He fires the starting pistol, then runs alongside you

Today I’m sharing from Love Worth Finding.

He fires the starting pistol,
then runs alongside you

BIBLE MEDITATION:

Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith…. Hebrews 12:2a

DEVOTIONAL THOUGHT:

Faith comes from beholding the Lord Jesus Christ, from looking at Him. If we will look to Jesus, He will be the author and finisher of our faith. The word “author” in the Greek literally means “example,” “leader,” or “originator.” Jesus is the example of faith, but He’s also the originator of our faith.

You see, all the other heroes of the faith mentioned in Hebrews 11 can cheer us on, but they’re not our chief example. Only Jesus is the One who never sinned, who never failed. The more you behold the Lord Jesus Christ, the more you’ll find out He is the author and finisher.

He’s the one who originates the grace. He’s the one who fires the starting gun. He’s the goal toward which we run. He is the coach who runs alongside us and gives us courage and strength to run the race.

ACTION POINT:

It is Jesus all the way. If you want faith, fix your eyes upon Jesus Christ. Keep “looking unto Jesus.” Your faith will grow. You’ll be greatly strengthened for your race.


You can also read this devotional here.

Is It Possible to Be Happy in Christ Despite Suffering?

Sharing today from Randy Alcorn’s Eternal Perspectives Ministries (EPM) blog.

Is It Possible to Be Happy in Christ Despite Suffering?

By Randy Alcorn

God never guarantees that the Christian life will be smooth or easy. In fact, he promises the opposite: “All who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution” (2 Timothy 3:12, NKJV). We’re not to be surprised when we face great difficulties (see 1 Peter 4:12).

All the psalms of lament, the book of Lamentations, and many other Scripture passages reveal the importance of realism and sorrow in the Christian life. No treatment of joy and happiness should deny or minimize such texts.

Indeed, a truly biblical worldview and an authentic doctrine of joy and happiness fully recognize and embrace the realities of suffering in this present age.

The happiness described in Scripture is all the richer because it doesn’t involve denial or pretense and can be experienced amid severe difficulty. Christ-followers don’t preach the flimsy kind of happiness that’s built on wishful thinking. Instead, our basis for happiness remains true—and sometimes becomes clearer—in suffering.

Rejoicing Is Rooted in Our God, Not Our Circumstances

Rejoicing always in the Lord (see Philippians 4:4) may seem unrealistic at times. But we must remember that this rejoicing is centered not in a passing circumstance but in a constant reality—God Himself, and His Son, Jesus, who died for us and rose again.

On the one hand, we might suppose that Scripture doesn’t command us to rejoice in our nation’s condition, our culture’s trajectory, our spouse’s attitude, our child’s struggle, our church’s conflicts, our job loss, or our poor health. On the other hand, we’re told to “always [give] thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 5:20, NIV). Likewise, Scripture tells us to “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:18, NIV).

I don’t think this means that we are to rejoice in evil, per se, since God hates evil (Zechariah 8:17Proverbs 6:16-19) and commands us to hate it (Psalm 97:10Proverbs 8:13Romans 12:9). I do think it means that we should believe Romans 8:28, which tells us God will work all things together for our good, including evil things that happen to us.

Believing this frees us to thank God in the middle of difficult and even evil circumstances, knowing that in His sovereign grace, He is accomplishing great, eternal purposes in us through these things.

We’re told to rejoice in the Lord and to “consider it all joy” when we face hardship (James 1:2, NASB). Choosing to rejoice, by rehearsing reasons to be happy and grateful while suffering, affirms trust in God. We walk by faith, believing in what God has done, is doing, and will do to bring a good end to all that troubles us.

This response requires faith that God lovingly superintends our challenges. Viewing our sufferings as random or obsessing over someone else’s bad choices that caused our sufferings robs us of happiness. A weak, small, or faulty view of God always poisons the well of our contentment.

The more we grow in our understanding of God’s attributes, the happier we become.

We Have a Sovereign and Loving God

The deeper our knowledge of God’s character, the deeper our reservoir of strength, perspective, and happiness in hard times. Who is this God we are to trust? What is He really like?

As we have dealt with her cancer over the past two years, Nanci and I have spent time meditating on the attributes of God, rereading and listening to audiobooks such as The Knowledge of the Holy by A. W. Tozer and Knowing God by J. I. Packer and Trusting God by Jerry Bridges. Our hearts are lifted in praise as we contemplate His holiness, grace, justice, mercy, and every facet of His being revealed to us in Scripture.

Scripture teaches that we have a God who loves us and is sovereign over the universe, including all evil. We can’t be happy, and remain happy, without believing in the sovereignty of a loving God. The beauty of the Christian worldview is that while we’re encouraged to take initiative and control what’s within our power, we also know that the enormous part of life we can’t control is under God’s governance.

Scripture tells us, “Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases” (Psalm 115:3). It assures us, “The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps” (Proverbs 16:9). And since God is eternally wise and good and happy, and we’re not, we’re far better off with Him, not us, in control.

Read the rest here.

Fragile Bubbles

Fragile Bubbles

By Pat Knight

Bubbles fizz and burst in a bath. Iridescent bubbles sparkle from a waterfall. Opalescent bubbles blown from a child’s bubble blowing solution shimmer in sunlight. Pure enchantment, the kind that transports us to younger years, allures us to the most simplistic, unadorned entertainer of all—the lowly bubble. 

Most toddlers are fascinated with the fine art of bubble blowing. Mastering blowing bubbles from an open-ended wand submerged in a colorful bottle of bubble solution may seem like only child’s play. It is not as easy as it initially appears.

Fanatic enthusiasm caused our grandsons to puff more air than necessary to create a perfectly formed bubble. Rather than blowing hard with the strength to inflate a balloon, only a delicate, measured whisper of exhaled breath will suffice to release the perfect bubble, teaching the children the value of gentleness, patience, and self-control. It is surprising how little practice and how much patience is required to learn the technique.

The major lesson to be learned from bubble blowing is that some things in life cannot be forced. Easy goes the bubble blowing. Puffing with vigor only causes the soapy, slippery film to drip off the wand. Too much pressure defeats the purpose and destroys that which we were trying to preserve. To advance peacefully, deliberately, and gently throughout life is an admirable goal. We can always add more pressure. However, if we begin with force, there is no room for adjustment, and irreparable damage may be done in the process. The bubble may be lost. Is it possible we were imposing too much force, producing an unwanted, imperfect outcome? As a result, our impatience ruined the bubble. Gentleness and patience is required to sustain the beautiful and the fragile in life.

Whenever one of us gently breathed on the soapy solution, a bubble slowly stretched out until it separated from the wand, propelled into mid-air. Then, chasing and bursting the iridescent bubbles extended the game. Bubbles are elusive. When coerced or captured, delicate touch pops the orb. Chasing and popping floating bubbles is as challenging as blowing them into shape. Beware of someone who wants to burst your bubble!

Once the art of bubble-blowing is mastered, the game continues as long as the toddler’s attention span endures. Sometimes after a gentle infusion of air, the squirming sphere stretches out from the wand until it looks as if it will spontaneously pop. But, if smooth, steady breath is maintained, the bubble eventually slides off in an elongated shape and perches on a surface nearby.

Playing bubble games is not so far from a real life enactment of problem-solving. If we were in a position of authority, as Jesus was on earth, would we exhibit His gentleness? Or, would we, inadvertently or purposefully burst bubbles with an inappropriate show of arrogance, aggression, or authority?

Jesus was preaching in a home in Capernaum. Crowds of people gathered and swelled the house with more listeners lining up outside. Today we would describe the situation as standing room only. To many, the possibility of placing a stretcher carrying a paralytic close enough for Jesus to interact with the man would have looked bleak. When one is paralyzed, it is imperative to have innovative friends who will anticipate needs and assist with daily care.

Not to be deterred, the paralytic’s friends confidently carried his pallet up the outside stairs of the house. Once on the roof, all four men began digging until they successfully removed a large section of roof, opening an area sufficient to lower their friend on the mat down into the room directly in front of Jesus. “When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic, ‘Son, your sins are forgiven’”(Mark 2:5). Jesus healed his spiritual paralysis first, then addressed his physical needs. “‘I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.’ He got up, took his mat and walked out in full view of them all. This amazed everyone and they praised God” (vv. 11-12).

The house was filled with curious people that day. Through tenacity of the paralytic’s friends, the man on his stretcher was placed in front of Jesus. Christ admired the men’s perseverance, daring, and sense of urgency. Another bubble was preserved to announce God’s love and forgiveness to the gathering of people when He presented a new life of physical freedom to the paralytic man. Though the man had never before experienced mobility, when Jesus gave the command for him to walk, the man did not hesitate, nor did he whimper that he didn’t know how. He trusted His Lord and took one step at a time. A bubble was suspended over the house that day, riding air currents to deliver the message of the Gospel to the lost.

Most children love to blow bubbles. Sometimes the bubbles are created with ease and at other times, we must corral the child’s aggression. An iridescent sphere is produced using the slightest puff of breath. Its beauty is simple, its message complex. When a strong blast of breath is propelled toward the open wand, the sloppy, soapy solution quickly drips down an arm, the bubble lost. Bubble-making requires practice to produce perfectly formed orbs every time. Such is life.

Jesus said, “‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me’” (John 14:6). Though Christians are anxious for non-believers to know the personal love and saving grace of Jesus as we do, we cannot force the relationship. If we do, the bubble merely disintegrates into a sticky, gooey mess. We tried too hard. The higher the stakes, the harder we blow. For best results, we must relax, take a deep breath and exhale with deliberate intent. As the bubble begins to bulge outward, we persist with short, easy puffs. The outcome is too important to lose to impatience. It is always worth relaxing and waiting for valuable results. We cannot force love or respect. Jesus will only be seen in our lives through humility, kindness, and compassion. Like unpretentious bubbles, our goodness and gentleness will exalt Christ.

“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourself with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience” (Colossians 3:12). To project the attributes of Christ, we must develop a delicate, tender approach, just as He acted on earth, honoring and loving all people. The one character from the pages of the Bible known for gentle forbearance was Jesus. He reacted to everyone with the manner in which He would like to be treated. “But you, O Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness” (Psalm 86:15).

During the process of attempting to perfect their bubble blowing skills, children learn the importance of breathing lightly for success or blowing frantically, leading to disappointment. It appears that gentleness and the bubbles that stay afloat prevail, carrying with them the message of patient endurance and perseverance. What splendid lessons from inconsequential bubbles, elevated to tutors of life lessons!

The Heart of God’s Character

Today I’m sharing from John MacArthur’s Grace to You blog.

The Heart of God’s Character

by John MacArthur

God is love.

That statement doesn’t only reflect popular modern sentiment. It is actually a direct quote from God’s Word—1 John 4:8, to be precise. But in what sense is it true?

There are many ways to misunderstand John’s meaning. In fact, 1 John 4:8 seems a particular favorite of cultists. All kinds of false sects from Christian Science to the Children of God have misapplied this verse to support wildly heretical notions—the former using it to portray “God as divine Principle, Love, rather than personality” [1]; and the latter using it to justify sexual promiscuity. [2] It is important that we understand and reject not only those doctrines, but also the false ideas on which they are based, lest we be led astray in our own thinking.

First, the expression “God is love” is not meant to depersonalize God or portray Him as a force, a sensation, a principle, or some sort of cosmic energy. He is a personal being with all the attributes of personality—volition, feeling, and intellect. In fact, what the apostle is saying is that God’s love is the highest expression of His person. Therefore, to use this text to attempt to depersonalize God is to do great violence to the clear meaning of Scripture. Such an interpretation actually turns this text on its head.

Second, this verse by no means identifies God with everything our society labels love. Gordon Clark wrote, “John is not saying that all sorts of emotions called love are from God. The romanticism of Goethe, and much more the present sexual debauchery, are not from God.” [3] In fact, those who cite this verse to attempt to legitimize illicit forms of “love” are about as far from the apostle’s intent as it is possible to get. The love of which he speaks is a pure and holy love, consistent with all the divine attributes.

Third, this is not meant to be a definition of God or a summary of His attributes. Divine love in no way minimizes or nullifies God’s other attributes—His omniscience, His omnipotence, His omnipresence, His immutability, His lordship, His righteousness, His wrath against sin, or any of His glorious perfections. Deny any one of them, and you have denied the God of Scripture.

There is certainly more to God than love. Similar expressions elsewhere in Scripture demonstrate this. For example, the same apostle who penned these words also wrote, “God is spirit” (John 4:24). Scripture also says, “God is a consuming fire” (Deuteronomy 4:24; Hebrews 12:29). And Psalm 7:11 says, “God is a righteous judge, and a God who has indignation every day.” The simple statement “God is love” obviously does not convey everything that can be known about God. We know from Scripture that He is also holy and righteous and true to His Word. God’s love does not contradict His holiness; instead, it complements and magnifies it and gives it its deepest meaning. So we cannot isolate this one phrase from the rest of Scripture and attempt to make love represent the sum of what we know about God.

Notice, by the way, that this phrase “God is love” is not even the only such statement in John’s first epistle.

Read the rest here.

What It Means to Pray “Your Kingdom Come”

Sharing today from the True Woman Blog at Revive Our Hearts.

What It Means to Pray
“Your Kingdom Come”

By Stacey Salsbery

When I think of the word “kingdom,” I think of grandeur and royalty—a place where lords and ladies walk about. There is, of course, a castle and beautiful gardens. There are well-behaved children running around in pristine white clothing. There is a monarchy that loves both the people and the land in hopes of championing both. Oh, and there’s evil, but good always triumphs.

Okay, basically, when I think of the word kingdom, I think of my daughter’s favorite movie, The Princess Diaries, and Genovia, the fictional kingdom in that movie, is quite lovely. But is that what God intends for us to think when we read verses like “seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matt. 6:33)? 

And is that what Jesus had in mind when He told the disciples to pray, “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matt. 6:10)? Are we asking God to bring upon us His glorious kingdom where righteousness is the scepter (Ps. 45:6) and tears are gone forever and life is perfect and lovely all the time? Well actually, the answer is both yes and no. 

The Kingdom of God Is Both Now and Not Yet

The Scriptures tell us there is a physical, earthbound kingdom still to come in which Christ will rule as King. In John 14:2–3 Jesus tells the disciples, “If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.” 

Therefore, with confidence we can say as Paul did in 2 Timothy 4:18, “The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed and bring me safely into his heavenly kingdom.” An everlasting kingdom is coming where Christ reigns eternally—and righteousness and justice and peace are equal partners in a society forever set on bringing glory to God. 

And it will be amazing. Like nothing we can even fathom (1 Cor. 2:9). Though now we suffer for a little while, it’s “not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Rom. 8:18). So we wait with eager expectation, longing for the day Christ will make things right, praying with confidence in our faithful God, “Come, Lord Jesus!” (Rev. 22:20). 

The Physical Kingdom of God Is Coming

So then Jesus encourages us to pray, “Your kingdom come” (Matt. 6:10) that we might not lose hope. That our focus would stay on the eternal instead of the temporary, laying up treasure in heaven instead of filling our houses or closets or pocketbooks. 

But if we focus on only the future physical kingdom of God, we miss out on the present spiritual kingdom of God. 

In the gospels Jesus spoke often of the kingdom of heaven, declaring from the start of his ministry, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matt. 4:17). It’s the same message John the Baptist declared. Paul lived in Rome two years, “proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance” (Acts 28:30–31). Because in Christ, the kingdom of God is also right now.

Read the rest here.

What Does It Mean to Be Ready to Meet the Lord?

Sharing today from Randy Alcorn’s Eternal Perspectives Ministries (EPM) blog.

What Does It Mean to Be Ready to Meet the Lord?

By Randy Alcorn

A reader asked me, “I often hear the saying ‘I want to be ready to meet my Lord.’ Can you explain what exactly you mean by this, please?”  

First of all, and most importantly, being ready to meet the Lord means you’ve made sure of your relationship with Jesus Christ, and are trusting only Him to save you—not anyone or anything else, and certainly not any good works you’ve done. R. A. Torrey put it this way: “I am ready to meet God face to face tonight…for all my sins are covered by the atoning blood.”

Romans 10:9 says, “If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” And in John 5:24 Jesus tells us, “Whoever hears my word and believes Him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.”

Once you’ve accepted Christ as your Lord and Savior, being ready to meet the Lord means living in a way that pleases Him so that whenever He calls you home—and knowing that could be any time—you can hear Him say, “Well done, good and faithful servant!”  

Scripture teaches with unmistakable clarity that all believers in Christ will give an account of their lives to their Lord (Romans 14:10-12). Even if Christ does not return for two hundred years, we will meet Him in our deaths, whether in twenty years, twenty months, or twenty minutes. God encourages us not to be surprised about the soon coming of our appointment to stand before Him. If we are ready to meet Christ, we will long for His return. If we are not ready, we will dread it. If we do not feel ready to meet Him, now is the time to get ready.

Readers of my books are probably familiar with my emphasis on how five minutes after we die, we’ll know exactly how we should have lived. But we can’t do life here over again. There’s no retaking the course once we’ve failed it. There’s no improving a D to an A. No rescheduling the final exams. Death is the deadline. There’s no extension.

The good news is we don’t have to wait until we die to know how we should live! God has given us His Word to tell us how to live and His indwelling Spirit to empower us to live as we should. “His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness” (2 Peter 1:3, NIV).  Every day God gives us is an opportunity to live for Christ: “So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him” (2 Corinthians 5:9).

Read the rest here.

Merry Christmas 2019!

Welcome to my annual Christmas post. From my house to yours, I wish you a very merry and blessed Christmas.

Merry Christmas!

Today we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, our Savior!
He alone is the Reason for the Christmas season and our ultimate JOY!

Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields,
keeping watch over their flock by night.

And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them,
and the glory of the Lord shone around them,
and they were greatly afraid.

Then the angel said to them,
“Do not be afraid, for behold,
I bring you good tidings of great joy
which will be to all people.

For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior,
who is Christ the Lord.

And this will be the sign to you:
You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths,
lying in a manger.”

And suddenly there was with the angel
a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying:

“Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”

—Luke 2:8-14

The song “A Christmas Alleluia” is by Chris Tomlin featuring Lauren Daigle and Leslie Jordan. Close your eyes as you listen to this wonderful song of praise and worship to our Savior.

Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible,
to God who alone is wise,
be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen. 

—1 Timothy 1:17 (NKJV)

After these things I heard a loud voice of a great multitude in heaven, saying,
“Alleluia! Salvation and glory and honor and power
belong to the Lord our God!

For true and righteous are His judgments,
because He has judged the great harlot
who corrupted the earth with her fornication;
and He has avenged on her the blood of His servants shed by her.”

Again they said, “Alleluia! Her smoke rises up forever and ever!”

—Revelation 19:1-3 (NKJV)

If for whatever reason you cannot view this video, you can read the complete lyrics here.