Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. (1 Corinthians 9:25 ESV)

As one who worked as a coach for decades, I am very familiar with the importance of physical/sport training. We do endurance training (running, cycling, swimming, etc.) to strengthen our heart and lungs. We do weight training to strengthen our muscles. We do sport training to become more proficient in our sports performance.

But when it comes to our spiritual lives, do we make time to train ourselves spiritually in order to better flex our faith? Here are three training tips.

Walk with the Lord

The only way to walk consistently with the Lord is to keep our focus on the Lord. When we are in step with Jesus, we will not stumble because of an unexpected doctor’s report, a financial shortfall, or a relationship road block.

Fix your eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith. (Hebrews 12:2)

Wait on the Lord

Waiting seems contrary to any kind of training program. Waiting can feel like nothing is happening besides losing valuable time that we can never recover. But make no mistake, waiting on the Lord is one of the most productive aspects of spiritual training to flex our faith.

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)

Witness for the Lord

Witnessing for the Lord is one of the primary things we were saved to do. Before Jesus left this earth, He gave His disciples—both then and now—the Great Commission. Sadly, for far too many, the Great Commission has turned into “the Great Omission.” From fear of rejection to not wanting to be seen as offensive, many Christians do not flex their faith by witnessing for Jesus Christ. Yet this call has been placed on the life of every person who has placed their trust in Him for eternal life.

Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age. (Matthew 28:19-20)

When you walk with, wait on, and witness for the Lord, you will be strengthening your spiritual muscles and so be better able to flex your faith and bless all those you come in contact with.

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


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Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life. (Romans 6:13)

Imagine that you were out in the community and ran into a former boss—someone you worked for years ago, but you have long since left that company. If that person came up to you today and said that you are expected to work overtime this weekend, how would you respond? My first answer would likely be, “I don’t work for you anymore!” And then I might ask, “Are you sure you’re feeling OK?”

I think we would all respond in pretty much the same way. When you were working for your former boss, you had to do what he or she told you to do, but now you have moved on to another position, and you no longer take orders from your previous boss. That person has lost all authority over you.

The very same thing is true for you in the spiritual realm after you became a Christian. Before Jesus raised you from death to life, you were a servant—a slave, really—to sin. Sin was your boss, your master. But once God gave you the gifts of repentance and faith, you were set free from your old boss; you are now under the authority of your new boss, the Lord Jesus Christ. You have, by grace through faith, been moved on to your new position in Christ, and sin no longer has authority over you.

Paul set this truth before us beautifully:

Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, you are slaves to the one you obey—whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you have come to obey from your heart the pattern of teaching that has now claimed your allegiance. You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness. (Romans 6:16-18)

When was the last time you took orders from your former boss? When was the last time you marched to the beat of your past master’s drum? We all do this from time to time, because we are all still sinners in need of a Savior, and we succumb to temptation and our former practice of sin. But we must always remember that we now have a new Master, who is seated in heaven. Jesus is Lord; He has complete authority over you to command whatever He wants of you in order to advance the cause of His kingdom and bring honor and glory to His name. And because He died for you in order to save you for His service, there is nothing you should withhold from Him in terms of willing, joyful obedience . . . nothing.

Today’s verse challenges us to remember whose we are, regardless of where we go and what we do. Remembering who our true Boss is will go a long way in helping us to follow His marching orders . . . and ignore the voice of our former boss.

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

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The Lamb who was slain from the creation of the world . . .  (Revelation 13:8)

Do you remember the story of the Good Samaritan, which Jesus recounted in Luke 10:30-37? A traveler was beaten by robbers, who left him for dead on the road from Jerusalem to Jericho. A priest and a Levite came to the place where the man lay dying, and both passed by on the other side of the road. But the Samaritan, who was despised by the Jews because of his ancestry, had compassion on the beaten man; the Samaritan stopped and bandaged his wounds and took him to an inn. After caring for the man, he paid the innkeeper and asked him to look after the man while he was gone. The Good Samaritan promised that he would pay the innkeeper for any additional expense. In effect, he said, “Charge it to my account.”

Just like the Good Samaritan, Jesus Christ has said of each and every one of our past, present, and future sins, “Set that to My account.” Christian, the Lamb of God, who was slain before the foundation of the world, had every one of your sins imputed to Him. We could spend a lifetime in meditation and still not even begin to plumb the depths of this blessed assurance! Jesus, as our substitute, had a debt we owed but could never pay laid upon Himself . . . and He did it freely for the unimaginable joy that was set before Him (Hebrews 12:2)—the joy of seeing you, His bride, no longer dirty and befouled by sin, but spotless and pure, “arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints” (Revelation 19:8).

Satan wants us to forget this truth and live with gnawing guilt that will prevent us from doing all God has called us to do. The vile accuser of the brethren works to convince us that we are so polluted by sin that we are disqualified from doing the kingdom work God has given us to do.

Sadly, far too many in the church have forgotten their day of deliverance. They have forgotten Jesus’ victory cry from the cross: “It is finished!” Your debt has been paid in full! Your sin has been forgiven—all your sin. Eternal life has been secured. You must always remember that the devil is a liar, and he will do everything in his power to destroy your witness for Christ.

The next time you find yourself dealing with a bout of gnawing guilt, remember the story of the Good Samaritan, who was willing to pay any debt incurred by the beaten man he had brought to the inn. This is a lovely picture of your Lord and Savior, who is infinitely greater than the Good Samaritan. Jesus Christ has not only nailed every one of your sins to the cross (Colossians 2:14), but He washed them spotlessly clean with His atoning blood (Ephesians 1:7). Hear Him say, “Charge that sin to my account,” and let that truth strengthen you to go and sin no more.

The Good Samaritan spent his money to help a dying man; but Jesus spent His precious blood to raise you from death to life!

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

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So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. (Isaiah 41:10)

These words from the prophet Isaiah provide us with a wonderful guarantee that is designed to both comfort and challenge every child of God. Let’s take a look.

First, notice who has given us this guarantee of strengthening; it is none other than God Himself. Omnipotence has promised strength, and who would dare doubt such a guarantee? There is an endless stream of strength with Him who does not grow tired or weary (Isaiah 40:28), and that stream is not diminished in any way when He gives a portion of it to us.

Next, notice that we are not told in which season we will be strengthened. So we must take this promise to mean all seasons. God has promised to strengthen us in our seasons of successful service and in our seasons of sorrowful service. Whether we are basking in the warm sunlight of contentment or sloshing through storms of sadness, we have this guarantee from the Lord God Omnipotent: I will strengthen you!

This guarantee from God is to be a source of unimaginable comfort to every Christian, but it doesn’t stop there. It challenges us to rise above any obstacle that stands in our way, because our strength does not come from within; it comes from above. Human weakness is no obstacle to divine strength. In fact, 2 Corinthians 12:10 assures us that when we are weak, our God is strong, and He has promised to strengthen us, no matter what we are currently facing:

  • The fearful are given courage.
  • The doubting are given conviction.
  • The lonely are given companionship.
  • The weak are given confidence.
  • The broken are given compassion.
  • The fallen are given forgiveness.

These are just a few of the difficult seasons we face throughout life, and God has promised to give us the strength we need to see them all through.

So let me ask you a very important question right now: What strength are you in short supply of today? Fear not! God has promised to help you; take hold of that promise. Go to your Savior and ask Him, “Strengthen me supernaturally according to your Word!”

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

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You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. (Acts 1:8)

The book of Acts records that Jesus commanded His followers to be His witnesses throughout the entire world. Jesus promised to provide the power and strength they needed to accomplish their mission in the person of the Holy Spirit. Unfortunately, however, the apostles didn’t go anywhere! Oh, they preached the Word and witnessed for Christ, but they remained hunkered down in the Holy City. It wasn’t until the heat was turned up through persecution that the ambassadors of the Almighty did what He had instructed them to do—go out into the world.

You might say that this is a demonstration of the Second Law of Thermodynamics: “The greater the heat, the greater the expansion!” It wasn’t until the apostles were persecuted that they did what God had commanded them to do. There were so comfortable serving God right where they were in Jerusalem—after all, souls were being saved every day and the apostles were “enjoying the favor of all the people” (Acts 2:47)—that they neglected the Lord’s command to take the Good News of Jesus Christ to the ends of the earth.

So let me ask you this question: Have you been going out with the good news of the Gospel? If not, don’t be surprised if God turns up the holy heat! You see in today’s verse that the Good News was indeed to be preached in Jerusalem, but it was to be taken beyond the walls of the city, past the borders of Israel, and out to the far reaches of the earth . . . but that wasn’t happening, two years after Jesus had ascended into heaven. And so, because God’s plans and purposes can never be thwarted, persecution broke out, and God’s people were shaken out of their comfortable existence and began doing what God had commanded them to do.

I am convinced that our Lord will use any means necessary to get us to do what He has called us to do. There have been times when I felt some of that holy heat myself! With that truth in mind, we must see the Second Law of Thermodynamics as a wonderful grace from our God. Because God’s plan for our lives is infinitely better than our plan for our lives, God will turn up the heat when necessary to get us moving in the right direction.

If we want to “beat the holy heat,” let us be committed to following God’s leading in our lives, regardless of where that takes us. In the end, being right in the center of God’s will is the best possible place for us to be.

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

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God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. (1 Corinthians 12:18)

We have a tendency to exalt those who are out in front leading the charge for the advancement of the kingdom of Christ. But let me ask you this question: What do these three things have in common: the spleen, the pancreas, and the kidney? The answer is that all three are hidden from view—they are invisible to our eyes—yet they are invaluable for the proper functioning of the body.

What is true for the human body is also true for the body of Christ. Many Christians are unknown and virtually invisible, working behind the scenes to serve and edify the people of God. But make no mistake, every single member of the body is invaluable for advancing the cause of Christ.

What is going on inside the human body is critical for its proper function, and what takes place inside the body of Christ is critical for its proper function. When one part of the body of Christ does not do what God has called it to do, everyone suffers. Everyone is needed and valuable in expanding the cause of the kingdom of God.

I often tell young people that God did not make any “extra” Christians. Everyone has been called by God to use their gifts, talents, and abilities as a fully functioning member of the body of Christ. What the pastor does is no more important than those who share their gifts of administration, helps, mercy, and prayer. Without everything that goes on behind the scenes, nothing would be happening out in front.

We each need each other in order to be a God-honoring, fully-functioning body of Christ. It takes all of us to make a church that will impact the world with the truths of the Gospel. And when we see it from the perspective of “Each of us for the other,” there is no limit to what God can do through His body. And when no one cares who gets the credit, the body of Christ functions at the peak of its God-given ability.

Where does this message find you as we launch out into another year? Perhaps you’ve been feeling a bit insignificant about your place in God’s kingdom because you have been laboring behind the scenes, virtually invisible in your service. Don’t feel that way! You are invaluable to the advancement of the cause of Christ right now, right where this finds you. Be encouraged today and throughout this year, knowing that whatever you are doing for the glory of God is echoing in eternity.

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

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Do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go. (Joshua 1:9)

Last Friday we took “A Backward Glance” consider the wonders that God had done throughout 2018. Today we let’s invest some time in thinking about our “forward march” as we prepare to launch out into 2019.

Tomorrow, January 1, 2019, if you’re out in the community, you will likely be greeted with a cheery “Happy New Year!” by many people you encounter. That’s a pleasant thought, but if a mere wish for a happy new year is all Christian believers had to launch out into a new year, it would be a skimpy portion indeed! But thanks be to God, Christians have a lot more than just a hopeful greeting given to us by the Creator and Sustainer of the universe. Today’s verse reminds us of God’s promise to Joshua: “I will be with you wherever you go.”

You may remember that, after Moses had completed his ministry of service to God, Joshua was preparing to lead the people of Israel into the Promised Land. Joshua was well aware of the challenges he would inevitably face in leading God’s people. He had learned from Moses just how difficult the task would be. But Joshua also knew, as Moses did, that he would not be on his own in performing the work God had called him to do.

The same is true for you and me as we begin our forward march into this new year. To be sure, the year ahead will bring both questions and concerns . . . doubts and fears . . . obstacles and opportunities. Will the doctor give you a less than positive report on your health? Will you be confronted with professional or financial challenges? Will your marriage of many years march on for many more? Will you suffer the loss of a loved one? The list of looming uncertainties is long. But no matter! We can hold on to something greater than the hope for a “Happy New Year” because we have God’s promise that wherever we go, He goes with us.

I want you to remember something about that promise: “Going with God” is not going by chancel; it is not a random roll of the dice. God is guiding, governing, and directing your every step. “A man’s steps are directed by the Lord,” Scripture assures us. “How then can anyone understand his own way?” (Proverbs 20:24). God is in sovereign control of everything; not a bird falls to the ground apart from His will (Matthew 10:29). Nothing in life is left to chance. So do not be discouraged, even when the waves of challenge are washing over your life. His promise to be with us wherever we go encourages us to exchange every doubt and fear for faith and hope throughout our forward march into God perfect plan and purpose for our lives.

One final point: Some 3,400 years after God told Joshua that He would be with him wherever he went, Jesus reaffirmed that promise before He ascended back to heaven: “Surely I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20).

Forward, march! Your Master will always be at your side.

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

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