What Are You Doing Right Now That Requires Faith?

Grace For The Journey

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18July  I don’t know about you, but far too often my answer to that question is, “Not very much!”  Comfort zones have been and continue to be problem areas in my life.  Yet, this is not the faith Jesus has called us to.  He wants us to pursue Him with abandon, press on to Him with affection, and proclaim Him with conviction.  The call of Christ is a call to a real and radical faith.

The Bible says in Hebrews 11:6, “Without faith it is impossible to please God because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him.”

The faith we are to exhibit is a faith that transforms everything it touches.  It is a faith that has no fear in being in a place of absolute failure and utter defeat if God doesn’t show up in a supernatural way to get us through.  As someone has said, “When the only way out is up [to and through the Lord God Almighty], that’s not a bad place to be!”

We are called to a faith that leads us to do what is uncomfortable until it becomes comfortable.  It is a faith that causes us to love the unlovable.  It is a faith that causes us to reach out into the unknown rather than retreat to a place of safety and security.

How different would your life be right now if you didn’t have Jesus in your life?  Did Jesus come into your life and turn your whole world upside-down?  Or would those who know you say they haven’t seen much change in you since you trusted in Christ?

Please understand that I don’t ask you these questions to make you feel guilty or discouraged.  I ask them of you because I ask them of myself.  I hope they will cause both you and me to examine ourselves and see if our hearts are beating for the Savior . . . or the self.

Do you remember the story of Jesus sending out His disciples without any supplies for the journey (Luke 9:3)?  What do you think Jesus was teaching His disciples – and us?  We are to be living in a way that requires – even demands – faith, so that we can live totally unto God and not ourselves.

If God doesn’t have to come through for us in what we are doing, is it worth doing at all?  If the task is simply not big enough for God, then we ought not to be doing it!  We must be willing to surrender all – our security, our satisfaction, our success – for the cause of His kingdom and simply trust and rely on the One who has raised us from death to life.

So what are you doing right now that requires faith?  Living on this level is the only level where life has true meaning, significance, and purpose.

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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A Promise of Life That Delivered Death!

Grace For The Journey

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15July  The Bible tells us about this promise in Genesis 3:2-8, “The woman said to the serpent, ‘We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’ ‘You will not surely die,’ the serpent said to the woman. ‘For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.’ When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.  Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as He was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden.”

Oh, how the cunning serpent slithered his way into the hearts of Adam and Eve!  He made a promise of life, to “be like God,” but he could not deliver on his promise.  The life the devil promised lead only to death . . . it always has and it always will.

Adam and Eve were made in the image of God; they were His image-bearers.  But evidently they were not satisfied with being made in the image of God; they wanted to be God. They traded the worship of the Creator for the worship of the created thing – themselves – and sent all of humanity into a hideous, downward death-spiral.  They forgot who they were and what they were created for.  Our first parents had “identity amnesia” and bought into a lie that they could live a life of autonomous independence apart from the One who created them.  To be sure, this was both foolish and fatal!

The devil is still busily working to sell his lie to those who have been re-created in Christ.  He promises that we can step outside of our relationship with our Redeemer and find more life.  He tempts us to believe that we can find in created things what only the Creator can actually give.

  • We begin to look for financial security in our finances instead of looking to the One who give us the ability to get wealth (Deuteronomy 8:18).
  • We begin to look for good health in our nutrition and exercise program instead of looking to the One who holds our lives in His hand (Daniel 5:23).
  • We begin to look for purpose in our work instead of the One who is our purpose (John 14:6).

How quickly we forget that the Lord is our only security, health, and purpose on this side of the grave!

God wants so much more for you!  On the cross, Jesus crushed the enemy – and along with him, the promise of life that delivers only death.  Because of what Jesus did for us on the cross, we no longer have to define ourselves horizontally.  In other words, we no longer look to created things (finances, physical appearance, possessions, relationships, etc.), to get what only the Creator is able to give to us.  Everything smaller than Jesus is “fool’s gold,” which looks valuable on the surface, but in reality it is worthless and leaves us poor, blind, and naked.

Jesus is the only One big enough to meet you in your place of every need.  He is big enough in our marriage.  He is big enough in our parenting.  He is big enough in our profession.  He is big enough in our recreation.  He is big enough in our storms.  Jesus promises more and delivers more than He promises.  He dismantles our walls of self-protection and erects walkways of self-sacrifice.  His history-changing death on the cross makes possible the life-changing death to self, which frees us to live for something bigger and better – and His name is Jesus Christ.

Only in His willingness to die do we find life.  His death is life, and the death of the self He calls us to is the abundant life.  We will never find life apart from our relationship to the One who created us.  Because we have been created by God for God, we will only find true life when we are living in God.  As we continue to surrender and submit to His control in our lives, He frees us from the control of the things that were never created to control us.

Jesus said in John 10:10, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”

A full life was never intended to be found in anything other than Jesus.  Every time we put the creation in the place of our Creator we find ourselves living a life that is no bigger than the life we are living.  Rather than being an abundant life, lived out for the glory of our Savior King, it becomes an atrophied life, devoid of every lasting joy we were created to experience.

So . . . who and what have you been living for lately?  Funny thing about living for Jesus; the more we die to the self, the more life we actually find!

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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Two Things That Never Change

Grace For The Journey

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22July  Really? Two things?!  Now that I have your attention, let me tell you what these two things are.  They are true for all of us, regardless of where this blog finds you.  The two things that never change are:

  1. God
  2. The fact that there will always be change in your life!

I think you would agree that it is a whole lot easier dealing with life when we deal with it truthfully.  First, we know that God never changes, and that is very good news!  Those of us in the theological community refer to this as God’s attribute of immutability.  God simply does not change.  He does not change His mind, He does not change His plan, and His feelings toward us never change.  He does not have a Plan A, and then respond to our actions and go with Plan B, for not even a bird falls to the ground apart from His will (Matthew 10:29).

Knowing this first truth is a source of great comfort for the Christian.  God is the same, regardless of what is going on in the world around us and regardless of what is going on inside of us.  We read this truth in Scripture and we sing about it in congregations all over the world.

“He who is the Glory of Israel does not lie or change His mind; for He is not a man, that He should change His mind.”  (1 Samuel 15:29)

“I the Lord do not change.”  (Malachi 3:6)

“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”  (Hebrews 13:8)

“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.”  (James 1:17)

However, as contrary as it might seem, the second truth is also very comforting for the Christian believer.  Everything other than God is always changing.  Now, I know the only person who actually likes change is a baby with a wet diaper, but whether we like it or not, change is happening around us and within us.  It never stops!

Some of these changes are welcome and some are not.  Advances in medicine have turned diseases that were once dreaded killers into a note in a history book.  There have been remarkable technological changes that have helped us advance in all areas of life.  But while these changes have made life longer, easier, and more productive, they have not come without a cost.  Today we can communicate with people all over the world at the touch of a button.  At the same time, however, we no longer have to build real relationships with face-to-face communication.  Today’s technological advances in communication have created individual lives that are, as the saying goes, “a mile wide, but only an inch deep.”

So . . . how do we deal with this second truth that everything except God is in a state of constant change, including you and the life you are living?

We must believe and fully embrace the first truth!

The only way to effectively deal with the truth of change is to view it in light of the truth that God never changes.  He is the one constant we have, in both life and death, and He is the One we are to focus our attention on.

When those we love move away, we can be assured that God never moves away.  When those we love begin showing the debilitating effects of aging, we can be assured that God does not age.  When those we love die, we can be assured that God never dies.

What change are you dealing with today?  Are you facing changes in your personal life?  Changes in your professional life?  Have the climactic changes in our economy triggered difficult changes in your life?  Regardless of the changes you are confronting and the anxiety they might be causing you, keep looking to the only One who never changes.  And along the way, you can trust that our sovereign, immutable God is working every one of those changes for your good and His glory.

One last thought: the most important change you will go through is to be conformed into the likeness of Jesus (Romans 8:29).  This means two things:  first, it is going to be painful!  Second, God will not stop His work until it is completed, and it will not be completed until you get to heaven.  Yes, along with the apostle Paul, we can be sure of this: “that He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (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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The “Pain Reflex” of the Redeemed

Grace For The Journey

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14July  I learned the original meaning of the term “pain reflex” while I was in seminary; it refers to the witness of the early Christian church.  It is said that some of the most powerful Gospel preaching came through the “pain reflex” of the early church.  For many in the church today, especially in the United States, this term is somewhat foreign; we don’t have to deal with much pain regarding our faith!  But the early church certainly did, as have many throughout the world during the past 2,000 years.  Here are just a few examples of how the early church suffered under the Roman emperors Nero and Domitian, as recorded by the first-century Roman historian Tacitus:

  • Christians were thrown to voracious wild animals to be torn apart while crowds of thousands watched and cheered the mauling
  • Fully alive and alert, Christians were covered with pitch and set on fire to provide lighting for nightly parties at Nero’s gardens
  • Christians were crucified by the hundreds and sometimes thousands along the main highways in and out of Rome as a lesson to all those observers who might desire to claim any lord other than the emperor

The horrific stories of the affliction of the saints are as numerous as they are atrocious.  The extent of their persecution was only limited by the depraved imagination of their persecutors.  But it was not the suffering that drew unbelievers to the claims of Christ; it was the way they suffered that did.  It was their pain reflex that preached a clear, compelling message and caused the watching world to take notice of their claim of a crucified and risen Christ.

Christians could be heard singing hymns and spiritual songs as they were being torn apart by snarling beasts.  As they were brought to the stake to be burned alive, Christians were overheard telling their executioners there was no need to tie them to the post, because their faith in Christ would keep them there.  One of the most remarkable biblical stories regarding the pain reflex of the early church is recorded about the death of Stephen.

The Bible says in Acts 7:54-60, “When they heard these things they were enraged, and they ground their teeth at [Stephen].  But he, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God.   And he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.”   But they cried out with a loud voice and stopped their ears and rushed together at him.   Then they cast him out of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul.   And as they were stoning Stephen, he called out, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.”   And falling to his knees he cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep.”

Here we read the biblical account of the first Christian martyr, who followed the model of his Master, who, as He hung on the cruel cross, prayed: “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.”  (Luke 23:34).

What does all this have to do with you and me?  After all, it’s not likely that you or I will ever be thrown to the lions; what should we take away from the sterling faith of the early Christians?  The answer is that you and I are given many opportunities to preach Christ to a watching world through our own pain reflex.  Though we don’t face violent persecution here in America, we do deal with a great deal of pain on this side of the grave.  With every trial and every season of suffering, we are given the opportunity to testify to the truth of what we say we believe— – ery much like our first century brethren.

We always have two different ways to respond to the struggles of life.  We can shrink back from them and demonstrate a pain that points to the self.  Or we can embrace our trials and demonstrate a pain reflex that points to the One who suffered for us and with us.  This is the pain reflex of the redeemed.  Is it yours?

This is the truth of what it means to preach the Gospel with both our lips and our lives.  This is the truth of what it means to preach the Gospel with both the profession of our faith and the practice of our faith.  And this truth shouts the loudest when we find ourselves in the furnace of affliction; we demonstrate to those who are watching a confident faith that points straight to Jesus!

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

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

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

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

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Our Divine Cardiologist, Part Three

Grace For The Journey

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11July  Thanks for hanging in there as we have taken several days to look at some precious and valuable truth in Psalm 31:24, “Be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart, all you who hope in the Lord.”  Today we conclude our study with . . .

PART Three – His Promise … “And He shall strengthen your heart”

What a wonderful comfort for God’s people to know that God never commands us to do anything without equipping us to actually get it done!  God did not simply say, “All you who hope in the Lord, be of good courage.”

After God tells us what to do,

He proceeds to tell us how it will get done:

“He shall strengthen your heart.”

It is important to take careful notice what of is held forth to us in this incredible promise. The psalmist says the Lord “will strengthen your heart.”  He does not say any of the following will strengthen your heart:

  • A better economy
  • A new job
  • A different church
  • More money
  • Better health
  • Higher education
  • A new address
  • A longer vacation
  • Less rebellious children
  • A more loving spouse

The psalmist makes it crystal clear that it is God and God alone who will strengthen the hearts of those who trust in Him in every circumstance.  Make no mistake, a lack of courage is a disease of the heart; there is only One who can cure it: our Divine Cardiologist, who delights in showing Himself strong on behalf of His people.  All strength comes from our Divine Cardiologist.

Listen to these two passages from the Word of God . . .

“The eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is perfect (complete) toward Him …” (2 Chronicles 16:9)

“And He said to me, “’My grace is sufficient for you, for Amy strength is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.  Therefore, I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distress, for Christ’s sake.  For when I am weak, then I am strong.”  For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”  (2 Corinthians 12:9-10)

“Finally, my brethren, Be strong in the Lord and the power of His might.” (Ephesians 6:10)

What deliverance do you need today?  What Red Sea are you facing, with an implacable enemy thundering up behind you?  What wall of Jericho is standing in the way of the land promised to you by your God?  What Garden of Gethsemane are you kneeling in, hoping desperately to hear from your God?  What dark night of the soul have you been struggling with, hoping to see the light of the morning star?  Where in your life have you been wrestling with God, refusing to let go until you receive your blessing?

Clearly, our Divine Cardiologist is not finished with you yet.  Do you know why I make that statement so confidently?  It’s because you’re still here!  God has more for you to do to advance the cause of His kingdom.  When we keep our eyes on Jesus, no matter what difficulties we are facing, we will, by God’s grace, be able to do what David did – in spite of feeling distressed, dejected, rejected, weak, and not at all courageous.

The Bible tells us in 1 Samuel 30:6, “David was greatly distressed, for the people spoke of stoning him, because all the people were bitter in soul, each for his sons and daughters.  But David strengthened himself in the Lord His God.”

As we close out this three-part blog on Psalm 31:24, my prayer is that you will never lose sight of the fact that regardless of how weak you are God is there to sustain and strengthen you.

One final thought: One of ways God strengthens us is through the fellowship of other Christians.

Charles Spurgeon wrote, “God does not work needless miracles.  He will not send an angel when a brother or sister will do.  A brother’s sympathy is more precious than an angel’s embassy.”  Wow!  Who better to help a hurting heart than one who has the scars from the same battle?!  When a brother or sister speaks into our lives it is “like apples of gold in baskets of silver.”  Sometimes it may come in the person of Barnabas the encourager.  At other times it can come in the person of Nathan the confronter. Either way, it is a great grace our Divine Cardiologist gives to all of His patients: He strengthens our hurting hearts.

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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Our Divine Cardiologist, part 2

Grace For The Journey

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11July  I related in yesterday that we might not have any contact with a heart specialist.  But, with all of us living longer, I am sure that at some time in your life you will make an appointment to see a cardiologist.  Maybe, because of good health you will avoid that possibility – that would be great.  But did you know that all of us have already been examined by cardiologist – not human but divine.  God is our Divine cardiologist.   He is concerned about the heart, has diagnosed our heart, and provided the prescription for failing hearts.

We learned yesterday God wants us to identify our spiritual heart problem.  We looked in the first part of Psalm 31:24 and saw that we all have symptoms of problems of the heart.  Today we look at the second part of Psalm 31:24 – “Be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart, all you who hope in the Lord.” 

Part Two: His Prescription – “Be of good courage”

Charles Spurgeon rightly observed, “They err from the Scriptures who make the grace of God a reason for doing nothing . . . for it is the reason for doing everything.” The Gospel sets the captives free (Ephesians 4:8). We are freed from the dominion of sin, Satan, and death, to be sure, but we are also freed to live the life God is calling us to live. Grace is the reason for doing everything, not because of what we might get, but because of everything we have already been given! You might say we march behind two banners:

The first being the finished work of Christ,

And

The second is the promise of His return to make all things new.

His finished work and His promised return combine to give us a glorious freedom . . . freedom to live the life we have been called to live, spurred on by a heart that overflows with thanksgiving.

When the psalmist tells us to “Be of good courage,” he presupposes that there are times when our lives are marked by something less than good courage. We all know times of doubt, discouragement, fear, and frustration.

So how are those who hope in the Lord

to apply the exhortation to

“Be of good courage”

in their lives?

The Scriptures tell us there is only One who can give to us the courage we need in every circumstance we face:

The Bible says in Hebrews 12:2, “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”

One of the clearest examples in all Scripture that illustrates what happens to our courage when we focus on anything other than Jesus is found in the story of Jesus walking on the water:

The Bible relates that account in Matthew 14:25-32, “In the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, ‘It is a ghost!’ and they cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, ‘Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.’ And Peter answered him, ‘Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.’ He said, ‘Come.’ So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, ‘Lord, save me.’ Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, ‘O you of little faith, why did you doubt?’ And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased.”

I’m sure many read this account and shake their heads indulgently at Peter’s failure. Big talk about walking on the water, but there goes Peter, sinking to the bottom of the sea! I read that story a little differently; Peter was the only one of the disciples who had enough “good courage” to step out of the boat and actually walk on the water! Peter wanted to experience the power of God in his life in a new way, and he was doing just fine until he took his eyes off Jesus and glanced anxiously around at the winds and the waves. When Peter focused on something other than Jesus his courage vanished and he began to sink.

So . . .

The key to courage is focusing on Jesus.

Regardless of the circumstances we find ourselves in, we need only to look to Christ and we will have all the courage we need to get us through whatever it is we are going through. And let me point out that when Peter failed, and looked at natural things rather than the Master of all nature – He to whom the wind and waves grant immediate obedience – at that moment when the waves were about to swallow Peter and he uttered his despairing cry, did our loving Lord hesitate?  Immediately Jesus reached out His hand and took hold of Peter. What a gracious, patient Savior we have!

But let me utter a word of caution here: don’t wait until you are in the midst of a storm to fix your eyes on Jesus; we must also focus on Him in times of triumph. In spite of overwhelming evidence that God is our only hope, Satan is a master at getting us to focus on self rather than the Savior.

The Bible provides an example of this in the life of Elijah in 1 Kings 19:1-8, “Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword. Then Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah, saying, ‘So may the gods do to me and more also, if I do not make your life as the life of one of them by this time tomorrow.’ Then he was afraid, and he arose and ran for his life and came to Beersheba, which belongs to Judah, and left his servant there.

“But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness and came and sat down under a broom tree. And he asked that he might die, saying, ‘It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life, for I am no better than my fathers.’ And he lay down and slept under a broom tree. And behold, an angel touched him and said to him, ‘Arise and eat.’ And he looked, and behold, there was at his head a cake baked on hot stones and a jar of water. And he ate and drank and lay down again. And the angel of the Lord came again a second time and touched him and said, ‘Arise and eat, for the journey is too great for you.’ And he arose and ate and drank, and went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights to Horeb, the mount of God.

The account of Elijah running for his life is a great reminder not to forget our God in times of great victory, which is far too often the case with us! Proverbs 27:21 solemnly warns, “The crucible for silver and the furnace for gold, but man is tested by the praise he receives.” To be sure, Satan comes after us when we are in times of weakness, fear, and doubt. But he also comes after us in times when we might least expect it: in times of great victory.
Tomorrow we will look at the third part of Psalm 31:24, “. . . and He will strengthen your heartand talk about His Promise. 

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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Our Divine Cardiologist, Part 1

Grace For The Journey

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11July  Maybe you have had no contact with a heart specialist up to this point in your life.  But, with all of us living longer, I am sure that at some time in your life you will make an appointment to see a cardiologist.  Maybe, because of good health you will avoid that possibility – that would be great.  But did you know that all of us have already been examined by cardiologist – not human but divine.  God is our Divine cardiologist.   He is concerned about the heart, has diagnosed our heart, and provided the prescription for failing hearts.

The Bible says in 1 Samuel 16:7b, “. . . For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”

The Bible also says in Jeremiah 17:9, ”The heart is deceitful above things, and desperately wicked; Who can know it?  I, the LORD, search the heart, I test the mind, even to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his doings.”

And the Bible says in Ezekiel 11:19, “Then I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within them, and take the stony heart out of the flesh, and give them a heart of flesh, that they may walk in My statutes and keep My judgments and do them; and they shall be My people, and I will be their God.”

The Bible teaches that all of us have a heart problem.  But our Divine cardiologist not only knows the problem but has a prescription that will strengthen our hearts help us to live life fully.

I want to share some thoughts on Psalm 31:24 that has been a source of encouragement and instruction for me.  The next three blogs are titled Our Divine Cardiologist.

The Bible says in Psalm 31:24, “Be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart, all you who hope in the Lord.”  This verse lays out three great truths regarding our great Divine cardiologist: His Patient; His Prescription; and His Promise.

Today we’ll look at Part One: His Patient“All you who hope in the Lord . . .”

It is important to notice at the outset what this verse does not say.  It does not say, “All you who hope in their good works” or “All you who hope in their religiosity” or “All you who hope in your baptism” or “All you who hope in your goodness” or “All you who hope in your church.” In short, this psalm wasn’t written for “All you who hope in yourselves” . . . like the Pharisee in the temple.

The Bible records that account in Luke 18:9-14, “[Jesus] also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

Scripture succinctly spotlights the Pharisee’s problem: Jesus told the parable for those “who trusted in themselves that they were righteous.”  The Pharisee was not hoping and trusting in the Lord and His righteousness; he was hoping and trusting in himself!  Self is a miserable substitute for God, the only One who is worthy of our hope and trust.  The Word of God has nothing to say to those like the Pharisee, who trust in themselves.  Any hope other than God is not a hope worth having.  It is hope-less!

The Bible identifies others who put their hope in things other than God.  Some trust in chariots and horses (Psalm 20:7), which is another word for the strength and power of military might.  Others trust in the government (Psalm 146:3), banking on rulers and governing bodies to fix the world’s problems.  Still others trust in their money (1 Timothy 6:17).

So . . . what have you been hoping for and trusting in lately?  What is the testimony of your life?  What would those who are closest to you say?  Remember, if your hope is anything other than Jesus, Psalm 31:24 does not speak to you.  But if your hope is in the Lord, as I trust it is, you will know hope in the way that the writer of Hebrews described it:

“By faith [Abraham] made his home in the Promised Land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise.  For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.”  (Hebrews 11:9-10)

All those who hope in the Lord have a divine dissatisfaction with life today.  Like the apostle Paul, we have learned to be content in any and every situation (Philippians 4:12), yet we recognize that something is radically wrong with ourselves and the world around us. We look with forward with positive anticipation to a better future, groaning inwardly in our longing to walk the streets of the sparkling city of God.

Tomorrow we will look at God’s Prescription for our spiritual heart problem.

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 Blinding of Believers

Grace For The Journey

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8July  The devil is on the prowl for unbelievers; he is busily engaged in keeping them in utter darkness.

The Bible says in 2 Corinthians 4:4, “The god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.”

And in 1 Peter 5:8 the Bible says Satan is on the prowl for the believers too! Scripture is bookended by admonitions to be on guard against our cunning and terrible adversary.  

God cautioned Cain, “Sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it” (Genesis 4:7). And Peter warns the church, “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8).

To be sure, Satan can never take you out of the hand of your Savior (see John 6:37 and 10:27-30).  But Satan can and will mess up your life . . . if you let him.  I once heard a speaker quote John 10:10 – “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy” (John 10:10) – and declare that Satan is working tirelessly to steal your innocence, to destroy your dreams, and to kill you!

The devil is on mission to blind you to the truths of the Gospel in subtle and surprising ways.  You would do well to review how Satan approached Eve in Genesis, Chapter Three.  Satan doesn’t try to convince you that there is no God; instead he smoothly seeks to convince you that a Godless existence isn’t all that bad – it’s actually quite fun and fulfilling!  The more the devil can ensnare us in living a life of self-seeking personal pleasure, the more profoundly we are blinded to the life God calls us to live.

Christian believers are blinded when the devil distracts and diverts their affections to things other than God.  And how frighteningly easy this is to do – especially when these things are not inherently bad . . . or even incredibly good.

  • Work is good . . . but not when it blinds us to Jesus
  • Relationships are good . . . but not when they blind us to Jesus
  • Recreation is good . . . but not when it blinds us to Jesus
  • Taking care of our home is good . . . but not when it blinds us to Jesus
  • A hobby is good . . . but not when it blinds us to Jesus
  • Serving the church is good . . . but NOT when it blinds us to Jesus!

Someone has said, “Good things become bad things when they become ultimate things.”  Our love for the good things in this world can blind us to what should be the one true love of our lives: Jesus.  The devil has expertly developed the diabolical tactic of blinding believers by keeping them busy being busy.  We are certain that idle time is the devil’s workshop, so we keep on keeping on, chasing after lesser gods that never deliver what they promise.  At the end of the day, we realize that our problem is not so much in what we are running after, but in what we are running away from.

The Bible says in 2 Timothy 2:25-26, “The only cure for the blinding of believers is the Gospel, which tells us that repentance and recovery of spiritual sight are gifts from God.  Paul wrote to encourage us “in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will.”

Elsewhere Paul exulted that “The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet” (Romans 16:20).  We are not to fear, for we know our victory was eternally secured when our Savior King cried out, “It is finished!” (John 19:30).  Martin Luther exulted in the victory Christ won for us in “A Mighty Fortress is our God.”

And though this world, with devils filled,

should threaten to undo us,

we will not fear, for God hath willed

His truth to triumph through us.

The Prince of Darkness grim,

we tremble not for him;

his rage we can endure,

for lo, his doom is sure;

one little word shall fell him.

By resting in the truths of the Gospel and recalling all that Jesus has done for us, we begin to see more clearly.  And in seeing more clearly, we see Jesus as the only thing and the only One who can satisfy our deepest needs: pardon for our sins and peace for our weary souls.

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 Searing Searchlight of Sacred Scripture

Grace For The Journey

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7July  Most church pews are filled with men and women who affirm the inspiration and authority of sacred Scripture. This is a good thing. However, if affirming the inspiration and authority of sacred Scripture does not translate into changing our beliefs and altering our behavior, it is of very little value in the life of the Christian.

The searing searchlight of sacred Scripture has been given to us by God to renew our minds, enlarge our hearts, and bend our wills. Is this the confession of your life today? Is the Word of God the functional authority in your personal and professional life?

The Bible says in Hebrews 4:12, “For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.”

Because the Word of God is living and active, it is to function in our lives in such a way as to rule our hearts and shape our lives. It is to test our tightly held traditions and challenge our current comfort zones. It is to dismantle every deity we have designed in the idol-making factory of our unholy hearts – from power and pleasure to prosperity and prestige.

Because the Word of God is sharper than any double-edged sword, it will cut away everything that does not conform us to the image and likeness of the Lord Jesus Christ – in thought, word, deed, and desire.

Because the Word of God is living, it will impart life to those who dig into it and meditate on it. The apostle Paul, writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, asserted that “The Holy Scriptures . . . are able to make you wise unto salvation through faith in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 3:15).

  • The Word of God brings life where there is death.
  • It brings health where there is disease.
  • It brings hope where there is hopelessness.

And because it is active, it is designed to empower the believer to pursue a life that is pleasing to God. It changes the orientation of the heart from beating for the self to beating for the Savior.

The searing searchlight of sacred Scripture is always on. If the world around you begins to darken, the Word of God shines brighter! If you begin to lose your way, it becomes a celestial compass to guide you through every storm and return you to the path God is calling you to walk.

Regardless of where this message finds you today, you can be sure that the searing searchlight of sacred Scripture will be . . .

  •  A lamp to your feet
  •  A light to your path
  •  A rock for your foundation
  •  An anchor for your soul
  •  A shield of protection against the attacks of the enemy
  •  A deep well of living water to slake your every thirst

As the Word of God judges the thoughts and attitudes of your heart, it will be the catalyst and cause of your spiritual growth. Whether you hear it in a sermon, Bible study lesson, in your personal time of devotion, or through the loving counsel of a godly friend, it will be the rich soil in which the seeds of the supernatural are carefully sown, producing a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.

The Word of God both tells and transforms . . . announces and accomplishes . . . and nothing in all creation can stop it from doing exactly what God has ordained it to do in your life. “For the Lord Almighty has purposed, and who can thwart him? His hand is stretched out, and who can turn it back?” (Isaiah 14:27.)

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 EFFECT OF GRACE: PARDON . . . POWER . . . PROGRESS!

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6July  Grace for your life starts out as pardon – the forgiveness of your sins; it continues in power – the strength to fight against sin; and it results in progress – growing in Christ-likeness.

The apostle Paul wrote to the Christians at Corinth: “By the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them—yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me.”  (1 Corinthians 15:10)

Paul was explaining the “effect” of the grace that was given to him. God’s grace strengthened Paul for the ministry God had set before him. You can see that Paul was not boasting in himself when he wrote “I worked harder than all of them,” because he immediately added “yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me.” Paul’s only boast was in the power that had been given him for his progress, power which was rooted in the grace of God poured out into his life.

Sadly, many today only see God’s grace as freedom from the penalty of sin. As marvelous as that grace is, the Word of God makes it clear, here and elsewhere, that grace is also freedom to make progress against sin and to live a life of holiness and obedience to the Lord.

Now, don’t think for a moment I am suggesting you will reach a state of sinless perfection! That will only happen on the other side of the grave. But I am speaking about the power to make progress in the pursuit of the life God has called us to live.

The grace that saves by faith is the grace that sanctifies by faith and it is never without effect. To be sure, every Christian will live the painful truth set forth in the seventh chapter of Romans; we will struggle against the old, sinful nature. But God’s grace will never be without effect; the Christian is empowered to advance in holiness and live a life that is honoring to God. And is there any better life to be living? I think not!

So . . . what kind of effect has God’s grace had on your life? Is God’s grace evidenced in your personal relationships? At home? At the office? In your thought life? In your ability to express your emotions in an appropriate way?  In how you live?

Remember, once God’s grace pardons you, it unleashes His power in you to make progress, as you grow by faith in Christ-likeness “in the strength which God supplies, that in everything God may get the glory” (1 Peter 4:11) as you journey toward the Celestial City.

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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