DIVINE DISENCUMBERMENT

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“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth.”  (Matthew 6:19)


One of the great blessings of being a true disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ is the gift of “divine disencumberment,” where God supernaturally shifts our focus away from earthly treasure to heavenly treasure. The same grace God showed in raising us from death to life is the same grace He displays in raising us above seeking after treasure on earth, “where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal” (Matthew 6:19).

Is divine disencumberment one of the marks of your life today? Before we were saved, by grace through faith, we sought after the stuff of this life. In our worldly-mindedness, we looked to satisfy the desires of the flesh through the attainment of any of “the Five P’s”—Power, Position, Prestige, Prosperity, and Pleasure. And make no mistake, the more we engaged in hot pursuit of any of these things, the more we became encumbered by the flesh and temporal satisfaction. The more we pursue the stuff of this life, the less we pursue our beloved Savior, and the result of this worldly pursuit is that we multiply the cares of this life.

The true disciple of Christ says NO to worldliness and YES to the Word. It’s not a matter of eliminating pursuit; it’s a matter of pursuing the right things. You see, our problem is not desire; our problem is desiring the wrong things. Our hearts should beat after “all things above,” pursuing the life God has called us to live. Throughout life, the disciple of Christ is being conformed into the image of our Lord Jesus. The more we are conformed into His image, the less we are encumbered with the stuff of this life.

Divine disencumberment is a grace that grows in the heart that beats for nothing smaller than Jesus. The true disciple is one who seeks first the kingdom of heaven because he or she knows that everything else will follow. God has promised to meet all our needs in the glorious riches of His precious Son, our beloved Savior. We need only to “keep the main thing the main thing,” inviting Jesus to take His rightful place in our lives: on the throne of our hearts. Divine disencumberment free’s us from a life filled with empty pursuits and fills us with the promise that “The blessing of the Lord brings wealth, without painful toil for it” (Proverbs 10:22).

What treasures have you been storing up for yourself lately? What does the confession of your life say to those who know you best? Remember, we are all hunting some kind of treasure. The key is to hunt after the treasures that are holy; when you do, divine disencumberment will follow you wherever you go.

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

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KISS NOT THE CALF

Golden Calf


It is said of these people, “They kiss calf-idols!” (Hosea 13:2)


The people of God had indulged in willful rebellion; they had left their first love and chased after smaller gods that promised life, but delivered only death. This is always true when we chase after anything smaller than Jesus. Oh, our idol may look like life and it may even feel like life, but in the end, it cannot deliver on its promise and brings with it only disappointment, destruction, and death.

Let this serve as a word of warning this day: Kiss not the calf, for it cannot satisfy the longing of your heart. Instead, bow the knee and kiss the Christ, for He will meet you in your deepest place of need.

The problem with speaking this message into today’s church culture is that we tend to picture the golden calf that the Israelites fashioned and began to worship when Moses stayed too long on the mountain of God. We reason that these were a primitive people who bowed down to a golden statue of a calf, and we assume that we are far too educated and sophisticated to do such an outlandish thing. But this is a grave mistake. I readily acknowledge that very few people in today’s high-tech society would ever bow down before a statue of a calf, but I will also assert that far too many of us worship idols like a job, a relationship, success, wealth, a hobby, social status, or physical beauty. Perhaps you can add a few items to this list? We are consumed by a continual greed for “more,” which Paul identified as “idolatry” in Colossians 3:5.

It’s important to note that most of the things on this list of idols are not bad things. Things like a job, a family, or physical health are good things. The sin occurs when these, and countless other good things, become ultimate things in our lives. Then they become bad things, idols that enslave us and become life-altering, causing us to do things we ought not do, often hurting ourselves and our loved ones along the way. Make no mistake, we all “kiss calf-idols” from time to time. Sometimes they are clearly bad for us—idols like greed and immorality—but more often than not they could be good for us; and the greater the good, the greater our expectation of having our deepest needs met by it. We must remember the truth that good things become bad things when they become ultimate things.

So . . . have you kissed a calf lately? Have you sought after something smaller than God to give to you what only God can give? Remember, we all come from the womb with a God-sized void in our hearts. Only when we fill that void with God will we find the happiness, satisfaction, and joy that we so deeply desire. Kiss not the calf! Instead, like the woman who anointed our Lord with expensive ointment, kiss the feet of Jesus Christ and your internal void will be filled to overflowing.

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

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THE LORD’S LETTER

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You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God. (2 Corinthians 3:3)


The apostle Paul says we are letters of our Lord Jesus Christ, not written with ink but with the Holy Spirit. So, the question we all must answer is this: What does our letter say to those who are reading us? It has been rightly observed that the life of the Christian will be the only Bible many people ever read. How does it make you feel to know that you are one of the Lord’s letters? It feels like a weighty responsibility to me!

Here is something we all must remember as disciples of Jesus: as soon as the watching world hears our profession of faith, they begin to watch more closely to see if our walk matches our talk. The way we live out our faith paints a clear picture for the unbeliever of the kind of God we love and serve. The way we live out our faith will either attract people to Christ or repel them. There is no middle ground.

So . . . how attractive have you been making God in your words and your deeds lately?

The key to being the most effective letter of the Lord is to prayerfully make the truths of the Gospel manifest in your life. Jesus is our model because He was the living perfection of the Word of God. He lived out the truths of the Gospel perfectly; yet in His perfection as the Lord’s Letter to mankind, some were attracted and some were repelled . . . some received and some rejected . . . some walked with Him and some walked away. Therefore, our focus must not be on the reception we receive when others read us; rather, we must constantly examine the message being declared by our own letter and be sure that it is true to the Gospel.

Here is one of the simplest ways to evaluate the content of our own letter: It should be written in the shape of a cross. The first thing people should read must be written vertically—how we love the Lord our God with all our heart and soul and mind and strength (Mark 12:30). The next thing people should read must be written horizontally—how we love others . . . all others. We can’t merely love the lovable; we are to love all others as we remember the love that was poured out for us while we were still sinners (Romans 5:8). When people read the message of God’s love in us as the Lord’s letter, they read the most important message they will ever read.

Do you see the great privilege it is to be the Lord’s letter? God has chosen to write His message of perfect love on imperfect parchment paper and set it before the watching world for everyone to read. Remember, because His mercies are new every morning, so is our opportunity to write a new letter of love for the glory of our Lord. What will the Spirit of the living God write through you today so that others read of the love and forgiveness of God?

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

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A LOVE THAT SURPASSES KNOWLEDGE

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I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. (Ephesians 3:17-19)


When was the last time you gave deep thought to just how loved you truly are by your Savior? Even if you were to spend every waking moment marinating in and meditating on this truth, you would not begin to plumb the depths of how much He loves you. That is why Paul prayed that God would give the Ephesians the power to “grasp” at how vast that love is. May this truth comfort you and inspire you to rise above the waves of challenge you may be facing today!

Charles Spurgeon pondered on this amazing love in his Morning and Evening devotional –


Where shall language be found which shall describe His matchless, His unparalleled love towards the children of men? It is so vast and boundless that, as the swallow but skimmeth the water, and diveth not into its depths, so all descriptive words but touch the surface, while depths immeasurable lie beneath.


The apostle Paul tells us in our verse today that the love of Christ for us surpasses knowledge. Our finite minds simply cannot understand infinite love; what we do understand of it would not fill a teaspoon to overflowing when compared to the vast ocean of love that God in Christ had for us before the creation of the world (Ephesians 1:4-5). When there was only the Triune God in existence, in the eternity that existed before God said, “Let there be light,” there was His love for us that surpasses knowledge. That love created us in His own image. The divine heart that beat with that unfathomable love never skipped a beat when we rebelled; rather, it pursued rebels on the run. Who can truly understand that kind of love?

The love that surpasses knowledge sought us, caught us, and bought us with the precious blood of Christ, shed on our behalf as He hung on Calvary’s cruel cross. What agony Jesus underwent to have us as His own! He was betrayed, denied, falsely accused, beaten, scourged, and felt a crown of thorns jammed into His brow and nine-inch spikes driven through His hands and feet. And as if that wasn’t enough pain to endure for His beloved, He knew the inconceivable anguish of supernatural separation from His Father, who would not even look upon His Son because He had become sin for us and endured the wrath of God . . . so that you and I will never have to.

If there should come a time when you just might begin to discern the depths of divine love that has been poured out upon us, notice the last portion of the verse: “That you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” If it is impossible to fully fathom what it means to be the undeserving object of the love of God, how much more is it incomprehensible to know what it means to be filled with all the fullness of God?

Beloved, know this: when knowledge is surpassed, it is simply best to receive it, to rest in its truth, and let it fill your heart to overflowing.

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

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THE CHRISTIAN AND CIRCUMSTANCE

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Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil, for you are with me. (Psalm 23:4)


Far too many people today, even some in the church, wrongly believe that circumstance makes the person. They would tell you that you become what you are because of the circumstances you encounter throughout life. But James Allen, author of As a Man Thinketh, brilliantly corrected this misunderstanding: “Circumstance does not make the man . . . it reveals him.”

Make no mistake, our verse of encouragement today tells us how independent the Christian is from outward circumstances. This is because of one simple truth: Jesus is with us!

  • Jesus was with Moses walking through the Red Sea.
  • Jesus was with Elijah on Mount Carmel facing the prophets of Baal.
  • Jesus was with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the fiery furnace.
  • Jesus was with Daniel in the lions’ den.
  • Jesus was with Stephen being stoned.
  • Jesus was with Paul in prison.
  • Jesus was with John in exile on the island of Patmos.

And Jesus is with you – regardless of where this finds you today!

If the storm winds are blowing, we can be calm because the One who calmed the storm is with us. If the seas are stormy and it looks like our boat is about to capsize, we can be at peace because the One who said “Peace, be still” is with us. Darkness may be all around you, but fear not! The Light of the World has promised to guide you and protect you and to ultimately get you safely to the other side. If you find yourself lying on a bed of sickness, fear not. Your sickbed becomes a throne of grace because Jesus is with you in your sickness. If you are facing financial difficulties and poverty is banging at your door, fear not. Jesus has promised to give you more in your less than the rich will ever have in their abundance. Even death itself cannot disrupt the peace of the disciple because Jesus became the death of death, and to cross the Jordan with Him is to enter the place marked Glorious Gain!

Regardless of the circumstances you are facing today, fear not! The power of the Holy Spirit that dwells within has given you the power to make you independent of all of them. Darkness becomes light. Loss becomes gain. And death becomes life, because Jesus is with us and has promised never to leave us no matter what.

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

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COSMIC CALLING CARD

Smiling-Faces


You will be my witnesses. (Acts 1:8)


One of the many dictionary definitions of a “calling card” comes under the heading of a visiting card—a card that one uses as an introduction when visiting a home or a business. The primary difference between a common calling card and a “cosmic calling card” is this: where the common calling card introduces oneself, the cosmic calling card introduces one’s Savior. Every Christian is a cosmic calling card sent by God to introduce Christ. Everything about us—both our talk and our walk—should point to the One we serve. Let’s take a look.


Witness with Our Talk


Paul’s epistle to the Ephesians instructs as how to witness with our talk: “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen” (Ephesians 4:29). When you read that verse in context, you’ll see that Paul was warning us that we can grieve the Holy Spirit by the way we communicate with others. If we are going to be a witness for Jesus as His cosmic calling cards, our language must represent and reflect the One we are speaking for. When we open our mouths to speak, we should be building others up, not tearing them down. In the process, we will be putting the Gospel on display, because what we say will be a benefit to those who we speak to.


Witness with Our Walk


“As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead” (James 2:26). A walk without works shouts to the watching world that our faith is dead. The works in no way save us, but they are evidence that we are actually saved. As the Reformers often said, “We are saved by faith alone, but the faith that saves is not alone.”

I’ve shared here before how Dr. D. James Kennedy would say, “When you are saved, God changes your wanter!” When we place our trust in Jesus Christ, we begin to desire more of the things of God and less of the stuff of this world. We live for the purpose of God by the power of God. Our desires—our “wanter”—have changed because our destiny has changed.

How well are you witnessing for your Lord with both your talk and your walk? What kind of cosmic-calling-card Christian are you? Are you living your life for the glory of God and the good of others? What changes do you need to make? If you don’t make those changes, what will it cost you? The next time you encounter someone, remember that you are a cosmic calling card for Christ; let your talk and your walk clearly communicate the kind and gracious God you serve.

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

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WHEN IS THE ACCOMPLISHMENT OF GOD’S GOAL NOT GOOD?

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Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself. (John 6:15)


God the Father sent God the Son to be King of His people. The people knew from the Old Testament prophecies that this was God’s ultimate goal, to send a Messiah who would “defend the afflicted among the people and . . . crush the oppressor” (Psalm 72:4). So what could be wrong with the people wanting to assist the Almighty in the process by making Jesus king immediately? The problem lay in the way the people wanted to do it and the reasons they had for doing it. They wanted to make Jesus king by force for their temporal and earthly good, which stood in direct opposition to the plan and purpose of the Father.

Of course, behind the people stood Satan himself. When Satan failed in his wilderness temptations of Jesus, he was not finished with his bitter rebellion against the Son of God; Scripture tells us that Satan merely left Jesus “until an opportune time” (Luke 4:13). Surely this was one of those opportune times that Lucifer had been waiting for. The adversary stirred the hearts and minds of the people to rebel against God’s purpose and plan for the Messiah. Just as the serpent seduced Adam and Eve into believing that they could be like God, here he caused the crowd to clamor for the king they wanted—the king who would reestablish the throne of David in Jerusalem, crush the hated Roman oppressor, and restore Israel to her former glory.

The enemy undoubtedly hoped that Jesus would be tempted to be crowned king without having to endure the cruel cross. The people of Israel were ready to rise up against Rome and hand the King of kings the throne of David. Satan hoped that Jesus would see this as an opportunity for instant gratification and the accomplishment of God’s ultimate goal. Satan had slyly placed God’s goal for His beloved Son within tantalizing reach . . . but not according to God’s perfect plan to accomplish that goal.

Never forget that Jesus the Christ was fully God and fully man. And as a man, Jesus had an ego that could have fallen prey to the praise of men and the appeal of popularity, just like any of us. But our Lord always recognized the “snake in the grass,” who would do anything and everything to derail the divine destiny of the Chosen One. Jesus knew when the accomplishment of God’s goal would not be good.

Notice one final thing, and may this truth strengthen you to resist the devil whenever he comes calling to entice you to accomplish any good goal God would have for you in a way that is not in line with God’s plan and purpose for accomplishing it.


Jesus withdrew again to a mountain by Himself.


Jesus’ continual communion with His Father kept Him on track. By staying in perpetual prayer, Jesus was strengthened to stay the course and follow the will of His Father, even when that will would lead to the most dreadful death known to man at that time: a Roman cross. The prayer life of our Lord was the key that unlocked the door leading to a resolve that refused to accomplish any goal God had for Him in any way that detoured from His Father’s perfect plan.

How is it with you? Have you been prayerfully seeking to accomplish God’s goals for your life in His way? Recall our Lord’s prayer to His Father in the midst of His anguish in the Garden of Gethsemane:

Not as I will, but as You will. (Matt 26:39)

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

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