Gold…Grace…Glory

Gold

For the Lord God is a sun and shield; The Lord will give grace and glory.  (Psalm 84:11)

Notice what we do not read in today’s verse: we do not read that the Lord will give His children gold, grace, and glory; rather, the psalmist only promises that the Lord God will give grace and glory. If the Lord gives some of His people gold in abundance—and He has on several occasions—then praise His mighty name! But Christians have never been and never will be promised gold on this side of heaven. But what has been promised to the adopted children of God is grace and glory.

Make no mistake, the Lord frequently gives His people great gain in temporal things, especially in the United States. But every great gain that we receive is to be used for His glory and the expansion of His kingdom. Remember, everything you have has been given to you, no matter how hard you worked for it. Every breath you take and every beat of your heart is a gift from God . . . and that gift comes under the heading of grace. “What do you have that you did not receive?” the apostle Paul asked rhetorically (1 Corinthians 4:7). Everything we have is a gift from God; God is gracious to us every moment of every day.

Let’s take notice of something else that the psalmist does not say: he does not say, “The Lord may give grace and glory.” No, he says, “The Lord will give grace and glory.” Grace is a promise from God. Granted, this grace often comes shrouded in the shadows of storm winds. I have noted several times in these articles that God has promised that we will experience trials and tribulations. But God will always give to us in proportion, and He has promised to supply all the grace we need to sustain us in every wave of challenge that washes over us.

No trial has overtaken you that is not faced by others. And God is faithful: He will not let you be tried beyond what you are able to bear, but with the trial will also provide a way out so that you may be able to endure it. (1 Corinthians 10:13 NET)

Paul was confined to cold prison cells while he wrote much of the New Testament. Yet God gave Paul abundant grace to pen the inspired Word of God. And there is grace enough for you to do all God is calling you to do, regardless of the circumstances you are facing.

In addition to grace, God will give us glory, a sure and certain promise that awaits us on the other side of the grave. We work our way through this life by sustaining grace, but what should greatly encourage us along the way is the glory that awaits us, glory that eye has not seen and ear has not heard. It is, in a word, glory unspeakable!

Throughout whatever time God has given to each of us on this earth, let us be content to eat the grapes of sustaining grace, knowing that one day soon we shall drink the wine of glory forever and ever . . . Amen.

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

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The Believer’s Battle Cry

christian soldier

All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves; for the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give all of you into our hands.” (1 Samuel 17:47)

1 Samuel 17 recounts the story of David and Goliath. The giant Goliath was far bigger, much stronger, and vastly more skilled in battle than was David, the shepherd boy. Goliath had every conceivable advantage . . . except one, and that one advantage that David had was the most important one of all: the Lord God Omnipotent! The giant went into the battle in his own strength; David went into the battle in the strength of his God. You know who prevailed.

David uttered The Believer’s Battle Cry on that day, and it is to be our rallying cry every day of our lives: “The battle is the Lord’s.” And if the battle is the Lord’s, our victory is already assured. As the apostle Paul would write more than a thousand years later, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31).

To the watching world, the giant Goliath was “a lock,” a sure winner. Even Israel’s King Saul was greatly afraid of this giant of a man, who harshly blasphemed God and challenged the Israelites for forty straight days. But David, who had never set foot on a battlefield before, knew that the battle was the Lord’s; it didn’t matter how big and strong and experienced Goliath was, because God was infinitely bigger, stronger, and more experienced than the giant!

So . . . what giants are you facing today? What in your life has come up against you that is causing you to shrink back from all that God is calling you to be? The armies of Israel trembled and forgot the power of God when they were confronted by the Philistine giant; you and I are likely to forget God also. The Israelites looked fearfully at the sword and the spear in Goliath’s hand, rather than looking to the God of their salvation. We often do the same thing. If we keep our focus on the size of the giants we are currently facing, the size of our God will shrink. But if we keep our focus on God, as David did, every giant that comes up against us will shrink before our eyes and God will give us glorious victory!

David penned Psalm 108, which concludes with these words:

Give us aid against the enemy,

for the help of man is worthless.

With God we will gain the victory,

and he will trample down our enemies. (Psalm 108:12-13)

Regardless of the challenges you are facing today in your professional or personal life, the battle is the Lord’s, and He has promised never to leave nor forsake you (Hebrews 13:5). You can advance confidently toward every giant that comes up against you, because the battle is the Lord’s and He has promised to strengthen you and help you and uphold you (Isaiah 41:10). God did not bring you this far to leave you in defeat. He will carry you past this challenge and all the way into glory. Elsewhere in the Psalms, we read . . .

Why are you depressed, O my soul?

Why are you upset?

Wait for God!

For I will again give thanks

to my God for his saving intervention. (Psalm 42:5 NET)

On the surface—and especially to the watching world around you—it might look like you do not possess the strength to overcome the giants that confront you. And if you were operating merely in your own strength, the world would be right! But you know the truth, just as David knew the truth:

Greater is the power that is in you than any power that comes against you!

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

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Cheerful Confidence In Christ

Cloud

Anyone who is among the living has hope—even a live dog is better off than a dead lion!  (Ecclesiastes 9:4)

The Wise Preacher gave us words of great wisdom that are designed to encourage us, regardless of our station in life. Make no mistake, life is a very precious thing and a great gift from God; as this truth relates to spiritual matters, it is far better to be the absolute “least” in the kingdom of God than the greatest in the kingdom of this world. Here’s how “the prince of preachers” from the 19th century, Charles Spurgeon, framed this biblical truth:

Where the Holy Ghost implants divine life in the soul, there is a precious deposit which none of the refinements of education can equal. The thief on the cross excels Caesar on his throne; Lazarus among the dogs is better than Cicero among the senators; and the most unlettered Christian is in the sight of God superior to Plato. Life is the badge of nobility in the realm of spiritual things, and men without it are only coarser or finer specimens of the same lifeless material, needing to be quickened, for they are dead in tress passes and sins. A living, loving, gospel sermon, however unlearned in matter and uncouth in style, is better than the finest discourse devoid of unction and power. A living dog keeps better watch than a dead lion, and is of more service to his master.

Where does this word of encouragement find you this day? Perhaps you are in the midst of trials that are troubling your workplace, impacting your family, or afflicting your health in some way. Fear not, for your God is with you!

Jesus took the wrath of God upon Himself when He hung on the cross; from the sixth to the ninth hour, He was separated from His Father in heaven. God, whose eyes are too pure to look upon evil (Habakkuk 1:13), could not look upon His Son, who was bearing the divine wrath of your sin and mine. And because of Christ’s unimaginable atoning love, we have this promise from our heavenly Father: “Never will I leave you, or forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5). God turned away from His beloved Son . . . so that you and I need never fear that He will turn away from us!

Even in a situation that seems utterly hopeless, you can and must still have hope, because you are not alone. The world may throw you to the side, friends may kick you to the curb, even family may abandon you, but your God holds you in His nail-scarred hands and will never let you go. Remember, Jesus did not only die for you, He lived for you every day of His life. And now He lives to make intercession with the Father on your behalf (Hebrews 7:25). Not only that, but his divine power has given you everything you need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3). You have His Word on it!

It is indeed true: “Anyone who is among the living has hope,” and that Hope is in you, with you, and for you. Cheerful confidence in Christ should be the joyful confession of our lives.

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

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Promised Rest

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Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  (Matthew 11:28-29)

What a powerful word of comfort that is for those of us who are tired today!

Yet there are two kinds of “rest” in view here. Let’s take a look at them both.

  1. Temporal Rest – One of Kim’s favorite reminders for me is, “There is more to life than increasing its speed.” How right she is . . . and how often I forget it! Many of you are a lot like me; we are all exhausted. Yet we have been promised a temporal rest from our weariness.

You see, Jesus was not only fully divine, He was also fully human; and in His human nature, He needed rest every bit as much as you and I do. He worked with His hands as a carpenter, and it was hard work, because He had no electric tools to ease His labor. By the end of the day, He was undoubtedly tired, just like any of us after a long day’s work. And that is why He invites us into this kind of temporal rest. Jesus knew the importance of rest and understands exactly what we need by way of His own personal experience. The key is to remember to rest in Him . . . not in the countless other things smaller than Jesus that promise rest but do not deliver.

  1. Eternal Rest – Beyond temporal rest lies the most important rest of all: the eternal rest that is promised to us on the other side of the grave. The life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ has secured an eternal rest for the believer that surpasses all understanding. It is a rest that we will experience because everything that was once broken will now be made whole. We will labor, but without the thorns and thistles of judgment. We will love without envy or regret. We will live a life of unbroken fellowship with our Lord Jesus Christ and we will know Him as He is.

So . . . where does this message find you today? Are you tired and weary and heavy-laden? Remember that we rest in Jesus by spending time with Him each day. Whatever you are going through that steals your strength, Jesus went through it also . . . and so much more! Then, once you have taken time to rest in Jesus, reflect on the promised rest that is to come one day soon in that place Jesus has prepared just for you, a place where there will be no more tears, pain, sorrow, or death. Now that’s a promised rest worth preparing for, wouldn’t you agree?

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

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Prayer Is A Privilege

pray-outside-your-faith

Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.  (John 16:24)

Because of what Jesus has done on our behalf, we now have the privilege of entering into the presence of God in prayer. Think about it this way: the Creator of the universe, the “High and Lofty One who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy” (Isaiah 57:15), has invited us into His presence to commune with Him—not only daily, but moment by moment.

Since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.  (Hebrews 4:14-16)

Because of the cross work of Christ, we do not need to go through the church, a priest, or any kind of temporal mediator to gain access to God. Those who are in Christ have access to God 24/7, because Jesus made a way for us through His sinless life, sacrificial death, and supernatural resurrection 2000 years ago.

So let me ask you this all-important question: What does your prayer life look like? Do you consider it a privilege to enter into the throne room of God’s grace? Or has prayer turned into a ritualistic practice that you perform without giving it much thought?

As church planters for the last five years, my beloved wife Kim and I have had this simple truth brought home to us with great clarity: the only way forward as a church is on our knees. We have a church filled with prayer warriors who consider it one of life’s greatest privileges to enter into the presence of the Creator and Sustainer of all things.

If you feel like you’re struggling to offer articulate prayers, try using the ACTS formula to help you practice the privilege of prayer:

A = Adoration – Prayers of praise and adoration are the foundation upon which Christian are to build their lives.

C = Confession – Prayers of confession uttered from hearts filled with a godly sorrow are one of the marks of the true child of God.

T – Thanksgiving – Prayers of thanksgiving for all God has done, is doing, and has promised to do—including those painful providences—demonstrate the maturity of the person who is growing in their faith.

S – Supplication – Prayers of petition—that is, asking God to supply our needs—are good and right and necessary, and our God loves to hear them just as much as a human father wants to hear from his child who is in need.

Now, every prayer you utter need not include all parts of the ACTS acrostic, but it does serve as a reminder to keep you from spending all your time in supplication, while missing the incredible blessing of the other three areas of privilege in prayer.

If you spend any time reading the Gospels, you know that Jesus frequently withdrew from others so that He could be alone in prayer. May His example encourage us to consistently practice the privilege of prayer.

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

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A Vanishing Mist

vanishing mist

What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. (James 4:14)

When was the last time you thought of your life as a “vanishing mist,” as James described it in his epistle? If you are young, it’s likely the thought has never occurred to you. If you have passed age 50, your thinking may get “misty” often! That’s certainly true of me; as a young man, I gave the brevity of life no thought at all; today, as a much older man, I find myself pondering this sobering truth with increasing frequency.

When I look at pictures of our four children growing up, I am amazed at how quickly the time has been passing. I remember that many parents who were older than Kim and I would say things like, “They’ll grow up before you know it!” But who had time to consider an idea like that? We were busy raising four children! Well, I sure do consider it today, and I realize that the years are racing by and life on this earth is rapidly moving toward an end.

There are two things this truth should do for the Christian.

  1. It should challenge us. We are all dying at the rate of 60 minutes an hour, and so we should be busily engaged in doing all God has called us to do with all He has given us to do it with. Jesus cautioned us, “The night is coming when on one can work” (John 9:4), and that “night” could come upon us today . . . which should challenge you and me to get the most of every hour God has given to us.
  2. It should comfort us. Because life IS so brief, whatever storms winds we are facing and whatever waves of challenge are sweeping over us will soon pass away. Before we know it, we will be living on the other side of the grave, where there will be no more storm winds blowing, no more challenges crashing into us, no sorrow to burden us nor struggle confronting us. Here is a good way to look at it: whatever you are currently going through, you are going through it, and it will soon lead to your promised paradise in the new heavens and the new earth.

So the key to accepting the truth that your life truly is a vanishing mist is to live in the light of eternity. We should be challenged to make the most of every moment and comforted in knowing that those moments that try men’s souls will soon come to an end.

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

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The Believer’s Boomerang

Throwing plain boomerand, midair

A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed. (Proverbs 11:25)

In God’s eternal economy, there is a fixed law for the redeemed: you cannot give to others without receiving yourself. Make no mistake, a generous person will indeed prosper, and whoever refreshes others will be refreshed. You have His Word on it!

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)

Now, we should never give, serve, and help others because of what we will receive in return. We already have everything because we have Jesus. Yet the biblical principle stands firm; you simply cannot give without getting. I like to call it “The Believer’s Boomerang,” because the gift keeps coming back to the hand that released it.

I must make one thing perfectly clear: I am not speaking about the so-called “prosperity gospel,” which teaches that it is always the will of God to prosper His people with both financial and physical blessings in response to their financial donations, visualization, and positive confessions. In a word, this teaching is IDOLATRY; the believer would be using God to reach a desired goal or end.

To be sure, God does proper His people with countless blessings—financial, physical, and spiritual—but He is never obligated to do so. God’s blessing is never a result of His people using God to bring about a desired blessing. This would be like putting God on a leash and leading Him where we want Him to go. It would be binding the conscience of God and manipulating Him to do what you want Him to do for you. This thinking is entirely unbiblical, utterly wrong, and it is not for you!

When we give, serve, and help, simply because of the sheer joy of giving, serving, and helping—to love others because God first loved us—the Lord will return to us blessings multiplied. You cannot give without getting in return . . . when you are giving for the right reasons. And do you know who it is that gives for the right reasons? It is those people who, like the apostle Paul, know what they already have been given in Christ!

Paul exulted,

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. (Ephesians 1:3)

No finite mind could ever begin to comprehend the depths of the truth of these words. God has blessed us with every spiritual blessing because we are in Christ. Unlike our temporal blessings, which we will one day leave behind, these spiritual blessings will stay with us throughout eternity: our forgiveness . . . our acceptance . . . our adoption . . . our divine dwelling place in heaven. I could write an entire article about those blessings which will never fade away.

One final point on The Believer’s Boomerang: At the deepest level, the simple act of giving IS the greatest blessing, because in that act of selfless giving, we are most like our Lord.

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

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