Category Archives: General

Does God Care About What We Want?

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

We find ourselves dissatisfied with our lot in life when we mix up our understanding of needs and wants. Today’s verse assures us that God has promised to meet our every need, but not our every want. If God cares for the birds of the air and the flowers of the field — and He most certainly does — then He surely cares for you and will fulfill His promise to meet your needs . . . not just daily, but moment by moment. The only time your needs will not be met on this side of the grave will be when you have completed your ministry of service to Him and breathe your last. But then you will be present with Him in glory, where there will be will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain (Revelation 21:4).

But does this mean that God has no concern for our wants? Does he care nothing about satisfying them in our lives? Nothing could be further from the truth! One of the most memorable passages of Scripture is Psalm 37:4, which assures us, “Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.” When we are delighting in the Lord, the Lord delights to give us our desires, because our desires are in line with His desires for us. God delights in blessing His people with good things, and we are to receive them with joy and thanksgiving, knowing that we have been blessed so that we can be a blessing to others.

If you have children, you can think about this from a parent’s perspective. Don’t you want to give your children the very best life has to offer? Of course you do! You love your kids and want the best for them. The same is true for God. He loves all of His children and delights in giving them the desires of their hearts.

The deepest biblical understanding of what it means to “delight in the Lord” is to make our Lord our greatest delight. When we do, we can be assured that our Lord will delight in not only meeting our needs, but in granting us the deepest desires of our heart.

I am often asked, “How do I know if I am truly delighting in the Lord?” The answer is surprisingly simple: Look at how you spend your time. If all you are using out of the 168 hours you have been given each week is one hour in the presence of your Lord on Sunday morning, it is painfully obvious that there is precious little “delight” for you . . . only desultory duty. But if you are spending time each day on your knees and in His Word, then your desires will begin to conform to His desires for you, and you will be ready to receive all that God has purposed and planned for your life.

When we truly believe that God is our greatest good, both needs and wants are ours .

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

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It Sounds Too Good To Be True!

Already you are clean because of the Word that I have spoken to you.  (John 15:3)

To be sure, the old adage, “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is” is sage advice, but it isn’t always true, especially when the “sound” is coming from the Bible. The devil wants us to view the Scriptures with suspicion, cynicism, and doubt. His first attack against mankind in the Garden of Eden was to cause Adam and Eve to question the truth and goodness of God’s Word. To be sure, there is much we find in the Word of God that sounds too good to be true, but it is true; His Word is truth (John 17:17). When we receive God’s truth by faith, we can respond to it in faith and begin living the life God has called and equipped us to live.

Today’s verse — the promise of being clean in the sight of God — surely sounds too good to be true, because we are all painfully aware that we are not always clean in thought, word, deed, or desire. But because we are clothed in the righteousness of Christ, we are clean in the eyes of God. He regards us as possessing the perfect righteousness of His beloved Son, because He has credited (the theological word is imputed) Christ’s righteousness to all who believe the Gospel.

Let me share just two more of these “too good to be true” promises with you today:

The Promise of Pardon

There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. (Romans 8:1)

At the top of the list of those things that sound too good to be true is the promise of pardon. Because of what God in Christ has done for us on the cross, our guilt and shame have been completely and eternally taken away. All of our sins — past, present, and those still to come — have been nailed to the cross, and regardless of what we do, we are secure in our salvation because God, the righteous judge of all the universe, has declared us “Not guilty.” What we must always keep in view is the fact that God does not love us because we are good; He loves us because we are His, and dying on a cross to make us His makes that truth abundantly and gloriously clear.  

The Promise of Presence

God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5)

The writer of Hebrews was quoting from the Old Testament book of Deuteronomy. I’m sure you believe that every Word from God is important, but when God repeats Himself, we should pay extra attention to what He has said. Once again, His promise sounds too good to be true! But consider this for a moment: God has promised us His presence today, tomorrow, and forever. We will never be left alone, no matter what we do. Jesus promised to send His Holy Spirit to every believer when He ascended to heaven. Our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit — literally, dwelling places for the Spirit of God — so we have God’s presence with us 24/7, 365 days a year. And when we breathe our last, we will be ushered into His eternal presence.

The Promise of Pardon and The Promise of Presence really do sound too good to be true, but they are true for all those who, by grace through faith, have trusted in Christ alone for salvation. You can sum up these words of eternal encouragement by simply saying, We are always forgiven and We are never forsaken! We are eternally clean in the sight of God. Let these “too good to be true” truths set you free to be all God is calling you to be.

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

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Refreshment Required

I will refresh the weary and satisfy the faint.  (Jeremiah 31:25)

Are you feeling in need of refreshment lately? If you are anything like me, I’ll bet you are! And how glorious and gratifying it is to know that we do not need to put up a false front, feel guilty, or feign strength when we come before the God who has promised to bring refreshment to the weary. Indeed, Scripture encourages us to “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).

I say it here often, but I truly believe that you and I cannot be reminded often enough that our God has promised to meet us in our deepest place of need — not just daily, but moment by moment. In today’s passage from Jeremiah, the need is refreshment. Perhaps you have been experiencing a season of difficulties at work or challenges at home. Maybe you have been disciplined by your loving Father in heaven for having wandered from the path He has set before you. Possibly you are dealing with some kind of loss in your life. Take heart! God has promised to refresh your weary soul.

Take a moment drink in this message of comfort that God gave to Jeremiah. This promise does not apply to those who are working in their own strength. Those who are self-reliant and self-sufficient know nothing of the promise of refreshment from God. Only those who have nothing left in and of themselves, who have reached the end of the proverbial rope and find themselves at rock bottom, know the refreshment of God. Like Paul, they exult that “When I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:10).

If anyone might have been tempted to work in his own strength, it was the apostle Paul. He was at the head of his class when it came to education and abilities. But when he was called by God, Paul was confronted with the painful truth that he could do nothing apart from Christ. He also came to understand the powerful truth, apart from Christ, there could be no refreshment. When we read about the intense persecution Paul suffered for the sake of the Gospel, we can be assured that he experienced physical, emotional, mental, and even spiritual exhaustion. But he knew the fountain from Whom all blessings flow . . . and one of those blessings is refreshment.

Our journey of faith is a long and winding road, dotted with many jarring potholes and plenty of unexpected twists and turns; refreshment is required along the way if we are going to finish our race. Regardless of where this finds you, look to Jesus. Receive His refreshment, which will renew your mind, recalibrate your heart, and realign your will to live the life God has called you to live.

Refreshment is required. Have you received it today?   

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

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Beloved Thornbushes

I will block her path with thornbushes. (Hosea 2:6)

In spite of her unfaithfulness to God, God remained faithful to Israel, and He used thornbushes for Israel’s good and His glory. Instead of abandoning Israel, as she had turned her back on God over and over and over again, He blocked her path with beloved thornbushes to keep His chosen people from diving any deeper into their sinful and willful rebellion against God by seeking after lesser lovers.

How blessed we are to know that when we love Jesus less than we should, He loves us just the same! Jesus pursues sinful rebels on the run away from Him with an unrelenting, unconditional love that will stop at nothing to bring us to our spiritual senses. When we chase after smaller gods, He comes after us and rescues our hearts from the broken cisterns, idols, and illusions that have captured our attention. Our God is a jealous God; He will tolerate no rival for our affections, so He sends beloved thornbushes to block our path into sin and protect us from ourselves.

Notice how the passage from Hosea closes:

I will wall her in so that she cannot find her way. She will chase after her lovers but not catch them; she will look for them but not find them. Then she will say, “I will go back to my husband as at first, for then I was better off than now.” (Hosea 2:6-7)

God loves us so much that He continues to pursue us and bring us back into a right relationship with Him. Oh, how we all long for the day when we will never have to say, “I will go back to my husband as at first,” for we shall never again leave His side. But until that day, always keep in view how much you are loved by God and how He protects you from your selfish and sinful ways. Let us rejoice in knowing that the God of the universe has a special love for us, a love that endures forever and ever, even when we chase after the mirages that lure us into being less than He has called us to be.

Where in your life has God saved you from yourself by putting beloved thornbushes in your path as you were losing your way? Lesser gods and smaller loves will never satisfy, so rejoice in whatever beloved thornbushes God uses to keep you from finding satisfaction in anything smaller than Jesus.

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

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A Fortress of Feathers

He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart. (Psalm 91:4)

Now, there is a counterintuitive statement if I ever heard one! “Under His wings you will find refuge.” The psalmist tells us that we will find refuge behind a fortress of feathers — not in structures of brick or stone or steel, as we might expect.

I am reminded of the children’s story of the three little pigs. Two of the pigs built homes, one out of straw and the other of sticks; the big, bad wolf huffed and puffed and blew both those homes down. The third little pig built his home out of bricks, and the wolf, no matter how fiercely he huffed and puffed, could not blow it down.

That story makes sense to us. A brick house will surely weather the storm winds that blow far better than any house of straw or sticks possibly can. But in God’s economy, the opposite is true. We have received the promise from God –and it is impossible for God to lie — that under His feathers we will find security that cannot be shaken. No wave of challenge, no wind of confrontation can harm us when we are sheltered under the wings of our Lord.

The unbelieving world looks on and considers it foolish that we trust in God for our daily bread and our nightly rest. The world trusts in material things that can be seen and touched, but their hope is badly misplaced. As David wrote in Psalm 20:7-8, “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God. They are brought to their knees and fall, but we rise up and stand firm.” David knew this truth from personal experience. It was he who stood before the giant Goliath and said coolly, “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty” (1 Samuel 17:45). David knew that the Lord was his shield and rampart, and God had proven His faithfulness time and time again.

Only the inspiration of the Holy Spirit could have moved the the writer of Psalm 91 to come up with such a statement about the feathery fortress provided by His God. Charles Spurgeon commented, “Had [the verse] been invented by an uninspired man it would have verged upon blasphemy, for who should dare to apply such words to the Infinite Jehovah?” But here we see a divine disposition of unimaginable compassion and tenderness displayed as our Lord covers us with a fortress of feathers. And no matter how hard this world huffs and puffs, no ill wind will ever be able to blow our holy house down.

The key, then, is for us to remain under God’s wings and not venture out on our own. Stay close to your Lord! Continue to trust and depend upon Him, and lean not on your own understanding. And when you do find yourself buffeted by the storm winds of this life, keep the last portion of today’s passage firmly in mind: his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart. Even when we wander — which which we are all prone to do in our sinful faithlessness — Jesus remains faithful to us. “Never will I leave you,” He assures us; “never will I forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5). We are forever safe in our almighty fortress of feathers because His faithfulness endures forever and ever . . . amen.

Let that truth set you free to be all God is calling you to be.

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

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The Best Is Yet to Come!

Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water”; so they filled them to the brim. Then he told them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet.” (John 2:7-8)

Jesus and His disciples were at a wedding at Cana in Galilee. Wedding celebrations would last a week in the ancient world, and the entire town would be invited to celebrate the couple’s new married life. But this celebration was in danger of turning sour because the hosts were running out of wine; to run out of wine was not only embarrassing, it was considered a demonstration of poor hospitality. Jesus’ mother came and told Him about the problem. After gently chiding Mary that “My time has not yet come,” (John 2:4), Jesus promptly performed the first recorded miracle of His earthly ministry: turning water into wine — and not just any old wine, but the best wine ever tasted.

Have you ever wondered why this was the action Jesus chose to be His first miracle? Why would He begin to reveal His divinity by turning water into wine? Why not do something more spectacular, such as raising someone from the dead, giving sight to the blind, curing a leper, or making the lame walk? I believe that Jesus was demonstrating the principle of beginning with the end in mind. Turning water into wine at a wedding celebration was simply a foreshadowing of the cosmic celebration that awaits the people of God at the heavenly banquet in the kingdom of heaven. It was a sign that pointed to the ultimate wedding feast that will be held for for the Lamb of God and His bride — all those who are united to Him by grace through faith. To echo the words of the master of the banquet who tasted the wine, “You have saved the best till now.”

The promise in this miracle, which might appear entirely insignificant compared to all the other miracles Jesus would perform throughout His earthly ministry, is crystal clear: The best is yet to come. Your best life is not something you are going to experience in the here and now. Your best life is yet to come, when you enter into your eternal rest in the glorious new heavens and new earth. As the apostle Paul exulted, “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Corinthians 2:9).

There is one more thing that this first miracles should call to mind. On the night Jesus was betrayed, He took the cup of wine and shared it with His disciples, telling them that the wine represented His blood, which He would shed as He hung on a cross and paid the penalty for the sins of the world. You see, the best is yet to come for us because Jesus Christ died in our place, rose from the dead, and opened the way for us to reenter a right relationship with God.

It is noteworthy that John’s gospel reports that when the disciples saw this first miraculous sign at the wedding in Cana, they put their faith in Jesus. Is this the confession of your life? Have you trusted in Christ alone for eternal life? If yes, have you also trusted in Christ alone for everyday life? Jesus cared about the people at the wedding, right down to something as seemingly insignificant as how much wine they had to drink at their gathering. He cares about you too . . . even about those “little things” that you’re sure God is far too busy to bother with. What “wine” are you running out of in your life right now? Look to Jesus, and He will refill you to overflowing. Christian, the best is yet to come!

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

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Transfiguration Truth

Then a cloud appeared and enveloped them, and a voice came from the cloud: “This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!”  (Mark 9:7)

What an amazing experience our Lord gave to Peter, James, and John on the mount of Transfiguration! We looked at it on May 28 in a post titled “The One and Only,” which emphasized God’s clear demonstration and declaration that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. Today, let’s take a brief look at the Transfiguration truth these three disciples received that day, which is the same truth we have all been given since that moment on the Mount . . . “Listen to Him!”

How do we listen to our Lord? The very first thing we must do is to slow down long enough to listen. We are so busy being busy in both our professional and personal lives. We have full plates and they are all spinning at high speeds. We need to put some “pause” in our days so we can hear our Lord when He speaks to us.

There are a great many voices clamoring for our attention on the Internet, television, radio, email, and text messages, all of them doing their best to drown out the voice of our Lord. And as if that wasn’t enough, we have Satan himself striving to cause us to question God’s goodness and to doubt His Word (see Genesis 3:1-5). It is essential that we pause each day for a time of listening to our Lord, and the very best way to hear God speak to us is through what He has already spoken to us in sacred Scripture.

We need to be like Peter, who said . . .

“Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life” (John 6:68).

You are probably receiving good and necessary information from a variety of different sources that you need to listen to in order to perform the different functions you have in life. But there is only One source of information that can truly change our lives for our eternal good, and that is the living and active Word of God. Jesus told His disciples that only by abiding in His Word would they know the Truth, and only that Truth would set them free to be all God was calling them to be. That divine instruction applies to each one of us. Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, and only by staying in close communion with Him can we know the way, receive the truth, and live the life we were created to live.

What does this Transfiguration Truth set us free from? Slavery to the self! When we are listening to the words of this world, we are enslaved to the self; when we are enslaved to the self, we shrink the size of our lives down to the size of our lives. We live only a fraction of the life God has called us to live. But when we listen to Transfiguration truth, we are set free from the self to live for our Savior. At this level of living, we begin to realize our potential and grow into the person God designed us to be.

How is it with you? Is your life being transformed by Transfiguration truth? Are you pausing long enough each day to listen to your Lord? Remember the promise of Scripture: “Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you” (James 4:8). The more we draw near to Jesus, the more we will become like Him. Listen to Him!

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

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The Instruction of “Immediately”

When he came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” The Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness.  (Mark 1:10-12 ESV)

As you read through the gospel accounts of the earthly life and ministry of our Lord Jesus Christ, you never read that Jesus was in a hurry. The Father in heaven gave His beloved Son just the right amount of time to do all He had to do as the Savior of the world. Yet not a single moment of time was wasted, and in our passage for today we read about the instruction of “immediately.”

Once the time had come for Jesus to enter into His earthly ministry of three-plus years, notice how quickly everything got going. After John baptized Jesus in the Jordan river, immediately Jesus saw the heavens open up. After God spoke His powerful proclamation about Jesus from the court room of heaven, immediately the Holy Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness to be tested by Satan. To be sure, there is no indication of hurry, but there is a clear sense of God’s holy and divine timetable for the accomplishment of His perfect purpose and plan in the life of our Savior. There was simply no room for any wasted time.

For a little more than three years, our Lord Jesus declared and demonstrated the truths of the Gospel everywhere He went. He did it at wedding celebrations. He did it out in the open air. He did it on the sea shore. He did it in the synagogues and in the Temple. He did it at meals and on the sides of mountains. He did it with individuals, with small groups, and with large masses of people too many to number. Yet the Scriptures never give us any indication that our Lord was fretting about not having enough time to do all He had come to do.

From the life of Jesus, the instruction of “immediately” is clear for every one of His disciples: we all have the perfect amount of time to do everything God has called us to do, no more and no less. To groan that “I just don’t have enough time to get everything done” is simply a reminder that you have attempted to do more than God has ordained for you to do. You have the time . . . you have the talent . . . and you have the treasure . . . and you have the temperament . . . to live out your calling in a way that will bring glory to God and good to others.  

The reason we know Jesus wasted no time and was never in a hurry, yet accomplished everything He came to do, is because He stayed in close communion with His Father in heaven. He sought His Father. He served His Father. He spoke to His Father. When we follow His lead in living out our calling, we can be assured that the instruction of “immediately” will be the confession of our lives, without any worry or anxiety along the way.

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

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“If I Just Reach out to Him . . .”

A large crowd followed and pressed around [Jesus]. And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years. She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse. 27 When she heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, because she thought, “If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.” Immediately her bleeding stopped and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering. At once Jesus realized that power had gone out from him. He turned around in the crowd and asked, “Who touched my clothes?” (Mark 5:24-30)

Today’s Word comes from the encounter between Jesus and a woman who had been subject to bleeding for twelve miserable years. Mark’s description of her affliction indicates that her condition was incurable, which could have lead to utter hopelessness . . . but not for this woman of great faith!

It’s important to understand that her condition of bleeding would have created severe consequences in her life. You see that she had spent all the money she had on doctors in hopes of finding a cure, a cure which never came. She was penniless. Second, she would have been living her life as a social outcast, excluded from worshiping with the people of God because her bleeding condition made her as unclean as she was unwelcome. She knew when she approached the Messiah that she should not have been in such a crowded place or approaching the young rabbi from Nazareth. Anyone she touched would also be considered unclean . . . except, of course, when she touched Jesus, whose redeeming touch makes the unclean eternally clean.

Notice the woman’s thought process: “If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.” For twelve years the medical “experts” had done nothing for her except take her money, yet she refused to fill her mind with unbelief and self-pity. Rather, she spoke truth to her soul; today we might say she “preached the Gospel to herself,” assuring herself that in Jesus alone she would find forgiveness and healing. And when she reached out in faith for the hem of Jesus’ garment, she was healed instantly. The woman demonstrated steadfast hope in the midst of her otherwise hopeless condition.

Obviously, this woman knew she was an outcast, and she approached Jesus from behind so as not to be seen by anyone. So why did Jesus call her out? Did He who is God in the flesh really not know who had touched Him? Of course not! I believe there are two reasons. First, Jesus confirmed her healing publicly. In effect, He pronounced her “clean.” Second, He confirmed her faith and how she had acted upon her faith. The people would have known her hopeless condition, so Jesus made it a point to let the watching world know that this woman had faith enough to reach out to Him for healing, “Daughter,” He said kindly, “your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering” (Mark 5:34). Not only did Her faith lead her to a physical healing, but emotional and spiritual renewal as well. In this account we see a total and complete expression of our Savior’s peace (shalom) bestowed on this woman because of His love and care for her.

The same hope that this woman clung to is there for you today. Where in your life are you in need? Have you reached out to Jesus in faith, expecting Him to meet you in your deepest place of need? The story of this woman is in the Scriptures offers you and me great hope, even in seemingly hopeless situations, because when you reach for Jesus, you are reaching for a Living Hope that cannot and will not disappoint.   

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

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Memorial Day

Today is Memorial Day, a day to remember all those who have paid the ultimate price in defending our great nation. Sadly, for far too many Americans, it is nothing more than a day that marks the beginning of summer and the end of a three-day weekend.

How is it with you? What does Memorial Day represent for you?

Greater love has no one than this: that he lay down his life for his friends. (John 15:13)

To be sure, there is no greater demonstration of love than to lay your life down for another.  The freedom we enjoy in this country is not free!  It came at great cost to a great many. All paid some . . . some paid all . . . so that we might live in the greatest country on earth. Our military men and women from all of our armed services, as well as their families, paid a great price so that every U.S. citizen could enjoy life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. How thankful are you for that freedom today? 

Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. said this in a Memorial Day speech in 1884 prior to his appointment to the bench:

Our dead brothers still live for us, and bid us think of life, not death—of life to which in their youth they lent the passion and joy of the spring. As I listen, the great chorus of life and joy begins again, and amid the awful orchestra of seen and unseen powers and destinies of good and evil our trumpets sound once more a note of daring, hope, and will.

Holmes was telling us that our brave military men and women who paid the ultimate price would want us to focus on the results of their sacrifice: life — “the great chorus of life and joy”– and living that life to the fullest. This is the best way to honor their sacrifice.

The very same instruction is true for those who profess Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. We remember and proclaim His death when we partake of the Lord’s Supper, but Jesus has called us to live a life of abundance and joy for the glory of the Almighty. 

I came that they might have life and have it more abundantly. (John 10:10)

Is that abundant life what you are currently living for the glory of God?  God never called you to muddle around on the mudflats of life; He has called each believer to soar on wings like eagles and to pour ourselves out for something far greater than a life marked by self-survival, self-centeredness, and self-fulfillment. And we have been given this great opportunity and privilege because Jesus was willing to lay His life down for us.

This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.  (1 John 3:16)

Today it is right to give thanks for every person who has ever served this great nation, and in particular, for all those brave American soldiers who laid down their lives for our freedom. If you have the opportunity of thanking a soldier in person, do it. But never forget that behind this magnificent temporal blessing we have received from them, there is an even greater eternal blessing we receive thanks to the ultimate price Jesus paid on our behalf on a cross on a hill known as The Skull. “He died for us so that . . . we may live together with him” (1 Thessalonians 5:10).

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

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