COSMIC CAUTION AND COMFORT

cosmos


Tell Archippus: “See to it that you complete the ministry you have received in the Lord.” (Colossians 4:17)


Before us today is a word of both comfort and caution, given by the apostle Paul to Archippus, Paul’s fellow laborer and fellow soldier in the Lord, who is also spoken of in Philemon 1:2. Writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Paul provided a cosmic caution to his friend that is as appropriate to us today as it was to Archippus 2,000 years ago. We are all called by God to “complete the ministry we have received in the Lord” . . . and that caution is also a comfort. Why do I say it is a comfort? Because we all have been given a ministry in the Lord to complete.

If you are a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, you are in full-time ministry, whether you are a stay-at-home mom, the CEO of a Fortune 500 Company, or a full-time vocational leader in your church. All of God’s children have been called to serve God wherever they have been planted. As a believer, you have been given at least one spiritual gift to complement the myriad natural talents and abilities you have received to do all God has called you to do to expand His kingdom in this world.

Is it not a great comfort to know that the God of the universe has called you into His service? Think about it this way: to be called into service by God, who doesn’t need your service but actually wants your service, is a cosmic comfort of unimaginable proportions.

So . . . how are you doing in your ministry of service to your Savior? Are you busily engaged in doing all God has called you to do for His glory? Or have you become distracted by the world, the flesh, or the devil? Remember, God will never force you into faithfulness. Faithfulness is a choice—not only daily, but moment by moment. What you do is your decision, and it is a decision that echoes in eternity.

Dr. James Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family, began his eulogy of Dr. D. James Kennedy with Acts 13:36, one of the most stirring verses in all of Scripture: “When David had served God’s purpose in his own generation, he fell asleep.” David completed the ministry God had given to him, then he “fell asleep” (died) and crossed the Jordan into heavenly glory.

Wouldn’t that be well said of all of us? But the only way that will be said is if we stay focused on the ministry God has given to us. Mind you, we don’t focus on the ministry He has given to others. Far too many people are far too focused on someone else’s ministry, and all too often they are jealous of it. May God forbid that for us! We are to mind our own ministry and fulfill our own calling. When we do, we can be assured that we are living lives that truly matter, making an eternal difference in this world for the good of others and for the glory of God.

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

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TRUE LOVE

Silhouettes of Three Crosses


This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.  (1 John 4:10)


A love that is not earned and cannot be lost is true love, and such love is found only in Christ. We did absolutely nothing to deserve this love. God did not love us because we were good; God did not love us because we were successful; God did not love us because we were lovable; God loved us simply because He chose to love us before the creation of the world (Ephesians 1:4), wholly apart from anything in and of ourselves. Should you ever start thinking that there simply must have been something “special” about you that caused God to choose you, I encourage you to reread 1 Corinthians 1:27-30 –

God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things — and the things that are not — to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us . . . our righteousness, holiness, and redemption.

If there was something that caused God to select you or me, you can be sure that it’s nothing that we want to brag about! When you read the Old Testament account of God’s chosen people, you find this same “true love” truth. Moses told the people of Israel, “The Lord did not set his affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples. But it was because the Lord loved you and kept the oath he swore to your ancestors that he brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the land of slavery, from the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt” (Deuteronomy 7:7-8). Later in the same book we read that the Lord did not bring His people into the Promised Land because of their “righteousness or uprightness of heart” (Deuteronomy 9:4). The covenant promise of God’s “true love” will always act according to His eternal purpose, in spite of our rebellion . . . because God is love.

Understanding this true love is the first portion of God’s promised rest (Hebrews 4:1). To be sure, that rest will not be fully realized and experienced until we get to the other side of the grave, but along the way, we begin to experience this rest as we cease from our man-centered attempts to make God love us. We no longer have to try and broker God’s favor and blessing. We no longer need to fear His judgment and curse. We can stop doubting our standing before God. Why? Because Jesus paid the penalty of our sins in full, bringing us into an intimate, personal, loving, eternal relationship with God.

Like a child who has done nothing to earn the love of his or her parents and knows nothing of the fear of losing it, we must be child-like in our understanding of the true love we have been given from above. Do you know this love? Do you experience this love on a daily basis? Better yet, do you experience it moment by moment? Remember, God so loved you that He sent Jesus to die in your place that you might live with Him forever.

We read in John 3:16 that “God so loved the world” . . . God “so loved” you! This is true love, and true love is rooted in the God of love, who loves you perfectly today, tomorrow, and forevermore. And because we are so loved, we are now free and filled to go forth and “love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19).

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

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FED TO FEED OTHERS

fed


Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” (John 21:12)


This invitation from Jesus to His disciples was given after His resurrection and just prior to His ascension. Jesus met His disciples on the shore of the Sea of Galilee and provided another meal for them. After the meal, Jesus reinstated Peter and told him to go out and feed His sheep. As much as this was a word of both consolation and confirmation for Peter, it is a word of instruction to us all. We are all fed by our Master so that we might feed others in our ministry of service to Him. We eat the bread of heaven to bless the people of earth. The strength we receive from our Savior is to be used in His service to strengthen others.

We are to be conduits of all that God has given to us. We are not to be cul-de-sacs, where the flow of grace terminates with us. Every gift that has been poured out on us is to flow through us to those whom God brings into our lives. We are fed at the Master’s table day and night—not just to be filled, but to fill others. When we are no longer called by our God to feed others, we can be assured that we will have eaten our last meal on this side of the Jordan. But until that day comes, let us continually feed upon the grace of our God so that we can feed others.

Take even a cursory glance at the life of Peter from Pentecost on, and you will see this principle in supernatural action. Peter fed daily upon the Paschal Lamb, and daily he went about feeding others for the glory of God and the expansion of His kingdom. After Peter preached his first sermon, we read that “Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day” (Acts 2:41). Peter understood that every meal he received from the hand of His Lord was intended to strengthen him for his ministry to his Master and to others.

The question you must ask yourself is: “Do I understand that?” When was the last time you thought about the biblical principle of being fed to feed others?

The children of Israel were instructed to eat the Passover meal in a very specific way: “With your cloak tucked into your belt, your sandals on your feet and your staff in your hand. Eat it in haste.” (Exodus 12:11). To be sure, God was preparing His people for an immediate exit out of their bondage in Egypt, yet the meal was eaten with ministry in mind. This truth is confirmed by the way they came to the table dressed for action.

I pray these words will encourage you today as you consider the bounty God has given to you. You have been blessed to bless others. You have received to respond to others. And you have been fed to feed others. May this be the confession of our lives.

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

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THE WITNESS OF WITHHOLDING      

holdback


Keep not back. (Isaiah 43:6 KJV)


The Bible tells us that we will be witnesses for our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Also in the Bible, we see two different kinds of witnessing: one for the glory of the Savior and the other for the glory of the self. Today I want to encourage you to “keep not back” your witness for the glory of your Savior in the three “T’s” of Time, Talent, and Treasure.

Keep not back your time. Every breath you take is a gift from God. Every beat of your heart is a gift from God. The question that must be answered is, “What are you doing with the time God has given to you?” Remember, when you spend an hour, you have one less hour to spend, so spend it wisely! With 168 hours in a week, we should evaluate what we are doing with those hours by asking, “Is what I am doing right now the best use of the time God has given to me?” 

Keep not back your talent. Every talent you possess in every area of life is a gift from God. From the classroom to the locker room to the boardroom to the family room, every talent you possess is to be put into fruitful service for the glory of God and the good of others. If your talent is in music, make a joyful noise to the Lord. If your talent is on the field of competition, play for the glory of God. If your talent is in the business world, work as if you were doing business with Christ Himself. Regardless of where your talents lie, use them for the expansion of the kingdom of Christ. Remember, what you don’t use, you eventually lose. If forced to choose one or the other, it is far better to “burn out” than to “rust out.” You get the point.

Keep not back your treasure. Everything you have is a gift; the more you have, the more you are in debt to the One who has given it to you. Whatever your heart beats for your treasure will be spent on. Sadly, the witness of withholding wealth is at the top of the list where far too many professing Christians squeeze a quarter so tightly that the eagle screams!

So . . . how are you doing in the area of witnessing with your time, talent, and treasure? Are any of these areas tainted by the witness of withholding? The key to rising above this failure to do what God commands is to remember that Jesus refused to withhold anything in order to bring you into relationship with Him.

  • He gave His time. Jesus kept on preaching and teaching and healing to the point where there were times that He was so exhausted that He would fall dead asleep, even in the midst of furious storms that terrified others. (Matthew 8:25)
  • He gave His talent. We read that the crowds were amazed at His teaching (Matthew 7:28), and the miracles He did were so spectacular that huge crowds often pressed in around Him (Luke 8:42).
  • He gave His treasure. We know that He left the glory of His heavenly throne to become a man, taking the very nature of a servant (Philippians 2:7).
  • And He gave His life. As He hung on that cruel cross, with every breath causing fresh jolts of agony to sear through His body, He heard the jeers of the crowd around Him: “He saved others, but he can’t save himself! He’s the King of Israel! Let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him” (Matthew 27:42).

And here’s the incredible truth: He could have! He could have come down from that cross in an instant, uttered one word, and twelve legions of angels would have turned that hill Golgotha into a slaughter pen (Matthew 26:53). It wasn’t nails that held Jesus Christ to the cross; Christian, it was his love for YOU!

When you keep these truths in view, you will “keep not back” anything to advance the cause of His kingdom. You will live a life of meaning, significance, and purpose; and you will not waste your time, water down your talent, or withhold a single cent of your treasure.

Remember, in God’s economy, you cannot advance the cause of His kingdom without advancing yourself in the process. As Jesus said —

Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. (Luke 6:38)

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

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THE BELIEVER’S BOOKEND BLESSINGS

graceglory


The Lord will give grace and glory.  Psalms 84:11 (NKJV)


Pause for a moment and reread today’s verse; let that truth set your heart on fire for your precious Savior. The promise is almost too great to comprehend: the Lord will give grace and glory—never one without the other, for the first always leads to the second. Let’s take a look at both aspects of this glorious promise.

To the sinner who has trusted in Christ alone for eternal life, grace is poured out beyond measure. You see, this grace not only saves, it also sanctifies along the way. It comes to the believer is every imaginable way.

  • Instructing grace is given to train us up in the disciplines of our faith, that we might grow and mature in our faith in order to live a life that is pleasing and acceptable in His sight.
  • Comforting grace is given to meet us in our deepest place of need, as we are confronted by the storm winds that blow our way.
  • Disciplining grace is given to correct us when we wander away from our Good Shepherd, which we, like sheep, are all prone to do.
  • Preserving grace is given to keep us from finally and fully falling away, even though we stumble and fall as we walk through the valleys of life with our Lord.

These are just a few examples of the grace upon grace that is poured out in your life today. But that’s not all! There is that three-letter conjunction that immediately follows the word grace and immediately precedes the word glory . . . AND! The psalmist is revealing the incredible truth that after grace comes glory. That little word “and” is the golden chain that connects our past with our promised future. And what God has brought together, no man, no demon, no power can separate. When grace has done its work in the life of the believer, glory awaits. When we cross the Jordan, we cross from grace to glory. The first promise of grace prepares us for the second promise of glory.

Believer, does the promise of these “Bookend Blessings” encourage you today? Regardless of where this message finds you—whether you are standing at the summit, basking in the sunshine of victory or struggling to keep your head above the waves of challenge that are crashing all around you—God has given you grace that will ultimately lead to glory . . . the glory of the new heavens and the new earth, which eye has not seen and ear has not heard . . . the glory of the streets of gold that you will walk upon one day . . . and the glory of the radiance of the Son that will continually shine upon you forever and ever, world without end.

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

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KNOWING JESUS NATURALLY IS NO KNOWING AT ALL!

knowingjesus


From now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. (2 Corinthians 5:16)


Did you know that there are two ways of knowing Jesus? The first way is naturally. When we are first exposed to Jesus, we know Him through our reason and perhaps our research, but all this knowing is “according to the flesh” and not of the Spirit. We know some facts about Jesus – what He said, what He did, and who He claimed to be. We knew Jesus, as Paul described it, “from a worldly point of view.” But knowing Jesus from a worldly point of view is no knowing at all! From a worldly perspective, we know Jesus as a man, not the Messiah; we know Jesus as a prophet, not the Prince of Peace; we know Jesus as a servant, not the Savior of the world. I say that knowing Jesus naturally is no knowing at all because simply gathering information will not lead to transformation. We need the Holy Spirit for that.

Remember that the disciples, who walked and talked and ministered with Jesus for more than three years, all ran and hid when He was arrested and crucified. Clearly, they knew Jesus “according to the flesh,” having walked with Him by sight rather than by faith. But on the day of Pentecost, when God poured out His Holy Spirit on them, they knew Jesus supernaturally. At this level of living, the Holy Spirit took their information and turned it into revelation, which ultimately resulted in transformation . . . and the rest is history. These disciples, who had once been so terrified of what men might do to them, went out boldly and turned the world upside down! They suffered all manner of hardship and persecution; church tradition tells us that all but John died a martyr’s death.

So . . . how do you know Jesus today? Is your knowing natural or supernatural? The answer is found in where you have placed your trust for salvation.

To know Jesus naturally is to walk by sight, according to the flesh. It is to acknowledge Him as a good teacher and perhaps even to follow some of His teachings, which many in the world do today. But let me say it again: Knowing Jesus naturally is no knowing at all. We must know Jesus supernaturally. You will know that you know the Lord Jesus Christ at this supernatural level when you have placed your trust in Christ alone—in His life, death, and resurrection, apart from anything you have done or ever will do—for your eternal salvation. When you know Jesus, not as a good man, but as the Good Shepherd who laid His life down for His sheep (John 10:14-15), you can be sure that the eyes of your heart have been opened by the Holy Spirit to see Jesus for who He truly is—the Lamb of God who died to atone for all your sins.

I want to close with a wonderful prayer from the apostle Paul that I hope you will meditate on and marinate in for a while. And if you do know Jesus at that supernatural level, thank Him one more time for answering this prayer in your own life.

I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you . . . (Ephesians 1:17-18)

May that hope of a life everlasting in Christ Jesus propel you forward today to live and work and speak in such a way as to encourage others to know Him . . . not naturally, but supernaturally!

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

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THE CONTRIBUTION OF CRISIS

crisis


I know, Lord . . . that in faithfulness you have afflicted me. (Psalm 119:75)


It may be that you never have never given much thought to the contribution that crisis makes in the life of the Christian. But after reading today’s word of encouragement, I hope you will receive crisis as a great grace from your good God, who is working all things together for your good—not just your eternal good, but your everyday good as well.

The Bible is filled with wonderful examples of the contribution of crisis. You might remember the crisis Abraham faced when God called him to sacrifice Isaac, his son of promise. For three interminable days, as they trudged toward Moriah, Abraham believed that Isaac was under a sentence of death—and that he, Abraham, was to be the executioner! I cannot imagine any greater crisis to face in this life. But in God’s perfect providence, this crisis contributed to a deeper and richer faith, preparing Abraham to be the father of many nations.

Perhaps you remember Saul’s crisis on the road to Damascus. Saul had terrorized the early church, “breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples” (Acts 9:1) and dragging off members of the church and casting them into prison (Acts 8:3). Saul was hell-bent on destroying the church and stopping the spread of Christianity by any means necessary. Then Jesus suddenly appeared as a blinding flash of light and a voice from heaven, stopping Saul in his tracks. The contribution of this crisis transformed Saul from persecutor to pastor . . . from murderer to missionary . . . from Saul, the ardent enemy of Christianity, to the great apostle Paul, who was responsible for planting churches, sending out missionaries, and penning almost half of the New Testament.

What crisis are you facing today? Where is life pressing in on you? Perhaps sickness is testing the outer edges of your health. Possibly you find yourself with too much month left at the end of the money. You may be in the middle of a season of indecision as to what God is calling you to do to expand the cause of His kingdom for His glory. I could go on, but I’m sure you get the point: Crisis comes at us from every conceivable corner of our lives. When it does, we must remember that every single one of those crises only comes after it has first passed through the nail-scarred hands of our loving Lord. Every crisis has been sent to you by God for your good and His glory.

Let me encourage you to look back at some past crisis and consider the contribution it has made to your life. Over and over again, the Lord Jesus Christ has seen to it that crisis has contributed to your growth, your maturity, and your faith. And you can be sure of this: the next crisis that comes will contribute to your growth and maturity once again.

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

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