Obedience, Not Outcome

two-paths

A person may think their own ways are right, but the Lord weighs the heart. (Proverbs 21:2)

It’s easy to get caught up in making decisions based on the perceived outcome of our actions. But what we must always remember in our decision-making process, whether they are major decisions or minor ones, is that they must never be based on the possible outcome. Our decisions must always be based on obedience to our God. Read on and be encouraged today; perhaps you will be challenged as well!

In order to do what God would have us do, we must place our own will in the neutral position, giving God the free reign to move us in His direction. This is the key to making decisions based on obedience to God and His Word, not a particular outcome we are hoping for. This also means we must be cautious about heeding counsel we receive. To be sure, “Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed” (Proverbs 15:22). Yet even when we seek the counsel of many, we must make sure we are listening for His still, small voice, for we are all prone to give greater emphasis to what we want to hear rather than what we need to hear.

When we place our will in neutral, we are living life in a surrendered posture that acknowledges that God knows the best way forward for us. And the best way forward will always be based on obedience, not outcome. Jesus is not only our Savior, He is our Lord; and as Lord, He has the right to do anything He wants to do with us. We must remember we are clay in the Potter’s perfect hand, and it is through our acts of faithful obedience that He shapes us into the image of our Savior.

It is natural to make decisions based on perceived outcomes; sin comes naturally to us! But as disciples of Jesus, we are to live supernaturally, making decisions based on obedience to the One who has promised to give us the desires of our hearts as we trust in Him with all our hearts and lean not on our own understanding.

So regardless of the decisions you are facing today, whether major or minor, look past the intended outcome to make sure that whatever decision you make is rooted in obedience to the will of the God, who weighs our hearts, who knows our every step, and who has promised never to leave us or forsake us.

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

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Small and Significant

Sparrow on human hands

You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. (Psalm 139:3)

When was the last time you gave serious thought to just how much God thinks about you? Sometimes we can get so bogged down in the details of life that we crowd God out of all our “busyness” and believe that He takes no notice of us at all. Yet nothing could be further from the truth! Read on, and be greatly encouraged today.

To know that God notices even a single sparrow should be a constant, comforting reminder that, though we are small, we are still significant in His eyes. The psalmist tells us that God knows our going out and our lying down and is familiar with every aspect of our lives. Jesus told His disciples that He knows us even to the extent of knowing the very number of hairs on our heads . . . even when our hair is thinning! God feeds the ravens, adorns the flowers, and clothes the grass of the field. We live in a world that says bigger is better. But in God’s economy, small is just as significant, and that includes you and me.

The Creator of the cosmic universe is the Caretaker of our personal universe. He is with us wherever we go and He is for us whenever we are low. How do I know? How else are we to understand a God who is so concerned about His creation that He would go after one lost sheep, search for one lost coin, and run to one lost son? And when He finds them, what does He do? He rejoices in being reunited with the small and seemingly insignificant. And the angels in heaven rejoice with Him (Luke 15:10).

So regardless of where this message finds you today, remember that you may be small in the eyes of the world, but you are significant in the eyes of your God. Let Peter’s exhortation encourage you: “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7). Notice that Peter did not say to cast only your profound problems, overwhelming obstacles, and crushing challenges on God. He said to cast all your anxiety on Him, because your cares are His cares, and that means everything that matters to you matters to Him.

To be sure, we are small, but we are hugely significant to our Savior, who died to make us His and is working every day—even in our most devastating disappointments and defeats—to conform us more and more to His likeness. Christian, cast all your cares on Him; He cares for you every moment of every day!

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

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No Record of Wrongs

no record of wrongs  

He who covers over an offense promotes love. (Proverbs 17:9)

As a pastor who has coached and counseled countless couples over the years, I can tell you that nothing does more damage to relationships than holding on to hurts. When we do that, we can be sure that bitterness, resentment, and anger will grow as love begins to die.

So how do we arrive at that place in life where we keep no record of wrongs? We remember that our God has done just that for us! Through Christ’s sinless life, sacrificial death, and supernatural resurrection, “God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them” (2 Corinthians 5:19).

We are all wounded. We all get our feelings hurt. Here is what we must remember: It’s not what happens to us that makes the greatest difference in how our lives work out; it’s what we do with what happens that does. We can forgive and forget or we can resent and record; the choice is ours.

Now, what I mean by “forget” is not that we can erase the wrong forever from our minds. But what we can do is to choose to not hold the person who wounded us in our emotional debt. We decide in advance to remove any thought of retaliation or revenge by remembering what God in Christ has done for us . . . is doing for us presently . . . and will continue doing for us all the way into glory.

In the Bible’s “Love Chapter” we read, “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.” (1 Corinthians 13:4-5). Think for a moment what it would mean if God kept a record of our wrongs. Can you imagine how long and how ugly that list would be? It staggers the imagination! Yet God tells His adopted children that in Christ He has removed our sins from us as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12) and that He has chosen to remember our lawless acts no more (Hebrews 10:17). God’s love for us is utterly unconditional, and with His help we can love others as He loves us. I know this is not easy, but it is possible if we will look to Him rather than to our hurt.

When we forgive others—really forgive them—we release God’s love through that forgiveness and free ourselves from our painful past. The more we do that, the easier it becomes, because grace is at work deep within us, growing us in our faith and conforming us more and more into the image and likeness of Christ. To forgive is to forget and to keep no record of wrongs. Let that truth set you free to exude the sweet fragrance of Christ’s forgiveness to others.

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

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Success Test

success

The crucible for silver and the furnace for gold, but man is tested by the praises he receives. (Proverbs 27:21)

Did you know that success is as much a test and a proving ground of your faith as are failure and adversity? Experience has taught me that many who conquer the dark night of the soul crumble under the bright light of success. Today’s passage shows us that God uses our response to the praise of others to disclose the disposition of our hearts. This is “the Success Test.”

Paul admonishes us, “Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you” (Romans 12:3). The apostle was making it clear that whatever success we achieve is a gift from God. Everything we have and all that we are is solely because of the grace of our God. God has given us our gifts, talents, and abilities. He has given us the air we breathe and the next beat of our hearts. Passing the Success Test begins and ends with a proper estimation of the self, and that will only be achieved in the light of the Savior.

Listen, there is nothing wrong with receiving praise from others for a job well done. What is wrong is when we begin working for the applause of man in order to magnify our self-importance and massage our self-esteem. The men and women who pass the Success Test will receive the praises of others in a way that will stimulate their own worship and strengthen their witness. As a pastor, it is not uncommon to be approached after a service to by someone who wants to thank me for the Word preached. The evil one would love nothing more than for me to receive it in a way that swells my significance and shrinks my Savior. But, as I often say from the pulpit, “I have never had an original idea in my life; I have been blessed to have great teachers who continue pouring into my life.”

We read in Romans 11:36 that all things come from Him, and thus all the glory goes to Him. So if you want to pass the Success Test, the next time someone praises you for something you have done, accept it graciously, but at the same time acknowledge the One who is truly responsible for your every success: your Savior.

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

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The Curse of the Convenient Time

  procrastinate

As Paul talked about righteousness, self-control and the judgment to come, Felix was afraid and said, “That’s enough for now! You may leave. When I find it convenient, I will send for you.” (Acts 24:25)

Felix, the governor of Judea, started well. He and his wife Drusilla sent for the apostle Paul, who was being held in prison for the “crime” of being beaten by a mob. Felix listened to Paul’s powerful presentation of the good news of the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. Paul had no intention of watering down the Gospel, but rather he preached the truth clearly, boldly, and with great conviction. Sadly, the governor responded to Paul by saying, “When I find it convenient, I will send for you.” Felix is never mentioned in Scripture again.

This is what I call “The Curse of the Convenient Time,” and we all struggle with it from time to time. All too often we put off until tomorrow what we ought to be doing today. We have a tendency to practice procrastination, which starts as an infection and eventually, if allowed to continue, becomes a disease that drags us down into the mire of miserable mediocrity.

Another name for this curse is “Discomfort Dodging.” Clearly, Felix was growing more and more uncomfortable as Paul spoke of righteousness, self-control, and the judgment to come. So in order to dodge his discomfort, Felix sent Paul away until a more convenient time which, as far as Scripture reveals, never came.

When was the last time you postponed a situation that needed your attention, hoping for a more convenient time that has not yet come? Listen, I simply cannot remember when a more convenient time arrived at my doorstep; the time is always now. The longer I procrastinate, the less convenient the time becomes. The nagging feelings of gnawing guilt begin to grow, and then worry wreaks havoc on my walk with Christ.

How do we rise above the curse of the convenient time? We must keep this truth before us: “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:13). Only through Christ can we conquer the insidious disease of procrastination. It is in His strength, His power, and His wisdom that we can take responsibility for what we must do without delay, knowing that the more convenient time is always now when we face it with Christ at our side.

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

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The Seed of Insubordination

 

seeds

Can a man scoop fire into his lap without his clothes being burned? (Proverbs 6:27)

Every time we act contrary to God’s revealed truth, we plant a seed of insubordination in the soil of our lives. If we water that seed with continued rebellion and allow it to grow, we will eventually reap a bitter harvest of regret. The apostle Paul made this truth abundantly clear: “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows” (Galatians 6:7). In my simplistic way of putting things, I say it this way: Sow rebellion . . . Reap regret. If we sow seeds of insubordination long enough, it will eventually damage our witness, destroy our families, and devastate our lives. Our lives, as the inspired Proverb says, will be burned up in a raging fire of regret and ruin.

But this is not for you! The key to keep from planting seeds of insubordination is to treasure God’s Word above all else in life. David provided us with the remedy: “I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you” (Psalm 119:11). You see, we can either plant the seeds of insubordination or plant the seeds of His Inspired Word in our hearts, knowing that whatever we sow we shall certainly also reap. The more we meditate on and marinate in the Word of God, the more we will walk according to God’s wise ways. God’s Word cleanses us. God’s Word challenges us. God’s Word corrects us. But in order for all of these things to happen, we must invest our time in God’s Word.

So regardless of where this message finds you today, whether riding the crest of the wave or buried underneath it, hiding more and more of God’s Word in your heart is the best protection against planting seeds of insubordination. Remember the encouragement that James, the brother of our Lord, offered: “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him” (James 1:5).

One last thought: To “ASK” God is to do three things:

A=ask

S=seek

K=knock

“Ask and it will be given to you,” our Lord assures us; “seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” Ask God to give you a love for His Word; seek Him in the Scriptures daily; knock on the door to the throne room of His grace in prayer. And trust that the rewards will be rich beyond measure! For Jesus has promised that “Everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened” (Matthew 7:7-8).

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

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Angelic Attendants

angelic presence 

He will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways. (Psalm 91:11)

You may remember that the tempter applied this passage of Scripture when he confronted our Savior in the wilderness and sought to tempt Him (Matthew 4:6). To be sure, Satan knew what the Scriptures said, but he totally distorted what the Scriptures meant. Indeed, Satan did great violence to the inspired text in his attempt to manipulate Jesus. Telling Jesus to throw Himself down from the pinnacle of the temple, trusting the angels to catch and protect Him, would have been completely counter to the Father’s plan for our Lord’s time on earth. Jesus confirmed that, saying, “You shall not put the Lord your God to the test” (Matthew 4:7).

So what does this have to do with you and me? Everything! Read on and be encouraged today.

God’s angels are not only in constant worship of Him, they are also employed by Him to protect His people—all of His people, including you and me. These are the angelic attendants assigned by the Almighty as “ministering spirits sent out to serve those who will inherit salvation” (Hebrews 1:14). Now, the verses of Scripture you’ve seen here today concerning our angelic attendants do not mean that you will have a problem-free life. What they do mean is that you will be watched over and ministered to when the waves of challenge wash over you; and, in due time, God will deliver you to His intended destination.

Your life will be protected for as long as God has work for you to do. Angelic attendants will be guarding and guiding you every step of the way until you cross the finish line of God’s purpose for your life. And what then? Your angelic attendants will usher you into the kingdom of heaven. Is there anyone reading this right now who would wish to live one moment longer than God has work for him to do? Heaven forbid!

So regardless of where this message finds you, be encouraged and empowered to live the life God is calling you to live with freedom, faithfulness, and joy, knowing that your God is watching over you moment by moment. He commands His angelic attendants to protect you from the evil one and provide for your every need, every day and every step of the way until that glorious day when you cross the Jordan and enter into your eternal rest.

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

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