What Counts as Christian “Fellowship”?

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

25AprHang around Christians long enough and you will likely to hear the word “fellowship.”  It comes from the Greek word “koinania,” and in the New Testament it often denotes “sharing,” “close association,” or “mutual participation.”  I want to answer the questions “What makes Christian fellowship distinctively Christian?” in today’s blog.

Is it truly Christian fellowship whenever a Christian shares something with another Christian?  What about when two Christians swap recipes, share a meal together, or carpool to work?  Is it considered Christian fellowship just because you are involved in an activity that takes place in a part of a church building called the “Fellowship Hall”?  Is it Christian fellowship any time Christians hang out in a social setting – a women’s book club, the gym, or the ball park?

Must Christians do something together, like share a meal?  Or does it count as fellowship only if it is a “spiritual activity”?  Does the prayer before we eat count as fellowship, and does that transform the meal into a time of Christian fellowship?

Let’s look at the Bible to see what counts as Christian fellowship.

When the Bible Talks about Fellowship

In order to answer these questions, we need to see how the New Testament uses the word “fellowship” (and words similar to it).  The word appears in a variety of contexts and does not refer to only one concept or activity.  In fact, we can observe at least three senses in which the Bible talks about fellowship . . .

  1. Shared Life from Jesus.

Sometimes the word fellowship is used to explain the bond between believers and the Lord.  The Bible says in 1 Corinthians 1:9, “God is faithful, through whom you were called into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.” (See also: 1 Corinthians 10:16; 2 Corinthians 13:13; Philippians 2:1; 1 John 1:3).   Real “Christian” fellowship happens when branches draw life from the vine (John 15:1-11).

  1. Shared Life with Each Other.

Fellowship also involves the ways believers help one another, often in the context of meeting physical needs.  The Bible says in Hebrews 13:16, “And do not neglect doing good and sharing; for with such sacrifices God is pleased.”  (See also: Romans 15:26; Acts 2:42–45).  Much the same way Christ supplies all our needs according to His riches (Philippians 4:19), we reflect His love by supplying the same kind of love to the rest of His body (1 John 3:17).

  1. Shared Living for the Same Purpose.

Finally, fellowship can refer to a sharing of the same purpose.  The Bible says in Acts 2:42 and 44, “They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. . . . And all those who had believed were together, and had all things in common.”  (See also Galatians 2:9; Philippians 1:4–5.

The fellowship of the early church consisted in unity in doctrine, belief, and direction. They joined together in the essentials of their core identity and purpose.

When We Talk about Fellowship

It’s often the third aspect of fellowship (shared living for the same purpose) that we have in mind when we use the term today.  When we say we had “fellowship,” we usually mean we got together with people with whom we share a similar life direction, value, and/or goal.  We love Jesus, and so whether we are sitting in a restaurant, a deer stand, or a back porch with our Christian friends, there is an unspoken understanding: we are on the same team trying to move the ball in the same direction.

Although the other two aspects of fellowship (shared life with each other and shared life with Jesus) appear just as frequently in Scripture, we don’t often refer to them as fellowship today.  Therefore, it is challenging to provide specific guidelines for what activities constitute Christian fellowship, because fellowship isn’t always an event.  In some cases, it’s simply the unspoken but understood sharing of the love of God between two believers.

Regardless of how the term is commonly used, we can say without a shadow of a doubt that there are instances when fellowship occurs in all three senses in the church’s weekly gathering for worship and Bible Study.  We celebrate shared life from Jesus, we contribute to the needs of our brothers and sisters in Christ, and we unite in song, doctrine, and commitment to the Lord.  This is one reason why gathering with God’s people is so critical, for it is one of the only times on the weekly calendar when all three aspects of fellowship merge into a moment.

It’s not surprising, then, that the author of Hebrews urges us, “And let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more, as you see the day drawing near.” (Hebrews 10:24–25)

You and I need this kind of fellowship.

This is God Word … This is Grace for your Journey

… Rest And Rejoice In The Wonderful 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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Why Should We Be Concerned About Doctrine?

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

24Apr  Why should we be concerned about doctrine?  After all, some have complained that doctrines divide Christians; while others have suggested that an emphasis on the mission of the church would unite Christians.  But, is it true that “doctrine divides, but missions unite”?  Well, the answer is both “yes” and “no.”

On The One Hand, Yes!  Doctrines may and often do divide professed Christians. “Doctrine” is important in the church.  One cannot read the Old and New Testaments without understanding the place of “doctrine” in God’s kingdom work.  The word comes from the Latin word “doctrina,” which means “teaching” or “learning” or “instruction.”  This is the foundation upon which every disciple (“learner”) of Jesus Christ is to live in this world.

In spite of its ability to divide us, what we teach really does matter.  Doctrine matters because our salvation depends upon the truth, in particular upon the preaching of the Good News of the free offer of salvation through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  The problem with doctrine arises not because of the existence of doctrine, for doctrine is necessary to our salvation.  The problem with doctrine arises because of the existence of false doctrine as opposed to true doctrine.  I will comment more on this later in this blog.

On The Other Hand, No!  A mission may unite us, but it may not necessarily unite us for good.

If a church is not engaged

In the right mission

With the right message,

An appeal to unity is meaningless, even dangerous.

Churches who proclaim the true doctrine, the Gospel of Jesus Christ, will be used to bring people to salvation.  People who proclaim false doctrine, which comes from human wisdom or philosophy, are not bringing the Gospel of Jesus Christ (See 1 Corinthians 2).

Apart from the saving Gospel of Jesus Christ,

There is no salvation possible

(John 14:1-7; Acts 4:12; Galatians 1:6-9).

So, those who do not define their mission as teaching and preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ have the wrong mission.  This should convince us that doctrine is necessary.

But why is doctrine so necessary?

Because God ordained that through the preaching and teaching

Of true doctrine, people may be saved.

Let me offer three examples.  Concern for orthodox doctrine motivated the two most prolific New Testament authors, Paul and John, to write many of their letters.  Both of them stressed the coming of God in Jesus, His death for our sins, and His resurrection for our justification – this is the Gospel.  Both built their arguments of living for Christ upon the Bible’s teaching of who Jesus was and what Jesus did.  In addition, it is Peter, who also was very concerned with proclaiming true doctrine and opposing false doctrine.

The Bible tells us that Peter was granted the saving confession upon which Jesus Christ would build His church.  Peter, inspired by the God, proclaimed that Jesus is “the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:13-20).  This God-given teaching and truth is the basis for all true doctrine.  In his second letter, Peter warned about the coming of “false teachers,” who will “introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them.”  Many will sadly “follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of the truth will be maligned” (2 Peter 2:1-2).  According to Peter in his second letter, true doctrine must be proclaimed, and false doctrine must be opposed.

In his first letter, Peter explained why this is the case. He describes how true faith – real life-changing Christianity – comes into existence.  To do so, he employs a mixed metaphor, equating the “word” with a “seed” (1 Peter 1:23-25).

The way in which Peter identified God’s “word” as “seed”

Has profound implications for what Christian

Preachers, teachers, and evangelists

Are required to teach.

This metaphor indicates that a person who teaches anything other than the God-given, Christ-revealing, and Spirit-inspired Holy Bible teaches without divine power.  Let us explore the biblical correlation of “word” with “seed.”

First, note that Peter was not the first to combine “word” and “seed.”  His Lord, Jesus Christ, earlier used the identification between “word of God” and “seed” as the basis of one of His most extensive and well-known parables (Luke 8:4-15; parallels in Matthew 13:1-23; Mark 4:1-20).  The metaphor was so fruitful in Jesus’ mind that it earned prominent roles in at least three more parables: the parable of the growing seed (Mark 4:26-29); the parable of the wheat and the tares (Matthew 13:24-30); and the parable of the mustard seed (Mark 4:30-32).

Actually, Jesus was drawing upon two deep and highly significant Old Testament traditions with His use of “word” and “seed.”  After Jesus, the apostles invested both terms with theological importance in their writing of the New Testament.  Let’s take a brief look at this . . .

The Lord God Himself introduced the idea of a “seed” (Hebrew zerah) through the promise that He would accomplish His saving will.  In the Genesis 3:15, the seed, or “descendent,” of Eve would crush the head of the serpent even though the serpent would strike His heel.  In Genesis 12:7; 15:3, 5, 13, 18; 17:7-10, 12, 19; and 22:17-18, Abraham was granted a covenant promise that his seed, or “offspring,” would rule the land and bring God’s blessing to the nations.  Paul drew upon the Abrahamic concept of “seed” (Greek sperma or spora) in order to demonstrate that Jesus Christ is the covenantal plan of God for saving both Israel and the nations (Romans 4:13, 16, 18; 9:7-8, 29; Galatians 3:16, 19, 29).

As for the “word” of God, we see from Genesis 1:3 onward that the speaking (Hebrew dabar) of God has power to implement God’s creative will (Genesis 1:6, 9, 11, 14, 20, 24, 26; cf. Psalm 33:6, 9; Romans 4:17).  According to Isaiah, the Word of God is eternal, while human words fail (Isaiah 40:7-8) and God’s Word is sent to accomplish, and will perfectly perform, God’s will (Isaiah 55:10-11).  But the power of the Word of God is not limited to creating life.

In the New Testament, God’s Word (Greek logos or rhema) is powerful enough even to re-create life.  According to John, not only is the Word God Himself, who has come in the flesh (John 1:1, 14), but the Spirit works through the Word to bring life to us (John 6:63).  Anyone who believes these words of Jesus will be given life (John 5:24).  In Hebrews, God’s Word is a living, powerful, active, judging agent (Hebrews 4:12). According to Jesus, His words come from eternity and “will never pass away” (Matthew 24:35). And in Paul, the Word of God brings us surety of perseverance in the faith (Philippians 2:16).

Thus, Peter is continuing and contributing to a universally biblical conception when he brings together, like Jesus, the “word” with the “seed.”  For Peter, the Word of God functions in such a way as to regenerate life.  Because it comes from divine eternity, the Word of God is “living and enduring” (1 Peter 1:23).  Peter quotes Isaiah 40:6b-8 in order to prove its eternality (1 Peter 1:24-25a; cf. James 1:10-11).  The Word of God, moreover, is “the gospel,” which has been “proclaimed to you” (1 Peter 1:25).

The Word of God, from a soteriological perspective, is entirely different from the words of men.  While man is “like grass,” which “withers” and “fails,” the Word of God can lead one to be “born again” (1 Peter 1:23).  Man’s “seed” is “perishable,” indicating that human words and deeds ultimately end in death, no matter how beautiful they may sound or what they promise to convey or even why man intends to utter them.  But the “seed” of the Word of God, to the contrary, is “imperishable.”

There is an insurmountable difference between human words,

Flawed by temporal imperfections, and

The divine Word,

Fruitful with God’s eternal perfection.

In summary, we conclude that the Word of God has power in itself to bring the new birth that fallen human beings require.

There is no other way people may be saved other than through the Word of God.

Our well-thought words to advance apologetics and our well-meaning works to improve society will ultimately fail – if that is all we give people.

The only way people will truly encounter God and receive new life

Occurs when we give them the Word of God,

Which we know is inextricably bound for us today with the Holy Bible.

If you do not teach the entirely sufficient doctrine of Scripture, your listeners have no hope at all.

  • This is why doctrine, biblical doctrine, is singularly necessary, and every other human teaching pales into insignificance.
  • This is why we must emphasize the knowledge of Scripture, or doctrine, as the essential, absolute, and indispensable thing a disciple of Christ must learn.
  • This is why we believe that evangelizing with true biblical doctrine is the mission of God and His church.

It is the only way we can bring the saving Gospel of Jesus Christ to the world, which so desperately needs to hear this life-giving Word.

This is God Word … This is Grace for your Journey

… Rest And Rejoice In The Wonderful 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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All In The Family

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme 22Apr If you’re old enough, today’s title might well call to mind the popular 1970’s sitcom starring Carroll O’Connor and Jean Stapleton as Archie and Edith Bunker.  Well, the Bunkers are not the focus of this word of encouragement; rather, it is my prayer that we catch a glimpse of the truth proclaimed by Galatians 3:28, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond or nor free, there is neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

In other words, if we have acknowledged that we are sinners, that we cannot save ourselves, and have repented of that sin and accepted what Jesus Christ has done through the cross and the empty tomb, and have asked Him to be our Savior and Lord, we are all in the family!  You see, we are called by God . . .

Not just to “believe” but to “belong”

To the One who called us and to belong

To all those whom He has called.

As someone has rightly said, “All those who belong to Jesus belong to all those who belong to Jesus.”  In other words, we are all in the same family!

The Bible knows nothing of the solitary saint.  To be sure, we are all saved individually, but we are saved to community, which means we are part of something bigger than ourselves; we are members of God’s family of faith.  As part of the same family, we are to go beyond simply being consumers to becoming contributors who are committed to making a difference in the lives of others – all others – regardless of cost or circumstance!  The Bible says in Hebrews 10:22-25, “Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from and evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water.  Let us hold fast the profession of our faith with wavering 9for He is faithrul that promised), and let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works.  Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the day approaching.”

The primary mark for making a difference in the lives of others is love.

Jesus says in John 13:35, “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

So . . . how visible is the love you have for all of your family members?  Based on this biblical truth, would those closest to you consider you to be a disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ?

Look at it this way: you are going to spend eternity with your family of faith.  So it’s probably best to get used to them on this side of glory!  The only way to truly demonstrate that we are “All in the Family” is to simply be … “ALL IN!”

May that be the commitment and testimony of our lives.

This is God Word … This is Grace for your Journey

… Rest And Rejoice In The Wonderful 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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Forever Family!

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

20Apr  The work on the cross of Jesus not only makes us one with Him, it makes us one with each other.  Listen to these words from the lips of our Savior as He hung upon that cross . . . “Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, here is your son,’ and to the disciple, ‘Here is your mother.’”  (John 19:26-27)

Jesus told John and Mary that they would be part of the same household and family from that moment on . . . but they would also become part of a forever family.  To be sure, we are saved individually, but we are not to remain that way.  When we were saved, we were brought into our forever family – not by human bloodlines, but by the blood of the Lamb.

The Bible says in Romans 12:5, “In Christ we, though many, form one Body, and each member belongs to all the others.”

Everyone who has placed their trust in Jesus as Lord and Savior has been made part of a new forever family.  And, as Paul wrote, “Each member belongs to all the others.”  No matter where this message finds you as we move through this day, if you are in Christ, you are a member of His forever family.

Because of this remarkable truth, everyone matters.

Regardless of your gifting and calling, regardless of your success and station in life, you matter.

God did not make us all the same to do the same thing.

Each member is as valuable as the next.

Each one is as needed as the next.

And as members of the Body of Christ, we must always remember we are not the Head.  Jesus is!  When we mess that up, we mess others up.  When we see ourselves as the head, rather than a member, of the Body of Christ . . .

  • We criticize
  • We condemn
  • We seek to control

Only the Gospel can free us from the need to be the head, rather than a member.  Only the Gospel keeps us working toward the expansion of God’s kingdom rather than our own kingdom.  Only the Gospel frees us from slavery to self, preoccupied with our agendas, our goals, our dreams, and our plans.

When the Gospel rules our hearts,

It shapes our lives into the shape of a cross.

We not only have an intimate personal relationship with the Almighty (vertical), we have a family relationship with everyone in His Body as brothers and sisters (horizontal).   United with Christ vertically means we are to be in unity with every other believer horizontally.

What is amazing is we do not have to create this unity.

It has been given to every believer at conversion.

Our job is to maintain unity, and that can only be done when the truth of the Gospel seizes us.

  • Only the Gospel can free us from our critical spirit.
  • Only the Gospel frees us from our desire to be condemning.
  • Only the Gospel frees us from our fundamental need to gain and keep control.

Nothing can ever change that truth.  As the Bible says in Romans 8:38-39, “I persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39).

This is God Word … This is Grace for your Journey

… Rest And Rejoice In The Wonderful 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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He Paid My Debt – So What?

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

There is a hymn we sing by Elvina Hall entitled, “Jesus Paid It All.”  The refrain goes like this:

Jesus paid it all,
All to Him I owe;
Sin had left a crimson stain,
He washed it white as snow.

Jesus paid our debt through His substitutionary atonement on the cross and then overcame the penalty of sin through His resurrection.  Unfortunately . . .

I’m afraid the fact that Jesus paid your debt and my debt

Is losing its wonder in today’s world.

We live in a time when debt is no longer something to be avoided or delivered from.  Being in debt has become an accepted, even embraced, way of life.  Numerous countries, including the U.S., run on debt-based economic models.  The government’s debt is presently greater than $21 trillion – that’s a debt of $174,000 per tax payer.  It is the largest debt for a single country in the world.  Chasing the American Dream has resulted in student loan debt of $1.5 trillion and credit card debt approaching $1 trillion.  Now, credit card companies are offering marketing promises to pay the card user cash back for using its credit card.  How can these company not go bankrupt giving away cash?  Because card users carry debt on the card.

Folks have forgotten the wisdom of “don’t spend what you don’t have.”  Society has become desensitized to debt, justifies debt burdens, and feels entitled to debt forgiveness without consequence.  To be sure, society is now conditioned to carry large debt burdens despite the long-term ramifications.  Commercials and societal norms opine that you cannot go to college, buy a house, or get a car without loans.  Even cell phone companies offer financing for the purchase of the latest and greatest phone.

With “living with debt” as the societal norm,

Do we really understand the debt that Jesus paid?

What the Bible says in Romans 3:23 is clear, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” and the Bible informs us in Romans 6:23 that, “the wages of sin is death.”  You and I deserve death.  We are not entitled to probation for good behavior or a “get out of jail free” card.  Moreover, the consequence of carrying our sin debt is beyond the temporal trappings of this world; it is eternal – eternal separation from God (Romans6;23b).

As sinners, we are enemies to God (Ephesians 2  and separated from our holy God.  We cannot approach Him after the fact to plead our case or play “let’s make a deal.”

There is no debt forgiveness with a holy God.  The sin debt has to be paid, or else we suffer the consequences.  However, our debt is so enormous that it leaves us bankrupt, and we cannot do anything about it.  Isaiah 64:6 attests that “all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment.”

But the good news is that

“God so loved the world, that

He gave His only begotten Son”

(John 3:16)

To pay our sin debt.

Jesus is the only person who could pay our sin debt.

The Bible plainly tells us what Jesus did for us in Isaiah 53,:4-5, “Surely our griefs He Himself bore, and our sorrows He carried; yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, and by His scourging we are healed.”

In 1 John 2:2 the Bible says, “[Jesus] Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world. “

And in Revelation 5:9, the Bible says, “And they sang a new song, saying, ‘Worthy are You to take the book and to break its seals; for You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation….’”

Jesus died for your sins and my sins on the cross. His blood was spilled as the atoning sacrifice to pay our sin debt.  John 19:30 records the last words of Jesus on the cross: “Therefore when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, ‘It is finished!’ And He bowed His head and gave up His spirit.”

The single Greek word translated “It is finished” is tetelestai. I t is an accounting term meaning “paid in full.”  Jesus was declaring that our debt owed to God for our sin was completely wiped away forever.  No payment plan is required, no surprise balloon payments materialize at the end – the sin debt has been paid in full.  This is perhaps easier to see in the Greek, for tetelestai is spoken by Jesus in the perfect tense.  There is no English equivalent to the Greek perfect tense.  The perfect tense means that something happens at a specific point in time and continues on into the future with ongoing results.  Hence, Jesus paid all of mankind’s sin debt at that very moment and for eternity.

Properly understanding debt is of critical importance.  Everyone’s greatest debt is not material or monetary, but one that possesses eternal consequences for our soul.  Hell is no longer our destiny because “Jesus paid it all….”  We will be able to stand before holy God and be ushered into eternity with Him.

This is God Word … This is Grace for your Journey

… Rest And Rejoice In The Wonderful 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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What God’s Delights In

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

18Apr  My prayer and greatest desire in writing this blog each day is that the truths I share from God’s Word will help you to know Him and discover His delight in you.

So much of religion demands us to do something.

Do something delightful, good or worthy in order to gain acceptance from our incomprehensible God.  Major world religions of various stripes place the constant requirement upon their followers to . . .

Do something to either

Remove the displeasure of God against you

Or to

Facilitate His favor on your behalf.

The big problem with this is, what is enough?  This can terrorize and harass a person because . . .

They are never certain that they

Have done the right thing or

Enough of the right thing.

The Bible teaches that only one human

Has ever pleased the Father,

And this was Jesus.

God’s acceptance of any one of us is found only in the pleasure that the only begotten Son of God brought to His own Father.

It is in Jesus that God is still well-pleased.

Jesus is the beloved Son, and He lavishly procured the basis of our acceptance with the Father when gave Himself as our substitute and He poured out His own blood on Calvary.  Because of that God the Father holds back nothing in communicating to you that you are His, and that He delights in you in ways that our hearts are reluctant to believe.

Listen to what God says in His Word . . .

Psalm 35:27, “Let those who delight in My righteousness shout for joy and be glad and say evermore, ‘Great is the Lord, who delights in the welfare of His servant!’”

Psalm 149:4, “For the Lord takes pleasure in His people; He adorns the humble with salvation.”

As someone has said, “These two missiles of truth should land in our hearts to explode away all our doubts and fears.”

God has accepted you,

Not because you were worthy then,

 Or remain worthy at this very moment.

The basis of our acceptance is

Because of Who Jesus is and what He has done.

The magnitude of this acceptance is highlighted when we think that this is made possible because of God’s immeasurable love for us.

He loves you in Jesus. 

He accepts you in Jesus. 

He forgives you in Jesus.

The Bible says in Zephaniah 3:17, “The LORD your God in your midst, The Mighty One, will save: He will rejoice over you with gladness.  He will quiet you with his love.  He will rejoice over you with singing.”

What a powerful truth!  Because of Jesus . . .

God takes pleasure in us.

God delights in the welfare of all His servants.

Because of Jesus you are cherished & welcomed by Him.

It is His love for you,

And

Goodness toward you,

That must become your foundational rock of assurance.

Today, let’s choose to bask in and soak in the wonderful truth that because of Jesus God delights in us.    Perhaps it has been a long time since some of us have done so.  Some may have never thought about it even once.  Become immersed in the boundless sea of His acceptance.   Swim as far as you will and there will be no obstacle or shore where the delight of Father comes to an end on your behalf!

Oh, that more of us would frolic in the acceptance of our Lord!  We stand in a tub of lukewarm, ankle-deep water and call it salvation, when God has provided a vast, never-ending ocean for us with an open invitation to come, dive in, swim, and enjoy.  Will you admit that your are not good enough, nor can you do enough good things for God to accept you?  Will you accept who Jesus is and what He has done (the only One who is good enough and has done what is necessary) to make you acceptable to God?  Or will you, like many, choose for another day … another month … another year … to doubt His acceptance and love for you and try in vain to earn it?

Don’t let that be you.

God made you to experience and enjoy His acceptance.

This is God Word … This is Grace for your Journey

… Rest And Rejoice In The Wonderful 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.”

 

Divine Distribution Centers

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

17Apr  I have learned a sound biblical truth over the years:

God will only give to you what He will give through you!

In other words, we are to be conduits of God’s grace; or, as someone has said, we are to be “divine distribution centers” for His many blessings.

God told Abraham in Genesis 12:2, “I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing.”

Abraham was blessed to be a blessing.  Abraham was chosen to be one of God’s divine distribution centers, and . . .

What was true of Abraham is true of every child of God.

What we have been given from the hand of God is given to flow through us to bless the lives of all those with whom we come have contact with in our daily lives.

So . . . would those around you describe you as a conduit of God’s grace?  Funny thing about being one of God’s divine distribution centers:

The more that flows through us, the more that flows to us.

In God’s economy, the more we pour into the lives of others, the more God pours into our lives.

Jesus says in Luke 6:38, “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”

When we keep in view all that God has given us in Christ, we find great joy and freedom in being divine distribution centers!  The true mark of the society of saints is service to others – all others.

When we realize that the correct answer to Paul’s rhetorical question in 1 Corinthians 4:7 – “What do you have that you did not receive?” – is “Nothing,” we shift from being consumers to being contributors.  When we understand that the greatest return in giving is the giving itself, we hold nothing back that is in the storage room of our divine distribution centers.  Everything will be moved out into circulation for the good of others (that includes you) and the glory of God.

This is God Word … This is Grace for your Journey

… Rest And Rejoice In The Wonderful 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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No Shrink-Wrapped Witness

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

16Apr  Shrink wrap is a type of plastic that shrinks when heated. When it shrinks, it forms to the shape of the item it is covering. Shrink wrap is used to package or protect items that range in size from a bar of soap to buildings. You’ve undoubtedly discovered that shrink wrap can make it very difficult to open your new CD or DVD. It certainly delivers on its promise of protecting the item it is wrapped around!

Shrink wrap is a very useful product today; a shrink-wrapped witness is not!  A shrink-wrapped witness is a witness that has shrunk under the heat and pressure of daily living.  The more you shrink, the smaller your witness becomes.  A shrink-wrapped existence is living for nothing bigger than yourself . . .

  •  Your goals
  •  Your dreams
  •  Your desires
  •  Your vision
  •  Your advancement
  •  Your pleasure

A shrink-wrapped witness for the Christian is characterized by living with one foot in the world and one foot in the Word.  And when forced to choose, these double-minded Christians always go the way of the world.

They settle for living a life of mediocrity rather than

Living a life of mastery by living for the Master.

Their faith commitments are fine . . .

Just as long as there is no significant cost to keeping them.

In the shrink-wrapped kingdom of self, there is little room for glorifying God and absolutely no room for seeking the good of others.  It is shrinking the size of your life down to the size of your life.

But this is not what God wants for you!  God has called you to live large, and living large means living for the Lord.

We have been made by God for God,

And our lives are to be marked by advancing

The cause of His kingdom, not our own.

Take a look at it from the psalmist’s perspective . . . The Bible says in Psalm 100:1-5, “Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth.  Worship the LORD with gladness; come before him with joyful songs.  Know that the LORD is God. It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture. Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name.  For the LORD is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.”

Sharpen your focus on verse 3, where it says, “It is he who made us, and we are His.” God made us to praise and worship Him.  “What is the chief and highest end of man?” the Westminster Confession of Faith asks.  And the answer: “Man’s chief and highest end is to glorify God, and fully to enjoy Him forever.”  Our lives are to be lived in the light of eternity, where every aspect of our story intersects with His Story.

This is the place where our lives are driven by His love, His power, His glory, and His will.  We are, as the Bible says, “the sheep of His pasture” and we are to follow the Good Shepherd wherever He leads, trusting in His faithfulness, regardless of the cost or circumstance . . . even if the path is difficult or it does not make sense to us.

CS Lewis wrote, “If you read history, you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were those who thought most of the next.”  Only the Gospel, deeply infused into our hearts and minds, can free us to live such an incredible existence for the glory of God, an existence where a shrink-wrapped witness is as far as the east is from the west.

This is God Word … This is Grace for your Journey

… Rest And Rejoice In The Wonderful 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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Why Ancient People Needed God, Why Modern People Don’t, and Why I Still Do

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

13Apr

Imagine living in the ancient world, a world without internet, without computers, without electrical power, without complex machines, without running water – without the conveniences of modern life.  Just imagine it – the work required to gather and prepare food and water, clothing, and shelter.  Also, imagine the limited knowledge available to you.  It is the knowledge of your family, your clan, your people, your ancestors.  It is mostly practical knowledge required for survival.

Imagine how you might explain how things happen around you.  Imagine that after several months of planting and cultivating your crops, one day they suddenly begin to turn brown and die.  Imagine struggling through the next few months with just enough food to survive.  Imagine that the following year a swarm of grasshoppers tears through your crops, consuming them to the ground.  Another year of hungry survival.  What would you do?  How would you explain what has happened?

For those living in the ancient world,

Both scenarios illustrate how much of the world

Is beyond direct human control

And

Beyond immediate human explanation.

Yet, ancient people looked for ways to explain the events in their lives and to influence what might happen.  For this, the ancients “needed” the concept of “God,” or at least the supernatural.  They turned to spirits, deities, or their dead ancestors to explain why things happened as they did and to somehow influence what happened in their lives.  Why did the crops suddenly turn brown and die?  Because they didn’t offer sufficient sacrifices to the fertility deity.  Why did the grasshoppers swarm at this time? Because evil spirits had invaded their land.

Therefore, by performing certain rituals or by making certain sacrifices, they believed they could appease these powers of the unseen world and hopefully make their lives better. Ancient people needed the idea of “God” or the supernatural to be able to make sense of their world and try to control it in some way.

The situation changes with the developments of modern society.  Modern science can provide logical, natural explanations for the events in normal life.  So, why did the crops die?  Because a virus infiltrated the fields.  Why did the grasshoppers swarm through the crops this time?  Because climate conditions forced them to change their regular movement patterns.  Science offers answers to these kinds of everyday questions.

In addition to that, through technology, people can manipulate the world around them in ways not even imaginable in the ancient world.  They can prevent the virus from destroying the crops or prevent the grasshoppers from eating the crops.

In today’s world man think that the idea of “God”

Is no longer necessary to explain or

Manipulate the world around us.

In this sense, modern people no longer think they need the idea of “God” or even the supernatural.

In fact, it is only with the arrival of modern man that real atheism emerges.

Atheists have decided that they no longer need “God” most often because they believe science provides sufficient answers to explain and even control our world.

In fact, if science and technology have come so far in explaining so much of our world and if they continue to explain more and more with each new discovery, why does anyone need “God?”

In one sense,

The answer to the question is that no one does,

At least not the “idea of God.”

It is true that the vast majority of people, even modern people, have recognized that science itself is always limited both by the people who develop it and by the phenomena it takes into account.

For this reason,

Science often does not provide satisfactory answers

To many of life’s deepest, most difficult questions.

But ultimately, it is not the idea of “God” as an explanation for the everyday world that matters most to me.

The truth is I need God . . .

Not just the idea of “God,” but the true, living God.

I need Him for innumerable reasons,

But the most pressing reason is

That I am condemned as a sinner.

Although someone may object that sin is something made up in my head or something pressed upon me by my social environment, I know better, as do millions of others. Since I was a child, my conscience has condemned me.

Even when no one ever indicated that

What I was doing was wrong,

My conscience convicted my heart.

My conscience testifies to my need for something that is beyond myself to achieve: forgiveness.

In addition to that, when I look at this world, with all the destruction, all the deterioration of relationships, all the disease, all the disasters, and all the deaths that occurs on a routine basis,

I have to conclude that something is

Terribly wrong with man and the world . . .

Something so wrong that even with modern education,

Science, and technology man can solve all these problems.

I have to conclude with the truth of the Bible …

Only God can remove the condemnation of sin,

Its consequences, its guilt, its shame, and its punishment.

Sometimes people lose their sense of guilt or shame about some behavior, but this loss most often results from a choice either to excuse the behavior or to just live with it.

But God’s work exemplified in Christ

Does not excuse sin,

Nor does it ignore sin.

It takes the sin away through Christ’s atoning sacrifice.

His sacrifice, God’s sacrifice, brings forgiveness to those who believe.

Forgiveness stands at the heart of the Christian message, the Gospel.

Paul demonstrates this point when he describes the Gospel to the Romans.  The Gospel is God’s power to rescue us from the judgment of God to come (see Romans 1:16-20).

Our sin convicts, condemns, and controls us.

Only God can overcome sin. Only God can forgive.

And that is why I still need God. In fact, it is why all people need God.

This is God Word … This is Grace for your Journey

… Rest And Rejoice In The Wonderful 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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Waiting For And Hoping In God

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

12Apr

Today I would like to share a message of hope with you.  We can live weeks without food . . . days without water . . . minutes without oxygen.  But we cannot live a single moment without hope.

The Bible says in Ecclesiastes 9:4, “But for him who is joined to all the living there is hope, for a living dog is better than a dead lion.”

If you are reading this today and Jesus is your Lord and Savior, you are among the living; and because you are among the living, you are to be filled with a holy hope.

The Bible provides one powerful Gospel truth as to why that is true in Lamentations 3:25, “The Lord is good to those who wait for and hope in Him, to the soul who seeks Him.”

Isn’t that a wonderful truth?

Notice that the Bible does not say the Lord is good to those whose hope is in their career path, their bank account, their good looks, their education, or their physical ability.  It says the Lord is good to those who wait for and hope in Him.

So . . . where is your hope today?  Is it focused on Him . . . or on something other than Him, which may offer the promise of a great benefit and reward but in the end will never deliver on its promise?

Listen to what the Bible says in Psalm 34:10, “Those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.”  In other words . . .

Everything you need to live the life God wants you to live and to

Accomplish all that God is calling you to do will be placed at your disposal.

God will never lead you to do something without giving you everything you need to get it done.  Nothing can stand in the way of God’s purpose for your life.  The world, the flesh, and the devil will oppose you, but greater is He who is in you (1 John 4:4) – and that makes you able to overcome any and all opposition that stands in your way.

  • Difficulties at work? Look to, turn over to, and hope in the Lord.
  • Struggles in your relationships? Look to, turn over to, and hope in the Lord.
  • Distance in your marriage? Look to, turn over to, and hope in the Lord.
  • Challenges in your parenting? Look to, turn over to, and hope in the Lord.
  • Discouragement and distress over bad choices? Look to, turn over to, and hope in the Lord.

Regardless of where this finds you today, keep your hope in the Lord.  Go to Him in prayer and confess and plead your case.  Go to Him in His Word and stand on His truth.  Go to Him through the godly people He has placed in your life to give you counsel and comfort.  Because God’s mercies are new every morning (Lamentations 3:22-23), each day is a day of glorious new beginnings.  With every dawn there is new hope, new opportunity, and new possibilities – but not for a dead lion . . . .  or any other dead thing for that matter!

All those new beginnings are available only to one who is alive in Christ.

I think we would all agree that in the realm of the physical world it is far better to be a live dog than a dead lion.  Regardless of how much skill, power, and ability the lion has it is of no use to him if he is dead.  What is true in the physical world is true in the spiritual world, only with far greater importance.  There are many great individuals who are walking around this world drawing breath, but they are outside of the kingdom of God.  They do not know God or the things of God; they have no concern about Him, no relationship with him; and thus they are dead in trespasses and sins.  They are as the dead lion.

But for you whose life and hope is in the Lord, even if you are the “least” of all those who reside within the courts of heaven, you are alive today and shall live forever more.

You can enjoy life as God designed it and desires it;

You can experience a life of freedom and fulfillment;

And

You can expect forever life with Jesus in heaven!

Rejoice!

This is God Word … This is Grace for your Journey

… Rest And Rejoice In The Wonderful 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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