victory (18)

A rondolet on the victory of the Lord Jesus Christ by His Passion and Resurrection
(Mark 1:24 and Luke 4:34; John 1:29 and 36;Revelation)
by Salvatore Anthony Luiso

The Lamb has won!
To Christ belongs the victory!
The Lamb has won!
The Holy One of God! The Son!
All glorious in purity,
Triumphant by humility:
The Lamb has won!

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This Week’s Question: Since too many have a romanticized view of love, what is love from a Biblical perspective?

Love is one of the three foundational pillars that Christianity is built upon, with faith and hope being the other two pillars. Unfortunately, many claim to be Christians based solely upon their love for God. Nevertheless, from a Biblical perspective these pillars work synchronously and cannot be dichotomized. To be more explicit, true faith is dependent upon love according to I Corinthians 13:2, “And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.” In the same vein, genuine hope must be fueled by love according to Romans 5:5, “Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” Similarly, faith cannot be divorced from hope because hope is embedded in it according to Hebrews 11:1, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” In the final analysis, those who claim to have faith without also having hope and love are, in actuality, governed by superstition not faith. Similarly hope that is not accompanied by faith and love is only wishful thinking; and love that is disconnected from faith and hope is mere sentimentality.

In our last post we identified the fundamental element implied in James 2:1-9 to be love, and three reasons were discussed to justify its importance: (1) God commands His followers to love; (2) Love is the distinguishing characteristic that separates God’s children from satan’s; and (3) The motive behind a person’s love is more important than that person’s deeds. So what is love? Four types of love are described Biblically and they are: Eros – Sexual or romantic love; Storge – Natural mutual affection or familial love; Philia – Brotherly love that unites true believers; and Agape – The love God has for humankind. Although each has a place in scripture, agape is focused on in this post because it is the love God has for the world, and is the love that His disciples must have for one another for acceptance into His Kingdom. Paul makes this point very clear in Romans 13:8 when he writes, “Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law.”

So what essentially is agape love? Paul, beginning in I Corinthians 13:4 describes agape love beautifully: “4 Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; 5 does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; 6 does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; 7 bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 8 Love never fails…” Someone once said, “love is what love does,” which confirms the fact that love is not an emotion. Also, it is not rhetoric. Instead love is the mitigating force that controls one’s speech, thoughts, and works. By examining I Corinthians 13, it is evident that love forces true disciples to be patient, mild, and kind toward others. It also prevents them from being envious of or hating others; and keeps them grounded whereby they neither think too highly of nor feels the need to elevate themselves. Instead, proper behavior is the modus operandi for disciples because they are not easily provoked into behaving inappropriately. True love causes disciples, by their thoughts, to internalize Paul’s words in Philippians 4:8, “Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy-meditate on these things.” Meditation, of this nature, prevents true disciples from thinking evil thoughts or gloating when another succumbs to sin. Instead that disciple is happiest when others also stand on God’s truth!

The bottom-line is since love never ends, it is infinite, has no bounds, cannot be measured, transcends time, and, unlike faith and hope, it is the only pillar that extends beyond this realm into eternity. Therefore, since love is infinite, disciples who have it withstand hardship and adversity because love bears all things! Since love is infinite, disciples who have it recite Romans 8:28 as their mantra, “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose,” because love believes all things! Since love is infinite, disciples who have it do not allow their circumstances to dictate their actions because love hopes all things! Finally, since love is infinite, disciples who have it are confident of the power behind Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me, since love endures all things! To bring true love to life, love was the force behind the Civil Rights Movement because despite the murders, lynchings, jailings, protests, beatings, discriminatory laws, biased government officials, hosings, dog bites, and sheer humiliation; my forefathers, as a group, knew that love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails! They knew it, they lived it, and God delivered to us, as a community, several major victories because of our communal love for everybody!

Next Week’s Question: The Bible has many vivid examples of love, can you think of any? And if “yes” is your answer, can any Biblical principles be gleaned from them?

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The Face of Victory

One of my favorite Bible verses is the apostle Paul’s statement in 2 Corinthians 2:14 that God “always leads us in triumph in Christ.” That’s a beautiful promise, but lately I’ve been rethinking what it means to live a triumphant life.

Some preachers act as if the Christian life is meant to be a journey from one mountain top to another, with no valleys in-between. They act as if we can have victory without any battles along the way.

However, that’s certainly not what Paul is saying here. Several chapters later, he provides a long list of the severe hardships he had faced in his service to the Lord. Yes, God had met all of his needs, but Paul’s “abundant life” also included abundant trials. Frequent beatings…imprisonment…shipwreck…robbery…false accusations…sleeplessness…inclement weather, betrayal – and other difficulties too numerous to mention (2 Corinthians 11:23-30).

So, what does the triumphant Christian life really look like? I’m beginning to think it looks a lot like famed boxer Rocky Balboa after one of his fights. He was knocked to the mat numerous times during each fight, but he never stayed there. And although his face and body were pummeled almost beyond recognition, Rocky was able to loudly proclaim his victory at the end of the story.

Perhaps you think this illustration is much too bloody, and certainly not a very appealing illustration of the victory available in Christ. Maybe not. But the illustration fits more accurately than the depictions of Jesus and His apostles with rosy cheeks, halos, and garments that looked like they were dry cleaned every day.

In fact, in Mel Gibson’s movie, “The Passion of the Christ,” the beaten and crucified Jesus looks a lot like Rocky Balboa. How ironic that while the cross seemed like His ultimate defeat, it turned out to be His ultimate victory. He got knocked down, but He got up again.

My friend, if you feel like you’ve been pummeled by life’s circumstances, remember Rocky Balboa – and Jesus. Even if you feel bloody and broken today, you’re probably a lot more victorious than you realize.

Your dreams may seem dead at the moment. But if you don’t give up, I’m betting that your resurrection is right around the corner.

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The Craziness of Wearing Someone Else's Jersey

I grew up in the era of Cleveland Browns running back Jim Brown, and I’m convinced he was the best football player of all time. Yet I never had a Jim Brown jersey. In fact, except for the players who were actually on the team, I don’t remember people wearing NFL jerseys back then.

From Boston to Houston this weekend, thousands of people will be wearing Tom Brady jerseys. Last year our hometown Carolina Panthers were in the Super Bowl, so Cam Newton jerseys were a big thing. Sadly, Cam didn’t play so well in the Super Bowl—nor ever since, for that matter. His jersey sales have probably declined as a result.

Frankly, I don’t really get the jersey thing. When someone wears a New England #12 jersey, everyone can tell it’s not the real Tom Brady. It’s an impostor…a wannabe. No one is impressed by impersonators, nor is anyone fooled when you wear the jersey of your favorite sports star.

So what’s the point of wearing someone else’s jersey?

The Bible has some interesting examples of this principle…

King Saul tried to give David his armor to wear, but the young man realized the armor simply didn’t fit. It was the king’s “jersey,” not his own. So David decided to go against Goliath instead with his own armaments—a slingshot and five smooth stones. He explained to Saul that he preferred to use weapons he’d already tested in his own life, when defeating lions and bears (1 Samuel 17).

In another case, Jesus rebuked the believers in Sardis for not living up to the label on their jersey:  “I know your works, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead” (Revelation 3:1).

You see, it’s considered hypocrisy when you have a great name on your jersey, but your lifestyle doesn’t match. Perhaps that’s the true meaning of the 10 Commandments precept, “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain” (Exodus 20:7). Instead of being a rule against profanity, perhaps the deeper meaning is that we shouldn’t wear the Lord’s name on our jersey if we’re not committed to seeking His will.

Putting Jesus’ name on your jersey is not something to do lightly. As the apostle Paul warned, “Everyone who names the name of the Lord must turn away from unrighteousness” (2 Timothy 2:19 HCSB).

Nevertheless, the Bible says that as believers we’ve “clothed” ourselves with Christ—we’ve willingly taken His name and put on His jersey (Galatians 3:27 NASB). And even though NFL jerseys are expensive, wearing the name of Jesus is certainly a much more expensive and courageous step than wearing Tom Brady’s jersey.

There’s something we desperately need in order to successfully wear the name of Christ. We must heed His offer to be clothed with “power from on high” (Luke 24:49 NASB). To live as true Christians, we must be anointed—like our Savior—with the power of the Holy Spirit.

Wearing Tom Brady’s jersey will never enable you to become like him. But when you clothe yourself with Christ and the power of His Spirit, you’ll increasingly be transformed into His likeness (Romans 8:29). That bodes well for winning your personal Super Bowl.  

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Perhaps you’ve heard the story of a pony named Pearl who worked with the carnival. Shackled to a pole from a young age, she gave rides to children along a small, circular path. 

Every day was the same. Pearl lived in sheer drudgery, going around and around in endless circles, without even the slightest taste of freedom.

Far in the distance, Pearl sometimes saw other horses frolicking joyfully in the meadow. What a great life that must be! she moaned, feeling sorry for herself as she continued her circular journey.

But one night a miracle happened. During a thunderstorm, a flash of lightning struck the heavy cable Pearl was tethered to, snapping it in half.

However, for a long time Pearl didn’t appreciate her good fortune. Although she no longer was shackled, she continued living just as she had done her entire life—plodding along in never-ending circles.

Many people today are still living much like Pearl the pony. They’ve been chained so long to poverty, sickness, addiction, fear, or depression that they don’t think it’s possible to escape the well-worn path before them. And while they sometimes glimpse others experiencing the abundant life Jesus promised, they’re convinced they’ll never experience such a life.

If you can relate to Pearl’s hapless story, I have good news for you. Just as a miracle had set the worn-out pony free from her captivity, the miracle of Jesus’ death and resurrection has done the same for you and me. The problem comes when, just like Pearl, we don’t recognize and accept the freedom won for us on the cross.

Do you see how tragic this is? On the cross, Jesus defeated not only our sin, but also our poverty, sickness, addiction, fear, and depression. Our shackles have been broken in two—but sometimes we continue plodding through life as if the cross and resurrection have never occurred.

Although the devil wants you to think you’re still tethered hopelessly to your problems, nothing could be further from the truth. If you’ve received Jesus as your Lord and Savior, your chains are broken. You don’t have to keep walking in circles, because you’re now “free indeed” (John 8:36).

Even if you’ve endured years of misery, you can get unshackled in a moment’s time when you realize the powerful deliverance available through the blood of Jesus. You may still be taunted by “the father of lies” (John 8:44), but everything changes when you recognize he no longer has any rights in your life.

Just as happened with Pearl the pony, it may take you some time to begin seeing yourself in a new way. But through applying God’s Word to your life each day, you can increasingly become “transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:2).

In Jesus’ name, you have power over the forces of darkness, but they’re not going to give up without a fight. You must claim the authority God has given you to sever your chains and get unshackled from your negative circumstances.

I’m praying for God to awaken the mighty warrior inside of you, giving you courage to pull down strongholds in your own life. Exercise your rights as a child of the King, and don’t stop until you’ve taken back everything the enemy has stolen from you!


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Lessons from a Woman Who Got Set Free

Many people think of Christianity as just another religion—a set rules and regulations, basically telling people just to “try harder.” But those who pursue a relationship with God on that basis will inevitably end up even more burdened and bound up than when they started.

In stark contrast, a true relationship with Christ will increasingly remove our burdens and set us free from our hang-ups. That’s why we’re told, Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage” (Galatians 5:1).

It’s not an exaggeration to say that you can measure how far you’ve come in the life of faith by measuring the degree to which you’re truly walking in freedom—not held back by destructive forces such as sin, unbelief, toxic emotions, or the negative opinions of other people. Yet this is an ongoing process, for we’ve all experienced encumbrances that must be cast off so we can run life’s marathon with endurance (Hebrews 12:1).

What area of your life is still holding you back from the freedom you need to fulfill your God-given destiny?

One Sabbath day, Jesus was teaching in the synagogue, and the Bible says, “A woman was there who had been crippled by a spirit for eighteen years” (Luke 13:10-13 NIV). Can you imagine how hopeless this woman must have felt? For 18 long years, she had endured this debilitating condition.

Perhaps you are struggling with some issue in your life today that has persisted for a long time. You feel as though you’ve tried everything, but to no avail. Like the woman in this story, you still find yourself “crippled” by something out of your control.

It’s no fun being “stuck,” but it’s something we’ve all faced from time to time. Sometimes it’s a medical condition the doctors can’t remedy. At other times, the bills are coming in faster than the income. And many of us have found ourselves stuck in an unhealthy relationship we seem powerless to change.

Thankfully, the Bible says, “With God ALL things are possible” (Matthew 19:26). When you’re unable to help yourself and no human has a solution to your problem, GOD can break through your troubling circumstances and set you free!

The story goes on to say that this woman was bent over and could not straighten up at all.” This is such an apt picture of what it’s like to be burdened down with sins, sicknesses, or other situations that seem overwhelming. Sometimes the cares of life are simply too much for us to handle, and all we can do is cast our burdens on the Lord (Psalm 55:22).

Notice that the woman was unable to straighten up “at all.” Sometimes we still have hopes that we can straighten things out by our own strength and ingenuity. But this woman had come to the end of her own devices. She needed a miracle—something only God could do!

However, despite years of suffering, everything was about to change for her in mere moments. Verse 12 says “Jesus saw her” and “called her forward.” Friend, I don’t know what you are going through today, but I do know this: Jesus SEES what you are going through. He CARES about you. And He’s calling you FORWARD to draw near to Him and receive His healing touch.

After 18 years of suffering, this distressed woman heard Jesus tell her, “Woman, you are set free from your infirmity” (v. 12). The Greek word for “infirmity” is astheneia, which means to be feeble or have a lack of strength. Perhaps you can relate!

Actually, the Bible teaches that we ALL were “without strength” before Christ came into our lives. However, when we were powerless to save ourselves, Jesus demonstrated His love and rescued us (Romans 5:6-10). And just as He forgave us and rescued us from sin at our conversion, He’s ready to deliver us TODAY from whatever situation is still hindering us from our calling.

How long does it take to be set free? It doesn’t have to take long at all! In this story in Luke 13, Jesus put his hands on her, and immediately she straightened up and praised God” (v. 13).

Isn’t that beautiful? Can you imagine the joy and amazement she felt? After being bound for 18 years, this woman received an instantaneous deliverance when Jesus touched her. He straightened up her life in a mere moment, just as He can do for you and me when we come to Him in faith.

You may have endured some illness, addiction, financial lack, or other problems for a long time. But remember: Jesus specializes in miraculous turnarounds. He is speaking His Word to you and reaching out His hand to give you the breakthrough you need. This may be your moment to rise up and praise God for loosing you from some infirmity.

I encourage you to pause and insert your own name into this powerful statement Jesus made to the crippled woman: “[Your Name], you are set free from your infirmity.” As you allow those words to sink deeply into your heart, faith will rise. Troubles that have persisted for years will melt away quicker than you can imagine as you’re set free in Jesus’ mighty name!

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When the Odds Are Stacked Against You

As you may have heard by now, the Carolina Panthers crushed the Arizona Cardinals 49-15 in the NFC Championship Game, winning a place in Super Bowl 50. And in a surprising development, odds-makers have even made the Panthers a slight favorite in their Super Bowl matchup against the Denver Broncos.

What’s astonishing about this scenario is that at the beginning of the season the Panthers were a 50-1 underdog to win the Super Bowl. Few people even expected them to win their division, let along end the regular season at 15-1, one of the best records in NFL history. And the naysayers came out in force after the Panthers’ #1 wide receiver, Kelvin Benjamin, was lost for the season because of an injury in training camp.

Don’t you love it when the naysayers are proven wrong?

I think God loves it too…

  • When over a million Israelites are able to walk away from Egypt, the strongest nation on earth at the time.
  • When Samson slays hundreds of Philistines with the jawbone of a donkey.
  • When David disregards his naysayers and defeats Goliath with his slingshot and five smooth stones.
  • When the fledgling band of Jesus’ followers becomes a powerful movement encompassing the known world.  

And I bet you’ve had your naysayers too. People who’ve said you’ll never amount to anything. Critics who’ve predicted your dream will never come to pass. Enemies who were bent on your destruction or defeat.

But God can’t wait to prove your critics wrong too…

His Word says that if He if for you, it doesn’t matter who is standing against you (Romans 8:31).

You’ve already been promised that the One living in you is a champion more powerful than anything or anyone you’ll ever encounter in the world (1 John 4:4).

And just as the Panthers achieved more this year than even their greatest fans could have envisioned, the Bible promises that God can do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us” (Ephesians 3:20).

So it’s time to set your sights higher, my friend. Even though the people around you may be counting you out, this could be your Super Bowl season after all.

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If you’re anything like me, some days you feel like conquering the world—and other days the world seems to be conquering you. Although I usually respond pretty well when confronted with just one problem at a time, it’s overwhelming when the problems come at me from every side. Some days I feel like I’m playing a game of cosmic Whac-a-Mole, with troubles springing up everywhere.

Yet I’m comforted to know that many others have written about days when they were surrounded by problems on every side. For example, King David wrote about being hemmed in by deadly enemies (Psalm 17:9). He described how he cried out to the Lord when his heart was overwhelmed, saying, “Lead me to the rock that is higher than I” (Psalm 61:1-2).

King Jehoshaphat was another person overwhelmed when “a great multitude” of enemies surrounded him (2 Chronicles 20). I encourage you to read the entire story for yourself, but here are a few of the key tips for experiencing victory when problems attack you from every direction:

  1. Recognize that God is bigger than your problems. When facing overwhelming situations, it’s easy to feel quite small and vulnerable, if not hopeless. But look at how Jehoshaphat focused on God’s power and sovereignty, rather than trying to defeat the enemies in his own strength: “O Lord God of our fathers, are You not God in heaven, and do You not rule over all the kingdoms of the nations, and in Your hand is there not power and might, so that no one is able to withstand You?” (v. 6)
  2. Reflect on God’s past faithfulness. If you’ve been walking with the Lord for a while, you hopefully have many memories of how He came to your aid during past battles. Jehoshaphat called to mind stories of God’s past miracles and promises, and he prayed, “Are You not our God, who drove out the inhabitants of this land before Your people Israel, and gave it to the descendants of Abraham Your friend forever?” (v. 7)
  3. Rely on God’s power rather than your own. In crisis situations, there’s often a temptation to “take matters into your own hands” rather than trust the Lord and ask for His strategies. But Jehoshaphat freely acknowledged that he was powerless to handle things without God’s intervention: “We have no power against this great multitude that is coming against us; nor do we know what to do, but our eyes are upon You” (v. 12). Notice that Jehoshaphat made a conscious decision to fix his eyes on the Lord instead of on his problems (cf. Hebrews 12:2).
  4. Cast aside all fear. In a crisis, you need faith. Fear is never your friend. While Jehoshaphat was praying about his dire situation, the Spirit of God spoke an encouraging prophetic word to banish his fears: “Do not be afraid nor dismayed because of this great multitude, for the battle is not yours, but God’s” (v. 15). You see, if the battle is YOURS, it’s quite reasonable for you to feel afraid. But when you realize that God is fighting on your behalf, victory is assured, and there’s no need to fear.
  5. Listen for God’s strategy. Yes, the Lord will fight our battles, but victory comes only when we listen for, and obey, His strategy for our situation. In the case of this battle faced by the people of Judah, God’s strategy was to send a team of worshipers before the army: “When they began to sing and to praise, the Lord set ambushes against the people of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir, who had come against Judah; and they were defeated” (v. 22). In times of trouble, praise is a powerful weapon, both to calm our hearts and to release God’s intervention.
  6. Look for the blessings amid the battles. In this remarkable story, the Lord not only caused Jehoshaphat’s enemies to destroy each other, but the end result was a huge treasure trove of plunder: “When Jehoshaphat and his people came to take away their spoil, they found among them an abundance of valuables on the dead bodies, and precious jewelry, which they stripped off for themselves, more than they could carry away” (v. 25). When first surrounded by enemy armies, Jehoshaphat probably would have considered it a great victory just to SURVIVE the battle. But God has much more in mind. He wanted Jehoshaphat and his people to THRIVE, becoming far better off after the encounter than before. If you’re going through a difficult trial today, remember that God can use it to give you far greater blessings in the end than in the beginning (Job 42:12).
  7. Enter into God’s rest, even if the battle is still raging all around you. The story ends with this beautiful conclusion: “Then the realm of Jehoshaphat was quiet, for his God gave him rest all around” (v. 30). If your battles have been intense and long-lasting, it may be difficult to envision finding a time of peace and security ever again. But God wants to give your story a happy ending, just as He did for Jehoshaphat.

Jesus predicted we would face some pretty overwhelming times in the Last Days, so we shouldn’t be too surprised when that happens. His advice was simple, though. Instead of focusing on the surrounding circumstances, He told us, “Look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near” (Luke 21:28).

The Message paraphrases it this way: “When all this starts to happen, up on your feet. Stand tall with your heads high. Help is on the way!”

So take courage, my friend. When you look up and turn your eyes upon Jesus, you can be sure that help is on the way.


I would love to preach at your church or conference, be a consultant to your leadership team, or help your organization navigate the waters of transition. You can reach me at

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Would YOU Have Enlisted in David's Army?

Everyone wants to be associated with winners…champions…success stories. And that’s exactly why we need the lessons about life and leadership found in the story of how David’s mighty army began.

The scene takes place in 1 Samuel 22:1-2, when David was running for his life as King Saul attempted to find and kill him. The prophet Samuel had declared that David would be the next king, but the fulfillment of that prophecy looked very unlikely at the moment.

David had no palace where he could set up shop. He found no lofty mountain citadel where he could safely oversee the battlefield. Nor were there any barracks where he could gather and train an army.

Instead, he escaped to a seemingly hopeless training ground: “the cave of Adullam” (v. 1).

If you had to choose sides, would you have wanted to align yourself with David? Yes, he had Samuel’s prophecy going for him—but not much else.

A cave is a dark place…a confining place…and often a damp, moldy place as well. And for those of us with tendencies toward claustrophobia, it would have been a terrifying place.

Yet something miraculous happened there in the cave of Adullam: 400 people gathered in support of David! It’s as if they had a vision for him, at a time when he probably struggled to have a vision for himself.

Of course, these folks didn’t seem to have any more potential than their haggard leader. The well off and “respectable” people of Judah didn’t see much hope for David’s ragtag group, and it’s probably no wonder. David’s “mighty men” consisted of everyone who was in distress, and everyone who was in debt, and everyone who was bitter in soul…and he became commander over them” (v. 2).

How would you like to lead—or even be associated with—such a forlorn group?

Think of it: David’s initial army didn’t look like “the best and the brightest” in the eyes of the world. Just like Jesus’ motley band of disciples many years later, no one would have chosen them to succeed in rocking the world.

In addition to all of their other liabilities, David’s men initially were paralyzed by fear. When the Lord instructed him to attack the Philistines in the next chapter (23:1-5), David’s followers protested that they were too afraid to complete the mission: ,” they said, trying to excuse themselves from combat.

However, David’s men fortunately didn’t remain in the cave, cowering in the darkness. Despite their misgivings, they went out and won a great victory.

Although the story of David’s army begins in the cave of Adullam, it doesn’t end there. Soon others were gaining confidence in David’s leadership and flocking to his side (1 Chronicles 12). Even though they were skeptical and slow to respond, they eventually recognized he was a victor…a person of destiny…and someone they should follow.

By the end of the story, these fearful, distressed men had become giant-killers, just like David, their captain (2 Samuel 21:15-22). They were true disciples, able to do the same works as their master.

What an encouraging message! Even if you feel like you’ve been hanging out in the cave of Adullam for a while, remember this: God is preparing you to be a mighty warrior! He’s getting ready to take you from the dark place into His marvelous light and victory.

So don’t judge your situation by what your natural eyes see today. Look forward to God’s prophetic vision for your life and for the other warriors around you. He’s preparing you to slay giants!


I would love to preach at your church or conference, be a consultant to your leadership team, or help your organization navigate the waters of transition. You can reach me at


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6 Traits of Overcomers

Throughout history, the greatest heroes have been those who’ve had the greatest challenges to overcome. But isn’t it curious that while everyone wants to be an overcomer, we typically freak out when we’re actually given something to overcome?

That’s exactly what happened to Jesus’ disciples when suddenly confronted with “a furious squall” on the Sea of Galilee one day (Mark 4:35-41).

Perhaps you’re facing a storm of a different kind today. Not “a furious squall,” but rather a furious boss, spouse, child, or creditor. Or maybe you’re struggling against storm winds in your health or emotions.

The tempest on the Sea of Galilee that day was so fierce that the boat was “nearly swamped,” and the terrified disciples thought they were going to drown. Life’s storms are a lot like terrorists—popping up when we least expect and doing everything they can to engender fear in our heart.

However, this brief story contains six powerful lessons for how we can not only survive the storms of life, but even be better off because of them:

1.      Remember the promise. The story begins with Jesus saying, “Let us go over to the other side” (v. 35). If the disciples had been paying attention, they would have noticed Jesus’ resolve to bring them OVER, not to let them go UNDER! And I’m convinced He has the same plan for you today. He didn’t say you would drown on the way to your destination, He said would arrive there. So no matter how scary the storm may seem, you can be confident He will bring you safely to “the other side.”

2.      Leave the crowd behind. If you’re truly an overcomer, it’s unlikely you’ll also be Mr. or Ms. Popularity. In fact, verse 36 describes the disciples “leaving the crowd behind…” Why is that significant? Because a lot of people in “the crowd” aren’t on track to be overcomers. They’re content to live mediocre, uneventful lives. Rather than risk facing any storms on their journey to the other side of the lake, they would prefer to camp out safely in the harbor. But remember: You’ll never make a significant impact if you refuse to take risks and venture out into the deeper waters.

3.      Make sure you’re taking Jesus with you—on the INSIDE. This is so basic, but so easy to overlook. One day even His father and mother forgot to bring Jesus along with them (Luke 2:41-50). But here we’re told the “disciples took him along” (v. 36). If you’re going through a storm, it sure is good to have Jesus in the boat with you.

It’s fascinating that “there were also other boats with him” (v. 36). Jesus was only IN the one boat, but other boats were following along nearby. This is an apt depiction of people who attend church or other religious events in order to get in the vicinity of Christ, yet they’ve never really invited Him into their own boat. Until a storm hits, they probably feel safe enough with the status quo, but the storm reveals how dangerous it is to assume Jesus is in your boat, when He truly isn’t. When you’re going through rough waters, you don’t just want the Savior outside your boat—you need Him on the inside.

4.      Don’t doubt His love for you. Seeing Jesus asleep amid the storm, the disciples reacted the same way we would. Waking Him up, they questioned His love for them: “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?” (v. 38) Their logic was flawed, but we’ve all wondered the same thing at times: “Lord, if You really loved us, You wouldn’t allow us to go through storms like this!” But as the old children’s song says, “Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.” Instead of doubting His love while we’re experiencing a storm, we should allow Him to show Himself strong and faithful in the storm.

5.      Be patient when you’re halfway across. When Jesus told you He would get you to the other side of the lake, He meant it. But being in transition is difficult, and sometimes the journey lasts a lot longer than we would like. At times it can even be tempting to go back to the shore we came from instead of forward to the other side. Yet we must not lose heart when we’re halfway there.

6.      Stir up your faith. After Jesus calmed the storm, He asked His disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” (v. 40) Although the disciples had to awaken Jesus in this story, that’s not really the message for us, for Jesus isn’t asleep today. Instead, it’s our faith in Him that must be awakened.

The prophet Isaiah cried out to God in despair: “There is no one who calls on Your name, who arouses himself to take hold of You (Isaiah 64:7). Isaiah’s observation holds a vital key for whatever breakthrough you may be seeking in your life today: You must “arouse yourself” to take hold of the Lord!

You see, storms can be our friend rather than our enemy, because they’re meant to cause us to awaken our faith. Rather than being a one-time proposition, this is something we must do on a regular basis. Paul told Timothy to kindle afresh the gift of God which is in you” (2 Timothy 1:6). Other translations say we must “stir up” or “fan into flame” the gifts and callings of God in our lives. 

God is calling us to be overcomers, not casualties or victims. When we apply these six lessons, life’s storms will always lift us higher.


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Beyond a Once-a-Year Easter

I’ve always struggled to get excited about special days—even great days of celebration like Easter. After all, shouldn’t the resurrection of Jesus be a constant reality in our lives, not just a once-a-year commemoration?

Because Jesus lives, we can have true life as well. We can have fellowship with Him NOW, without having to wait until we get to heaven.

But let’s face it: We don’t just need resurrection power once a year. Even worse, some believers apparently have only experienced the power of God once in their lifetime—the day they got saved! No wonder so many experience drab, unfulfilling Christian lives.

The good news is that Easter is meant to be an everyday, moment-by-moment experience:

If the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you (Romans 8:11).

If you’ve given your life to Christ, His resurrection power lives in you—and you don’t have to wait until Easter comes again to get another dose!

Yet it’s heartbreaking that so many Christians are still trying to live FOR Christ, without realizing God’s plan for Christ to live His life THROUGH THEM! “It is no longer I who live,” Paul declared, “but Christ lives in me (Galatians 2:20). Anything less than this is empty religion and self-effort, destined to be fruitless in eyes of eternity (John 15:1-5).

In Second Corinthians, Paul speaks often about the trials he experienced and the lessons he learned: “We were burdened beyond measure, above strength, so that we despaired even of life. Yes, we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves but in God who raises the dead (1:8-9).      

When Easter is more than a once-a-year experience, we learn to lean on God’s resurrection power when times are tough. Yes, there may be times when we’re “burdened beyond measure” in our finances, health, emotions, relationships, or some other area of life. But that’s when we discover the all-sufficient grace and faithfulness of the God of resurrection—the “God who raises the dead.”

So go ahead and celebrate Christ’s resurrection power in your life this Easter—but keep right on celebrating every moment you live!

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The World Series and Beyond

“Play so that you may be serious.” (Anacharsis, c 600 B.C., quoted in Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics, 4th century B.C.)


On this day in 2004, after an 86 year wait, the Boston Red Sox finally captured a World Series trophy. Celebration was intense when success finally happened. Victory was sweet because it was a long time coming.

After last night’s game, with Madison Bumgarner pitching a shutout, the Royals’ hope of winning the World Series began to dim. The San Francisco Giants lead the series 3-2 against the Kansas City Royals.


People pay unbelievable prices for tickets to see these games. Intense emotion is evident on the faces of fans, alternating between agony and ecstasy as their favored team stumbles or shines.


Whatever happens, die-hard fans never quit cheering their beloved team. Holding signs that read “WE BELIEVE”, they persist in counting on their team’s ability to win, and they refuse to surrender to despair even when they lose a game. Next season they’ll do better, next time they’ll make the playoffs, next year they’ll win the World Series.


I recall hearing a story about a man strolling by a little league baseball field and having a conversation with the center fielder. “How’s it going, young fella?” he inquired. “Just fine, mister” the boy replied. “What’s the score?” the man asked. “It’s 14 to nothing” the youngster reported. “And it’s still just fine? How could that be?” the man asked. “It’s because,” the center fielder said, “we’re not up to bat yet!”


Sometimes it seems the score is “Evil 14, Good 0”. But beyond the numbers on the scoreboard, there’s an undying hope for an ultimate victory that will be sweet indeed—when Jesus gets up to bat.


“Next year in Jerusalem” is the true believer’s rallying cry of hope.


“Thank God! He gives us victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:57 NLT)


Johnny R. Almond

Christian preacher and writer

Author, Gentle Whispers from Eternity

Read blog at http://GentleWhispersFromEternity-ScripturePersonalized

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Dealing with the Devil

“We may not pay Satan reverence, for that would be indiscreet, but we can at least respect his talents.” (Mark Twain)


Our archenemy would love to make our life hell on earth. But when we hear the lion’s roar ringing in our ears, we can order him to get out of our face.


Struggling with sin will convince us that we need supernatural help if we’re ever going to vacate Satan’s death trap. We are a combination of opposites, a mixture of good and evil. Though we want to do right, our rotten nature distracts us from nobler pursuits. Relying on God, we can triumphantly march out of sin’s burdensome addiction with our head held high and a spring in our step.


Hell’s advertising blitz pressures us to invest in Nile stock. Fiendish voices try to convince us we need worldly resources. It’s all a terrible lie. We can find authentic satisfaction without compromise. With rivers of living water coursing through our heart, we discover the Lord is all we ever really need. In the desert’s inhospitable barrenness, we are not deserted. So we can worship God in the wilderness.


Exiting Egypt’s shadows, we bask in the sunlight of Truth. In contrast to earth’s dark depravity, we shine as sparkling diamonds. Tenaciously resisting the Devil, we walk as children of the Light.


“The Lord, the God of the Hebrews, has sent me to say, Let my people go, so they can worship me in the wilderness.” (Exodus 7:16 NLT)


Johnny R. Almond

Christian preacher and writer

Author, Gentle Whispers from Eternity

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The Power of Relinquishment

Rediscovering the Lost Secret to a Fulfilled Life

If you’re like me, there’s hardly anything in life more frustrating than when you lose something that’s important to you. The day is off to a bad start if you can’t remember where you put your car keys, your cell phone, or the computer file you’d worked on all day yesterday.

Everything else is put on hold until you find what you lost.

On the other hand, nothing is more exhilarating  than to find something you thought might be gone forever. Jesus tells three stories about this kind of experience in Luke 15, where a lost sheep, lost coin, and lost son all were regained with great joy.

Have you ever had this kind of experience?

Recently I uncovered a “lost” secret to having an adventurous, discovered-filled life. I feel like the man in Matthew 13:44 (MSG) who unexpectedly found “a treasure hidden in a field for years.”  How could I have missed or neglected this “treasure” for so long?

The secret is amazingly simple, found in a single word. It’s a word that probably sounds wimpy or even defeatist at first—yet it’s anything but that.

The word is filled with explosive power and potential, but this may not be obvious at first. It is a lot like nuclear energy—power hidden away for millennia inside of tiny atoms until activated.

Even though this word is never used in the Bible, the concept is found throughout. However, there’s a good chance you’ve never heard a sermon by this name.

So here it is, the forgotten key to a happy, impactful, and prosperous life:


Dictionaries define relinquishment as surrendering, releasing, letting go, or yielding. The closest Bible “proof text” I could find was an obscure marginal reference in Psalm 46:10 (NASB): LET GO and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”

The secret to having God exalted in our lives is in simply letting go—relinquishing  something we treasure to Him. Or, as Jesus told us, we must lose  our life in order to find  it (Luke 17:33).

Relinquishment takes a person’s life from ordinary to extraordinary…from bland to blessed…from victim to victor…and from boring to bold. In contrast, nothing is duller or more depressing than trying hold on to what we already have.

Abraham’s son Isaac was just an ordinary young man until Abraham relinquished  him to the Lord and put him on the altar of sacrifice (Genesis 22).

Once Moses relinquished  his ordinary shepherd’s staff (Exodus 4:1-5), it was transformed into “the rod of God,” able to perform mighty miracles.

There was nothing extraordinary about the five loaves and two fish the disciples had on hand—until they relinquished  their supply to Jesus (Matthew 14).

The stone waterpots in John 2 contained only ordinary, colorless, tasteless water, until Jesus took the bland water and did a miracle—turning it into sparkling, tasty, intoxicating wine. You see, whenever RELINQUISMENT takes place, God does miracles and life gets exciting.

So why is it so easy to miss this? The answer is simple: Because of fear and unbelief, we tend to hang on to our meager resources rather than entrust them into the hands of God. How sad, for He has shown throughout history that He can do far more with the resources than we can.

The life of faith is never ordinary, bland, or unexciting. But the “religious” life is a completely different story. Religion always turns the wine back into water and removes the fizz from the adventurous life of discovery God planned for us.

Jesus relinquished the rights and privileges of His heavenly life in order to embark on the great adventure of redeeming humankind and giving us a right to enter the kingdom of heaven. Still today, He beckons us to a life of relinquishment, where it is “more blessed to give than to receive”  (Acts 20:35).

Instead of being a life of boredom or defeat, a life of relinquishment is a life of anticipation, success, and victory. What could God do with that “thing” you are holding in your hand? You’ll never know until you relinquish it to Him. That’s when the fun starts and the fizz returns.


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TheTransforming Message of Easter

Easter is the highest holy day of the Christian faith. The Presence of the living Lord in trusting hearts changes all of life.

“The Easter message tells us that our enemies, sin, the curse and death, are beaten.

Ultimately they can no longer start mischief.

They may still behave as though the game were not decided, the battle not fought;

we must still reckon with them, but fundamentally we must cease to fear them anymore.”

- Karl Barth


The resurrection of Jesus is a fact we could never have imagined, a reality changing our destiny.

His resurrection was not merely the product of hallucinatory desperation or wishful thinking.

The disciples were not convinced by an empty tomb—personal encounter convinced them.

“I have seen the Lord!” canceled their doubt and dispelled their fear—today, it still does.

An empty tomb never proved resurrection; but a heart full of love is strong evidence.

                                                         Because He lives, enemies are beaten, all life changed.

Despair is not the last word—hope indeed springs eternal.

The grave is not a prison—the body will decay, but the soul is free.

Death is not the finale of the symphony of life—eternal life is the encore.

Aging will not have the final say—a glorious body will replace a humiliating one.

Funerals are not a final good-bye to loved ones—hellos will echo in heaven’s reunion.

Rough roads are not permanent–when time’s journey is over, saints will stroll golden streets.

Sin’s nightmare will not last forever—pain and tears will disappear when God’s dream comes true.


“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!

According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again

to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.”

1 Peter 1:3 ESV


Johnny R. Almond

                Pastor, Colonial Beach Baptist Church, Virginia

Author, Gentle Whispers from Eternity—Scripture Personalized

GentleWhispersFromEternity-ScripturePersonalized (copy & paste to browser for blog & book info)

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Whatever Doesn't Kill You...

When I went through a rather traumatic experience recently, I found myself reflecting on a commonly held maxim of today’s pop culture: “Whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger!” Depending on your taste in music, you can find this statement in recent songs by Kanye West or Kelly Clarkson.

I’ll have to admit, there’s something rather uplifting about this premise. It’s great to hear that you can be made stronger, instead of weaker, during the storms of life.

But is this axiom truly Biblical, or just wishful thinking?

It turns out that the originator of the “Whatever doesn’t kill you…” statement appears to be nineteenth-century German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche. He is more famous—or infamous—for launching the “God Is Dead” movement. But that alone doesn’t mean we should totally dismiss his view that whatever doesn’t kill you will make you stronger.

As I’ve pondered this, I’ve concluded that Nietzsche’s statement is a half-truth, something that can be either true or false depending on other factors. Let me explain…

There’s no guarantee that you will be strengthened by the traumas of life. We’ve all known people who experienced traumas and didn’t end up stronger—they just ended up traumatized. However, I bet you also can point to people who truly did become stronger as they overcame adversity.

You see, the evidence is pretty clear: Some people become BITTER when dealing with adversity, while others grow BETTER.

So what causes this stark difference in outcomes? Basically, the key is how we respond to the trauma. When faced with hardship, we have a fantastic opportunity to be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might” (Ephesians 6:1). Instead of being destroyed by our trials, we can “go from strength to strength” (Psalm 84:7). When the flood waters come, they can lift us higher instead of drown us.

However, there’s nothing automatic about this. It’s a choice. A lifestyle. A recognition that God’s strength can be revealed amid our human weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9).

Jacob wrestled with God one night and ended up limping as a result (Genesis 32:24-31). Was he stronger after that experience? Certainly not physically stronger.

But spiritually Jacob was infinitely stronger after this divine wrestling match. The transformation was so great that his whole identity shifted from “Jacob” (the scoundrel and deceiver) to “Israel” (a prince with God).

Ironically, the traumas of life ARE supposed to “kill” us, in a sense. But this doesn’t necessarily mean we’ll immediately exit this world for heaven. Rather, it means we’ll increasingly die to ourselves and then experience more of God’s resurrection power.  

The apostle Paul said it this way: I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me” (Galatians 2:20). You can’t get any stronger than that. 

I don’t know what you’re going through today. But I DO know this: God is faithful. He has a good plan for you (Jeremiah 29:11). And if you look to Him in your adversity and weakness, He will fill you with His supernatural strength. 

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Brick Walls & Iron Gates

Have you ever hit a brick wall? You were making progress, feeling pretty good about yourself—then suddenly you encountered a seemingly impassable obstacle in your path.

This is more common than you think.

I love the story in Acts 12 about Peter’s release from prison. On the eve of his execution, he was roused from a deep sleep by an angel of the Lord. As his pitch-dark prison cell was flooded with light, Peter’s chains instantly fell to the ground. Apparently invisible to the four squads of prison guards assigned to him, he and his angelic escort left the prison completely undetected.

After Peter and the angel “passed the first and second guard posts,” it might have seemed like the coast was clear. Ah…but not so fast.

After things had gone so smoothly in Peter’s initial release, they came to “the iron gate leading to the city” (v. 10)—which seemed a formidable obstacle indeed.  

However, as Peter and the angel approached the iron gate, something amazing happened: “this opened for them all by itself. So they passed through.”  

Notice that Peter didn’t have to kick the gate open or even knock. It opened “by itself” and “of its own accord.” The Greek word here is automatos, from which we get our English word “automatic.” Even before modern department stores got the idea, there was an automatic door in the Bible! God made a way where there seemed to be no way. Not my human might, nor by power, but by God’s Spirit He opened a gateway of freedom and blessing for Peter.

But it does no good for God to open a door for us if we’re too timid to pass through it. When Peter and the angel saw the door open before them, “They passed through.” They didn’t wait. They didn’t debate. They went to the other side.

Are you facing an “iron gate” experience today? Then instead of getting discouraged, get ready for the Lord to open a door before you. He has prepared “good works” for us beforehand, and all we have to do is walk in them (Ephesians 2:10).

And remember: The most important door is already open—“a door standing open in heaven” (Revelation 4:1). The heavenly voice is beckoning you, “Come up here!”

When Jesus died on the cross, the veil in the temple was torn in two so you can enter the open door into God’s presence anytime you want. It’s a door that’s “automatically” open to all who come in faith.


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The World Cup Craze

       “I never thought we would be world champions. We have to be humble.” 

       (Cristiano Ronaldo, Portugal forward, after his team’s 2-2 draw with the U.S. in the World Cup)


        The 2014 FIFA World Cup has captured the attention of millions around the world—putting work on hold, mesmerizing fans, raising enthusiasm to a fever pitch,and moving many to gamble on hopeful outcomes. Yesterday, despite chants of “USA…USA…” America’s premier soccer team experienced a heartbreaking loss to Belgium.  

        Is this sports phenomenon merely a diversion from workplace drudgery, providing temporary relief from daily responsibilities? Is it an extension of national pride,a patriotic contest for supposed superiority? Or does it serve as a substitutionary contest, giving spectators an opportunity to imagine they are the ones making the goals (or saving them)?


         There seems to be a human need to win vicariously, satisfied by victories of one’s favorite team. Life is difficult (as Scott Peck observed). We don’t always win life’s battles,no matter how hard we fight. So it’s good to celebrate our team’s success when they win a game; in the process we feel better for a while. Somehow we’re encouraged to face life’s daily frustrations energized by a small dose of exhilaration.


        I wonder if there might be something more profound going on in this global frenzy over soccer. Could there actually be (to use Jurgen Moltmann’s term) a theology of play? If so, what might it imply? Is there an innate, even God-given, human need for lightheartedness and game playing? Does the agony of defeat drive us to search for more meaningful and valuable enterprises?


        When the World Cup contest is over, and the final winner is announced, what difference will it make in our daily life? As exciting as sports victories are, spiritual victories are more crucial—and lasting. When we fully rely on God to enable us to win over worry, fear, greed, and other sins, triumphing is a real cause for wholehearted celebration.   


         “The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. Thank God! He gives us victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Romans 16:20;  1 Corinthians 15:57 NLT)


        Johnny R. Almond

        Author, Gentle Whispers from Eternity—Scripture Personalized

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