Supernatural Silent Waiting

The angel said to Zechariah, “Now you will be silent and not able to speak until the day this happens, because you did not believe my words, which will come true at their appointed time.” (Luke 1:19-20)

As we move toward Christmas this week, I would like to share some words of encouragement inspired by the lives of three important figures in the Christmas story. Today we will look at Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist.

Zechariah was performing his priestly duties in the temple when Gabriel, the angel of the Lord, appeared to give Zechariah wonderful news: his wife, Elizabeth, would give birth to a son, and they were to name him John (“the Lord is gracious”). The child would be filled with the presence and the power of the Holy Spirit from birth, and he would be set apart for special service to God.

Zechariah, however, doubted what Gabriel told him, and he was struck with supernatural silence for the next nine months, while he awaited the birth of the promised child. Here we see that the Christmas story began with a season of supernatural silence in the life of the father of the forerunner of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Now, inasmuch as Zechariah’s supernatural silence was due to his unbelief, is it possible there is a message in this story for you and me today? Perhaps our Lord is inviting us to withdraw from the busyness and the business of the Christmas season so that we can press into the presence of our Lord to hear His still, small voice above all the clamor that is so much a part of the world around us. Silence in the presence of our Savior is a wonderful way to renew the mind, recalibrate the heart, and realign the will.  

Remember, some of the best praise we can offer to our Lord comes not through our speech but through our silence. A little silent waiting for Christmas day to arrive is a great way to focus on the Reason for the season . . . and His name is Jesus Christ.

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

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Between Jesus’ Resurrection And Return

Christ Jesus who died – more than that, who was raised to life – is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. (Romans 8:34)

For believers in our Lord Jesus Christ, there is no mystery about what He has done on our behalf in the past: He lived a sinless life, died a sacrificial death, and rose supernaturally from the dead. Nor is there any question about what He has promised to do in the future: He will return to earth to fully and finally consummate His Kingdom. But there seems to be a mist that surrounds what Jesus is doing right now for all those who have trusted in Him alone for salvation.

The pen of the apostle Paul dispels that mist, making the current ministry of our Lord Jesus clear: He is making intercession for us moment by moment. Jesus is seated at the right hand of God the Father. He is seated in the position of ultimate power, authority, and dominion in the universe, but He has not forgotten us, not even for a moment! Jesus is continually offering prayers to the Father on our behalf:

  • The Shepherd is praying for His sheep.
  • The Bridegroom is praying for His bride.
  • The Head is praying for His body.
  • The Chief Cornerstone is praying for His living stones.
  • The Elder Brother is praying for His siblings.
  • The Great High Priest is praying for His congregation.
  • The General is praying for His army.
  • The King is praying for His subjects.

When we look back into the Old Testament, we could say that Jesus is currently praying for us as the Greater Moses upon the mountain and as the True Aaron behind the Temple veil. In other words, we are always on the mind and in the heart of our Lord Jesus. Now, whether Jesus is actually verbally interceding for us with His Father, as many scholars believe, or simply allowing His scars speak on our behalf, as many other scholars believe, I do not know. But what I do know is this: Not a moment goes by in any day when we are not covered by the prayers of the One who lives to intercede on our behalf (Hebrews 7:25), thus making good on His promise to complete the good work He began in us.

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

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The Unshakable Uttermost

He is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him. (Hebrews 7:25 ESV)

There are some single words in sacred Scripture that bring eternal encouragement beyond what can be expressed in several sentences. “Uttermost” is certainly one of those words. To know that Jesus is able to save to the uttermost is to know everything needed in both this life and the next. Uttermost is a word of cosmic comfort, consolation, and challenge for every child of God . . . and that includes you and me today.

The great hymn writer John Newton (best known for “Amazing Grace”) once wrote, “Take an estimate of all our sins, all our temptations, all our difficulties, all our fears, and all our backslidings of every kind, still the word ‘uttermost’ goes beyond them all.” To put this beautiful phrase in my simplistic terms: You simply cannot out-sin your Savior. Every sin — past, present, and those still to come — have been nailed to the cross, washed in the precious blood of Jesus, and cast away from us as far as the east is from the west. How unshakable is the power of Jesus, who is able to save to the uttermost.

To be saved to the uttermost is to be saved not only from the penalty and the power of sin, but from its pleasure too. And this only begins to plumb the depths of our salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ! You see, the divine power that saves us is the same power that sanctifies us. Grace does not save us and then leave us to stumble through the rest of life in our own feeble strength. Sin no longer reigns, but it still remains, and we need our ever-present Savior to strengthen us in our faith and grow us up to maturity.

To know that we have been saved to the uttermost is to know we have be set free from the chains of bondage to sin, Satan, and death. We have the Holy Spirit dwelling inside of us, which means we have the power to say “No!” to the things we ought to say No to and “Yes!” to the things we ought to say Yes to.

Jesus is able to save to the uttermost, and He has given us everything we need to live a life that is pleasing and acceptable in His sight. When we mess things up, as we inevitably will, over and over again, let the word uttermost remind you that you have an unshakable Savior who forgives you to the uttermost and loves you to the uttermost. May that truth comfort us and challenge us to live a life for the glory of God and the advancement of His kingdom, regardless of the cost or circumstance.  

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

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One Day or Day One?

As he thinks in his heart, so is he. (Proverbs 23:7 NKJV)

To be sure, we cannot control what is going on around us most of the time. But we can control what is going in inside of us when it comes to the attitude we choose to live by. We can live with the attitude of “One Day,” which is as passive as it is unproductive:

  • One Day . . . I will finish my degree.
  • One Day . . . I will get that job.
  • One Day . . . I will lose that weight.
  • One Day . . . I will quit smoking.
  • One Day . . . I will start spending less than I make.

Or we can live with the attitude of “Day One,” which is as positive as it is productive because it starts now, not in some distant, dimly imagined future:

  • Today is Day One . . . of my continuing education program.
  • Today is Day One . . . of my pursuit of that job I have always wanted.
  • Today is Day One . . . of my weight loss program.
  • Today is Day One . . . as a non-smoker.
  • Today is Day One . . . of my financial savings plan.

One Day people procrastinate and put things off until tomorrow, and as we all know from painful personal experience, tomorrow never seems to come. But Day One people are proactive, putting one foot in front of the other as they make their way to their intended destination. They see obstacles as opportunities. They embrace problems as possibilities. And all of this is done in the strength of the Almighty. Day One people know that each day is a gift from God, and their gift back to God is how they live it. They know that when they spend a day, they have one less day to spend, so they spend it wisely for the glory of God.

How have you been spending the 86,400 seconds God has gifted you with each day? The Bible warns against sloth and slackness: “The way of the sluggard is blocked with thorns” (Proverbs 15:19).  The Bible also commends hard work: “The hand of the diligent will rule” (Proverbs 12:24). What has your mindset been lately in both your personal and professional life? It is a choice we must make each day: Will we live with the mindset of One Day or Day One? When you really think about it, the choice is crystal clear for the child of God, because greater is the power that is at work within us than any power that can come against us.

Perhaps the best way to close out today’s word of encouragement is with a quote from The Shawshank Redemption movie: “Get busy living or get busy dying.” What is your choice today?

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

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God Is Good All The Time

In faithfulness you have afflicted me. (Psalm 119:75)

We are broken people living in a broken world with other broken people, and so we must deal with days of difficulty and even despair as we make our way toward glory. In fact, as I often remind regular readers here, one of the great promises of our Lord to each and every one of us is that “In this world you will have trouble” (John 16:33).

To be sure, we do not understand much of the trouble that appears in our lives and tries and tests us. But what we do know is that our God is good all the time, and that even includes our troubled times. Here are a few reminders that will bring eternal encouragement to you as you wade through the troubled waters of life:

  • God is too wise to be wrong.
  • God is too majestic to be mistaken.
  • God is too divine to be deceitful.
  • God is too holy to be hurtful.
  • God is too caring to be cruel.
  • God is too faithful to be false.

Regardless of what it is you have gone through, are going through, or will encounter in the near future, when we look at our troubles through the eyes of faith and not with fear, we come to the same conclusion as the psalmist: “In faithfulness you have afflicted me.” Everything God is doing is done for two reasons: His glory and our eternal good. When we receive this truth, we will live our lives by faith and not by sight, knowing that our God is working all things together according to His plan and purpose for our lives.

Because God always knows what is best for us and is always giving us what is best, we must trust Him, especially when we cannot trace Him, and live with the confident assurance that He who began this good work in us will bring it to completion . . . in His perfect way and in His perfect timing. Receiving and responding to this truth will set us free to rejoice and give thanks in all circumstances, even those that, by sinful nature, we aren’t feeling very “thankful” for.  

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

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Rescued . . . And Still Being Rescued

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)

When God raised us from death to life, He rescued us from the dominion of sin, Satan, and death. Our salvation sets us free from the power of darkness and allows us to live a life that is pleasing and acceptable to God. However, sin still remains within us, even though it no longer reigns over us, so we are in a constant need of being rescued from ourselves.

When Paul said, “What I want to do, I do not do,” he was frankly confessing that there was a battle going on inside his heart and mind, a struggle that required God’s continuing intervention in order for Paul to gain victory. The same is true for you and me today.

Here are a few things to remember: We must never underestimate the power of sin that remains in our lives, and we must never overestimate our own power to conquer it! It is only when we are fighting in the power of the Holy Spirit that we will be successful in slaying the sin that remains in our lives. We must depend completely upon our Lord to liberate us from the sin that so easily entangles us.

When Paul needed rescue from his bitter battle with remaining sin, he did not look within. Rather, Paul looked up, and he was strengthened by remembering that what began in God’s grace (his salvation) would continue in God’s grace (his sanctification). Paul knew from personal experience that only by resting in the rescue that Jesus had provided on the road to Damascus would he experience the rescue he needed each and every day as he made his way toward glory. Paul’s heartfelt cry – “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?” — was not a cry of despair, because he knew Who his rescuer was: “Thanks be to God – through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:24-25)

Always remember that rescue is available to you through Jesus Christ our Lord. Press into His presence each day and deepen your dependence upon Him. To acknowledge that you are “wretched” is not a sign of weakness; it is a sign of ultimate strength, because when you are weak, then Jesus is strong in your life to slay every sin and set you free to live a life of freedom, joy, and faithfulness to Him.

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

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Unfading Fulfillment

Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life. (John 4:13-14)

There are many things in this life that can fill us up: our families . . . our careers . . . our hobbies . . . our recreations . . . our ministries. But if that “thing” is not rooted in our Lord Jesus Christ, it is water that will never slake our thirst. No matter how fulfilling that thing might be, we will always need more and more of it to fill us up. These “good things” become bad things when they become ultimate things, and the joy they offer inevitably fades.

It is only when we rely on Jesus alone for our fulfillment that we will be filled to the overflowing — not just daily, but moment by moment. The only place from where we can draw living water that will satisfy the deepest longings of the soul is from our Savior. We must look to Jesus and listen to His Words. We must lean on Him and learn from Him. The fulfillment we find in Jesus will not fade, even when we are in the midst of difficulty and trials. Our Prince of Peace gives us His peace that passes all human understanding. His peace is like a river that flows to us, and it will never dry up or run out.

Where have you been looking for your fulfillment lately? Has it been in anything smaller than Jesus? Remember, God created us in such a way that nothing in this life will ever be able to satisfy the deep longings of the human heart. We are made by Him and for Him, and only when we find our fulfillment in Him will we have a fulfillment that never fades, no matter what circumstances we face in this life.

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

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Know Your Address!

From that time on Jesus began to preach, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” (Matthew 4:17)

When God saved you and brought you into relationship with Him, He gave you a new address. I am not talking about your physical address, whether that might be in the city or the suburbs . . . whether you live in an apartment or a home; rather, I am talking about the “already” and the “not yet” of the Kingdom of God. When Jesus came into this world, He lived a sinless life, died a sacrificial death, and rose supernaturally from the grave. All of this was done to redeem us from sin, Satan, and death, and to make it possible for us to live in Him and with Him forever. His Kingdom has truly come — Jesus said that “The kingdom of God ha come upon you” (Luke 11:20) — but it has not yet come in all its fullness. In other words, the Kingdom is already here, but it is not yet fully realized in our lives.

All of this means that sin has not yet been fully eradicated from our lives, and we have not yet become all that God’s grace is designed to make us. To be sure, sin no longer reigns in the lives of those who are disciples of Jesus. But make no mistake, it still remains and it will wreak havoc in our lives if we let it. We wake each morning in the crosshairs of the world, the flesh, and the devil. It is a war that’s fought on the battlefield of the heart. Sometimes our heart beats strongly for Jesus, and at other times it does not. It is a war of faith against fear . . . trust against temptation . . . dependence against deliverance.

And that is why we must remember our address. We are already in the Kingdom of God, but the Kingdom has not yet been fully consummated. We are already fully saved, but God must continue saving us from ourselves — not just daily, but moment by moment. We are already children of the Most-High God, but we will not fully know what that means experientially until we are in glory. The Kingdom has indeed come and will continue coming, either until Jesus returns or brings us home. Until that day, we must remember our address as we fight the good fight of faith with the weapons of spiritual warfare, knowing that He who began a good work will bring it to completion one day soon.

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

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Denial Is Not Deliverance

Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows. (Matthew 10:29-31)

Singer and songwriter Bobby McFerrin released one of the most popular songs of all time in 1988 — “Don’t Worry Be Happy.” This song became an unofficial anthem, not just in Jamaica, which was still reeling from the terrible devastation wrought by Hurricane Gilbert, but all over the world. The lyrics include these words:

In every life we have some trouble; When you worry you make it double. Don’t worry, be happy.

If ever there was a tendency to minimize the pain of suffering, we see it in those words. To be sure, we are to give worry to our Lord when we find ourselves battered by the storm winds of life. But we are not to deny the reality of the pain we are experiencing along the way. God is in sovereign control of all things, including the difficulties we face in life, and He is using all of it to conform us into the image and likeness of His Son, Jesus. From the tiniest sparrow to the exact number of hairs on your head, God is caring for all things . . . and that includes you.

Nothing happens to you that does not first pass through His nail-scarred hands. We are never to go looking for suffering in our lives, but we are never to run from it either. We must receive whatever suffering God ordains in our lives and let God use all of it to grow and mature us in our faith. When we say that God is good all the time, we must remember that this includes those times that don’t feel good. God is far more concerned about our character than He is about our comfort, and He will use any and every means necessary in His perfect process of making us more like Jesus.

When we deny life’s difficulties, we are not delivered from them; we are actually driven deeper into a state of despair. Here’s a thought: Instead of “Don’t worry be happy,” how about, “Don’t worry be honest”? When reading through the psalms, we see the honesty of the psalmists, who told God exactly how they were feeling during difficult circumstances, knowing that God is ready, willing, and able to receive the honest cry of the human heart and respond to it.

If we are going to sing, “Don’t worry be happy,” let us sing with these words of James in mind:

Consider it pure joy whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. (James 1:2-4)  

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

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Having The Almighty Is Better Than Answers

“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned, the flames will not set you ablaze.” (Isaiah 43:2)

When life is difficult — when our days feel more like a bitter burning than a balmy blessing — we need the Almighty more than we need answers. When we embrace that truth and simply seek the presence of God more than we are seeking to understand our circumstances, we will be able to rise above life’s inevitable challenges and experience what God is doing both in and through us.

Now, it’s natural for us to ask why questions when we are facing trials and difficult circumstances in life. But information alone is never enough to heal a hurting heart, minister to a maligned mind, or satisfy a searching soul. Rather, we need the One who has promised never to leave us or forsake us, He is working everything together for our ultimate good and His glory. Only in the presence of the Almighty will we be able to become better through our trials, rather than bitter.

There is no better example of this in all of sacred Scripture than the story of Job. When God gave Satan permission to attack Job, taking his health, wealth, and all ten of his children, Job asked question after question of God. In the end, however, instead of answers, Job was given the assurance of God’s presence . . . and that was enough. Job responded humbly to the Lord —

“You said, ‘Listen now, and I will speak; I will question you, and you shall answer me.’ My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you. Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes” (Job 42:4-6)

No matter what you are going through, seeking the presence of the Almighty is better than seeking answers. When we are focused on trying to figure out what is going on and why, we are likely to miss the Who — the One who is with us every step of the way, even in the midst of the most fiery trials. Keep in mind that it was the Almighty who came into this world in the person of Jesus Christ and endured the most horrific storm the world has ever seen, drinking the cup of God’s wrath and judgment while nailed to a cruel cross to pay the penalty for all our sins. He did that so He could be in relationship with us.

Let that truth set you free to press into the presence of the Almighty when you are in the midst of trials, rather than pressing for answers.

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

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