Are You a Refresher?

One person gives freely, yet gains even more; another withholds unduly, but comes to poverty. A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed. (Proverbs 11:24-25)

The simplicity in this proverb is supernatural in its impact. Read on and be greatly refreshed today!

What does it mean to refresh? The dictionary uses a variety of words to define the word refresh:

  • Restore
  • Revive
  • Renovate
  • Replenish

Perhaps the best way I can explain the biblical meaning of what it means to be a refresher is to be someone who makes the lives of others better! A refresher is the kind of person other people want to be around. Perhaps the best way to sharpen your understanding of being a refresher is to answer this question: Who in your life right now would you describe as a refresher? Who lifts you up whenever they are around you and shoulders your burdens with you? Who do you know whose glass is always have full, rather than half empty?

Refreshers shine their light into the darkness and help you see the way forward. They are quick to listen, quick to encourage, and always ready to serve. They have a tendency to make your world not only brighter, but better and even bigger. They help to enlarge your vision of yourself and the call God has placed in your life. Their encouragement empowers you to get up every time you fall down and to keep going even when you would rather not.

Does this describe the kind of person you are in the lives of others? If not, what is one change you could and should make today in order to become a refresher?

Don’t forget the promise in this proverb. Those who are refreshers of others are themselves refreshed. That promise will be true for you. You simply cannot refresh others without being refreshed yourself.

Remember, the greatest Refresher the world has ever seen is Jesus. Take a look at the way the Amplified Bible translates Psalm 23:2-3 –

He makes me lie down in [fresh, tender] green pastures;

He leads me beside the still and restful waters. 

He refreshes and restores my life . . .

The more we refresh others, the more we are like our Lord. This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race.  NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!

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A Reasonable Faith

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. (Matthew 22:37)

Here is a great question that every Christian should be able to answer: Is Christianity a reasonable faith? Or is trusting in Christ’s atoning death on our behalf a blind faith? What is your answer? Let’s take a brief look at this and be both comforted and challenged today.

The English philosopher Francis Bacon correctly observed that God has given us two books as sources of truth: the book of God’s works (creation) and the book of God’s Word (the Bible). Within the pages of the Bible we see the inspired importance of the pathway to reason as we pursue truth for ourselves and for others.

“‘Come now, let us reason together,’ says the Lord” (Isaiah 1:18). We are not called to a blind leap of faith, but to a rational, reasonable faith. For the person who is willing to look through clear, objective lenses, God has revealed Himself in every aspect of creation. And if that person is willing to look through those same clear, objective lenses, God has revealed Himself on every page of the Bible. And within those inspired, inerrant, infallible pages of sacred Scripture, we find God exhorting us to study both of these books:

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. (Romans 12:2)

Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.

(2 Timothy 2:15).

Today’s verse reminds us to be thinking Christians. We are to love God with every fiber of our being, including our mind. Sadly, for many who profess the name of Christ, their minds have not been transformed through the consistent and diligent study of Scripture. They hold to the same basic worldview they had before becoming Christians.

But this is not for you! Make no mistake, the proper use of reason is essential if we are going to share the truths of the Gospel in ways that connect deeply with unbelievers, and this will only happen when the mind is renewed. The single most important key to renewing the mind is knowledge. We read this promise from our Lord: “‘This is the covenant I will make with them after that time,’ says the Lord. ‘I will put my laws in their hearts, and I will write them on their minds’” (Hebrews 10:16).

As A. W. Tozer said so well, “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.” Our love for God grows as our knowledge of Him grows. The more we grow in our understanding of God, the more our heart beats for Him. The more time we spend in God’s Word, the more the living and active Word of God will be in us!

Remember, the Bible makes it clear that faith in God is built upon substance, rooted in real evidence. “By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible” (Hebrews 11:3). Our faith is indeed a “reasonable” faith that, while renewing the mind, also the recalibrates heart and realigns the will. Let that truth comfort and challenge you to pursue God’s call in your life, regardless of the cost or circumstance. This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race.  NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!

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Do Vs. Done

“It is finished!” (John 19:30)

The two words “Do” and “Done” look very similar, but in actuality the infinite chasm of all eternity lies between them.Please read on and be greatly encouraged today!

Before Kim and I were saved, we were visiting First Baptist Church of Fort Lauderdale. Every week, Pastor Larry Thompson would say during his sermon, “It’s not about a religion, it’s about a relationship.” It took a while for us to understand that biblical truth, but when we got it, we finally understood the immeasurable difference between the words “Do” and “Done.”

The religion Kim and I had grown up in was all about doing, doing, and then doing some more. The list of things to do was endless. We had been taught that heaven was available to all those who would do enough to get in. The great difficulty with this theology, of course, is how can you know when you have actually done “enough” for God to unlock the gates of heaven and allow you to enter? Sadly, you can never know, and because you don’t know, you never experience the freedom, joy, and peace that is promised to all who believe the Gospel.

True Christianity is about what God in Christ has done for us. What Jesus did for us we can never do for ourselves. Why? Because we are far too sinful to save ourselves! The Bible tells us that –

There is no one who does not sin (1 Kings 8:46)

The Lord looks down from heaven on the sons of men

to see if there are any who understand, any who seek God.

All have turned aside, they have together become corrupt;

there is no one who does good, not even one.  (Psalm 14:2-3)

The wages of sin is death. (Romans 6:23)

Sinners need a Savior, and His name is Jesus Christ. Our verse for today, John 19:30, is perhaps one of the best-known in all of sacred Scripture, and it can be said in one word: Done!

The Greek verb teleo that is translated “It is finished” in our English Bibles means “To complete something, not merely to end it, but to bring it to perfection or its destined goal.” Christ’s work on our behalf is perfect; it is complete; it is done. Our sin debt was paid in full. Our salvation was fully accomplished and is fully secure in Christ.

It has been well said that Christianity begins with an historical “Done,” not with an experiential “Do.” Every other religion in the world is built upon the foundation of “Do.” Only Christianity stands upon the foundation of “Done.” For many of us, there is no more difficult truth to grasp than the truth that God saves us by His grace alone, not by grace plus our good works (Ephesians 2:8-9). To be sure, there is much to do after we are saved, but our good works are the fruit of our salvation, not the root of it.

Let me ask you: Does your life reflect the truth of Do? Or Done? The difference between those two words makes all the difference in the world!This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!

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When Working Doesn’t Work

To the one who does not work but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness. (Romans 4:5 NASB)

Seems like a strange statement, doesn’t it? You and I were raised in a culture that told us that if you want anything in this life, you have to go out and earn it. Well, there is a work that doesn’t work; knowing that truth brings with it a deep peace that can be found in no other way.

The “work” I am speaking about is the work of salvation. There are millions in the church of Jesus Christ today who are trying to work themselves into God’s good favor. They believe God is keeping score in their lives, and their ultimate goal is to have more points under the heading of “Good deeds” than there are under the “Bad deeds” heading. These men and women have sat under the preaching of a false gospel that essentially says that salvation comes to those who earn it by the spiritual sweat of their own brow. Oh, they acknowledge that Jesus died on the cross for their sins, but their understanding is that Christ made the down payment on their salvation, but they must dutifully keep up with the installment payments.

Listen, we certainly do need to work for what we get in this life. You work a job and you get paid. You exercise and you get fit. You invest in a relationship and it grows. But when it comes to eternal life, there is no amount of work that will gain anything. When Jesus hung on the cross and cried out, “It is finished,” He meant what He said; the work of salvation was completed at Calvary and our sin debt is paid in full.

It is true that we are saved by works, but not by our works. It was the cross work of Christ—His sinless life, His sacrificial death, and His supernatural resurrection—that earned us the right to walk the pathway to Paradise. Our verse for today tells us that God the Father credits (or imputes) the righteousness of God the Son to all who believe the Gospel. This is not a righteousness that we possess within ourselves; rather it is a righteousness that is outside of us and must be credited to us from above. On the cross our sin was imputed to Jesus and His righteousness was imputed to all those who will but trust in His atoning death on their behalf.

Here is the crucial question: In what are you trusting? Do you believe you were saved by grace but must remain in that grace by your good works? Remember, the Scriptures tell us that He who began this good work in us will complete it Himself (Philippians 1:6). What God began He will finish. So instead of trying to work yourself into God’s favor, simply rest in your redemption, and you will experience the peace that passes all understanding, now and forevermore.

Now go to work—not for your gain, but for the glory of His matchless name and the growth of His kingdom!This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!

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Fully Known and Still Completly Loved

God is love. (1 John 4:16)

There is someone who knows you fully and yet still loves you completely. This One, of course, is our Lord Jesus Christ; read on and be greatly encouraged today!

The term theologians use for God’s all-knowing power is omniscience. God has always, eternally known everything . . . the past, the present, and the future. And that includes your past, your present, and your future. And yet, in knowing you fully, He still loves you completely.

Let’s be honest: Would you really want anyone to know everything you think? Would you want them to know your thoughts in those moments when you are discouraged or angry . . . perhaps when you are struggling with that “secret” sin that you think no one knows about? No? Neither would I. But the glorious good news of the Gospel is that it is that only when we have a sense of just how broken and sinful we really are does the truth of the unwavering, unending love of Christ begin to change our lives.

Think about it this way: God knows your every thought—past, present, and the ones that you will think every day in your future. You may have “secret” thoughts that you keep to yourself, but they are not kept from God. Not only does God know our every thought, He knows every word we utter before we even say it! (If you have any doubts about that, read David’s inspired words in Psalm 139:1-4). God knows what you ate for breakfast today and what you will eat for dinner tonight. He knows where you were last night and where you will be one week from tonight. He knows every aspect of your coming and going, and that includes every part of your life story—the good, the bad, and the ugly.

All that “knowing” should be reason for despair, except for the fact that in spite of being fully known, God still loves us completely. “I have loved you with an everlasting love,” our Lord assures us; “I have drawn you with loving-kindness” (Jeremiah 31:3).

I often speak with people who have a hard time getting over something they did in the past. “I just can’t forgive myself,” they tell me. Listen, we have all done things we really wish we had never even considered, much less done. But through it all, God has never once withheld His unconditional love from us. And here is the best way for you to be convinced of that truth: The next time your past tries to paralyze you from doing what God is calling you to do in the present, picture the cross. Jesus hung on that cross and died for your sins because He loves you. He has always loved you!

Do you know this truth? I am not asking if you know it intellectually; I am asking if you know it deep down in your heart in a way that transforms the way you see yourself and live your life. Remember, before their terrible fall in the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve were naked before God and before each other, and they were unashamed. When Jesus shows up in your life and covers every sin—past, present, and those still to come—with His precious blood, you are to experience that incredible feeling of being naked and unashamed, because you are fully known and still completely loved. This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race.  NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!

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Safety in One Number…Not Numbers

The Lord said to Gideon, “You have too many men.” (Judges 7:2)

Perhaps you are familiar with the phrase, “There is safety in numbers,” which is an aphorism that reflects the general truth that an individual is less likely to be attacked if he or she is part of a large group. If you’ve ever spent time watching television shows about wildlife, you’ve undoubtedly seen how predators wait for an unwary animal to wander away from the safety of the herd and then attack. Hence, there is safety in numbers.

However, nothing could be further from the truth when it comes to the safety you have in the One who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light. In God’s economy, there is not safety in numbers, but in One. Oh, what a word of comfort we have before us today!

You may remember that the Lord God called Gideon to lead Israel into battle against the Midianite army. Gideon started with 32,000 warriors, but God told him he had too many. The Lord dismissed 22,000 men, and then sent another 9,700 troops away, eventually leaving Gideon with a small band of 300 men to battle against the entire Midianite Army. Safety and success for Gideon would not be found in numbers, but in the One who would give him victory.

Here is a biblical truth that will bring you cosmic comfort: With God on your side, you are always on the winning team. As Paul wrote, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31). Every great hero of the faith we read about in Scripture understood this truth by way of personal experience. During King Hezekiah’s reign, the Assyrian army was preparing to sack Jerusalem and confidently ordered the people to surrender. But the prophet Isaiah told King Hezekiah to trust in the One who could save him. He did, and that night the angel of the Lord put to death a hundred and eighty-five thousand men in the Assyrian camp (2 Kings 19:14-37).

Remember, when you are battling “against all odds,” your safety will not be found in numbers, but rather in One. God has been faithful to deliver you in the past and He will deliver you once again. When the apostle Paul said he would boast in his weakness, it was because God had made it clear to Paul that “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9). No matter what you are facing today in your personal or professional life, face it in the strength of the One, and you can rest assured that God’s grace will be sufficient for you every step of the way. This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!

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Confident Christian

Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. (Philippians 1:6)

Did you know there are two types of confidence? One is self-confidence; the other is Savior-confidence. Which one is the confession of your life? Read on, and may you be greatly encouraged today!

Let’s take a moment to unpack a few things in our verse for today. First, Paul made it perfectly clear that the “good work” of our salvation and eternal life in Christ Jesus is all the work of God. It is God who began it, and Philippians 1:6 encourages us to be confident in the truth that what God began in us, He will one day bring to completion.

This completion will not take place on this side of the grave, however. Here we are very much a work in progress. But when we cross the Jordan and stand face to face before our God, we will be perfectly conformed to the image and likeness of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

I know that Christian growth is a challenge. You and I have days when we feel like we are not making progress. For every baby step forward, we often take two giant steps backward. Oh embattled believer, this was also the condition of the great apostle Paul, who freely confessed that “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do” (Romans 7:15).

Paul did not always do what God wanted him to do because he was still in the perfection process, just as you and I are. Nevertheless, we are called to be confident Christians, because of the promise we have been given that He who began this good work of sanctification in us is the One who will carry it on to completion. It is all by God’s amazing grace that we are saved, and it is also all by grace that we grow and mature in our faith.

Savior-confidence recognizes that no weapon formed against us can ultimately prevent us from being all God is calling us to be. When God said that He will bring His work in us to completion, He meant what He said! God never gives up and He never gives in. He has given us His Holy Spirit, which means we have the same supernatural power working in us that raised Jesus from death to life (Ephesians 1:18-20). What began in the Spirit is sustained in the Spirit, and it will be completed in the Spirit. You have His Word on it!

Christian, if that doesn’t light the fire of your faith, your wood is wet! Let us, with the fire of faith burning brightly within us, strive to live as Paul did: “Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13-14). This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!

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Happy Birthday, Kim

Through wisdom your days will be many, and years will be added to your life. (Proverbs 9:11)

To my beloved wife of twenty-seven years . . .

Thank you . . .

For saying “I Do” and “I Still Do.”

For loving me unconditionally.

For forgiving me unreservedly.

For walking by my side each day.

For making every vision I had a reality.

For helping me grow and mature in my faith.

For lifting me up every time I stumbled and fell.

For getting me through seminary – twice – for the MDiv and the DMin.

For being my best friend in all the world, for better and for worse.

For being the greatest mom in the world to Brock, Jenna, Katie, and Tank.

For rejoicing with me when I was rejoicing and grieving with me when I was grieving.

There truly is no end to my thank you list. After salvation, you are the greatest gift God could have given me. I know I have not always shown it, but my life is so richly blessed because you are my wife and partner in everything we do. As I have said before, you are everything I am not . . . and that’s a lot!

Kim, here is my prayer for you today, on your birthday:

Our Father and our God, I lift my beloved Kim to you this day and pray your continued blessings and guidance in her life. Open the eyes of her heart to know just how truly loved, appreciated, and respected she is, especially when I fail to demonstrate this truth by my actions. May she experience your strength each day she rises and your security each night when she retires, and may you not only add years to her life, but life to her years. In Jesus’ name, amen.

I love you with all my heart.

Your husband and your best friend,Tommy

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“Crazy Little Thing Called…”

Summer Love Stories

God is love. (1 John 4:8)

If you completed the title of today’s word of encouragement with the word LOVE, you probably recalled the song by the same title, which was a number one hit for the British rock band Queen in 1980. There are more songs sung about love than any other topic. Why? Because we were made for love by the God of love.

But what exactly is love? Ask five people to define it and you will get six different answers. So we must look to the only One who can give us the right understanding of love: God Himself.

The Koine Greek language that was used to write the New Testament actually uses four different words to capture the meaning of this all-important word:

  • Storge — The emotional bond between family members
  • Eros — The romantic love rooted in physical attraction between men and woman
  • Phileo — Attraction and affection through friendship
  • Agape — Willing self-sacrifice, even when the object of love is undeserving or unappreciative

The word that appears most often in the New Testament is agape, which is the highest and most gracious form of love. When the Bible speaks of agape love, it is pointing to God in Christ, who “did not come to be served, but to serve, and give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). This love is sacrificial. This love is intentional. This love is a choice. Perhaps the best way to describe agape love is to say that it is totally other-oriented, seeking not the greatest good of self, but the good of the object of this love. Agape love is built on the foundation of faithfulness, dedication, and self-sacrifice, with no selfish thoughts of “What’s in it for me?”

When we read “God is love” in 1 John 4:8 (the Greek used there is agape), we are to understand that God’s love is part of His character. God’s love is not emotional or sentimental. It is simply who God is and what God does, and He shows that love to sinful people who are utterly undeserving of it.

Because we are loved in this self-sacrificial way, we are to reflect that same selfless, agape love to others—all others, even the unlovely and the unlovable. Christian, we don’t get a vote on this! We are to love because God first loved us (1 John 4:19, and yes, agape is used there too). This selfless love is not something we do by nature. You and I and all men and women are way too sinful and self-centered to do that! But when God in Christ raises us from death to life, by grace through faith, we now have the capacity to love as God commands. As Spirit-filled disciples of Christ, we can now love others as we are loved by God—selflessly, unwaveringly.

So how are you doing at this crazy little thing called love? Would those who know you best say that your love is agape? Is your love for others self-sacrificial? Or self-serving? Remember, when you draw nearer to God, you will experience more of His agape love toward you, which will empower you to return it back to Him, by demonstrating it to everyone you meet. This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!

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A HEART FOR GOD – Trusting

The Lord is my light and my salvation – whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life – of whom shall I be afraid? (Psalm 27:1)

We are in the midst of a study of the life of David, seeking to better understand why God would call David—who was most definitely a sinner in need of a Savior, just like you and me—“a man after my own heart”(Acts 13:22). Last week we looked at David’s repentance and reverence; on Monday we saw his heart of thanksgiving. Today we will see that David was so trusting in the goodness of his God that when fear came knocking at his door, David’s faith would always answer.

Perhaps the best example of David’s total trust in God is his famous confrontation with Goliath of Gath. You’ll recall that God had sent the prophet Samuel to Jesse of Bethlehem to anoint one of his sons as king of Israel. Although David was the youngest son (Jesse did not even initially think to present David to Samuel, certain that one of the older boys would be selected), God chose David because of his heart, for “The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7).

Not long after that, Israel and the Philistines were ready to do battle. David was still too young for military service, so David’s father sent him to take supplies to his older brothers in the Israelite camp. When David arrived there, he heard the Philistine champion, Goliath, taunting the Israelite army and challenging them to send out one man to fight him. In the ancient world, an army would often opt to avoid the high human cost of battle by pitting its strongest warrior against the strongest warrior of the enemy. The man-to-man combat would determine the winning side, thereby avoiding much bloodshed.

The stage was now set for David to demonstrate his “giant” trust in God. David heard Goliath’s mocking challenge, and he watched in amazement as his fellow Israelites, including King Saul, shrank back in fear from the towering Philistine. David went to King Saul and said, “Let no one lose heart on account of this Philistine; your servant will go and fight him” (1 Samuel 17:32). Saul flatly rejected the idea; after all, David was merely a shepherd boy and Goliath was a seasoned man of war.

David persisted; he told Saul how God had protected him when both lions and bears had sought to attack his father’s sheep and declared that “The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine” (1 Samuel 17:37).

Some 400 years later, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego would exhibit the very same trust in God when they stood before Nebuchadnezzar and said, “We do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king” (Daniel 3:16-17).

Saul finally agreed that David could represent Israel, and when Goliath mocked David and cursed him, David declared, “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the Lord will hand you over to me, and I’ll strike you down and cut off your head” (1 Samuel 17:45). And that is exactly what happened!   

At the deepest level, this story points to a greater King: Jesus, who conquered an even more terrible enemy—Satan. But that is a discussion that I will reserve for my “Surprised by Jesus” sermon series. I hope you’ll join me—either in person or online—to learn more about how Jesus is revealed in so many Old Testament passages. Today I simply want you to see how completely David trusted in his God. David recalled how God had delivered him in the past, and he was sure that God could be trusted to deliver him in the present.

You and I can and should have this kind of confident trust in God as well. Take a minute and ask yourself: What “giants” has God delivered you from in the past? Can He not be trusted to deliver you again today, regardless of the difficulties you face?

Remember that the same Nebuchadnezzar who sentenced Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego to death would one day raise his eyes to heaven and say of the sovereign Lord, “He does as he pleases with the powers of heaven and the peoples of the earth. No one can hold back his hand or say to him: ‘What have you done?’” (Daniel 4:35). Never forget, Christian, that the power that is at work within you is infinitely greater than any power that can ever come against you. No giant, no pagan ruler, no coronavirus . . . nothing in this world is greater than He who holds the universe together by the power of His word (Hebrews 1:3). And that means, as Charles Spurgeon once said, that you can completely trust God’s heart even when you cannot trace His hand.

Is total trust in God the confession of your life today? This was one of the marks of David’s heart, and it is a mark of the man or woman who truly has a heart for God.This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race.  NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!

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