What’s in a Number?

Grace For the Journey

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18oct  Many Christians are being held hostage to a failure to forgive.  They simply refuse to get past hurts and wrongs; they trade their liberty in Christ for the prison of the past.  But there is a Gospel solution to this all-too-common problem:

The Bible says in Matthew 18:21-22, “Then Peter came to Him and said, ‘Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?’  Jesus said to him , ‘I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.’”

So what’s in a number?  When it comes to forgiveness . . . absolutely nothing!  Jesus made it clear to Peter that asking how many times he should forgive someone who has wronged him is the wrong question to ask.  Peter probably thought he was being extra-gracious, that by proposing a seven-times forgiveness plan he was far surpassing the righteousness of the Pharisees and teachers of the law.  In that day, Jewish tradition limited forgiveness to just three times and then you could write the offender off.

The point Jesus was making to Peter and to us was this:

When it comes to forgiveness, there is no number!

In God’s economy, there simply is no limit to the number of times we are to forgive others.

That is because there is no limit to how many times God forgives us.

He is not keeping score and neither should we!

Peter had a hard time getting past the number.  How about you?  Those who are keeping track of forgiveness simply do not understand; they do not fully comprehend the forgiveness they have received in Christ.  When Jesus taught His disciples to pray, He said: “Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.”  Really?  Is that what we really want God to do?  To forgive us as we forgive others?  The answer is yes . . . but this is only possible if the power of the Gospel has freed us to live a life of unconditional forgiveness.

Now, I don’t want to minimize the pain that the wrongs of another can cause.  Some scars last a lifetime.  And that is why it is so critical to pursue a deeper understanding of the Gospel, so that we can be freed to forgive.  The Gospel accounts describe in excruciating detail what happened to Jesus on our behalf. And yet, while hanging on that dirty tree, Jesus prayed: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34).

I once heard a man say that “Refusing to forgive is like drinking poison and waiting for your enemy to die.”  Jesus knew the damage of an unforgiving heart, and He set the model before us that gives us the power to offer up forgiveness and thus free ourselves from the prison of the past.

To be sure, we can pray for God to deal with every injustice, which He has promised that He will do.  God-centered anger is an appropriate response to injustice, because it is rooted in a concern for God and His Kingdom rather than our own.  And yet it is the power of the Gospel that frees us to leave our righteous indignation at the foot of the cross.

Jesus says in Mark 11:25, “And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses.”

It has been said, “Unforgiveness does more damage to the vessel in which it is stored than the object upon which it is poured.”  To forgive as we have been forgiven is to freely forgive, no matter how many times someone has wronged us or hurt us.  And remember: God never asks us to do anything without giving us the grace to get it done.

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

I’ve explained in the previous two blogs 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 to use on His behalf. The previous articles dealt with our time and talents; today we’ll look at our 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 other things to buy, 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, according to recent statistics 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?

The Bible says in Luke 21:1-4, “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.’”

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 out give Him! The more we give back to God, the more we seem to have in more ways than we can count. In Malachi 3:10-11, 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.’”

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 of blogs 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 testimony 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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13oct  Today is the second installment in study on the subject of our accountability before God, 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 steward on His behalf. I discussed time yesterday; today we’ll look at talent.

Talent

The Bible says in 2 Timothy 1:6, “Therefore, I remind you to stir up the gift of God which is in you . . .”

What do you think of when  you hear 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, “Where there is no vision, the people perish” (Proverbs 29:18). 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 things other 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 way, not our own; in His strength, not our own; for His glory, 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 1

Grace For The Journey

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12oct  For the remainder of the week I would like to share some thoughts on accountability.  My thoughts are rooted in Romans 14:12 where the Bible says, “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 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 made the statement, “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 resonates with every one of us because it comes right out of our own personal life experiences:

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. The years have 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 next article, 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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Am I Making The Almighty Attractive?

Grace For The Journey

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11oct  Let me start by saying in no uncertain terms:

GOD IS ATTRACTIVE ALL BY HIMSELF AND

HE DOES NOT NEED ANY OF US TO MAKE HIM SO!

Now that I have said that, let me add that our sinful behavior can obscure the beauty of our Christian faith and harm its blessings.

The Bible says in Titus 2:9-10, “Teach slaves to be subject to their masters in everything, to try to please them, not to talk back to them, and not to steal from them, but to show that they can be fully trusted, that may adorn (make attractive) the doctrine of God our Savior in all things.”

Truth be known, the way we live our lives before a watching world will, in large measure, determine the level of attractiveness that others see in the Gospel we preach with our lips. God has called us to live out practically what we are positionally, thereby making the teaching about God our Savior attractive to those who are watching us.

  • When we find it more important to be right than loving, we make the Gospel unattractive.
  • When we refuse to extend forgiveness to someone who has offended us, we make the Gospel unattractive.
  • When we find ourselves with so many possessions that they begin to possess us, we make the Gospel unattractive.
  • When self-protection trumps self-sacrifice, we make the Gospel unattractive.

 

Think of the countless ways we can make and have made the Gospel unattractive with our words and our deeds as we live out our faith before a watching world.  The Bible  levels a stinging rebuke at us: “God’s name is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you” (Romans 2:24).

But God wants so much more for us! If we are going to consistently make the Almighty Attractive we must to follow His formula for doing so. This is a recurring theme of the Grace for the Journey blog, but it is a theme we should be continually reminded of, because there simply are too many voices in this world trying to distract us and derail us from living it out.

The Bible says in Luke 9:23, “[Jesus] said to them all: “If anyone would come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me.”

When we deny ourselves we make the Gospel attractive; when we deny Jesus we do not. When we take up our cross daily we make the Gospel attractive; when we leave it lying on the ground we do not. When we follow Jesus fully (not perfectly) we make the Gospel attractive; when we forsake Him we do not. To be sure, the good news of the Gospel is attractive all by itself, but God has ordained to deliver it through you and me. And in doing that, He calls us to make it as attractive as we possibly can by pointing to Jesus and putting Him on display.

The more we die to the self, the more we live for our Savior. At this level of living we are pursuing God’s purposes for our lives in the expansion of His kingdom and that, beloved, makes the teaching about God our Savior attractive.

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 Grace of Disenchantment

Grace For The Journey

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10oct  Disenchantment is the feeling of being disappointed with something and no longer believing that it is good, useful, or worthwhile. It is the overwhelming feeling of disillusionment you feel when something or someone has not lived up to your expectations.  And it is a great and glorious grace when disenchantment is rooted in anything other than God!  That might now sound like it make sense but stay with through the end of this blog.

When we build our hopes, our dreams, our trust, our worth, our identity, perhaps our very existence on anything smaller than God, that thing (or person) will always leave us wanting.  Whenever we put anything on the throne of our lives expect the One who rightfully should be there, we set ourselves up for disenchantment . . . and that is one of God’s great graces given to every Christian.

Whether we are in hot pursuit of a person, a pastime, a profession, or a possession, when we finally get what we wanted, it isn’t long before we realize it is utterly unable to deliver on what we thought it promised.  We wind up disappointed, disillusioned, and desperate for our next “fix.”  But instead of driving us to despair, the grace of disenchantment should drive us back to the only One who can meet us in our place of deepest need: that One is Jesus Christ.

The Bible says in Colossians 3:1-2, “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.”

God will deliver the grace of disenchantment whenever we set our hearts on earthly things and place them above Christ.  Now, please don’t misunderstand what I am saying: loving our families, caring for our children, working hard on our jobs, and enjoying our recreation are all good things.  But when we make good things into ultimate things (by setting our hearts on them and placing them above Jesus), then they become bad things.  They become idols of the heart that enslave us, because our hearts are yearning for something other than God.  When any of these desires becomes our deepest desire, we are on our inevitable path to disenchantment.

We will only be immune from disenchantment when we regard Jesus as our ultimate treasure.  Only Jesus can deliver on every one of His promises.

  • The promise of meaning and purpose is realized only in Him.
  • The promise of success and significance is realized only in Him.
  • The promise of approval and acceptance is realized only in Him.
  • The promise of rest and relaxation is realized only in Him.
  • The promise of peace, pleasure, and prosperity is realized only in Him.

 Everything we are looking for in everything other than Jesus we already have in Him.

So . . . have you been dealing with any disenchantment lately?

To be sure, Jesus has given us the good gifts of this life and He wants us to enjoy them to their fullest.  But we will only enjoy them rightly when they maintain their proper place in our hearts.  When Jesus is our ultimate love, then we can love all these other things appropriately, without our affection rising to the level of adoration.  God will tolerate no rival.  When we put anything in our lives ahead of the Lord of all our lives, we can be certain the grace of disenchantment is not far behind.

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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Just The Way You Are

Grace For The Journey

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7oct  Ever curse your Creator?  We all do it from time to time; most people don’t even know they are doing it!  Now that I have your attention, consider the following thoughts made by people within the church today:

  • If only I had a better body . . .
  • If only I had better looks . . .
  • If only my teeth were straighter . . .
  • If only I had a different personality . . .
  • If only I could carry a tune . . .
  • If only I had more hair . . .
  • If only I had curly hair . . .
  • If only my hair was a different color . . .
  • If only I was more athletic . . .
  • If only I was smarter . . .
  • If only I was taller . . .
  • If only I was shorter . . .
  • If only my eyes were a different color . . .
  • If only I was born into a different family . . .

The list, of course, is endless.  Did any of these resonate with you or is your curse something else not listed here?  Every time we think something like this, we are demonstrating our dissatisfaction with God’s creation of us.  Far too many in the church today worship God on Sunday and curse Him the rest of the week because they are not happy with the way He created them.  Working with the people as much as I do, I am constantly confronted with short folks who want to be taller; bigger people who want to be smaller; smart folks who want to be athletic; mechanical people who want to be musical; geeky folks who want to be popular.

The Bible says this about God in Psalm 139:13-16a, “For You created my inmost being; You knit me together in my mother’s womb.  I praise You because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Your works are wonderful.  I know that full well.  My frame was not hidden from You when I was made in the secret place.  When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, Your eyes saw my unformed body.”

David wrote this passage in the full understanding that He was made by God just the way God wanted to make him.  When Samuel came to the house of Jesse to anoint the new king, the Scriptures suggest David might have been as handsome as his older brother, Eliab, but he was not as tall.  But the Lord admonished Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature” (1 Samuel 16:7).  It was not an accident that David looked the way he looked, because God created him that way.  Nowhere in Scripture can we find David looking to be remade by his Creator.

So . . . what about you?  Are you dissatisfied with your Creator’s work in you?  Do you secretly wish God had made you more like someone else?  To be sure, we all struggle with this from time to time.  But the answer to rising above this kind of thinking is to be fully immersed in the truths of the Gospel.  Only the Gospel frees us to accept the way we have been fearfully and wonderfully made.  Only the Gospel frees us to embrace the way we have been knit together.

Because we already have everything we need in Jesus, we don’t have to go looking outside of ourselves for the one thing we all crave: acceptance.  We have been made accepted in the Beloved; we are His masterpiece and fully loved just the way we are regardless of what others think about us.  The Gospel empowers us to no longer curse our Creator because we are not satisfied with the way we were made.  Made by God – for God – we fit perfectly into His plan and purpose for our lives.  And His plan and purpose for our lives transcends our plan and purpose for our lives.

There is one added benefit to accepting the way God made us.  Resting in this truth also allows us to receive others just the way they are because they too have been made in His image.  One body, many members, all uniquely made as one-of-a-kind masterpieces in the hand of the Master!!!

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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Why The Father Uses The Flawed!

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5oct  Ever wonder why God the Father would use flawed people to accomplish His perfect purposes in this world?  I did, and the answer God gave me was pretty simple: that’s all that’s available to Him!  “Wait a minute,” some of you might object.  “What about the heroes of the faith in the Bible—giants like Abraham and Sarah, Moses, David, Peter, and Paul?  How do they fit into this ‘flawed’ picture?”  Let’s see.

  • Noah was a drunk
  • Abraham was too old
  • Isaac was a daydreamer
  • Jacob was a liar
  • Leah was ugly
  • Joseph was abused
  • Moses had a stuttering problem (Moses stuttered)
  • Gideon was afraid
  • Samson had long hair and was a womanizer
  • Rahab was a prostitute
  • Jeremiah and Timothy were too young
  • David was an adulterer and a murderer
  • Elijah was suicidal
  • Jonah ran from God
  • Naomi was a widow
  • Job went bankrupt
  • John the Baptist ate bugs
  • Peter was willing to deny Christ to save his own skin
  • Paul was contentious and frankly admitted that he kept on doing “the evil I do not want to do” (Romans 7:19).

These are just a few of the examples in sacred Scripture where the word “flawed” seems like an understatement of gargantuan proportions.  Yet God choose to use them all in the advancement of His kingdom in this world.

Why?

Because that’s all that’s available to Him!

A few weeks ago, I wrote that there is only one hero in the Bible: His name is Jesus Christ. Everyone else we read about in Scripture is just like all those we don’t read about – great sinners in need of an even greater Savior.

This should give you great comfort today for two reasons: first, you can take anyone you have placed on a pedestal off it and set them right back on the ground where they belong (remember, the ground is always level at the foot of the cross).  And second, you are just as qualified as anyone else to be used by God because you are no more flawed than they are.  God has been using flawed individuals since the fall in spite of their failures, and His eternal purposes are being accomplished.

In addition to the fact that the only people available to God are flawed people, there is another reason too: God delights in working through the kind of people the world could never imagine He would pick to be on His team.

The Bible powerfully declares this in 1 Corinthians 1:26-31, “Consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”

I don’t know about you, but I am encouraged and reassured when I read the stories of the people who struggled with self-protection, selfish ambition, and other kinds of sin – just like I do – and yet were still used of God.  If Scripture only offered stories of those who walked on water and spoke from Sinai, it would be pretty discouraging!  Far from being inspired to excellence and a drive to serve God, I would be driven into the dust of despair.  Thank God He uses the flawed . . . of whom I am the foremost.

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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What’s Love Got To Do With It?

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4oct  How would you answer the following question; “How do you know if you are growing in the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ?”

For most people, the answer would be buried inside a list of things they do – Bible study, prayer, church attendance, service, community group participation, etc. – what we call the “spiritual disciplines.”  As good as it is to do these things on a consistent basis, this is not the measure of growing to maturity.  Remember, the Pharisees did all the right things, but for all the wrong reasons, and they were repeatedly singled out for the wrath of Almighty God.  Let’s take a look at the answer found in the Scriptures.

The Bible says in John 13:35, “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you love one another.”

The Bible says in 1 Thessalonians 3:12, “May the Lord cause you to increase and abound in love for one another, and for all men, just as we also do for you.”

The Bible says in 1 John 3:14, “We know we have passed from death to life, because we love our brothers.”

So, what’s love got to do with growing to maturity?  EVERYTHING!  It is the fruit of our growing relationship with Jesus.  It is to be the universal mark of the Christian.  More than our theology . . . more than our service . . . more than our financial support of the expansion of God’s kingdom.

Love is to be the defining mark of the Christian.

Paul made it crystal clear that we can be doing a lot of good and important things for God, and look godly to those around us, but the absence of love makes all of it absolutely worthless.

The Bible says in 1 Corinthians 13:1-3, “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.  And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.  If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.”

What an indictment on those who refuse to love their brothers and sisters in the Lord!  And make special note that Paul did not give us a pass when it came to the unlovable.  We are to love both the lovable and the unlovable . . . those we like and those we do not like . . . those from whom we get something in return and those we do not.

Our Lord also offered some very strong teaching on this subject:

He said in Matthew 5:43-48 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, ‘Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.’”

You see, when it comes to love, we don’t get a vote.  If we have been saved by the love of Christ we can do nothing but share it with everyone we come in contact with.

Our love for others makes our God attractive and provides an accurate picture of who He is.  Remember, God is love; if we are His children, we too will show love to others – all others – regardless of the cost or circumstance.

To be sure, none of us can do this in our own strength.  We are far too selfish and self-centered to love unconditionally.  But thank God we don’t have to!  He has given us all the grace we need to unconditionally love all those He brings into our lives.

I cannot think of a better way to close today’s word of encouragement than to return to the “Love Chapter” and peer behind the curtain of Christ-like, unconditional love to see if our love looks anything like it.

The Bible presents God’s definition of love in 1 Corinthians 13:4-5, “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude.  It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.  Love bears all things, believes all things, hope all things, endures all things.  Love never fails.”

Remember, when you give this kind of love to others (albeit inconsistently and imperfectly), all you are doing is giving to them what you yourself have already received and continue receiving on a moment-by-moment basis from the One who bought you with His precious blood.  So, what’s love got to do with it – from the livingroom to the boardroom?  EVERYTHING!

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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28sept  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 everything life could offer, but had nothing to live life for.  A few cracked all the way through, and I found myself standing over open graves alongside 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 functional 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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