Heart Attack!

Grace For The Journey

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16nov  I spent nearly 2 years of my young adult life working part-time in hospital emergency and surgical units while in college in Atlanta, Georgia. Over that time I encountered many heart attack victims.  Also known as a myocardial infarction or (MI), an attack on the heart muscle is due to the loss of blood supply generally caused by a blockage of a coronary artery.  The death of heart muscle causes shortness of breath, chest pain and electrical instability of the heart muscle tissue.  Emergency treatment includes CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation), administration of medication, and at times electrical shock.  Over 90% of heart attack victims who reach the hospital survive so a quick response, proper treatment, and transportation are critical.

Did you know that there is another kind of heart attack that we all face every day?  It is an attack on the affections of our heart, also known as “heart idolatry.”  When Jesus entered into your life and redeemed you through faith, He claimed your heart as His own.  He has claimed the throne of your life and will tolerate no rival.  The problem is we tolerate rivals to our Redeemer and fill our hearts with idols.  I have listed just a few below:

  • The idols of affection, approval, and achievement.
  • The idols of power, position, and prestige.
  • The idols of security, success, and sensuality.
  • The idols of recognition, respect, and reputation.
  • The idols of comfort, control, and calling.

How does this list resonate with you?  Is there something I have not mentioned that is attacking your heart right now?  If you are not sure, ask yourself, “What do I love, hope, trust, or fear?”

  • If you love a structured life without any uncomfortable interruptions, control will be your idol.
  • If you hope for a pain free life, living inside zones of comfort will be your idol.
  • If you trust in financial security, earning as much as you can will be your idol.
  • If you fear being alone and single, being in a relationship (any relationship) will be your idol.

When you get right down to it, idols of the heart are false saviors, promoting false gospels, promising false hope.  We go to them expecting them to do for us what only Jesus can.

Just as a lack of blood supply causes physical death to your heart, a lack of Jesus causes spiritual death to your life.  It is only by keeping the gospel before us and living by it every day that we are able to forsake all of our idols and turn to Jesus because we realize these idols cannot deliver on their promises.

Jesus not only delivered on His every promise,

He continues to deliver daily.

The Bible declares in Lamentations 3:22-24, “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.  “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in Him.”

Let me encourage you in closing.  You are not alone in the battle of dethroning your heart idols.  Every Christian is fighting the same battles on different fronts.  Consider it not a strange thing to be in this battle and to be wearied by it.  But remember, Jesus has won your victory on the cross.  The King came for you and purchased you with His precious blood.  And once you are His, nothing can separate you from Him (Romans 8:39).  Call on Him.  Seek Him.  There is help from the Great Physician for every heart attack.

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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Are You Blind to Your Blindness?

Grace For The Journey

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15novPhysical blindness is a condition that is known to all those who are afflicted by it.  My mom was blind in her right eye from glaucoma . . . and she knew it.  She learned to compensate for it.

Spiritual blindness, however, is a condition that is known only to those who are given the grace of supernatural sight to see their own sin.  David was given this great grace: “For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me” (Psalm 51:3).

Isaiah was given this great grace: “Woe is me!  For I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips” (Isaiah 6:5).

Peter was given this great grace, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord” (Luke 5:8).

Do you know this great grace of seeing your own sin?  Or are you blind to your blindness?  How would those closest to you answer this question?

We are blind to our blindness when we cannot or will not see our own sin.  Even worse, we are blind to our blindness and think we see well when we find it much easier to notice the speck in the eye of someone else without ever noticing the plank in our own eye.

King David was blind to his blindness until God graciously sent the prophet Nathan to rebuke David with a word from God.  The story of David really bothered me, especially when I read he was a “man after God’s own heart.”  I mean, come on!  David stayed home when he should have been off to war, slept with another man’s wife, and then sentenced that man to death while he was on the battlefield, honorably defending his nation.

Not until God gave me the grace to see the overarching theme of David’s story as my story did I begin to see just how blind I was to my blindness.  It is only by the grace of God that today I am a gratefully recovering Pharisee, having been given the vision to clearly see my own sin . . . as painful as that is at times!

So how well do you see your own sin?  Before you answer that question, read and meditate on the following verse . . .

“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?”  (Jeremiah 17:9)

It never ceases to amaze me just how blind we are to our own sin  – and that includes me!  It’s in our DNA to think we are better than we actually are.  This is the deceitfulness and sickness of the heart, even after Jesus raises us from death to life.  To be sure, sin no longer reigns in the life of the believer, but it still remains.  The Bible teaches us in Galatians 5:17-18, “For 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.”  And our sinful nature is quick to deflect, defend, and diminish our sin.

We have become experts at shaping our sin into acceptable shapes:

  • The sin of impatience is shaped into “getting others up to our speed.”
  • The sin of immorality is shaped into “personal self-fulfillment.”
  • The sin of materialism is shaped into “getting my fair share.”
  • The sin of legalism is shaped into “a sold-out love of the Law.”
  • The sin of a critical spirit is shaped into “discernment.”
  • The sin of workaholism is shaped into “providing for my family.”
  • The sin of fits of rage is shaped into “righteousness anger.”

Does any of this resonate with you?  Can you think of some other “acceptable” shapes of sin that might you be allowing or excusing in your life right now?  God in Christ has given sight to blind eyes and flesh to hard hearts.  He promised this in Ezekiel 36:26-27: “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.  I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them.”  As He reveals more and more of our sin, we are able to receive what we see and cry out to Jesus for healing.

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 Rules Your Heart … Shapes Your Life!

Grace For The Journey

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14novThe Bible tells us that the human heart is the “control-center” of life: “Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life” (Proverbs 4:23).  In other words, what rules your heart shapes your life!

What is ruling your heart and shaping your life these days?

For some, stifling emotions – such as doubt, fear, or anxiety – have taken hold of their hearts and are shaping their lives.  For others, vain pursuits – such as power, prestige, or prosperity – have taken hold of their hearts and are shaping their lives.  Still others find that the applause of man or the affection of another have taken hold of their hearts and ultimately are shaping their lives.  To be sure, the possibilities are as limitless as the depths of our sinful, self-absorbed, and self-centered hearts.

But this is not what God wants for you!  Colossians 3:15 gives us the key to penetrating a sinful heart that is ruled by anything other than Jesus: “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts.”  This peace finds its power in one overwhelming Gospel truth: this peace is His peace!

The peace of Jesus is not found in silver and gold . . . not in power and prestige . . . nor in honor and high society.  When Jesus walked this earth on His way to Calvary, His estate was one of abject humiliation, for He had no earthly estate to give to His disciples.  He frankly admitted, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head” (Luke 9:58).

It was the peace of Christ that overcame the temptations of the devil, the betrayal of Judas, the desertion of His disciples, the false accusations of the religious leaders, the denials of Peter, and the taunting of the crowds as He hung on the cross.  This is the peace that we have been given through faith in the Prince of Peace.

You see, the peace that is to rule our hearts and ultimately shape our lives will never be found in the stuff of life.  It will only be found in our Savior.  He warns us all, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal . . . For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:19, 21).

It is only the peace of Christ that is unaffected by the circumstances of life.  Storms cannot disrupt it.  Trials will not disturb it.  Challenges do not dislocate it.  This is the peace that passes all human understanding, and it will guard your heart (Philippians 4:7).  Our natural, sinful nature would rather try to find our peace in something tangible.  But our new nature is empowered by the same peace that propelled the Prince of Peace.  And this is the peace that is to rule our hearts and shape our lives.

This peace empowers us to care about more than the cares and concerns of our own lives.  This peace allows us to lay our lives down and lift others up.  This peace frees us to come out of hiding – to emerge from behind every flimsy fig leaf, knowing that God has accepted us in His beloved Son.  A heart that is ruled by the peace of Christ is shaped like the cross: loving God (vertical) and reaching out in love to others (horizontal).

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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Veterans Day

Grace For The Journey

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11nov  Today is Veterans Day.  I would like to use today’s blog to honor our Veterans with a special tribute and “Thank You!” to the brave men and women of our armed forces who served and sacrificed for the freedom we enjoy.

Yet a tribute, even a national holiday today, is hardly enough to declare just how thankful we ought to be for the unimaginable sacrifices all of our veterans have made.

This day of honor began on “The 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918…” when an armistice (the temporary cessation of battle) was declared between the Allied forces and Germany, ending World War I. The following year, November 11 was set aside as Armistice Day, making it a legal holiday. In the aftermath of World War II and the Korean War, Armistice Day became Veterans Day, a day honoring all veterans who served in all wars.

Here is a fact that few of us know, because we live in a culture that cares less and less for the things of God. On June 4, 1926, Congress passed a resolution that the recurring anniversary of November 11, 1918, “Should be commemorated with thanksgiving and prayer.” That is what we all should do – not only on Veterans Day, but every day throughout the year. We ought to thank our God for the great gift of the countless brave men and women who served and sacrificed to secure our freedom.

As a pastor, I am frequently asked – “Why does God allow so many wars?” The answer, of course, is found in the Bible’s account of Adam’s fall in the Garden of Eden, and it is rooted in a single word: SIN! When Adam and Eve chose to do what they wanted to do rather than what God commanded them to do, sin entered this world and broke everything, including man, the image-bearers of God.

The Bible tells us in James 4:1, “Where do wars and fights come from among?  Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members?  You lust and do not have,.  You murder and comet and cannot obtain.  You fight and war.  Yet you do not have because you do not ask.”

There is a day coming when no one will serve in any armed forces anywhere, because Jesus fought and won the ultimate battle against sin, Satan, and death itself. Hanging on the cross, Jesus took all the punishment for our sin and became the death of death. On the third day, He rose from the grave, proof positive that God the Father was fully pleased with Christ’s atoning work. And what Jesus began in His first coming, He will finish in His second; there will be no more tears, no more sorrow, no more wars, and no more death. The lion will lie down with the lamb, and the peace that passes all understanding will reign forever and ever.  It wasn’t long after that Cain, the firstborn of our first parents, killed his younger brother, Abel. From that moment on, the pages of Scripture and written history are filled with wars. And in this great nation, God blesses us by raising up men and women of courage and commitment who are willing to pay the ultimate price to ensure our freedom by serving in our armed forces.

But until that day, let us pause and thank our God for the great gift of our veterans. Let us salute all those who have served. Let us thank God for them and pray for them and their families. And let us never forget all those who have fought for our freedom—all paying some . . . and some paying all.

May God bless every veteran—not only on this day, but every day.

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The Master’s Magic Mirror

Grace For The Journey

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10nov  John Bunyan’s children’s version of Pilgrim’s Progress describes a “magic mirror” that shows the reflection of the one looking at it on one side, with all the blemishes, and on the other side is a picture of the crucified Christ. The imagery reminds us that when we look in the mirror we see ourselves for who we currently are, but when God looks in the same mirror He sees us as the likeness of His beloved Son, Jesus Christ.

To be sure, God knows and sees our every misstep and mistake . . . our shortcomings and sin. But before the foundation of the world He chose to see us as already perfected in Christ. He sees us as what we will one day be: perfectly conformed to the image and likeness of Jesus.

The Bible says in Romans 8:29, “For those God foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brothers.”

All Christians are currently living in the tension between the “already” and the “not yet” of our salvation. In the eyes of God, we are “already” perfected and conformed to the likeness of Jesus; but you and I know by way of daily experience we are “not yet” perfect. In fact, we are quite a long way from perfection!

Knowing that God chooses to see you as He sees His beloved Son is the key to finding the proper motive and motivation for pursuing a life of obedience and holiness. While we see our own sin daily, our God chooses to see only His Son in us.

This Gospel truth also frees us from trying to work our way into God’s favor. We already have all of God’s favor. We cannot earn any more of it, regardless of what we do. We are totally loved and completely forgiven. When God thundered from heaven His pleasure in His Beloved Son (Matthew 3:17), He was saying the same thing about us, because He sees His blood bought children clothed only in the righteousness of Jesus.

With that understood, it is important to distinguish

between getting God’s favor

and

experiencing God’s favor.

Although we cannot make God love us any more or cause Him to love us any less, we do diminish our experience of God’s love when we break fellowship with Him. When we turn away from God in our sin, we also turn away from our communion with God. He does not turn away from us, but we, when we seek to satisfy our sinful desires, turn away from Him and experience less than God’s best for our lives. When God feels far away we can be certain of one thing: we moved, not God!

What should shine brightly before our eyes of faith is the biblical truth that the image of Christ in us – not our sin – is what our heavenly Father chooses to see when He looks upon us. That is the truth that should set us free to be all that God is calling us to be. The human heart knows no more powerful motive to keep marching forward through life than to know that God sees us and loves us as He sees and loves His Beloved Son.

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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SPIDER-SAINTS

Grace For The Journey

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9nov  I read something interesting the other day.  In 1306, while Scotland was at war with England, Robert the Bruce became king of Scotland. Legend says there was a time when Robert took refuge in a cave to hide from the armies of England, and while in the cave he saw a spider trying to attach its web to a ceiling beam. Over and over, the spider tried and failed. Eventually, however, the creature succeeded in its task.

After a number of battles, Robert the Bruce led his men in the Battle of Bannock-burn in 1314. It was there where Scotland won its independence. This story of the spider is captured in the very familiar maxim . . . “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.”

Christian believer, I want you to carefully consider this:

Your life is to be defined by getting up one more time

than you have been knocked down.

It’s as simple as that! To be sure, God has called you into His perfect plan for your life, but make no mistake, along the way – perhaps even today – you will get knocked down.  During the years I was playing sports, I heard this maxim over and over from the coaches: “falling isn’t failing unless you fail to get up!”

The Bible exhorts us in Proverbs 24:16, “Though a righteous man falls seven times, he rises again.”

So, regardless of the personal, professional, or relational difficulties you may be facing today – perhaps, like Robert the Bruce, you find yourself in a proverbial “cave” of conflict or confusion – remember the story of the spider. God has called you to be a spider-saint. Never give up and never give in!

The Bible is chock-full of examples of those who did not succeed at first … or on the second attempt … or even the third time. You do remember Peter denying his Lord in the courtyard, don’t you?  Yet our Lord would not let him stay down. God helped Peter back up and set him right back into kingdom work by causing Peter to take his focus off his failure and put it back where it belonged – on Jesus.

God says in Isaiah 41:13, “I am the LORD, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.”

Look today to the only One who can bring you both the encouragement and the power you need, no matter what “cave” is currently enclosing you. Remember: “If at first … or second … or third … you don’t make it, look to God and He will help you up!” God has given you everything you need to be a spider-saint, so keep trying! In the end, you will be glad you did and God will get the glory.

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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An Election Message for Christian Voters – “A Vote on Life or Death”

Grace For The Journey

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8nov As Americans head to the polls tomorrow in one of the most turbulent and tawdry national elections in the history of our country, many Christians are dismayed not only with their choices of candidates, but with the moral corruption of our institutions of government, and the shameless prostitution of our political process.  None of this should be a shock to our sensibilities, since the profane political discourse and the reckless nature of political conduct is an accurate reflection of the sordid character of our culture itself.

As I preach through the Bible, I have expounded God’s truth about the sanctity of human life, the value of the traditional family, and the importance of religious liberty.

On this day set aside for our national election I believe it is imperative that I share my observations, not to influence you to vote for a candidate but influence you to vote biblical convictions on issues that are of titanic significance in this election, and the lethal consequences for our country if our national leaders continue to pursue an agenda of Godless hedonism.  The United States cannot ask God to bless America if its government and people have disregard and disdain for The Way, The Truth, and The Life.

It is a critical hour in America.  Christians are rightly appalled at the intense division, dissension, and hostility that prevails in our land; animosity filled with hate borders on a continuous rage in the lives of people all across our nation.  We are in a very dangerous moment.  People are moving from disappointment and disgust to a spirit of intense hatred leading to rage.

People are fed up with political correctness, an over-reaching, over-regulating federal government, the $20 trillion debt, urban communities in distress, a disastrous health care system, and self-serving politicians in office and running for office.  American citizens with common sense – whether Christian or not – are totally fed up with the dishonest media polluting the truth and manipulating people with their deception.

All believers must understand that Christ in us is the only hope of His glory manifesting on the earth right now.  The Church must come together and understand that God has given us the opportunity to function as the Church in these trying times, and be a healing, transforming factor through the power of the Gospel delivered in love from people who love God and love one another.”

I believe that a spiritual awakening is essential for the survival of freedom in America. Regardless of who wins the election, the church must be standing together as faithful witnesses and ambassadors for Christ.  If we do not stand together chaos and the destruction of that which is precious will shift into high gear.  We won’t have to wait for the devastation to come from outside our very porous borders.  As Abraham Lincoln said, ‘If destruction be our lot, we ourselves will be its author and its finisher.'”

So whoever wins, the Church must be there to stand against the devaluation of human life, the devaluation of the importance of nature’s God and nature’s law, and the casting aside of the brilliance of the Constitution drafted by diverse individuals who were led by a power beyond themselves which they referenced as “Divine Providence.”  As one person has said, “We must get back in Washington and in every family, city, and community life to the guidance of Divine Providence or you can write ‘Ichabod’ over the United States of America.”

We are voting in this election on more than a personality, or even a person, or a president.   We are voting on life or death and the future of freedom.  If we continue to cast aside God’s truth we will prove ourselves to be fools and suffer the consequences of idolatry.  Everyone who understands freedom has a foundation must vote for the future of freedom.”

Now is the time for the Church to come out from under cover, put the light on a lamp stand, impacting the culture as salt, and refusing to allow the sacred to be trampled under the feet of men.  We must stand boldly together, shoulder to shoulder, with our eyes fixed on Jesus as ambassadors for Christ, becoming a mighty army, declaring and demonstrating the power of transforming truth as a ‘city set on a hill that cannot be hidden.’  Our nation has no hope apart from the witness of the Church and the next Great Awakening.”

We are Kingdom people, we are here on a divine assignment, and we are not here waiting to get out – we’re here waiting to be used of God as channels of blessings through whom can flow the rivers of His love and His transforming truth.  This is the time for the Church to extend the hands of a loving God to a world in darkness that is defeated and desperate.  We must lift our country out of the sinking sand which some have referred to as a ‘swamp’ and get it anchored on a solid Rock, for that is freedom’s foundation.”

As I vote, I also life up this prayer: “Father, please help your children to look like You.  Use our lives and Christ’s Gospel that we share to lead the citizens of this great nation to You.  Please help our nation run to the shelter and shadow of Your amazing presence, protection, and provision.  All of our hope and trust is in You.  In Jesus’ name.”

Pastor Terry

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Blessed Biblical Boundaries

Grace For The Journey

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2nov Did you ever believe that the boundaries set forth in sacred Scripture bound you up and left you without a blessing? Many unbelievers regard Christianity as little more than a dour collection of “Thou shalt nots” . . . but what about you? Have you ever slipped into that kind of thinking?

We live in a culture which champions the freedom to do what we want, when we want, and how we want.  If you speak out about the biblical boundaries God has graciously provided us (yes, I said “graciously provided,” not “onerously burdened”), you are viewed as legalistic, narrow-minded, puritanical, and intolerant.  It is not uncommon for someone who is speaking in favor of biblical boundaries to be ruled “OUT OF BOUNDS!”

But this is not how God wants you to think!

The Bible says in Psalm 1:1-3, “Blessed is the man who walks in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful; but his delight is in the law of the LORD , and in His law he meditates day and night.  He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water that brings forth its fruit in its season, whose leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he does shall prosper.”

This same culture which champions “If-it-feels-good-do-it” as an inalienable right is increasingly marked by a haunting sense of meaninglessness and utter despair.  The American College Health Association reports that suicide is the third leading cause of death among young people aged 15-24 and the second leading cause of death among college students.

The answer to this epidemic of emotional emptiness sweeping our country is not found in freedom to do what we want.  The Gospel not only tells us what we have been freed from – the dominion of sin and Satan – but the Gospel tells us we are freed for – to walk in the ways of the Lord and to delight in His law.

Biblical boundaries are not burdens to bear; they are blessings to be received. Someone has put it this way, “God’s law (biblical boundaries) tells us where the land mines are buried and keeps us from blowing ourselves and others up.”  The psalmist makes it perfectly clear that we will inevitably step on those land mines when we “walk in the counsel of the ungodly, or stand in the way that sinners take, or sit in the company of mockers.”

Parents, do you put up boundaries for your children because you want to squash their sense of joy and freedom?  No, we set boundaries to protect them from the destructive desires of the world, the flesh, and the devil.  Our great desire is to point our kids to the abundant life that God calls them to live.  We know where many of the land mines are . . . all too often because we stepped squarely on them when we were young!

By outlining for our children what God has already outlined in His Word, we equip and empower them to live a life that truly matters, hopefully picking up less shrapnel than we did along the way!

Our heavenly Father never sinned; He never came close to stepping on a land mine!  But He knows where every single one of them is, and He gave us the map to warn us about all of them – that map is called the Bible.  If we will, as much as it is within our power, faithfully live within the framework of the biblical boundaries He has laid out for us, we will stay within the bounds of God’s blessings.

Are God’s boundaries there to frustrate us and spoil our fun? By no means! They are a gracious gift from God, given to us so that we can live – really live – in freedom and joy.

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 Rules Your Heart … Shapes Your Life!

Grace For The Journey

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14nov  The Bible tells us that the human heart is the “control-center” of life: “Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life” (Proverbs 4:23).  In other words, what rules your heart shapes your life!

What is ruling your heart and shaping your life these days?

For some, stifling emotions – such as doubt, fear, or anxiety – have taken hold of their hearts and are shaping their lives.  For others, vain pursuits – such as power, prestige, or prosperity – have taken hold of their hearts and are shaping their lives.  Still others find that the applause of man or the affection of another have taken hold of their hearts and ultimately are shaping their lives.  To be sure, the possibilities are as limitless as the depths of our sinful, self-absorbed, and self-centered hearts.

But this is not what God wants for you!  Colossians 3:15 gives us the key to penetrating a sinful heart that is ruled by anything other than Jesus: “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts.”  This peace finds its power in one overwhelming Gospel truth: this peace is His peace!

The peace of Jesus is not found in silver and gold . . . not in power and prestige . . . nor in honor and high society.  When Jesus walked this earth on His way to Calvary, His estate was one of abject humiliation, for He had no earthly estate to give to His disciples.  He frankly admitted, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head” (Luke 9:58).

It was the peace of Christ that overcame the temptations of the devil, the betrayal of Judas, the desertion of His disciples, the false accusations of the religious leaders, the denials of Peter, and the taunting of the crowds as He hung on the cross.  This is the peace that we have been given through faith in the Prince of Peace.

You see, the peace that is to rule our hearts and ultimately shape our lives will never be found in the stuff of life.  It will only be found in our Savior.  He warns us all, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal . . . For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:19, 21).

It is only the peace of Christ that is unaffected by the circumstances of life.  Storms cannot disrupt it.  Trials will not disturb it.  Challenges do not dislocate it.  This is the peace that passes all human understanding, and it will guard your heart (Philippians 4:7).  Our natural, sinful nature would rather try to find our peace in something tangible.  But our new nature is empowered by the same peace that propelled the Prince of Peace.  And this is the peace that is to rule our hearts and shape our lives.

This peace empowers us to care about more than the cares and concerns of our own lives.  This peace allows us to lay our lives down and lift others up.  This peace frees us to come out of hiding – to emerge from behind every flimsy fig leaf, knowing that God has accepted us in His beloved Son.  A heart that is ruled by the peace of Christ is shaped like the cross: loving God (vertical) and reaching out in love to others (horizontal).

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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Redeeming the Time, Part 2

Grace For The Journey

4nov  Today is the second part of my blog on the teaching from Ephesians 5:15-20.  Yesterday I discussed WHY we are to redeem the time; today I’ll offer some suggestions for HOW to redeem it.

Let’s remind ourselves what the Bible says in Ephesians 5:15-20, “Be very careful, then, how you live – not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

How Can We Redeem The Time

The Bible makes it clear that the only way we can redeem the time is to understand what God has put us here to do.  Jesus explained His mission succinctly.  In Mark 10:45 He says, “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.”  Jesus knew what He was here to do and He didn’t let anything distract or deter Him from doing it.

So the first step in redeeming the time is in knowing what your time is to be used for.  We don’t want to find ourselves like Alice in Wonderland, who came to a crossroad and paused to ask the Cheshire Cat which way she should go.  The Cat asks Alice where she is going.

“I don’t much care where,” Alice says.

Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,” the Cat sagely observes.

We must recognize that it always matters to God which way we go.  He knows the abundant life will only be experienced when we live in the center of His will for our lives. If we don’t take time to understand God’s plan for our lives, we will always fit into somebody else’s plan.

Here are three keys to redeeming the time; the acronym R.P.M. will help you recall them.

KEY # 1: Rhythm – Redemption has its own rhythm of confession and forgiveness. We have our own rhythms: some of us are early birds and some are night owls.  Some wake to an alarm clock; others to an opportunity clock.  Some wake up with a cheery, “Good Morning, Lord!” while others groan, “Good Lord! Morning?”  I fit into the early bird rhythm.  Knowing when you work best allows you to do your best work.

KEY # 2: Prioritize – The most important things to do in life may not always be the most urgent.  To be sure, your job may be more demanding and urgent, but it will never be as important as your personal time and family.

Jesus used the Sermon on the Mount to sharpen our focus: “Where your treasure is, there you heart will also be” (Matthew 6:21).  So . . . where is your treasure?  If you aren’t sure, take some time to examine how you use your discretionary time and money.  What we spend our “extra” money on after all the necessities are paid for and how we use our “free” time are inarguable identifiers of what we consider priorities and where we locate our treasure.

KEY #3: MODEL – Model the Master, who always redeemed the time.  Jesus was never at the mercy of the strongest wind that was blowing at the moment.  Nowhere in Scripture can we find Jesus hurrying to get things done.  He never had too much on His plate.  If your plate is over-filled, you can be certain that God was not holding the serving spoon!

Here are a few examples of modeling the Master:

Prayer: Mark 1:35 – Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where He prayed.”

Bible Intake: Matthew 4:4 – Jesus answered, ‘It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” 

Corporate Worship: Luke 4:16 – He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. 

Service: John 13:4-6 – “[Jesus] got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash His disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around Him.

Relationship with Jesus and Rest: Mark 6:31 – Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, He said to them, “Come with Me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.”

Community: Matthew 12:49-50 – Pointing to His disciples, [Jesus] said, “Here are My mother and My brothers. For whoever does the will of My Father in heaven is My brother and sister and mother.”

The Wise Preacher put it best in Ecclesiastes 3:1, “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven.”  When we find our rhythm, get clear on our priorities, and model our Master, we will, by God’s grace, see a return on our investment of time that make the most of our time and will echo in eternity.

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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