A Place Of Peace

Great peace have those who love your law, and nothing can make them stumble. (Psalm 119:165)

The world we live in longs for the experience of peace at any cost. Sadly, the closest many get to it is the R.I.P etched on their tombstones. Do you have a special place where you go for a moment of peace when you want to get away from the hustle and bustle and stresses of life? Well, I have a word of cosmic comfort for you today; I will point you toward a peaceful place like no other on this side of the grave.

When was the last time you thought of the Bible as a place where you can go and find peace? For far too many, the Bible is the place of last resort after we have tried everything else. But this is not for you! The psalmist knew that the only place he could count on for finding peace was in the Scriptures. And notice the kind of peace the psalmist identifies: great peace. Great peace is offered to those who look to nothing smaller than God and His Holy Word. 

So here is the question that must be asked: Do you truly love the Word of God? Perhaps the best way to answer that question is by looking at the amount of time you spend in the Word of God — daily . . . weekly . . . monthly. When you love something, regardless of what it might be, you want to spend time with it – whether it is a favorite food or a faithful friend. Think about it this way: We can watch the movies we love over and over and over again. Can the same thing be said about your desire to read through the Bible over and over and over again? 

There is one more thing expressed in today’s passage for you to consider. Those who love the Word of God experience stability when others around them stumble. Think about it this way: Whether living in a season of plenty and prosperity or a season of scarcity and lack, the one who loves God’s Word does not stumble like many who find it difficult to navigate the waters of either advantage or adversity. Those who anchor in the truths of the Almighty are able to rise above the challenges of temporal life. Remember, the more time you spend with God in His Word, the greater peace you will experience in your life, regardless of the circumstances you face.

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


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Strength In Weakness

That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (Corinthians 12:10)

Other than our Lord Jesus Christ, no one in all of sacred Scripture endured more suffering than the apostle Paul. Paul was not reclining in the comfort of some plush ivory tower when he wrote his epistles; many of them were penned from prison floors while chained to Roman guards. And that was not all. Paul was —

  • Five times scourged by the religious leaders
  • Three times beaten with rods
  • Three times shipwrecked
  • One night and a day adrift at sea
  • One time stoned and left for dead
  • In danger from rivers and robbers
  • In danger in cities and deserts and on the sea
  • Forced to endure hunger, thirst, and sleepless nights

So how could a man who had gone through so much pain and suffering say, “When I am weak, then I am strong”? The answer is that in his human weakness, Paul relied on and rested in God’s supernatural strength — the strength that sustained him through everything he had to endure for the advancement of the Gospel. As paradoxical as it seems, it is only when we acknowledge our own weakness that we begin to advance in the strength of our Savior. Trusting in our own strength, which amounts to removing Jesus from the throne of our lives, inevitably leads to pride and self-sufficiency. But when we acknowledge our own weakness, God pours His strength out into our lives. 

Now, God is not expecting us to seek to be week. We have been commanded by God to do everything in our power to accomplish His will in our lives. But when we realize we cannot do it in our own strength, we begin to tap into the strength of the Almighty. Without our weakness, we would never know our need for God’s grace to sustain us when we are experiencing trials and difficulties. Paul knew that it was only through the strength of his Savior that he was able to fight the good fight of faith and finish his race.

Do you know this truth today? When you sense your human weakness, do you lean more into your Lord? The power that raised Jesus from the dead is the same power that resides in you (Ephesians 1:19-20), and that power is able to sustain you in the midst of every storm. Remember, only what we do in His strength brings glory to God and eternal good to others. There truly is strength in weakness! 

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

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Everyday Exodus

Those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son. (Romans 8:29)

You are probably familiar with the story of the events of Israel’s deliverance from their slavery in Egypt,which is related in the book of Exodus. God called Moses to lead His people Israel out of bondage in Egypt and into the Promised Land. The word exodus literally means “the road out.” The events of Israel’s exodus, of course, were pointing to the eternal exodus, which would be led by a greater Moses, our Lord Jesus Christ, through His sinless life, sacrificial death, and supernatural resurrection from the grave.

If you have placed your trust in Jesus Christ, you have received the gift of this eternal exodus, having been set free from sin, Satan, and death. You have also received what I call the Everyday Exodus, which takes you on the road out of self-centered and self-absorbed self-rule. God is bringing you to the end of yourself each day as you walk with Christ through the details of daily living. Your road out is paved by the presence of God. The more you draw near to God through all the means of grace He has given us – Bible study, prayer, worship, service, etc. – the more God draws you away from yourself and toward your Savior.

I often mention a question that was posed by my first spiritual father, Dr. D. James Kennedy, who said, “God saved you then; is He saving you now?” I honestly had no idea what he was talking about when I first heard him say that. I am a whole lot older and a little bit wiser today; now I understand. God’s greatest goal for our lives is Christlikeness, and He will accomplish that transformation by any means necessary.

God is leading us out of our bondage to self-centered and self-absorbed self-rule and shepherding us toward a Savior-centered, Savior-absorbed, Savior-ruled existence. This is the only life worth living, because when Jesus in on the throne of our lives, we begin to discover the true purpose for which we have been created: to be like Jesus. 

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

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Night Prayer

In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, Lord, make me dwell in safety. (Psalm 4:8)

I still remember one of the prayers my mom and dad would recite with me at bedtime when I was a child:

Now I lay me down to sleep,

I pray the Lord my soul to keep;

If I should die before I wake,

I pray the Lord my soul to take.

I am reminded of that long-ago prayer when I read Psalm 4:8, and it makes sense coming from the pen of David. There would have been much to keep him awake at night. David was on the run from King Saul, who was seeking to kill him; that knowledge could have kept David from getting a good night’s rest if he had allowed his mind to wander away from his God. Years later, David’s son Absalom tried to wrest the throne of Israel from his father, and this too would have been cause for insomnia. But David refused to let the circumstances in life shift his focus away from his God.

We live in a sleep-deprived culture. We are bombarded with information that pours in on us through advancing technology, 24-hour headline news, and a cell phone that is on constant alert. When we finally turn off every electronic device and crawl into bed at night, it is the first time we are experiencing a measure of silence . . . and the sound of that silence can be deafening!

This was not the case with David. When he would lie down at night, he looked to God to disrupt his distress and distractions and deliver him over to a restful sleep. The key for David during the sound of silence was to set his heart on things above. “You have filled my heart with greater joy,” he wrote, and he refused to focus on things below, such as “when their grain and new wine abound” (Psalm 4:7). Some commentators have identified this psalm as “A Night Prayer.”

Do you see the difference in David’s experience of joy? His confident focus on things above was rooted in God. If we focus on things below, the condition of our hearts is at the mercy of circumstances. David’s focus was well beyond the reach of circumstances because he knew that when we focus on God, we experience an inner joy that produces a peace that passes all understanding. Regardless of what David was facing in life, he kept his focus on God, and he became known as “the man after God’s own heart,” who would lie down in peace and sleep in safety.

Is this the confession of your life when you lie down at night? It can be if you will center your mind on Christ and not on your circumstances. Remember, when we finally get past all of the distractions of the day and close our eyes to sleep, God does not. God is on watch so that we don’t need to be. If you lie still for a moment, you just might hear Him whisper, “Rest well in your redemption, my child. I will keep watch tonight.”

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

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The Master’s Ministry Of Misery

In their misery they will earnestly seek me. (Hosea 5:15)

I don’t know anyone who actually welcomes misery and misfortune, yet our verse for today contains an important biblical truth: Adversity is very often the means our Lord uses to get our attention and return our affections to Him. No one has ever put a sharper point on this truth than C. S. Lewis, who wrote in The Problem of Pain

Pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our consciences, but shouts in our pains. It is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.

The Great Shepherd knows all too well that His sheep are prone to wander . . . and wander we do! We wander away from His presence. We wander away from His protection. We wander away from His provision. And in doing so, we wander into a myriad of unforeseen problems and predicaments that bring us to painful providences. But as Lewis said so well, it is in this pain that our Great Shepherd shouts to us and draws us back into His fold. Pain indeed has its perfect purpose, and our Master delivers His ministry of misery into the life of every one of His children. The key is to receive it and respond to it rightly.

Think back over your life for a moment. Surely you can recall times where misery ministered to you in a profound way. God simply loves us too much to let us go our own way. So our Master intervenes by sending storm winds that blow us onto the rocks of His righteousness. It is painful, to be sure! Often the pain seems unbearable, but it is a pain that points us back toward our Savior. Make no mistake, painful providences in the hands of our Prince are sanctified for the strengthening of our soul and the furthering of our faith. Misery does indeed have its ministry — a powerful and positive one — in the life of the believer . . . and that includes you.

So regardless of where this message finds you today and what obstacles are confronting you, fear not and faint not, Christian, because your faithful Savior is using it all to accomplish His perfect purposes in your life. Remember, all the promises of Jesus are as true today as they were when He uttered them. One of those promises is “In this world you will have trouble” (John 16:33). Sometimes we are not the cause of our troubles; they simply come knocking at our door. At other times we do bring them on ourselves. Either way, the Master’s ministry of misery is at work, causing us to return to our first love . . . and His name is Jesus Christ. 

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

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Making A Difference That Is Durable

Whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. (Philippians 3:7 RSV)

Because we have been made in the image and likeness of God, we have been made to make a durable difference in the world around us. So the question before you and me today is this: Are we doing it? Are we making a difference that is durable? 

To be sure, there are many things that get in the way of making a durable difference in the world around us. One of those things is our tendency to be more focused on pleasing man rather than pleasing God. Make no mistake, people pleasers will never make a durable difference in the world, because they are more concerned with what others think of them rather than what God thinks of them. They find their deepest satisfaction when others are pleased with them and accepting of them. But this was not the life for the apostle Paul, a man who definitely made a durable difference. Paul told one group of early church leaders —

I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may accomplish my course and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God. (Acts 20:24)

These are the sentiments of a man who made a dramatic, lasting impact on the world. Now, when we give thought to Paul’s words, we realize that the apostle did not despise life itself. Rather, he firmly believed that a life without Christ as the center and circumference of it had no value. And he was willing to give up everything that the unbelieving world counts as valuable in the faithful and fruitful service of his Lord. Paul assigned no value to his life apart from the life the Lord Jesus had called him to live when Paul (then named Saul) first encountered the risen Savior on the road to Damascus. 

Paul’s great goal was to accomplish his course — to finish his “race,” as he often referred to his life. He knew a durable difference would only be made when he crossed the finish line of life, having given all he had and all he was as a testimony to the Gospel of the grace of God. Paul purposed to live a life for something far bigger than just his life. He lived for His Savior. He refused to shrink the size of his life down to the size of his life. Paul lived to please God, not man, and in so doing he made a durable difference as a disciple of Jesus. 

Can the same thing be said about you today? Are you making a durable difference by the life you are currently living? The answer, of course, is “Yes” . . . if you are living your life for the glory of God and the good of others. It matters not what your station in life is; you may be an executive or an entry-level laborer, a financier or a farmer, a soldier or a stay-at-home mom. What matters is who you are living for in your current station. When you are living for Jesus and pouring yourself out for the advancement of His kingdom, you can know with certainty that the life you are living is making a durable difference in the world around you. 

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

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For God So Loved … YOU!

As we prepare to celebrate Valentine’s Day tomorrow, I would like to share a word of cosmic comfort with you from the One who loves you exceedingly abundantly above all that you could ever ask or think. The apostle Paul prayed that God’s people would be able “to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ” (Ephesians 3:18). In other words, the love of God in Christ Jesus truly is beyond our imagination!

For God so loved the world that he gave his only son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16)

John 3:16 is probably the best-known passage in all Scripture, even among unbelievers. There are times, however, when we tend to breeze past verses that are so well-known and so frequently repeated; they can lose their message and ministry in our lives. So let’s take just a few minutes to slow down and look closely at these words from Jesus.

First, notice that the love of God in His Son Jesus is a gift to us. There is nothing we do to invite it. There is certainly nothing we do to deserve it. There is nothing we can do to earn it. It is simply a gift from God to undeserving sinners like you and me. Second, this gift comes to us through belief, not behavior. We simply need to believe that Jesus is who He says He is and did what He said He did on our behalf.

God could have dealt with us in a variety of ways that had absolutely nothing to do with love. Remember, when Adam and Eve rebelled against God in the Garden of Eden, it was a deliberate willful, rebellion against His loving and gracious provision. Adam and Eve were unfaithful to God, the One who created them in His image and gave them the gift of life itself. God could have responded with judgment. God could have responded with wrath. He could have responded with contempt. At the very least, God could have responded with disappointment. But He did none of these things! God responded with love, because God is love (1 John 4:16). God demonstrated His love for us by sending Jesus into this world to pay the penalty for all of our sins, so that we could live in intimate, personal relationship with Him throughout all eternity.

Valentine’s Day is a time when we express our affection for others by giving cards, candies, and gifts; many of these reflect mere sentimental feelings. Not so with God! His love acted decisively in history and in our hearts. God’s agape love is sacrificial. God so loved that He willingly and intentionally sacrificed His Son in order to pave the way for a love relationship with sinners like you and me, who were in desperate need of a Savior. Here is a passage of Scripture that best describes God’s profound love in the most personal way:

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (Galatians 2:20)

The great apostle Paul said that Jesus loved me and gave himself for me! When we planted Cross Community Church, my mentor and spiritual father Dr. Ron Kovack connected these words from Paul to John 3:16. “It is one thing to know that ‘God so loved the world,’” he told me, “but it is another thing altogether to know that God so loved me!” Dr. Ron encouraged me to teach this verse to others by personalizing it. That is what the apostle Paul did, and that is what we are to do too.

Here is something to remember as we bring this word of encouragement to a close. Everything God does in your life, He does out of love. When the sky is blue, the clouds are fleecy, and the sun is brightly shining, it is because God so loves you. And when the sky is dark and foreboding and the storm winds howling, it is because God so loves you. When you are delivered from the attacks of the devil, it is because God so loves you. And when you mess things up, it is because God so loves you. Everything God does in your life He does because of His love for you.

Never forget this: When God gave His Son Jesus to pay the penalty for our sins, it was not a measurement of our value, our worth, or our significance. God gave His Son “while we were still sinners” (Romans 5:8) and “alienated from God” (Colossians 1:21). No, the death of Jesus Christ was simply an expression of His unconditional and unending love, for God so loves you.

I pray this truth will be a source of both encouragement and empowerment for you to live the life God is calling you to live for His glory and the good of others, with freedom and faithfulness to the One who so loves you right now and will continue loving you throughout all eternity.   

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

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Divine Protection

The following night the Lord stood near Paul and said, “Take courage!  As you have testified about me in Jerusalem, so you must also testify in Rome.” (Acts 23:11)

I have a word of great comfort for you today, which is rooted in the passage from which today’s verse was taken. The apostle Paul was in harm’s way after having confronted the hypocrisy of the religious leaders. The uproar was so fierce that the Roman guard needed to take Paul away and put him in the barracks for his own protection. Some of the religious leaders were plotting to kill Paul, but the angel of the Lord assured Paul that he was surrounded by “Divine Protection,” because God was not finished with him yet. And the same is true for you and me! 

The Bible makes it clear that we are all immortal until our work is done. God’s purposes will be accomplished, and nothing and no one will stand in His way. It mattered not that the corrupt religious leaders had conspired to kill the apostle Paul. In fact, the narrative tells us that “more than forty men were involved in this plot” (Acts 23:13). Forty men were no match for God, because God had more work for Paul to do. The whole world could have taken its stand against Paul, but they were utterly impotent to do anything to Paul while Omnipotence still had plans for him. 

Make no mistake, when you work for your Lord is done, He will usher you into His eternal presence along with all the saints of God. But that will not happen one moment before you have completed your assignment here on earth. So as the angel of the Lord said to Paul, “Take courage,” because God is not finished with you yet! As an ambassador for the Almighty, your safe passage is guaranteed while you are fulfilling your service for your Savior.    

As a disciple of Jesus, you have been called to testify to the truth. Every child of God has been given the assignment of participating in the expansion of the kingdom of God. Do you believe that something is keeping you from fulfilling your calling? Take courage! The Lord is standing right by your side every step of the way into glory, and He has promised never to leave you nor forsake you. So be at peace as you participate in the greatest work that can be done on this side of the grave – witnessing for Jesus Christ.

Let this truth sink in and ultimately set you free: He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion, regardless of the cost or circumstances you face, and that’s because He who is in you is greater than the one who is in this world. No weapon formed can keep you from finishing the work God has set before you to do because you, like Paul, are surrounded by Divine Protection. 

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

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A Steady Flow Of Living Water

On that day living water will flow out from Jerusalem . . . in summer and in winter. (Zechariah 14:8)

Oh, what a word of encouragement we have today! Though seasons change and affect the world we live in, the living waters of our Lord’s love continually flow. The burning heat of the summer cannot dry up His love and the frigid cold of the winter will not cause it to freeze over. Our God changes not, and His love continually flows to us like streams of living water, regardless of the season of life we find ourselves in.

I don’t know where this message finds you today, but I do know this: Regardless of whether you are living in a season of summer, with the scorching heat of trials and tribulations knocking at your door, or experiencing a season of winter, with the icy winds of challenge and change blowing over you, God is ready, willing, and able to meet you in your place of deepest need with a steady flow of living waters that will never cease.

Knowing this truth must keep us from wandering and wading in other streams. To be sure, the world promises us delights if we will but sip from its springs, but these are empty promises that the world simply cannot keep. The world can never give us what only God can give. When we drink from the waters of this world, we are left thirsting for what matters most, because the waters of this world will never slake our thirst. Only God can give us purpose in life. Only God can give us meaning in life. Only God can give us significance in life. God created us in such a way that the things that matter most in this life can only be found in Him. 

Jesus said it very plainly to the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well: “Everyone who drinks this water [that is, the water of this world] will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (John 4:13-14).

Regardless of where this message finds you today, remember that the way to slake your thirst in any area of life is to sip from the streams of your Savior. They flow continually and they flow to you. But remember, you must drink from them yourself, because God will not drink for you. An unlimited supply of living water will not serve you if you will not take the time to drink from it. Remember these words from our Lord, and be encouraged to drink your fill this day and every day God gives you: “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink” (John 7:37).       

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

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God Works In Mysterious Ways

Test me, O Lord, and try me, examine my heart and my mind. (Psalm 26:2)

God is in the business of testing His people. His testing is as promised as it is promising. Unlike the devil, who tempts us with the intent of tripping us up and turning us away from our Lord, God tests us to strengthen our faith and conform us more and more into the image and likeness of His beloved Son.

Here is a question to ponder today: Do you receive God’s ways — which can be quite mysterious at times — as readily as you receive God’s Word? Every child of God receives His living and active Word with great joy. But there are times when joy is not our first response when we receive God’s ways. God’s ways are not our ways. We expect God to respond to us one way, and He behaves in a completely manner. When this happens — and it happens a lot — we must remember this incredible truth given to us by the prophet:

The ways of the Lord are right. (Hosea 14:9)

Hosea is telling us that no matter what God decrees for us, it is right. God’s way is righteous, fair, just, merciful, and absolutely what we need at that time. You see, God created us for His good purpose; He made us for Himself to expand the cause of His kingdom in this world. He knows what is best for us all the time, and He knows exactly how to deliver that best to us at just the right moment. However, God’s best is often not what we expected or wanted at the time. 

When we have difficulty receiving God’s ways, it is usually because we are seeking our will rather than God’s will for our lives. We are pursuing what we want for ourselves rather than seeking what God wants for us. Now, remember that we all have a sinful nature that struggles against the Spirit of God (Galatians 5:17), and it is plain to see that God must intervene on our behalf by delivering His ways if we are ever going to live the life He is calling us to live. 

How is it with you lately? Have you been struggling with God’s ways in your life? You are not alone! We all struggle to accept His ways at times. And that is when we must return to Hosea’s assurance that the ways of the Lord are always right! Think about it this way: God loves us so much that He will cause us to walk in His ways rather than our own, knowing that, in the end, it will ultimately be for His glory and our good. When the Lord tests us with His mysterious ways, we must trust Him even when we cannot trace Him. Allow Him to examine your heart and your mind; the result will always be the best!

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

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