God Promises And Provides Hope

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

18DecSunday, I preached from from Isaiah 9:6-7 in correlation with our choir’s musical entitled, “Wonderful (Most Awesome) Counselor.  As we listened to the powerful message through song and sermon, we were reminded why we celebrate Christmas – it is all about the Good News incarnation of Jesus Christ and the hope we have in the gospel.  In Isaiah chapter 6 through 9 we see massive statements about Jesus Christ that provide reasons to rejoice and be glad in our God!

The prophet Isaiah was writing to Israel regarding the Assyrian conflict.  Assyria had overtaken the northern Kingdom and what Isaiah promised them was victory.

How?

Through a military conquest?

Through a powerful dictator?

No!

Through the birth of a baby.

It was a shocking statement in his day, but even more so when it actually came to pass hundreds of years later. Jesus was born of a virgin and the child given was the Savior of the world.

In Isaiah 9:7, Isaiah tells of the child who is the Son of God, the One who will rule the nations, the One who is the wonderful counselor, mighty God, everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace.

The resume of this promised child is beyond comprehension,

But not one of these descriptions transcends

Higher than the claim of deity.

This is the heart of the gospel and

The true reason for joy at Christmas.

In Isaiah 6, the prophet was encouraging his people in a time when the king had died. The people were scrambling around and looking for leadership when the throne was empty.

It was then that God provided the vision

Of the enthroned King of kings

Who was worshiped by angels.

Positioned high and

Lifted up on a sovereign throne.

Just one chapter later after reading of that majestic scene we hear the promise of a virgin conception and the announcement that the child’s name would  be called “Immanuel.”   When the prophet is led to pens the words in Isaiah 9:6, and claims that this child will be almighty God – there is no doubt that this is a reference to the deity of the Messiah – Christ the Lord. The child promised is none other than the Lord of hosts of Isaiah 6.

God with His people is the message of joy and the hope of the gospel!

When the Jehovah’s Witnesses try to suggest that Jesus is Michael the Archangel – it becomes clear that they are attacking the heart of the gospel.  Not only does Hebrews 1:6-14 quote Psalm 102:25-27 which reveals the truth that Jesus is Jehovah – but all through the Bible we see references to the deity of Jesus such as:

  • Isaiah 9:6 – “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”
  • John 1:1 – “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”
  • John 8:58-59 “Jesus said to them, ‘Verily, verily, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.’  So they picked up stones to throw at Him, but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple.”
  • John 18:6 – “When Jesus said to them, ‘I am He,’ they drew back and fell to the ground.”
  • John 20:28 – “Thomas answered him, ‘My Lord and my God!’”
  • Romans 9:5 – “To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ, who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen.”
  • Philippians 2:5-6 – Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, Who, though He was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped.”
  • Colossians 1:16 – For by Him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities – all things were created through Him and for Him.”
  • 2 Peter 1:1 – “Simeon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, to those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ.”
  • Titus 2:13 – “Waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ.”

This is why the Nicene Creed uses the language of “Very God of Very God” and it’s why the hymn penned by Charles Wesley en titled, “Hark! the Herald Angels Sing!” declares:

Hail, th’ incarnate Deity:
Pleased, as man, with men to dwell,
Jesus, our Emmanuel!

Without a sovereign Savior – Christmas has no real reason to celebrate or to have hope.  Remember as you celebrate this Christmas – Jesus is God … Christ is all about Him!

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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What Do You Fear? Part 3

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

9Dec  Last Monday and Tuesday I began a three part blog considering the wrong kinds of fear as we looked at Paul’s instruction to Timothy.  The Bible says in 2 Timothy 1:6-7, “Therefore I remind you to stir up the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands.  For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”  In last week’s blogs we looked at faith and “power” mentioned in this verse.

In this final blog on this subject, I want to look at the phrase, “and of a sound mind.”  This phrase literally means that one possesses “self-restraint or discipline, thus an individual with a sound mind does not jump to conclusions.” The word implies “being sensible and sober, having a clear understanding and sound judgment.”  Practically understood it means “a sound-minded person practices prudence and discretion.”

A sound mind banishes fear because any fear – aside from the fear of God – will be an irrational, illogical, and unreasonable – a fear that is groundless and without any real substance.  Irrational fears have a lie or some sort of falsehood at their cores. The sound mind that comes from having God’s Spirit gives us the ability to discern, judge, and recognize the truth about any situation, providing us practical understanding of how a person with the fear of God should react.

As long as we keep our fear

Focused on the right thing

God

We will not have

To fear anything else.

The Bible states in Proverbs 9:10, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.”  The proper fear of God goes hand in hand with the sound mind that comes from living in the power of the Holy Spirit because together they produce wisdom and understanding.  “Knowledge of the Holy One” entails much more than just knowing that God exists.  The word “knowledge” denotes “personal experience with,” and it implies that a person is in a close and intimate relationship with his Creator.  When a man knows God, his understanding of spiritual truths cannot help but be increased because he is being taught by the very Fountainhead of truth.  Likewise, having the proper respect and regard of God in every aspect of life will give an individual priceless insight into how to live his or her life.

This wisdom,

Like the sound-mindedness

That comes by God’s Spirit,

Is available only from God,

And only those whom God calls to Himself

Have the opportunity to be blessed with it.

If we stay focused on fearing God, we can grow and overcome through continually making the right choices throughout our life.  If, on the other hand, we begin fearing things other than God, our spiritual growth becomes stunted.  When we fear other things, we stop overcoming because any non-godly fear will involve self-centeredness, the very antithesis of God’s way of life.

2 Timothy 1:7 also mentions “love” as an opposite of irrational fear, which is shown even more strongly in 1 John 4:18, where the Bible says: “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love.”

2 Timothy 1:6 reminds us that the battle against fear

Begins with an act of God –

God giving us His Spirit.

1 John 4:18 explains that

Casting out fear is a process,

Reiterating that the abolition of our fears

Cannot be based on our own confidence or courage.

The apostle John teaches that fear leaves us as God perfects His love in us.  However, this perfecting of love does not happen all at once by divine fiat.  It is a process, just like sanctification, salvation, and character development.  In fact, they are all part of the same process.

How is love made perfect or complete within us?

The short answer is that it can only come

From the source of perfect love – God Himself.

If we want more complete love, we must receive it from God.  This is where our efforts come into play.  We receive His love by spending time with Him and by focusing on our relationship with Him – especially through prayer and Bible study – but also by experiencing life with Him.

Notice how complete this picture is.  We receive God’s Spirit at conversion, one aspect of which is His love being “poured out in our hearts” (Romans 5:5).  At this point, it is an incomplete love, but it is a beginning.  As we develop and deepen our relationship with Him, we receive wisdom, that is, we receive the practical understanding, application, and ability of the truths written in His Word.  We begin experiencing His faithfulness in everything that He has said in all of His instructions.  At the beginning of our walk in the Kingdom of God, we may know intellectually that God will provide for us and protect us and that we will not be tried beyond what we can bear.  But . . .

As we continue walking, we will begin to know this personally.

We will experience God’s faithfulness again and again.

His words and His promises become ever more

Real to us as we experience life with Him.

As we come to know this very embodiment of truth, the falsehoods that lie at the root of our irrational fears will be exposed to us, and our fears will fade.  As we broaden our understanding of truth on which to base our decisions, our minds will become more and more sound and discerning.

Through the power of God’s Spirit,

We will be able to serve Him and our fellow man.

God perfects His love in us as we go through this process.

With our focus and energies dedicated to God and to this process, and with an ever-increasing faith in God’s character, there will simply be no room for other fears.  Self-centeredness will find little place in us.

In this three part series, we have seen that irrational fears – whether they are rare phobias or more spiritually destructive fears – are banished by faith, by love, and by truth . . .

All of which are possible only within

A thriving relationship with God through His powerful Spirit.

We have been given the responsibility to yield and surrender to His control and capability.  So … How about you?  Are you fearing God? Or do I fear everything else?

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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Opposition And God’s Sovereign Power

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

14Dec  What opposition have you been running up against lately?  It comes in all forms, from someone who is trying to undermine you at the office, to sickness and disease that is testing the outer edges of your health plan; from someone who is telling others hurtful things about you behind your back, to those who are standing in the way of God’s call in your life; from trouble in your marriage, to rebellious children.  Regardless of the opposition you are facing today, I have a word of great comfort.

Opposition in the hands of Omnipotence

Is nothing more than opportunities for God

To display His power in you, through you, and for you.

This powerful truth is revealed in Exodus chapter 5.  In Verse 2 Pharaoh responded to Moses’ call to let God’s people go by saying, “Who is the Lord, that I should obey Him and let Israel go?  I do not know the Lord and I will not let Israel go.”  It seemed like the Israelites were never going to get out of Egypt.

With every word Moses spoke, the situation got worse for the people.

With every miracle delivered by the hand of the Almighty,

The most powerful man in Egypt dug his heels in deeper

And retreated further into his sin and self-absorption.

The opposition seemed impossible for Moses to overcome . . . and it was!

It was impossible for Moses to overcome,

But what was impossible for Moses

Was entirely possible for the Almighty God.

And that was the whole point.

If Pharaoh had let the people go when Moses brought God’s Word to him the first time, the world would have missed the awesome display of God’s power at work on behalf of His people.

What we consider opposition and obstacles in our way

Are merely opportunities for God to demonstrate

His sovereign power over all things.

When we witness the restoration of broken relationships, impossible situations on the job turned around, fractured and dysfunctional families forgiving one another and coming together, rebellious children returning and being restored, and death sentences from doctors turned into supernatural healings, we have the privilege of seeing Omnipotence at work in a fallen, broken, and sin-filled world, through fallen, broken, and sin-filled people.

Jesus repeated a truth that God declared several times in the Old Testament, “With man it is impossible, but not with God.  For all things are possible with God.”  (Mark 10:27)

The next time you face opposition or obstacles in life . . .

Fear not!

God is at work on your behalf.

God knows the beginning from the end, and nothing can stop Him from accomplishing His perfect purposes.  Now, it may not look like the plan you had in mind; it may not fit into your timetable, but it will certainly fit into His.  And His timetable is always better than yours.  Moses was expecting every miracle to be the one that would cause Pharaoh to let God’s people go.  But . . .

It was not going to happen

Until God was ready to finish

Displaying His awesome power,

That He might be glorified.

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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Rescued from Self-Righteousness

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

13Dec  Self-righteousness is an inner feeling that springs forth from the wicked well of moral superiority of our sinful hearts.  By nature, as children of Adam, we all drink from this well daily.  We are like the Pharisee described in Luke’s gospel who thanked God that he was “not like other men” who (he imagined) were far less noble than he.

So if we are all afflicted by this scourge through our sin nature, how will we ever be rescued from it?

The answer is found in clearly seeing

The portrait the Bible paints

Of who we truly are.

The Bible says in 1 Corinthians 10:13, “No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.”

My Greek professor. Dr. Curtis Vaughn, unpacked a more literal reading of this verse, explaining that the phrase “what is common to man” is translated from a single Greek word, “anthropinos” meaning “manlike.”

The deepest meaning of this verse goes far beyond acknowledging

That we are all tempted in ways common to everyone.

It actually reveals the awful truth that the seeds of the most sinful man

Are planted deep within the hearts of every man.

In other words, the seeds of the worst sins, sins committed by the most depraved people, are in all of us.

When this truth seizes us,

We are on the road of being

Rescued from self-righteousness.

What sin is beyond your reach?  When we see sin in others that we believe we could never commit, we become their judge, and self-righteousness drives its roots deeper into the soil of our sinful hearts.

I have shared this personal experience before.  Shortly after trusting in Christ as my personal Savior, I told my dad that I simply could not accept the Scriptural assessment of King David as being a man after God’s own heart (Acts 13:22).  You will recall that David should have been on the battlefield leading his troops instead of in bed with another man’s wife.  And if that wasn’t wicked enough, he tried to cover up his sin by arranging for the woman’s husband to be killed in battle!  How could this David be a man after God’s own heart?  I have never forgotten what my dad told me,

“Terry, your problem is that you don’t see David’s story as your story.

And until you do, you will not begin to plumb the depths of the truths of the Gospel!”

Well of course, he was right.  There was no way I saw my life story as David’s life story. I had not committed adultery.  I had not committed murder.  I was not what David was. Or was I?

In his book, Holiness By Grace, Bryan Chapell put it this way, “The scandal of Scripture is nothing less than the revelation of our own humanity.  However untouched by the world’s corruptions we may believe ourselves to be, the Bible says our humanity makes us no more beyond the most detestable sins than was King David.”

I have been rescued from self-righteousness by coming to understand that I am never more than one poor decision away from damaging my witness, disgracing my family, and disqualifying myself from pastoring the church God called me and my family to.  That sobering thought protects me from any misguided notion of moral superiority and keeps me focused on this truth:

Like the apostle Paul,

I am the chief sinner,

With the seeds of every sin within me.

And that is why every hour I need Jesus!

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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What Do You Fear? Part 2

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

9Dec  Yesterday we began a blog about “what do you fear.”  Today we will continue to look into God’s Word on this subject.  Theologian Richard Halverson is quoted as saying, “Men who fear God face life fearlessly. Men who do not fear God end up fearing everything.”  

To put it another way,

Fear can be broken down

Into two broad categories:

The fear of God

And

The fear of everything else.

If we fear God,

We will not need

To fear anything else.

We know that God is sovereign.  We know that He promises to provide for us and that He will not withhold any good thing from us.  We know that He will not test us beyond what we can bear and that He is unwaveringly committed to bringing us into His Kingdom.  Therefore . . .

If we truly fear God,

We know we have

Nothing else to fear.

The problem often arises from not fully understanding what it means to fear God.  A simple definition of “fearing God” is . . .

“Recognizing Who God is

And giving Him the

Respect and regard

Due Him in every facet of our lives.”

The “respect and regard” could range from a reverence all the way up to sheer terror and dread such as Moses, the Israelites, and Isaiah felt when in God’s presence (see Exodus 19:16-20; Hebrews 12:18-21; Isaiah 6:1-5).  The fact that it is in “every facet of our lives” means there is not a single area in which we do not take God into account.

The fear of God, then,

Becomes the dominant influence

Over our actions.

The Bible states in Proverbs 8:13, “The fear of the LORD is to hate evil,” suggesting that what we do demonstrates whether or not we fear God.

Our respect and regard for God

Will influence us to rid our lives

Of evil, of sin, and replace it with

What is godly and glorifying to God.

Immediately after God delivered the Ten Commandments to Israel, the Israelites were so filled with fear that they begged Moses to be their representative so they would not have to deal with this awesome Being (Exodus 20:19).  Their fear at the time was based on hearing His voice and witnessing Mount Sinai quake and burn from God’s immediate presence (verse 18).

Moses tried to turn their attention away

From their terror-based fear

And to redirect it toward

A more useful fear.

He tells them: “Do not fear; for God has come to test you, and that His fear may be before you, so that you may not sin” (Exodus 20:20).  Moses – and God – intended that Israel’s fear of Him would result in their obedience and refraining from sin.

So it is with us.  If we have the proper fear of God – if the reality of God is continually at the forefront of our minds – we find it easier to resist sin and rest in His sufficiency.  If we fear God, we will be departing from sin and dependence upon self.

The Bible presents another angle on fear in Proverbs 19:25, “The fear of man brings a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD shall be safe.”  In the Bible, a snare is used figuratively to convey the idea of destruction through deception.  The snare itself does not destroy – it is merely a trap of some sort – but it leads to destruction.

As the proverb says, fearing other human beings, as opposed to trusting and fearing God, is a snare.  The “bait: is that fearing other people comes easily to us – fearing not only what people may do to us, but also what others may think of us or how they may react to our obedience of God.  This reaction is based on false reasoning, however, because the very worst that men can do to us, whether through violence or contrary viewpoint, cannot begin to compare to what Jesus tells us that God can do to us (Matthew 10:28)!

As we saw in yesterday’s blog, the fearful or cowardly of Revelation 21:8 fear other things more than they fear God.  Not only will their fear limit their usefulness to God, but it will also frequently cause them to embrace some form of sin.  The flipside of Proverbs 8:13 – “The fear of the LORD is to hate evil” – is that, if a person does not have the proper fear of God, he will not hate evil.  He will, in effect, embrace it.

In 2 Timothy 1:6-7, the Bible shows how we can conquer our fears.  The Bible says in those verses, “Therefore I remind you to stir up the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands.  For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”

In verse 7, we see fear contrasted to “power, love, and a sound mind.”  Earlier in the chapter, Paul discusses another opposite of fear: “faith.”  To create a mental image of these elements, think of a pair of scales.  On one side is fear, and on the other side are faith, power, love, and sound-mindedness.  If a person allows fear to lead him – other than a proper fear of God – then his faith, power, love, and sound-mindedness will all decrease.  Fear will undermine these qualities and keep him from maturing spiritually. Fear will inhibit the action of God’s Spirit within an individual, keeping him from being effective for God’s purposes.  But if the faithful person fears God instead, the fear on the other side will decrease.

Notice that these antidotes to fear are derived from one of God’s gifts to us.  The world tells us that in order to overcome fear, we just need more self-esteem or more self-confidence.  But the Bible teaches . . .

That boldness and fearlessness

Are products of God’s Spirit,

Not virtues we work up within ourselves.

Courage is not a matter of pulling ourselves up by our own bootstraps, or working it up by strength of our will.  Our confidence and esteem should not be in the self but in God because we are, by definition, mortal and corrupt.  By contrast, God is eternal and perfect, and everything He does always produces the best result.  We can make no such claim, not by a long shot!  We can be confident knowing that He always gives us what is necessary to carry out His purpose. But we still have to put it to use—to stir it up, as the Bible says in verse 6.

Some Greek manuscripts use the words “servitude” or “bondage” instead of “fear.”  This change of terminology helps to clarify what sort of “power” is being discussed in verse 7.  We have not been given a spirit of “bondage” – something that restrains us and limits our range of usefulness – but of “power.”  The Spirit of God gives us power to break the shackles of what formerly enslaved us and held us back.  We have been enabled by it to do whatever God would have us do.

We have already received

The ability,

The might,

The strength,

And

The abundance

To carry out God’s will.

Sadly,

Our fears and lack of faith

limit the use of these gifts within us.

In tomorrow’s blog, we will continue probing Paul’s fear-conquering instruction in 2 Timothy 1:6-7.

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.”

 

What Do You Fear? Part 1

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

9Dec  According to The National Institute of Mental Health, about 12.5& of Americans have at least one phobia.  They report that “phobias are the most common mental illness among women of all ages, and they are the second most common mental illness among men older than 25.”  “Phobia” is a term that refers to a group of symptoms brought on by feared objects or situations.  People can develop phobic reactions to animals (such as snakes or spiders), activities (such as getting on an airplane), or social situations (like eating in public or simply being out in public at all).  Phobias can interfere with a person’s ability to work, socialize, and go about a daily routine.  They may focus on something as common as bacteria, or they may arise whenever a person ventures from home.

Phobias can range from the very common “acrophobia,” which is the fear of heights, “claustrophobia,” the fear of confining spaces, or the bizarre “xanthophobia,” the fear of the color yellow.  As strange as it might sound, some people actually suffer from this.

Psychologists have identified hundreds, perhaps even thousands, of phobias.  As further examples, people have been known to fear darkness (“achluophobia”), insects (“entomophobia”), riding in cars (“amaxophobia”), thunder and lightning (“astrapophoba”), moving to a new house (“tropophobia”), snow (“chionophobia”), clowns (“coulrophobia”), bicycles (“cyclophobia”), having definite plans (“teleophobia”), and some fear their relatives (“syngenesophobia”). There is even one phobia called “arachibutyrophoba,” which is the fear of peanut butter sticking to the roof of one’s mouth.

People with these various phobias have more than just a slight aversion to the object or situation.  They experience feelings of panic, dread, or terror.  Their symptoms often include a rapid heartbeat, shortness of breath, trembling, and an overwhelming desire to flee the situation.

At the core of these reactions

Is an irrational fear

That causes a debilitating response.

I certainly do not intended to make light of these conditions, because, as the saying has it, “There but for the grace of God go I.”  However, even if we do not have extreme phobias, most of us still have to deal with other fears, insecurities, and anxieties. Because of Satan’s influence on the world, fear plays a significant part in the human condition.

While we may not have difficulty breathing

Or an increased heart rate when we encounter certain situations,

Our fears and insecurities still evoke reactions within us.

Consider the fate of those that God considers to be fearful.  The Bible says in Revelation 21:8, “But the fearful, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.”  This subject of fear is significant enough that God consigns the fearful to the Lake of Fire!  The word translated as “fearful,” means “timid,” and by implication, “faithless.”

To understand why fear would prohibit entrance into God’s Kingdom, first, notice the word “but” at the beginning of Revelation 21:8, which connects this thought with the one before it by way of contrast.  Verse 7 reads in part, “He who overcomes will inherit all things.”  This contrast shows that fearfulness is in opposition to overcoming – and all Christians should be well aware of how vital overcoming is to their spiritual lives.

Fear keeps a Christian from overcoming,

And as verse 7 shows,

Only those who overcome will inherit all things.

Why does fear inhibit overcoming?  Recall the phobias mentioned above.  If a man has a fear of water (hydrophobia), he will not be inclined to go to the beach or the pool.  If a woman has a fear of flying in an airplane (aviophobia), she is forever consigned to making long trips by car or train.  If an individual has a fear of public places (agoraphobia), one will never catch him or her at a crowded park, a busy mall, or any other large, social gathering.

These examples demonstrate

That fear limits us.

Since our fears, anxieties, and insecurities influence our decisions, they end up limiting our behaviors.  Just as the proper fear of God will limit sinful actions, our irrational fears will limit our actions too – but the effect will not be good.

The phobias mentioned earlier are significant because of the debilitating effects they have on a person’s ability to live his or her life.

Even more damaging to those that God has called

Are the fears that inhibit their spiritual lives.

These fears may not leave a person sweating or short of breath, but they negatively influence his or her actions just the same.

Our fears may limit our usefulness to God.

For example, if we are overly concerned about what other people think of us, we may not be inclined to reach out to others and allow God to use us.

Out of fear, we may bury our spiritual gifts.

If we are terrified of strangers, we may have a difficult time being an effective witness to those outside our comfort zones.  If we fear the opinions of others, we may let that overshadow our decisions to do the right things.

Perhaps we fear losing control of some aspect of our lives.  Maybe we fear not being provided for or not receiving what we feel we deserve.  We may fear unknown people or situations, or anything we do not understand can seem like a threat.  We may fear not receiving love or attention, or be anxious about not being accepted.

We may fear sacrificing ourselves or something else we need to give up to follow Christ completely.  Perhaps we fear giving up parts of our lives or personality to put off the “old man” (Ephesians 4:22; Colossians 3:8-9).  We may fear what we will find if we truly look inside and examine our own hearts.  We may fear appearing foolish or wrong.

All of these fears will inhibit our overcoming.

They all indicate that on some level we

Fear people, situations, or personal change

More than we fear God.

More significantly, if a fear becomes larger than God, in practical fact, it will replace God – and that is a form of idolatry.

Tomorrow, we will look at the biblical concept of fearing God or the fear of the Lord.

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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Strength To Overcome

Grace For The Journey

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8Dec

Let me begin this blog by asking you this: “What mountain – what problem, obstacle, challenge, or difficulty – are you facing today in your personal and/or professional life that you must climb and ultimately overcome?  Whatever it is, stand on the indestructible foundation of the Word of God that declares – God will graciously provide for you.  The Bible says in 2 Corinthians 9:8, “And God is able to make all grace about toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work.”  Whatever this mountain might be, know this . . .

Because God is for you and not against you (Romans 8:31),

Every hill you face is an opportunity

For God to show His strength

And ability to see you through.

The Bible says in Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”  Sadly, many have misinterpreted this verse.  They have taken it to mean they can do absolutely anything, regardless of what that “anything” might be.  Well, this is simply not true.  If you want to fly, you’ll do well to take a plane, because no matter how determined and trusting in God you might be, if you jump from the roof of your house to soar into the heavens, you flight will be short-lived and your crash landing painful!

Philippians 4:13 must be kept in its context.

What Paul was telling us is

That we are empowered to do

Anything God is calling us to do,

Because God never calls

Without equipping.

In Pilgrim’s Progress, John Bunyan’s classic allegory of the Christian life, the character named Christian came to the base of a steep climb called “the hill Difficulty.”  At the bottom of the hill was a spring of water, and Christian paused to drink of it.  Now, refreshed and recharged, he was ready to take on the challenge set before him and he began his climb up the hill, singing as he went.

Regardless of the “hill Difficulty” you are facing today, pause before you begin your ascent and refresh and empower yourself from the spring of your Savior.

When you do, you will discover the biblical truth declared in Psalm 1:3, “He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in its season and its leaf does not wither, and in whatever he does, he prosper.”

This passage provides the key that unlocks the door to every hill we face.

Every child of God has this life-giving power through the Holy Spirit (John 7:37-39); Jesus, and the life He gives, is the source of our power that allows us to prosper in all we do for the glory of God.  From problems in your relationships to a prodigal child, from challenges in the classroom to major health issues, before you start your climb, drink from the springs of life of your Savior and He will give you all you need to climb all the way to the top.

Remember . . .

God not only knows everything you are going through,

He has ordained it all.  He created the hill!

And ultimately He will use that difficulty

For your good and His glory.

Drink deeply from the springs of life of your Savior (soaking up His Word, maintaining your prayer life, seeking out the communion of the saints, living obediently before Him), and know you will be strengthened, as Christian was, to face every “hill Difficulty,” knowing God will get you to the top.  And you should sing songs of praise as you climb!

The Bible says in Isaiah 12:3, “You will joyously draw water from the springs of salvation.”  May that be the confession of all our lives as we refresh ourselves in our Savior.

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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No Slumbering Savior

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

6Dec  The Bible says in Psalm 74:16, “The day is Yours, the night also is Yours . . .”  These words from the psalmist should be as comforting to us as they are challenging. God is in complete control of every aspect of our lives, both day and night, which should strengthen our resolve to live lives that are sold out for our Savior.  The Lord God Almighty does not slumber at night (Psalm 121:3-4), leaving you to fend for yourself . . . not for one instant!  Even during the darkest night of the soul, the Lord is in complete control, and He has promised you a morning light.  Look at what else God says in His word – “For you who revere My name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings.  And you will go out and leap like calves released from the stall.” (Malachi 4:2)

From dusk until dawn, Jesus is sovereignly overruling all things, just as He does from dawn until dusk.  No detail is left unattended.  Not a sparrow falls to the ground apart from His sovereign will, nor does one hair fall from your head apart from His perfect knowledge.  No force in this universe is beyond His control, for all things serve Him (Psalm 119:91).

God will tolerate no rivals, and that includes those principalities and powers that contend against His good.  To be sure, evil forces exist in this world, but they are the servants of our Savior, doing His bidding to expand His kingdom.  From the first watch of the night until the first light of the day, nothing happens to you that doesn’t first pass through His nail-scarred hands.  There is great comfort in knowing our God has said, “I form the light and create darkness. . . . I, the Lord, do all these things” (Isaiah 45:7).

In the Bible “night” and “darkness” are used as a metaphor for a variety of things, including evil, adversity, affliction, and ignorance.  But there is another idea that I want to set before you, which is that darkness can also symbolize disappointment, despair, disillusionment, and defeat.

Where light symbolizes God in all His goodness, mercy, and grace,

Darkness connotes all that is anti-God.

We do not see as well in the darkness, but darkness is absolutely transparent to Him. The remedy for us when we are in the middle of our darkness is to trust in our God even when we cannot see Him.

There is much we will miss seeing in the darkness,

Which is why we must keep our focus

On the One who sees all at all times.

And therein lays the challenge in today’s verse.  There is no thought we ponder and no action we take that is concealed from our Lord’s eyes.  As the God says in Psalm139:11-12,

“If I say, ‘Surely the darkness will hide me

And the light become night around me,’

Even the darkness will not be dark to You;

The night will shine like the day,

For darkness is as light to You.”

Those “secret sins” you are tempted to indulge in?  Those acts you believe that darkness and a drawn shade will conceal from a watching world?  There is One who is watching, One who discerns your every thought, who knows the words you are about to speak before your lips even form them (Psalm 139:2-4), One for whom there is no such thing as a locked door or “secret place.”  Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of Him to whom we must all give account (Hebrews 4:13).

Jesus tells us in Luke 8:17-18, “There is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open.

Therefore, since our every action is known to our Lord and Savior, we are challenged and commanded to walk in the light of His love and His Word, seeking daily to be filled with His Spirit, and following in the path of right thoughts and deeds.

Because Jesus is in control of both the day and the night, we can advance confidently down that road of righteousness and good works He has called us travel, regardless of how difficult or desperate it may seem at times.  Moses compared the brevity of time to “a watch in the night” (Psalm 90:4); in light of this truth, let us not waste a single moment fretting over whatever “night” we are currently experiencing. Remember, there is a time coming when there will be no more night, when darkness will be totally vanquished, because the kingdom of God will be fully established and the true Light of this world will shine brightly in the new heavens and the new earth and in every aspect of our existence forever and ever.

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 Blessing of Belonging

Grace For The Journey

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5Dec  Ever feel like you don’t belong?  I will never forget the day in middle school when I was picked last to be on the sandlot basketball team; the team captain grumbled, “I guess we’ll have to take Terry.”  Wow!  Did I feel like I didn’t belong!  For all of you who have experienced that awful sense of rejection and isolation, I have a word of ineffable comfort for you today!

The Bible says in Romans 1:6, “You also are among those Gentiles who are called to belong to Jesus Christ.”

Think about that for a moment!

You have been called to belong to Jesus Christ.

From the moment we are born we belong to our family.  As we grow up, we belong to a number of different groups: neighborhood, school, team, work, church, organizations.

The problem is we often don’t feel like we fit in very well.

We pursue acceptance, attention, and the applause of man

In a desperate attempt to feel like we belong.

It is a restless, relentless, and recurring theme in all our lives.

The problem is, when we look for acceptance and approval in anything other than Jesus, it never measures up . . . never satisfies . . . and never delivers on its promises.

Only belonging to Jesus can do all that – and so much more!

When you belong to Jesus, you belong to the One who paid for your sins with His precious blood.  Jesus wanted you so much that He was willing to die to make you His!

And the best thing about belonging to Jesus

Is you don’t have to keep pursuing

Acceptance, attention, and the applause of man;

You already have all the acceptance and attention

You could ever imagine!

God loves you with an eternal love . . .

Even when others are not particularly fond of you.

Jesus not only desires you, He delights in you!

Belonging to Jesus means your relationship with Him is unbroken, unbreakable, and unparalleled.  Nothing compares to belonging to Jesus, because nothing and no one compares to Jesus.  To be sure, it is a good gift from God to belong to our families, schools, churches, businesses, and communities; but at their best these provide only a shadow of what it means to belong to Jesus.

The apostle Paul understood that belonging at the deepest level.  He frequently introduced himself as he did In Romans 1:1, as “Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus.” In the original Greek the word would be rendered “slave”, rather than “servant,” but most readers in today’s world find the word “slave” repugnant.  The last thing someone wants to be is another’s slave.  But for the Christian whose Master is Jesus, the word slave is exactly what we want to be.

Jesus said that He had come to set the captives free from their bondage to Satan and to sin.

To be a slave of Christ is the sweetest of all stations to occupy in this life,

Because it is in our relationship with Him that we are to find our identity –

Not in our family . . . not in our work . . . not in our ministry . . . not in our finances.

Being called to belong to Jesus means our identity is forever to be found in Him.

Before I finish my blog today, let me offer one more magnificent blessing of belonging to Jesus and that is . . .

He belongs to you!

In His great High Priestly prayer, Jesus lifted us up to His father:  The Bible records His words in John 17:20-23, “(I ask) for those who will believe in Me through their word, that they may all be one, just as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that You have sent Me.  The glory that You have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one even as We are one, I in them and You in Me . . .” (Emphasis added).

This transcends even the blessings we receive from belonging to Jesus.  Yes, we receive . .

  • His pardon,
  • His imputed righteousness,
  • His forgiveness,
  • His victory over sin and death.

We are . . .

  • His bride,
  • Adopted into His family of faith,
  • And so much more.

But above all of that, we receive Him.

Jesus is our possession and our portion, and nothing in either life or death can separate us from Him.  Oh, the blessing of belonging to Jesus and Jesus belonging to me!

This is God Word … This is Grace for your 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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Wanting You … Not What Is Yours

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

Female hands holding gift on wooden table.  The Bible says in 2 Corinthians 12:14, “Now for the third time I am ready to come to you.  And I will be burdensome to you; for I do not seek yours, but you …”

When Jesus came into this world, He turned it upside down.

  • The first became last and the last became first.
  • The up were down and the down were up.
  • It was far better to give than to receive.
  • And the Bible tells us in John 13 that, Jesus Himself, the Creator and Controller of the universe and the Lord of Lord and King of kings, wrapped a towel around His waist, took a basin of water, and began to wash His disciples’ feet.
  • The King of kings had taken on the role of a lowly servant.

These are just a few examples of the radical transformation that our Lord wrought.

And yet, in a little over 2,000 years, far too many in the church of Jesus Christ have turned the world back in the other direction . . . and that direction is not the one we ought to be going in!

When I am sharing this concept with people in the church, they often ask how they can know for sure if they are living in the world that Jesus turned upside down . . . or if they are inhabiting the world that men have turned back the other way.  It really is simple.

Answer this question:

What do you seek after most in life?

God . . . Or the good gifts He gives you?

Now, I am not talking about what we all do from time to time – shifting our focus from our Savior to the stuff of life.

What I am talking about is identifying the driving force in our lives.

What is it that gets us up early and keeps us up late?

Is it time we can spend with God and deepening our understanding of Him?

Or is it time we can spend with the good gifts He has given us?

Read again 2 Corinthians 12:14, our verse for today.  The apostle Paul was making his third missionary journey to Corinth . . . Look where his focus was . . .

The love that Paul had for Jesus Christ

Poured out into the lives of those he ministered to . . .

And because of this Paul could say,

“What I want is not your possessions but you!”

Clearly this is a reflection of the heart of the great apostle.  His world had been turned upside down by Jesus on the road to Damascus, and he chose to live in that upside-down world from that day forward.

Never was he only focused on the many good gifts God had given to him;

Paul was always and in every way focused solely on God.

He wanted more and more of his relationship with God;

Because of this burning desire deep within his heart,

He focused more on people than he did on their possessions.

May that be the confession of our lives as we live in the upside-down world where we become servant to all and slave to our Savior.  At this level of living, we will be able to say to God each day what Paul was able to say:

THAT I MAY KNOW HIM AND THE POWER OF HIS RESURRECTION!

This is God Word … This is Grace for your 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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