A Fortress of Feathers

He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart. (Psalm 91:4)

Now, there is a counterintuitive statement if I ever heard one! “Under His wings you will find refuge.” The psalmist tells us that we will find refuge behind a fortress of feathers — not in structures of brick or stone or steel, as we might expect.

I am reminded of the children’s story of the three little pigs. Two of the pigs built homes, one out of straw and the other of sticks; the big, bad wolf huffed and puffed and blew both those homes down. The third little pig built his home out of bricks, and the wolf, no matter how fiercely he huffed and puffed, could not blow it down.

That story makes sense to us. A brick house will surely weather the storm winds that blow far better than any house of straw or sticks possibly can. But in God’s economy, the opposite is true. We have received the promise from God –and it is impossible for God to lie — that under His feathers we will find security that cannot be shaken. No wave of challenge, no wind of confrontation can harm us when we are sheltered under the wings of our Lord.

The unbelieving world looks on and considers it foolish that we trust in God for our daily bread and our nightly rest. The world trusts in material things that can be seen and touched, but their hope is badly misplaced. As David wrote in Psalm 20:7-8, “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God. They are brought to their knees and fall, but we rise up and stand firm.” David knew this truth from personal experience. It was he who stood before the giant Goliath and said coolly, “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty” (1 Samuel 17:45). David knew that the Lord was his shield and rampart, and God had proven His faithfulness time and time again.

Only the inspiration of the Holy Spirit could have moved the the writer of Psalm 91 to come up with such a statement about the feathery fortress provided by His God. Charles Spurgeon commented, “Had [the verse] been invented by an uninspired man it would have verged upon blasphemy, for who should dare to apply such words to the Infinite Jehovah?” But here we see a divine disposition of unimaginable compassion and tenderness displayed as our Lord covers us with a fortress of feathers. And no matter how hard this world huffs and puffs, no ill wind will ever be able to blow our holy house down.

The key, then, is for us to remain under God’s wings and not venture out on our own. Stay close to your Lord! Continue to trust and depend upon Him, and lean not on your own understanding. And when you do find yourself buffeted by the storm winds of this life, keep the last portion of today’s passage firmly in mind: his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart. Even when we wander — which which we are all prone to do in our sinful faithlessness — Jesus remains faithful to us. “Never will I leave you,” He assures us; “never will I forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5). We are forever safe in our almighty fortress of feathers because His faithfulness endures forever and ever . . . amen.

Let that truth set you free to be all God is calling you to be.

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

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The Best Is Yet to Come!

Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water”; so they filled them to the brim. Then he told them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet.” (John 2:7-8)

Jesus and His disciples were at a wedding at Cana in Galilee. Wedding celebrations would last a week in the ancient world, and the entire town would be invited to celebrate the couple’s new married life. But this celebration was in danger of turning sour because the hosts were running out of wine; to run out of wine was not only embarrassing, it was considered a demonstration of poor hospitality. Jesus’ mother came and told Him about the problem. After gently chiding Mary that “My time has not yet come,” (John 2:4), Jesus promptly performed the first recorded miracle of His earthly ministry: turning water into wine — and not just any old wine, but the best wine ever tasted.

Have you ever wondered why this was the action Jesus chose to be His first miracle? Why would He begin to reveal His divinity by turning water into wine? Why not do something more spectacular, such as raising someone from the dead, giving sight to the blind, curing a leper, or making the lame walk? I believe that Jesus was demonstrating the principle of beginning with the end in mind. Turning water into wine at a wedding celebration was simply a foreshadowing of the cosmic celebration that awaits the people of God at the heavenly banquet in the kingdom of heaven. It was a sign that pointed to the ultimate wedding feast that will be held for for the Lamb of God and His bride — all those who are united to Him by grace through faith. To echo the words of the master of the banquet who tasted the wine, “You have saved the best till now.”

The promise in this miracle, which might appear entirely insignificant compared to all the other miracles Jesus would perform throughout His earthly ministry, is crystal clear: The best is yet to come. Your best life is not something you are going to experience in the here and now. Your best life is yet to come, when you enter into your eternal rest in the glorious new heavens and new earth. As the apostle Paul exulted, “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Corinthians 2:9).

There is one more thing that this first miracles should call to mind. On the night Jesus was betrayed, He took the cup of wine and shared it with His disciples, telling them that the wine represented His blood, which He would shed as He hung on a cross and paid the penalty for the sins of the world. You see, the best is yet to come for us because Jesus Christ died in our place, rose from the dead, and opened the way for us to reenter a right relationship with God.

It is noteworthy that John’s gospel reports that when the disciples saw this first miraculous sign at the wedding in Cana, they put their faith in Jesus. Is this the confession of your life? Have you trusted in Christ alone for eternal life? If yes, have you also trusted in Christ alone for everyday life? Jesus cared about the people at the wedding, right down to something as seemingly insignificant as how much wine they had to drink at their gathering. He cares about you too . . . even about those “little things” that you’re sure God is far too busy to bother with. What “wine” are you running out of in your life right now? Look to Jesus, and He will refill you to overflowing. Christian, the best is yet to come!

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

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Transfiguration Truth

Then a cloud appeared and enveloped them, and a voice came from the cloud: “This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!”  (Mark 9:7)

What an amazing experience our Lord gave to Peter, James, and John on the mount of Transfiguration! We looked at it on May 28 in a post titled “The One and Only,” which emphasized God’s clear demonstration and declaration that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. Today, let’s take a brief look at the Transfiguration truth these three disciples received that day, which is the same truth we have all been given since that moment on the Mount . . . “Listen to Him!”

How do we listen to our Lord? The very first thing we must do is to slow down long enough to listen. We are so busy being busy in both our professional and personal lives. We have full plates and they are all spinning at high speeds. We need to put some “pause” in our days so we can hear our Lord when He speaks to us.

There are a great many voices clamoring for our attention on the Internet, television, radio, email, and text messages, all of them doing their best to drown out the voice of our Lord. And as if that wasn’t enough, we have Satan himself striving to cause us to question God’s goodness and to doubt His Word (see Genesis 3:1-5). It is essential that we pause each day for a time of listening to our Lord, and the very best way to hear God speak to us is through what He has already spoken to us in sacred Scripture.

We need to be like Peter, who said . . .

“Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life” (John 6:68).

You are probably receiving good and necessary information from a variety of different sources that you need to listen to in order to perform the different functions you have in life. But there is only One source of information that can truly change our lives for our eternal good, and that is the living and active Word of God. Jesus told His disciples that only by abiding in His Word would they know the Truth, and only that Truth would set them free to be all God was calling them to be. That divine instruction applies to each one of us. Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, and only by staying in close communion with Him can we know the way, receive the truth, and live the life we were created to live.

What does this Transfiguration Truth set us free from? Slavery to the self! When we are listening to the words of this world, we are enslaved to the self; when we are enslaved to the self, we shrink the size of our lives down to the size of our lives. We live only a fraction of the life God has called us to live. But when we listen to Transfiguration truth, we are set free from the self to live for our Savior. At this level of living, we begin to realize our potential and grow into the person God designed us to be.

How is it with you? Is your life being transformed by Transfiguration truth? Are you pausing long enough each day to listen to your Lord? Remember the promise of Scripture: “Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you” (James 4:8). The more we draw near to Jesus, the more we will become like Him. Listen to Him!

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

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The Instruction of “Immediately”

When he came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” The Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness.  (Mark 1:10-12 ESV)

As you read through the gospel accounts of the earthly life and ministry of our Lord Jesus Christ, you never read that Jesus was in a hurry. The Father in heaven gave His beloved Son just the right amount of time to do all He had to do as the Savior of the world. Yet not a single moment of time was wasted, and in our passage for today we read about the instruction of “immediately.”

Once the time had come for Jesus to enter into His earthly ministry of three-plus years, notice how quickly everything got going. After John baptized Jesus in the Jordan river, immediately Jesus saw the heavens open up. After God spoke His powerful proclamation about Jesus from the court room of heaven, immediately the Holy Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness to be tested by Satan. To be sure, there is no indication of hurry, but there is a clear sense of God’s holy and divine timetable for the accomplishment of His perfect purpose and plan in the life of our Savior. There was simply no room for any wasted time.

For a little more than three years, our Lord Jesus declared and demonstrated the truths of the Gospel everywhere He went. He did it at wedding celebrations. He did it out in the open air. He did it on the sea shore. He did it in the synagogues and in the Temple. He did it at meals and on the sides of mountains. He did it with individuals, with small groups, and with large masses of people too many to number. Yet the Scriptures never give us any indication that our Lord was fretting about not having enough time to do all He had come to do.

From the life of Jesus, the instruction of “immediately” is clear for every one of His disciples: we all have the perfect amount of time to do everything God has called us to do, no more and no less. To groan that “I just don’t have enough time to get everything done” is simply a reminder that you have attempted to do more than God has ordained for you to do. You have the time . . . you have the talent . . . and you have the treasure . . . and you have the temperament . . . to live out your calling in a way that will bring glory to God and good to others.  

The reason we know Jesus wasted no time and was never in a hurry, yet accomplished everything He came to do, is because He stayed in close communion with His Father in heaven. He sought His Father. He served His Father. He spoke to His Father. When we follow His lead in living out our calling, we can be assured that the instruction of “immediately” will be the confession of our lives, without any worry or anxiety along the way.

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

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“If I Just Reach out to Him . . .”

A large crowd followed and pressed around [Jesus]. And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years. She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse. 27 When she heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, because she thought, “If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.” Immediately her bleeding stopped and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering. At once Jesus realized that power had gone out from him. He turned around in the crowd and asked, “Who touched my clothes?” (Mark 5:24-30)

Today’s Word comes from the encounter between Jesus and a woman who had been subject to bleeding for twelve miserable years. Mark’s description of her affliction indicates that her condition was incurable, which could have lead to utter hopelessness . . . but not for this woman of great faith!

It’s important to understand that her condition of bleeding would have created severe consequences in her life. You see that she had spent all the money she had on doctors in hopes of finding a cure, a cure which never came. She was penniless. Second, she would have been living her life as a social outcast, excluded from worshiping with the people of God because her bleeding condition made her as unclean as she was unwelcome. She knew when she approached the Messiah that she should not have been in such a crowded place or approaching the young rabbi from Nazareth. Anyone she touched would also be considered unclean . . . except, of course, when she touched Jesus, whose redeeming touch makes the unclean eternally clean.

Notice the woman’s thought process: “If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.” For twelve years the medical “experts” had done nothing for her except take her money, yet she refused to fill her mind with unbelief and self-pity. Rather, she spoke truth to her soul; today we might say she “preached the Gospel to herself,” assuring herself that in Jesus alone she would find forgiveness and healing. And when she reached out in faith for the hem of Jesus’ garment, she was healed instantly. The woman demonstrated steadfast hope in the midst of her otherwise hopeless condition.

Obviously, this woman knew she was an outcast, and she approached Jesus from behind so as not to be seen by anyone. So why did Jesus call her out? Did He who is God in the flesh really not know who had touched Him? Of course not! I believe there are two reasons. First, Jesus confirmed her healing publicly. In effect, He pronounced her “clean.” Second, He confirmed her faith and how she had acted upon her faith. The people would have known her hopeless condition, so Jesus made it a point to let the watching world know that this woman had faith enough to reach out to Him for healing, “Daughter,” He said kindly, “your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering” (Mark 5:34). Not only did Her faith lead her to a physical healing, but emotional and spiritual renewal as well. In this account we see a total and complete expression of our Savior’s peace (shalom) bestowed on this woman because of His love and care for her.

The same hope that this woman clung to is there for you today. Where in your life are you in need? Have you reached out to Jesus in faith, expecting Him to meet you in your deepest place of need? The story of this woman is in the Scriptures offers you and me great hope, even in seemingly hopeless situations, because when you reach for Jesus, you are reaching for a Living Hope that cannot and will not disappoint.   

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

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Memorial Day

Today is Memorial Day, a day to remember all those who have paid the ultimate price in defending our great nation. Sadly, for far too many Americans, it is nothing more than a day that marks the beginning of summer and the end of a three-day weekend.

How is it with you? What does Memorial Day represent for you?

Greater love has no one than this: that he lay down his life for his friends. (John 15:13)

To be sure, there is no greater demonstration of love than to lay your life down for another.  The freedom we enjoy in this country is not free!  It came at great cost to a great many. All paid some . . . some paid all . . . so that we might live in the greatest country on earth. Our military men and women from all of our armed services, as well as their families, paid a great price so that every U.S. citizen could enjoy life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. How thankful are you for that freedom today? 

Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. said this in a Memorial Day speech in 1884 prior to his appointment to the bench:

Our dead brothers still live for us, and bid us think of life, not death—of life to which in their youth they lent the passion and joy of the spring. As I listen, the great chorus of life and joy begins again, and amid the awful orchestra of seen and unseen powers and destinies of good and evil our trumpets sound once more a note of daring, hope, and will.

Holmes was telling us that our brave military men and women who paid the ultimate price would want us to focus on the results of their sacrifice: life — “the great chorus of life and joy”– and living that life to the fullest. This is the best way to honor their sacrifice.

The very same instruction is true for those who profess Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. We remember and proclaim His death when we partake of the Lord’s Supper, but Jesus has called us to live a life of abundance and joy for the glory of the Almighty. 

I came that they might have life and have it more abundantly. (John 10:10)

Is that abundant life what you are currently living for the glory of God?  God never called you to muddle around on the mudflats of life; He has called each believer to soar on wings like eagles and to pour ourselves out for something far greater than a life marked by self-survival, self-centeredness, and self-fulfillment. And we have been given this great opportunity and privilege because Jesus was willing to lay His life down for us.

This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.  (1 John 3:16)

Today it is right to give thanks for every person who has ever served this great nation, and in particular, for all those brave American soldiers who laid down their lives for our freedom. If you have the opportunity of thanking a soldier in person, do it. But never forget that behind this magnificent temporal blessing we have received from them, there is an even greater eternal blessing we receive thanks to the ultimate price Jesus paid on our behalf on a cross on a hill known as The Skull. “He died for us so that . . . we may live together with him” (1 Thessalonians 5:10).

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

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The One and Only

Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters – one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” (He did not know what to say, they were so frightened.) (Mark 9:5-6)

Today’s passage is taken from the account of the Transfiguration of our Lord Jesus. He took Peter, James, and John, His inner circle, up on a mountain. There Jesus was transfigured, and His personal appearance was instantly changed into a heavenly and glorified form, giving His three disciples — and us — a glimpse of His divine glory and nature. Then, suddenly, Moses and Elijah appeared with the transfigured Christ. Why?

In order to begin to plumb the depths of this profound moment in Jesus’ earthly ministry, we need to understand a little something about these two great saints of God. Moses represents the Law; Elijah represents the Prophets. When we read in Mark 9:4 that they were “talking with Jesus,” we are to understand this majestic moment on the Mount of Transfiguration as a glorious portrait of the One who is the greater Moses and the greater Elijah: Jesus Christ, who fulfills both the Old Testament Law and the prophetic promises.

Peter was overwhelmed by this experience and, as he so often did, he spoke before thinking. This time out of fear, suggesting that he build three shelters (or “booths” — the tent-like shelters used for the celebration of the Feast of Tabernacles), one each for Moses, Elijah, and Jesus. The implication is that Peter saw all three men on the same level, and he desired to prolong the experience. But then a voice came from heaven to set things straight:

A cloud appeared and enveloped them, and a voice came from the cloud: “This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!” (Mark 9:7)

Any confusion in comparing these three figures was abruptly corrected by God the Father. The Law and the Prophets were to be understood as pointing to Jesus and finding their fulfillment in Him. And we know that the three disciples eventually understood the truth of the Transfiguration — that Jesus is the One and Only — because some thirty years later, Peter wrote:

We did not follow cleverly invented stories when we told you about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For he received honor and glory from God the Father when the voice came to him from the Majestic Glory, saying, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” We ourselves heard this voice that came from heaven when we were with him on the sacred mountain. (2 Peter 1:16-18).

The Transfiguration of Jesus demonstrated both audibly and visibly that Jesus is the Son of God; and as such, He is the fulfillment of both the Law and the Prophets. If we desire to live a life of meaning, significance, and purpose, we must listen to Jesus. Listen to Him!

Is this the confession of your life? Are you listening to the Voice of Truth . . . the One and Only? Peter had one thing exactly right: It is good for us to be with the Lord. When we are sitting at the feet of Jesus, we have chosen what is best.

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

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Bounce Forward, Not Back

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)

Trials and tough times have been promised to the disciple of Christ. And we have also been promised the presence of Christ during those difficulties. Today’s word of encouragement can be summarized under the heading of resilience: the ability to adapt to the adversities of life and keep moving forward in faith. The Bible is filled with examples of resilience in action, such as Job in the Old Testament and Paul in the New Testament, and Scripture also give us many exhortations to keep pressing on, even when we find ourselves in the pressured cooker of challenge. Here are just two of them:

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:21)

Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him. (James 1:12)

Because we as Christians are united to Christ, resilience is the only right response to the waves of challenge that will inevitably confront us in this life. The same power that raised Jesus from death to life is the same power that is at work inside every child of God (Ephesians 1:19-20). That resurrection power is not bestowed on us to give us power to return to something — that is, “bouncing back.” Rather, we have been given the power to break through to a better and brighter future. Because we are new creations in Christ, there is nothing to bounce back to; everything is in front of us. Yes, we are to treat the past as a school and take the lessons from it, as I often remind our congregation at Cross Community Church. But bouncing back would keep us living in the past, rather than teaching us how to move forward from the past.

So the next time you are feeling the heat from the fiery furnace of affliction and challenge, or if you are simply dealing with the increasing pace of change in today’s world, know that God has promised to bring you through all of it and cause you to bounce forward, not back. For the child of God, the best is always yet to come, and we are to be moving forward — leaping forward — not looking backward. God is bringing us to the end of ourselves . . . and that only happens while we are moving forward in faith.

May these God-breathed words encourage you to keep bouncing forward, regardless of the circumstances you are facing:

We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but no in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. (2 Corinthians 4:8-9)

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

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Turning A Mountain Into A Molehill

I will go before you and will level the mountains. (Isaiah 45:2)

You’ve probably heard it said that someone is “making a mountain out of a molehill.” The phrase refers to someone overreacting to some challenge in life, making it into much more than the minor issue that it actually is. I must confess that I became quite proficient at doing this over the years, losing much sleep over many insignificant molehills that I had turned into towering mountains. Well, today’s verse tells us that our God is in the business of doing the reverse: He can and will make a molehill out of any “mountain” that stands in our way, including those that are man-made.

When we look upon whatever mountain we believe is blocking our way, we must remember not to cry out to God to tell Him how big the mountain is. Rather, we are to cry out to the mountain and tell it just how big our God is! Jesus told His disciples that they did not need much faith — only faith the size of a mustard seed — to be able to cast mountains into the sea and far out of sight (Matthew 17:20). When we focus on our Master, rather than on whatever mountain that seems to be blocking our way, we can be assured that our God is going before us and is in the process of turning that mountain into level ground that we will stride over as if it had never existed.

Here is another word of encouragement from the prophet Isaiah that will keep us keeping on, no matter what difficult circumstances we are facing in life:

A voice of one calling: “In the wilderness prepare the way for the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low” (Isaiah 40:3-4).

What mountains are you facing in your life today . . . personally . . . professionally . . . relationally? Never forget, Christian, that God is in the business of laying low any mountain you may be facing . . . and, in the process, He is making you more and more like Jesus. When David went up against Goliath, the giant looked like an unmovable mountain to all of the Israelites, including King Saul. But to David, who looked up to God rather than out at Goliath, the giant was little more than a molehill that God would level out for His glory and the good of His people. What God did for David, He has promised to do for you. Look to Him, and watch your mountains disappear!  

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

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Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. (Galatians 6:8)

I’m sure you are well aware of the agricultural law of sowing and reaping: whatever you sow, that you shall reap. If you sow corn seeds, you will reap corn; if you sow bean seeds, you will reap beans, and so on. If you sow tomato seeds, you will never reap oranges. In our verse for today, we see the biblical truth that Paul shared with the Galatians 2,000 years ago and with you and me today: We reap what we sow in our hearts.

What have you been sowing lately, Christian? And what have you been reaping as a result?

The first thing to remember about the law of sowing and reaping is that this process does not happen in a day, but daily. It takes time to progress from seed to harvest, and we must not grow impatient during that process. Often it looks like very little is happening after the seed has been planted, but we must remember and trust that God is at work. “My Father is always at his work,” Jesus assured us, “and I, too, am working” (John 5:17). To be sure, much of that work takes place well out of plain sight; nonetheless, it is happening.

Here is something else to remember: not everything ripens at the same time. Some seeds ripen sooner and others much later, but all those who are growing in the Lord will ripen, for He has promised –and it is impossible for God to lie — He has promised to bring His work in us to completion (Hebrews 6:18, Philippians 1:6).

The crops we harvest will always be determined by the seeds we have sown. Paul’s words are an exhortation to make sure we are planting good seed by sowing to and sowing by the Spirit of God. When we sow to satisfy the flesh, as many in Galatia were doing when Paul wrote his epistle, we reap from the flesh that which does not glorify God or grow us in Christ. The Galatians were heading down the pathway to destruction, and Paul rebuked them for it, urging them to repent of their self-centered behavior. But when we sow to the Spirit, seeking the glory of God and the good of others, God promises to produce a harvest of delicious fruit that will be attractive to all those who come in contact with us.  

So let me ask you to consider the question again: What kind of harvest have you been reaping? If you are currently reaping something other than God’s best for your life, all you need do is sow new spiritual seed. Sow the seeds that come from the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control. When you do that, you can be assured that God will absolutely, positively, supply an increase, in His time and in His perfect way.

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

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