Tug-Of-War

Grace For The Journey

16Oct  Do you ever feel that way? Does your life seem like a tug-of-war? Every child of God feels this way, because that is exactly what goes on inside us each day!

The Bible says in Galatians 5:17, “The sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want.”

To be sure, we are delivered from the dominion and reign of sin in our lives when we are united to Christ by grace through faith. But sin remains in us all, and we all experience the tension Paul described to the Galatian Christians.

In his book, The Doctrine of the Holy Spirit, George Smeaton described it this way:

There is an internal conflict between flesh and spirit – between an old and new nature. And the strange thing is, that in this conflict the power and faculties of the Christian seem to be occupied at one time by the one, and at another time by the other. The same intellect, will, and affections come under different influences, like two conflicting armies occupying the ground, and in turn driven from the field.

A tug-of-war seems to be the best way to describe the battle within every child of God born of grace. How often we feel like there are two opposing teams inside of us, pulling in opposite directions on the same rope! Sometimes the good team wins and sometimes the bad team wins. But in the end, we know that our victory has been assured, and the good nature will prevail – not because there is anything special about you or me, but because of the work of Christ on the cross.

If we refuse to acknowledge the truth that we are in a daily, ongoing struggle against sin, we will not make any progress against it. It is only by affirming the truth that there is such a battle that we are set free to take the sword to our enemies. As we look to Jesus as the One who is fighting on our behalf, we rest in the truth that “Sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace” (Romans 6:14). We are not to be mastered by sin, because sin is not our master. Jesus is our Master . . . but sin will seek to entangle us along the way to heaven.

Enabled by the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit, we tug on our side of the rope and never stop pulling in the right direction until we pull that old sinful nature into the mud pit. We must remember that willpower will not win the battle for us; we must always acknowledge and depend upon the power that God has given to us in Christ to fight the good fight of faith, knowing that ultimate victory has been assured.

These words from 1 Peter 2:11 should be a constant reminder of the tug-of-war we are called to each day we are on this side of the grave:“Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul.

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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Almighty Accountability – Part 3

Grace For The Journey

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15Oct  Today is our third and final installment in our look at Almighty accountability. You’ll recall that the message is rooted in Romans 14:12 – “Each of us will give an account of himself to God.”

I’ve explained in the previous articles that Christian believers who have placed their trust in Christ’s atoning work on their behalf will not be required to give an account for their sins; Jesus paid that account in full at Calvary. But we Christians will give an account for the life we have lived as His people. Paul explained to the Christians at Corinth that “We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.” (2 Corinthians 5:10).

I believe there are three primary areas for which we will be held accountable by the Almighty: our use of time, the talents He has given us, and the treasure he has bestowed on us on His behalf. The previous articles unpacked time and talents; today we’ll look at treasure.

Treasure

The Bible says in Matthew 6:24, “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.”

Have you ever thought about the primary use of our money? I know we all have bills to pay and we need money to pay them. But have you ever thought about the absolute, primary use of our money? It is, like every other aspect of our lives, intended for glorifying God. And the principal way we glorify God with our money is when we give of it sacrificially to build His kingdom. Sadly, only 5% of professing Christians in the United States give God the minimum requirement, a tithe, which is 10% of their total income.

This shameful statistic means that most professing Christians are serving the wrong master. One of the most remarkable ways God proves His presence in His people is by the way they give of their treasure. Did you ever think about the fact that Jesus truly cares about our giving . . . and takes note of it?

Jesus saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury. He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins. “I tell you the truth,” he said, “this poor widow has put in more than all the others. All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.”  (Luke 21:1-4)

This wonderful account indicates just how much Jesus cares about our giving. He comments on the widow’s mite and how she gave out of her lack, while the others gave out of their abundance. To put it plainly, it’s a matter of the heart. Where our heart is we will find our treasure. This poor widow treasured the Kingdom of God; the others treasured their own kingdom.

I’d like to ask you an uncomfortable question: What does your use of your money say about what you treasure most? The great Puritan preacher John Bunyan, author of Pilgrims Progress, once wrote, “A man there was, and they called him mad; the more he gave, the more he had!” It’s a funny thing about God: you simply cannot outgive Him! The more we give back to God, the more we seem to have in more ways than we can count. In the final book of the Old Testament, the Lord of hosts gives us this incredible promise:

Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it. (Malachi 3:10-11)

Jesus confirmed this promise during His time on earth, saying, “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap” (Luke 6:38). I have experienced this truth in my own life, and I have heard it joyfully proclaimed in the testimony of dozens of Christian believers.

So . . . as we close out this series on almighty accountability, how are you doing in your stewardship of the three T’s—time, talent, and treasure? What kind of account would you give to the Almighty today if you were to stand before Him? How would you answer the following question: What do you have that you have not been given? The answer, of course, is nothing. Everything we have—including our time, talent, and treasure—is a gift from God, and our gift back to God is to put all we have and all we have become into the joyful service of expanding His Kingdom in this world.

May that be the confession of our lives.

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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Almighty Accountability – Part 2

Grace For The Journey

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14Oct  Today is the second installment in our study on the subject of Almighty accountability, as expressed in Romans 14:12 – “Each of us will give an account of himself to God.”

In yesterday’s blog, I explained that those who have placed their trust in Christ’s atoning work on their behalf will not be required to give an account for their sins; Jesus paid that account in full on the Cross. But we Christians will account for the life we have lived as His people. I believe there are three primary areas for which we will be held accountable by the Almighty: our use of time, the talents He has given us, and the treasure he has bestowed on us to use as stewards on His behalf. I discussed “time” in the previous article; today we’ll look at “talent.”

Talent

The Bible says in 2 Timothy 1:6, “For this reason I remind you to stir up (fan into flame) the gift of God, which is in you . . .”

What do you think of when I use the phrase “robbing God”? I believe that many hands immediately clutch a wallet or purse a little tighter, thinking that I am speaking about giving money. Well, that’s not today’s message; that will come in Part Three! Today I write about an even greater theft: that is, when we rob God of our talent by refusing to put that talent to use in faithful and fruitful service of God.

The Bible makes it perfectly clear that every believer has been given at least one spiritual gift (see, for example, Romans 12:6-8). In addition, everyone has been endowed by God with natural talents and abilities. So every Christian possesses gifts, talents, and abilities, bestowed on us by God to be used in the expansion of His kingdom in this world. There is a Danish Proverb that says:

What you are is God’s gift to you;

What you do with yourself is your gift to God.

Helen Keller was once asked, “Is there anything worse than being blind?” She promptly replied, “Yes! To have sight without vision!” The Bible warns us in Proverbs 29:18, “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” God has equipped every believer with the equipment necessary to do what He is calling them to do, and He has laid out His vision for our lives in His holy Word. We need only respond by faith, forsaking our pursuit of other things than Jesus, and engage our gifts, talents, and abilities in the pursuit of God’s kingdom. The key to doing this, of course, lies in establishing priorities. Jesus instructed us to “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness” (Matthew 6:33); everything else will follow.

So . . . what have you been doing lately with the gifts, talents, and abilities God has given to you? Have you been seeking His kingdom first . . . or your own?

Let these words encourage you as we close today:

God did not make any “extra” Christians.

You are needed; you are valuable; you have a role to play. When you don’t put in what God has equipped you to put in, we are all diminished. We all need all of us to build His church! What we must remember is that we build in His strength, not our own. He has given us everything we need to do the work he has given us; all we need to do show up and do it!

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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Almighty Accountability – Part I

Grace For The Journey

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13Oct  This week our church begins our biyearly presentation of Judgement House. One of the themes that is presented over and over in many of the scenes of the drama is the reality of our accountability for our decision that affect our eternal destiny. I am so pleased to be privileged to be a part of a church family that has a passion for the lost and a faith that leads them to do things beyond their own resources and power!

Over the next three days I’d like to share some important points with you about this subject. The thoughts are rooted in Romans 14:12 – “Each of us will give an account of himself to God.”

Let me start by making it clear what kind of accountability we have before our God. If you have placed your trust in Jesus Christ’s atoning work on the Cross, you will NOT account for your sins. Jesus has already paid that account in full on the cross. But we Christians will account for the life we have lived as His people. At the bema, the judgment seat of Christ, rewards will be given for the lives we lived by grace through faith; this is where we will bow and lay our crowns at the feet of the Lamb who alone is worthy to receive all glory and honor and praise.

Keeping that truth firmly in mind, let’s take a brief look today at the first of three primary areas (Time, Talent, and Treasure) for which we will be held accountable by the Almighty.

Time

The Bible says in Ecclesiastes 3:1, “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven.”

Someone has said, “We are all dying at the rate of 60 minutes an hour; when you spend an hour, you have one less hour to spend . . . so spend it wisely!” We have been given this gift of time to live and to serve by “the God who holds your breath in His hand and owns all your ways” (Daniel 5:23). And so we are all debtors to the one who gives us “life and breath and everything else” (Acts 17:25); the wise stewardship of our time is a debt all men must pay. Eventually we will breathe our last . . . and then we will give an account for how we spent that time.

So . . . what are you doing with this gift called time? Remember, if you have money and lose it you can always get more money. But what you lose in time you can never get back.

The psalmist writes, “Show me, O Lord, my life’s end and the number of my days; let me know how fleeting is my life. You have made my days a mere handbreadth; the span of my years is as nothing before you. Each man’s life is but a breath.” (Psalm 39:4-5). We must remember that, in the end, our lives will not be measured by their duration but rather by their donation.

So let me ask you a second question: what have you been donating your life to lately? Have you been working to expand your kingdom or God’s kingdom? The choice is always yours!

Here is a question that will help us get a grip on our time management

Question: What is the greatest time waster in the world?

Answer: Doing something God does not want you to do and then having to clean up the mess after!

Can you relate to that? I know I’m not the only who can! The key to maximizing the fleeting span of time God has given to us is remembering to keep the main thing the main thing. Life has taught me that the secret to saying NO to some things is to have a bigger YES to pursue. And that bigger YES is the Lord Jesus Christ and the expansion of His kingdom.

In the tomorrow’s blog, we’ll take a look at our use of our talents.

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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HOPE IN HOPELESSNESS

Grace For The Journey

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12Oct  With a myriad of bad news all around us – from the threat of terrorist attacks to the persecuted church; from an economy that has yet to fully recover to rumors of a cataclysmic crash on Wall Street – from the mass killing of innocent people in Oregon to the danger to our soldiers and citizens around the world – it is easy to feel a sense of despair. Yet the believer is still to have hope, even in the face of hopelessness. Why? Because our hope is not in One who rose from depression, disease, disadvantage, or even despair; rather, our hope is in the One who rose from the dead!

Is there anything more hopeless than death? I can’t think of anything more devastating than . . .

  • The death of our comfort
  • The death of our desires
  • The death of our plans
  • The death of our promises
  • The death of our career
  • The death of our dreams

Yet, even when we seem to be facing the death of the life we hoped to be living, we can still have a joyful, expectant hope, because the One we hope in rose from the dead! And just as Jesus rose from the dead and lives forevermore, all those who have placed their trust in His atoning work on their behalf shall rise from all the death they have experienced in their lives. Our comfort shall rise from the dead. Our desires shall rise from the dead. Our plans shall rise from the dead. Our promises shall rise from the dead. Our career shall rise from the dead. Our dreams shall rise from the dead. And as good as all that is, there is something even better: we shall rise bodily from the dead on that great day when Jesus returns to finish what He started.

The Bible records Jesus saying to Martha, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26)

Is there any area in your life where you find some kind of “death” knocking at your door? Remember, Jesus is greater than any problem you are currently facing and He has a Word that will guide you through every storm.

Our Lord Jesus Christ is the resurrection and the life.

He and He alone takes what is dead and brings to it life. And that includes every set of circumstances that may seem utterly hopeless to you. In Him you always have hope!

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 A POOR MEMORY IS PROFITABLE!

Grace For The Journey

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6Oct  Far too often I don’t remember where I put my sun glasses; I’m not sure how much time I have wasted over the years looking for them. I have a particular place that I put them when I get home … but it is still a problem when I go other places! I finally determined to put them immediately in my pocket when I go into a building. Now I just need to remember to do it! A poor memory has not proved profitable over the years when it comes to my sunglasses.

Today however, I want to encourage you with a word from our Lord, which tells us when a poor memory is profitable:

The Bible says in Philippians 3:12b-14, “I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”

When the apostle Paul speaks of “forgetting what is behind,” one of the things he is talking about his painful past as a persecutor of the early Christian church. Paul knew that in order to make forward progress in the direction of accomplishing God’s purpose for his life, he would have to get past his painful past. If Paul had let himself get bogged down with dwelling on his past sins, he would never have been able to pursue God’s purpose in his life.

And the same is true for you and me! Listen, we all have pain in our past. We are all broken and all of us have a “history” littered with shattered dreams, broken promises, and unmet goals. Some, like Paul, once lived lives of open rebellion against God. But the key is to learn from the past and not live in the past. As one person has said, “falling is not failing unless you fail to get up again!” And that is why Paul said that in order to press on toward the goal, he had to forget the past. This is when a poor memory is profitable!

So what past do you need to get past? Is there anything keeping you from pressing on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called you – personally . . . professionally . . . relationally? Paul knew that when Jesus forgives, He also forgets. The slate is not just clean; it has been broken, never again to be used by our heavenly Father to keep score.

Jerry Bridges illustrates this need for forgetfulness beautifully in his marvelous book, The Gospel for Real Life. He quotes Micah 7:19, in which the prophet assures us that the Lord “will again have compassion on us; [He] will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea.” Bridges observes that, “Instead of living in the sunshine of God’s forgiveness through Christ, we tend to live under an overcast sky of guilt most of the time. The antidote is to recall that God has forcibly hurled our sins into the depths of the sea, never to be seen again.” And, as Corrie Ten Boom said, “God put up a sign saying, ‘No fishing allowed.”

Forget the failures and disappointments of the past; God has! We all must leave the past in the past and get on with living in the present, knowing we are progressing into our promised future. And this is when a poor memory is most profitable.

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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His Strength…Our Effort?

Grace For The Journey

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5Oct  We need to be frequently reminded of the truth of Acts 17:28 – that Christians live, and move, and have our being in God and no other. We live in His strength and not our own. It is His divine power that has given us everything we need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3).

So . . . where does human effort fit in? Are we to regard it as necessary? Or should we, as some say, regard human effort as a “work of the flesh” and therefore sinful?

The Bible says in Philippians 2:12-13, “My dear friends, as you have always obeyed – not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence – continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.”

Caution: you are entering a spiritual “spin zone” for legalists! Legalists misinterpret and misuse this text of sacred Scripture. They want to create an atmosphere of fear for their followers in order to keep them in line. Legalists warn those who will listen that if they sin, God will reject them and they will lose their salvation.

This is simply not the teaching of Scripture! Two truths are required to have a proper view of what the Bible teaches regarding human effort and divine power.

First, the Greek word that the Holy Spirit inspired Paul to use, from which we get “fear” in the Philippians passage above, is phobos. Phobosis is literally translated as “reverence,” “awe,” or “respect” – not a cowering fear or panic that paralyzes a person. The right emotions of reverence, awe, and respect are to be gleaned from this text, not doubt and dread regarding our eternal security!

Paul used the very same word to describe the wonderful reception that Titus received from the Christians at Corinth:

“His affection for you is all the greater when he remembers that you were all obedient, receiving him with fear and trembling.” (2 Corinthians 7:15)

Paul even used “phobosto” to describe himself when he came to the Corinthian church, reflecting on the awesome, almighty nature of the calling Jesus placed in his life, taking him from the persecutor of the church to the pastor of the church.

He stated in 1 Corinthians 2:3, “I came to you in weakness and fear, and with much trembling.”

Second, To “work out” our salvation means to do all we can (effort), with the proper sense of reverence and awe for the strength of the Almighty, which is how we live a life of obedience and faithfulness before the face of God. We are to actively pursue the things of God in that ongoing process that is often called progressive sanctification.

Notice that the phrase is “progressive” sanctification – not perfect obedience! The Christian progresses in the direction of godliness by grace, through faith, straining with human effort . . . but that Christian believer will not be perfected until he or she is received into glory.

Putting these two truths together, we come to this conclusion:

In working out our salvation we go to the source of our salvation (the Lord Jesus Christ), and stand on God’s strength which comes through the many means of grace (Bible reading and study, prayer, worship, communion of the saints, etc.) God then renews our minds, enlarges our hearts, and bends our wills so that our efforts, worked out in His strength, are in line with His will for our lives.

In his seminary and graduate school handbook, The Daring Goal: What to Expect When We Accept Christ as Our Life, Richard Foster put it this way:

Through the Holy Spirit’s guidance and strength, I will order my life according to an overall pattern that conforms to the way of Christ. Over time this process will develop deeply ingrained habits in me so that, at the moment of crisis, we turn to inner resources to act in a Christ-like manner.

Our efforts in His strength will, over time, develop deeply ingrained habits that will lead us toward Christ-likeness. And that is the only place where our work and God’s strength properly meet. Let the psalmist close out today’s meditation:

“Serve the Lord with fear and rejoice with trembling.” (Psalm 2:11)

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 STRENGTH OF SURRENDER

Grace For The Journey

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1October  Now that’s an odd title, isn’t it? What do you think of when you read the word surrender? Most people think of someone who has been defeated, waving a white flag, and giving up. They might well picture someone who has lost all of his strength, weakened to the point where he simply cannot go on.

I’m quite sure “strength” is not what comes to your mind!

What a word of encouragement I have for you today! The founder of the Salvation Army, William Booth, once said, “The greatness of a man’s power is in the measure of his surrender.” Notice what he did not say. He did not say that the greatness of a man’s power is in the measure of his . . .

  • Status
  • Superiority
  • Salary
  • Success
  • Smarts
  • Schemes
  • Significance

The life of Christ is the perfect example of this truth in action. Never has there been a life more fully surrendered to the will of God. And never has the greatness of a man’s power been more evident than in the surrendered life of Christ. Listen to His prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane:

“And He said, ‘Abba, Father, everything is possible for You. Take this cup from Me. Nevertheless, not what I will, but what You will.” (Mark 14:36)

Here, in His darkest hour, under so much stress that He is sweating droplets of blood, Jesus was fully surrendered to the will of His Father in heaven. Yes, He cried out to God the Father to take the cup of wrath from Him, because everything is possible with God; but never did He ask anything apart from the sovereign will of His Father in heaven.

The Bible says in Hebrews 10:5-7, “When He came into the world, He said … ‘Behold I have come – in the volume of the book it is written of Me – to do Your will, O God.’” And He never wavered in His glorious surrender. As Jesus knelt in Gethsemane, His soul “overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death” (Matthew 26:38), He didn’t pray “If it is possible for you,” but rather, “Everything is possible for you!” Our Lord is the perfect picture of the absolute strength of surrender.

So . . . is this the testimony of your life? Do you want what God wants for you, even when what He wants includes problems and pain? Remember, God only gives us what is necessary to continue conforming us into the image and likeness of His beloved Son (Romans 8:29; 2 Corinthians 3:18). And that process often includes difficulty, storms, and suffering.

Those trials are the refining fire that burns away our sinful self-absorption. Surrender is a battle, a fight; it is ongoing warfare against our self-centered nature’s desire to sit on the throne of our lives. We must remind ourselves every day that surrender is not an option! We all surrender to something. We will either surrender to Jesus or something other than Jesus.

The great encouragement in this truth is that God will give us what we need to come to this strategic choice of surrender. Paul said, “I can do all things through Christ Who strengthens Me.” (Philippians 4:13)

Which will it be for you?

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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