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INSPIRED INSCRIPTION  

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God’s solid foundation stands firm, sealed with this inscription: “The Lord knows those who are his.” (2 Timothy 2:19)


Oh, the comfort of this inspired inscription from the pen of the apostle Paul: our Lord Jesus Christ knows those who are His! All those who, by grace through faith, have trusted in Christ alone for their salvation can be fully assured that Jesus knows you intimately . . . Jesus knows you savingly . . . Jesus knows you lovingly . . . and Jesus knows you eternally.

God’s solid foundation is built on none other than the chief Cornerstone, our Lord Jesus Christ Himself. And what is built upon the foundation of the Rock of Ages stands firm forever and ever. Sin cannot shake this foundation. Satan cannot splinter this foundation. Death cannot destroy this foundation. He who became flesh and dwelt among us . . . He who took our sins in His own body nailed to a tree . . . He who walked out of the grave on the third day . . . this is the One who knows all those who are His, for He is their God and they are His people.

If this is your truth today, does it not offer you great encouragement, regardless of where this message finds you? Perhaps you are being buffeted by storm winds; rejoice in the truth that Jesus knows you and is your solid foundation. Perhaps you are facing a very difficult decision; rest in the truth that Jesus knows you and is your solid foundation. Maybe you are being hammered by waves of daily challenge and feel like you are facing them all alone. Rejoice in the truth that Jesus knows you and is your solid foundation.

A final word about being “sealed with this inscription.” In the ancient world, the seal was a distinguishing mark that denoted a number of things, including approval, authenticity, and authority. Within the context of this passage we are to understand the seal as the marking of ownership, and with ownership comes provision and protection. Think about it this way: because the Lord knows you as His, you can be absolutely certain of His continued provision and protection, no matter what you are facing.

Greater is the power that is within you than any power that can come up against you. Let that truth set you free today to do all God is calling you to do and 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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DO THE DIFFICULT AND THE DELIGHTFUL EARLY  

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Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. (Mark 1:35)


We all have a tendency to delay doing any difficult task, but we do without delay those things in which we delight. Because of this truth, let today’s word encourage you to do both—the difficult and the delightful—without delay.

We can glean much in this regard from the lives of two of the central figures of the Old Testament: Abraham and David. When God called Abraham to offer up His only son Isaac, as inconceivably difficult as that must have been, Abraham did not delay in responding obediently.

God tested Abraham and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” He said, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.” So Abraham rose early in the morning, saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and his son Isaac. (Genesis 22:1-3)

In the end, as you know, God spared Isaac by providing a sacrifice in his place, providing a clear and lovely picture of the substitutionary atonement that was accomplished for us at the cross of Christ. When God called David into His service through Jesse’s request to bring provisions to David’s brothers out on the battlefield, David did not delay in responding obediently.

David rose early in the morning and left the sheep with a keeper and took the provisions and went, as Jesse had commanded him. (1 Samuel 17:20)

David did not hesitate to go where God had called him, and God used David to defeat the giant Goliath and deliver the entire Israelite army from the hands of the Philistines. In today’s verse we read that Jesus got up early because He delighted to be in communion with His heavenly Father. Jesus provides the model for all that we delight in doing, but don’t forget Abraham and David, the models for all that we find difficult to do. To be sure, both tasks were difficult—unimaginably so in Abraham’s case—but both tasks were done without delay. The point is that Abraham, David, and Jesus all rose early to get on with the business of their Lord, and this is what God has called us to do in both the difficult and the delightful.

Someone famously quipped, “Never do today what you can put off until tomorrow.” It’s not that funny; some people actually live that way! Think about the last time you delayed in doing the difficult. Did it not negatively affect everything else you were doing? We should dread the day when we delay the difficult! I hope you’ll allow today’s word to encourage you to rise early and do without delay—both that in which you delight and that which you find difficult.

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

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OWNED  

OWNED!


What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not? (1 Corinthians 4:7)


Everyone is owned. The question that each of us must answer is, Who or what owns us? It’s easy for the Christian to answer, because there are only two options: either we are owned by our Savior or by our stuff. How is it with you? How would you answer this question today?

When we are owned by our stuff, we have removed our Savior from the throne of our lives and, in essence, we have made Him the “previous owner” of all we possess . . . including ourselves! We have elevated the gifts we receive in this life above the Giver of those gifts. Our lives are marked by enjoying (at least for a while), serving, and loving the gifts from God rather than God Himself. We are owned by what we possess rather than being owned by the One who possesses everything.

We must always remember that everything we have has been loaned to us by God. As Paul asked rhetorically in today’s verse, “What do you have that you did not receive?” The Sovereign Lord is never the “previous owner.” “The world is mine,” our Lord says simply, “and all that is in it” (Psalm 50:12). He owns everything, and He simply allows us to be managers and stewards of His world for His glory and for the good of others. Everything we have has been given to us by God; our next breath and our next heartbeat is a gift of God, for “He himself gives all men life and breath and everything else” (Acts 17:25). How foolish to believe that we are owners, rather than being owned by the One who is both the Creator and Sustainer of life itself.

Let me challenge you to examine yourself and answer the question: Who or what owns you today? What is the confession of your life right now? No matter how much you have accumulated, whose is it really? Perhaps this would be a good time to prayerfully consider a transfer of ownership? Remember, we were bought at the highest price possible: the precious blood of the Lamb of God. We are not our own; He is the eternal Owner. The only place in life where we will ever truly find the peace and happiness and significance that we all crave is at the foot of the cross.

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

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THE LORD’S PLUMB LINE         

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I will make justice the measuring line and righteousness the plumb line. (Isaiah 28:17)


In the world of construction, carpenters, plumbers, and electricians often use a plumb line to make sure their work is straight. It is difficult to determine with the naked eye what is a truly vertical line, so a simple measuring tool—the plumb line—is employed throughout the construction process to ensure that the work will not be out of line or “crooked.”

The term plumb line is used in a variety of contexts throughout Scripture. In Amos 7:7-8, the Lord told the prophet that He was setting a plumb line of judgment among His people to end their attempts to justify their crooked and godless ways. But for today’s word of encouragement, let’s look at the term with the positive anticipation of knowing that when Jesus returns and consummates His kingdom, there will no longer be anything out of line or crooked in the sight of our Lord . . . and that includes you and me.

It is difficult for us to imagine the perfection of the coming kingdom of God when we live in such an imperfect world. Everything in the world is today is crooked—stained and distorted by sin. But our Lord has promised a day when crookedness will be no more. When Jesus returns, He will put every enemy under His feet and there will be no more sin, Satan, and death. All that is crooked will be made straight forever.

The Lord’s plumb line is His Moral Law; and because the Lord never changes, the Moral Law never changes. We don’t have to wonder what our Lord expects of us today or tomorrow. When we align our lives with the Word of God, we can know for certain that our lives are built upon a true and solid foundation, not a crumbling, crooked one. This is the mark of the mature Christian: he lives according to the Lord’s plumb line, rather than his own. And when he stumbles and falls “out of plumb”—when he misses the mark and sins—he knows that he only needs to confess his sins to the Lord, who is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).

So . . . are you living according to the Lord’s plumb line today? Is there any place in your life that feels a little crooked—a little out of line? What changes do you need to make? What will it cost you if you don’t? Let me encourage you today to keep Jesus first and foremost in your life, and He will make your paths straight.

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

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REFORMATION DAY – PART II – OUR WORK

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We are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (Ephesians 2:10)


On Wednesday we examined the Reformation recovery of Our Faith—the biblical truth that our salvation is by grace alone through faith in Jesus Christ alone to the glory of God alone. Today we will look at the Reformation recovery of Our Work and see why all legitimate work matters to God, because there is no such thing as a “sacred/secular split” in the world of work.

Work is not a curse, as many mistakenly believe. Work is a great gift from our working God to enjoy, and it is never to be categorized as either sacred work (those working in the church or the mission fields) or secular (the rest of humanity). As we see in today’s Scripture verse, we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works.

Martin Luther, who is widely credited for inspiring the Protestant Reformation, put a sharp point on what was a very necessary correction to the church tradition of his day.

There is no true, basic difference between laymen and priests, princes and bishops, between religious and secular, except for the sake of office and work, but not for the sake of status. They are all of the spiritual estate, all are truly priests, bishops, and popes. But they do not all have the same work to do . . . A cobbler, a smith, a peasant—each has the work and office of his trade, and yet they are all alike consecrated priests and bishop.

Further, everyone must benefit and serve every other by means of his own work or office so that in this way many kinds of work may be done for the bodily and spiritual welfare of the community, just as all the members of the body serve one another.

Luther went on to describe all legitimate work as both the “fingers of God” and the “masks of God.” He said that God is working in and through the milkmaid who milks the cow and the farmer who plants his fields. Do you see what this means to our work today? All work matters to God, and our work is an act of worship when it is done for His glory and the good of others.

In Genesis we read that God was at work creating all things, including humanity, in His image. Because our God is a working God, and we were created in His image to work, our work matters to Him. Our work—regardless of whether we are digging a ditch or driving a truck, waiting on tables or writing software programs, teaching a class or delivering mail, installing a sprinkler system or practicing law, working in the financial industry or as a stay-at-home mom—our work has dignity, meaning, and purpose in the eyes of God.

Here is a quote from my latest book, which we are currently studying on Wednesday nights at Cross Community Church: I Owe, I Owe, It’s Off To Work I Go.

All work is God’s work and our work is a calling, because it is God who has called us in to it. This is the vision of work that was recaptured during the 16th-century Reformation. Because it is God who has given us the gift of work, and this work is an act of worship, we are never to see it as just a job.

Your work matters to God, and it is God who assigned you to your current station. To be sure, God can and does at times reassign us to new areas of work. He took me from the beach patrol to the fire rescue department to the field of health and wellness to teaching and now to the pastorate as a church planter. But he will never move us before we take the time to grow where we are planted. Only when we see our work as worship to God will we be encouraged and empowered to do all we can with all God has given us to do, right where He has currently assigned us to work.

In closing, Christian, you are not just “making a living.” You are making a difference by loving God and your neighbor through your work as worship to God. Everything you have is a gift from God including your current work. If you see your work in this light, you will have appropriated the truth laid out in my book, I Owe, I Owe, It’s Off to Work I Go. Perhaps you will even begin “whistling while you work.”

If you’d like to dig deeper into this Reformation truth of work as worship, you can find information about how to get your copy of the I Owe book on our church web site: www.thecrosscc.org

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

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REFORMATION DAY – PART I – OUR FAITH

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It is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9)


I would like to examine two great truths that sprang out of one great day in the history of the Christian church. Today’s article will discuss Our Faith; Friday’s blog will focus on Our Work.

Throughout the day tomorrow, October 31, much of the American culture will be observing Halloween. But there is an entirely different celebration that will take place within the community of the Reformed faith: Reformation Day, which commemorates the courageous actions of an Augustinian monk named Martin Luther. On October 31, 1517, in Wittenberg, Germany, Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the door of the Wittenberg Castle church to protest some of the teaching and traditions of the Church of Rome, most notably the selling of indulgences (Rome’s attempt to “sell” salvation). Martin Luther issued a clarion call for a return to the preeminence and superiority of the Bible over church tradition. He later reformed the Latin mass, putting the liturgy (worship service) in the language of the common man so that everyone could understand it and benefit from it. Luther also championed the cause to correct the unbiblical ban on the holy covenant of marriage for the clergy.

The Protestant Reformation had profound impacts on the Christian faith that still impact us today. One of the most important of these is Our Faith, which Martin Luther rescued from the confabulation of church tradition. The Reformation that Luther launched reclaimed the Gospel that was delivered to us by Jesus and the Scriptures: the truth that salvation, from beginning to end, is by God’s grace alone, through faith in Jesus Christ alone, to the glory of God alone.

What Luther and the Reformers recovered was the biblical doctrine of salvation, which comes to the sinners through God’s unmerited grace. The Reformers challenged the authority and tradition of the Church of Rome, which insisted that people are saved by faith plus works. Rome had taught that what God began as a gift of His grace, men were to continue and complete through their own efforts, ability, choices, and good works. The Reformers vigorously disputed this heresy, declaring that the grace that saves us is the same grace that sustains us and ultimately the same grace that sanctifies us all the way into glory.

The Reformers rightly asserted that the Bible alone is the revelation of God’s inerrant, infallible truth and pointed to the Scriptures to prove that God is the author and perfecter of our faith (Hebrews 12:2), who pronounces us “justified” in His sight, having completely forgiven our sins and seeing us as totally righteous through the imputation of the perfect righteousness of His Son, Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 5:21).

This recovery of the good news of the Gospel was revolutionary. The Reformers taught that our good works are not a reason for our salvation, but rather a result of our salvation. Thanks to the courage and wisdom of men like Luther and John Calvin, most Protestant churches today teach that we are not saved by our good works in any way, but rather that we are saved to do good works that God prepared in advance for us to do (Ephesians 2:10) for His glory and for the good of others. The truths of the Gospel empower Christian believers to live out practically what we are already are positionally.

This was earth-shaking stuff in a variety of ways, not the least in the way it shattered the widely-accepted notion that only those within the church were actually serving God and that their works were in some way meritorious. The false teaching of the Church of Rome on this matter had created what is often referred to as a “sacred/secular split.” But the recovery of the priesthood of all believers leveled the playing field in the world of work for all believers. We will look in greater detail at the biblical doctrine of Our Work on Friday.

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

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OUR GLORIOUS GUIDE

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This God is our God for ever and ever; he will be our guide even to the end. (Psalm 48:14)


When was the last time you thought of God as your Guide? Yet this is the promise we receive from the Scriptures today. Because of this truth, the question that each one of us must ask and answer is this: Is this God who is our God our Guide . . . even to the end? If our answer is “Yes,” we can be assured of one thing—We will never lose our way. Is that not a source of cosmic comfort to you today, regardless of where this message finds you?

There is more than just comfort issued to us in today’s passage; to consider the truth that the Creator and Sustainer of the universe is also our guide should challenge us to walk by faith and not by sight. For what sight do we need when Omnipotence is leading the way? Know this: When we make this God our God, by grace through faith, we also make Him our Guide in both life and death. He has promised never to leave or forsake us; even when we walk through the valley of the shadow of death, we are to fear no evil, for our God is with us every step of the way. And what is on the other side of physical death? The Substance of life eternal in the presence of Jesus Christ.

Don’t miss the power in this promise today! Because God is our God forever and ever, He will never cease to be our Guide. We can count on Him when the sky is blue and the clouds are fleecy, and we can count on Him when the storm winds begin to blow our way. We can count on Him when the sun is shining brightly, and we can count on Him when the dark clouds roll in. Remember, when darkness covered the land as Jesus hung on the cross, crying out in His agony, “My God, My God,” our God never ceased to be our Guide. And, on the third day, He proved it for all the world to see when Jesus strode out of the grave and straight into our hearts.

So regardless of where this message finds you, look to Jesus as you make your way through life. He has promised to guide you in your personal life . . . in your professional life . . . and He has promised to guide you when you come to the end of your life. Seek your God early and often throughout the day, and know that He will lead you beside still waters—even though, in order to get there, you may well pass through stormy seas. What a glorious Guide we have in our God, who has promised to be with us in both life and death—forever and ever!

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

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