Category Archives: General

The Believer’s Bullseye

To live is Christ. (Philippians 1:21)

The bullseye that I am referring to today is not the center of a piece of candy, but the center of a target, and that target is found in the first four words in the Bible: “In the beginning God . . .” Note well that Scripture does not say, “I the beginning I . . .” We are not the center of all things; God is. We are not to be sitting on the throne of our lives; God is. We are not to be at the center of our very existence; God is. God is the believer’s bullseye; when we are aiming at Him, we are doing what we were created to do.

Sin kidnaps our lives and removes Jesus from the center. Sin puts us in the center of God’s glory story and we evaluate our lives through the filter of “Me, myself, and I.” We shrink the borders of our lives down to what we want, what we feel, what we desire, what we think is best for us at the time. The selfishness of sin replaces the Savior with self. We become the bullseye of our lives, and we miss God’s best for us in every area.

Sin seduces us into believing that “Life is all about me.” It makes us controlling, demanding, critical, envious, and discontented. It causes us to fight with our family and flee from our friends. That is why we need to preach the Gospel to ourselves each and every day, because that is the only way to keep ourselves from pushing Jesus out to the periphery of our lives.

Our lives exist for Another; His name is Jesus Christ. It is His will, not ours, that is to be done. It is His kingdom, not ours, that is to be advanced in this world. It is His glory, not ours, that is to be put on display. When Jesus is at the center of our lives, we will live with purpose, meaning, and significance. We will have an identity that cannot be shaken by the sorrows and storms of this life. We will be living a life that truly matters, and we will make a lasting difference in this world by being different from this world. The grace of the Gospel rescues us from ourselves and empowers us to live for the glory of the One who laid down His life to pay the penalty for all our sins.

So . . . what has been at the center of your life lately? Your Savior? Or yourself? Remember, when Jesus is your bullseye, you won’t always get what you want in life, but you will always get exactly what you need, exactly when you need it. You have His Word on that!

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


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Never a Deaf Ear

Surely the arm of the Lord is not too short to save, nor his ear too dull to hear. (Isaiah 59:1)

I know it can feel like God has turned a deaf ear when you cry out to Him and heaven seems to have gone stonily silent. But it only seems like this is true. I also know that the Bible warns us that unrepentant sin and rebellion can get in the way of our prayers to God. This is true. When we have deliberately turned a deaf ear to God and all He has taught in His Word, our prayers can be an abomination to God (Proverbs 28:9). But make no mistake, nothing ever gets in the way of God hearing our prayers — not Satan and not even our sin. God hears our every prayer, and as I have said here before, He gives one of three different responses: “Go,” “No,” or “Grow.” Only when we are spending adequate time in His presence will we be able to discern the answer He has given us.

God loves to hear from us about everything that is taking place in our lives. As the prophet Isaiah said in our verse for today, the Lord’s ear is never too dull to hear. A dull, deaf ear is simply not a possibility for our God. The psalmist exulted, “I love the Lord, for he heard my voice; he heard my cry for mercy. Because he turned his ear to me, I will call on him as long as I live” (Psalm 116:1-2). That is a word of encouragement that should encourage us all to cry out to God day and night. He hears our prayers and He responds to all of them. And when He does not respond to our cries in the way we expect, it is simply because He is planning to exceed our expectations.

When we sin — and we do that often — we need to go to the One who is faithful and just to forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9). We can and should “approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (Hebrews 4:16).

Have you been feeling like God has turned a deaf ear to your prayers? If you are not getting a “Yes” from God, and you have settled your sin account with Him by confessing your sins and trusting in Jesus Christ’s atoning work on your behalf, simply rest in the knowledge that God’s thoughts are not your thoughts and His ways are not your ways (Isaiah 55:8). His answer of “No” or “Grow” is for your ultimate good and His glory. Let that truth set you free to keep on crying out to the One, who never turns a deaf ear to you.

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

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Objects of God’s Almighty Affection

The Lord set his affection on your ancestors and loved them, and he chose you, their descendants, above all nations – as it is today. (Deuteronomy 10:15)

It is one thing to know that God chose to create us; not only that, but He chose to create us in His image. It is another thing altogether to know that we are also objects of His Almighty Affection. From the opening of Scripture to the very last word, the Bible demonstrates just how much God loves and cares for us. God so loved the world that He sent His only Son, Jesus Christ, to save His people from their sins (Matthew 1:21).

And the love of God is not dependent upon us! God did not love us because we were lovable. God did not love us because we were worthy of His love. God did not love us because we did anything to earn or deserve His love. God simply chose before the beginning of time to love us (2 Timothy 1:9), and His love is as unconditional as it is complete. God will never love us any more than He already does, and He will never love us any less. Our Father’s love is fixed, full, and final.

Think about it this way: God created you so He could shower His love upon you. You can read this word because God loves you. You are alive right now because God loves you. And when you breathe your last, God will love you in eternity just the same as He loves you today. Because of the sinless life, sacrificial death, and supernatural resurrection of Jesus, God has made a way for us to be welcomed into an eternal and personal relationship with Him, simply by trusting in what Jesus has done for us our Savior, our Redeemer, and our Lord.

Because God’s love for you is based on His character and not your conduct, you are an object of His affection moment by moment, each and every day. No human mind can even begin to grasp “how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ” (Ephesians 3:18). Remember, on this side of glory, we get only a taste of what it means to be the object of God’s almighty affection. We are “looking through a glass, darkly” (1 Corinthians 13:12KJV). When we reach the other side we will, for the very first time, experience the end of all sin, sickness, sorrow, and struggle. We will be in eternal bliss with our Lord Jesus and all the saints of God.

I have repeated this lovely conclusion to C.S. Lewis’s book, The Last Battle, from the pulpit on more than one occasion, and it bears repeating here: Summarizing the lives of the four siblings, Lucy, Edmund, Susan, and Peter, who passed through the wardrobe and into Narnia, Lewis wrote —

All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on for ever: in which every chapter is better than the one before.

That is the glorious future that awaits all those who have trusted in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord of their lives and thus are objects of God’s almighty affection.

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

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When Upside Down Is Right-Side Up

“These men who have turned the world upside down have come here also.” (Acts 17:6 NASB)

The Jewish people of Thessalonica witnessed the work of Paul and Silas and came to the conclusion that they had “turned the world upside down.” They called Paul a fool and a madman, the same thing that was said about the prophet Hosea (Hosea 9:7). These people were not looking at the work the apostles were doing with the eyes of faith; they were looking through the eyes of the flesh and from an earthly perspective. They fumed that Paul and Silas were turning the world upside down; but when we read the Acts of the Apostles with the eyes of faith and view their actions from a heavenly and eternal perspective, we understand that what Paul and Silas were actually doing was turning the world right-side up.

The Gospel makes no sense to the unbelieving world. When we are living out its eternal truths, the eyes of the flesh see it as turning the world upside down. But what is actually happening is that we are being used to put things back in order, the order God ordained from the foundation of creation. You see in the Gospel social barriers being broken down and hearts set free to begin beating for the One who created all things and pronounced them all very good (Genesis 1:31). Paul and Silas were restoring God’s order to this world by saving souls and changing lives for Christ.

There is neither Jew nor Gentile, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:28)

The Gospel turns the corrupted systems of this world right-side up. Because the ground is level at the foot of the cross, every single person has dignity, value, and worth. No one is more valuable than anyone else. We are all one in Christ. None of us are needed, but all of us are wanted by Jesus to shine His love light into a dark, disoriented, and desperate world.

Can the same thing be said about you that was said about Paul and Silas? Would unbelievers fuss, “That person has turned the world upside down!” God wants to use YOU to expand the cause of His Kingdom in this world. He delights in giving you opportunities to lead others to Him. When you do this, you will be fulfilling your divine destiny, and you will be used by God to turn a sin-stained, upside-down world right-side up. Let that truth set you free to live with freedom, joy, and faithfulness to Jesus, regardless of the cost or circumstance.  

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

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When Blessings Dull Rather Than Drive

Blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord. (Psalm 40:4)

We all want to live a blessed life. We pray for blessings. We thank God for blessings. But we need to be careful how we receive and respond to our blessings! When the children of Israel were freed from bondage in Egypt after four hundred years of slavery, they witnessed miracle after miracle and received blessing after blessing. Sadly, their blessings eventually began to dull their senses rather than drive their service. Their blessings turned into sedatives rather than stimulants.

They passed through the Red Sea on dry ground as the pursuing Egyptian army was swallowed up by the waters. They ate manna from heaven. They drank water from a rock. They were guided by a cloud during the day and a pillar of fire at night. Yet, rather than being stimulated to service, the people of Israel received these supernatural blessings almost as if they were an entitlement, and they whined, grumbled, and complained against their leaders — against Moses and Aaron and even against God Himself.

Here is what we must remember about blessings: They are gifts from God in that moment, not guarantees for the future. If we are not careful, we can allow blessings to dim our eyes of faith and stay our helping hands. Whatever blessings we receive from the hand of God, we must receive them with gratitude and thanksgiving, knowing that we have been blessed in order to be a blessing to others.

So . . . where in your life has God been blessing you lately? Have your blessings driven you to more dynamic devotion to Jesus and a deeper delight in your relationship with Him? Or have your blessings turned into sedatives rather than stimulants? Have your blessings been dulling your senses?

God has given each of us blessings multiplied – blessings of opportunities . . . blessings of resources . . . blessings of possibilities. As God blesses us, let us be prayerfully blessing others; by this all people will know we are disciples of our loving and blessing Lord, Jesus Christ.  

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

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Finding Identity in the Almighty, Not Achievement

You are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household. (Ephesians 2:19)

We were made by God for God, and all that we do should be done for the glory of God. We serve a BIG God, and God wants us to do big things to expand the cause of His Kingdom in this world. But if we find our identity in our achievements and not in the Almighty, the wheels begin to come off the tracks of our lives and we will eventually, inevitably veer off into a ditch.

We were made for success, but that success must be found in the service of others, not at their expense. When we seek to find our identity in our achievements, we tend to love things and use people. But when we look for our identity in the Almighty, we will love people and use things. At this level of living, God is on the throne of our lives. Because of God’s grace poured out into our lives, our identity must be rooted in the achievement of another, and His name is Jesus Christ. When we are looking to Jesus, leaning on Jesus, and living for Jesus, our sense of accomplishment will derived from what He has already accomplished for us. Our identity will be found in His finished work, not our achievements.

Our enemy the devil will do everything in his power to get us to focus on achievement rather than the Almighty. This is one of the sharpest darts in his arsenal. He is always urging us to chase after the things of this world rather than the One who created the world. Satan will encourage and entice us to glory in our own achievements rather than the Almighty. That is why these words from the apostle Paul must to be etched in our minds and emblazoned on our hearts:

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (Galatians 2:20)

When we locate our identity in Christ, we have built our lives on rock, rather than on shifting sand. We can weather both the storm winds that blow and the successes that grow in our lives. There is only one thing in the entire universe that is constant and unchanging – actually He is a Person, not a thing — He is Almighty God. Our achievements come and go, but Jesus has promised never to leave or forsake us. When our identity is in Him, we will never be let down, because He is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

Where have you been finding your identity lately — in your achievements or in the Almighty? When your identity is located in nothing smaller than Jesus, you will be able to rest in the reality that you are fully loved and completely forgiven — today, tomorrow, and forever.

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

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Relationships, Like Gardens, Require Tending

Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. (Galatians 6:7)

You would not put in all the effort to plant a garden – look for a good location, make a plan, excavate the plot of land, plant, water, nurture and care for your flowers – and then walk away, thinking your work was accomplished and expecting all to go well. Before long, weeds would take over your garden. Growing good gardens is just like growing good relationships; both take time and care – not just once in a while, but daily. When you have done all that is necessary to get your garden started, that is when the work begins in earnest.

Relationships, both your vertical relationship with God and horizontally with other people, are no different. They must be nurtured and cared for daily or weeds will take over the garden.

There are many different kinds of weeds. There are weeds of self-centeredness, weeds of pride and self-righteousness, weeds of anger and apathy, weeds of conflict and control, weeds of bitterness and brokenness — and these are just a few of the various kinds of noxious weeds that grow up in the garden of our relationships. All of them come under the heading of sin. Because we are sinners in need of a Savior, even after we have been saved, we must invest time each day into caring for the relationships that matter most in our lives.

We must take care never to fall into “Sprinkler Head Syndrome,” where much of the water passes over what is closest to the sprinkler head, while that which is further away is watered and growing. It has been well said that “Without hard work, nothing grows but weeds.” If you want to receive a harvest from your relationship garden, spend time weeding each day. Put in the hard work of caring and nurturing. But remember, there is a balance that must be cultivated in order to maximize the harvest. If you “over tend” your relationships, you can drive people away; if you “under tend” them, the relationships begin to wither, wander, and die.

The book of James gives us good advice in finding a balance in tending our relationships: “Be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry” (James 1:19). When others see that we are more interested in what they are thinking and feeling than we are in talking about ourselves, they will want to stay in relationship with us.

How is your garden of relationships growing lately – both your vertical relationship with our Lord and your horizontal relationships with others? Do you need to do any weeding? Do any of those relationships need attention? Remember, you will always reap the results of what you sow and how carefully you care for what was sown.

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

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When Slavery Is Freedom

Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone to obey him as slaves, you are slaves to the one whom you obey — whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness? . . . But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. (Romans 6:16, 22)

We are all slaves to something because we all worship something. We were made for worship, and what we worship enslaves us. That is why the only slavery in the world that actually sets us free is slavery to our Savior. Because we were created in the image of God, we were made to worship God. We were created to be under His authority, dominion, and rule. When we rebel against God’s control of everything in this universe (including our lives), we sell ourselves into bondage to ourselves. But when we submit to His sovereign rule and become His slaves, we begin to experience true freedom in this life. Freedom is found only in willing submission to our Savior.

When Adam and Eve tried to come out from under God’s authority, they thought they would experience ultimate freedom. They did not; they plunged themselves and all of creation into bondage to sin, Satan, and death. But God came after those rebels on the run. He refused to let them remain in their sinful and estranged condition.

We all seek freedom. To be sure, it is considered the highest virtue in the West. But true freedom will only be found in slavery to Jesus. The Word of God tells us we are all slaves — either to sin or to righteousness. Slavery to Christ is the freedom our hearts beat for, whether we know it or not. Our hearts beat for the peace that can only be found in Christ. Our hearts beat for the love that can only be found in Christ. Our hearts beat for the meaning, significance, and purpose that can only be found in Christ. When we are brought into a saving relationship with Jesus, we are crucified with Christ and become new creatures (Romans 6:4). True freedom is realized when we acknowledge Jesus as both Savior and Lord of our lives.

Make no mistake, slavery is inevitable. We are all going to be enslaved to something. Some are enslaved through their jobs . . . others through their food and drink . . . still others through relationships. Only when Jesus is sitting on the throne of our lives will we experience slavery to Him as the ultimate freedom in this life and the next.

How much freedom have you been experiencing lately? Remember, Jesus gives you the opportunity to choose freedom — not just daily, but moment by moment. Joshua summed it up beautifully: “Choose this day whom you will serve . . . but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15).

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

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Living The Master’s Mystery Novel

The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law. (Deuteronomy 29:29)

When was the last time your life went according to your plan for any significant length of time?

What was that you said? There never was a significant length of time like that? I can relate! My life never goes according to my plan. Yesterday didn’t go according to my plan; today is not going according to my plan; and I doubt very much that tomorrow will go according to my plan either! And the reason my life does not go according to my plan is because I am not the author and perfecter of my life’s plan . . . God is.

When you think about it, the story of our lives could be titled “The Master’s Mystery Novel.” There is no need to go out and purchase the latest best-selling mystery novel; our lives are mystery novels, stories crafted by the omniscient, omnipotent, hand of Almighty God before we were born (Psalm 139:16).

Oh, I make plans, set goals, and plot the best course of action to take. I have said many times that Christians should be the number one goal-setting group of people on the planet, and I believe that. If God is for us, who can be against us? (Romans 8:31). But God is directing my every step along the way, and more often than not, His direction takes me off my script.

There are times when the Master’s mystery novel makes it look like our lives are out of control, and it certainly is true that our lives are completely out of any significant measure of our control. But God has everything under His control, His wise and sovereign control, “for from him and through him and to him are all things” (Romans 11:36).

God is the One who has written our story, “from life’s first cry to final breath,” as the song says. The Lord God Omnipotent reigns, and He knows exactly what we need and when we need it. He knows just the right amounts of mercy, grace, correction, forgiveness, encouragement, discipline, and love we need, every moment of every day. God has ordained everything that is going on in our lives right now, so He knows exactly what we need as we are going through all of it. God is involved in every detail of our lives, orchestrating all of it and using all of it — even our sinful acts of disobedience — for His glory and our good.

Regardless of where this message finds you today, you can be assured that God is at work in your life, making you more and more like Jesus, and He will do that by any means necessary. Remember that conformity to Christ is the end goal for every Christian (Romans 8:29), which means that God will stop at nothing in order to accomplish that goal. Keep trusting in Him and depending on Him as you make your way through the Master’s mystery novel of your life, knowing that He who began that good work has promised that He will one day bring it to completion (Philippians 1:6).

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

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The Road Ahead Is Under Construction

Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. (Philippians 1:6)

Because we are not home yet, we are not yet what God intends us to be. John Newton, the former slaver who is best known for writing the beloved hymn “Amazing Grace,” said it best:

I am not what I ought to be, I am not what I want to be, I am not what I hope to be in another world; but still I am not what I once used to be, and by the grace of God I am what I am.

As believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, we live within the tension of the “Already” and “Not Yet.” In the eyes of God, we are already perfected, having been washed clean by the blood of the Lamb and clothed in the rich robes of the righteousness of Christ. When Jesus came out of the water of the Jordan after being baptized by John the Baptist, heaven opened up and God declared, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” God speaks this over each one of us who are in Christ. God is well pleased with us because He is well pleased with Jesus.

However, in the reality of our daily lives, we are all too painfully aware that we are not yet perfected. We are undergoing the process called sanctification. God is growing us up into Christ and making us more and more like Him by any means necessary. We are not yet what God’s grace intends for us to be, but we have been given glorious the promise that one day we will be! God will not stop short of perfecting us as we make our way into glory. Today’s verse tells us that the good work God began in us He has promised to complete.

And God always keeps His promises! Numbers 23:19 assures us that “God is not a man, that he should lie, nor a son of man, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill?” (Numbers 23:19). No matter how unfaithful we might be, God’s faithfulness to us never fails (2 Timothy 2:13). God does not get angry with us. God does not grow weary of us. God never exasperatedly asks Himself why in the world He gave His beloved Son to save broken, sin-stained sinners like you and me. God loves us, and He will continue leading us along the pathway of life through every imaginable kind of season, each one designed to cause us to decrease and Jesus to increase in our lives. The road ahead is under construction, and for that I am eternally grateful!

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

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