Lesson Learned . . . Later On

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

21May  The Bible quotes Jesus as saying, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but you will know after this.” (John 13:7)

Jesus uttered these words as He was washing His disciples’ feet on the night He was be betrayed.  When Jesus came to Simon Peter and knelt to wash his feet, Peter was as confused as he was convicted that he was utterly unworthy to have Jesus Christ – the King of kings and Lord of lords – wash his feet.  As Jesus said, Peter did not understand in that moment, but later the lesson was learned:

In order to be a leader you must first be willing to be a servant.

You may remember the story of Job and how everything except his life was taken from him by the evil one.  When Job went before the throne of heaven, heaven was silent for a very long time.  God did not enter into a dialogue with Job for many days, and even then, the Lord offered no explanation for what Job had suffered.

Job had to learn that we are to trust God

Even when we cannot understand what He is doing

 . . . And he had to learn that lesson later.

Take a moment to reflect back on your life and a time when your heart was heavy and heaven was silent.  What did you learn from that season of silence?  To be sure, at the bare minimum, we learn, as Job did, to trust God’s promise that He causes all things to work together for good to those who love Him.  But often we must learn this truth later. Our human nature wants answers and we want them right now.  But for the disciple of Christ, answers are often exchanged for the Almighty.  Like Job, we remain perplexed, but we are sustained in His presence and we trust that God is working all things for our good and His glory.

Job came to believe, “I know that You can do all things, no plan of Yours can be thwarted” (Job 42:2).  Job had learned from personal experience the truth that is expressed in the psalms: “The Lord does whatever pleases Him, in the heavens and on the earth, in the seas and all their depths” (Psalm 135:6) – and it pleases God to bless His children, even though that blessing may come to us out of a whirlwind.

The Christian must live life by faith and not sight, and receive the silence of heaven with the trusting heart of a child, knowing that our loving heavenly Father has only good intentions in mind for us.  As the psalmist wrote . . .

“Why are you depressed, O my soul?

Why are you upset?

Wait for God!

For I will again give thanks

to my God for his saving intervention.” (Psalm 42:5)

How many lessons have you learned in life . . . later?  Answers regarding many things in life may not come until we get to the other side.  Some answers do indeed come here and now.  The disciples did understand what Jesus was doing when He washed their feet . . . but not until Pentecost, fifty days after the Lord’s resurrection.  They needed to get to the other side of the crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension; when the Holy Spirit came upon them, they learned the lesson.  As the apostle Paul wrote, “Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.” (1 Corinthians 13:12).

Be encouraged today, Christian!  God loves you with an everlasting love; He promises never to leave you nor forsake you.  Keep looking to your Lord, knowing that in His perfect time and in His perfect way, the lesson will come to you, and you will be lifted by what you have learned.  You will know, deep down, that your heavenly Father is speaking glorious truth into your life.

Hold fast to these words of heavenly comfort . . .

“I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go;

I will counsel you and watch over you.

The Lord’s unfailing love

surrounds the man who trusts in Him.

Rejoice in the Lord and be glad, you righteous;

sing, all you who are upright in heart!” (Psalm 32:8, 10-11)

This is God’s Word For Today … This Is Grace For The Journey

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

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How Much Is Enough? Consumerism and Happiness in an Age of Plenty

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

18May

I am sure we have all heard these popular quips,

“You are what you own.”

“He who dies with the most toys wins.” “

The only value is market value.”

These pithy slogans, and many more like them, capture the sentiment of many today, especially in America.  Amazon, Walmart, and Apple are the new holy trinity of modern America.  The sporting complex is the new community center.  Social media beckons us too, even in our work, to escape to a virtual world where our sense of worth is shaped by the collective “other” through likes, comments, and pictures of the “best selves” of those enjoying material goods and pleasurable experiences ad infinitum.  Endless (and, all too often, mindless) movies, television, and concerts fill up the periphery of our lives.

We might ask, what is the driving factor behind the above slogans and the relentless pursuit of more stuff and more experiences?

The idea is that somehow things and experiences will make us happy.

They will satisfy. The “good life” consists in the accumulation of stuff and experiences.

The problem with this picture is twofold:

(1) Statistics reveal that while modern Americans have more stuff and more leisure than ever before, we are a profoundly unhappy people  (For a good summary of some of these statistics, see John Stonestreet and Brett Kunkle, A Practical Guide to Culture (Colorado Springs, CO: David C. Cook, 2017), chap. 12).  It simply is not the case that things and experiences make us happy in the long run.

(2) To use an often stated line, “the issue is complex,” and as it turns out, there is truth to be found in the middle of all the excess.  Material things are not, in themselves, bad. Many experiences – including entertainment – are not, in themselves, bad.  The problem begins when we try to squeeze more out of these things and experiences than they were meant to provide.  The problem, then, is one of context.

In his chapter on “hope” in Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis explores the human quest for happiness by describing three kinds of lives.

The fool, according to Lewis, is the person who blames the object or experience itself when he realizes that it was not the thing he really wanted. As Lewis puts it, “He goes on all his life thinking that if only he tried another woman, or went for a more expensive holiday, or whatever, then, this time, he really would catch the mysterious something we are all after.”

The fool, according to Lewis, is the person who continues to think the deeper longings of the human heart can be satisfied by things that have already been tried but found wanting.

The disillusioned “sensible man” is the man who gives up on the search for a deep and abiding happiness.  As Lewis describes this man, “He soon decides that the whole thing is moonshine. ‘Of course,’ he says, ‘one feels like that when one’s young. But by the time you get to my age, you’ve given up chasing the rainbow’s end.’”

If there is nothing more to reality than the physical world, then this is the best we can expect.

So many today are disillusioned.

May we pray to understand and have compassion on those

Who seem to be in constant need to fill their lives

With new things and new experiences.

Many seem to believe that “if this life is all there is, then by all means let’s squeeze as much out of it as we can, even if we have deeper longings – for meaning, purpose, value – that we cannot satisfy.

Lewis, however, asks: “But suppose infinite happiness really is there, waiting for us? Supposing one really can reach the rainbow’s end?”

What then?

If there really is “infinite happiness”

And we miss it, that would be a pity.

This leads to Lewis’ third kind of life, what he calls “The Christian Way.”  Lewis states, “If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.”

Lewis’ point is this: We find some desires – for example, our desires for meaning, purpose, significance, truth, beauty, goodness, unconditional love and more – that ultimately cannot be satisfied in this world (he lumps all of these together as a kind of desire for transcendence, or heaven, or for God).

That these desires for meaning, purpose, and value cannot be satisfied by things in this world does not mean the world is “a fraud;” it just means the things of this world were not meant to completely satisfy, but only (as he says) “to arouse and suggest the real thing.”

The Christian message helps us to see that true happiness is ultimately found in union with God.  This is why the Christian life is to be characterized by hope.  One day, all human desires will be satisfied, and man will truly and fully be happy.

The good news is that genuine happiness is available to all now.

Jesus declared where we can find it in John 10:10, “I have come that they may have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.”  Jesus invites us into a relationship with Him and offers us the fullness of life both now and for eternity.

In the Christian message, material possessions and entertainment are not bad in and of themselves.  In fact, when properly situated, they are best understood as gifts, things provided to us for our enjoyment and satisfaction, but also suggestive of something deeper.

How much is too Enough?

Here are some questions to ask yourself:

  • In what am I finding life?
  • Where do I place my hope?
  • What is the basis of my identity?

If your answer to any of these questions includes things or entertainment, then it is possible that material possessions and the entertainment complex have become idols in your life.  My encouragement is not to reject material things or entertainment, but to locate them within the Gospel story as gifts.  Then we will not only find pleasure in them, but they will awaken us to the deepest longing of our heart to be united with the Giver of all good things.

This is God’s Word For Today … This Is Grace For The Journey

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

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Living In Unity In Our Churches

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

17May  One of the major problems in the church today is disunity.  The little things in church fellowships can destroy relationships with each other . . .

  • Misunderstood statements can produce resentments.
  • Ministries that go unrecognized can cause hurt feelings.
  • Cliques often form that exclude and alienate others.
  • Busy schedules bring about irritations.
  • Envying the positions of others can lead to jealousy.

Disagreements can lead to divisions

In Romans 15:2-13, the Bible provides an answer to these inconveniences and irritations with fellow church.

The apostle Paul wrote to the Romans around A.D. 57–58 from Corinth near the close of his third missionary journey.  Paul wrote this letter to present the Gospel to a church he had neither started nor visited, in preparation for a visit to Rome and a missionary journey to Spain (cf. Romans 1:10, 13; 15:22–25).

More importantly, however,

The apostle conveyed

The message,

In keeping with the Gospel,

That no distinction exists in

God’s impartial judicial administration.

The law condemns everyone, and yet all who believe are justified by faith through the Gospel (Romans 1–11).  In light of Romans 1–11, Paul then provoked all justified believers to accept one another in the body of Christ (Romans 12–16).

Put simply, though all stand condemned before God (cf. Romans 3:22),

Everyone can be saved through faith in Christ (Romans 1:16),

And

The fact that God plays no favorites in salvation

Should provoke us to accept one another in the church.

Problems existed, however, between saved Jews and Gentiles in the church at Rome (cf. Romans 14:1–5).  They were not getting along well with one another.  On the one hand, Jewish converts (the “weak,” overscrupulous in faith) were clinging to some practices (not eating meat and observing various religious sacrifices and holy days) that were not necessary to observe once they came to faith in Christ – as far as the full comprehension of God’s grace in Jesus is concerned.  On the other hand, Gentiles (the “strong”) felt free to eat anything and did not observe the holy days.  Needless to say, conflict ensued.

The disagreements over these issues

Hampered unity in the church body,

And the effects of this disunity

Might also have hindered the church’s advance of the Gospel

And

Paul’s missionary plans if he did not intervene.

In Romans 14:4–9, Paul addressed these Christians as the “household slaves” of God.  He had strong words for them: “Who are you who judges another’s household slave? To his own master he stands or falls; and he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand” (Romans 14:4).  In other words, your brother in Christ is a household slave in God’s house – not in yours – and he must answer to God, his master – not to you (Romans 14:9–12).  Paul further admonished these believers not to disparage one another, nor to cause a brother to stumble in his faith (cf. Romans 14:13).  He taught that we are to relate to other believers in Christ by recognizing that we are the Lord’s “household slaves.”

So, in Romans 15, the climactic chapter of his letter, Paul exhorted the Roman church to treat each other in specific ways:

(1) He exhorted that, as the Lord’s household slaves, we are to “please” our neighbor.

This fits the pattern of our Master (15:2–4).  We do not indulge our neighbor’s every whim, but rather, we please our neighbor “for his good, leading to his edification” (verse 2).

The goal of pleasing our neighbors in Christ

Is to “build them up” in the faith,

Not to be critical and tear them down.

Paul explained that even Christ did not please Himself, because He took upon Himself our reproaches (citing Psalm 69:9, verse 3).  He then justified the Old Testament quotation he used in verse 3 by pointing to the Old Testament’s purpose mentioned in verse 4: it provides hope.

(2) Paul prayed that God would grant the church’s members the power to live in harmony with one another (15:5–6).

He asked that God may grant them to “like-minded toward one another” so that in “one accord” and “with one mouth” they may glorify the Father of “our” Lord.

Only through the Lord’s enablement

Can people who are different

And at enmity with one another

Live in unity.

(3) Paul commanded that we are to “accept” one another as Christ accepted us (15:7-    13).

Jesus again is the comparison.  The Lord had accepted Jews and Gentiles in salvation; so, both groups also needed to receive others cordially and in full Christian fellowship. To illustrate further, Paul cited the Old Testament (Deuteronomy 32:43; Psalm 18:49; 117:1; Isaiah 11:1, 10) to point out that the Gentiles were now included along with Jews in the church (verses 9–12), and then he ended with a prayer for the church to be “filled with all joy and peace” (verse 13).  Just as Christ forgave our sin and accepted us with all of our faults and idiosyncrasies, we also need to accept others in the church.

Romans 12:1-2 are some appropriate verses with which to close today’s blog.

They act as a bridge,

Linking chapters 1–11 with chapters 12–16;

And

Sserve not as a call to individual spiritual dedication,

But rather to corporate unity:

The Bible says in Romans 12:1-2, “I exhort you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God to present your bodies as a living, holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.”

In light of God’s mercies, Paul exhorted Jewish and Gentile believers to present their “bodies” (plural) as a “living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God” (singular).

The “reasonable service” for those justified by faith

Is to be a single, corporate, holy sacrifice to God.

Let us also glorify the Lord in such a way so as to live in unity in our churches as “many members in one body” (Romans 12:3–8) and together advance the Gospel around the world!

This is God’s Word For Today … This Is Grace For The Journey

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

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Gold … Grace … Glory – What Does God Promise To Give Us?

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

16May  The Bible says in Psalm 84:11, “For the Lord God is a sun and shield; The Lord will give grace and glory.”  There are two truths in this verse that we desperately need to hear today.  Especially amidst the voices of the health and wealth crowd.

Notice what we do not read in today’s verse:

We do not read that the Lord will give His children gold, grace, and glory;

Rather, the psalmist only promises that the Lord God will give grace and glory.

If the Lord gives some of His people gold in abundance – and He has on numerous occasions – then praise His mighty name!  But, Christians have never been and never will be promised gold on this side of heaven.

But . . .

What has been promised to the adopted children of God is grace and glory.

The Lord frequently gives His people great gain in temporal things, especially in the United States.

But every great gain that we receive

Is to be used for His glory

And

The expansion of His kingdom.

Remember . . .

Everything you have has been given to you,

No matter how hard you worked for it.

Every breath you take and every beat of your heart is a gift from God . . . and that gift comes under the heading of grace. The Bible says in 1 Corinthians 4:7, “What do you have that you did not receive?”

Everything we have is a gift from God;

God is gracious to us every moment of every day!

I want you to notice of something else that the psalmist does not say: he does not say, “The Lord may give grace and glory.”  No, he says, “The Lord will give grace and glory.” Grace is a promise from God.  Granted, this grace often comes shrouded in the shadows of storm winds.  I have noted several times in previous blogs that God has promised that we will experience trials and tribulations.  But, God has promised to supply all the grace we need to sustain us in every wave of challenge that washes over us.

The Bible says in 1 Corinthians 10:13, “No trial has overtaken you that is not faced by others. And God is faithful: He will not let you be tried beyond what you are able to bear, but with the trial will also provide a way out so that you may be able to endure it.”

Paul was confined to cold prison cells while he wrote much of the New Testament.  Yet, God gave Paul abundant grace to pen the inspired Word of God.

And there is grace enough for you

To do all God is calling you to do,

Regardless of the circumstances you are facing.

In addition to grace . . .

God will give us glory . . .

A sure and certain promise that awaits us on the other side of the grave.  We work our way through this life by sustaining grace, but what should greatly encourage us along the way is the glory that awaits us, glory that eye has not seen and ear has not heard.

It is, in a word,

Glory unspeakable!

Throughout whatever time God has given to each of us on this earth, let us be content to eat the grapes of sustaining grace, knowing that one day soon we shall drink the wine of glory forever and ever . . . Amen!

This is God’s Word For Today … This Is Grace For The Journey

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

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How Good God Is To Us

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

 

15MayGod says in Ezekiel 16:8-9, “I made My vow to you and entered into a covenant with you, declares the Lord GOD, and you became mine. Then I bathed you with water and washed off your blood from you, and anointed you with oil.”

These words from the prophet Ezekiel caused me to think about how good the God is to His children.  In His words to ancient Israel, God is communicating to them His determination to abide in His faithfulness to them.  They had been rebellious to their God.  Israel had been unfaithful, and yet, He would not (could not!) be unfaithful to her. I want to these dig into these truths that God declared so long ago to Israel and pray that God will help us understand that no less of a commitment has been given to all who are His children today through faith in Jesus Christ.

Truth #1 “I made My vow to you and entered into a covenant with you…and you became mine.”

It is good for all of us to remember that God does not accept us on a probationary basis.  He has entered into covenant with us through the blood of His Son.  Jesus is the One who has secured the payment that was is required to bring us into relationship with the Father.  Praise God, Jesus provided the sacrifice and when we called upon Him to forgive and save us, but let’s never forget that we were written into this covenant before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4).  This covenant redemption from God preceded us, our sin, our need, our response and the sacrifice that sealed the transaction.  Spend a moment in silent awe to recognize that the covenant and vow of God over us was in His heart before we ever began this life.  Now that is Good News!

Ezekiel continues in verse 8. “When I passed by you again and looked upon you, indeed your time was the time of love; so I spread My wing over you and covered your nakedness. Yes, I swore an oath to you and entered into a covenant with you, and you became Mine,” says the Lord GOD.”

As the Holy Yahweh observed the maturity of His elect people He desired a deeper relationship. Just as a young woman comes into maturity and is ready for marriage, so our Holy Lord compared His people with this example of deep love. This act began after He freed them from the bondage in Egypt. He had led them to Mount Sinai as described for us in the book of Exodus chapter 19, “1 In the third month after the children of Israel had gone out of the land of Egypt, on the same day, they came to the Wilderness of Sinai. 2 For they had departed from Rephidim, had come to the Wilderness of Sinai, and camped in the wilderness. So Israel camped there before the mountain.3 And Moses went up to God, and the LORD called to him from the mountain, saying, “Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob, and tell the children of Israel: 4 ‘You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to Myself. 5 Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earth is Mine. 6 And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words which you shall speak to the children of Israel.”

Truth #2 – “Then I bathed you with water and washed off your blood from you…”

God Is Love.  He Is The One Who created love and He definitely knows how to lavish it out on His own.  Our Holy Father has taken the one(s) He loves and has washed away all our impurities. He has taken our sins and has cast them away as far as the east is from the west and has promised to remember them no more. Just stop and meditate on this fact. He has cleansed every stain of our past, present, and future lives – forever. The Bible says in Isaiah 1:18, “Come now, and let us reason together,’ says the LORD, ‘Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall be as wool.’”

1 Corinthians chapter 6 verse 11 speaks about three wonderful conditions God does for us after we are saved, “And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.”  When you are justified by God you are free from the penalty of sin.  As the song of worship goes, ‘”hat can wash away my sin, nothing but the Blood of Jesus. What can make me whole again, nothing but the Blood of Jesus.”  As His child living on this earth, He then Sanctifies us.  We are freed from the power of sin.  Yes, we still bear about the old man but our precious God has given us His Great Holy Spirit Who lives in us.  The last action not mentioned in verse eleven is Glorification. God will remove from us the presence of sin.  O what a glorious day that will be!

Truth #3 – “… and anointed you with oil.”

God did not merely give Israel a clinical washing from her defilement. He spoke of making her beautiful, or giving her a fragrance of renewal via an anointing of oil. He tells her that he would refresh and revitalize her.

Oil speaks of many things in Scripture. Oil was used in various anointings – for separation unto purpose, for medicinal healing, for appointment into a calling and assignment, for beautification and for empowerment.  I must confess that I am constantly captivated by the symbolic significance of oil in the bible.  An anointing of oil was never accidental in the Bible.  It was always planned, intricately prepared, applied in the proper manner and then attached to the intended purpose.

When God tells Israel that He had anointed her, He is saying that He has gone beyond cleansing her from her blood.  He is making her beautiful.  He is being tender and intentional with her.  He has purpose for her and loves her.  Friend, He has done the same with me and with you.  The enemy wants to bury the shine that God gives us through the Holy Spirit under the dust of doubt and fear.  If you continue to ask, He will continue to pour His oil on your head and allow it to flow all the way down to your feet. He has purpose for you.  He loves the beauty he places upon you. His purposes for you are not complete – He is not done winning for you.

Olives were used for many things in biblical times.  Then, and still today, you can cook your food with olive oil.  It was also used as medicine.  If we follow along with our Lord’s description of rescuing this unwanted child, He applied oil to the wounds of this child after washing her.  In this act you can see Him care for all emotional, physical, and spiritual needs.  As a Loving Father, He cured all the ailments that afflicted her.

Oil was also set apart as something special.  It pictured the anointing of a person by the Holy Spirit.  It’s first use in this special way important of dedication is listed in Exodus 40:1-16 where the Bible says, “Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying: ‘On the first day of the first month you shall set up the tabernacle of the tent of meeting.  You shall put in it the ark of the Testimony, and partition off the ark with the veil.  You shall bring in the table and arrange the things that are to be set in order on it; and you shall bring in the lampstand and light its lamps.  You shall also set the altar of gold for the incense before the ark of the Testimony, and put up the screen for the door of the tabernacle.  Then you shall set the altar of the burnt offering before the door of the tabernacle of the tent of meeting.  And you shall set the laver between the tabernacle of meeting and the altar, and put water in it.  You shall set up the court all around, and hang up the screen at the court gate.  And you shall take the anointing oil, and anoint the tabernacle and all that is in it; and you shall hallow it and all its utensils, and it shall be holy.  You shall anoint the altar of the burnt offering and all its utensils, and consecrate the altar. The altar shall be most holy.  And you shall anoint the laver and its base, and consecrate it.  Then you shall bring Aaron and his sons to the door of the tabernacle of meeting and wash them with water.  You shall put the holy garments on Aaron, and anoint him and consecrate him, that he may minister to Me as priest.  And you shall bring his sons and clothe them with tunics.  You shall anoint them, as you anointed their father, that they may minister to Me as priests; for their anointing shall surely be an everlasting priesthood throughout their generations.’  Thus Moses did; according to all that the LORD had commanded him, so he did.’”

If we just take some time daily to reflect on these three verses, it will do so much to help us get and keep our priorities right.  We will recognize that we are not the masters of our own ships; that we were bought with an expensive price, that is, by the Precious Blood of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

The Bible says in Isaiah 61: 10, “I will greatly rejoice in the LORD, my soul shall be joyful in my God; For He has clothed me with the garments of salvation, He has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.”

So, I pray that the ancient words of Ezekiel have helped you today.  May they constantly remind you that you are loved by God, cleansed by His blood, anointed special service and relationship, secured in eternal covenant.

So are all of you who are in Jesus.

Therefore, today may you see how good God is to us!

This is God’s Word For Today … This Is Grace For The Journey

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

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The Believer’s Battle Cry

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

14May  David says in 1 Samuel 17:47, “All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves; for the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give all of you into our hands.”

1 Samuel 17 recounts the story of David and Goliath.

The giant Goliath was far bigger,

Much stronger,

And

Vastly more skilled in battle

Than David was.

Goliath had every conceivable advantage . . .

Except one,

And

That one advantage that David had

Was the most important one of all:

The Lord God Omnipotent!

The giant went into the battle in his own strength;

David went into the battle in the strength of his God.

You know who prevailed.

David uttered

The Believer’s Battle Cry

On that day,

And

It is to be our rallying cry

Every day of our lives:

“The battle is the Lord’s!”

And if the battle is the Lord’s, our victory is already assured.  As the Bible reminds through the inspired writing of the apostle Paul who wrote more than a thousand years later, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31).

To the watching world, the giant Goliath was “a lock;” a sure winner.  Even Israel’s King Saul was greatly afraid of this giant of a man, who harshly blasphemed God and challenged the Israelites for forty straight days.

But David . . .

Who had never set foot on a battlefield before,

Knew that the battle was the Lord’s;

It didn’t matter how big and strong and experienced Goliath was,

Because God was infinitely bigger, stronger, and more experienced than the giant!

So . . . what giants are you facing today?  What in your life has come up against you that is causing you to shrink back from all that God is calling you to be?  The armies of Israel trembled and forgot the power of God when they were confronted by the Philistine giant; you and I are likely to forget God also.  The Israelites looked fearfully at the sword and the spear in Goliath’s hand, rather than looking to the God of their salvation.  We often do the same thing.  If we keep our focus on the size of the giants we are currently facing, the size of our God will shrink.  But if we keep our focus on God, as David did, every giant that comes up against us will shrink before our eyes and God will give us glorious victory!

David was led to write in Psalm 108:12-13, “Give us help from trouble, for the help of man is useless.  Through God we will do valiantly, for it is He who shall tread down our enemies.”

Regardless of the challenges you are facing today in your professional or personal life, the battle is the Lord’s, and He has promised never to leave nor forsake you (Hebrews 13:5).  You can advance confidently toward every giant that comes up against you, because the battle is the Lord’s and He has promised to strengthen you and help you and uphold you (Isaiah 41:10).  God did not bring you this far to leave you in defeat.  He will carry you past this challenge and all the way into glory. The Bible says in Psalm 42:5, “Why are you bowed down, O my soul?  And why are you disquieted within me?  Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him for the help of His countenance.”

On the surface – and especially to the watching world around you –

It might look like you do not possess the strength

To overcome the giants that confront you.

And if you were operating merely

In your own strength, the world would be right!

But you know the truth, just as David knew the truth:

Greater is the power that is in you than any power that comes against you!

This is God’s Word For Today … This Is Grace For The Journey

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

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The Love Of God Comes To Us Freely

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

11May  The Bible says in Hosea 14:4, “I will heal their backsliding, I will love them freely . . .”  Here we find all the truths of the Gospel in a single word: “freely.”  The Lord Jesus Christ showers His limitless love upon His people, and He does it freely – not because we deserve it and certainly not because we are in a position to earn it or demand it.

I want you to focus on this truth today . . .

I can assure you that today will be like no other day you have yet lived.

This one word – freely – rebukes every proud pharisaical

Heart that beats for the glory of the self.

And

It is also to be the healing balm for every broken

Heart that has been crushed under

the weight of sin and shame.

The love of God in Christ Jesus comes to the Christian believer freely, not because of anything we do or don’t do.

There is no condition that must first be met in order

To experience this love that is freely given to us.

It is simply the desire of the One who freely loves.

He loves because He is love.

And

He loves us simply because He chooses to love us!

The Bible says in Ephesians 1:4-6, “Just as He (God) chose us in Him (Christ), before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved.”

Imagine for a moment that you believed at some level that

The reason for God loving you was rooted in you . . .

Perhaps because of your faithfulness to God

Or because of

Your fruitful service in expanding His kingdom.

What would happen when you found yourself less than faithful and far from fruitful?

You would question whether or not God still loved you.  You might well fear going out in a thunder storm!  You would constantly be looking over your shoulder, waiting for God to smite you for your imperfections.  However, when you read today’s text and see this word “freely” . . .

You are reading the sweetest note your Savior ever played.

Jesus loved you “freely” from before the foundation of the world; He wrote your name in the Lamb’s Book of Life before the earth was formed.  Jesus loved you freely when He raised you from death to life.  And Jesus loves you freely today, regardless of the love you have – or have not – been giving back to Him.

This truth should absolutely shake your world!

The love of God in Christ Jesus is given to us moment by moment, “freely,” without cost and without measure.  Jesus does not give us His love in increments – a little love here and a little love there.  Rather, Jesus pours His love down upon us from the fountains of heaven . . . love as unconditional as it is immeasurable.

So . . . what does this truth do for you today?

Does it bring you comfort?

Does it inspire you to new heights?

Does it convince you that you truly do matter to God?

Whatever this truth does for you this day, may it burn within your heart that the God of the universe loves you freely . . . He always has and always will!

God wants you to remember that He “demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)

This is God’s Word For Today … This Is Grace For The Journey

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

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The Believer as a Branch

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

10May Jesus said in John 15:5, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”  I pray that today’s blog, which is inspired by this very familiar text, will be a source of great encouragement to you – perhaps in an unfamiliar way!

Most Christians are quite familiar with the concept of the vine and the branches.  We understand that Jesus is the life-giving Vine and we are the branches, and we acknowledge the vital importance of staying connected to Him if we are to have any measure of success in living the life God has called us to live.

But it is also important to notice this foundational truth:

To remain in Christ is to partake of Christ.

Nowhere are we guaranteed that we will partake of the fruit!  To be sure, the ox is not to be muzzled while threshing out the grain, thereby taking nourishment from the grain it has threshed (1 Corinthians 9:9), but often the Christian’s reward will be found in . . .

Our relationship to Jesus Christ

. . . Not in our results for Him!

Branches are simply the conduits of Christ, bearing fruit to those whom we have been called by God to serve because of our abiding connection to Him.

The branch exists for the benefit of others, not for its own benefit.

My years in ministry have taught me that the greatest blessing in service to others is simply the service itself.  Knowing that we are serving our Savior is the great reward, because we are constantly reminded that our Savior did not come to be served, but to serve others (Matthew 20:28).

When we are serving others, expecting no reward other than

The joy of pleasing our Lord, we are most like Him.

It is all too easy to catch ourselves expecting a reward for ourselves in our ministry to others.  Our service to God can become a means to an end rather than the end itself.

You and I must always check our hearts

To see what they are beating for at the time.

Are we ministering in order to gain some benefit for self?  Or are we truly pouring ourselves out because Christ emptied Himself for others (Philippians 2:7 and we genuinely want to follow in His steps?

So . . . what has your heart been beating for lately?  Have you been living a life that is focused more on you, or on Jesus?  Make no mistake, God is in the business of giving good gifts to His people (James 1:17).

But the key to living as our Lord lived is

To keep our focus on God

And

Not on any rewards we might hope to receive.

The greatest gift is God . . .

The more we (as branches) stay connected to Him (the Vine), the more we will experience our richest reward:

A joyful, vibrant, and growing relationship with our Redeemer!

This is God’s Word For Today … This Is Grace For The Journey

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

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PURSUE YOUR DIVINE DEGREE!

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

9MayAs we began our worship time together this last Sunday, our church family recognized and celebrated with seniors who are graduating for high school and their families.  We rejoiced in their accomplishments and had a time of prayer, committing ourselves to continued prayer and partnership in their lives.  In just a week or two there will be other young people who will graduate from a college or university.  We are thankful for this time of celebration and commitment.

One of my favorite verses in the Bible speaks about the need of God’s people to prayer and partner with young people and their families in teaching them the good and right way to go.  The Bible says in 1 Samuel 12:23-24, “Moreover, as for me, God forbid that I should sin against the LORD in ceasing to pray for you; but I will teach you the good and the right way.  Only fear the LORD, and serve Him in truth with all your heart; for consider what great things He has done for you.”

Each student is in search of a degree that will help them in the field they have chosen to pursue.  But did you know that there is a degree that is available to everyone, one that transcends the degrees conferred by a high school, college, or university?  And you don’t need to enter into massive debt to pay the tuition to obtain it; that debt has already been paid in full by Another.  The degree I am speaking of is a divine degree: a BA from the College of Christ – Born Again! The Bible says in John 3:7, “You must be born again.

This verse comes from the familiar New Testament passage in which Nicodemus, a Jewish religious leader, came to Jesus under the cover of darkness, asking some deep questions.  During their conversation, Jesus said, “Verily I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”  (John 3:3).

Nicodemus’ response made it clear he had no idea what Jesus was talking about, “Nicodemus said ot Him, ‘How can a man be born when he is old?  Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?”  (John 3:4)  Obviously, Nicodemus did not understand what it means to be “born again.”  Or, if he did not understand the meaning of the phrase, he certainly did not realize why the rebirth is necessary.  Let’s look at both of these issues.

“Born again” means “to be born from above by the Almighty.”  In the school of Christ, everyone who has – by grace through faith – placed their trust in the life, death, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ is “born again by the Spirit of God.”

Here are a few passages of Scripture that define this Divine Degree . . .

John 6:40, “And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day.”

2 Corinthians 5:17, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation: old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.”  All this is from God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ and has given us the ministry of reconciliation.”

Ephesians 2:8-10, “For by grace you have been saved, through faith – and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.”

These verses give us a basic understanding of the meaning of “born again.”  We must know why it is necessary.  Again, God’s Word helps us understand this . . .

Romans 3:23, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”

Ephesians 2:1-2, “And you He quickened (made alive), who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience.”

Colossians 1:21, “And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled.”

Every one of us was born in sin, and that indwelling sin separates us from God and makes us blind and indifferent to the things of God.

The Bible says in 1 Corinthians 2:14, “But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.”

Our condition was utterly hopeless and helpless; we were dead and blind in our sins, and not able to receive or know the things of God.

But the Bible doesn’t just present the bad news . . .

It also presents the great, Good News!

As a matter of fact, in Romans 5:8, we read the two most glorious words in all the English language: “But God.”  Listen to what the Bible says . . .

“But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)

2 Corinthians 4:6, “For it is God, who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our heart to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”

Titus 3:4-5, “But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration an renewing of the Holy Spirit.

We could do nothing to save ourselves . . . but God in Christ offers eternal salvation to all who will transfer their trust from their own self-salvation efforts to Christ’s atoning work on their behalf.

Of all the degrees we could pursue through higher education, the only one that truly matters – the highest, most exalted one of all – is the divine degree from the College of Christ.

And here is the greatest news of all:

Unlike every other degree that must be earned

Through your disciplined effort and financial commitment,

Your BA from the College of Christ is simply received by grace through faith.

There is nothing you must do, indeed, nothing you can do to earn this divine degree.

Simply by trusting in Christ alone – by faith alone – through grace alone – to the glory of God alone –  you will receive the most important degree in the world: your BA from the College of Christ  . . . Born Again!

Now that is something worth celebrating!

This is God’s Word For Today … This Is Grace For The Journey

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

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The Biblical Teaching Of The Word Pilgrim

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

5May  Yesterday’s blog focused our attention on the “pilgrim” principle of the Christian life.  I want to use today’s blog to expand on this biblical truth.  There are several terms in the Bible that speak to this.  Peter referred to his readers in 1 Peter 1:1 as “pilgrims, sojourners, foreigners, temporary residents,” using the Greek term “parepidemos.”  This term is a compound word combining the two Greek prepositions “para” (meaning “beside” or “along”) and “epi” (meaning “upon” or “over”) along with the noun demos.  Combined, the prepositions have the sense of “distance from something.”  “Demos” originally had to do with “race” or “family” and later developed the sense of “people living in a district or community.”  Taken together the compound word means “stranger, sojourner, or one who resides in a place temporarily.”  In essence, the term means “a stranger in a strange land.”  Sojourners did not hold citizenship in the host country.  As aliens, they had few rights and privileges and were viewed suspiciously by the permanent residents.

The term appears twice in the Greek translation of the Old Testament.  When Sarah died, Abraham requested a burial plot for her among the Hittites (Genesis 23:4).  He requested: “I am a stranger and a sojourner with you.  Give me propriety for a burial place among you, that I may bury my dead out of my sight.”  Abraham and Sarah certainly knew what it was to be strangers in a strange land.  In response to God’s call (Genesis 12), they had lived their lives as sojourners and pilgrims.  Their descendants, the people of Israel, likewise knew the experience of living as temporary residents, even exiles in Egypt, Assyria, and Babylon.  In light of their experiences, Sarah’s being buried in a foreign land seems appropriate.

The second usage of the term “parepidemos” in the Greek Septuagint comes as a cry from the Psalmist, “Hear my prayer, LORD, and give ear to my cry; do not be silent at my tears.  For I am a stranger with You, a sojourner (parepidemos) as all my fathers were” (Psalm 39:12).

The psalmist lamented the transitory nature of life.

As a result he realized . . .

All that matters is one’s relationship with God.

While the psalmist was a current resident of this world, he was only a foreigner and pilgrim whose true home was with God.

In the New Testament, outside of 1 Peter the term appears only in Hebrews 11:13.  After defining faith as the firm conviction of certain realities even though they cannot yet be seen (Heb. 11:1), the writer of Hebrews offers an extensive list of examples of people of faith from Jewish history (11:7-40).   After listing Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, and Sarah, the writer paused and stated:  “These all died in faith without having received the promises, but they saw them from a distance, greeted them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth” (11:13).

Although these Old Testament heroes had kept the faith, their journeys had not ended, for their full inheritance would be realized at Christ’s appearing.  Nevertheless, in God’s strength they had maintained the journey toward God’s promises with steadiness, run the race with perseverance, and pursued the imperishable city with vigor.

That the early Christians saw themselves as pilgrims on a journey is evident by their earliest designation: people of the “Way” (Acts 9:2; 19:9,23; 22:4; 24:14,22).  Similarly, Paul presented the Christian life as “a walk,” as in Galatians 5:16: “I say then, walk by the Spirit.”  Thus, a consistent portrait emerges in the New Testament of the Christian life as a journey, and those who choose to live the Christian life as pilgrims or sojourners in a foreign land but journeying into a future with God in heaven.

Nowhere is this truth more prevalent than Peter’s first letter.  Peter picked up on the notion of going to heaven, but unlike much popular theology, Peter did not focus on the conclusion of the journey “when we die,” but rather on the present experience of living as strangers journeying in a foreign land.  In order to capture the essence of how Christians were to live in a pagan society, Simon Peter employed the image of a pilgrim.

Peter wasted no time introducing the image of the Christian life as a pilgrimage.  He begins his letter, “Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ: To pilgrims of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia” (1 Peter 1:1).  Peter described his readers using the Greek term “parepidemos.”  They were “temporary residents” who were scattered throughout Asia Minor.  As strangers in a foreign land, these believers faced rejection and persecution at the hands of the nonbelievers of Asia Minor.  Because these Christians were sojourners in a foreign land, people viewed them with suspicion, distrust, and a fear that was rooted in ignorance.  The fact that these Christian “pilgrims” declined to acknowledge Caesar as Lord and refused to participate in pagan worship would have alienated nonbelievers; and their acknowledgement of Jesus as Lord alienated the Jews.  Thus, by living a life of commitment to Jesus they faced harassment, slander, and reproach.  Such is the life of sojourners in a foreign land.

Following his introductory greeting (1:1-2), Peter offers reassurance and hope for these persecuted and alienated Christians.  They had been given a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead (verse 3).  Until the time when the living hope reached fulfillment at the final revelation of Jesus, they would find themselves in conflict with their society’s values.  Although this conflict would inevitably lead to suffering in various kinds of trials, the joy that comes from their new birth would far outweigh their grief.  In fact, the suffering indicated they were in the process of receiving the goal of their faith, the salvation of their souls (verses 8-9).

The proper response to God’s gracious action in Christ was to:

(1) Set their minds fully on God’s grace (verse 13);

(2) Be holy as God is holy (verses 14-:15);

(3) Love one another from the heart with total commitment (verse 22); and

(4) Crave the pure spiritual milk of God’s Word (2:2-3).

These Christian pilgrims were living stones in God’s spiritual house, a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, and a people for God’s possession who had received His mercy and grace (verses 4-10).

Having offered encouragement and exhortation, Peter turns to the pilgrim motif once more in order to call his audience to live godly lives in a society that largely rejected God.  Peter implored: “Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly desires that war against the soul.  Having your conduct honorable among the Gentiles, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may, by observing your good works, glorify God in a day of visitation” (2:11-12).

Peter exhorted his Christian readers to live exemplary lives within their pagan society. As holy citizens of God’s kingdom, they each had a moral responsibility to live a self-controlled life that bore witness to the truth of the gospel.  Peter did not teach that because of their status as strangers and pilgrims in this world that they should seek to escape from this world.

The Christian pilgrim must walk a delicate balance between complete alienation from this world on the one hand, and assimilation to the values of this world on the other.  We can easily miss this … that is why John says “do not love the world nor the things in the world” (1 John 2:15).  He also said “for God so loved the world, that He gave his only begotten Son” (John 3:16).  Peter’s writings also hold both subjects together profoundly. As Christian pilgrims journey in this world, we must avoid assimilation into the hostile culture.

We must maintain distance from the values and customs of a world that opposes God and refuses to acknowledge Him as Creator.  And yet, we must not withdraw from the world and fail to shine forth the light of God’s glory and grace.

Analyzing of the word “parepidemos” and seeing the way it is used in both the Old and New Testament should help us avoid romanticizing the idea of the Christian pilgrim.  To be a resident alien meant a person was outside of his or her homeland because of some political or economic disruption, or even military invasion.  It spoke of life in a foreign land where a person felt alienated and abandoned.  This is the plight of Christians as citizens of God’s kingdom living as temporary residents in a pagan society.  Yet, we do not sojourn alone.  Jesus is the Pilgrim par excellence, the victorious One who leads His fellow travelers to their eternal destiny.

Jesus is the courageous Pioneer who goes on ahead to make sure that the road is safe for all who follow Him.  We can rest assured that He will lead us safely from this current evil age of destruction to our celestial home.

This is God’s Word For Today … This Is Grace For The Journey

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

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