Vision in the Valley of Dry Bones

Grace For The Journey

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March17PhotoForPastorsBlogVisionInTheValleyOfDryBones Today we’ll look at a portion of Scripture that is a source of great comfort and encouragement for anyone desiring revival, restoration, recovery, or renewal.

The Bible says in Ezekiel 37:1-10, “The hand of the LORD was upon me, and He brought me out by the Spirit of the LORD and set me in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. He led me back and forth among them, and I saw a great many bones on the floor of the valley, bones that were very dry. He asked me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” I said, “O Sovereign LORD, you alone know.” Then He said to me, “Prophesy to these bones and say to them, ‘Dry bones, hear the word of the LORD! This is what the Sovereign LORD says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life. I will attach tendons to you and make flesh come upon you and cover you with skin; I will put breath in you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the LORD.’” So I prophesied as I was commanded. And as I was prophesying, there was a noise, a rattling sound, and the bones came together, bone to bone. I looked, and tendons and flesh appeared on them and skin covered them, but there was no breath in them. Then He said to me, “Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to it, ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe into these slain, that they may live.’” So I prophesied as He commanded me, and breath entered them; they came to life and stood up on their feet – a vast army.”

For far too many today, life is being lived in a valley of dry bones, very dry bones. A life that once held great promise has careened out of control because of addiction. A marriage that started in a magical world has ended up in a world of misery because of self-centeredness. A ministry of service that began building a monument to the glory of God has come crashing down in the ruins because of decisions to compromise.  Countless lives, marriages, and ministries have become nothing more than a valley of dry bones, very dry bones …

But this is not what God wants for you!

The prophet Ezekiel gives us a wonderful word of comfort and encouragement . . . no matter what circumstance we find ourselves in today.

The first vision given to the prophet was not a pretty sight “I saw a great many bones on the floor of the valley.”

Dry, dead bones were scattered everywhere.

On the heels of this desolate picture of death we have the rhetorical question asked by our omnipotent God, “Can these bones live?” The answer we all must give, of course, is a resounding “YES,” for it is God asking the question and it is God who will breathe life into them. And God will breathe life into whatever area of your life is on “life support” right now. He will breathe new life into your struggling career. He will breathe new life into your strained marriage. God will breathe new life into your misaligned ministry of service to Him.

Notice the second vision:

“The bones came together, bone to bone.”

As of yet, however, there was no breath in them. Imagine what was running through the mind of the prophet when he heard the rattling sound of those dead dry bones coming together, attached by tendons, and being covered by flesh and skin!

But the vision did not stop there, because in spite of the miracle of putting the bodies back together again, there was still no life. So God took Ezekiel deeper in to his vision. God told him to prophesy and breath will enter them. And guess what? It did! From his first vision of being surrounded by nothing but dead, dry bones,

the prophet now found himself standing in the midst of “a vast army”

that God assembled right before his eyes.

Funny thing about God … He seems to enjoy bringing life out of death. He brought life to dead Adam with a breath in his nostrils. He brought life to these dead dry bones. He brought life to Lazarus in the tomb. He brought life to Peter after his denial of the Lord by giving to him a new vision of feeding God’s people. He brought life to Saul on the road to Damascus – Saul, who was dead in his trespasses and sins – and God turned him into the apostle Paul.

And God can bring life to you and anything you are facing today that is either on “life-support” or already dead. You have His Word on it! Jesus tells us in John 14:6, “I am the way and the truth and the life.”   This is the only way and exactly how life comes to everyone.  Now you need only to choose His way and catch His vision in whatever valley of dry bones you are facing today . . . and watch Him work!

This is God Word … This is Grace for your Journey … Rest in this eternal truth … AMEN!

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 Back Side of God’s Blessings

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March16PhotoForPastorsBlogTheBackSideOfGodsBlessings We all face wilderness experiences – times of loneliness, doubt, spiritual dryness, even despair. Moses faced his wilderness experience on the back side of the desert for forty years. David faced his as he fled from King Saul. John the Baptist faced his in the face of King Herod . . . and it cost John his head. Even our Lord faced His own wilderness experience during His 40-day fast, while the devil taunted and tempted Him.

Wilderness experiences may feel fruitless, but they most certainly are not. Even when we are in the midst of what seems like the back side of the blessings of God, we are still being blessed! To be sure, a wilderness is only pleasant when it is viewed on a picture postcard and not experienced in person. Yet, God has ordained all of us to go through a wilderness on the way to our Promised Land.

Did you know that the wilderness experience proves to be quite beneficial for a tree? The dry, barren environment causes the roots of the tree to drive down deeper and deeper into the soil in search of life-giving moisture. Thanks to this stronger root system, that tree is far better able to weather the storm winds that will eventually blow around it.

The very same thing is true for you and me when we think that we are languishing on the back side of God’s blessings. Our wilderness experiences are designed to cause us to drive our roots deeper and deeper into the soil of our Savior, and the result is that we are stronger and better able to weather the inevitable “life storms” that blow our way.

he Bible says in John 15:5, “I (Jesus) am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from Me you can do nothing.”

The key to bearing much fruit on the back side of God’s blessings is to remain – to abide – in Christ. Our roots are already connected to our Redeemer. We need only reach for Him as we respond to whatever wilderness experience comes our way. As children of the Most High God, we must remember …

that even on the back side of God’s blessings

we are still being strengthened and blessed and supported!

This is God Word … This is Grace for your Journey … Rest in this eternal truth … AMEN!

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 We Ought To Be Thankful For The Gospel

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13MarchPhotoForPastorsBlogTheGiftThatKeepOnGiving  The Gospel is the good news of the birth, sinless life, sacrificial death, glorious resurrection, and triumphant ascension of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Jesus Christ took our place on the cross, received God’s judgment and wrath for our sins, and paid our sin debt fully and completely, giving us the opportunity to be born–again, forgiven, and have eternal life. When this truth is accepted by faith, the person believing it is saved.  But the Gospel doesn’t end there.  The Gospel is not only the truth that unbelievers need to believe to be saved; the Gospel is the truth that Christians need to believe in order to experience being saved daily.

The Gospel is the gift that keeps on giving!

Far too many in the church today see the Gospel only as the door leading into the Christian life.  They correctly see the Gospel as necessary in the life of the unbelieving sinner in order to get them saved; but they fail to recognize the need for the Gospel in the life of the believing sinner in order to get them sanctified.

The Gospel is not only the door leading into the life of faith,

It is the floor upon which that life is to be built.

The good news of the Gospel not only saves the unbeliever from the penalty of sin (justification), it saves the believer from the power of sin (sanctification).  That’s why the Gospel is the gift that keeps on giving!

Those who only see the Gospel as the means of salvation inevitably look to their good works as the evidence of their continued right standing before God.  They are forever running on the performance treadmill, trying to gain God’s favor and blessing (and trying to avoid His displeasure) by their own spiritual sweat.  But …

This is not what the Gospel is all about!

My observation of Christianity today is that most of us tend to base our personal relationship with God on our performance instead of on His grace.  If we’ve performed well then we expect God to bless us.  If we haven’t done so well, our expectations are reduced accordingly.  In this sense, we live by works rather than by grace.  We are saved by grace, but we are living by the “sweat” of our own performance.

Moreover, we are always challenging ourselves and one another to “try harder.”  We seem to believe success in the Christian life is basically up to us: our commitment, our discipline, and our zeal, with some help from God along the way.  We give lip service to the attitude of the apostle Paul, “But by the grace of God I am what I am” (1 Corinthians 15:10), but our unspoken motto is, “God helps those who help themselves.”

Jerry Bridges, in his book Transforming Grace, sums up the freedom and fulfillment of the Gospel this way, “The realization that my daily relationship with God is based on the infinite merit of Christ instead of on my own performance is a very freeing and joyous experience.”

The gift that keeps on giving – the Gospel – is the only way to living a life of freedom and joy.  And that is because we live in the truth and knowledge of the finished work of Jesus.  When Jesus said, “It is finished!” He meant what He said!  Each day we need to be reminded of this transforming and liberating power.  We are not accepted because of our behavior; we are accepted because of His behavior, and for those who truly understand just how prone we are to wander, that is good news that keeps on giving!

This is God Word … This is Grace for your Journey … Rest in this eternal truth … AMEN!

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 Impotence of Personal Power

Grace For The Journey

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March12PhotoForPastorsBlogTheImpotenceOfPersonalPower  I have a friend who, for a season in his life was immersed in the field of personal development.  He was a serious student of some of the most popular and sought after self-help teachers in the world.  He studied the stuff; He taught it; He believed it!  He amassed a sizeable library of audio and print resources, not to mention a plethora of motivational posters, paper weights, and desk-top pictures. Then Jesus showed up and taught him that he was trusting in a faulty power source.

He says if he could go back and speak to all the people he coached in those days, he would humbly ask for their forgiveness.  He would tell them that even though he was quite sincere in his self-help beliefs and teachings, he was sincerely wrong!  He was trying to help others maximize their potential and become peak performers without ever dealing with their real problem: sin.

When you truly understand sin’s appalling grasp on mankind, self-help is rightly viewed as a delusional fantasy, promising something it can never deliver.  In light of sin, personal power is absolutely impotent.  We don’t need self-help books or success coaches or motivational seminars.  We don’t need to repeatedly recite positive affirmations, rub crystals together, or sleep under pyramids.

What we need is a Savior,

And

His name is Jesus Christ.

The Lord Jesus and His divine power is the only power powerful enough to do for us what we could never do for ourselves.

In Luke 8:45-46 Jesus was moving through a crowd and suddenly said, “Who was it that touched me?” When all denied it, Peter said, “Master, the crowds surround you and are pressing in on you!” But Jesus said, “Someone touched me, for I perceive that power has gone out from me.”

And, in Luke 6:17-19 the Bible tells us that, “(Jesus) came down with them and stood on a level place, with a great crowd of His disciples and a great multitude of people from all Judea and Jerusalem and the seacoast of Tyre and Sidon, who came to hear him and to be healed of their diseases.  And those who were troubled with unclean spirits were cured. And all the crowd sought to touch him, for power came out from him and healed them all.”

These are just two examples of the awesome power of Jesus.  In the first passage of Scripture, the power of Jesus went out from Him into a woman who had been bleeding for twelve years, and God’s Word tells us, “and though she had spent all her living on physicians, she could not be healed by anyone” (Luke 8:43).  The only power powerful enough to heal her was the power of Jesus.  In the second passage the power of Jesus was going out into all kinds of sick and diseased individuals, who received the only power powerful enough to heal: the power of Jesus.

When we rely on any power smaller than God, we end up right where we began – powerless!  Enthusiastic drivel that ignites emotional drive ultimately leads to an empty destination.

Make no mistake …

No amount of personal power can do what only the power of Jesus can do.

Since the fall of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, the world has been waiting for the only power that could reverse the curse of sin – the power promised in the coming Messiah.

He came!

He conquered!

He commanded!

He cured!

He called!

And on the appointed day

He will complete

what He began almost two thousand years ago.  That’s God’s promise from His Word – “And the God of peace will crush Satan under your feet shortly” (Romans 16:20).

So as you enter this day choose which power source you will tap into …

The utter impotence of personal power

Or

The stunning omnipotence of the power of the Lord Jesus Christ!

 This is God Word … This is Grace for your Journey … Rest in this eternal truth … AMEN!

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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Sustained Supernaturally

Grace For The Journey

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March11PhotoForPastorsBlogSustainedSupernaturally  What comes to mind when you read the words “Sustained Supernaturally”?  Here are several examples from Scripture of those who were sustained supernaturally.

  • The Israelites walking through the Red Sea on dry ground . . . sustained supernaturally (Exodus 14)
  • Moses with the Lord forty days without food or drink on Mount Sinai . . . sustained supernaturally (Exodus 34)
  • The Israelites wandering in the desert 40 . . . sustained supernaturally
  • The woman of Zarephath with just enough food for a last meal for her and her son . . . sustained supernaturally (1 Kings 17)
  • Ezekiel lying on his side for 40 days . . . sustained supernaturally (Ezekiel 4)
  • Jonah three days in the belly of a great fish . . . sustained supernaturally (Jonah 1)
  • Jesus without food for 40 days in His wilderness experience . . . sustained supernaturally  (Matthew 4)
  • Jesus and Peter walking on the water . . . sustained supernaturally (Matthew 14)
  • Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane sweating droplets of blood . . . sustained supernaturally  (Luke 22)
  • Saul at his conversion without sight, food, or drink for three days . . . sustained supernaturally (Acts 9)

I am sure you can think of many other examples, but I don’t want to focus your attention on the more remarkable examples in the Scriptures, but rather the ordinary examples in all of life.  Every one of us is being sustained supernaturally right now.  Your next breath is a gift of God.  Your next heartbeat is a gift of God.  Your next moment in time is a gift of God.  You are being sustained supernaturally at this very moment, and that truth should land afresh on your heart today and change your perspective in life.

If God is the reason behind all of life – and He is (see Acts 17:25) – then all of life should be living for God.  What is stunning about the human race is that we are the only life form that refuses to live for the glory of God.  It started with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden and it continues today.  We live for our glory and the expansion of our own kingdom, rather than the glory of God and the expansion of His kingdom.

But this is not what God wants for the Christian!  The Lord cried out to His people through the prophet Isaiah: “You whom I have upheld since you were conceived, and have carried since your birth. Even to your old age and gray hairs I will carry you, I am He who will sustain you.  I have made you and I will bear you, even I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you.” (Isaiah 46:3-4)

From conception to completion, and all points in between, God has, is, and will continue to sustain you.  God will sustain you in your self-centeredness.  God will sustain you in your self-righteousness.  God will sustain you in your self-focus.  God will sustain you in your self-absorption.  God will even sustain you in the area where you might think you don’t need it – in your success.  The sovereign love of the Great Sustainer will never fail, falter, or fall short in carrying you every step of the way until you get home . Remember …

His grace is sufficient to sustain you, no matter what you are facing today!

This is God Word … This is Grace for your Journey … Rest in this eternal truth … AMEN!

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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Visible Doesn’t Mean More Valuable

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March10PhotoForPastorBlogVisibleDoesn'tMeanMoreValuable We live in a visual society. We are often drawn in by what we see. This tendency has a bearing on how some view ministry in the life of the Christian: that some service is more visible than others. But I’d like to state up front that service that is less visible is no less valuable. Why? Because all ministry is being done for the glory of our precious Lord Jesus Christ.

I have asked the question from the pulpit: “Who is more valuable in kingdom work? Is it the person out front in the place of high visibility? Or is it the person in the background who often goes unnoticed?” The answer, of course, should be a source of great comfort and encouragement to the majority of kingdom workers.

Very few are out in front. They have not been shaped by God to be in positions of high visibility. The majority of kingdom servants minister in the background. But we must always remember that …

Ministry That Is More Visible Is Not More Valuable.

No matter how humble and hidden the service to our Savior may be, the body of Christ absolutely depends on that service in order to be fully functioning!

It is God who gives us our assignment, and every person has a perfect place and portion to serve God. We need only live it out with our eyes steadfastly fixed on Him.

I can tell you from personal experience at First Baptist and other churches where I have pastored, those behind-the-scenes servants are the glue that holds us all together. “Less visible” most certainly does not mean “less valuable,” because God works through the different people He has called and gifted to accomplish His purposes in this world.

So . . . have you been serving in a place of seeming insignificance? Let me assure you that there is nothing done for the glory of God and the expansion of His kingdom that is insignificant! Remember, the one thing no one else in the world can be is YOU! And that makes you indispensable to the expansion of God’s kingdom in this world.

Whether

Highly visible,

Less visible,

or

Invisible

To the watching world,

“visible” does not mean “more valuable” in God’s economy. It never has . . . and it never will.

The Bible reminds us that it is not what we do that is important it is what is done as a result of our ministry that is the real issue – “Let all things be done unto edifying” … “Wherefore, whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31 and 14:26)

This is the Gospel. This is grace for your Journey. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!

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 Truth of True North

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Need Direction  Jesus is the way  John 14:6 The dictionary definition of True North is “the singular point from which all things radiate, the direction along the earth’s surface that points toward the geographic North Pole.”  Scientists tells us that if you hold a compass and walk in the direction of the needle pointing north, you are actually approximately 18 degrees west of what is commonly referred to as north.  True North is what we call the North Pole and the needle always points in this direction, which helps your orient yourself in your travels.

True North is a popular navigational term used by sailors and explorers.  The term is also used in the business world in identifying the one true objective that will provide a strong foundation for all strategic decision-making.  Some examples are:

  • Provide the absolute best customer service in our industry
  • Deliver double-digit returns to the stockholders
  • Grow production volumes at double-digit rates

For the Christian, Jesus is “True North,” the singular point from which everything in life is to radiate.  The Bible makes this clear from Genesis to Revelation, and it is beautifully set forth in the following verse Acts 17:28,

“In Him we live and move and have our being.”

Jesus is the Creator and Sustainer, the Author and Finisher of our faith, and He is the only reliable reference point for navigating through the twists, turns, trials, and tribulations of life.  The Lord Jesus Christ is to be the resting place for the needle of our hearts’ deepest desires.  He is to be the fixed reference point for all of life, where all of our decisions are to be rooted and realized.  In Him we live … In Him we move … In Him we have our being.

When our “True North” is not in Him, we veer off course, we become disoriented, and we head off in the wrong direction.  When our hearts deepest desire is anything other than God, our “True North” becomes that thing.

We all worship something.  Either is it God or it is something smaller than God . . . and anything other than God is an idol.  I’m not talking about a statue of wood, stone, or metal.  No, we are far too sophisticated for that.  Anything that holds the affections and desires of our hearts other than God is an idol.  Just a few of these idols are:

  • Professional success
  • Financial security
  • Power
  • Applause of man
  • Sexual pleasure

The great reformer John Calvin once said, “Our hearts are idol factories!” The list is virtually endless.  The desires of the heart that properly belong to God can be given over to anything.  We make idols out of everything.  We may even make idols out of things you and I would call “good things,” such as our children or our church service. And that is why we need Jesus as our “True North” to fix our focus and orient our lives.  When Jesus is our “True North,” we do not waver when we face that proverbial “fork in the road.”  Instead of wondering which route to take, we simply continue on the path toward Jesus.

One of the best Scriptures for identifying our “True North” objective is Matthew 6:33 …

“But seek first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you.”

So . . . do you feel like you have been drifting lately?  Spending any time careening from wall to wall?  Get back to your “True North” and you will get back on track.  When we are seeking Jesus and His kingdom and His righteousness first, we will not seek anything else.  Saying YES to Jesus means we are saying NO to everything else.  Living in the light of the truth of “True North” will have us living for the glory of God and the good of others.  Now that is a life that has meaning and purpose . . . a life that is truly worth living.

This is God Word … This is Grace for your Journey … Rest in this eternal truth … AMEN!

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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There Are No Idle Idols

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March6PhotoForPastorsBlog When you hear talk about idolatry what do you think about?  For many, a picture of a golden calf comes to mind, like the one Aaron childishly maintained had jumped out of the fire at the foot of Mount Sinai.  For others, it is a picture of something considered “sacred” by those who bow to a tree, a cow, or some form of graven image.  Many world religions encourage adherents to bow before statues, icons, and images, a practice expressly forbidden in the Word of God (Exodus 20:3-5).

When idolatry is kept in this context, we can be fooled into thinking that we are immune to it.  Does anyone reading this blog right now bow down to a golden calf, graven image, sacred cow, or a tree? Probably not.  However, we can also be fooled into believing these objects are indeed “idle” idols – that they have no power to obstruct or obliterate our worship of the God of the Bible.  The fact is, however, that every one of us is greatly affected by the sin of idolatry, and our idols are by no means idle!

Idolatry is defined as the worship of anything that takes the place of the one, true, living God and it is not limited to the worship of images.  It is misplaced trust in the created thing rather than the Creator and at its core is the god of self.

Most of us are far too sophisticated to bow down to a graven image.  But we have replaced the golden calf with idols that are subtle and powerfully seductive – treacherous idols like materialism, pride, selfish ambition, obsession with career advancement, self-centeredness, greed, lust, and a hoard of others things.  Pulpits across the country propagate idolatry through the preaching of the health, wealth, and prosperity gospel, which is built upon the idol of the self.  These idols will ultimately rule our hearts and shape our lives.  And because idolatry is a matter of the heart, there are NO “idle” idols, because our heart is in a never-ending pursuit to worship something!

The more we focus on satisfying self, the less we focus on loving God and serving others.  Self-indulgence – not self-sacrifice – defines the condition of many in the church today.   As John Calvin once rightly observed, “Man’s nature … is a perpetual factory of idols.”  By nature we are all prone to substitute self for the Savior, having been enticed by the same five words Satan used in tempting Adam and Eve: “You will be like God” (Genesis 3:5).  This desire for self-rule has defined the desires of the heart of every man and woman ever since that dreadful day.

The Bible says, All that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.’  (1 John 2:16)  John makes it clear that there are no idle idols.  The lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life control our minds, seduce our hearts, and bend our wills.  Our only way to escape from our natural tendency to idolatry is the Gospel.  Only when God is at the center of our lives (Matthew 22:37) will idolatry be rooted out of our hearts and replaced with the only One who deserves to be there: Jesus.

This is God Word … This is Grace for your Journey … Rest in this eternal truth … AMEN!

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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God’s GPA

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March5PhotoForPastorsBlogGodsGPAWhat kind of student were you in high school?  What about college?  What was your Grade Point Average – what students and educators alike refer to as the GPA?  Regardless of how low or high the GPA recorded on your official transcripts, in God’s grade book, if you have placed your trust in Jesus Christ, you are a straight “A” student with a perfect 4.0 GPA!  Because of Christ’s atoning work on your behalf, everyone who is in Christ has received an A+ . . . when only a grade of “Zero” was deserved (“For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it)” James 2:10.  But thanks to Christ’s perfect life, sacrificial death, and miraculous resurrection, all our bad grades have been erased forever, as if they never existed, and only Christ’s perfect score remains.

Now, this does not change the fact that we are called to do our very best in the school of life.  It doesn’t mean we may forsake the spiritual disciplines and the continuous effort required to grow into Christ.  But it does mean that, regardless of our performance (good or bad) and attention to spiritual discipline (consistent or inconsistent), Jesus has already secured for us God’s eternal approval, acceptance, and affection.  No matter what we do, God will never change our grade; an A+ was reserved for us in God’s grade book from the beginning of time (see Ephesians 1:4) and that perfect grade can never be lowered or erased (see Romans 8:38-39).

I understand that many will misunderstand, misuse, and abuse this incredible gift of Gospel grace.  The Scriptures make this clear in a number of passages …

“Watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naïve.”  (Romans 16:17-18)

“For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.”  (Jude 4)

Yet our weaknesses, failures, and outright rebellion don’t change the truth about grace.   Frankly, if you have never wrestled with the concept of grace so amazing – grace that is unwarranted, unmerited, unconditional, and unending – then you have not yet been fully seized by its truth.

John Newton, the sinful slave trader turned clergyman by the grace of God, poured out the latter half of his life proclaiming the “Amazing Grace” of God.  As he neared the end of his time on earth, his health having deteriorated to the point where it affected his thinking and his speech, Newton acknowledged, “My memory is nearly gone, but I remember two things: that I am a great sinner, and that Christ is a great Savior.”

John Newton truly got it right in his magnificent hymn; Christian, drink in these timeless words!

Amazing grace!  How sweet the sound

that saved a wretch like me!

I once was lost, but now am found;

was blind, but now I see.

‘Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,

and grace my fears relieved;

how precious did that grace appear

the hour I first believed.

Through many dangers, toils, and snares,

I have already come;

‘tis grace hath brought me safe thus far,

and grace will lead me home.

The Lord has promised good to me,

His Word my hope secures;

He will my shield and portion be,

as long as life endures.

Yea, when this flesh and heart shall fail,

and mortal life shall cease,

I shall possess, within the veil,

a life of joy and peace.

When we’ve been there ten thousand years,

bright shining as the sun,

we’ve no less days to sing God’s praise

than when we first begun.

Only when we begin to see the “wretch” within will we catch a glimpse of just how amazing God’s grace really is.  We were hopelessly lost in sin and blind to it . . . until Jesus showed up.  God pursued us, rescued us, and is in the process of renewing us in Christ . . . and He won’t stop until grace has completed its work and leads us safely home.

What He began in grace He will complete in grace.  “He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6). The more we understand this overwhelming truth, the better we will walk in it with the freedom, joy, and faithfulness the Gospel has secured for us.

This is God Word … This is Grace for your Journey … Rest in this eternal truth … AMEN!

 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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Crippling Conclusions!

Grace For The Journey

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March4PhotoForPastorsBlogCripplingConclusions I spend a lot of time speaking with Christians who are crushed under the weight of crippling conclusions.  Take a look and see if any of these resonate with you:

  • What’s the use in being obedient? The disobedient are prospering!
  • God must be angry with me; look at all the problems I’m facing today!
  • With a thought life like mine, God can’t really love me!
  • This disease must be payback from God for all the stuff I did when I was young!
  • If I put more money in the collection plate, God will put more money in my paycheck!

The list of crippling conclusions is virtually endless.  Each one represents an overwhelming obstacle to our walk with Christ.  They obstruct our view of God’s omnipotent holiness, goodness, and kindness and make Him out to be a monster, exacting His pound of flesh from us every time we mess up, cross the line, or miss the mark.

And that, my friend, is the most crippling conclusion a Christian could ever have.

Please understand: God is not angry with you, because God is no longer your Judge.  He judged Jesus in your place on the cross and nailed all of your sins to that tree.  To think that any of the circumstances in your life are a result of “pay-back” from God is a notion that smells like smoke and comes from the pit of hell.  Satan would love for you to believe such things!  They bind your mind, blacken your spirit, and break your heart.  These conclusions shackle you in a prison of your own making.  Crippling conclusions are the currency of the crippled Christian; but this is not for you!

As we have continually discussed in this blog, God is not blessing or cursing you because of what you are doing.  Jesus took your curse upon Himself, and every blessing you receive is now a result of your union with Him.  We cannot earn God’s favor and we cannot forfeit His blessings.  If we could it would cease to be grace.  As Paul explained, “If it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace.” (Romans 11:6)  Grace is a gift from beginning to end and it is always at work in the life of the Christian . . . from conception to completion.

One final point about crippling conclusions: many Christians mistake an open door of opportunity as God’s providential care.  Not every open door is a door God wants you to walk through!  Remember Jonah, who was rebelling and running from God; he happened upon a boat that was ready to set sail in the opposite direction God was calling.  Was that ticket to Tarshish an open door from God?  Hardly!  It was an opportunity for Jonah to have his faith tested and he failed the test miserably.  Yet even in Jonah’s failure he found a faithful God. “I went down to the land whose bars closed upon me forever,” Jonah exulted; “yet You brought up my life from the pit, O Lord my God.” (Jonah 2:6) In Jonah’s rebellion we catch a glimpse of a God who would pursue a rebel on the run and rescue him from Himself.  He does this each day for all of us.

This is God Word … This is Grace for your Journey … Rest in this eternal truth … AMEN!

 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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