PROMISED PROTECTION

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My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. (John 17:15)


Notice the promise from our Lord Jesus Christ in His great High Priestly Prayer to His Father in heaven: He is praying for our protection, not our departure. To be sure, there will be no sweeter passage in the life of the believer than the one that takes us from this world into glory. And we can be sure that this blessed event won’t be too long from today. But until that day, we are promised protection as we make our way toward the Celestial City, pilgrims making progress for our own good, the good of those God places on our path, and for the glory of God.

Last month I posted an article here, titled “The Grace of ‘No’ in Our Prayer Life,” which recalled Elijah, frightened and discouraged by Queen Jezebel’s murderous threats, crying out to God to take his life. I’m quite sure that many troubled believers have echoed Elijah, saying, “I have had enough, Lord, take my life” (1 Kings 19:4), hoping to be brought into the glories of heaven.

But if we think clearly about this, we will realize that we do this because we would rather run from our struggles than run toward our Savior. Yet it is in the struggle where the saints of God are sanctified! “We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22). Hardships are God’s ordained highways that the faithful must travel in order to be conformed to the likeness of Christ. Difficulties are designed by God to deliver us, not defeat us. And as we travel those rocky roads, it is the unceasing prayer of our Lord and Savior that we will be protected from the evil one.

I want to be clear here: There is nothing wrong with having a desire to depart and be with our Lord, as long as our hope springs from the same sanctified spirit as the apostle Paul, who deeply desired to be with His Savior, which he said would be “better by far,” but who also recognized that it was “more necessary” for him to remain in the present life and finish the work that God had given him to do, no matter what hardships and struggles ensued (Philippians 1:21-26). However, if we simply desire to be delivered from our trials, it is nothing more than our sinful heart being exposed as it beats for the self, rather than the Savior.

When Jesus prayed that we would not be taken out of this world, He made it clear that each one of us has a mission in this world. Let us embrace that mission, knowing that we will be protected every step of the way, in storm winds and on bright sunny days. It is not up to us to decide when the time is right and when we have had enough. This is only for the One who knows everything and knows what is absolutely best for us and for His kingdom. Trust Him, Christian, even when you cannot trace Him; know that He is always with us, in us, and for us.

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

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IDOL FACTORIES

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Do people make their own gods? Yes, but they are not gods! (Jeremiah 16:20)


Oh, how often the children of Israel would chase after false gods—idols of their own imagination—and this sin of idolatry is still alive and well in the hearts of spiritual Israel and all those who call upon the name of our Lord. The great reformer John Calvin once declared that the human heart is “a perpetual factory of idols.” Calvin wrote those words more than five centuries ago, but it is important for you and me to understand what Calvin was saying in order to strengthen our Christian walk today.

Time and time again, the people of Israel erected various idols to worship instead of the one, true, living God. The most memorable of these was the infamous golden calf that is recounted in Exodus 32, but, sadly, this pattern repeated itself throughout the Old Testament, “and the people of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the Lord” (Judges 2:11). They would turn away from the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and worship various make-believe gods. This apostasy would be followed by God’s rebuke, the people’s repentance, and a return to God . . . until they devised a new idol in their sinful hearts.

Finally, the Lord intervened with the promise of a new power that He would give to His people:

I will sprinkle clean water on you; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. (Ezekiel 36:25-27)

When John Calvin spoke of the human heart as an idol-making factory, he was speaking specifically of our natural, unregenerate, unbelieving heart—the heart that is not yet changed and filled with the presence and power of the Holy Spirit. But even the presence of the Spirit of God does not mean we are immune to idolatry. We must be careful not to look down on “the poor heathen” who bow down to a god of stone, while we ourselves worship a god of gold . . . or of power, prestige, position, pleasure, etc. When the unbeliever is raised from death to life, the fleshly heart of stone is exchanged for a new heart of flesh that beats faithfully for the purpose of pleasing God. But that new heart still beats imperfectly! Our fundamental nature has indeed been changed, but all too often our hearts still beat for things smaller than Jesus.

However, to say that the heart of the Christian is a “perpetual factory of idols” would be to shroud the glory of God’s promise of the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit and to deny the finished work of the cross of Christ. As Christians, our nature has been transformed from depraved to delivered, and that includes deliverance from our natural propensity to manufacture idols. When we slip back into our old patterns of idolatry, the power of the Holy Spirit convicts us of our sin, causes our repentance, and calls us back into the presence of God.

So whatever “golden calf” you may be dealing with today, take it to Jesus and lay it at His nail-scarred feet. He has promised to deliver you . . . again and again and again.

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

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THE COMFORT OF THE COSMIC CHASM

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Between us and you a great chasm has been set in place, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us. (Luke 16:26)


The dictionary definition of the word “chasm” is a deep fissure in the earth, rock, or another surface; a profound difference between people, viewpoints, feelings. We read in the parable of the rich man and Lazarus that a great chasm has been fixed between the righteous dead and the wicked dead in Sheol that cannot be bridged from either side. Is it not a comfort to you to know that in both life and death, our Lord Jesus Christ has provided divine protection for all those who are His?

In Dante’s Commedia, this cosmic chasm is pictured with “steep rocks and a deep gorge, and on one side the flames that burn and do not consume, and on the other, the fair garden of Paradise and the kingly palace, and the banquet at which Abraham presides . . . and those that are bearing the penalty, or reaping the reward, of their life are within sight and hearing of each other, and hold conversation and debate.” Now, Dante is certainly not to be pressed as a literal representation of the unseen world, and even divine revelation leaves much unexplained. But as children of the Most High God, we can be sure that once we are in Christ, we are His forever, and the gulf is eternally fixed between life and death. This is the comfort of the cosmic chasm.

Whether you are enjoying a great season of victory in the Lord, as David did after defeating the giant Goliath, or if you are trudging through a dreary valley of discouragement, defeat, or even death, much like the writings of Jeremiah after the fall of Jerusalem in 587 B.C., remember that Christ has fixed a great chasm between eternal life and eternal death, and nothing can cause a crossover from one side to the other—not your sin, not even Satan himself. Nothing can come between you and your Savior.

I pray that you will come boldly before the throne of grace today and let your Lord know how thankful you are for His sovereign control over all things, including the cosmic chasm that is designed to bring you comfort in both this life and the next.

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

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UNMOVED MOVER

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We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. (Hebrews 6:19)


Having lived in South Florida for most of my life, I have experienced my share of hurricanes. With time to prepare, many people wisely choose to evacuate the area to seek safety from the hurricane force winds. For those things left behind, here is what is needed in order to survive:

  • Buildings need a strong foundation.
  • Trees need a deep root system.
  • Boats need a strong anchor.

I’m sure you see a common thread to what’s necessary for survival: connection to a secure foundation that cannot be moved. For the Christian, that secure foundation is the Unmoved Mover, the Lord God Omnipotent Himself. He is the anchor for our souls in times of trouble and trials. The Scriptures provide us with many wonderful examples of what it means to be anchored to the Unmoved Mover. The unshakable faith that many of the great saints of God demonstrated was firmly rooted in their trust in the unmovable God. They survived the severe storms winds that blew their way by shifting their focus away from their circumstances and looking to the One who is in control of all things and will not be moved by them.

What storms are in your life right now? If you are currently enjoying a season of sunshine, what storms are looming on the horizon? As I have often said here, all of us are in one of three stations in life: either we are in the middle of a storm; we are coming out of a storm; or we are headed into a storm. We move through life much as a ship does on the sea, sometimes experiencing a flat calm, at other times experiencing a freshening breeze, and at others struggling to stay afloat in great waves of challenge. But at all times, our Lord Jesus is at the helm of the ship, and our faith in Him anchors our hope to the very presence of the Unmoved Mover: the Triune God.

God never promised us a life devoid of storms. When Jesus said to His disciples, “Let us go over to the other side of the lake” (Mark 4:35), they all climbed into the boat, and Jesus, who was undoubtedly exhausted from the day’s ministry, fell fast asleep in the stern. When a furious squall arose, the disciples were terrified . . . yet still Jesus slept. Why did they fear? Because they forgot what Jesus had originally said before the journey began: “Let us go over to the other side.” This is the promise for all believers—yesterday, today, and tomorrow. Regardless of whatever storms may arise, our Unmoved Mover will get us safely to the other side.

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

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FROM MIRE TO CHOIR

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He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire . . .He put a new song in my mouth. (Psalm 40:2-3)


If you could stand a bit of encouragement today, then please read on. The psalmist reminds us that our God is in the business of taking whatever mess we find ourselves in and turning it into a masterpiece. He takes us from the pit and places us in the palace. And He lifts us out of the mire and calls us into the choir, that we might join the heavenly chorus in singing praises to His mighty and merciful name.

Take just a cursory glance through the Bible, and you will see that our God delights in delivering His people from the mire into the choir. He took Moses from the mire of murder after Moses killed the Egyptian who was beating the Hebrew slave. Forty years later, God called Moses out of the backside of the desert to sing a song of deliverance to Pharaoh. God also took the apostle Paul from the mire of murder. Paul (then Saul) stood by, watching approvingly and holding the coats of those stoned Stephen for boldly bearing witness to the Righteous One, Jesus Christ. And the song that God gave Paul to sing turned in to nearly two-thirds of the New Testament.

Here is a biblical truth that we all must keep in view. God has promised to take us from the mire to the choir, but often He does not deliver us out of the mire, but through it. May these lyrics from God Hath Not Promised, by Annie Johnson Fling (1866-1932), minister to you this day.

God hath not promised skies always blue,

Flower-strewn pathways all our lives through;

God hath not promised sun without rain,

Joy without sorrow, peace without pain.

But God hath promised strength for the day,

Rest for the labor, light for the way,

Grace for the trials, help from above,

Unfailing sympathy, undying love.

Christian, the mire you find yourself in is not likely to be murder; perhaps it is a marriage gone sour, a prodigal child, struggles at work, a habit that has turned into an addiction . . . I could go on. But please know that God is at work in your life right now, conforming you to the image and likeness of His beloved Son. He has promised to never leave you nor forsake you, and He has promised to take you from the mire to the choir . . . and, as the psalmist said, “Many will see what he has done and be astounded. They will put their trust in the Lord” (Psalm 40:3).

What an incredible promise our loving Lord has given you! I pray that many will put their trust in the Lord as you go about your day today, singing joyful songs of praise to your Redeemer!

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

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THINGS PROMISED AND PRESENT 

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All things are yours, whether . . . the world or life or death or the present or the future—all are yours, and you are of Christ and Christ is of God. (1 Corinthians 3:21-23)


Sometimes we shrink the truths of the Gospel down to things promised. To be sure, we have been promised an eternity with our Lord. This eternity is a place where we have been promised that there will be no more sorrow or sin, pain or persecution, fear or faithlessness, disease or death.

But what about right now? What does the Gospel promise us in this present life?

This article would truly have no end if I were to try and set before you all that we have been given presently in Christ Jesus. Here are just a few things of those things, and I pray these words will provide both comfort and encouragement for you.

  • We are unconditionally loved.
  • We are completely forgiven.
  • We are perfectly accepted.
  • We are totally empowered.
  • We are supernaturally strengthened.
  • We are eternally united to God in Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit.

What we must remember is that the Gospel not only affects our eternal life, it also affects our everyday life. As the apostle Paul wrote in our verse for today, whether things present or things to come, all is ours! Paul was advancing the truth that God had already set before His people in the Old Testament.

The upright shall have good things in possession. (Proverbs 28:10 KJV)

As a child of the Most High God, you currently have good things in your possession. To live out this truth is to live a life marked by joy and thanksgiving to the One who has so graciously given you life and breath and everything else. And remember, above all that you have been promised, you have the presence of your Lord Jesus everywhere you go. When Jesus walked with His disciples, they had Him with them physically, but not every moment of every day. But when Jesus left this earth, He sent His Holy Spirit and promised that His Spirit would dwell within us every moment in this life . . . and throughout the next.

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

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THE REQUEST OF THE REDEEMED

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Direct my footsteps according to your word; let no sin rule over me.  (Psalm 119:133)


People often ask me, “How can I know if I am redeemed?” To be sure, Scripture provides great insight into the confident assurance we are to have in knowing our right standing before God. However, when I am asked that question, I always direct people to read today’s verse and search their hearts to see if the request of the psalmist is their request too. Only the redeemed will request of the Redeemer that no sin will rule over them. Is this your daily request?

Sin would occupy the throne of our lives if it could, because sin is never satisfied with coming in second. But when Jesus went to the cross and cried, “It is finished,” He was announcing that Satan, death, and sin had been defeated. However, there is something every saint of God must remember about the Christian life: Inasmuch as sin no longer reigns in the life of the believer, it still remains. Sin has been defeated, yes, but it is not yet totally destroyed. As Steve Brown says, “The dragon has been slain, but his tail still swishes.”

Because the old nature is still alive within every child of God, it must be our daily prayer that no sin will rule over us. It is a battle we must be willing to fight—not just daily, but moment by moment. Each day we wake up in the crosshairs of the world, the flesh, and the devil. The battle is fierce and the enemy is ferocious; the tempter will do everything in his power to gain ground in the life of the believer.

Throughout this ongoing battle, there is something you must never forget, which is the response of the Redeemer to the request of the redeemed:

Sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace. (Romans 6:14)

Will we still struggle with sin? Yes, we do and we will every step of the way into glory. But sin will never again reign in the life of the redeemed. We will be weakened and we will be wounded, but we will never be wrecked on the sandbar of sin. If we were still trying to save ourselves under the law, sin would have its way with us. It would discourage us, derail us, and ultimately defeat us. But we are not under the law. We are under grace, and the grace of God has promised to comfort, correct, and cleanse us from all unrighteousness

Regardless of where this message finds you today, keep fighting the good fight of faith against all the schemes of Satan. Know that He who began a good work in you has promised to complete what He started. Make your request each day that no sin will rule over you and know that it shall not.

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

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