Category Archives: General

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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Saved Individually AND Saved To Community

Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. (1 Corinthians 12:12)

The Bible makes it clear that every disciple of Christ is saved individually, but Scripture is equally emphatic in declaring that every disciple of Christ is saved to community. When we, by grace through faith, came to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, He placed a new obligation on each of us: Each For the Other!

Our walk with our Lord is a community project. It is a team sport. Christianity is a “Jesus and we” religion, not “Jesus and me,” and that religion is rooted in relationship — both with the Lord Jesus and with each other. As disciples of Jesus, we must never be satisfied with living at the level of “news, weather, and sports” with other member of our faith community. We are to be in committed relationships with each other.

My friend Steve Brown has said that “Everyone who belongs to Jesus belongs to everyone who belongs to Jesus.” In the Kingdom of Christ, there is to be no such thing as a stealth saint. We are to know and be known by our brothers and sisters in Christ. We are part of one body with many members, and each part is valuable and needed. We need each other in order for the body to function properly.

Think about it this way: Are there any parts of your own body that you could readily disconnect from and still function at the highest possible level? Not likely! We all have blind spots, so we need the help of our family of faith to point the way. Physically blind people are well aware that they are blind; spiritually blind people are not. Worse still, most spiritually blind people believe they see with 20/20 vision! That is why we desperately need the grace-filled, Gospel-saturated, Christ-centered eyes of our family of faith to help us see what we cannot see and to sanctify what we cannot sanctify without their help. This is the way Jesus ordained it to be in His body, and this is the way we are to live if we are true disciples of His. Jesus placed us in His forever family so that we will live out our lives with Him in community with each other.

I am going to issue you this challenge: Even if you feel like you don’t want to engage deeply within the body of Christ for your own benefit, do it for the benefit of others. Jesus presented the perfect model of living His life for the good of others and the glory of God. And He did it within the context of community.

Immediately after He washed His disciples’ feet, Jesus told them, “I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you” (John 13:15 ESV). Many of you may never get on your hands and knees and literally wash the feet of another person . . . although that might not be a bad idea! But we most definitely are commanded to love one another and serve one another, and we are to called to do that in the context of community. Our Lord set that example for us; how can we do any less?

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

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We Are Hope-Shaped Creatures

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. (1 Peter 1:3)

We want it. We need it. We crave it. It stimulates our courage, supports our perseverance, and strengthens our resolve. It gets us up early, keeps us up late, and propels us through the difficult and trying times of life. What is “it”? HOPE. And where do we get this hope? We don’t get it in our passions or our possessions; real hope–true, lasting hope–is only found in a Person, and His name is Jesus Christ. Hope that is strong, sturdy, satisfying, and sustainable is found in the person of Jesus. This vertical hope is the only hope that will never falter, never fade, and never fail us.

When we put our hope in anything smaller than Jesus, it never satisfies, because every horizontal hope has been soiled and stunted by sin. Horizontal hopes are fragile and fleeting and cannot bear the weight of satisfying the deep longings of the soul. Only Jesus can do that, because He is above and beyond this sin-stained world. His sinless life, sacrificial death, and supernatural resurrection from the grave guarantees the fulfillment of every hope we have. Because we have been united to Jesus by faith, we no longer need to look for hope in any other person, place, or thing.

Paul put it this way:

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the command of God our Savior and of Christ Jesus our hope . . . (1 Timothy 1:1)

We wait for the blessed hope – the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ. (Titus 2:13)

Paul understood that the only hope that would help him rise above the waves of challenge and carry him through the storms of life is found in Jesus. The One who is Hope filled Paul’s life with hope, which empowered Paul to fight the good fight of faith, finish his race, and ultimately keep his faith.

Can the same be said about you and me today? It can be, and it will be, when our hope is not simply in Jesus, but is Jesus Himself. It is the difference between having hope in Jesus and Jesus being our only Hope. As hope-shaped creatures, we must look to nothing smaller than our Creator as the one true source of hope. He will never leave us hopeless.

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

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Today Is Intended To Point To THAT Day

By faith [Moses] left Egypt, not fearing the king’s anger; he persevered because he saw him who is invisible. (Hebrews 11:27)

If you hook your happiness, join your joy, or peg your purpose on today, you will miss the beauty, majesty, and promise of that day when you arrive in glory. Far too many of God’s people live like today is all there is. They live like this life is all that matters. Everything they think, do, say, and desire is intended to turn today into the promised paradise it was never intended to be after the fall of Adam and Eve in the Garden. This sin-stained world, which is filled with sin-scarred people, will never satisfy the deepest longings of our sin-seared hearts, no matter how hard we try to make it so. And that is a good thing!

Today is not the destination. Today is simply the preparation for that day when we cross the Jordan and enter into our eternal rest. Today will never be the paradise we long for. Today will never meet us in our deepest place of need. Today will never give us the meaning and significance we so deeply desire. And that is a good thing too! When we see today as a preparation, not a destination, we will be able to live fully in the here and now, receiving whatever God sends our way. We will understand that the good, the bad, and the ugly are all part of God’s perfect plan and purpose in preparing us for entrance into our Promised Land. This is what I call “living with a Moses mentality” as we make our way to paradise.

By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward. (Hebrews 11:24-26)

Moses was living in the most powerful nation in the world at that time. Some scholars believe he was in line for the throne in Egypt. Yet Moses set his mind on the promise of that day, when he would receive his reward in heaven. Moses was living for the hereafter, not the here and now. The only way this will become the confession of our lives is if we choose to live with a Moses mentality . . . living today in the light of that day, regardless of the cost or circumstance.

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

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Where Do You Find Your Satisfaction?

I shall behold your face in righteousness; when I awake, I shall be satisfied with your likeness. (Psalm 17:15 ESV)

The Rolling Stones, an English rock band formed in London, released the song (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction in 1965. Lead singer Mick Jagger said the song was rooted in the way he experienced the vast commercialism of America during the band’s tours. The beloved animated special, A Charlie Brown Christmas, was released the same year; it too made pointed references to commercialism encroaching on our culture.

Not much has changed over the past 58 years. Incredibly, the Rolling Stones are still touring, and every Christmas season we chuckle when Charlie Brown exclaims that “Even my own dog has gone commercial!” But it’s not just Snoopy who is caught up in materialism; both inside the church and outside it, commercialism has a stranglehold on far too many people.

So the question each of us must ask ourselves and honestly answer is this: Where do you find your satisfaction?

There really are only two choices: You can find satisfaction in your stuff or find satisfaction in your Savior. When God created us in His image, He made sure there would be nothing in this created world that would give us deep satisfaction of the heart. Pursuing anything in this world to give you satisfaction is putting that thing in the place of the only One who truly can satisfy – Jesus Christ.

Here is a biblical truth to consider: When your heart is beating for satisfaction in anything smaller than Jesus, you will never find it. The glory of creation is to be received and enjoyed. The beauty, intricacy, and magnificence of all the sights and sounds in the created order blesses us deep in our soul. But none of that was ever designed to satisfy the deepest longings of the human heart. Only the Creator God can do that.

Seeking satisfaction in the things of this world will always keep us pursuing satisfaction and never finding it. We will sound like the Rolling Stones, groaning, “I can’t get no satisfaction!” But if we seek God first in all things, satisfaction will naturally follow. God is the only satisfaction we truly seek, whether we know it or not. Only God can satisfy the eternal ache in our hearts. Finding our satisfaction in Christ alone will cause us to experience rest in our restlessness and find contentment in our discontentment.

Where have you been seeking your satisfaction lately? Seeking satisfaction in anything and asking God to satisfy us with what is created is a formula for frustration. But seeking God in all things will automatically result in the satisfaction we seek in the depths of our heart.

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

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Familiarity May Extinguish the Fire of Our Faith

Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor, except in his hometown and among his relatives and in his own household.” (Mark 6:4)

The old saying “Familiarity breeds contempt” essentially means that the more familiar you become with something, the easier it is to lose sight of the importance of it, to lose respect for it, and to no longer delight in it. This kind of familiarity poses a disastrous danger when it comes to our faith and our desire to follow the Lord Jesus wherever He leads.

We see a telling example of this when Jesus began to preach in his hometown. People who knew him dismissed Him. “’Isn’t this the carpenter?'” they asked skeptically. “‘Isn’t this Mary’s son?’ And they took offense at him” (Mark 6:3). Those who had known Jesus the longest and were most familiar with Him did not accept Him for what He truly was: Savior and Lord.

When we let familiarity take hold of our walk with Jesus, we begin seeing life through the eyes of the flesh rather than through the eyes of faith. We lose sight of the grandeur of the glory of God, which is present in everything, everywhere, and at all times.

Think about it this way:

  • What once produced worship is now watered down
  • What once caused us to say no to sin and yes to righteousness is silenced
  • What once filled us with awe and majesty has become antiquated and muted
  • What once stirred our hearts unto zeal for Jesus, barely registers a pulse

Living for the grandeur of the glory of God was meant to be the driving force in our lives. The glory of God should be the organizing principle behind everything we think, do, say, and desire in this life. But if we aren’t careful, our familiarity with the things of our faith can breed spiritual lethargy. We begin to take God for granted. We start viewing God as a cosmic genie, who will be called on only when we want to satisfy our desire for some earthly thing. We allow the blessings in our lives to become more important than the One who blesses. And when life is not going according to our plans, we may even begin to grumble against God.  

Remember, what rules your heart shapes your life. When we let anything smaller than Jesus occupy too much space in our hearts, we begin to lose our grip on the grandeur of the glory of God. The longer we walk with God, the more familiar we become with Him and His ways. To keep from allowing familiarity to breed contempt, we must remember to see all of life through the eyes of faith, not through the desires of the flesh. We need to live in the shadow of the cross, where the fire of our faith will be stoked and strengthened — not just daily, but moment by moment. This is where familiarity will continue to grow the fire of our faith, not extinguish it.  

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

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