Lions and Tigers and Bears . . . Amen!

Grace For The Journey

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16Sept  You may recognize the title of today’s message as a play on the words from one of the most memorable lines in cinematic history.  In The Wizard of Oz, Dorothy and her companions were confronted with many dangers on the road to Oz; at one point they cried out in fear, “Lions and tigers and bears! Oh my!”

We Christians face many dangers on the road to our heavenly destination, but unlike the characters in Dorothy’s dream, the Gospel empowers us to cry, “Lions and tigers and bears, Amen!”  We will walk “through many dangers, toils, and snares” on this side of the grave, but the Christian is empowered to cry “Amen” instead of “O my!” for two important reasons . . . the promise of the dangers and the power in the dangers.

THE PROMISE OF THE DANGERS

The first thing every Christian must remember is that we have been promised to encounter a lifetime of lions, tigers, and bears.  We should not be surprised by the dangers and difficulties that beset us, because we live in a fallen and broken world as fallen broken people.  If our Lord received a crown of thorns for His head, should we expect to receive a crown of glory for ours?  He was betrayed; we will be betrayed.  He was falsely accused; we will be falsely accused.  He was slandered; we will be slandered.  He was abandoned; we will be abandoned.  He was mocked; we will be mocked.  The Bible never promised us a walk in the park! Listen to these biblical truths:

“I have said these things to you, that in Me you may have peace.  In the world you will have tribulation.”  (John 16:33)

“It has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in Him but also suffer for His sake.”  (Philippians 1:29)

“Be sober-minded; be watchful.  Your adversary the devil walks around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”  (1 Peter 5:8)

We should not be surprised by the many lions, tigers, and bears we face on a daily basis because we have been promised them in Scripture.  The Christian faith is forged in the fiery trials of life.

We need not fear them nor flee them because of . . .

THE POWER IN THE DANGERS

Once we understand the promise of life’s challenges, we need to rest in the power to face them.  We do not face our problems, challenges, and difficulties alone and we do not fight them in our own strength.  Our power is in the person of Jesus Christ. Listen to these biblical truths:

“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loves us.” (Romans 8:37)

“Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Corinthians 15:57)

“I have been crucified with Christ.  It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.  And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.  (Galatians 2:20)

So . . . what lions, tigers, and bears have you been facing lately?  Have you been surprised by the number of them or their ferociousness?  Faith in the person and power focus of Jesus Christ will help us overcome our fear of every opposition to our faith. Because God has controls all things (Romans 11:36), no matter what storms beset us, we can rest in Him.  He is not only with us in the storm, He sent the storm for two important reasons: for His glory and our good.

By the way, when Jesus warned, “In the world you will have tribulation,” He didn’t stop there!  He added, “But take heart; I have overcome the world!” (John 16:33).  That is a promise that equips us to move from “Oh my!” to “Amen!” . . . no matter how fierce the trials facing us!

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

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

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

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

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Christian Cedars

Grace For The Journey

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15Sept  The Bible says in Psalm 104:16, “The trees of the Lord are watered abundantly, the cedars of Lebanon that he planted.”

Geologists tell us that Lebanon is a land of immense beauty and important history. Located on the east coast of the Mediterranean Sea, the Lebanon mountain range rises majestically from the sea to snow-capped mountain peaks that reach over 10,000 feet.  Deep in the mountains in the north are the famous Cedars of Lebanon which are often referred to in the Bible.  We read about the cedars of Lebanon in the books of Kings, Song of Songs, Isaiah, and in the Psalms. These trees, which can grow up to 130 feet tall with a trunk size of over 8 feet in diameter, are symbolic of every Christian for a two important reasons.

  1. THEY ARE PLANTED BY GOD

The verse above tells us that the cedars of Lebanon are planted by God . . . so too is the Christian.  It is not a work of man and machinery scattering seed that sprouts up into the cedars of Lebanon . . . any more than it is the work of man and machinery scattering seed that sprouts up into Christians.  It is only the hand of God that plants the seed in the right soil to produce the desired results, whether He is planting cedars of Lebanon or Christians of the Lord.

  1. THEY ARE PROVIDED FOR BY GOD

The second reason these majestic trees are symbolic of Christians is the fact that you will not find an irrigation system watering them.  In His providence, God not only plants these beautiful trees, but He also waters them and cares for them . . . just as He does for the Christian.  The grace that planted the Christian in the soil of salvation is the same grace that sanctifies him as he grows to maturity.  God does not plant the Christian and then expect him to grow on his own, by the spiritual sweat of his brow.  God graciously creates the perfect environment for growth and maturity.  For the Bible tells us in Romans 8:28, “We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose”

What a comfort to know that our faith is rooted in the work of God and not our own!  Is there anyone reading this today who would take any comfort whatsoever in knowing that you were the one who was responsible for your salvation?  Have you not done many things that would cause you to doubt the reality of your faith if you were the one who was responsible for generating it in the first place?  I know I have, and it is only in knowing that I played absolutely no role in my salvation that I am secure in knowing it is real, even in the face of my many failures.

In the very same way, is it not also a comfort to know that our Christian growth is rooted in the work of God and not our own?  To be sure, God’s Word commands us to work and to practice the disciplines of grace: Bible study, prayer, communion with the saints, service, giving, fasting, etc.  But it is not in the practice of these and other disciplines that we grow.  If this were so, our growth would be dependent upon our effort.

Thank God it doesn’t work that way!  Who has the strength and stick-to-itiveness to continually stay on track?  The grace that made us Christians matures us as Christians.  What starts in grace continues in grace, and will one day be completed in grace.  God finishes everything He starts and that includes you!  (Philippians 1:6).

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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Father Knows Best!

Grace For The Journey

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14Sept  Father Knows Best was a 1950’s American radio and television comedy series that portrayed middle class family life in the Midwest. The title character, in both the radio and televisions versions, was played by Robert Young, who later enjoyed great success with another television series: Marcus Welby, M.D. The “Father” character was beloved throughout the country for providing wise, kindly advice whenever his children had a question or problem. At the end of each program, everything always worked out for the best.

The title of this show reminds me of a deep Gospel truth that anchors the life of the believer on solid rock rather than shifting sand.

Our Heavenly Father truly does know what is best for His children.

The Bible says in Proverbs 3:5-6, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.”

If we ignore our Father’s guidance, we’ll stumble along a rough and crooked path.

He really does know best!

  • ·His plan is better than our plan 
  • ·His way is better than our way
  • ·His path is better than our path
  • ·His life is better than our life

As one person has said, “Omnipotence is working on behalf of God’s children twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.” Now, if we assume a worldly perspective, some of the providences we face in life might not seem like they are the best, but they truly are! God has promised to use everything that happens to His children for their good.

The Bible says in Romans 8:28-32, “We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose. For those God foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those He predestined, He also called; those He called, He also justified; those He justified, He also glorified. What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave Him up for us all–how will He not also, along with Him, graciously give us all things?”

Notice what this passage does not say: it does not say that all things are good. There is a lot of bad that happens in this fallen, broken, sin-filled world. But our Heavenly Father knows best how to make all things, including the bad, work together for the good of His children.

The ultimate purpose of everything in life is that God uses it to conform us to the likeness of Jesus. And don’t miss this: what God started He will finish. All those who have been justified (saved), God will ultimately glorify (fully sanctify). You will not always be like you are . . . and I know that is good news for all of us who know just how much sin still remains on this side of the grave!

One more point before we close. If God is for us, who cares who is against us? Regardless of the waves of challenge you are facing today – at the office, within your family, around your neighborhood, in your health and finances – your Heavenly Father knows best and will bring the best out of you, no matter what you are going through.

And what is the best inside of every child of God? The Lord Jesus Christ! As God is conforming us to the image of His precious Son, we are decreasing and He is increasing in our lives. Our Heavenly Father is causing us to reflect more and more of the character of Christ with each passing day. He grows more and more visible as we display the fruit of the Holy Spirit – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. (Galatians 5:22-23).

And one day, in the not-so-distant future, we will be brought home into our heavenly rest where we will be with Jesus forevermore. To be sure, our Heavenly Father knows best!

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 GUARANTEE OF GROWTH

Grace For The Journey

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11Sept  Because the Christian is a new creation in Christ, growth is guaranteed. The Bible assures us that “He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion” (Philippians 1:6). If you have placed your trust in the saving work of Jesus Christ, that promise is for you. To be sure, we all grow in different ways and at different times; there are even those seasons when it seems like we are growing in the wrong direction! Yet the Scriptures make it clear that we simply cannot not grow when we have been given new life in Christ.

Let’s see how this promise is given in an Old Testament book that you may not read very often – the book of Malachi.

“But unto you who fear My name shall the Sun of Righteousness arise with healing in His wings; and you shall go forth and grow fat like calves of the stall.” (Malachi 4:2)

Think about what this verse teaches us through the imagery of stall-fed calves. First, the stall suggests ownership; someone had to build the stalls and maintain them. Wild animals have no stalls. Second, the stall provides protection from the outside elements. Third, stall-fed calves are well-cared for. They don’t have to go out and scrounge for food because it is brought to them. And finally, the stall-fed calves continue to grow and grow until they finally grow up!

In this verse, those who fear the name of God are likened to stall-fed calves . . . and those who fear the name of God are those who have received the divine gift of faith in God. Those who have been given faith in God find their source of food in the Word of God. Our Lord has tells us, “Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord” (Deuteronomy 8:3).

So stall-fed calves are like Scripture-fed Christians. Both are given all the food they need to grow up to full maturity. For the Christian, maturity is to grow up in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

But there’s more! Notice that Malachi 4:2 contains a double promise. Not only are we promised that we will grow up, but we will also go out.

God gathers His people together as a family, and in that process He grows us up into Christ. But growth is not an end; it is only a means to an end. The end is to model our Lord by giving and going. We grow in order to give and go.

What a wonderful blessing God has planned for His people! We are not to simply remain in our spiritual “stalls,” munching placidly on what has been given us and growing fat. We are to go out in the strength of our heavenly Father’s care and bring the good news of the Gospel to all people. We are to be a source of nourishment and care to others.

Stall-fed calves are stunted in growth; neither are Scripture-fed Christians! Feast on the Word of God each day and prepare to see the salvation of the Lord break forth in the lives of those you share Him with.

Let me share one final word of encouragement. The ownership represented by the stall points to another Gospel truth: “You are not your own; you were bought at a price” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). And what God bought with His precious blood, He will take good care of. He will grow you so that you can give and go!

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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When Having It All Isn’t Enough

Grace For The Journey

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Have you ever wondered what life would be like if you had it all?  I am sure we’ve all daydreamed about such an existence at one time or another, but I can tell you that it’s not all that it’s cracked up to be.  As a pastor, I have counseled those who looked like they had it all but didn’t have what they needed to face tragedy or overcome failure.  When they couldn’t cope with their dilemma I found myself struggling to comfort their loved ones who were left with nothing but broken hearts.

Why?  Because the promise of “having it all” simply cannot deliver! Those folks who found it to be an empty promise learned the hard way what C. S. Lewis explained in Mere Christianity: “If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world (something supernatural and eternal).”

This profound truth has been lived out in the lives of far too many who desperately sought their identity, purpose, meaning, significance, happiness, fulfillment, and joy in something other than God.  Have you ever wondered why God began His Ten Commandments with “I am the Lord your God . . . you shall have no other gods before Me” (Exodus 20:3)?  Because God knew the ultimate end of chasing after “other gods,” and that end is a meaningless existence marked by self-rule, self-focus, self-atonement . . . and ultimately self-destruction.

Anything that has replaced God on the throne of your life is an “other god.”  It is anything you have made more important than God.  It is anything that rules your heart and shapes your life.  It is anything you believe will do for you what only God can do.  It is anything so important and central to your life that, if you lost it, your life would be ruined.  In other words, ANYTHING can be your “other god.”  Here are just a few examples:

  • Career
  • Family
  • Romance
  • Beauty
  • Brains
  • Social Status
  • Applause of Man

As you can see, there are a great many things that can hold title to the desire and trust of our hearts.  Yet, none of these things will meet us in our place of deepest need.  C. S. Lewis found that desire which no experience in this world could satisfy . . . and that desire is God.

Regardless of where this might find you today, if you have been chasing after “other gods” in search of having it all, there is hope: His name is Jesus Christ.  The way forward is to turn back – turn back to the One True God, who loved you so much that He chose to take your place on the cross to claim you as His own.

Jesus is the answer to your nagging questions

and the solution to your pressing problems.

Jesus is the only One who can truly meet your every need and fulfill your deepest desires.

I can tell you from personal experience that there is a time when having it all is enough.  It is when our “ALL” is the ALMIGHTY!

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 Back Door Believers!

Grace For The Journey

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9Sept  Have you ever had a friend get you into some place special, but the only way in was through the back door?  When I was in high school, one of my friends worked at the local theater and the manager would let him bring a few friends in for the final movie of the night if there were empty seats. We had to come in through the back door.  It was a great feeling to have a friend who could get us into the movies for free.  Now, as “awesome” as that was for us kids, I want to tell you about something that is truly awesome: in the Body of Christ, there are no “back door believers.”

There are those in the church today who are convinced that if they make it into heaven at all, it will be by the way of the back door.  They mistakenly believe that the spiritual superstars will be ushered in the front door, to enter into the joy of their Master’s happiness.  The believers who lived a pretty good life might slip in through the side door.  But for those who struggled and stumbled through the Christian life, the back door is the only possible way of getting in.  Do you subscribe to this kind of thinking?  Well, there is some amazing biblical truth that will change that!

The Bible says in 2 Peter 1:10-11, “Therefore, my brethren, be even more diligent to you’re your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble; for so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”

You ought to read that passage again.  Notice the kind of welcome every believer will receive on that day they are received into glory: AN ABUNDANCE ENTRANCE!  There will be no easing in the side door or creeping in through the back door.  An “abundant entrance” presupposes that we will be received with a great celebration as we enter into our eternal rest . . . through the front doorway of heaven.

Every believer who has been on the receiving end of God’s calling and election will receive a rich welcome, not because of anything they have done, but because of everything Jesus has done for them.  Jesus will say to us, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” (Matthew 25:34).  What a welcome God has planned for all those who are in Christ!  The angels will be singing as we enter through the front door and begin dancing on streets of gold.  We have been given a living hope because of what Jesus has secured for us through His life, death, and resurrection.

Don’t misunderstand the words, “Be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things” as something we must do in order to receive our rich welcome.  That is not what Peter is teaching here.  The things we are to be doing do not earn our rich welcome; they prove it is already prepared for us!  1 John 3:10 explains, “By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil; whoever does not practice righteousness  is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother.”  The first fruit of our union with Jesus is a change in the desire of our heart.  When we desire to do what Jesus wants us to do, we can be assured we are His, and when we are His we can rest in the knowledge that our welcome is assured because of what He has already done for us.

  • Not our work . . . His work
  • Not our effort . . . His effort
  • Not our righteousness . . . His righteousness
  • Not our goodness . . . His goodness
  • Not our strength . . . His strength
  • Not our love . . . His love
  • Not our commitment . . . His commitment

The rich welcome that awaits every believer is dependent upon all that Jesus has done for the believer . . . not what the believer has done for Jesus.

to Him, He runs toward us. Rest in that comfort today!

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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RUNNING REDEEMER!

Grace For The Journey

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8SeptWhen was the last time you pictured a “Running Redeemer”? Well, the Scriptures paint just such a picture, and I pray that it will be a word of great encouragement to you today. In the parable of the prodigal son, the younger son demanded that his father give him his inheritance, and then went off into the far country and squandered it all. Shamed, hungry, and all alone, when this lost son came to his senses and realized his great wickedness, he longed to return home. He felt sure he had forever destroyed his relationship with his father, but hoped that he might be received as a hired hand.

The Bible tells us in Luke 15:20, “So he got up and went to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.”

We are to see the father in this story as representing God. To those who heard Jesus relate this parable, it would have been remarkable to hear that the father, filled with compassion for the returning son, ran to meet him. At that time and in that culture, the normal response from a father who had been so utterly disrespected by his son was not to run and greet him with kisses upon his return. The neighbors would have been much less surprised to see the father spit in his wayward son’s face, rather than to see him gird up his outer garments and run toward his wayward son. The father’s actions would have been considered undignified and embarrassing. But not for Father God!

Again I ask, when was the last time you pictured a running Redeemer? James urges us, “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you” (James 4:8). The prodigal’s parable is a wonderful reminder of just how our heavenly father responds to His wicked and wayward children: He is a running Redeemer drawing near to you with amazing love!

Is that not a source of great comfort to you as you go through the struggles and storms of this life? From time to time, we all wander into the far country. The world presents us with so many idols of the heart that seek to ensnare our affections! But when we come to our senses and head back home, our Redeemer does not wait on the porch with a stern, disapproving frown, prepared to lecture us or punish us for our foolish decisions. No, He runs to meet us and wraps his loving arms around us and showers us with grace.

Now, as someone has said, “if that does not light the fire of your faith . . . your wood is wet!” Perhaps this day you are in a season of great success and faithfulness to God. Continue drawing near to Him and He will continue drawing near to you. But maybe this finds you “eating pods with the pigs” in a season of struggle and raging storms; no matter how badly you have fallen or failed, return to your Father and be prepared to be met by a running Redeemer who will restore you to your rightful place – as a child of the Most High God.

Remember this: a child of God is always a child of God, even when he is not acting like one. And this is the confession of all our lives from time to time. There are those times when you and I have blown it badly! But we need not fear our Redeemer’s response. As we return to Him, He runs toward us. Rest in that comfort today!

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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Honoring Workers For God’s Kingdom

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7Sept Labor Day is a United States federal holiday observed on the first Monday in September to celebrate the economic and social contributions of workers. Today, I would like to celebrate the contributions of all workers who are busily engaged in building the kingdom of God.

First we need to ask, “Who is a kingdom builder?” Is the designation reserved only for those who are in full-time vocational ministry, like pastors and missionaries? If you have been following this blog for any length of time, you know how I’ll answer that question . . . with a resounding “NO!”

Here are some profound words from Os Guinness on this subject, taken from his book, The Call:

“There is a great distortion which argues that Christ gave two ways of life to His church. One is the perfect life, the other is permitted. The perfect life is spiritual, dedicated to contemplation and reserved for priests, monks, and nuns; the permitted life is secular, dedicated to action and open to such tasks as soldering, governing, farming, trading, and raising families. Higher vs. lower, sacred vs. secular, perfect vs. permitted, contemplation vs. action.”

Sadly, this two-tier or double-life view of one’s “calling” perverts the biblical teaching by narrowing the sphere of calling and excluding most Christians from its scope. If all that a believer does grows out of faith and is done for the glory of God, then all dualistic distinctions are demolished. There is no higher/lower, sacred/secular, perfect/ permitted, contemplative/active, or first class/second class.

“Calling” is the premise of Christian existence itself. Calling means that everyone, everywhere, and in everything fulfills his or her (secondary) callings in response to God’s (primary) calling. For the Reformers, the peasant and the merchant – for us, the business person, the teacher, the factory worker, and the television anchor – can do God’s work (or fail to do it) just as much as the minister and the missionary.

The recovery of the holistic understanding of “calling” was dramatic. William Tyndale wrote, “if our desire is to please God, pouring water, washing dishes, cobbling shoes, and preaching the Word is all one.” William Perkins claimed “polishing shoes was as sanctified and holy act and the action of a shepherd in keeping sheep, performed as I have said in his kind, is as good a work before God as in the action of a judge in giving sentence, or of a magistrate in ruling, or a minister in preaching.”

The cultural implications of recovering one’s true “calling” are profound. “Calling” gave to everyday work a dignity and spiritual significance under God that dethroned the primacy of leisure and contemplation. “ Calling” gave to humble people and ordinary tasks an investment of equality that shattered hierarchies and was a vital impulse toward democracy. “Calling” gave to such practical things as work, thrift, and long-term planning a reinforcement that made them powerfully influential in the rise of modern capitalism. “Calling” gave to the endeavor to make Christ Lord of every part of life a fresh force that transformed churches and cultures. “Calling” gave to the idea of “talents” a new meaning, so that they were no longer seen purely as spiritual gifts and graces but as natural and a matter of giftedness in the modern sense of the term. “Calling” demanded and inspired the transforming vision of the lordship of Christ expressed in the famous saying of the great Dutch prime minister, Abraham Kuyper: “There is not one square inch of the entire creation about which Jesus Christ does not cry out, ‘This is mine! This belongs to me!’”

WOW! Now that should help us all see the vision and value of one’s “calling” from God’s perspective. From our first parents in the Garden of Eden, all of life was to be lived coram deo – before the face of God. It didn’t matter if one was a butcher, baker, or candle-stick maker . . . or a priest, monk, or nun, every service is sacred when it is lived out in the light of eternity for the glory of God.

So who are the “kingdom builders” for the King of kings and the Lord of lords? Every believer who is putting their gifts, talents, and abilities into faithful service in order to glorify God and expand the cause of His kingdom.

This Labor Day, take a moment to do a personal evaluation in the area of your calling and see if you have been imagining any sacred/spiritual split? How is your work impacting the kingdom of God? How are you allowing God to use you right where you currently are to expand the cause of His kingdom?

“Whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31}

As I often tell my congregation, there is only one menial job in this world: that is the job where Jesus cannot be found. If your labor is a labor of love for the glory of God, the good of others, and the expansion of God’s kingdom, you can rest assured that what you are doing, regardless of what others might think of it, echoes in eternity.

Thousands gathered in Washington recently to observe the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr delivering his famous “I Have a Dream” speech. There’s another quote from Dr. King that has been circulating recently that is just perfect for closing out today’s meditation:

If it falls to your lot to be a street sweeper, sweep streets like Michelangelo painted pictures, sweep streets like Beethoven composed music … Sweep streets like Shakespeare wrote poetry. Sweep streets so well that all the host of heaven and earth will have to pause and say: “Here lived a great street sweeper who swept his job well.”

You are to be celebrated today for living for something that will outlast your life on this side of the grave. Laboring for the Lord means you are living for the transcendent glories of God, regardless of what you do for a living.Let that truth bless you this Labor Day.

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 Cruel Current of Complacency

Grace For The Journey

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4Sept  The dictionary definition of complacent is “to be contented to a fault; self-satisfied and unconcerned, especially when accompanied by unawareness of actual dangers or deficiencies.”  Sadly this describes far too many in the church today.  They have grown so comfortable with their spiritual standing that they have become complacent, to the point where they are living out a Christless Christianity.

Complacency is never good; contentment is another thing altogether. The Holy Spirit inspired the apostle Paul to encourage us in Philippians 4:11-13, “I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”

When the apostle Paul said he had learned to “be content,” we misunderstand if we believe he was equating content with satisfied.  Sure, we all need to learn to be content with what we have, but that is to be in the context of pursuing what God has set before us.  The process of redemption is not to rest on our laurels and succumb to the cruel current of complacency.  We are to continue pressing on toward the goal of fulfilling Christ’s calling.

Paul declares in Philippians 3:12-14, “Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”

In Paul’s contentment, he continued straining forward and pressing on in the direction God was calling him to go.  Paul knew that being “satisfied” would only lead to complacency and watering down his impact in expanding the cause of Christ.

Do you think Paul was ever satisfied with the level of ministry he was accomplishing?  If he was, he probably would have rested while behind prison walls.  Honestly, if it had been you . . . do you think you might have sulked and pouted at this unpleasant turn of events? “Lord,” we might well whine, “I did all that great ministry for You, and this is what I get?!” Yet we know that most of what Paul contributed to the New Testament was written while he was in chains.  He never stopped pressing on toward the goal.

Paul never grew complacent about his relationship with Jesus.  We know that his heart continually ached to be in the presence of his Lord, yet he knew he still had work to do, because God had not called him home.  Paul was not subject to the cruel current of complacency.

What about you?  There are so many areas in life where we can grow complacent. Here are just a few:

  • After many years of marriage
  • When we have finally climbed the ladder of career success
  • When we have reached a comfortable level of service in our church

The call to every Christian is to continually press on and pursue God’s perfect plan for our lives.  And those who are His by faith know we never reach our final destination until we get to the other side.  The cruel current of complacency is not to be the mark of the committed Christian.

It has been wisely said, “It is far better to burn out than rust out!”  Now, I am not encouraging burn out; if you’ve been around the church for any length of time, you’ve seen that happen to great men and women of God who did not find balance in life.  Remember that a life without balance leads to an unbalanced life.

But let me close by encouraging every member of the church to be active in playing their part, straining forward until the moment they are no longer needed . . . and that will be the moment when God calls us home.

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

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

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

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

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When Weakness Is Strength – Storms and Your Savior, Part 3

Grace For The Journey

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3Sept  The experience of life tells us if we are not currently dealing with storms, we will be in the near future.  In our two previous blogs we learned that storms are simply part of living. Some are like summer showers that disrupt a day at the beach. Others, however, are like tsunamis that devastate our lives.

We have also learned that regardless of the storm, we can find great comfort in knowing our Savior is in the middle of it with us. Today, I want us to see another glorious truth in Scripture – we have a Savior who can sympathize with us because He suffered the greatest storm the world has ever seen while He was nailed to a cross atop the hill Golgotha.

The Bible says in Matthew 27:46, “About the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, ‘Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?’ – which means, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”

From the 6th to the 9th hour Jesus was alone in a way that you and I simply cannot imagine. The Father could no longer look upon His Son because of His abhorrence of all things evil in this world. So for the first time ever, in all of eternity, the Father and the Son were separated. Why? Because the sins of all who have ever placed – or will ever place – their trust in Christ had been laid on God the Son (Isaiah 53:6), and the eyes of God the Father are too pure to even look upon sin (Habakkuk 1:13).

To be sure, Jesus endured terrible pain at the hands of His executioners. Isaiah predicted that the Roman soldiers would beat the suffering Servant so savagely that He would no longer be recognizable (Isaiah 52:14).He was brutally flogged, a crown of thorns was jammed down into His brow, and His hands and feet were pierced through by nine-inch iron spikes.

But as dreadful as all that was, it amounted to little more than a mosquito bite compared to the unimaginable anguish of drinking the cup of God’s wrath for our sins. Our Lord’s despairing cry – “Why have You forsaken me?” – came after He had hung for three hours in darkness, a darkness caused by the darkness of our sin.

So we have a Savior who knows what it is to be in the middle of hurricane-force storm winds infinitely worse than any we will ever experience. And the encouragement in that for you and me is that no matter what storm we are facing or ever will face, we will never face it alone.

At the end of His earthly life Jesus said, “Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”  (Matthew 28:20)

And God has declared through the pen of the writer of Hebrews, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5)

So . . . what storms are you facing today? What waves of challenge have you come up against that are trying to drive you down to the bottom of your sea?

  • Mistakes in your marriage?
  • Stumble in your walk with Christ?
  • Pressures in your parenting?
  • Passed over in your profession?
  • Stagnant in your church service?

Someone once wisely said, “We are either heading into a storm, we are in the middle of a storm, or we are coming out of a storm . . . so be better get used to storms!”

One of the most comforting things Jesus ever said were two of His last words on the cross, uttered shortly before He died: “I thirst” (John 19:28). Remarkably, this was foreshadowed more than a thousand years previously by David in Psalm 22:15, “My mouth is dried up like a potsherd, and My tongue sticks to the roof of My mouth.”

Why, you may wonder, would I comment on this seemingly insignificant detail of the crucifixion? Because it is so very significant!

These details shout a great truth to us:

At the center of Christianity is our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

And He is not remote from the difficulties of our human experience.

He was not only fully God; He was fully man, and in His manhood He endured every kind of storm we will ever have to experience, yet without sin.

He was tried. He was tested. He was rejected. He was tempted. He got tired, thirsty, and hungry. He wept. He was betrayed. He was falsely accused. He was abandoned. He cried out for His Father and got no answer. He walked where we walk and experienced what we experience and much worse! And the best news is that He is alive today and has promised to be right there with us in the middle of whatever storm winds blow our way!

In John 14:18-19, Jesus said, “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you . . . Because I live, you also will live.”

Do you believe that truth? Does that truth bring you comfort today in the middle of your storm? If you will let that truth drop from your head down into your heart . . . it will!

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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