work in us will bring it to completion (Philippians 1:6). Nothing will stand in the way of our God and His ultimate goal for our lives, which is conforming us to the image and likeness of our Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 8:29).

So . . . did you wake up to mercy this morning? Did you sip from the cup of His compassion? We all have those mornings when we get up on the “wrong side of the bed.” But even in the midst of those bad days, we must remember that God got us up that morning to give Him glory, and He will give us everything we need to do that very thing.

“My grace is sufficient for you,” He promises us, “for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9). We can count on His mercies being new every morning, regardless of how we spent the night before. Even when we have blown it badly, we wake up to mercy because Jesus is our loving, merciful Savior.

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

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Other Orientation

“Everything is permissible” – but not everything is beneficial. “Everything is permissible” – but not everything is constructive. Nobody should seek his own good, but the good of others. (1 Corinthians 10:23-24)

Inasmuch as Paul was addressing the practice of eating meat that had been sacrificed to idols in the first-century city of Corinth, the point of the passage is the freedom we have been granted in Christ, and Paul’s words are every bit as fresh and relevant to you and me today as they were to the Corinthians then. The freedom we have received must always be used for two reasons: the glory of God and the good of others – all others. Paul was telling the Corinthians that it is lawful to eat all food that God has given us, but when it hurts the conscience of others, we are not to exercise our Christian liberty.

The life of the believer should be marked by “other orientation.” We are to think about others and consider how whatever we are doing might affect them, either positively or negatively. We should never exercise the freedom we have been given in a way that might cause a brother or sister to stumble into sin or waver in their faith. Some activities are permissible for us to engage in, but not beneficial for others. Jesus Christ laid His life down for others, and we are to use His model to guide us to the best decisions possible in our own Christian walk.

The liberty we have in the Lord must never to be used as a license to live any way we choose. We must always consider the impact our choices may have on others. Paul knew that meat offered to idols was still just meat, and therefore completely permissible to eat, but the more important question was whether or not the practice of eating that meat was beneficial for others. So the overarching consideration is not whether a practice is permissible, but whether engaging in that practice is in the best interest of others and the expansion of the kingdom of God.

The bottom line is this: the principle of love is the foundation upon which our lives are to be built. Our thoughts should be shaped by other orientation. Because love is not self-seeking (1 Corinthians 13:5), but rather other-oriented, we must always consider others before we act. Selfishness is not the way for the saints of God; sacrificial service is the way, service built upon our love for others. The Christian life should transcend self as we seek the good of others.

When we find ourselves in one of life’s “grey areas,” we are to live graciously for the good of others. It is permissible to drink a glass of wine, but is it beneficial to do it in the presence of a friend who may struggle with alcohol? It is lawful to play a game of low-stakes poker, but is it beneficial to play with a friend who may become ensnared by gambling?

How other-oriented is the life you are currently living? Do you consider others when you are making decisions, especially in the areas of freedom and liberty? Remember, love always lifts others up, and this must be our goal, even when living in love limits our own freedom. “Nobody should seek his own good, but the good of others.”

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

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The Saint, the Stone, and the Savior

So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. (1 Corinthians 10:31)

There is a story that falls under the heading of biblical legend, as it does not appear anywhere in Scripture. However, its profound meaning is woven throughout the pages of Holy Writ from Genesis to Revelation.

The story goes like this: Jesus was walking with His disciples, and He asked each of them to pick up a stone and carry it for Him. They all picked up stones — some bigger, some smaller. Peter picked up a small, smooth stone that would be easy to carry and placed in in his pocket. They traveled together for several hours, arriving at the next town tired and hungry. Jesus promptly turned the stones into bread and said, “Enjoy your lunch.”

Peter was frustrated, knowing that his small stone — which was now a morsel of bread — would only provide him a meager meal. After lunch, Jesus asked His disciples to pick up another stone and carry it for Him. Peter, being a quick study, picked up a large boulder and hoisted it on his shoulder. Jesus and the disciples traveled to the next town throughout the afternoon. This time, they arrived at a river bank, tired and hungry, and Jesus directed them to throw their stones into the river, which they did at once. They looked at Jesus, waiting expectantly for the miracle of their stones being turned into bread . . . or perhaps fish! This time, however, Jesus did nothing. When Peter and the disciples began to grumble, Jesus looked at them with great compassion and asked them gently, “For whom did you carry the stone?”

This story is as profound as it is personal, because we are all like Peter. The first time the disciples carried the stones for Jesus; the second time, they carried the stones for themselves. Are you and I any different? How often, in serving our Lord, are we actually serving ourselves? How often do we serve with an eye toward what we will get in return for our service?

The question we must ask ourselves is this: For whom are we carrying the stone? Perhaps the stone is . . .

  • Bible Study
  • Prayer
  • Church Attendance
  • Giving Money
  • Volunteer Service
  • Sharing The Gospel

This list will vary from saint to saint, but the goal must never change. We are to carry every stone for the glory of our Savior and the expansion of His Kingdom . . . and for no other reason. Is this the confession of our lives?

I have admitted to our congregation on more than one occasion that all too often my so-called “service” is stained by the sin of my own self-interest. I would guess that you have experienced similar moments of conviction. At those times, recall the great compassion of our Savior, and accept His gracious invitation:

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9).

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

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More Than Common Sense

Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God. (1 Corinthians 1:24)

We all need common sense, which gives us the ability to use sound judgment in the practical matters of life. One can have great knowledge but no idea how to apply it to daily life, while the one who has common sense will usually make good decisions. But the one with wisdom has the power of God at his or her disposal in the person of Jesus Christ. That is the way to live life!

In the beginning, “By his word were the heavens made, and all the host of them” (Psalm 33:6 NKJV). As John tells us in the opening chapter of his gospel, this Word was not only with God, this Word was God, and through the power and wisdom of this Word that became flesh and dwelt among us, everything was created as a hymn to His glory. “Everything” includes every one of us. But the only way we will be able to sing that song for which we have been created is by looking to the One who is able to make us wise. He is the one who offers us true wisdom.

The so-called “wisdom” of this world at the time of Christ could not comprehend a crucified Messiah. It was inconceivable that the Savior would be nailed to a cross to die a criminal’s death. Make no mistake, when Jesus died on that cruel cross, the wisdom of the world believed that His life had ended in ignoble defeat, not glorious victory. And why would they not? Death is the ultimate weakness. This carpenter’s son may have performed some miracles, they reasoned, like multiplying the loaves and fish and turning water into wine, but coming back to life was something they simply did not have a category for.

Yet this is the wisdom of God: Three days after the crucifixion, God the Father put His stamp of approval on God the Son by raising Him from the dead. To be sure, the death of Jesus for the forgiveness of sins seems foolish to the unbelieving mind. But when Jesus walked out of the grave on that first Easter morning, the wisdom of God became available to everyone who will but trust in Jesus as Savior and Lord. The Wisdom of God is available to us on every page of Scripture. All we need to do is invest our time prayerfully marinating in and meditating on that wisdom.

Remember, “To get wisdom is better than gold” (Proverbs 16:16). Gold can make you a living. Wisdom can make you a life that will live on long after you are gone. Wisdom is much more than common sense, and it is available to you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.

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

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Holy Hedge Of Safety

The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and he delivers them. (Psalm 34:7)

Our loving Lord gives us a wonderful promise in today’s passage of Scripture, but it comes with a condition. God has placed His “holy hedge” around all those who fear Him. This fear of the Lord is not something that drives us into a small, dark corner, cowering miserably because we are afraid of God; that is the fear Adam and Eve felt as they hid from God, shivering in the flimsy fig leaves of their own self-righteousness, after their terrible act of cosmic treason. No, the fear you and I should have for God is a holy reverence and awe for the awesomeness of our God because we love, respect, and honor Him.

The word encamps used in Psalm 34:7 reminds us of the wilderness wanderings the people of God experienced for forty years after having been freed from their bondage in Egypt. Because of their unbelief and disobedience, God gave them forty years to think about their rebellion. But in all that time, He never abandoned them. He encamped around them and protected them from everything that would come against them. Even in their faithlessness, they still feared God, and He was faithful to ultimately deliver them into the Promised Land.

Do you fear God? Do you love and respect Him? Do you esteem Him above all else? Then you can claim this promise today, that God will deliver you from anything comes against you. You have the promise of God’s protection, God’s deliverance, His love, His favor, and His mercy.

Now, we must be careful not to assume something that is not promised. We are not promised a trouble-free existence. The promise is that God will encamp around you and ultimately bring you to the other side of every storm that comes against you . . . if not in this life, then certainly in the next, where you will reach your own Promised Land, a place where there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain (Revelation 21:4).

David wrote in the fourth verse of Psalm 34, “I sought the Lord, and He answered me and delivered me from all my fears.” God not only hears your cries, He has promised to answer them and replace your every fear with faith. All you need to do is seek Him out.

So . . . are you living your life in the fear of God, knowing that He has encamped around you and established His holy hedge of safety? I know that there are times when we feel alone when the waves of challenge are crashing down upon us. At those times, we must remember what Jesus said to His disciples just before His Ascension into heaven: “I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you” (John 14:18). You are not alone. Jesus is with you every step of the way — He is encamped around you — even when your way is long and winding and filled with difficulties. You have His Word on it!

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

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Who Does God Think He Is?

God said, “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” (Exodus 3:5)

Most people believe in God, but they do not believe in the God of the Bible. They believe in a god of love, but not in the God of judgment. They believe in a god who will help you, but not in the God who will hold you accountable to His standard of holiness.

How is it with you? What do you believe?

Many see God as a spiritual Santa who, if they are good, will bring them all the things they have on their wish list. Others see God as a genie in a bottle, who will appear when summoned to answer their requests. The fallen, sinful human nature pines for a god of their imagination, not the God of revelation. Why? Because a god of the imagination gives you what you want, places no demands on you, and leaves you alone until the next time you want him (or her or it) for something.

But this is not for you! I recently reminded our congregation of a scene in the 1966 movie, The Bible, which was based on the events described in Genesis 22. Abraham (played by George C. Scott) is commanded by God to sacrifice his son Isaac. Abraham obediently travels to the place God told him to go, fastens Isaac to the altar, and prepares to sacrifice him. God stops Abraham and shows him a substitute for the sacrifice: a ram caught in the thicket. In the movie, Isaac asks his father, “Is there nothing of thee He cannot ask?” Abraham replies, “Nothing.”

While that exchange between Abraham and Isaac is not recorded in sacred Scripture, it is entirely accurate. You see, the God of the Bible is the One True Living God, who is in control of all things (Romans 11;36). He is the great, the mighty, the awesome God (Deuteronomy 10:19), a consuming fire (Deuteronomy 4:24). When He came down on Mount Sinai, the mountain was covered with smoke and trembled violently (Exodus 19:18). God is holy and just; His eyes are too pure to even look on evil (Habakkuk 1:13) and He cannot tolerate sin. He is the God who said that the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23).

But this awesome, holy, righteous God is also a God of astonishing love and amazing grace. He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to die on a cross to pay the penalty for our sins so we could be brought back into a right relationship with Him. Yes, the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 6:23).

Who does God think He is? GOD! He says, “I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me. . . . I say: My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please” (Isaiah 46:9). He is God the Lord, “who created the heavens and stretched them out, who spread out the earth and all that comes out of it, who gives breath to its people, and life to those who walk on it” (Isaiah 42:5). He is the God of all the universe . . . and yet He loved you enough to die for you.

Is he your God today? If He is, remember, there is nothing He cannot ask of you. But there is nothing that can or will take away His love for you.  

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

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Only One Thing Needed

“Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:42)

When Jesus came to visit Mary, Martha, and Lazarus, the sisters were busily engaged in preparing to receive their Lord and His disciples. Luke recorded that when Jesus arrived, Mary knew it was time to put her doing down and sit at the feet of her Lord. Martha, on the other hand, was distracted by all the work to be done, giving us much-needed insight into her heart — and our own hearts as well. Martha had lost sight of her Savior because she shifted her focus to her service. In serving her Lord, she was actually serving herself, which provides a stark warning to you and me today: Even service to our Savior can become self-serving!

We can get so busy doing stuff for our Savior that we neglect to spend time with our Savior. Martha was encumbered by all of her doing and frustrated that Mary had stopped helping with the preparations. Finally, Martha snapped, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself?” (Luke 10:40).

Jesus’ response amounted to a gentle rebuke.

“‘Martha, Martha,’ the Lord answered, ‘you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.'” (Luke 10:41-42)

In the ancient cultural context, when a name was repeated, it was a sign of relationship, friendship, and intimacy. Jesus was not upset with Martha, even though Martha seemed a bit upset with Him. In essence Jesus was saying to Martha, “I appreciate all that you are doing to make preparations for our visit. Hospitality is a good thing, and we are to show it to everyone. But if we are not careful, our hospitality may cease being about those we are serving, because we are actually serving ourselves.”

I can personally testify to this truth in my life as a pastor. There have been too many times when my service has been self-serving. I was feeling good about myself, not striving to empty myself to make someone else feel good. We are not immune to self-service, even when we are serving our Savior.

How is it with you? Are you more like Martha? Or Mary? I believe that if we truly love our Lord, we all have a bit of both of them in us. We want to serve to the best of our ability, but we also need to know there is a time for serving . . . and a time for sitting. Our Lord is telling us directly that it is better for us to sit at His feet and absorb His love, grace, and truth, than to stay busy simply for the sake of being busy.

Have you chosen what is better? May this “better choice” be the confession of our lives!

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

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Doubting John

Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else? (Matthew 11:3)

Most Bible students have heard of “Doubting Thomas,” the disciple who was not present on that first Easter evening when Jesus presented Himself to the other disciples. Thomas rejected the reports that Jesus had risen from the dead, saying flatly, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it” (John 20:25). When Jesus presented Himself a week later to Thomas, his doubts disappeared and he believed . . . and worshiped.

But there is another doubter described in the New Testament: John the Baptist. John, who preached the Gospel so powerfully and fearlessly, had rebuked King Herod for marrying his sister-in-law. The unrepentant Herod was furious and cast John into prison. As John languished in his cell, perhaps rightly suspecting that he would not leave that cell alive, doubt began to set in as to whether Jesus really was the promised Messiah.

Why would John doubt? Well, if Jesus truly was the Messiah, why was John in prison? John had been boldly preaching the good news of the Gospel and baptizing new believers in the name of Jesus. Surely the real Messiah would want John to continue his ministry and would have the power to keep John out of prison, carrying on the work of the Kingdom. It would have made no sense to John that he was behind bars if Jesus really was the promised King of kings and Lord of lords.

The truth is, much of life does not make sense to us. Isaiah recorded these words: “‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the Lord. ‘As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts'” (55:8-9). The expectation of the Jewish people when the promised Messiah came was that He would vanquish all of the enemies of God’s people and return Israel to her former power and prominence. At the time of Christ, the nation of Israel was a conquered nation, chafing under the rule and reign of Rome. John couldn’t understand why he would be in a Roman prison if Jesus was the One who was promised to set the people of Israel free.

So John sent his disciples to ask Jesus the question recorded in Matthew 11:3, and our loving Lord gently responded —

Go back and report to John what you hear and see. The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor. (Matthew 11:4)

All the miracles Jesus cited were signs that pointed to the reality that Jesus was the Messiah. You see, what so many in that day simply could not understand was that Israel’s greatest adversary was not Rome; their most terrible enemies were sin, Satan, and death. Jesus had come to destroy the works of the devil, not the wrongdoing of Rome. He came first as a suffering Servant to pay the penalty for our sin. He will come again, however, this time as our conquering King, who will put all His enemies under His feet.

But what about John? Was Jesus disappointed that John was doubting? Was He angry that John had actually sent disciples to question Him? How would Jesus respond to John’s faltering faith?

“I tell you the truth: Among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist.” (Matthew 11:11)

Jesus received John’s question with kindness and words of reassurance; He receives our doubts too. He answered John’s question graciously, and He will answer us in the very same way. Sometimes we face storms in this life that cause us to doubt. When that happens, we must do exactly what John did: take our doubts directly to Jesus. Jesus will not be disappointed by our doubts, and He will not disregard our doubts. Rather, Jesus will encourage us with His unconditional love to carry on, even in the face of doubt.

“Take heart!” He tells us. “I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). And thanks to His atoning death, burial, and supernatural resurrection, so will we.

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

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Deepest Desire Of The Heart

Nothing can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:39)

The deepest desire of every human heart is to experience a love that will last. However, it is a sad but inescapable truth that if we live long enough, we will lose everyone we love. But there is a love that nothing in this world can ever take away from us, and that is the love of God in Christ Jesus.

History has demonstrated that most of mankind’s miseries come from feeling unloved. All the way back in the Garden of Eden, the devil convinced Adam and Eve that God did not really love them because He would not give them everything. The serpent pointed to the one prohibition that God had given them — “Do not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil” — to plant the suspicion that God did not have their best interest in mind. If God had really loved them, Adam and Eve supposed, He would not restrict their freedom to do whatever they wanted. So, having been convinced at the deepest level of their hearts that God did not truly love them, Adam and Eve chose to rebel against God, and we have been rebelling ever since . . . and feeling the exact same way: unloved.

But this is not for you! Today’s verse makes it crystal clear that we are indeed loved by God, and that love is as personal as it is permanent. Notice how Paul framed out this truth as he was writing to a church that would soon be suffering unimaginable persecution because they were followers of Jesus Christ.

I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:37-39)

As a pastor and a theologian, I simply cannot find a more comforting verse in all of sacred Scripture. Why? It’s easy to imagine that we are unloved when storm winds begin to blow; we start to wonder if God has abandoned us. But the apostle Paul asserts that is impossible, because greater is the power that is at work within us than any power that can ever come against us. And that power is love.

Paul was reminding his readers then and now that no matter what comes up against us, from persecution to illness to even death itself, we have a love that will last forever. When this truth seizes us, we will feel a supernatural security in the face of any trial or tragedy that comes our way, knowing that nothing can loosen the grip of our Lord’s love for us.

Does the life you are currently living reflect your belief in this truth? Paul declared that “We are more than conquerors through him who loved us” (Romans 8:37). Because we are in Christ, we are the objects of a love that will never falter, fade, or fail, no matter what comes against us. That truth frees us from fear and doubt and empowers us to live lives of faith, no matter what challenges may confront us, because God’s love for us is as unconquerable as it is unending. He meets the deepest desire of our hearts; his banner over us is love (Song of Solomon 2:4).

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

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Supernatural Self-Regard

I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court; indeed, I do not even judge myself. (1 Corinthians 4:3)

How do you see yourself? For centuries, traditional cultures believed that high self-esteem was the reason for most of the trouble in the world. The Greek word hubris – meaning unhealthy pride or too high a view of oneself – was often used as the identifier for this problem. But today’s western culture sees this issue through a completely different set of lenses, and we are told that the reason for most of the trouble in the world today is caused by low self-esteem.

Regardless of where today’s message finds you, whether your self-esteem is “high” or “low,” the Gospel is the key to maintaining the right supernatural self-regard. Paul wrote that he cared not how he was judged by others, and even went so far as to disregard his own opinion of himself. The apostle cared only about the opinion of the Omniscient One. The verdict about Paul’s life was to be delivered from above, and he rested in the reality of that truth. The Gospel does not encourage us to think more highly of ourselves, nor does it encourage us to think less of ourselves. Rather, the Gospel is rooted in thinking of ourselves less because we are thinking more and more of our Savior.   

Supernatural self-regard says, ‘I don’t care what you think of me, and I don’t even care what I think of myself,” because the verdict is already in: “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1). Paul knew that he was justified (declared righteous) in the eyes of God because of what Jesus Christ had done for him. Paul did not need to prove himself to anyone, because he knew he was fully accepted in the Beloved.

Paul clearly had a puffed view of himself prior to meeting Jesus on the road to Damascus; he was a “Hebrew of Hebrews and in regard to the law, a Pharisee” (Philippians 3:5). After Jesus saved him, it would have been easy for Paul to sink into dismally low self-esteem because of how he had persecuted, imprisoned, and even killed Christians. But Paul understood the Gospel and lived with what I call supernatural self-regard.

How is it with you? Are you driven by the opinion of others? Are you driven by your own opinion? Jesus sits on the throne of the entire universe as the King of kings, Lord of lords, and Judge of all things. The verdict is in and court is adjourned. You have been loved with an everlasting love; you are the “apple of His eye,” as David wrote in Psalm 17:8. Paul and David were both great sinners in need of an even greater Savior, and they both had supernatural self-regard because they kept their eyes on God.

What about you?

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

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