Links & Quotes

Abraham is commanded by God to sacrifice his son Isaac. Look at Abraham’s faith in just one word: “WE will come back to you.”

Follow me on YouVersion so we can share more thoughts on God’s Word with each other.

Wil Robinson shares a fable from Leo Tolstoy with the three most important questions everyone should ask themselves. The three questions are: How can I learn to do the right thing at the right time? Who are the people I most need, and to whom should I, therefore, pay more attention than to the rest? And, what affairs are the most important and need my first attention?

T.M. Moore reminds us how the promises of God can build courage in us. Check out all of the posts in his series called Brave Heart.

“Faithfulness is displayed in both word and deed—seen best by combining the Great Commission’s instruction to ‘make disciples’ with the second greatest commandment to ‘love thy neighbor.’ The beauty of the Gospel is found in both proclamation and demonstration. Neither comes first; neither comes second. Like the perfect marriage, it’s the duty of the Christians to take on each, giving 100 percent effort to both.” —Gabe Lyons, The Next Christians 

Fight The New Drug shared the results of a study of over 11,000 releationships, the five things the happiest couples have in common, and how pornography can undermine those relationships.

“Oh, that the eyes of sinners may be speedily opened—that they may see the difference of things, the beauty which is in holiness, and the astonishing madness that is in sin!” —Thomas Watson

Science is an important component in seeking truth. The Institute for Creation Research has an excellent perspective on the role of science for a Christian: “While the pursuit of science is certainly noble, it should be situated in its proper context and tackle matters within its empirically defined framework.”

John Piper observes, “The number-one reason why people in such seemingly hopeless situations purchase scratch-offs is because things already look so hopeless for improvement that the so-called ‘stupidity’ of wasting this dollar won’t really make anything worse.” This post elaborates on how the lottery preys on the poor.

All Talk But No Action

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible. 

What people were saying about Jesus from His birth—before He preached a sermon, performed a miracle, or stepped on the toes of religious or political leaders—was revealing the truth. I’ve already discussed the words of the Magi and King Herod the Great, but all of these men also interact with another group (Matthew 2:1-6). Matthew calls them “all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law.” 

This group was commonly called the Sanhedrin. It was an influential body of 70 + 1 leaders (Numbers 11:16), whose influence was felt in the temple in Jerusalem, in the synagogues in small villages, in King Herod’s throne room, and in the palace of the Roman governors. 

Notice that Matthew says “chief priests” in the plural. At the time of the birth of Jesus, Caiaphas was high priest and Annas his father-in-law was the former high priest. In the time of the early church, Annas is again called the high priest (Luke 3:2; John 18:13; Acts 4:6) 

Even under the Roman government the Sanhedrin held tremendous power…

  • they were experts in the Mosaic law and its application (Matthew 22:35) 
  • Jesus said, “the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees are the official interpreters of the law of Moses” (Matthew 23:2 NLT) 
  • Jesus also said they had storehouses of helpful knowledge (Matthew 13:52) 
  • they decided who would get to use their authority (Mark 11:27-28; 1:22) 
  • they were keepers of the traditions and became “indignant” when those traditions weren’t followed (Mark 7:5; Matthew 21:15) 
  • they were exorcists (Mark 9:14-17; Acts 19:13-14) 
  • Jesus said these leaders would be instrumental in His death (Matthew 16:21) 
  • they had their own armed guards and prisons (Mark 14:43; Acts 4:1; 5:18) 
  • yet they were afraid of the opinions of the people (Luke 22:1-2; Mark 11:31-32) 

(check out all of the above Scriptures by clicking here)

Jesus said they were “the official interpreters of the law,” yet they oftentimes interpreted the law to benefit themselves. 

When Herod asks them where the Messiah is to be born, they quote Micah 5:2 as saying, “a Ruler who will be the Shepherd of My people Israel.” But the word they use for “Ruler” means a leader with authority, or a governor (the same word is used for Joseph in Acts 7:10). Remember Herod’s violent temper and his insane suspicion? The word these religious leaders used gave them an “out.” They were almost saying to Herod, “When the Messiah does come, He will be a governor, which means there’s a good chance that He would report to you.” This “tame” interpretation was an attempt to keep them in the good graces of King Herod the Great 

But Micah himself uses the word for “Ruler” that means one with absolute dominion. Jesus will be THE Sovereign King. 

After hearing that this long awaited Messiah had finally been born in fulfillment of the prophecies, take a look at their response—

  • they said   . 
  • they did   . (even though Bethlehem was only 6 miles away!) 

How sad! 

But I think this is because they believed themselves to be “in” with Jehovah because they so carefully kept the rules. They didn’t need a Messiah to save them because—in their minds—they believed they were already saved from God’s punishment. 

Keeping religious rules doesn’t save anyone. 

Honoring age-old traditions doesn’t save anyone. 

Only coming to Jesus saves anyone! 

A key prophecy about Jesus in Isaiah 9:2 says that the Messiah will save us from darkness and shadows. What exactly are these? 

The writer of Hebrews tells us that the law and rules are merely shadows of the True Substance. God said through Isaiah that relying on the rules keeps us trapped in meaningless religious traditions. But Jesus came as the Light and as the Substance that set us free. His death and resurrection made it possible for our sins to be forgiven (see Hebrews 10:1-7; Isaiah 1:11-14, 18).

Rules don’t take us into God’s presence, but Jesus does. Not just talking about Jesus, but coming to Jesus as our Savior and Lord. 

People will talk about Jesus—even you may talk about Him. That doesn’t do anything. But when we do more than talk—when we come to Him to follow Him as our Ruler and Shepherd—then we find forgiveness and freedom. 

Let’s not just talk about Jesus, but let’s be actively obedient! 

If you’ve missed any of the messages in our Advent series People Will Talk, you can find those messages by clicking here. 

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Thursdays With Spurgeon—Faith Sees Better Than Sight Does

This is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Charles Spurgeon. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Spurgeon” in the search box to read more entries.

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on iTunes or Spotify.

Faith Sees Better Than Sight Does  

For we walk by faith, not by sight. (2 Corinthians 5:7) 

     There is walking by faith, and there is walking by sight. The most of men, all men indeed, naturally walk by sight. They have a proverb that says, ‘Seeing is believing,’ and they are wise men, for they trust people as far as they can see them, and no further. … Self-reliance is the name of the principle, and according to the world, the best and grandest thing that a man can do is have faith in himself. … 

     I think the world must be pretty well ashamed of itself if it still considers this poor earth to be all that a soul has to live for. I feel as if I could not talk upon the matter. Solomon tried everything there was in this world—riches, power, pleasure—every sort of delicacy and delight he had, beyond the point of satisfaction. And what was his verdict upon at all? ‘Vanity of vanities, all is vanity’ (Ecclesiastes 1:2). … 

     If there is not another world to live for, I must say that this life is a most unutterably empty kind of thing! It is not worthy of a man! But oh, to believe what God tells me: that there is a God; that God became flesh to bear me up to Himself! To believe that I am God’s son, that I have an immortality within myself that will outlast the stars, that I will one day see His face and sing His praise forever with cherubim and seraphim! Why, there is something here! …

     If you walk only by sight and believe only what you see, what do you believe? You believe that while you are living here, it is a good thing to make the best you can of it. And then you will die and be buried, and that will be the end of you! What a poor, miserable, ignorant belief this is! … But when you believe in what God reveals and come to walk by faith, how your information expands! Now riddles are all solved, and the inexplicable is understood! … 

     The principle of faith does best in the dark. He who walks by faith can walk in the sunlight as well as you can, for he walks with God. He has enlightened eyes, but he can walk in the dark as you cannot, for his light is still shining upon him. He trusts in the unseen and in the invisible, and his soul rejoices when present things are passing away.

From Faith Versus Sight

One of the temptations of the devil has been to try to get us focused on the seen—the temporal. He did this successfully with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. He tried to get Jesus to focus on the temporal in his wilderness temptations, but Jesus steadfastly kept His eyes on the unseen. 

The devil’s strategy hasn’t changed. He will try to get you to say, “Woe is me! Look at all of the bad things happening around me!” 

But we walk by faith, not by sight. “Faith is the assurance—the confirmation, the title deed—of the things we hope for, being the proof of things we do not see and the conviction of their reality—faith perceiving as real fact what is not revealed to the senses” (Hebrews 11:1 AMP).   

Don’t give in to the temptation to believe only what you see. There is so much more waiting for you. It’s all yours by faith in Jesus Christ!

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Thursdays With Spurgeon—Active Love

This is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Charles Spurgeon. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Spurgeon” in the search box to read more entries.

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on iTunes or Spotify.

Active Love

     True love next shows itself in obedience. … ‘Tis love that makes our willing feet in swift obedience move.’ We can do anything for those we love, and if we love Jesus, no burden will be heavy, no difficulty will be great. We should rather wish to do more than He asks of us and only desire that He was a little more exacting that we might have a better opportunity of showing forth our affection. …

     The apostle says, ‘Let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth’ (1 John 3:18). Actions speak louder than words, and we will always be anxious to tell our love in deeds as well as by our lips. The true disciple asks continually, ‘Lord, what do You want me to do?’ (Acts 9:6). He esteems it his highest honor to serve the Lord. …  

     I believe in an active love that has hands to labor and feet to run as well as a heart to feel, eyes to glance, and ears to listen.

From The Church’s Love To Her Loving Lord

Those who love Jesus obey Him (John 14:15). 

Those who love Jesus serve others out of that love (Matthew 25:31-40). 

Those who love Jesus put action to their faith in Him (James 2:14-18). 

Those who love Jesus continually ask Him, “Lord, what do You want me to do?” 

Love for Jesus isn’t just something we feel, it’s who we are and it’s how we act and speak and serve every single day.

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Leave Everything Better

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible. 

If you are a Christian, the Bible describes you as a living example of the life-changing power of Jesus Christ. Check out these verses: 

Your very lives are a letter that anyone can read by just looking at you. Christ Himself wrote it—not with ink, but with God’s living Spirit; not chiseled into stone, but carved into human lives—and we publish it. (2 Corinthians 3:3 MSG) 

Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. (Matthew 5:16) 

No one lights a lamp and puts it in a place where it will be hidden, or under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, so that those who come in may see the light. (Luke 11:33) 

Here’s a really simple way everyone who sees you can see Jesus working through you—

Leave every place better than you found it. 

Want some examples on this? Check out this 2-minute segment from a message I shared…

My friend, shine your light brightly today for everyone to see Jesus in you simply by leaving every place—every situation—better than you found it. I promise you: God will be glorified in this! 

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Ruth + Boaz—The Father’s Day Version

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on Apple or Spotify.

On Mother’s Day that we saw how Ruth’s obedience allowed her to realize God’s favor, part of that favor is being included in the genealogy of Jesus Christ. Of course, Ruth can’t give birth to her son Obed without there being a father, which makes Boaz’s part in this story just as important. 

[This whole story of Ruth + Boaz is just four short chapters, so I’d encourage you to take a couple of minutes to read it.] 

When we first meet Boaz, he is described as “a man of standing.” Some Bible translations say “a man of wealth,” which is an acceptable definition. In fact, the word can mean strength, wealth, valor, or prominence, but the root word means something brought forth out of travail and pain. That tells us that Boaz wasn’t born a man of standing, he became a man of standing by going through difficult times, not giving in to the downward slide of culture, and remaining true to God. 

Boaz had a steel-forged integrity! 

Believe me, it would have been easy for Boaz to compromise! This was a dark time of selfishness in Israel’s history. A time where just doing the bare minimum was acceptable because most of the Israelites were selfishly doing whatever would benefit them (Judges 21:25). 

The other description we read about Boaz is that he is a “kinsman-redeemer.” This same word is used in this verse: “Plead my cause and redeem me; revive me and give me life according to Your word” (Psalm 119:154). A redeemer is one who is close by to help, has the strength or resources to help, and is willing to help. Of course, the perfect example of a Kinsman-Redeemer is Jesus, who became our human kinsman so that He could rescue us (see Hebrews 2:14; Philippians 2:7-8). 

Boaz was given the opportunity to do this for Naomi and Ruth, and he seized the opportunity with gusto. Far from being a “bare minimum” man, Boaz always went the second mile to bless Ruth and Naomi:

  • he practiced the “hospitality clause” plus he protected Ruth and gave her more than was required 
  • he provided food for his workers plus he provided food for Ruth and Naomi 
  • he blessed his workers plus he blessed Ruth in the name of the Lord 

Ultimately, Boaz did indeed become the kinsman-redeemer for Naomi (by paying off all the debts of her deceased husband) and for Ruth (by marrying this non-Israelite woman and bringing her into the family line of Jesus). 

Boaz was King Solomon’s great-great-grandfather. When Solomon was completing the temple in Jerusalem, he erected two pillars at the entrance: one was named Boaz, and the other was Jakim (with means “God will establish”). Taken together these pillars proclaim the message: By His integrity and faithfulness, God establishes and makes firm. 

Boaz exhibited integrity at every opportunity, which is what forged his character and made him “a man of standing.” Boaz demonstrated that integrity is really faith in God plus faith-filled, second-mile, others-focused actions.

“Faith without works is just wishful dreaming.
Works without faith is just religious posturing.
Works with faith is God-glorifying!” —Craig T. Owens

Men of God, please remember this: 

  • Every Word of God that you read or hear is a test—will you obey Him or will you compromise? 
  • Every setback you go through is a test—will you learn and grow or will you sulk and shrink back? 
  • Every success you experience is a test—will you bless others or will you hoard your blessings? 
  • Every decision you make in a dark culture is a test—will you just have faith, just have bare-minimum works, or will you exhibit the steel-forged integrity that comes from putting your faith to work? 

God’s blessing on your life of integrity will show others a picture of Jesus. God’s blessing on your life of going the second mile will show others that it is God who establishes and makes firm. 

Don’t rob your family, don’t rob us, don’t rob future generations of the outpouring of God’s blessing because you are selfish or compromising. Stand strong, trust God, go the second mile, be the kinsman-redeemer for those in need, and then watch for God’s blessings! 

If you missed Ruth’s vital part in this story, please check that out by clicking here.

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Thursdays With Spurgeon—Simple Faith Is Still Powerful Faith

This is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Charles Spurgeon. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Spurgeon” in the search box to read more entries.

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on iTunes or Spotify.

Simple Faith Is Still Powerful Faith

     I would have you note that the faith that justified Abram was still an imperfect faith, although it perfectly justified him. It was imperfect beforehand, for he had prevaricated as to his wife and bid Sarai, ‘Say you are my sister’ (Genesis 12:13). 

     It was imperfect after it had justified him, for the next chapter we find him taking Hager, his wife’s handmaid, in order to effect the divine purpose, and so showing a lack of confidence in the working of the Lord. It is a blessing for you and for me that we do not need perfect faith to save us! ‘If you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, “Move from here to there,” and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you’ (Matthew 17:20). If you have but the faith of a little child, it will save you. Though your faith is not always at the same pitch as the patriarch’s when he staggered not at the promise through unbelief, yet if it is simple and true, if it confides alone in the promise of God, it is an unhappy thing that it is no stronger, and you ought daily to pray, ‘Lord, increase my faith,’ but still it will justify you through Christ Jesus! A trembling hand may grasp the cup that bears a healing draught to the lip, but the weakness of the hand will not lessen the power of the medicine.

From Justification By Faith

A prayer that Jesus loved was simply this: “Lord, I believe; help me overcome my unbelief” (Mark 9:14-27). The recognition that Jesus alone could help is the essence of faith. 

I’ve often said that the simplest, most powerful prayer we can pray is, “Lord, help!” In just those two words we are saying, “I cannot do a thing to help myself, but, Lord, I believe Your power is limitless to help me!” 

Small faith is still powerful faith—even faith as small as a mustard seed—because it can move mountains. Childlike faith touches the heart of God. I love how Spurgeon reminds us that the weakness of the hand that grasps the cup promise does not lessen the power of the medicine in the cup. 

The best way to learn to pray in faith is simply to pray in faith. A baby doesn’t wait until he has a fully-formed vocabulary to ask his father or mother for help. Just pray! The Holy Spirit can turn even your childlike prayers into pleasing sounds in your Heavenly Father’s ears. 

Maybe you could paraphrase that father who was in desperate need of Christ’s help, “Lord, I am praying; help me to keep on praying!

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Thursdays With Spurgeon—An Important Distinction

This is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Charles Spurgeon. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Spurgeon” in the search box to read more entries.

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on iTunes or Spotify.

An Important Distinction

     Many had been the good works of Abram. It was a good work to leave his country and his father’s house at God’s bidding. It was a good work to separate from Lot in so noble a spirit. It was a good work to follow after the robber-kings with undaunted courage. It was a grand work to refuse to take the spoils of Sodom and to lift up his hand to God that he would not take a thread even to a shoelace. It was a holy work to give to Melchizedek tithes of all that he possessed and to worship the Most High God.

     Yet none of these are mentioned in the text, nor is there a hint given of any other sacred duties as the ground or cause, or part cause, of his justification before God. No, it is said, ‘And he believed in the Lord, and He accounted it to him for righteousness’ (Genesis 15:6). … 

     If there is salvation for the dying thief and others like him, it cannot be of debt, but of grace, seeing they have no good works! If Abram, when full of good works, is not justified by them, but by his faith, how much more we, being full of imperfections, must come to the throne of the heavenly grace and ask that we may be justified by faith that is in Christ Jesus and saved by the free mercy of God! …  

     Always distinguish between the truth of God that living faith always produces works, and the lie that faith and works cooperate to justify the soul. We are made righteous only by an act of faith in the work of Jesus Christ. That faith, if true, always produces holiness of life. But our being righteous before God is not because of our holiness in life in any degree or respect, but simply because of our faith in the divine promise [Romans 4:22-25]. 

From Justification By Faith

“I’ve been made righteous in God’s sight SO THAT I can live a holy life” is vastly different from “I’m living a holy life SO THAT I can be made righteous in God’s sight.” 

None of our good works—no matter how many we do—will ever wipe the slate clean of our sins. It’s an impossibility! That is why faith in the work of Jesus on the Cross is vital. It’s my faith in His substitutionary work that has canceled the record of my sins and made me holy before God, SO THAT now I am free to live out that holy life! 

What freedom there is in allowing our living faith to overflow into our loving deeds! Our holy living is our thankful worship to God for His precious gift of Jesus. 

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Thursdays With Spurgeon—The Joyful Journey To Realization

This is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Charles Spurgeon. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Spurgeon” in the search box to read more entries.

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on iTunes or Spotify.

The Joyful Journey To Realization

And [Abram] believed in the Lord, and [God] accounted it to him for righteousness. (Genesis 15:6) 

     Brothers and sisters, this everyday faith is the faith of God’s elect! There are persons who imagine saving faith to be a barren conviction of the truth of certain abstract propositions, leading only to a quiet contemplation upon certain delightful topics, or separating ourselves from all sympathy with our fellow creatures. But it is not so! Faith, restricted merely to religious exercise, is not Christian faith. It must show itself in everything. … 

     There may be some of you here today who have been called by divine grace from darkness into marvelous light. You have been led to look to Jesus and you believe you have received pardon of your sin, and yet, for lack of knowledge, you know little of the sweet meaning of such words as these: ‘accepted in the Beloved’ (Ephesians 1:6); ‘perfect in Christ Jesus’ (Colossians 1:28); ‘complete in Him’ (Colossians 2:10). You are doubtless justified, though you scarcely understand what justification means. And you are accepted, though you have not realized your acceptance. And you are complete in Jesus Christ, though you have, today, a far deeper sense of your personal incompleteness than of the all-sufficiency of Jesus. … 

     But there will come a time, beloved, when you who are called will clearly realize your justification and will rejoice in it! It will be intelligently understood by you and will become a matter of transporting delight—lifting you to a higher platform of experience and enabling you to walk with a firmer step, sing with a merrier voice, and triumph with an enlarged heart!  

From Justification By Faith

I was once asked, “If you could have a superpower, what would it be?” After a moment’s thought, I answered, “I’d like the power to just go <poof> for someone and they would be able to fully comprehended God’s love for them, or they would instantly realize how to live out their Christian faith.” 

Alas, there is no such superpower. But you and I have something far, far better: the Holy Spirit! 

Abram (who would later become Abraham) obediently followed God, even though the Bible said he didn’t fully grasp where he was going nor how God was going to give him many descendants. But he followed, and he trusted, and he listened, and slowly God began to reveal more and more to him. 

Jesus said the Holy Spirit would guide us into all truth. He didn’t say, “The Holy Spirit will go <poof> and you will immediately and fully understand everything.” Like Abram, we believe what God says about us, we follow, we trust, we listen, we obey, and the Spirit will begin to illuminate God’s Word to us. We’ll discover more each day what He’s asking of us, and we will notice that both our joy in Him and our effectiveness for the Kingdom of God are increasing along the journey! 

Don’t bail out early! Stick with it! I promise you that the joy still to be revealed along this journey is beyond compare with anything which would tempt you to stay behind to acquire.

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Thursdays With Spurgeon—Our Daily Doctrine Of Experience

This is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Charles Spurgeon. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Spurgeon” in the search box to read more entries.

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on iTunes or Spotify.

Our Daily Doctrine Of Experience 

[God] alone is my rock and my salvation (Psalm 62:2).

     Doctrine is nothing unless it is proved in our experience. Most of God’s doctrines are only to be learned by practice—by taking them out into the world and letting them bear the wear and tear of life. …  

     Think how many enemies you have. How many rivers you have to cross, how many mountains to climb, how many dragons to fight, how many lions’ teeth to escape, how many fires to pass through, how many floods to wade. … Can your salvation be of anything except God? … 

     I beseech you, remember this. I hope you know it by experience in the past, but try to remember it in the future—wherever you go, ‘Salvation is of the Lord.’ Do not get to looking at your heart; do not get to examining to see whether you have anything to recommend you; just remember, salvation is of the Lord. ‘He alone is my rock and my salvation.’ … 

     I say, Christian, your highest and noblest experience is not to be groaning about your corruption, is not to be crying about your wanderings, but is to say, ‘With all my sin and care and woe, His Spirit will not let me go.’ ‘Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!’ (Mark 9:24). …  

     Now we must have the great duty. The great duty is this: If God only is our rock and we know it, are we not bound to put all our trust in God, to give all our love to God, to set all our hope upon God, to spend all our life for God, and to devote our whole being to God? … Trace your mercies to God and say perpetually, ‘He alone is my rock and my salvation.’

From God Alone The Salvation Of His People

If you will look through the pages of the Bible, you will see that people struggled when they forgot what God had done for them and therefore they began to take matters into their own hands. In the Old Testament, the prophets called this idolatry and adultery; in the New Testament, Jesus called this a lack of faith. 

An old hymn reminds us:

Oh, to grace how great a debtor
Daily I’m constrained to be!
Let Thy goodness, like a fetter
Bind my wandering heart to Thee
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it
Prone to leave the God I love
Here’s my heart, Oh, take and seal it
Seal it for Thy courts above (Robert Robinson, Come Thou Fount)

I think this is the reason why Jesus taught us to pray, “Give us today our daily bread.” We need to be perpetually reliant on God’s grace—a perpetual debtor. This posture reminds us, “He alone is my rock and my salvation,” and guards us against the spirit of self-reliance that would lead us astray. 

Let our doctrine be proven in our daily experience of coming to God as our one and only Source again and again and again.

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