Cosmic Claim

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Know that the Lord is God. It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture. (Psalm 100:3)

The dictionary definition of the word claim is as follows: “Something that one party owes another—an interest in, as in a possessory claim, or right to possession.” With this definition in view, is it not clear that God has a “Cosmic Claim” over each and every one of us, both by creation and re-creation? Read on, and I hope you will be as comforted as you are challenged.

It is not a comfort to know that the Creator of the universe is also your personal Creator, having planned for you from before the foundation of the world? Your Creator God is not some distant deity. Rather, He is intimately involved in your life at every possible level: physically, emotionally, mentally, relationally, financially, and spiritually.

David exulted, “You created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made . . . Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be” (Psalm 139:13-14, 16). And throughout each one of the days ordained for you, God created you to be in an intimate, personal, loving relationship with Him moment by moment. Surely this truth should bring us comfort of cosmic proportions, but it also leads us to a strong challenge.

If you have placed your trust in Jesus Christ as your Savior, is it not a challenge to know that the One who created heaven and earth and the seas and all that is in them not only created you, but also re-created you through the blood of His precious Son . . . and therefore does indeed have a Cosmic Claim over every aspect of your life? The moment this truth seizes us, we are, in the most profound sense, living a surrendered life with absolutely no rights of our own. A surrendered life is a life marked by sold-out service to the One who rightly has this claim over our lives. A surrendered life is a life marked by prayer that does not end without these words, “Not my will, but thy will be done” (Luke 22:42). Finally, a surrendered life is a life marked by expanding the cause of God’s kingdom, “that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again” (2 Corinthians 5:15).

Have you acknowledged the Cosmic Claim? Are you ready, willing, and able to be deployed for God’s glory and for the good of all others, regardless of the cost or circumstance? By His grace, may this be the confession of all our lives as we live out both the comfort and the challenge presented by the Cosmic Claim that our Lord Jesus rightly holds over every aspect of our lives.

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

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The Believer’s Bank Book

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You know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich. (2 Corinthians 8:9)

It has been well said that “A believer is one who does not have to consult a bank book to see how wealthy he or she is.” Is that true of you? Read on, and I promise that you will be greatly encouraged today.

Before Jesus took on flesh and dwelt among us, as the second person of the Trinity, the Son of the living God, He had it all. He was rich in glory. He was complete in majesty. He was awesome in power. He was perfect in dignity. He was breathtaking in beauty. Moment by moment, the angels in heaven surrounded Him in worship, crying out, “Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord of Hosts” (Isaiah 6:3). Jesus was rich beyond description. But then He became poor—not just poor, but extremely poor—for you and for me.

Clearly, when the apostle Paul says in today’s verse that for our sake Jesus became poor, Paul surely had in mind the fact that Jesus took on flesh and became a man—and not a man who would be admired and loved. Isaiah foretold that the Messiah would have “no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.” Instead of angels calling out to Him in perpetual worship, Jesus “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” (Isaiah 53:2-3). Instead of crying “Holy is He,” the people ultimately screamed, “Crucify Him!”

In the Incarnation, the God of the universe condescended to become a man, uniting divinity with humanity in the person of Jesus Christ. Now, Jesus did not stop being God. He did not set aside His deity; rather, Jesus laid aside the manifestation of His deity while He walked upon this earth. And he laid aside His throne and all the splendor of heaven for an existence in which he frequently had no place to lay His head (Matthew 8:20).

But there is more! When Paul said that our Lord “became poor,” was also thinking about the cross, for that was the place where Jesus gave up everything and shed His very life’s blood on Calvary’s hill, so that through His poverty we, by trusting in that blood, would become rich beyond imagination . . . rich beyond what any bank book might say. Because our Lord became poor, we now have the opportunity, by grace through faith, to know “the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding” (Ephesians 1:7-8).

So what does your Believer’s Bank Book say about just how rich you are today? Here are just a few thoughts:

  • You are rich in mercy and ministry.
  • You are rich in grace and glory.
  • You are rich in strength and security.
  • You are rich in life and love.

Christian, it doesn’t matter how rich you are in dollars and cents. Whatever level of earthly riches you have (or don’t have, for that matter), praise God for that! What truly does matter is how rich you are in Christ. You have a spiritual inheritance that goes beyond anything this world can conceive of, riches that eye has not seen and ear has not heard. Because you are in Christ, and Christ has everything, you too have everything. The fullness of Christ is your fullness, and you can take that truth to the believer’s bank and withdraw on it every moment of your life.

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

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Holy Horns

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The priest shall put some of the blood on the horns of the altar of fragrant incense that is before the Lord. (Leviticus 4:7)

Oh, what a word of comfort is placed before us of the altar of incense, the place where God’s people presented their prayers and praise. Their prayers were ever before the Lord, and upon the horns of that altar the priest would smear some of the blood of the sacrifice. It’s important to note that this ritual represented only a dim shadow of the blood of the Substance that was to come. Atonement has been made and our sin debt has been paid because the blood of the True Lamb of God has been shed for both our salvation and our sanctification.

Because the blood of the Lamb is before the Lord, having figuratively been sprinkled on the horns of the altar, it should also be before us. We are to live life in the shadow of the cross. The blood of the Lamb is what has brought us into God’s presence and will keep us in God’s presence forevermore. It is the blood of the Lamb that makes us acceptable in the presence of God. It is His blood that gives power to our prayers and purpose to our petitions (Hebrews 10:19). It is His blood that reminds us of whose we are and what we are here to do.

From Genesis to Revelation, we are continually confronted by the phrase “the blood,” which is designed to both encourage and empower us to be all God is calling us to be. It was the blood of every Old Testament sacrifice that pointed to the blood of the True Sacrifice that would finally and fully give us victory over sin, Satan, and death. The blood of Jesus protects us from the schemes of the devil and strengthens us for every temptation that comes our way.

Those holy horns were sprinkled with the blood of bulls, blood that could not truly atone for sin, only point the way to the blood—the eternal, once-for-all sacrifice made by Jesus Christ—that has the power to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. The blood on the horns of the altar is the ongoing testimony to every child of God that we have been washed clean by the blood of the Lamb. And don’t forget this: you did not deserve the blood . . . you did not earn the blood . . . and you cannot pay for the blood. It is only available to you by God’s grace, through faith in the One who shed His precious blood for you.

Let me close today’s word of comfort with these words from the 19th-century South African writer, teacher, and pastor, Andrew Murray:

Of all the glorious things that the blood means, this is one of the most glorious: His blood is the sign, the measure, yes, the impartation of His love.

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

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The Ineffectual Fervent Prayer

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Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me.  (2 Corinthians 12:8)

Most of us are immediately familiar with the words, “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much” (James 5:16 KJV). So it’s likely that you are not familiar with the title of today’s message of encouragement. Did you know that there is such a thing as ineffectual fervent prayer that availeth little? The apostle Paul prayed such a prayer. Let’s take a look.

In order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:7-9)

I’m sure we all agree that when Paul prayed it was fervent prayer. Yet in this case, his prayers did not avail the results he was praying for. Why? Because God had sent this “thorn” to Paul for a powerful purpose: to advance Paul’s humility and keep him from getting a big head because of all the good he was doing for the expansion of God’s kingdom.

But God’s “No” to Paul’s prayer had an even deeper purpose. Not only was God growing Paul’s humility, He was also growing Paul’s understanding of the sufficiency of His grace. God ordained Paul’s thorn for His glory and for Paul’s good; through this experience, Paul would grow ever more dependent upon God’s grace, which is something all of us need to do.

Have you been praying fervently for God to do something in your life that He has not yet done for you? Perhaps, like Paul, God is wanting to grow your reliance on His grace because His power is made perfect in your weakness. We saw in today’s passage that no amount of prayer would remove Paul’s thorn, regardless of how fervently and frequently he prayed.

Here is something to remember when we pray: Regardless of our petitions, let us end with the words of our Lord in the Garden of Gethsemane: “Yet not my will but thy will be done.” When we pray with that desire in our heart, we can be fully assured that our fervent prayer will availeth much, regardless of what God’s answer is.

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

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Comfortable or Comforter?

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Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.  (2 Corinthians 1:3-4)

In reading through the life of the apostle Paul, we see a great many circumstances marked by the crushing conflict he faced, both within the walls of the church and out in the world. Yet through it all, he makes it crystal clear that God is the God of all comfort, who comforts us in every challenging circumstance we face. Why? Our Lord does not do it to make us comfortable, but to make us comforters for others who are encountering challenging times of their own.

We can and should expect challenging circumstances to arise outside the church. But as we see in the life of Paul, we should not be surprised when conflict confronts us inside the church also. There was a rebellious minority in the church at Corinth that made life difficult for everyone, Paul in particular. They accused Paul of everything from personal pride to mental instability. They even denigrated his looks and his manner of speaking, saying “His letters are weighty and forceful, but in person he is unimpressive and his speaking amounts to nothing” (2 Corinthians 10:10). But through it all, Paul looked up instead of out, and he trusted God to carry him through every wave of challenge that washed over him.

And Paul understood the primary reason why God sustained him: so that through the comfort God provided to him, he could draw strength to comfort others.

Can the same be said about you? Looking back over your life, can you see how often God has comforted you in challenging times? To be sure, the compassion of Christ has brought you through some very uncomfortable circumstances; you may even have emerged from them feeling quite comfortable! But being comfortable is not God’s ultimate goal for bringing us through difficult circumstances; being a comforter to others is.

Who in your life right now needs to experience the compassion of God through the comfort you can provide? Perhaps a word of encouragement is needed? Maybe a personal visit to deliver a hug or a holy kiss? How about an unexpected call from you to share the love of Christ? Remember, God has faithfully brought you cosmic comfort over the years, time and time again—not to make you comfortable, but to make you a comforter for His glory and the good of others. Why not bring some of the comfort of Christ to someone in need today? I promise, you will be glad you did . . . and they will be too!

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

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From Follower To Friend

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“Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,” and he was called God’s friend. (James 2:23)

Have you ever considered the difference between being a follower of Jesus and being a friend of Jesus? I assure you that difference is as profound as it is personal. Let’s take a look and see if you are not greatly encouraged this day.

First, we must understand the order of things from a biblical perspective. You cannot be a friend of Jesus until you are first a follower of Jesus.

He said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” (Matthew 4:19)

Jesus makes the first move in our relationship with Him. He comes to us, gives us the gift of faith, and calls us to follow Him. In order to follow Jesus, we must be willing to put down our nets and pick up His. Jesus wants us to leave our old life behind and begin walking in the newness of our reborn life in Christ. This means that as we begin to walk by faith in following Jesus, we begin to live for something bigger than the life we are currently living in the flesh. And I can tell you that living with a greater concern for expanding the cause of His kingdom than our own little kingdom is a wonderful place to live.

But there is so much more for the Christian! Jesus tells us, “I no longer call you servants . . . Instead, I have called you friends” (John 15:15). The disciples were still followers of Jesus, but now they followed Him as friends, which carries the understanding of deep intimacy.

Friendship with God is the place of highest honor. The prophet Isaiah tells us that Israel was God’s “servant” and Jacob was God’s “chosen one,” but Abraham was God’s “friend” (Isaiah 41:8). Please understand that the difference is not found at the level of relationship; they were all in relationship with God. They all followed their God wherever He led them. The difference lies in the level of intimacy. There was something deeper going on at a heart level between Abraham and God, a level of love and trust that is the key to understanding the difference between being a follower and being a friend of God.

Are God’s desires your desires? Are God’s goals your goals in life? Are you able to say along with Jesus, “Not my will, but thy will be done”? If the answer is yes, then be greatly encouraged today, for you have entered into the intimate circle of friendship with God. And that indeed is a special place to be!

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

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Held Captive by a Church Cliché

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Moses said to [the Lord], “If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here.” (Exodus 33:15)

Perhaps there is no more insidious church cliché that holds Christians captive than this one:

“You will know you are in the center of God’s will when you sense a peace about your decision.”

There may be times when you sense a peace about a decision you are about to make, but make no mistake, the Bible is full of examples of those who did not and yet followed God’s leading into His perfect plan for the “peaceless” path they were to travel.

First, let me clear up the matter of “peace” as it is presented in Scripture. Peace is promised to the people of God, but that peace is rooted in an objective fact, not an emotional feeling. When Paul wrote in Romans 5:1 that “Since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,” he was telling us about an objective fact. The first fruit of justification is peace with God, because we have been brought back into a right relationship with our heavenly Father. This peace is a result of the ministry of reconciliation that Jesus performs in the life of every believer, not a result of making right decisions. So to assume that a decision is right simply because you have a peace about it is wrong.

When God called Moses to be the deliverer of His people, a sense of peace was as far from Moses as the east is from the west. Moses asked God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” (Exodus 3:11)—Moses’ first attempt to dismiss God’s call on his life. After God assured Moses that He Himself would go with him, Moses came up with Objection Number Two: “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what shall I tell them?” (Exodus 3:13). The Sovereign Lord dismissed that excuse with His great declaration that “I Am Who I Am,” but Moses was still troubled. “What if they do not believe me or listen to me?” he asked (Exodus 4:1). God dismissed that excuse with the “staff into a snake” and the “hand as white as snow” illustrations. Moses had no other excuse available to him, so he simply asked God to pardon him from his peaceless calling because he was not an eloquent speaker.

At no time did Moses experience any sense of peace about the decision God was calling him to make. It was just the opposite! And remember this, God not only made it crystal clear what He wanted Moses to do through His spoken Word, He accompanied His command with supernatural miracles. Yet none of that gave peace to Moses. God was calling Him to do what he could not justify with a sense of peace about his decision.

What about you? Are you facing any decisions today where God seems to be calling you to walk a peaceless path? You are in good company! Seek godly counsel and continue praying about it, but know that the key to understanding what is God’s calling will often not be found in peace, but rather in His presence—the place to which God ultimately brought Moses. And when Moses sensed God’s presence, he could then say sincerely, “If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here” (Exodus 33:15).

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

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