Who’s The Star Of Your Story?

Grace For The Journey

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17July  Who is the story of your life about?  Is it all about you? Or is it about God?  Are you the central figure of your story or is God?  Are you the supporting cast or is God?

If it is you who is the “star” of your story, your story is MUCH too small and will always leave you dissatisfied and unfulfilled.  When you think about it, it really is silly to view ourselves as the star of our story.  From beginning to end, Jesus Christ should be the star of our story, because our story is wrapped up in His story.

  • He is the Creator of all things (John 1:3)
  • Our lives begin and end with Him
  • He is the Judge of all men (2 Corinthians 5:10).
  • Jesus saved us from sin and death
  • Jesus calls us into His story to acknowledge Him for who He is and what He has done as the Star.

Jesus said in Matthew 10:32-33, “Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, Him I will also confess before my Father who is in heaven.  But whoever denies Me before men, him will I also deny before my Father who is in heaven.”

We acknowledge Jesus before men when we admit our need of Him, accept what He has done to save us, ask Him to come into our lives to be our Lord and Savior, and then make Him the Star of our story.  And as the Star, He gets top billing, He receives the headlines, and He gets all of the accolades.  We need to remember that if it wasn’t for Jesus there would be no glory in our story!  It would be a story only of total depravity, terrible destruction, and a timeless, terrifying death.

Regardless of where you are today – whether you are riding the crest of the wave or the waves of challenge are crashing over you – it’s all about Him.  Every success is about Him, and every season of struggle is about Him . . . whether we like it or not!

He does as he pleases with the powers of heaven and the peoples of the earth.  No one can hold back his hand or say to him: “What have you done?”  (Daniel 4:35)

God does what He wants and He does it right well!  And as the Star of our story, He does not need to explain Himself to us.  Our story is written by Him and for Him and He knows best what the individuals scenes should look like in order that He would be glorified.

That is the summation of Paul’s testimony about Jesus that the Bible records in Romans 11:33-36, “Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God!  How unsearchable His judgments, and His ways past finding tracing out!  “Or who has known the mind of the Lord?  Or who has become His counselor?”  “Or who has first given to Him and it shall be repaid him?”  For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things.  to whom be the glory forever!  Amen!”

So . . . who is the star of your story?  Who is writing the final few chapters?  When all we do is done for His glory, Jesus is the Star who stands at the center of our story, a story that can be summed up in a word:

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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Diagnosing Forgetfulness

Grace For The Journey

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Woman's head hidden by a soft cloud  Kay, my adorable and able wife, has an unofficial title in our home which greatly benefits Lindsay and me …

Kay is the semi-omnisicent one.

I cannot count the number of time we have desperately approached her and asked, “Have you seen the” … “Do you know where the” … “Mom/Babe, I can’t find the” … “Kay, where are my …”  You get the picture.  For me it is usually a quest for my keys, my phone or my sunglasses.  When our girls were younger they believed that mom was completely omniscient.  They would ask her where everything was all of the time.  Thankfully, our semi-omniscient one remembers and retrieves what we’ve forgotten without wearying of our leaky memories.  If she can’t remember she will help us look for it until it is found.

Ancient Israel needed a double portion of what Kay has.  Listen to what God says to His people in Jeremiah 51:50, “You who have escaped from the sword, get away, do not stand still!  Remember the Lord…”

I was surprised to see the number of times Israel is indicted in the Old Testament for “forgetting God.”  God equates on several different occasions the sinfulness of Israel, their departing from Him, with the act of failing to remember Him.  When we stop and think about that it makes complete sense.

Someone has listed the following traits of ways Christians forget the Lord:

  • We forget God when we are lazy.
  • We forget God when we lie.
  • When we lust, we have completely forgotten the Lord.
  • Gossips aren’t remembering Jesus Christ when they verbally slight their fellow human beings.
  • Those who steal by declining to financially support Kingdom endeavors have spiritual amnesia about God and His faithfulness to provide for them.

On every occasion where my own thoughts, words, or actions have grieved or quenched the Holy Spirit, it was because I had forgotten God in that moment.  Every time we commit an act of deliberate sin we actually force God from our minds in order to do so.  Therefore, I will make a blanket statement that might give us something to chew on today:

Absent-minded pilgrims inevitably become straying pilgrims.

Will you spend some time today remembering your history with the Lord God Almighty?

  • Think about the years of your ignorance when He was working on your behalf while you remained clueless.
  • Some of you might want to ponder why He was so unspeakably gracious to deposit you in a Christian home that preserved you from the poison of sin and self.
  • Others of you were control freaks who resisted immensely the Spirit’s work in bringing you to Christ … but relentlessly bring you He did!
  • All of us need to remember the many times, subsequent to our salvation, God mightily blessed us.
  • We should remember the prayers that He has answered or affirmed.
  • Let us not forget the daily provision which He has granted.
  • We should never forget that He is our constant teacher, revealing His mighty and precious Self tous?
  • It is good to reflect on how He has saved you, comforted you, quieted you, filled you, thrilled you, healed you, and defended you.
  • How often against the bombardment from the enemy has God stepped up and declared, “Enough!” as He brings an end to the barrage?
  • And, God has been faithful to feed you, clothe you, and shelter you for all of these years.

I am too familiar with my own frailty to solve the question of how we forget the Lord; but the Bible clearly teaches this:

We forget Him because we are still tainted with sin and prone to selfishness.

Something in us still has an occasional appeal for the darkness above the light.

The real question is not …

How we can forget God?

but rather …

Why do we do so?

Forgetting Him brings such sadness and trouble.  Remembering God results in nothing but gladness and goodness.

The Bible gives us the solution to this dilemma in Jeremiah 3:21-22, “… They have forgotten the Lord their God.  Return, O faithless sons; I will heal your backslidings.  Indeed, we do come to You, for You are the Lord our God.”

May any and all absent-minded pilgrims today break away from the things occupying their heart-focus and, instead, spend some time … remembering.  We can all do that when we choose to, can’t we?

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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Godly Compassion

Grace For The Journey

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Tears-in-a-Bottle

The Bible says in Psalm 56:8 “You number my wanderings; put my tears into Your bottle; Are they not in Your Book?”

How do you see God? Sadly, far too many of us see Him as some distant deity, a “blind watchmaker,” disengaged from His creation and uninterested in them individually.  Yet, the above verse makes it crystal clear that nothing could be further from the truth.  Of all the things God can do, He wants us to know he knows our most private hurts and concerns.  Now, how is that for Godly compassion?!

How blessed we are to have a God who is not like some cosmic computer that cannot relate to us personally, emotionally, or spiritually.  Sure, a cosmic computer could provide us with some incredible information, but it would be completely incapable of connecting with us at a heart level . . . which is the level where we need connection most!

The Bible offers us this wondeul encouragement in Hebrews 4:15-16: “For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.  Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in our time of need.”

David knew this truth.

  • He knew it when he was facing the giant Goliath;
  • He knew it when he was hounded by the ungodly king Saul.
  • David also knew God’s compassion when he was confronted by the prophet Nathan.

To be sure, God sent Nathan to rebuke David for his terrible sin with Bathsheba and against her husband.  But that conviction did not come without God’s love; in fact, it was God’s compassion, mercy, and grace that would not leave David in his sin, but sent Nathan to prompt David’s repentance and to deliver him from himself.

There is a brief passage in Matthew’s gospel that we might read through quickly and miss its significance.

“Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every among the people.  But when He saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion on them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd.” (Matthew 9:35-36)

Have you ever felt “weary and scattered,” buffeted by circumstances beyond your control, with no shepherd to guide you?  And did you perhaps believe that God took no notice . . . or that He was displeased with you and was standing aloof, allowing you to sink beneath the waves of adversity?  Look at Matthew’s account again; he observed that Jesus had compassion on the people. The Greek word that the Holy Spirit inspired Matthew to use means far more than that Jesus simply “felt sorry” for them. It describes “a deep, visceral feeling of pity and sorrow;” quite literally, Jesus was so moved by the plight of humanity that He felt it in the pit of His stomach!  

An uninterested deity?

A blind watchmaker?

Hardly!

Think about all of the tears you have shed during your life.  God has collected every one of them in His bottle.  He is keeping a record of every tear in His book, which means your pain is NOT unnoticed and NOT without purpose.  Every tear you shed is being used by God in the process of your sanctification – growing you up into Christ.  Not a single tear falls to the ground, because your loving heavenly Father is standing by your side, collecting each and every one of them.

In my sanctified imagination, here is what I believe will take place on that great and final day: Jesus will hand you the bottle He collected, filled with all of your tears, and you, like the sinful woman who anointed the feet of Jesus in Luke 7:38, will worship your loving Lord by pouring your bottle of tears out over His nail-scarred feet, knowing that these will be the last tears you will ever shed or see.

Remember, we have been given the promise that Jesus will wipe away every tear from our eyes and there will be no more sorrow or tears (Revelation 21:4), and we will live in a place where there will be no more sorrow, no more pain, and no more death!  We will enter into our eternal rest, where Jesus, who is seated on the throne, has made everything new (Revelation 21:5) . . . and that includes 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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HOLY HONEYMOON!

Grace For The Journey

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12July  We’ve all heard the sardonic expression, “THE HONEYMOON IS OVER!” Although it is used in a variety of contexts, from business to sports to politics, the phrase refers to the dreary truth that the wonderful, even fantasy-like beginning of a marriage, marked by bliss and unimaginable optimism, has now settled into the relentless burden of “doing life” together. In my pre-marriage counseling sessions, I always emphasize to the couples not to do what most people do, which is spending far more time planning the wedding than they do the prioritizing the marriage.

But there is one honeymoon that will never come to an end!  As the prophet Isaiah wrote, “As the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you.”  (Isaiah 62:5)

Notice that Isaiah did not say that the bridegroom rejoices over His bride only during the initial honeymoon phase.  Rather, it is a mark of the Master’s unchanging nature (which He reveals in Numbers 23:19 and elsewhere) that He rejoices over His beloved bride. It’s a HOLY HONEYMOON from the moment we are raised from death to life in Christ; it continues throughout our lives; and it will go on for all eternity!  Because God is infinite and unchanging and we are His bride, the honeymoon is never over.

I remember the incredible joy Kay and I experienced on our honeymoon back in August of 1973.  It was, as they say, “magical.  However, whatever joy . . . whatever pleasure . . . whatever excitement . . . whatever “magic” Kay and I experienced together on our honeymoon is only a shadow of the substance to come when we are received into glory by our Bridegroom.

For those of you who are married, think back to how you felt on your honeymoon.  To think that God rejoices over us as a Bridegroom rejoices over His bride is almost unimaginable. For the Bridegroom and His bride the honeymoon never ends. In fact, the joy and pleasure simply continues intensifying.

We must remember that our marriages are tainted by sin, so the euphoria we experienced on our honeymoon will not be our experience on a moment-by-moment basis.  But this is not the case with our eternal Bridegroom.  God’s love for us is perfect and infinite and it never changes.  Even when we are unlovely and unlovable, our Bridegroom loves us with an everlasting love.  We cannot make God love us more and we cannot cause Him to love us less.  God’s love is as unchanging as our holy honeymoon is unending.

So . . . how should this Gospel truth affect our lives?  It should cause us to rest in our redemption, knowing that our God is rejoicing over us!  It should lift us when we are low, strengthen us when we are weak, comfort us when we are anxious, and give us unwavering hope when we are hurting.  Oh, what a Bridegroom we have in Jesus!

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

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

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

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

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Holy Living

Grace For The Journey

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11July  If you are anything like me, you struggle with holy living.  (If you are not anything like me, please let me know how you are doing it!)  As a minister of the Gospel, the reason I don’t mind confessing that I am far less than perfect is because another minister of the Gospel, who was far, far more sanctified than I, confessed the very same thing.  The Bible sets forth the ongoing experience of every Christian in Romans 7:15, 18-19:

“I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate . . . I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.”

There are lots of books written and sermons preached that outline a plethora of “things-to-do” and “how-to’s” for living a holy life.  They range from trying to get us to do more, pray better, serve smarter, or try harder.  The problem with all of this advice is found in the focus:

That focus is on ourselves!

When we focus on ourselves and our need/desire to get better, we are looking to the wrong place for strength.  We focus on getting better; and perhaps we do for a while, but before long, we mess up again and begin to doubt ourselves and despair of succeeding at holy living.  And this is precisely the dreary district where the devil wants every Christian to be living:

At the intersection of doubt, defeat, and despair.

The best way to get better is to quit focusing on getting better and fix our eyes instead on the One who has already made us perfect in the eyes of God.  That’s when we will actually start getting better . . . sometimes!  Here’s how Charles Spurgeon, known to many as “the prince of preachers,” profoundly explained it more than a century ago:

“When believers say, ‘I cannot grow in grace as I would, and therefore I doubt,’ do you see what they do?  It is as though they said, ‘Here is a plant that will not grow and therefore it shall not have any water.’  It is impossible for any one of us – for you – to get sanctification through doubts!  Your doubting takes away the water which alone can nourish the roots of your sanctity.  If, in the teeth of all your sins, you still believe in Christ – believe over the head of all your shortcomings and your negligence – then your belief will breed love and admiration!  And then your love of Christ and your admiration of Him will breed imitation – and so there will come holy living to the glory of God.  Love is the forceful mainspring of a gracious life, but doubt makes it grow limp and feeble.  Doubt snaps the string of your bow, takes off the edge of your sword, makes you languid and powerless and causes all your Divine Graces to flag.  Therefore, keep to it, Christian, keep to it and let not the devil himself drag you from it!”

Living a holy life never happens because we are pursuing holy living.  It only happens when we understand that Jesus is in hot pursuit of us.  It is His love for us, not our living for Him, that produces holy living.  When we keep our focus on what He has done for us, we can begin to live the life He has called us to live without fear of messing it up.  The more we focus on the truths of the Gospel, the more the Holy Spirit will fill our hearts with admiration for Jesus.  And, as Spurgeon explained, it is this admiration that will ultimately lead to imitation.

His love for us, not our love for Him, grows us up in our faith.  When we confuse these two, doubt will have its way with us.  It is only when we keep the love of Christ before us—whether we are in seasons of plenty or want or health or sickness—that doubt will depart and holiness will begin to appear.

In his new book, Three Free Sins, my good friend Steve Brown writes, “Christians, by and large, are neurotic about purity, obedience, and holiness.  It is probably the main reason we’re not very pure, obedient, and holy.  And in order to maintain our witness, we have learned to fake it.”  WOW!  Or perhaps I would do better to say OUCH!  That’s a pretty piercing observation!

Sure, we all want to get better.  None of us are happy with the way we are.  But the way to getting better and living a holy life is not to focus on getting better and living a holy life.  It is to focus completely on Christ.

  • On the perfect life of Christ
  • On the sacrificial death of Christ
  • On the supernatural resurrection of Christ
  • On the miraculous Ascension of Christ
  • On the promised return of Christ

The more we focus on Him, the less we focus on ourselves; and the less we focus on ourselves, the more we begin to imitate Him.  You see, God loves you just the way you are, but He loves you too much just to leave you there!

Rest in this biblical truth: “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.”  (Colossians 3:1-4)

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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Last Command – First Comfort!

Grace For The Journey

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10July  Do you know the last command in the Bible? It is found, as you might expect, in the last book in the Bible . . .

“The Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come!’ And let him who hears say, ‘Come!’ And let him who thirsts, ‘Come!’ Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely.”  (Revelation 22:17)

Oh, what comfort can be found in this final command in sacred Scripture: “COME!” Are you thirsty? “COME” and quench your thirst with the water of life. What great encouragement is in this command from Christ!

And notice the qualifications set forth for those who are to come: “Whoever is thirsty!” Here we find our Lord Jesus Christ, the Good Shepherd, offering living water to replace the bitter water of our broken lives . . . the bitter water of selfish ambition . . . the bitter water of self-righteousness . . . the bitter water of self-centeredness . . . the bitter water of sin and self-rule.

To be sure, this world offers water that spills out from broken cisterns, but it will never – never – deliver what it promises.  We are always left thirstier than when we started and totally unsatisfied.  Do not to try to quench your thirst with anything other than Jesus! Our Lord explained this to the Samaritan woman who had come to fill her water jug from Jacob’s well:

“Everyone who drinks [from this well] will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (John 4:13-14)

Scripture invites us to drink our fill from the “Fount of every blessing,”  Do you thirst . . .

  • For truth? Drink in the Scriptures!
  • For peace? Drink from the Prince of Peace!
  • For a forgiving heart? Drink from the Fount of Forgiveness!
  • For unconditional love for others? Drink from the Well of Limitless Love!

Only Jesus can quench your every thirst. Remember, the Bible promises that those who “hunger and thirst after righteousness will be filled.” (Matthew 5:6)

One last thought: Do you recall the cost of all the bitter water you sipped on over the years?  You paid in ruined relationships, shattered dreams, and separation from God. Well, this glorious invitation to drink of the water of life comes without cost!  There is nothing you must do – nothing you can do – to “earn” the opportunity to drink from the living waters.  That cost was borne by Him who paid in full the staggering cost of sin for all those who will simply trust in His atoning work on their behalf.

Thirsty soul . . . Come!

Come and drink!

Come and drink freely and fully!

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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