Familiarity May Extinguish the Fire of Our Faith

Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor, except in his hometown and among his relatives and in his own household.” (Mark 6:4)

The old saying “Familiarity breeds contempt” essentially means that the more familiar you become with something, the easier it is to lose sight of the importance of it, to lose respect for it, and to no longer delight in it. This kind of familiarity poses a disastrous danger when it comes to our faith and our desire to follow the Lord Jesus wherever He leads.

We see a telling example of this when Jesus began to preach in his hometown. People who knew him dismissed Him. “’Isn’t this the carpenter?'” they asked skeptically. “‘Isn’t this Mary’s son?’ And they took offense at him” (Mark 6:3). Those who had known Jesus the longest and were most familiar with Him did not accept Him for what He truly was: Savior and Lord.

When we let familiarity take hold of our walk with Jesus, we begin seeing life through the eyes of the flesh rather than through the eyes of faith. We lose sight of the grandeur of the glory of God, which is present in everything, everywhere, and at all times.

Think about it this way:

  • What once produced worship is now watered down
  • What once caused us to say no to sin and yes to righteousness is silenced
  • What once filled us with awe and majesty has become antiquated and muted
  • What once stirred our hearts unto zeal for Jesus, barely registers a pulse

Living for the grandeur of the glory of God was meant to be the driving force in our lives. The glory of God should be the organizing principle behind everything we think, do, say, and desire in this life. But if we aren’t careful, our familiarity with the things of our faith can breed spiritual lethargy. We begin to take God for granted. We start viewing God as a cosmic genie, who will be called on only when we want to satisfy our desire for some earthly thing. We allow the blessings in our lives to become more important than the One who blesses. And when life is not going according to our plans, we may even begin to grumble against God.  

Remember, what rules your heart shapes your life. When we let anything smaller than Jesus occupy too much space in our hearts, we begin to lose our grip on the grandeur of the glory of God. The longer we walk with God, the more familiar we become with Him and His ways. To keep from allowing familiarity to breed contempt, we must remember to see all of life through the eyes of faith, not through the desires of the flesh. We need to live in the shadow of the cross, where the fire of our faith will be stoked and strengthened — not just daily, but moment by moment. This is where familiarity will continue to grow the fire of our faith, not extinguish it.  

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


Leave a comment

Filed under General

Divine Disenchantment

“No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him”—but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit. (1 Corinthians 2:9-10)

When we, with white-knuckle grip, hold too tightly to the things of this world, we miss the message and the meaning of the entire story line of the Bible. When we value what is temporal and passing away more than what is eternal and everlasting, we have lost sight of the promises given us in Gospel truth. And one of those promises is that Jesus is preparing a place for us in heaven that no eye has seen, and of which no ear has heard and no mind has conceived. When we lose sight of God’s promises, our loving heavenly Father steps in and delivers a bit of divine disenchantment to redirect our focus, refresh our faith, and reignite the fire of our first love: Jesus.

Disenchantment is no longer believing in the value, hope, and power of the eternal promises we have in Jesus. This is what happens when we remove Jesus from the throne of our lives and imagine that we have assumed the position of ruler. But our God is a jealous God (Deuteronomy 4:24); He will tolerate no rival and will do whatever is necessary to recapture our hearts. One of the ways God does this is through divine disenchantment.

C. S. Lewis put it this way in The Weight of Glory.

If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.  

God created us in such a way that nothing in this world will ever be able to fully satisfy us – not even love or life itself. Because we are made for another world, we must remember that we are simply pilgrims passing through this present world. We must always remember that, as good as it can be at times in this life, all of it pales in comparison to what we will forever experience in the new heavens and the new earth.

Truly the best is yet to come! Lewis would call this is a “forward-facing nostalgia,” which points us in the direction of the consummation of the Kingdom of Christ, the one we were created for in all its glory, where there will be no more sin, sorrow, suffering, or death. Eternal enchantment awaits all those who have put their trust in Christ alone.

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

Leave a comment

Filed under General

Love Wars

Love the Lord your God will all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. (Matthew 22:27)

Every moment of every day there is a battle going on inside the heart. I call these battles “love wars.” We love God and we love the things of this world. Sometimes we love God more and sometimes we love Him less. Often the temporal pleasures of this life kidnap the heart, causing it to beat for a great many things smaller than Jesus.

It’s easy to know when the world has won the war; whenever I say, “I simply must have ____________!” Whatever fills that blank is what I love most at that time. That thing is serving as my functional god. Within every one of us, the love of self always wars against our love of the Savior. And if we are honest, we will confess that the love of self wins the battle far too often.

I am speaking to myself every bit as much as I am speaking to everyone who will read this article. Physical experiences often trump spiritual experiences. The temporal things of this world tend to rule my life and shape my heart. Sometimes it is more important for me to be comfortable than to be compassionate. At other times it is more important for me to be right than to be loving and kind.

When the world wins the battle for my heart, I have a tendency to forget the promise of eternal life that awaits me in glory, and this is when I let things smaller than God sit upon the throne of my life, directing my desires, dominating my decisions, and determining my daily destiny to an altogether unrealized extent. And let me make this clear: often these things are not bad things in and of themselves. They are often good things; but when they become ultimate things, then they become bad things. In reality, the only truly ultimate thing in this life and in the life to come is Jesus Christ.  

If we are going to win the love war in the heart, we must remember that we are always loving something. To not love is an impossibility. Because God is love and we bear His image, we will always be loving something. The key is to identify what it is we are in love with. We will always be confronted by two choices throughout the day: We can love the Creator or we can love the created thing. Now, it’s OK to love what God has created — we can love our family, we can love our pets, we can love the beauty of nature — but we are never to love any of these more than we love the Creator.

So … what have you been loving most lately? Who has been winning the love war in your heart? Your Creator or some created thing? Here is an invaluable principle I learned a long time ago: there is no need to love created things less, because God created all things good. The key is to love God more. At this level of living, we have our love rightly ordered, and we will find ourselves winning the love wars more and more each day.

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

Leave a comment

Filed under General

Knowing The One Who Knows Everything Is To Know Enough

Talk no more so very proudly, let not arrogance come from your mouth; for the Lord is a God of knowledge, and by him actions are weighed. (1 Samuel 2:3)

When was the last time you thought about what you do not know? I mean, when did you really spend some time considering all the things about which you have absolutely no understanding ? Here is what I came up with in just a few moments this morning:

I don’t know why I do the things I do. . . . I don’t know if I will take my next breath. . . . I don’t know why I go from happy to sad in a moment’s notice. . . . I don’t know the number of hairs on my head. . . . I don’t know the motivations of my heart. . . . I don’t know how all four of my children can be so different. . . . I don’t know what tomorrow will bring or if tomorrow will come. . . . I don’t know why God loves me when I am often so unlovable. . . . I don’t know how my brain works or why my body aches so much.

Of course, this list only scratches the surface of all the things I don’t know. And if I ever took the time to write an exhaustive list, when I came to the end of it, there would be countless things not listed that I don’t know, simply because I don’t know that I don’t know them! I suppose it could depressing to consider all that I don’t know, except for the fact that I know the One who knows everything . . . and that is enough to know!

God knows everything. We call that attribute of God omniscience. God is all-knowing; He has perfect knowledge of all things at all times in all places, all at once. God knows the beginning from the end and every point in between. He never learns anything and He has not forgotten anything. God never has to reason things out and He never discovers anything. God’s knowledge is absolute and unacquired. As the psalmist said, “Great is our Lord, and mighty in power; his understanding is infinite” (Psalm 147:5). There are no gaps in His knowledge and no flaws in His wisdom.

If I know that God knows everything, why would I ever fret about anything? Well . . . it’s because I am prone to forgetting this truth of cosmic comfort. Some things that happen in my life surprise me, but they never surprise God. Other things perplex me, but they never perplex God. He is not anxiously pacing the halls of heaven, wondering what I might do next. The good news of the Gospel allows me to rest in Him, knowing that He has everything under control and is working all things together to accomplish two profound purposes – His glory and my eternal good. And that is enough to know!

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

Leave a comment

Filed under General

Let Us Pray

Pray without ceasing. (1 Thessalonians 5:16)

The Bible makes it clear that prayer is one of the identifying marks of disciples of Christ. But we must remember that prayer is more than bringing our petitions before the throne of grace. Yes, we are invited to present our requests to Jesus — in fact, we are instructed to come boldly into His presence, asking, seeking, and knocking. But there is so much more to prayer than that! Prayer demonstrates that we truly believe that Someone exists in the universe who is far greater, more glorious, and more powerful than we are. Prayer is a constant reminder that there is indeed a God, and He is not us!

Prayer points us in a God-ward direction. When we are looking up at God, we stop looking in at ourselves and out at our circumstances. We begin to see a glory infinitely greater than our own, the glory of the One who created us for His glory story. Prayer is a constant reminder there is something beyond the limits of our own little lives, our own little plans, our own little goals, and our own little desires. Because we are image-bearers of God, we are to live in a way that expands the cause of His Kingdom on earth as it is in heaven, and our prayers are to reflect that reality.

When we are focused on the Kingdom of God, we are focused on the King of kings and Lord of lords. Keeping our focus on King Jesus keeps us from shrinking the size of our salvation down to the size of our individual lives. Our salvation is not primarily about us; it is about Him, and every aspect of our saved lives is to be used to expand His Kingdom. Our prayers should reflect the truth that we are instruments of both salvation and sanctification in God’s mighty right hand, and we are to surrender and submit to His will in our lives.

How would you describe your prayer life lately? Hot? Cold? Lukewarm? When we keep the grandeur and glory of God’s glory story in view, we will spend more and more time in the presence of our Lord, praying in dependence on God, devotion to God, and delight in God. Let us pray!

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

Leave a comment

Filed under General

Strength In Weakness

When I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:10)

Today’s word of encouragement is as counter-cultural as it is counterintuitive. The world has no interest in weakness; it views weakness with derision and contempt. But the Word of God says weakness is the walkway leading to the only real power in the universe, a power that is available to us twenty-four hours a day, seven days each week, three hundred-sixty-five days each year — the power that God gives us.

Weakness protects us from ourselves. God uses our weakness as a witness to His awesome power that flows through us. Our weakness is one of the ways that God demonstrates His strength in our lives. Paul understood this truth from personal experience. Paul knew that he was nothing apart from Christ, and he could do nothing of any eternal value in his own strength. He knew that every bit of forward progress he made in his service to Jesus was because of the power of the Holy Spirit working in and through him. And the weaker he was, the more Holy Spirit power flowed through him!

Weakness keeps us dependent upon God. Weakness keeps us trusting in God. Weakness keeps us from thinking we are capable of living autonomous, independent, and self-reliant lives. We were made by God; we were made for God; and in order to live for God’s glory, we must live in His strength, not our own. When we believe that we are strong and and assure ourselves, “I’ve got this,” we miss out on the life-changing, daily-rescuing, transforming power of God.

When we see how the great apostle Paul celebrated his weakness, we too can celebrate our weakness, knowing that when we are weak, we are truly strong. May this be the confession of our lives.

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

Leave a comment

Filed under General

He Is Risen!

The one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you to himself. All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God. (2 Corinthians 4:14-15)

Yesterday we celebrated the most important day of the year, not only on the church calendar but in the history of the entire world: the Resurrection of Jesus Christ our Lord from the dead. Having paid the full penalty for our sins by His death on the cross, Jesus walked out of His tomb, providing the divine guarantee of eternal life for all those who put their trust in Him as both Savior and Lord. On that first Easter morning, God the Father put His stamp of approval on Christ’s finished work on the cross by raising Him from the dead.

But if we view the Resurrection only in light of eternal life, we shrink the size of the cross work of Jesus Christ. We are to live out our everyday lives in view of the Resurrection; it is the window through which we are to view all of life. In our verse for today, we see a several implications of the Resurrection as it relates to everyday life. Here are just two that will be a source of great encouragement to you as you journey through this life.

1 – Resurrection Grace The grace that saved you is the same grace that sanctifies you every step of the way into glory. What starts in grace continues in grace, and it will be completed in grace. Keeping this resurrection truth in view will help you trust in and depend on the grace of our Lord Jesus instead of attempting to live out your salvation in your own strength.

2 – Resurrection Thanksgiving – When Jesus walked out of the grave alive and well, He conquered our last enemy, death. No matter what is going on in our lives, we have reason to be thankful. No matter what storm winds may be howling around us, we can give thanks, knowing that Jesus is in control of it all and is graciously using that storm for His glory and our eternal good.

Remembering that Jesus is risen and that death has no sting will encourage, equip, and empower us to live a risen life, no matter how high the waves of challenge are that we are facing.

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

Leave a comment

Filed under General

G.O.O.D. Friday

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

What’s so “good” about Good FRIDAY? It seems like a strange name to give to the day when the most horrific crime ever committed was done to the greatest Person who ever lived. But that is exactly what that day is for all those who trust in Jesus Christ for salvation; it’s not just a “good” day, it’s a glorious day!

Let’s take a look at the acronym G.O.O.D. for today’s word of encouragement.

G – God

O – Offers

O – Our

D – Deliverance

Going back to our verse for today, we see that salvation is a gift from God. He who is the giver of every good and perfect gift (James 1:17) offered His one and only Son — offered Him up on a Roman cross to die in our place and pay the penalty for our sin. It is God who offered Jesus to us – offered Him to all those who would believe in Him and receive Him as Lord and Savior.

God did not offer His Son for a special few: the rich, the influential, the important, the movers and shakers. No, God offered Jesus for all those who would believe. And if that is you, your deliverance has been secured by your Savior. You have been delivered from Satan, you have been delivered from sin, and you have been delivered from death. Regardless of where this message finds you today, take a moment to ponder this profound promise : You will not perish but have eternal life simply by trusting in Jesus Christ alone.

One final thing: God’s promise of eternal life is also God’s promise of everyday life. In Christ, you have been promised an abundant life. In Christ, you have been promised a peace that passes all understanding. In Christ, you have been promised a joy unspeakable. And all of this is yours right now, today ,because God SO LOVED YOU!

Have you claimed these promises for your own life? Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and the atoning work He accomplished on your behalf on that Good Friday, and all these promises are yours.

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

Leave a comment

Filed under General

Leftover Lessons

In the feeding of the 5,000, which would have actually numbered anywhere between 10,000 – 20,000 men, women,and children, Jesus fed the entire crowd with only five loaves and two fish. And then we read this: 

When they all had enough to eat, [Jesus] said to his disciples, “Gather the pieces that are left over.  Let nothing be wasted.” (John 6:12)

With only five loaves and two fish on hand, Jesus multiplied those meager supplies to feed thousands on a hillside near the Sea of Galilee. Even after everyone had eaten all they wanted, there were still leftovers when the meal was done! So what is the lesson our Lord wants us to learn from the leftovers?

Here is one: God takes our little and makes it a lot, giving an abundance of blessings to all of His children. What “little” do you have to offer Jesus today? Perhaps your thinking has been much like that of Andrew, who said, “Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?” (John 6:9 emphasis added). To be sure, the boy’s offering would have been “short rations” for a group of 20 people, much less 20,000. But in the hands of the Almighty, the loaves and fish went far beyond meeting their needs . . . this “little” went all the way to exceeding their needs. Our Lord is in the business of doing exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think (Ephesians 3:20).

God takes whatever we offer him — our little time . . . our little talent . . . our little treasure — and multiplies it beyond anything we could have ever imagined. If God can make something out of nothing, which He did when He made the universe and everything in it, He can surely take our little and make it a lot! 

Moses had only a shepherd’s staff, but in the power of God, it swallowed up the staffs of the Egyptian magicians. David had only a sling and five smooth stones, and in the strength of the Almighty, he struck down the giant Goliath. Samson had only the jawbone of a donkey, and with the strength of the Almighty, he slew a thousand Philistines. The woman who was bleeding for over a decade had just a little faith (only enough to reach out and touch the hem of Jesus’ garment), and she was instantly healed by the power of God. 

Here is the key in the lesson from the leftovers. We must be willing to put in what God has given us in order for God to bless it. God multiplied the five talents and the two talents that were put into faithful service to Him, but He did nothing with the talent that was hidden away (Matthew 25:14-30). Remember this: God will not steer a parked car! We must be willing to put in whatever we have been given, trusting that God will use it for His glory and the good of all others.

What “little” have you been holding back lately? Surrender control to Jesus, and watch Him multiply that little you have until you have an abundance of leftovers . . . because God supplied the increase. 

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

Leave a comment

Filed under General

Running On Empty

When I first started to drive, my dad kept telling me it was always a good idea to pull into a gas station when the tank got down to one-quarter full. His theory was simple: If you fill up with a quarter-of-a-tank of gas still remaining, you will never run out of fuel on some lonely stretch of road. I followed much of my father’s advice over the years . . . but not this piece of advice, however, and sure enough, I did run out of gas once. Today, as soon as I see the “low fuel” light come on, I head right for the station.  

All of us feel like we’re running on empty at times. Our fuel supply is low, but the distance to travel is long. As God’s Word tells us, “The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matthew 26:41 NASB). And keep in mind that our Lord said this to His disciples on the night He was betrayed.  Jesus had asked the disciples to watch and pray while He went into the “garden of suffering” to pray to His Father, and they dozed off during His hour of deep need. Peter had asserted that He would die with His Lord, but he couldn’t even stay awake for one hour!

Where do we go to fill our spiritual tank?  We go to the only true power source in the universe that can fill us to overflowing! 

Once God has spoken; twice have I heard this: that power belongs to God. (Psalm 62:11)

Behold, these are but the outskirts of his ways, and how small a whisper do we hear of him! But the thunder of his power who can understand? (Job 26:14)

Regardless of where this message finds you today — running on a full tank, three-quarters, one-half, one quarter, running on fumes, or actually out of gas and needing a push to get to the gas station to refuel — here are two steps you can take to fill your tank back up.

Step #1. Acknowledge God as your only power source. 

Now, I know we all say this is our truth, but functionally, we turn to things smaller than God to find the power we need. Some look for it in their work. Others in a relationship.  Still others in the applause of man. The list is endless.  So have you acknowledged God as your only true power source today? 

Step #2. Believe God for the seemingly impossible.

The power in you is greater than any power that can come against you, which means you should erase the word “impossible” from your dictionary. With God, all things are possible (Matthew 19:26). The same God who sent manna from heaven, brought water from a rock, and turned five loaves and two fish into a meal for thousands, is ready, willing, and more than able to meet you in your place of deepest need.

Have you been running on empty lately?  Perhaps you’ve been trying to fill up at the wrong pump? To keep from running on empty, keep running to the Everlasting One, and you will have everything you need to do everything He has called you to do. “Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint” (Isaiah 40:31).

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

Leave a comment

Filed under General