THE BEST DEFENSE . . . IS A GODLY OFFENSE!

Grace For The Journey

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16JunePhotoForPastorsBlog  You may have heard the old adage, “The best defense is a good offense” which simply implies the idea of being proactive rather than reactive. You hear this phrase used in a variety of fields. Sports teams that constantly press their opponent and score lots of points will usually win the game. Armies that don’t wait for the enemy to mount an attack but instead go on the offensive tend to gain the upper hand.

This maxim proves especially true in the spiritual realm. On this side of eternity, we are surrounded by the powerful triple threat of the world, the flesh, and the devil. We face a constant battle on all three fronts, and at times the onslaught seems overwhelming. So how can possibly gain victory in this ongoing fight? God tells us in His Word . . .

“Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stand in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful; But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and in His law he meditates day and night.” (Psalm 1:2)

“I have hidden Your word in my heart that I might not sin against You.” (Psalm 119:11)

For the Christian, the best offense is a godly, spiritual one: staying rooted in the Word of God. Instead of waiting for the attacks of temptation to test the outer edges of our faithfulness to Christ, we go on the offense by meditating on, and memorizing the Scriptures – God’s living and active Word.

You see, the more we are in the Word of God,

the more the Word of God gets into us!

In the apostle Paul’s famous “armor of the believer” passage in Ephesians 6:13-18, he exhorts us to take up “the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.” Bible scholars frequently point out that the Greek word “machaira,” translated “sword” here, referred to the short sword that every Roman soldier carried on his belt for hand-to-hand combat. It was a powerful offensive weapon that the Roman legions had used to conquer the world.

You will remember that this “sword” was the weapon that our Lord took up to confront and conquer every temptation Satan threw at Him during His wilderness experience (Matthew 4:1-11). Three times, Jesus responded to the devil with these words, until the accuser retreated: “IT IS WRITTEN!”

Our Savior’s encounter with the evil one underscores the fact that, as important as it is for us to meditate on the Word of God, we must hide it in our hearts as well. When we memorize the Word of God, it is readily available for us to ward off the devil’s slings and arrows.

Make no mistake, for every battle you face against the world, the flesh, and the devil, God has a Scripture to address that specific fight. Remember: to know what is written, we have to read what was written. So read your Bible regularly and develop your godly offense.

One last thought: when you find yourself on the losing side of a particular skirmish – as we all will, for we are all sinners – God’s Word has a promise for you to tuck securely into your mind and heart and soul, so that you will get right back up after you’ve fallen and keep on fighting:

God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5)

And the Bible says in Romans 8:38-39, “I’ve written this on a number of occasions, but I want to remind you again that nothing – neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

If you have placed your trust in Jesus Christ as your eternal Savior, there is nothing you can do, nor is there anything that the world, the flesh, or the devil can do to you, that will separate you from God’s amazing, gracious, eternal love.

This is God’s 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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There is Something Better Than Life!

Grace For The Journey

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15JunePhotoForPastorsBlog  That statement is hard to imagine in the culture we live in today, isn’t it?  The wisdom of the world tells us that there is nothing better than the life we are currently living.  How did the old commercial say it?  “Fellas, it just doesn’t get any better than this.”  With the belief that this life is all there is, we are told to eat, drink, be merry, and “grab for all the gusto” on this side of the grave, because there is nothing on the other side.

Well, the wisdom of the Word declares that the world’s wisdom is folly, because there is something on the other side of the grave.  There is a judgment . . . there is a heaven . . . there is a hell . . . and there is something infinitely better than this life and what it has to offer!

The Bible says in Psalm 63:3, “Your lovingkindness is better than life.”

What would it take for you to be able to say what King David said in this psalm . . . and mean it?  Is there anything you are holding on to more tightly than Jesus?  Is there anything you have right now that if you lost it, your life would be turned upside down?  Only the truths of the Gospel can change us to such an extent that we are ready, willing, and able to forsake everything this life has to offer for the One who has given to us everything we have.  Only the truths of the Gospel can convince us that only God can satisfy us – fully, finally, and forever.  John Bunyan, the author of The Pilgrims Progress knew this truth and lived it out at great cost . . .

            “For more than 12 years English Christian writer and preacher, John Bunyan,         was imprisoned while his second wife Elizabeth cared for their six children.  His         crime for which he was put in chains: preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ       without state sanction.  On a number of occasions the magistrate would have let           him go if he had promised to stop preaching.  But he would not.  John said he             would remain in prison until the moss grew on his eyelids rather than fail to do       what the Almighty had commanded him to do.  He said that parting from his dear      wife and children, ‘has often been to me in this place as the pulling of the flesh         from my bones.’  This was especially true with regard to his eldest daughter who             was blind and was given to him through his first wife who had died.”

For John Bunyan, there was something indeed better than life: the loving-kindness of his Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  He chose the loving-kindness of his God over his freedom.  He chose the loving-kindness of his God over being with his family.  He chose the loving-kindness of his God in spite of intense persecution and prison.  He refused to deny his God, though to do so would have brought him great worldly benefit.  It’s hard for us, living in this day and age, to imagine living with that kind of personal peace and security in the midst of such persecution, but here was a man so sold-out for Christ that the testimony of his life proclaimed that it was better to live in the love of God than to live with his wife and children!

Only the love of God can satisfy your deepest longings.  Only the loving-kindness of God can address your greatest needs, solve your problems, and overcome your obstacles.  It is only when we want the presence of God more than anything else in life that we will be able to hold loosely everything we have at present . . . because we are looking forward to all that has been promised us in the future.

How can we do that? Because the best is yet to come, what we have now is only a shadow of what is to come(Romans 8:18).  Our greatest joy, our deepest affection, and our highest love in this life pales in comparison to what awaits us when we get heaven and stand in the presence of the One whose loving-kindness truly is better than life.

This is God’s 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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I Thank You, God, That I Am Not Like . . .

Grace For The Journey

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12JunePhotoForPastorsBlog  Their is a prayer taken from one of the parables taught by Jesus; it is very familiar to students of God’s Word – The Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector. It is recorded in Luke 18:9-14 . . .

“To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else, Jesus told this parable: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men – robbers, evildoers, adulterers – or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’ ”But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

When was the last time you thanked God that you were not like a family member, a neighbor, your boss, your co-worker, the person you sit behind in church, a celebrity or politician? Our “thanksgiving” list could go on and on, because we can always find someone we can compare ourselves to and feel much better about ourselves.

The question that should be asked about the Pharisee is, “Why do you think he didn’t compare himself with the patriarchs of the faith – Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob – rather than a tax collector, a man who was despised by society?” The answer, of course, is that he knew he would come out on top and thus feel better about himself.

So . . . let me ask you: do you ever make a comparison like the Pharisee’s?

  • Thank God I’m not like David . . . an adulterous murderer.
  • Thank God I’m not like Jonah . . . running away from his calling.
  • Thank God I’m not like Rahab . . . an immoral outcast.
  • Thank God I’m not like Zacchaeus . . . dishonest and despised by his own people.
  • Thank God I’m not like Martha . . . not knowing when to exchange work for worship.
  • Thank God I’m not like Thomas . . . who doubted the resurrection.
  • Thank God I’m not like Peter . . . he denied Jesus three times!

I trusted in Christ as my Savior when I was seven years old. Shortly after God called me into the Gospel ministry when I was 18 years old, I reread the Bible’s account of King David and found myself angry and confused. I talked frankly to my dad about what I was feeling. The Bible describes David as “a man after God’s own heart,” yet he committed adultery with Bathsheba and later ordered her husband to be killed! Why on earth, I wondered, was this man regarded so highly by sacred Scripture?

I’ll never forget my dad’s response: “The problem with you, Terry, is you don’t see yourself as being as bad as David!” He was right; I didn’t. And why would I? I hadn’t committed adultery or murder. My dad continued, “Until you see yourself as being like David and every other sinner in the Bible, the truths of the Gospel will never fully makes since.” Once again, he was right! It wasn’t until I saw David’s story as my story that the Gospel began to take root and return a harvest of unshakable peace and unspeakable joy.

The truth is that we are all great sinners in need of an even greater Savior. The story of the sinners in the Scriptures is your story and mine. Their stories are simply mirrors into which we are able to see ourselves for what we truly are. At the deepest level of understanding sin, we must confess that we have committed them all. We have all committed adultery and murder. Perhaps you doubt me on this? Let me take just a moment to convince you, using our Lord’s words from the Sermon on the Mount . . .

“You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, “Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.” But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to his brother, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell . . . You have heard that it was said, “Do not commit adultery.” But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”  (Matthew 5:21-22, 27-28)

Each of us reading this must be honest with ourselves – would we really stand before God and claim that we have never been angry with someone? Really? We’ve never called someone a fool (or perhaps much worse) to their face or behind their back? Or can we claim before the all-seeing, all-knowing God that you have never – not once – taken a lustful look?

There is only one perfect Man who has walked this earth; the rest of us have long since forfeited any false hope of achieving sinless perfection. And perfection is what God’s law requires! The demands of God’s perfect justice are inflexible:

The Bible says in Galatians 3:10, “All who rely on observing the Law are under a curse, for it is written: ‘Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.’”

And In James 2:10, “Whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it.” Whether by revelation or by intuition, we know that we are not fit to stand in the presence of holy God. And so we have spent a lifetime running from God, making silly excuses to ourselves like, “Well, at least I’m not as messed up as _______!”  And, along the way, we have both betrayed and denied Jesus. You still insist you haven’t committed sin? Is there a Christian reading this who has not confused the worship of work with the worship of our Lord and Savior at one time or another? Have you really kept God’s command to love Him with all your heart and soul and mind and strength? Or has there been a time when you loved something or someone else more?

Instead of thanking God that we are not like others, we should acknowledge that we are far worse! Like Paul, we should see ourselves as the worst of sinners. Yet, in spite of our sinful condition, God in Christ has set His saving grace upon us. With the assurance of the love of Christ we no longer have to compare and contrast ourselves with others. We no longer have to be slaves to self-deceit. We are unconditionally loved and completely forgiven . . . and God did this while we were just like every other person we meet in the Bible (except Jesus): we are sinners in need of a Savior.

And praise be to God! He sent that Savior to redeem you and me!

This is God’s 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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A Journey to the Center of Your Life!

Grace For The Journey

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11JunePhotoForPastorsBlog  In 1864, Jules Verne penned the extremely popular science fiction novel, A Journey to the Center of the Earth. The story involves a professor who believes there are volcanic tubes going toward the center of the earth and he sets out to find them.  Along the way, he and his companions encounter prehistoric animals, natural hazards, and other dangers.  In 2008, Journey to the Center of the Earth came to life in 3D in the movies – the third time this story was dramatized in the cinema.

QUESTION: If a movie titled A Journey to the Center of Your Life was made about your life, what would the viewers find when they got to your center?

At the center of every life there are only two possible existences: one is the self and the other is the Savior.  By nature, we all live SELF-CENTERED lives.  Our Number One goal is self-fulfillment.  With self firmly established in the center of our existence, we live for our dreams, our goals, our preferences, our agendas, our success, our pleasure, our happiness . . . and we don’t much care what effect it has on those around us.  We are convinced that it is far more blessed to receive than it is to give.

Because self is at the center of our universe, we find it incredibly difficult to love others and impossible to find contentment.  We are blind to opportunities for serving others but see opportunities for getting ahead with 20/20 vision.  And in the end, even if we get everything we think we wanted, it never delivers on its promises.  By embracing our sinful selfishness we have denied our humanity . . . and are left poor, blind, and alone.

But this is not what God wants for us!

Paul declared the truth about God’s goal for our lives in Acts 17:28, “For in Him (Jesus) we live and move and have our being. “

A CHRIST-CENTERED life is living for the One who is life.  We live in Him.  We move in Him.  We have our being in Him.  We find our identity, meaning, and purpose in Him.  Living a Christ-centered life means we care about the things He cares about, even when those things don’t immediately involve us or touch us personally.  With Christ at the center, we live a life that truly matters: a life lived in service to others, not at their expense.

When we journey to the center of our lives and find Christ in His rightful place, we live cross-shaped lives.  We lay our lives down for others and forgiveness flows freely, even to our enemies, because Jesus is the One who is writing our story.  When Jesus is at the center of our lives, He is the source of everything we need in order to do everything He has called us to do.  Our potential is not measured by what we can do, but by what He can do through us.  What we desire to be doing is what He has called us to do; and what He calls us to do is to reflect His character in all that we think, do, say, and desire.

With Christ at our center we live in the light of eternity.  We live to expand His kingdom, rather than our own kingdom, by surrendering to His authority and rule in our lives.  We love what He loves and hate what He hates.  We no longer live and move and have our being in the pursuit of our own glory, but rather in the pursuit of His glory.  We live as ambassadors for the Almighty and make decisions based on what pleases Him, rather than what pleasures us.

Keeping Jesus at the center of our lives keeps our lives centered . . .

And when we are living Christ-centered lives we are living lives that truly matter!

This is God’s 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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POWER UNPLUGGED . . . HOW’S YOUR BIBLE INTAKE?

Grace For The Journey

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7JunePhotoForPastorsBlog  The Lord Jesus Christ said the power that raised Him from death to life is the same power that resides within every Christian – “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)

There’s a question we must ask ourselves: “Have we gotten unplugged from the power source?” You see, this power has been promised to every Christian. If we have received Jesus Christ as our Savior and Lord, we have this power within us. The challenge is whether we are appropriating it or not. What I mean by appropriate is have we taken possession of the power? Have we tapped into it? Have we plugged into it by engaging in the means of grace God has given us to strengthen us in our walk with Christ?

To be sure, the Holy Spirit often acts in a completely sovereign way in our lives, apart from any appropriating work (disciplined effort) on our part. Praise God for that truth! Yet the Bible makes it crystal clear that God expects us to plug into the power He has given us in order to live the life He is calling us to live.

Today we will look at one of those means of grace and throughout this week we’ll examine a few more.

Bible Intake

A steady diet of God’s Word will strengthen us to live godly lives in Christ Jesus. Here are two exhortations to immerse ourselves in Scripture; one from the Old Testament and one from the New Testament:

“Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.” (Joshua 1:8)

“We have the word of the prophets made more certain, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place . . .” (2 Peter 1:19)

God wants us in His Word because He wants His Word in us!

The Bible declares in Hebrews 4:12, “For the Word of God is living and powerful . . .” God’s Word shines light into our world and into our souls. Every time we go to the Bible we are changed by it. You’ve probably had this experience: you have read the same passage of Scripture dozens of times before, but this time you read it and see something you never saw in the past. Why is that? Because you are not the same person you were the last time you read it! The Word is not only alive, it is life-giving . . . imparting new life into the heart of the believing reader.

So . . . how are you doing in the area of Bible intake? Would you define your Bible reading as “plugged in”? Or “unplugged”? Remember, the book you don’t read won’t help.

This is God’s 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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Have You Had That Log For A Long Time?

Grace For The Journey

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9JunePhotoForPastorsBlogWe are all experts at finding the speck in our brother’s eye while ignoring the log jutting out of our own eye.  It’s simply in our DNA.  The more we direct a spotlight on the sin in the life of another, we imagine that our own sins will retreat into the darkness.  Our Lord did not mince words on this subject . . .

“Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?  Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye?  You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.”  (Matthew 7:3-5)

Jesus used the image of specks and logs to let us know just how messed up we really are.  Image for a moment a log protruding from your own eye; now imagine your careful inspection of someone else, indignantly pointing out the speck lodged in the corner of their eye. The scenario might go something like this … Me: “I’m shocked—shocked—to see you have a speck in your eye!” … You:  “Uh, Terry, thanks for pointing out the speck in my eye, but what about that log in your eye? Man, that looks nasty! Have you had that for a long time?”

Seems absurd doesn’t it?  And that’s exactly the point Jesus was making.  It is absolutely preposterous to be pointing out the sin in the life of another when we haven’t yet addressed our own sin.  The Bible commands us to “Work out [our] own salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12), not to work out on others for their sin!

And yet, the more we peer at the speck in our brother’s eye, the more we convince ourselves that our greatest problem lies outside of us.  And as long as we see our problems as “out there,” we will never deal with what is going on “in here.” We’ll continue living lives of overwhelming hypocrisy.

Our Lord’s use of the “log” metaphor impales us on the truth of just how bad our “inside” problem really is.  Our sin problem is not only obvious to us, it is conspicuous to everyone we meet – as obtrusive as a log sticking out of our eye!  And the closer we get to them to point out their speck, the more we poke them with our protruding log, irritating them, and causing them pain.

The Gospel gives us permission to acknowledge our log, because our Lord paid the price for it – no matter how large our log might be.  We don’t have to try to hide it with a few pitiful fig leaves of self-righteousness.  We can squarely face our sin problem by the grace of the Gospel and begin seeing clearly all that Jesus has done for us.  When we receive and respond to the truth of just how bad we really are, we begin to see more clearly just how good Jesus really is.

One of the Puritans put it beautifully when he penned this magnificent prayer . . .

“Yet still I live, and fly repenting to Thy outstretched arms;

Thou will not cast me off, for Jesus brings me near,

Thou wilt not condemn me, for He died in my stead,

Thou wilt not mark my mountain of sin, for He leveled all,

And His beauty covers my deformities.”

This is God’s 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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“Stuff” Doesn’t Just Happen

Grace For The Journey

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10JunePhotoForPastorsBlog  We have all heard the phrase “Stuff happens!” This slang phrase is intended as a simple, existential observation that life is full of unforeseeable and uncontrollable events. It implies that bad things happen all the time and for no particular reason.

But is it true? Does stuff “just happen” to us by chance or a random roll of the dice?

The Bible says in Jeremiah 29:11, “I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’”

God had given the prophet Jeremiah a vision that was diametrically opposed to the wisdom of the world, which insists that the events that surround our lives are merely “C’est la vie.” Now before you get impressed I checked Wikipedia for common phrases for “foreign expressions in English” and this French expression was at the top of the list. It is a common way of acknowledging something less than ideal that has to be accepted becausethat’s just the way life is.”

Earlier Jeremiah had confessed, “I know, O Lord, that a man’s life is not his own; it is not for man to direct his steps” (Jeremiah 10:23). Not even a bird falls to the ground apart from our Father’s will (Matthew 10:29), and Jeremiah knew that full well.  Jeremiah knew in His heart that God was in control of everything and He could trust Him in that.  However Jeremiah was having difficulty in His head reconciling what was happening around him.

When God promised to give Israel a hope and a future, things looked pretty hopeless for Israel! A great many of the people had already been taken captive and exiled to Babylon, and Jeremiah knew that Jerusalem was doomed to be overrun and the temple of the Lord destroyed. Jeremiah could have stubbornly insisted – as many of his countrymen did – that this disaster was a result of chance, but of course he did not. Jeremiah knew that the judgments on Israel came from the hand of the Creator; he also knew that God’s discipline was ultimately delivered for the prosperity of His people, not their punishment.

It is no different for you and me. To be sure, God will discipline us, just as a loving father does with His children. But the discipline of God is never designed to harm us or crush us. It is always designed to develop us – to help us grow and mature in our faith and to encourage us to call out to Him.

The Bible makes it clear: what the world calls “coincidences” are actually God’s providences, which He delivers for the good of those who are the called according to His purposes and for His glory (Romans 8:28-30). It is a wonderful comfort for His people to know that “stuff” doesn’t “just happen” and that there is no such thing as “happenstance” in heaven above or on earth below. This is exceedingly comforting when we find ourselves in painful providences. To know that nothing happens to us that doesn’t first pass through His nail-scarred hands is to know a truth that is as comforting as it is centering.

To know that sovereignty happens – not stuff – is to know the truth that sets us free to live out our faith with unspeakable joy and unwavering security.

God plans to prosper His people, not paralyze them with the fear of uncertainty.

God plans to give a holy hope and a future to the hopeful and the faithful.

And knowing that this is the promise of the Almighty is all we need to know to rise above the circumstances of life and see God’s hand in everything.

One final point: there would not be a single painful providence that would be for our good if Jesus had not completed His mission. Only Jesus is the “Yes” and “Amen” to every promise of God (2 Corinthians 1:20), including the one given us from Jeremiah.

We build our hope on the truth of the perfect life of Christ, His sacrificial death, His resurrection from the grave on the third day, and His ascension into heaven. God’s stamp of approval, assuring us that our debt had been fully paid and thereby cancelled, is found in the empty tomb. Gone is the gnawing guilt and faithless fear.

Jesus paid it all, so we can have unspeakable joy even in the face of all the “stuff” that is causing us pain. The truths of the Gospel have turned our groans into gladness, our sighs into songs, and our hurt into hopefulness. What God has promised He will most certainly deliver!

So . . . what stuff have you been dealing with in your life lately that may have you disoriented and disturbed? God is at work and He will not stop one step short of completing what He began in you. And you would not want Him to do that for a minute . . . even the painful ones.

This is God’s 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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The Grace of God’s Thornbushes

Grace For The Journey

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5JunePhotoForPastorsBlog  There is much in nature for which we have all given praise and glory to God. In Missouri, we praise God for the strength of the magnificent oak trees that sway in the breeze, the wonder of corn and other crops growing in the fields, and the beauty of seasons. But when was the last time you gave praise for thornbushes?

There is an interesting statement that God makes in Hosea 2:5-7, “Their mother has been unfaithful and has conceived them in disgrace. She said, ‘I will go after my lovers, who give me my food and my water, my wool and my linen, my oil and my drink.’ Therefore I will block her path with thornbushes; I will wall her in so that she cannot find her way. She will chase after her lovers but not catch them; she will look for them but not find them. Then she will say, ‘I will go back to my husband as at first, for then I was better off than now.’”

The unfaithful mother in this passage represents the nation of Israel, who went after the Canaanite fertility religion to meet their needs and forgot the Lord. Sadly, this is the picture of most of us – perhaps all of us! The beauty of this passage is found in the fact that God pursues every rebel who pursues lesser lovers. And God is pleased to use painful providences (thornbushes) to rescue us from ourselves. For every idol we fervently chase after God has a blessed thornbush that will block our path, wall us in, and cause us to lose our way. What love the Lord has for His wayward children! He prevents them from getting what they want when what they want is something they do not need and should not have.

Experience has taught me that the grace of God’s thornbushes keeps us from reaching for more than Jesus (as if there were something “more” than Jesus!) or settling for less than Jesus. Remember, many of the things we chase after come under the heading of “good things,” but, as someone has said, “good things become bad things when they become ultimate things.”  Family is a “good thing” until it becomes an ultimate thing . . . then it becomes a bad thing. Work is a “good thing” until it becomes an ultimate thing . . . then it becomes a bad thing. Church service is a “good thing” until it becomes an ultimate thing . . . then it becomes a bad thing. Recreation is a “good thing” until it becomes an ultimate thing . . . then it becomes a bad thing. You get the picture.

The grace of God’s thornbushes is intended to keep us from chasing and catching lesser lovers, which in the end turn out to be poor, bankrupt, pitiful, and hurtful. As we are providentially pricked by God’s thornbushes, we are jarred awake from our slumber so that we can return to our first and far better love, the Lord Jesus Christ. So jealous is our God for our affection, He will stop at nothing – even thornbushes – to reorient our hearts back toward Him.

And the day will come when we will no longer need the grace of God’s thornbushes. No longer will the words, “I will go back to my husband as at first” pass through our lips. What God began in us He will one day complete (Philippians 1:6), and when that work is done we will no longer need the grace of thornbushes. We will be satisfied, fully and completely, with the love of our Bridegroom, and never again will we seek after anything less than Jesus.

This is God’s 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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Scoreboard Saints

Grace For The Journey

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4JunePhotoForPastorsBlog It is in our DNA to be legalistic. We convince ourselves that we must live in a way that will cause God to bless us because of our performance. The better we perform, we believe, the greater our blessing will be. If we have more “hits” and “runs” on God’s scoreboard at the end of the day than we do “errors” or “strikeouts,” we expect – no, we demand – that God bless our efforts. We have become what I call “Scoreboard Saints!”

When was the last time you got to the end of a day and added up your merits on one side of the page and your demerits on the other side, believing that God was obliged to respond to you based on your score? If you had more merits, you were confident God would bless you in some way; if you had more demerits, you were afraid to go outside during a thunder storm!

Every one of us struggles with these legalistic tendencies, even those who have a clear understanding of the Gospel. We understand that we are saved by grace and know that we are to live by that same grace, but too often we end up consumed by a merit mentality and live a performance-based life. Even Jesus’ disciples fell into this thinking! The Bible records this reality in Matthew 19:27, “Peter said in reply, ‘See, we have left everything and followed you. What then will we have?’’”

Immediately after hearing Jesus’ exchange with the Rich Young Ruler, we see that Peter didn’t quite understand what Jesus intended to teach. Peter was thinking like a “Scoreboard Saint,” adding up all the good stuff he had done for Jesus and believing he had done more good than bad. He wanted to know what all those hits and runs would earn for him!

What Peter forgot was the truth that the grace of God is never earned . . . or it would not be grace. As Paul stated so clearly, “At the present time there is a remnant, chosen by grace. But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace.” (Romans 11:5-6)

Now, I know most of us will never come right out and admit that we think like Peter, but we all do at times, and only the Gospel can pull up this kind of rotten thinking from the garden of our minds by its root! When God blesses one of His children, He does it only on the basis of His grace and never on the basis of good works. Answered prayer is never a result of our being “good,” it is always a result of God being gracious. To know this truth and to live by it, is to truly live a life of freedom and faithfulness to the One who, by His grace, both freed us and is making us faithful.

The work of Christ on the cross not only earned our salvation and eternal life, it also earned for us the blessings we receive from God in our everyday lives. The grace that saved us and raised us from death to life is the same grace that sanctifies us.

God is not keeping score in your life, deciding whether or not to bless you based on your performance! Through faith in the Lord Jesus, you are already blessed because God the Father chose you in Christ before the creation of the world (Ephesians 1:4-5). Regardless of the circumstances in life, whether you believe they are good or bad, your blessings always flow out of His mercy and not your merit. Jerry Bridges states this concept profoundly:

“We are brought into God’s kingdom by grace; we are sanctified by grace; we receive both temporal and spiritual blessings by grace; we are motivated to obedience by grace; we are called to serve and enabled to serve by grace; we receive strength to endure trials by grace; and finally, we are glorified by grace . . .

The entire Christian life is lived under the reign of God’s grace.”

If God is not keeping score, then neither should we! When we are keeping score we fix our eyes on the scoreboard. But when we take our eyes off of the scoreboard and fix them on our Savior, we begin to live in the true power of our salvation – God’s unmerited, unearned, and unconditional favor.

Oh, by the way, there was a day in the life of Peter when he stopped looking at the scoreboard and began looking only at His Savior. It was the day Jesus restored him in spite of his three cowardly denials.

What a Great God we serve . . . He is no longer keeping score!

This is God’s 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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Left Behind

Grace For The Journey

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The thought for today is not rooted in the best-selling Left Behind series of novels by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins, which present the Christian dispensationalist view of the end times.  Nor is it about all of us who were “left behind” after the unfortunate “prediction” made by Harold Camping about the end of the world occurring, which caused scorn to be heaped upon Christians and the Christian faith.

Today, I would like to discuss what you will have left behind when you leave this life. Someone has said, “What you leave behind is not what is engraved in stone monuments, but what is woven into the lives of others.”  So . . . what have you been weaving into the lives of the people God has called you to serve?  Make no mistake; you are weaving something into the lives of everyone you meet.  What that something is depends on whom you are weaving it for.

Are you weaving for the good of yourself?

Or for the glory of your Savior?

Jesus spent a little over three years weaving the truths of the Gospel into the lives of His disciples, who then went on to turn the world upside down.  Why?  Because they spent their time weaving the truths of the Gospel into the lives of everyone they came in contact with.

Only the Gospel has the power to change hearts.

Only the Gospel has the power to transform lives.

Only the Gospel has the power to bring life where there is only death.

The Gospel has the power to slay sin, cultivate contentment, and produce peace.  So if you are weaving the Gospel into the lives of those you serve, you can be assured that what you are doing will live on in eternity.

Those who weave the Gospel into the hearts and minds of those they serve are leaving behind a lasting legacy under the Lordship of Jesus Christ.  At this level of living, life really matters.  Purpose is productive.  Significance is satisfying.  Meaning is magnified.  So what have you been weaving into the lives of others?  What would those closest to you say?  Remember, weaving the Christian witness must be done with both our lips and our lives – our practice and our profession.

This is God’s 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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