Happy Fathers Day – Six Pillars of Parental Encouragement

Grace For The Journey

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16June  Sunday is Father’s Day.  The first Father’s Day in the United States was observed on June 19, 1910, in Spokane Washington.  The day was proposed by in 1909 by Mrs. John B. Dodd, who wanted to honor her father, William Smart, a civil war veteran who raised six children alone after his wife died in childbirth.  Clearly, Mrs. Dodd took seriously the Lord’s instruction, set forth in the fifth commandment, to “Honor your father.”

I know that not all of us have had the blessing to have a father like William Smart, who seemed worthy of honor.  But the Commandment does not tell us to honor our father if he is honorable, we are commanded by God to honor . . . period!  We all know – those of us who are fathers are painfully aware – that no father is perfect.  We all have our weaknesses, blemishes, blind spots, and flaws. There are many examples throughout sacred Scripture of godly men who were flawed fathers.  Two who immediately come to mind are Eli and David; both men pursued God with all their hearts, yet were badly flawed in their roles as parents.

My dad was a great dad.  He went home to be with our Lord on March 26, 2009.  But if he was here today, as far from perfect as he was, I would tell him one more time how much I loved him and thanked God for him.

So . . . to all of you who still have dads on this side of eternity, take a moment to honor him today.  And to all of you who are dads, here are six pillars of parental encouragement, which I offer to help strengthen your resolve to live intentionally as the spiritual head of your home and the father of God’s covenant children.

  • Pillar #1: Keep Leaning

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

God is infinite and we fathers are finite.  As often as we think we have it all right, we frequently have much of it wrong.  Just ask their mom!  And that is why we must be willing to lean not on our own understanding, but rather on the wisdom of the Almighty.  James instructs those of us who lack wisdom (which, of course, is all of us) to ask God and He will give that wisdom to us (James 1:5). The father God is calling us to be is the father who keeps leaning on the Lord.

  • Pillar #2: Keep Leading

The Bible says in Joshua 24:15, “And if it seems evil (out of place, undesirable) to you to serve the LORD, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell.  But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.”

Fathers are called to be thermostats who set the temperature in the home, not thermometers who simply record it.  The biblical definition of leading – serving the Lord and serving others – is the foundation upon which a godly home is built.  Remember, it was Jesus who said He did not come to be served, but to serve (Mark 10:45).  God is calling us to be is the father who keeps leading his children toward the Lord.

  • Pillar #3: Keep Listening

The Bible says in Proverbs 1:5, “Let the wise will hear (listen) and increase learning.”

Being blessed to have had four beloved daughters (Cathy Jo; Stacy; Lindsay; and Ashley), I have learned, often the hard way, why we have two ears and only one mouth.  The Bible makes it clear that we are to be much quicker to listen than we are to speak (James 1:19).  God is calling us to be the father who keeps listening and learning along the way.

  • Pillar #4: Keep Lighting

The Bible says in Deuteronomy 6:6-9, “And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart.  You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up.  You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes.  You shall write them on the doorposts of you house and on your gates.”

In this dark and depraved world, it is the function of the father to “train up a child in the way he should go” (Proverbs 22:6), which means we are to light the way for our children through the Word of God.  God is calling us to be is the father who keeps lighting the path for his children through the Word of God in every aspect of life.

  • Pillar #5: Keep Looking

The Bible says in Ephesians 6:18, “Be alert and always keep on praying . . .”

Every father is to be the “lookout” for his children, watching for signs of the enemy approaching.  Remember, the enemy will look for any and every way into the hearts of our children:  smart phones, music, movies, video games, the Internet, friends . . . everything!  The devil “walks around like a roaring lion” (1 Peter 5:8), looking to devour our children; it is our responsibility to keep him out by any means necessary.  God is calling us to be the father who keeps watching over his children and praying for them continually.

  • Pillar #6: Keep Loving

The Bible says in Ephesians 5:25, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her.”

All of the above categories, when lived out by faith, this truth is the foundation for the father to demonstrate love for his children:  It is important to note here that the best gift of love we can give our children is the love we demonstrate for their mother.  God is calling us to be is the father who keeps loving their mom as Christ loves His church.

There you have it: six pillars of parental encouragement.  Some of you fathers may be thinking, “I have been messing it up big time!” Well, as Bruce Willis said in Die Hard, “Welcome to the party, pal!”  We all mess this up every day, and that is why we so desperately need the truths of the Gospel to live by each day.  We are great sinners in need of an even greater Savior on a moment-by-moment basis.

The Bible says, “In view of God’s mercy . . . offer your bodies as living sacrifices” (Romans 12:1).  We make this offering in view of the mercy God has shown us in Christ, not in view of our merit – and that certainly includes any merit in the area of being a father.  Without the Gospel, we can remain imprisoned to our painful past parenting mistakes.

But God has so wants so much more for us.  The apostle Paul encouraged us to take this view: “Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13-14).

Learn from the past,

Look forward to your promised future,

And

Live in the present,

Knowing that you are unconditionally loved and eternally forgiven.

This provides the power to press on into these pillars of parenting, knowing that you go not in your own strength, but in the strength of your Savior.

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 Encouragement of Eternity

Grace For The Journey

16Jan  What encourages you to live for the glory of God and the good of others?  If your answer is anything less than the encouragement of eternity, you are settling for less than God’s best for you.

C. S. Lewis rightly observed, “If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were precisely those who thought most of the next.  It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this.” 

The Bible flatly states in 1 Corinthians 15:19, “If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable.”

Don’t be mistaken: the Bible is NOT implying that non-Christians enjoy a better life on this side of heaven than Christian believers.  Even a believer who is passing through the fiery furnace of affliction always has Christ walking by his or her side, no matter how hot the fire gets (see Hebrews 13:5).  That sweet presence of the Friend who sticks closer than a brother is what makes the believer’s existence on earth infinitely more rich and full than that of the unbeliever.

The Bible’s stark statement in 1 Corinthians 15:9 emphasizes the truth that the best is yet to come.  What good is life on this earth without an eternity with Christ attached to the end of it?  The Bible concisely captures the folly of living for the world instead of the Word: “If the dead are not raised, ‘Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die’ (1 Corinthians 15:32).  We are broken people living in a broken world; without the encouragement of eternity, we might well live in utter despair . . . for tomorrow we die and return to the dust.

Only the encouragement of eternity will empower us to keep on keeping on when we would rather not.  The Bible commends the faith of Abraham, who, though living in a tent in a land far from his home, “was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God.” (Hebrews 11:10-11)

The letter to the Hebrews exhorts us to think in the same way as our spiritual father Abraham: “Here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come” (Hebrews 13:14).

God has promised an eternity where there will be no more tears, no pain, or sin, or death.  Every time you recall a portion of your life with pain or regret, it is the promise of eternity that gives you hope..  When you grieve the loss of a loved one, it is the promise of eternity that gives you comfort.  When you are disgusted by your own propensity to sin, it is the promise of eternity that encourages you.  Every time you lay down your own needs for another – every time you take up your cross and follow Christ, it is the promise of eternity you are banking on.

If you have acknowledged you sin, accepted what Jesus has done on the cross and the empty tomb, and asked Jesus to be your Savior and Lord, even now, God is preparing a special place just for you.  Our Lord has promised it (John 14:2-3).  Lay hold of that promise!  Look forward to it . . . long for it . . . live your life in the light of it every day! When you do, the encouragement of eternity is powerful enough to reassure you and rescue you – not only from broken people, places, and things; it will rescue you from you!

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

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

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

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

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Scoreboard Saints

Grace For The Journey

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14June  It is in our DNA to be legalistic.  We convince ourselves that we must live in a way that will cause God to bless us because of our performance.  The better we perform, we believe, the greater our blessing will be.  If we have more “hits” and “runs” on God’s scoreboard at the end of the day than we do “errors” or “strikeouts,” we expect – no, we demand that God bless our efforts.  We have become what I call “Scoreboard Saints!”

When was the last time you got to the end of a day and added up your merits on one side of the page and your demerits on the other side, believing that God was obligated to respond to you based on your score?  If you had more merits, you were confident God would bless you in some way; if you had more demerits, you were afraid to go outside during a thunder storm!

Every one of us struggles with these legalistic tendencies, even those who have a clear understanding of the Gospel.  We understand that we are saved by grace and know that we are designed to live by that same grace, but too often we end up consumed by a merit mentality and live a performance-based life.  Even Jesus’ disciples fell into this thinking!

The Bible says in Matthew 19:27, “Then Peter answered and said to him, ‘See, we have left all and followed You.  Therefore what shall we have?’”

Immediately after hearing Jesus’ exchange with the Rich Young Ruler, we see that Peter didn’t quite understand what Jesus intended to teach.  Peter was thinking like a “Scoreboard Saint,” adding up all the good stuff he had done for Jesus and believing he had done more good than bad.  He wanted to know what all those hits and runs would earn for him!

What Peter forgot was the truth that

… The grace of God is never earned

. . . Or it would not be grace.

As the Bible says in Romans 11:5-6, “Even so then, at the present time there is a remnant, according to the election of grace.  And if by grace, then it is no longer of works; otherwise grace is no longer grace. 

Now, I know most of us will never come right out and admit that we think like Peter, but we all do at times, and only the Gospel pull out this destructive thinking from the garden of our minds by its root!  When God blesses one of His children, He does it only on the basis of His grace and never on the basis of good works.  Answered prayer is never a result of our being “good,” it is always a result of God being gracious.  To know this truth and to live by it is to truly live a life of freedom and faithfulness to the One who, by His grace, both freed us and is making us faithful.

The work of Christ on the cross not only earned our salvation and eternal life, it also earned for us the blessings we receive from God in our everyday lives.  The grace that saved us and raised us from death to life is the same grace that sanctifies us.  God is not keeping score in your life, deciding whether or not to bless you based on your performance!  You are already blessed because God the Father chose you in Christ before the creation of the world (Ephesians 1:4-5).  Regardless of the circumstances in life, whether you believe they are good or bad,

Your blessings always flow out of His mercy

And

Not your merit.

Jerry Bridges states this concept profoundly:

  • “We are brought into God’s kingdom by grace;
  • We are sanctified by grace;
  • We receive both temporal and spiritual blessings by grace;
  • We are motivated to obedience by grace;
  • We are called to serve and enabled to serve by grace;
  • We receive strength to endure trials by grace; and finally,
  • We are glorified by grace.

The entire Christian life is lived under the reign of God’s grace.”

If God is not keeping score, then neither should we!  When we are keeping score we fix our eyes on the scoreboard.  But when we take our eyes off of the scoreboard and fix them on our Savior, we begin to live in the true power of our salvation – God’s unmerited, unearned, and unconditional favor.

Oh, by the way, there was a day in the life of Peter when he stopped looking at the scoreboard and began looking only at His Savior. It was the day Jesus restored him in spite of his three cowardly denials.

What a Great God we serve . . . He who is no longer keeping score!

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 Difference Does Loving God Make In Your Life?

Grace For The Journey

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13June   Today’s blog is based on the truth of 1 John 4:7-8—“God is love.”

Let me ask you: are you in love with Love?  Before you quickly respond “YES,” like every good Christian would do, consider this challenge from John Piper, in his book God Is The Gospel:

“The critical question for our generation – and for every generation – is this: If you could have heaven, with no sickness, and with all the friends you ever had on earth, and all the food you ever liked, and all the leisure activities you ever enjoyed, and all the natural beauties you ever saw, all the physical pleasures you ever tasted, and no human conflict or any natural disasters, could you be satisfied with heaven, if Christ was not there?”

If your answer to Pastor Piper’s question about being satisfied with a heaven where there is no Jesus is “Yes,” then your answer to my question is NO.

Is there something you have in this life that, if it was lost or taken away, your life would be ruined . . . over . . . driven into the ashes of defeat?

  • Is it your job?
  • Your spouse or children?
  • Your retirement fund?
  • Your health?
  • Your status in your community?

If there is such an ultimate thing, and you are in love with it more than you are with the One who so graciously gave it to you, you have created an idol for yourself that is every bit as abhorrent as the golden calf fashioned by Israel so many years ago.

Please give this some thought:

If you did not have Jesus, how different would your life be today?

God cares about us SO much more than we care about Him!

We chase after worldly success; God drives us toward holiness and godliness.  We pursue the temporary pleasures of this world; God drives us toward the eternal pleasures of the new heaven and earth.  God loves us with a love we simply cannot fathom, “an everlasting love,” as He proclaims in Jeremiah 31:3.

To be in love with Love is to pursue Christ, regardless of the cost or circumstance.

That doesn’t mean you try harder to love Him

Or

Make bigger and bolder promises to follow through.

If loving Him is an obligation, your love for Him is more about you than it is about Him.

Rather than loving out of obligation, we are to love out of overflow

– The overflow of our relationship to Jesus.

This is the love that Love desires.

Now, if your response to these questions leads you to a place where you feel far from God and His love, do not despair; in fact, cheer up!   He hasn’t moved away from you; you moved away from Him!   All you need to do is start moving back toward Him.

The Bible says in James 4:8, “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.”  Jesus paints a glorious picture of the steadfast love He has toward us in the story of the return of the Prodigal, plodding fearfully toward home, no doubt still stinking from his time in the hog pens, wondering how his Father, whom he had insulted so grievously, would react to the sight of him in his abject failure and filth.  The Bible tells us in Luke 15:29, “But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.”  That is how much you are loved!

You cannot wander your way out of His love.

You cannot drift your way out of His love.

You cannot sin your way out of His love.

Because He is Love and you are His, you are loved – eternally and everlastingly.

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 Holy Help! Part 3

Grace For The Journey

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8June  The Rev. John G. Paton and his wife served as missionaries for many years in the New Hebrides Islands. One night hostile natives surrounded his mission headquarters intent on burning it down and killing them. John Paton and his wife prayed continually during that terror filled night that God would deliver them. When daylight came they were amazed to see the attackers unaccountably leave. A year later, the chief of the tribe was converted to Christ, and Paton, remembering what had happened, asked the chief what had kept him and his men from burning down the house and killing them.

The chief replied in surprise, “Who were all those men you had there with you?” The missionary answered, “There were no men there, just my wife and I.” The chief argued that they had seen many men standing guard – hundreds of big men in shinning garments with drawn swords in their hands. They seemed to circle the mission station, so the natives were afraid to attack. Only then did the Rev. Paton realize that God had sent His angels to protect them. The Lord is Sovereign over all the earth. The armies of heaven serve Him continually.

We continue our thoughts on Psalm 46.  God is teaching us about the need to seek Him and His power for our daily lives.

The Psalmist continues in verse7, “The Lord of hosts is with us; The God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah”

The Psalmist says that the Lord of Hosts is on our side. He is fighting for us. This title the Lord of Hosts, refers to God as being commander in chief of the heavenly army. The Lord is a mighty warrior and more than able to vanquish the enemy.  He is in charge, and He defends His children.  Surely, we are safe in His protective care.  The Lord is with us and He fights our battles.

How should we respond to God’s salvation? We must tell others about it. We should share our testimony of God’s providential care with the lost. We should encourage them to trust in the Lord and run to Him too! God is still on the throne and He will take care of His own. Do you believe that? Do you trust Him to look after you?

When times of trouble come into your life, how do you respond? Do we become afraid? Or do we respond in faith? Do we trust God and seek His help? Are you terrified by current world events? Don’t be! God is still sovereign. Can you recall how God has helped you in the past? Are you confident that He will help you in the future? Will you share God’s faithfulness with others? Will you determine to ask Him for help and stop worrying?

Thirdly, these verses tell us about psalmist’s resolve.

He says in Verses 8-9, “Come, behold the works of the Lord, Who has made desolations in the earth. He makes wars cease to the end of the earth; He breaks the bow and cuts the spear in two; He burns the chariot in the fire.

In light of the current trials and turmoil we endure we must focus on the Lord. The Psalmist reflects on God’s sovereignty and so should we.  In fact He commands us to behold the power of God to execute judgment.  The wicked may stir up strife for a time, but God is ultimately in control.  He will have the final say.  Verses 8 and 9 clearly refer to the Day of the Lord when God defeats His enemies.  The Lord will judge the wicked with an enormous upheaval on the earth.  He will bring an end to all warfare. The Psalmist says take a good look at who is really in control of the earth. God is sovereign. He will conquer evil and establish universal peace. Behold the greatness of God’s works!

The psalmist instructs the reader regarding the powerful reason for our resolve. Psalm 46;10-11, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth! The Lord of hosts is with us; The God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah”

How should we respond to God’s mighty works? What should we do in response to God’s justice and sovereignty?  We should worship at His feet!  The Psalmist commands us to be still.  To recognize that the Lord is God. This was the response on Mount Carmel when God answered Elijah by fire. They said “the Lord He is God, the Lord He is God.” We must recognize this. We should stand in awe at the greatness of our God. We should worship the Lord. In light of who God is and what He has done we should exalt His Name. We should praise Him in song. We should magnify His name throughout all the earth. After all, our God is with us. Our future is secure because of the Lord’s promises to us. He will protect us. He will never leave us nor forsake us. He is our God and our refuge. Let us not fear but have faith. Let us not worry but rather let us worship Him.

When you think the world has gone mad, reflect on God’s sovereignty. Think about the promises and prophecies in God’s Word. Behold the mighty works of the Lord. Who made the world in the first place? Who rules it with great power? Who gives life to all including terrorists? Who is going to have the final say and establish an eternal kingdom? In light of this we should be still and recognize the greatness of our God. Only He is sovereign. Then we should stand in awe of our Savior and King. Finally let us worship Him and exalt His Name in all the earth. God uses trouble and pressure to make us lean on Him. He wants us to be people of faith not fear.

Pressed Out

Pressed out of measure and pressed to all length,

Pressed so intensely it seems beyond strength;

Pressed in the body and pressed in the soul,

Pressed in the mind till the dark surges roll;

Pressure by foes, and pressure by friends,

Pressure on pressure, till life nearly ends,

Pressed into loving the staff and the rod;

Pressed into knowing no helper but God;

Pressed into liberty where nothing clings,

Pressed into faith for impossible things;

Pressed into living a life in the Lord,

Pressed into living a Christ-life outpoured!

We may not see God, but He is still there watching over His people just like He did in Esther’s time. This gives us great confidence in perilous times. Will you determine to respond in faith and not fear. Will you worship the Lord and not worry about the future.

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 Holy Help! Part 2

 

Grace For The Journey

graceforthejourneythemefor2017

8June  Yesterday, we looked at how we need God’s help in our lives.  We looked at the first verse of Psalm 46 and saw that God wants to be our shelter, strength, and help us survive life.  Today, we will look at verses 2-6 of Psalm 46 and discover additional truths that will lead us to let God help us in every area of our lives.

The Bible says in Psalm 46:2-3,Therefore we will not fear, Even though the earth be removed, And though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; though its waters roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with its swelling. Selah

Notice at the end of verse 3 the psalmist says “selah.” This word means “to pause a moment, to think it over and let it all sink in.”  The truths the palmist is writing about are so important that the writer does not want us to skim over it.

First, these verses tell us the response we are to have during every season of life.

In light of God’s provision how should we respond to uncertainty, trials and conflict?

We should respond in faith, not in fear.

If God is our refuge, strength and help shouldn’t we trust Him to take care of us?

If calamity takes place on the earth, hasn’t God caused it or allowed it to happen? Therefore, we must respond in faith when turmoil comes into our lives.  This is exactly what Job did when encountered wave after wave of calamity.  He trusted in God’s goodness. He knew that the Lord would not let him down.  The Psalmist says that even if the world was turned upside down he knew that God would take care of him.

The story is told of Hudson Taylor first trip to China on a sailing vessel.  Very close to the shore of cannibal islands the ship was still in the water, and it was slowly drifting toward shore, unable to go about, and the savages were eagerly anticipating a feast.  The captain came to Mr. Taylor and sought his assistance to pray for the help of God.  “I will,” said Taylor, “provided you set your sails to catch the breeze.” The captain declined to make himself a laughing stock by unfurling the sails in a dead calm. Taylor said, “I will not undertake to pray for the vessel unless you will prepare the sails.”  The captain gave order to do it.  While engaged in prayer, there was a knock at the door of his stateroom. “Who is there?” Hudson Taylor asked.  The captain’s voice responded, “Are you still praying for wind?”  “Yes,” Hudson replied.  “Well,” said the captain, “You’d better stop praying, for we have more wind than we can manage.”  Hudson Taylor responded to this trial with faith not fear.  We must do the same.  Fear comes from Satan not from God.

The Bible says in 2 Timothy 1:7,For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind” and in Romans 8:38-39, “For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  

When life becomes uncertain what do you do?  What do I do?  When world events threaten to change our lives how do we handle it?  Do we have a shelter for life’s storms? Is the Lord our refuge? Does He give us strength to stand?  Or do we try and make it on your own?  When your world is turned upside down how do you respond, with fear or with faith? 

Secondly, these verses tells us God’s redemption that He offers to help us during every season of life.

Psalm 46:4-6 says, “There is a river whose streams shall make glad the city of God, the holy place of the tabernacle of the Most High. God is in the midst of her, she shall not be moved; God shall help her, just at the break of dawn. The nations raged, the kingdoms were moved; He uttered His voice, the earth melted.”

Even though the seas may rage and the earth be shaken, God’s people are secure because He is with them. There is a clear parallel between verses 1 and 5. In verse 1 the Psalmist says that God is our refuge. In verse 5 he says that God is in the midst of the city of Jerusalem.  The psalmist is literally saying that God makes the city a refuge. His presence brings security.  In verse 1 he says God is our strength. In verse 5 he says that the city will not be moved.  This is because God gives Jerusalem the strength to stand.  In verse 1 he says that God is a very present help in time of trouble. In verse 5 he says that God will help her.  In verses 4 to 6 the Psalmist backs up his claim that God is a shelter to His people.

He cites an example that they knew about.  This example fits the invasion of King Sennacherib from Assyria. He came to Jerusalem and boasted that he would destroy it.  But King Hezekiah called on the Lord to deliver them.  God protected Jerusalem from this raging king.  In fact, the Lord destroyed the Assyrian army in the early part of the morning just like it says in Psalm 46 verse 5.  The nations raged against Jerusalem and then the Lord spoke to defend them. The earth melted before the Lord.

The Bible says in Isaiah 37:33-36, “Therefore thus says the LORD concerning the king of Assyria, ‘He shall not come into this city, nor shoot an arrow there, nor come before it with shields, nor cast a bank against it. By the way that he came, by the same shall he return, and shall not come into this city, says the LORD. For I will defend this city to save it for mine own sake, and for my servant David’s sake.’  Then the angel of the LORD went forth, and smote in the camp of the Assyrians a hundred and fourscore and five thousand: and when they arose early in the morning, behold, they were all dead corpses. Then the king returned to Assyria in shame!.”

Man can plan and scheme. He can even bring some of his wicked works to fulfillment. But God has the final say.  Men have learned this throughout the course of history. King Sennacherib conquered many nations before he threatened Jerusalem.  When he attempted to overthrow Jerusalem God destroyed his army.  King Nebuchadnezzar boasted about his great accomplishments only to be humbled before God.  He was made to live like a beast in the field until he acknowledged God’s sovereignty.  This is what one of the most powerful kings in the world said after God had humbled him: “And at the end of the time I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted my eyes to heaven, and my understanding returned to me; and I blessed the Most High and praised and honored Him who lives forever: for His dominion is an everlasting dominion, and His kingdom is from generation to generation. All the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing; He does according to His will in the army of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth. No one can restrain His hand or say to Him, what have You done?”  Daniel 4:34-35. 

Currently world leaders are making threats against each other.  But God is still sovereign.  His plans will surely come to pass.  We must choose to trust Him! The book of Esther doesn’t mention God even once. Yet, all the way through, the writer shows us that the Lord is working quietly to save His people.

We will conclude our thoughts on Psalm 46 on Monday.  May these truths encourage you in your faith walk.

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 Holy Help! Part 1

Grace For The Journey

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8June  I have been told that when artists paint a portrait of a woodland, a forest, or a wilderness it is important to paint a pathway out of the trees.  If they don’t, the tangle of trees and the trackless spaces depress and dismay the onlooker.  In the same way God encourages His children by providing a way out of sin and the trials of life.

Where do you go for help?  Some go to their family; others go to their friends.  Some will dive into the advice columns or self-help books.  A few look for escape into alcohol and drugs.  For the Christian, however, there is one place to go that’s better than all other places, a place where we can find the greatest help the world has ever known.

The Bible declares in Psalm 46:1, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.

This verse tells us three great truths about God’s help for the sinner and the struggler in life.

First, it tells us that God is our shelter – “God is our refuge …”

The word “refuge” means a “shelter, hope, trust.” It speaks of a place of safety. When someone committed manslaughter he could flee to a city of refuge to escape the avenger.  Trouble comes into all of our lives, but we can seek refuge in the Lord. He protects us in times of trouble. The Bible says in Proverbs 18:10, “The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous run to it and are safe.”  This idea is expressed many times in the Bible. David always found refuge in the Lord when his enemies sought his life.  Saul pursued David for many years, yet God always protected him.  David knew that the Lord was watching over him.

The Bible says in Psalms 18:2-3, “The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. I will call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised; so shall I be saved from my enemies. David found the help that he needed from the Lord.  Do you run to the Lord when troubles come? You should!

Secondly, God is our strength – “God is our refuge and strength …”

The word “strength” means “power, might, boldness, ability to make one mighty.”  When trials and trouble come, our strength is drained from us.  Yet, at these times God is able to strengthen us and help us to stand.  We only need to ask Him for strength.

The Bible says in Isaiah 40:28-31, “Have you not known? Have you not heard? The everlasting God, the Lord, The Creator of the ends of the earth, Neither faints nor is weary. His understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the weak, And to those who have no might He increases strength. Even the youths shall faint and be weary, And the young men shall utterly fall, But those who wait on the Lord Shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles, They shall run and not be weary, They shall walk and not faint.

It doesn’t matter how strong or weak we are, we all need God’s strength.  Only He can sustain us in the trials of life!  The Bible says in Psalm 73:25-26, “Whom have I in heaven but You? And there is none upon earth that I desire besides You. My flesh and my heart fail; But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”  

One time, David returned to Ziglag with his men and found it burned down and their families carried away as captives.  His men blamed him for it all.  What did he do?  1 Samuel 30:6 tells us: “Now David was greatly distressed, for the people spoke of stoning him, because the soul of all the people was grieved, every man for his sons and his daughters. But David strengthened himself in the Lord his God. When trials come do we strengthen ourselves in the Lord? Or do we try and make it on our own? God is always ready to strengthen us.

The third provision that God gives to His people is support – “… a very present help in trouble.”  The word “help” means to “succor, assist, sustain.”  God provides refuge and strength to His people.  But He also helps us in our trials.  What’s more He doesn’t do this from a distance.  He is right there with us to help us in our trials. The Bible says in Hebrews 13:5-6, “For He Himself has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’ So we may boldly say: ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not fear.’  What can man do to me?” 

God doesn’t expect us to make it on our own

(regarding salvation or surviving life on our own).

In fact, He knows that we can’t.

It’s only our pride and fear that keep us from seeking His help.

Will you determine to seek God’s help each day? Will you allow God to take control of the trials in your life? God is always waiting to answer your prayers.  The Bible says in Psalm 34:17-19, “The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears, and delivers them out of all their troubles. The Lord is near to those who have a broken heart, and saves such as have a contrite spirit. Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all.”

  • Are you snared by sin?  Look to God – He will give you power over sin!
  • Are you burdened by guilt?  Look to God – He will give you pardon for sin!
  • Are you wilting from weakness?  Look to God give you His strength!
  • Are you frustrated by past failures?  Look to God to give you His victory!
  • Are you lost in loneliness?  Look to God – You can depend upon His presence!

Jesus is the answer to every question.  Jesus is the solution to every problem.  He is the passage through every obstacle.  And Jesus is available to you.  He is the Fountain of every blessing – and the only way to bless a fountain is to drink from it continually.

Jesus not only desires that His people acknowledge Him before the watching world, He desires to be appropriated.  Jesus has been given to His people to be called upon, in both bad days and good days . . . in sickness and in health . . . in prosperity and in poverty . . . in times of joy and times of mourning.

Go to Jesus, for He is your Holy Help who can meet you in your place of need (for salvation and for surviving life) . . . regardless of where that place may be.

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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I Thank You, God, That I Am Not Like…

Grace For The Journey

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7June  The title of today’s blog is taken from one of the parables taught by Jesus; it is very familiar to students of God’s Word; it is The Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector . . .

The Bible says in Luke 18:9-14, “To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else, Jesus told this parable: ‘Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men – robbers, evildoers, adulterers – or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’ ”But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

When was the last time you thanked God that you were not like a family member, a neighbor, your boss, your co-worker, the person you sit behind in church, a celebrity or politician, and so forth? Our “thanksgiving” list could go on and on, because we can always find someone we can compare ourselves to and feel much better about ourselves.

The question that should be asked about the Pharisee is, “Why do you think he didn’t compare himself with the patriarchs of the faith – Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob – rather than a tax collector, a man who was despised by society?”  The answer, of course, is that he knew he would come out on top and thus feel better about himself.

So . . . let me ask you: do you ever make a comparison like the Pharisee’s?

  • Thank God I’m not like David . . . an adulterous murderer.
  • Thank God I’m not like Jonah . . . running away from his calling.
  • Thank God I’m not like Rahab . . . an immoral outcast.
  • Thank God I’m not like Zacchaeus . . . dishonest and despised by his own people.
  • Thank God I’m not like Martha . . . not knowing when to exchange work for worship
  • Thank God I’m not like Thomas . . . who doubted the resurrection
  • Thank God I’m not like Peter . . . he denied Jesus three times!

Shortly after I trusted in Christ as my Savior, I read the Bible’s account of King David and found myself angry and confused.  I talked frankly to my dad about what I was feeling.  The Bible describes David as “a man after God’s own heart,” yet he committed adultery with Bathsheba and later ordered her husband to be killed!  Why on earth, I wondered, was this man regarded so highly by sacred Scripture?

I’ll never forget my dad’s response: “The problem with you, Terry, is you don’t see yourself as being as bad as David!”  He was right; I didn’t.  And why would I?  I hadn’t committed adultery or murder. My dad continued, “Until you see yourself as being like David and every other sinner in the Bible, the truths of the Gospel will never fully free you.”  Once again, he was right!  It wasn’t until I saw David’s story as my story that the Gospel began to take root and return a harvest of unshakable peace and unspeakable joy.

The truth is that we are all great sinners in need of an even greater Savior.  The story of the sinners in the Scriptures is your story and mine.  Their stories are simply mirrors into which we are able to see ourselves for what we truly are.  At the deepest level of understanding sin, we must confess that we have committed them all.  We have all committed adultery and murder.  Perhaps you doubt me on this?  Let me take a just a moment to convince you, using our Lord’s words from the Sermon on the Mount:

“You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, “Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.” But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to his brother, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell . . . You have heard that it was said, “Do not commit adultery.” But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”  (Matthew 5:21-22, 27-28)

This leads us to ask some really personal and practical questions: Would you really stand before God and claim that you have never been angry with someone?  You’ve never called someone a fool (or perhaps much worse) to their face or behind their back?  And, would you claim before the all-seeing, all-knowing God that you have never – not once – taken a lustful look?

There is only one perfect Man who has walked this earth; the rest of us have long since forfeited any false hope of achieving sinless perfection.  And perfection is what God’s law requires!  The demands of God’s perfect justice are inflexible:

The Bible says in Galatians 3:10, “All who rely on observing the law are under a curse, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.”

The Bible also says in James 2:10, “Whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it.”

Whether by revelation or by intuition, we know that we are not fit to stand in the presence of holy God.  And so we have spent a lifetime running from God, making silly excuses to ourselves like, “Well, at least I’m not as messed up as _______!”  And, along the way, we have both betrayed and denied Jesus.  You still insist you haven’t committed adultery?  Is there a Christian reading this who has not confused the worship of work with the worship of our Lord and Savior at one time or another?  Have you really kept God’s command to love Him with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength?  Or has there been a time when you loved something or someone else more?

Instead of thanking God that we are not like others,

We should acknowledge that we are far worse!

Like Paul, we should see ourselves as the worst of sinners.

Yet, there is great, good news!

In spite of our sinful condition, God in Christ has set His saving grace upon us.

With the assurance of the love of Christ we no longer have to compare and contrast ourselves with others.  We no longer have to be slaves to self-deceit.  We are unconditionally loved and completely forgiven . . . and God did this while we were just like every other person we meet in the Bible (except Jesus): we are sinners in need of a Savior.

And praise be to God! He sent that Savior to redeem you and me!

Now that is something to be thankful about!

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

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

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

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

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HIS FULLNESS . . . IS OUR FULLNESS!

Grace For The Journey

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6June  I would like to share a word of encouragement with you today that can lift you above every wave of challenge that is rolling your way. It comes from the inspired pen of the apostle Paul: “For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; and you are complete in Him who is the head of all principality and power.”  (Colossians 2:9-10)

Take some time to consider this remarkable passage.

The Bible says that all the fullness of God – the sovereign Lord of all the universe, the Maker of heaven and earth, the seas, and all that is in them – all of His fullness is in Christ and that those who have placed their trust in Christ’s atoning death on their behalf have been given this fullness!

Now, I don’t claim to know the depth of this fullness, nor would I be foolish enough to believe I, or any human being, would be able to fully live out this truth;

But whatever its depth,

It is ours to dive into

And draw strength from.

HIS FULLNESS . . . IS OUR FULLNESS!

Now, we must not to think that we have been made like “little gods” who possess the attributes that only God Himself possesses, attributes such as omnipotence, omniscience, and omnipresence. We are still finite, fallible human beings. John Calvin explained it this way: “Having been given this fullness in Christ does not mean that the perfection of Christ is transfused into us, but that there are in Him resources from which we may be filled, that nothing be wanting in us.”

In other words, in our union with Christ we have been given everything we need for living the life God has called us to live.

HIS FULLNESS . . . IS OUR FULLNESS!

As children of Adam, we come into this world empty – spiritually bankrupt. We are born rebels on the run from God; we have no interest in the things of God until we are given fullness in Christ – a gift we receive from God by grace through faith.

Because of what God in Christ has done for us, you and I have been granted to “participate in the divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4), and we now have available to us everything we need to be what God is calling us to be.

All that Jesus is …

And He is EVERYTHING …

We have available to us.

  • His wisdom . . . our guidance
  • His peace . . . our comfort
  • His presence . . . our consolation
  • His power . . . our protection
  • His faithfulness . . . our confidence
  • His cross . . . our trust
  • His love . . . our security

Let us drink fully and freely from our Fount of Every Blessing, rejoicing in the truth that

HIS FULLNESS . . . IS OUR FULLNESS.

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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Doxology is the Fruit of Theology

Grace For The Journey

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5June  Don’t let the title of today’s blog fool you into thinking that I wrote this for students enrolled in seminary; I wrote it for you!  Once we get a handle on these two “big” words, you’ll see just how simple and practical this message is for all of us.

Doxology is derived from two Greek words: doxa, meaning “praise,” and logos, meaning “word.”  Doxology is an expression of our praise, love and thanksgiving for God as a response to His mercy, love, and grace toward us, poured out through Jesus Christ.

Theology is the field of study of God, His attributes, and how He relates to the world around us.

Based on these definitions, can you see how doxology is the fruit of theology?  What you believe about God (theology) determines, to a much greater extent than you might think, your response (doxology) back to Him.

If you believe your acceptance by God is based on your working for God, then you will praise Him on your good days and dread Him on your bad days.  Far too many Christians have a watered-down doxology because they have accepted a watered-down version of the Gospel. They are plagued by faulty theology, which posits that their working for God proves their worth to God.

Nothing could be further from the truth!

Christianity is not about doing;

It is about being who you are

Because of what Jesus has already done for you.

It is living out practically what you are positionally,

Because of the finished work of Jesus.

Christians are called to be a doxological people – living out of the truths of the Gospel with a heart that is overflowing with gratitude and thanksgiving for all that Jesus has accomplished.

In Christ, God reached down to us because we couldn’t reach up to Him.

Jesus willingly entered into this world, lived a sinless life, died a sacrificial death, rose from the grave on the third day, and ascended into heaven . . . from where He will come again to judge the living and the dead.

  • He chose suffering so we could be comforted.
  • He chose injustice that we would be justified.
  • He chose to be forsaken so we would be forgiven.
  • He chose death so we would have life everlasting.

 

And He did all this while were still sinners (Romans 3:23) . . . while we hated and rejected Him!

This is the Gospel, to which the cross and the resurrection is central.  Jesus nailed every one of our sins to that the cross.

He did for us what we could never do for ourselves.

This means that God is no longer our Judge.  He is our Abba Father, who loves us unconditionally.  It is with these truths in mind that we live a life marked by overwhelming gratitude and continual thanksgiving.  It is in view of God’s mercy to us in Christ (Romans 12:1) that we sing His praises both day and night.  This is the fuel that ignites the fire of our faith, whether we are in sickness or in health, in plenty or in want.  Praise God from whom all blessings flow!

One of the contemporary praise writers, Billy James Foote crystallized this idea of solid theology producing heartfelt doxology with his powerful anthem, “You are My King (Amazing Love)” …

I’m forgiven because You were forsaken
I’m accepted, You were condemned
I’m alive and well, Your Spirit is within me
Because You died and rose again

Amazing love, how can it be
That You, my King, should die for me?
Amazing love, I know it’s true
It’s my joy to honor You
In all I do, to honor You

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

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

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

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

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