X-Ray Vision

xray vision

Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. (Hebrews 11:1)

There are many ways to define worldliness—from seeking all things below to being possessed by your possessions. But here is one of my favorite definitions of worldliness: a lack of the vision. What does that mean? Let’s take a look.

When I speak of a lack of vision, I am speaking about the ability to see the invisible. We get so caught up in what is right in front of us . . . what we can see, hear, taste, touch, smell, and possess. We often forget about the invisible world because the visible, temporal world all around us has gained our focus. When we are focused on the visible, we eventually find ourselves afflicted by fear, anxiety, and doubts. Yet everything in the visible world is passing away; it is all in the process of decay (1 John 2:17).

The cure for this type of myopia is to have X-Ray Vision—to be able to see through that which is visible to the invisible all around us. It is to have the vision of Elisha. When Elisha’s servant looked out in the early morning hours, he saw the city surrounded by the Syrian army of horses, chariots, and soldiers, and was stricken with fear. Why? Because he could see only the visible . . . and the visible said they were in deep trouble!

But Elisha saw the invisible:

“Don’t be afraid,” the prophet answered. “Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” And Elisha prayed, “Open his eyes, Lord, so that he may see.” Then the Lord opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha. (2 Kings 6:16-17)

Notice the prayer of Elisha for his servant. He prayed that God would give him X-Ray Vision. And when God answered His petition, Elisha’s servant saw what was previously invisible: the heavenly armies that vastly outnumbered the Syrian army, standing ready to do battle for the people of God.

This must be our prayer each day, that we would be able to see all that God has given to us in the invisible realm. Some of the greatest saints in all of sacred Scripture had X-Ray Vision, and followed the way of the invisible.

  • Elisha saw the invisible armies of heaven (2 Kings 6)
  • Abraham saw the invisible city of heaven (Hebrews 11)
  • Moses saw the invisible God of heaven (Hebrews 11)

To the extent that we can see that which is invisible, we will be able to rise above the visible and walk in the ways of our Lord.

So . . . when was the last time you prayed for X-Ray Vision?

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

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How To Master The Middle

long journey

Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:12-14)

The beginning and the end of a journey are generally marked by excitement and exhilaration. As we stand at the starting line, we are excited about the road ahead and often we stand with friends and family who are there to encourage us. So too with the finish line. When it comes into view, we feel exhilarated, knowing that we are about to finish what we started, and again, there are often many standing there to cheer us on to victory.

But what about the road between? How do we “master the middle” . . . those long, lonely stretches when our excitement wanes, we feel like we are running on empty, and exhilaration is as far from us as the east is from the west?

The key to mastering that middle of the road between the start and the finish is to mirror our Master. And one of the best ways to do that is to keep Paul’s exhortation to the church at Philippi in view every step of the way. These words characterize one of the primary marks of a Christian who has learned how to master the middle.

The apostle Paul knew well that the middle stretch, which often feels so dreary and whispers to us to quit makes up the lion’s share of the time we spend on our journey. Unlike the starting and finish lines, where there are frequently people there to cheer us on, there are many times in the middle when no one is there. The road is long and arduous; there are unexpected twists and turns and long hills to climb, and we find ourselves all alone. If we do not master that stretch, it will begin to master us.

Again, we must look to the example of Jesus Christ. How often in the middle of our Lord’s journey did He find Himself alone! He spent long nights alone in prayer, seeking strength and direction from His Father in heaven. Even when He was surrounded by huge crowds, their interest was only rooted in what they could get from Him. Only a few of those who pressed in around Him were interested in simply being still and being with Him.

At the beginning of His race of redemption, the heavenly host cheered Him on with its glorious anthem: “Glory to God in the highest!” And when Jesus ascended back to His throne of grace, I’m quite sure that the heavenly host was there to welcome Him home and rejoice over Him once again. But that stretch of road in the middle was often as long as it was lonely. Isaiah prophesied about what the life of the Suffering Servant would be like:

He was despised and rejected by men,

a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering.

Like one from whom men hide their faces

he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

Surely he took up our infirmities

and carried our sorrows,

yet we considered him stricken by God,

smitten by him, and afflicted.  (Isaiah 53:3-4)

And then there was that last, terrible, excruciating uphill climb, as the darkness closed in around Him and the only voices He heard were jeering, not cheering, and He uttered that despairing cry, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Even His Father, who had twice thundered from heaven that “This is My Son, whom I love,” had turned away; the loving Father had become the merciless Judge.

Jesus’s body had been torn by the savage scourging, His hands and feet pierced through by the cruel spikes, His every breath was a shuddering agony, and He was utterly alone . . . yet He never wavered, not once . . . He never wavered in His love for you, Christian; He had set His face like flint (Isaiah 50:7) and He pressed on toward the goal, which was your eternal redemption.

Perhaps you’re on one of those long, lonely stretches of road today; perhaps you’re facing an uphill climb and you’re not sure you have the strength to finish; perhaps you’ve stumbled and fallen in a heap by the side of the road and you feel like there is no one there to offer a helping hand and get you back on your feet. Wherever this message finds you, if you are struggling to master the middle of your journey, look to your Master and draw strength from Him. You may not see anyone cheering from the sidelines, but there is One who is cheering you on every step of the way—your Savior is praying for you. Jesus said He will never leave nor forsake you, and He is offering you His hand of supernatural strength and encouragement.

Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. (Isaiah 41:10)

And when you cross the finish line, Christian, you will hear cheering like you never heard before! If you have run your race for the glory of God, it will sound just like this:

“Well done, good and faithful servant!”

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

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So He Made It Again

  potters wheel

I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was, making something at the wheel. And the vessel that he made of clay was marred in the hand of the potter; so he made it again into another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter to make. (Jeremiah 18:3-4)

I will never forget Dr. D James Kennedy saying, “God saved you then . . . is He saving you now?” I didn’t understand what he meant at the time. I was a new Christian and only understood “saving” to refer to that single point in time when we are, by grace through faith, raised from death to life. And while that is certainly true, there is another aspect to “saving” that took me years to learn: being saved from myself—not only daily, but moment by moment.

As the prophet Jeremiah tells us in today’s passage, we are vessels in the hands of the Potter, and we are being remade over and over again “as it seemed good to the potter to make.” Our daily salvation is a process of being shaped in the hands of our Savior. God in Christ is molding us into the perfect image of our Lord Jesus Christ. And since we won’t be perfected until we get to the other side, our clay will be continually marred throughout this life and in need of being remade.

If you are in Christ, God did indeed save you then. Now the question is this: is He saving you now? Are you being saved from yourself . . . your self-centeredness . . . your self-rule . . . your self-righteousness?

Let me make one thing perfectly clear. Real clay in a potter’s hand feels nothing in the process of being made and remade over and over again. But redeemed “clay” in the hands of the Potter feels every aspect of being remade over and over again. And make no mistake, it hurts! Being saved from oneself is a painful process. The sinful self does not die easily, and it will not go without a fight. Paul made this clear in Romans 7, when he confessed that he did not do what he wanted to do, but he did do the things he hated. It is the same with you and me; the battle rages within every believer. But thanks be unto God, because He is committed to finishing what He started in us, regardless of the cost or circumstance.

What an odd God He would be if He started the process of conforming us into Christ, only to stop before it is finished! Remember, Christian, there will be no marred vessels in the new heavens and the new earth. God has promised to finish what He started and He will finish what He started in you. Let these words “so He made it again” both comfort and challenge you today:

  • Comfort you because of the many failures God has remade you through
  • Challenge you to praise the Potter daily through the painful process of being remade

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

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Two Bears For Every Believer

two bears

Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. (Matthew 5:7)

Let me start by providing a definition for the two “bears” God has given to every believer throughout the ages:

  • Bear – to bear is to carry, support; to hold the weight up
  • Forbear – to patiently restrain an impulse to do something; to refrain or abstain from

What incredible blessings these two “bears” bring to every believer who has them within his or her possession! To bear another’s burdens is one of the great privileges God in Christ has given us. To come alongside someone who is struggling under a load they are carrying and to lighten it with comfort and compassion and genuine caring is the call for every Christian.

Of course, there is no greater example of bearing others’ burdens then the one we find in our Lord Jesus Christ, who came into this world to bear the burden of our sin through His sinless life, sacrificial death, and supernatural resurrection.

Scripture commands, “So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith” (Galatians 6:10 ESV). When we encounter the burdens of others, we mustn’t see them as obstacles blocking the pathway to where we are going. Rather, the burdens of others offer opportunities to be the hands and feet of our loving Savior—to follow in the path of good works that our Lord has prepared for us (Ephesians 2:10).

Our second “bear” is to forbear, and the degree to which we demonstrate this in our lives will always be rooted in our understanding of our own sins and shortcomings. When we see ourselves for who we truly are—sinners in moment-by-moment need of a Savior—we find it far easier to forbear from judging the sins and shortcomings of others.

Once again, there is no greater example of forbearing than the one we find in our Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus never responded in kind to those who reviled and persecuted Him. “When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly” (1 Peter 2:23). In fact, while hanging on the cross in unimaginable agony, Jesus asked His Father in heaven to forgive those who had caused Him that pain.

When Jesus said, “Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy,” He set in motion a breathtakingly lovely beatitude that encompasses both “bears” that you and I are to possess and practice in the lives of others. When we do, we are most like Jesus.

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

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No Friend of Caesar

caesar

From then on, Pilate tried to set Jesus free, but the Jewish leaders kept shouting, “If you let this man go, you are no friend of Caesar.” (John 19:12)

I certainly would never hold Pontius Pilate up as any kind of a role model, but wouldn’t that be well said of all of us . . . that we are “no friend of Caesar” because we are a true friend of Jesus? I pray this word of encouragement will inspire you to be “no friend of Caesar” because you are ardently pursuing that true friendship with Jesus.

The religious leaders had grown to hate Jesus for a multitude of reasons, primarily because they feared losing their elevated status among the people (John 11:48). When they could stand Him no more, they conspired to have Him put to death. In today’s verse, we see them turning up the heat on the weak-kneed Pilate, threatening him that the consequences of choosing to exonerate Jesus would make Pilate “no friend of Caesar”—in other words, bringing the potentially disastrous disapproval of the Roman emperor down on himself.

Make no mistake; friendship is a choice, and it is a choice we all must make. Scripture warns that if we choose to be friends with Caesar—that is, friends with the world—we are choosing to be an enemy of Jesus.

You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.  (James 4:4)

Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.  (1 John 2:15)

When Scripture speaks of “the world,” it is referring to the sinful systems of this world, which is currently under the dominion of Satan (1 John 5:19), whom God has allowed to hold this position for a season. To be sure, we are in this world because God does not yet desire to take us out of this world . . . which means He still has work for us to do! But we are no longer of this world because of our relationship with Jesus. The believer is not to be drawn into the evil that permeates this world, nor are we to conform to its value system. We have been consecrated (set apart) by God the Father to be conformed to the image of Jesus Christ, which means we are to make a difference in this world by being different from this world.

This difference starts with our choice of friends. We can either choose to be friends of Caesar—that is, friends of this world and its anti-biblical ideologies—or friends of Christ. But we simply cannot be friends of both. Jesus told His disciples, “If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you” (John 15:19).

If we say “Yes” to Caesar, we are automatically saying “No” to Jesus. But when we say “Yes” to Christ, we display a difference in the way we live out our lives . . . through our thoughts, words, deeds, and desires. Because God is changing us from the inside out, our friendship with Jesus will begin to pour out of us in every imaginable way. And when we engage with the world around us—and you can be 100% sure that unbelieving world is watching us to see if our faith is real—they will be given the opportunity to come to know the Savior . . . not through the Bible they could read, but through the Bible they see lived out in us.

For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. To the one we are the smell of death; to the other, the fragrance of life. And who is equal to such a task? (2 Corinthians 2:15-16)

Let us determine to be no friend of Caesar, but rather to embrace the Lamb of God, that all those whom we encounter may sniff the sweet savor of abundant life through Jesus Christ.

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

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The Promise on Unfamiliar Paths

path

I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them.  (Isaiah 42:16)

God is in the business of calling us to walk on unfamiliar paths as we live out His plan and purpose for our lives. Why? Because God calls us to do things we have never done in ways we have never done them; and that, beloved, requires us to walk along unfamiliar paths. But don’t forget the promise; God is our guide every step of the way.

To be sure, we are all far more comfortable with the familiar. Think about the way you go to school or work during the week and to church on Sunday. Don’t you follow the same route when you travel? We all do that, and we do it because it is easy and comforting to go the way we have always gone. But God is calling us to do new works, and new works demand new ways, and new ways are unfamiliar. But this should not trouble us, because we have a wonderful promise on theses unfamiliar paths: God is our guide!

Perhaps God is calling you to an unfamiliar path in your professional life. Follow His lead, because He has promised to guide you. Maybe God is calling you to an unfamiliar path in your personal life. Follow His lead, because He has promised to guide you. Possibly God is calling you to an unfamiliar path in your school life. Follow His lead, because He has promised to guide you every step of the way.

When we don’t know the way because the path is unfamiliar, we must remember that Jesus is the Way. And as long as He is guiding us, we are safe and secure and we will ultimately reach the intended destination He has set before us. Remember, inasmuch as our paths are unfamiliar to us, they are not unfamiliar to Him. He has walked all of them before us, and now He has promised to walk all of them with us as our Guide.

So regardless of where this finds you today, unfamiliar paths are the best way to travel through life because God is the One who is leading us along them. Keep looking to Him, and praise Him for the unfamiliar paths, because eventually what was once unfamiliar and uncomfortable will become familiar and comfortable . . . until the next time He leads you to a new unfamiliar path!

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

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When Truth Went Toe-To-Toe With Temptation

good evil wolves

Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God. (Matthew 4:4)

Temptation is all around us; when it is not looking for an open window to climb through, it comes directly to the front door and knocks. And it will be this way until that day when we are received into glory.

So how are we to deal with daily temptation? We are to keep in view the time when Truth went toe-to-toe with temptation . . . and won!

During our Lord’s wilderness testing, the devil came at Him with everything he had, and it was a time when our Lord had just completed forty days of fasting in the wilderness. Jesus was all alone and should have been at His weakest . . . at least physically speaking. So in an environment where the odds were stacked against Jesus, the devil learned firsthand the power of truth overcoming temptation.

There are many valuable lessons we can glean from the wilderness temptations of our Lord, but the most important is found in the way Jesus fought against the temptations the devil threw at Him. Jesus countered every temptation that was delivered with the truth of Scripture. And there you have it! Truth is the key that unlocks the door to victory over temptation. Jesus used the Word of God as His weapon of choice when confronted by temptation.

Can the same be said about us? The only way we will be able to use the truth of Scripture like Jesus did is to know the Word of truth like Jesus did. He did not have a concordance to scan out in the wilderness; He could not pull up any verses from His Bible app on His phone. Jesus was able to cite Scripture from memory. The Word of God flowed out of our Lord because the Word of God was in our Lord. Jesus studied the Scriptures and Jesus memorized the Scriptures; when He needed them most, they were on the tip of His tongue . . . and Truth overcame temptation.

It is my prayer that these words will encourage you to spend adequate time in your Bible—meditating on the Word of God and memorizing the Word of God. Then, the next time temptation attempts to slip in through your window or brazenly knocks at your door, you will be rightly equipped to go toe-to-toe against it. With the belt of truth buckled around your waist (Ephesians 6:14), you can triumph just like Jesus did!

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

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