A Prize To Be Won, Not Earned

Grace For The Journey

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15Aug  I pray that today’s blog is a great source of comfort for you today.  It is a word about the need to quit trying to earn God’s favor and simply trust in what Christ has already done.  Nobody knew this better than the apostle Paul.  The Holy Spirit led him to write in Philippians 3:12-14, “I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.  Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it.  But one thing I do: 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.”

Paul had every reason to believe he could earn the favor and blessing of God.  He was part of the “in” crowd at the Temple.  He was “… of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew Of the Hebrews; concerning the law, a Pharisee” … “concerning the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.” (Philippians 3:5-6).  Yet, in spite of all of his efforts to be pleasing to God and trying to earn God’s acceptance, God made it clear in His Word that Paul was never going to be able to earn his way into God’s favor, no matter how hard he tried.  In fact, his focus on earning God’s favor and doing good things to be accepted by God was only driving him further away from God . . . not closer.

What a comfort for those of us who are running on the performance treadmill of life and trying so hard to meet God’s righteousness demands!

We do not have to perform our way into relationship with God!

And …

We do not have to maintain our performance,

Increase our performance,

or

Improve on our performance to remain there.

It we were not good enough to get in, we certainly are not good enough to stay in.

It is a prize that is to be won, not earned; and it has been won by Jesus Christ.

The more Paul dug deeper into this truth, the more he could focus on pursuing and finding pleasure in God, rather than performing for God.  Because of what Jesus had already done upon the cross and through the empty tomb for Paul, he could live out practically what he already was positionally: a child of the King.

Paul knew it was Jesus who took hold of him, and not the other way around.

When we understand this Gospel-saturated truth, we are free to be what we have been called and saved by God to be.

This truth empowered Paul to rise even above a past that was littered with sin, even the wickedness of his involvement in the death of Stephen and many followers of Christ..  A past like Paul’s would have paralyzed him if he was still stuck on a performance-based religion – the need to earn eternal life and God’s blessings in everyday life.  Guilt would have ground him into the ashes of defeat.  But Jesus freed him from that, and now Paul was indeed free to focus on the life of forgiveness and power that had been won by Jesus on the cross.

So for all of us recovering Pharisees (and believe me, I am one of them), let us rest in the truth that Jesus has done everything that needs to be done for us to have a relationship with Him.  We cannot damage that relationship or destroy it, no matter how badly we perform.  Resting in the truth that we are covered in the righteousness of Christ is reason to celebrate, and the more we celebrate this truth the more we will consistently live a life that is pleasing to God and beneficial to others.  As J.I. Packer rightly observed,

“No need in Christendom is more urgent

Than the need for a renewed awareness

Of what the grace of God really is.”

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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One Thing Technology Has NOT Made Faster!

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14Aug  God has given great wisdom and ability into the hands of “techies,” which has made the world around us move at light speeds.

A trip by car across the United States took weeks before the interstate highway system; now it can be done in less than four days.  By airplane it can be done in a matter of hours!  Advances in computer technology and telecommunications have made newspapers all but obsolete.  Some of you will remember a time when you actually had to get up and walk across the room to flip through the handful of television channels available . . . if the stations hadn’t signed off at the end of the day.  Today, we grumble if we have less than 150 24-hour cable channels. The Post Office is rapidly becoming history, due to the advent of email and overnight delivery services.

How about the technological advancements in medicine?  From fast-working medicines to out-patient surgeries, injuries and illnesses which laid our parents up for weeks or months are now dispatched in days or even hours.

InstaPots have eliminated the time-consuming process of thawing food and cooking meals in the oven.  Now we program out meal with a button or two, and with just a few minutes of “work” we are sitting down to a piping hot meal.  “Fast food” has become even faster, because we simply refuse to wait for anything, especially when we’re hungry.

But there is one thing technology has not made faster, and that is the speed in which you can reach God in prayer!

Listen to what the Bible says about this.

In Psalm 120:1, the psalmist says, “In my distress I called to the Lord, and He answered me.”

In 2 Chronicles 6:35, Solomon says, “Then hear from heaven their prayer and their supplication, and maintain their cause.”

As comforting as it is to know that our Lord hears our prayers instantly, it is even more comforting to know He knows our prayers even before we speak them.  Now that is super fast!

The Bible says in Psalm 139:4, “For there is not a word on my tongue, but behold O LORD, You know it altogether.”

In Matthew 6:7-8 Jesus states, “And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Therefore, do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him.”

There is no need for technology to make improvements in our prayer life.

God knows what we need even before we ask Him!

In fact, the challenge for believers is that all this technology

often makes our prayer life slower.

Our prayers are reaching God as fast as ever, but with all the distractions we now have at our fingertips, many of us neglect our time alone with God.  With all the voices and gadgets and games calling out for our attention, we can easily find ourselves immersed in things other than God.  And our inattention leaves us poor, blind, and needy.

But there is something better God has for each of us!  God has invited us into an intimate, personal relationship with Him, and He delights when we call on His mighty name.  Call on Him in seasons of want and in seasons of plenty.  Call on Him in seasons of sickness and in seasons of health.  Like an earthly father who delights when his children come to him, your heavenly Father delights every time you come to Him in prayer.

The Bible assures us “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7).

I can’t think of a better way to close out today’s blog than with the words from the poem by William Hickson, entitled, “Now To Heaven Our Prayer Ascending”  . . .

Now to Heaven our prayer ascending,
In a noble cause contending,

May we live our lives before Thee,

Like the good and great in story,

If we fail, we fail in glory:
Patient, firm, and persevering,
No event or danger fearing,

Pains, nor toils, nor trials heeding,
Never from the truth receding,
And in Heaven’s own time succeeding,

Still our onward course pursuing,
Every foe at length subduing,

Truth!  Thy cause, whate’er delay it,
There’s no power on earth can stay it,
Proudly let us then obey it.

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

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

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

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

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Forty-four Years of God Leading Us In Celebration and Through Challenges

Grace For The Journey

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11August

Only two days a year (on my wedding anniversary and church anniversary) do I use this blog for something other than to talk about the life we have in Christ.  I do so without apology because part of what God is doing in my life is a result of my dear wife Kay and the precious church family at First Baptist Church.

I cannot thank God enough for giving me such a great friend, companion, completer, and beloved wife of forty-four years – something I celebrate every day!  The time has passed by so quickly . . . especially because I have been blessed to spend it with the one I simply can’t imagine being without.  This morning my mind is flooded with memories that fill my heart with unimaginable joy and thanksgiving to the One who brought us together and has seen us through it all.

I have sought to allow our great Lord to carry out His purpose in bringing us together.  The Bible says in Malachi 2:15, “Did He not make them one, with a portion of the Spirit in their union? And what was the one God seeking?  That He might seek a Godly offspring.  Therefore, guard yourselves in your spirit, and let none of you be faithless to the wife of your youth.”

It was 44 years ago today that God gave me my greatest gift after salvation . . . KAY! The holy covenant of marriage is a great gift from God.  It is an even greater gift when you get to marry your BEST FRIEND in all-the world and work together to allow God to fulfill His purpose in your marriage.

Kay, your love for me has always been unconditional and your forgiveness complete. You have truly lived out the truth of the biblical definition of love, and for 44 years, you have continually laid down your life in sacrificial love for me and our four beloved daughters.  You are not only the greatest wife in the world, but you are, without a doubt, the greatest mom in the world too.

Of all the sacrificial things you have done over the past 44 years in honoring our marriage covenant, there is one thing that you refused to do, and for that, I am eternally grateful . . .

You Have Refused To Love In Proportion To The Love Given!

You never let my level of love to you set the temperature of your love for me.  You simply took God at His Word, and lived out the truth of 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 . . .

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trust, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.”

God has brought us through many seasons together, and through it all, your love never failed.  I know some of our years together have not always been easy, especially with the demands of the ministry.  But you have stood by my side every step of the way.  God knew exactly what I needed in a wife, ministry partner, and best friend and graciously gave you to me.  You not only complement me – you complete me in every way.

Here is a truth that cannot be denied . . .

You are everything I am not . . .

And that’s a lot!

Only the grace of God could have carried us through these past forty-four years.  Only the grace of God poured out into the heart of a Gospel-saturated wife could keep this marriage together and keep making it better and better.

I am a whole lot older and a little bit wiser than I was on that day – August 11, 1973 – when Kay and I looked into each other’ s eyes and said, “I do.”  We have had an incredible life together!  The Lord said, “It is not good for the man to be alone.”  Over four decades of marriage have taught me that I am in no way self-sufficient.  God showed me my need for a wife and was gracious to give me the wife I needed.

How many more years?  Only the Lord knows.  But whatever time He is pleased to give to me with my beloved wife and best friend in all the world, I pray there will be less of me in it and much more of Him.

Happy 44th Anniversary Kay . . .

I love you with all my heart

And will for the rest of my life.

How I love you my DEAR, PRECIOUS WIFE!

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How God Deals With Our Sin – He Hurls Them Into The Depths Of The Sea

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Huge Tidal wave crashing onto the beach with man  Upon your first glance at the title of this blog, you might be thinking about another kind of “hurling,” like the time when the great fish vomited the prophet Jonah from its belly onto the shoreline.

I think we can leave that topic alone!

In today’s blog, I’d like to discuss a particular way God deals with our sins – where the Bible says that God “casts our sins into the depths of the sea.”  This is one of the most magnificent pictures of the love, grace, and mercy of our heavenly Father.  The Bible says in Micah 7:19, “He will turn again; He will have compassion upon us; He will subdue our iniquities; and You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea.”

Micah’s magnificent metaphor is a tremendous source of comfort and hope to all Christians.

We can all picture in our mind someone dropping an anchor or lure overboard.

But Micah’s picture is quite different and much more dramatic.

Our God “casts” our sins far out into the depths of the sea.

Not dropped . . . not tossed . . . not pitched . . . but “cast” overboard,

Never to be seen or heard from again.

The Hebrew word means “cast with various degrees of violence; usually, with force.”  The New Testament word as used in Luke 17:23, “It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were cast into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones” is an even stronger word.   It is usually compounded with many prepositions, “about,” “away,” “down,” “forth,” “in,” “into,” “off,” “out,” “up,” and “upon.”  This word means “to drive from, by force as from the hand, or from an engine.  (It is used in 2 Chronicles 26 where Uzziah prepared slings to cast stones).  Have you got the picture solidly in your mind?

God’s justice was satisfied on the cross by the precious blood of Jesus Christ, so God finds great delight in putting away and removing our sins forever.  This concept of casting is reinforced in the Bible when David rejoiced in how God dealt with his sin.  In Psalm 103:12, he says, “As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.”

Jerry Bridges paints a wonderful picture of God’s dealing with our sin in is book, The Gospel For Real Life:

“God is not a reluctant forgiver.  He is a joyous one.  His justice having been satisfied and His wrath having been exhausted, He is now eager to extend His forgiveness to all who trust in His Son as their propitiatory sacrifice.  Because Jesus paid the penalty for all our sins God is pictured in a posture of “HOLY HURLING” – forcefully expelling every single transgression to the bottom of the sea . . . all forgiven, all forgotten.  Not because of anything we do, but because of everything Jesus has done on our behalf.”

Corrie ten Boom, that remarkable Christian survivor of the Holocaust, put the exclamation mark to Micah’s declaration of what God, in Christ, has done for us by casting our sins into the depths of the sea.  She wrote, “And then God put up a sign saying, ‘No fishing allowed.’”  God is no longer our Judge.  He judged Jesus for our sins and poured out His wrath on Him.  Clothed in the perfect righteousness of Christ, we no longer stand guilty before a Holy God in His heavenly courtroom.

It is Satan, our enemy, the accuser, who wants us to keep remembering old sins so we can live under the weight of guilt and shame.  And if he can’t get us to do that – if we heed the “No fishing allowed” sign erected by Scripture – Satan will do everything in his power to draw us away from grace and into dreading  and despairing about what God might do anyway!

The more we live in the truths of the Gospel, the better we can see and embrace how God has dealt with our sin.  The next time you are tempted to live in the paralyzing guilt and shame of past sins, picture your God hurling them overboard and watch them plunging into the bottom of the sea, never to bob to the surface again.

Christian, your sins are forgiven . . . forgotten . . .

And you are never forsaken.

What a marvelous, matchless Savior we have!

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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CLEAN IN SPITE OF DIRT!

Grace For The Journey

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8Aug   In an old Dennis the Menace cartoon, Dennis is holding a handful of beautiful flowers and he asks Mr. Wilson, “How can something so pretty and clean come out of the dirt?”

When you think about it, that question applies to every Christian!  I have a word of great encouragement for you, taken from these magnificent words from John, the Beloved Apostle:

“. . . And the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.” (1 John 1:7)

Notice that John did not say that Jesus’ blood “will cleanse us from all sin” or “shall cleanse us from all sin,” but rather Christ’s blood does cleanse us from all sin!  The Greek verb katharizo, which our English Bibles render as “cleanses” or “purifies,” is in the present tense, meaning that the blood of Jesus “is continually cleansing” us from all sin!  Take this truth to heart, believer, because in it you will discover a joy that can be found in no other place.  All those who have placed their trust in Christ’s atoning sacrifice were cleansed at the moment of salvation, and they continue to be cleansed each day, moment by moment, in spite of the dirt that still remains.

I meet far too many Christians who have never fully appropriated this truth.  Because you and I are sinners, both by nature and by habit, we still have some remaining “dirt,” even after we have, by grace through faith, been cleansed from all unrighteousness. Many Christians are acutely aware of their ongoing unrighteousness; they hope to be cleansed . . . someday.  They hope to be forgiven of all of their sins . . . someday.  They hope to enter into their eternal rest . . . someday.

Yet this “hope” is actually a false gospel!  The hope that Scripture exhorts us to embrace is a confident expectation, not the tenuous hope expressed by phrases like, “I hope it won’t rain tomorrow” or “I hope God will forgive me for all I’ve done.”  Christian believer, read these words and hold fast to them:

The Bible tells us that

The blood of Jesus Christ

Washed us clean from all sin

And we have His Word on it!

Whenever it is that we come to our Savior and Lord, our past sins are forgiven … Whenever we come to Him in our daily relationship with Him as Savior and Lord, our present sins are forgiven when we confess them and ask forgiveness for them … And, whenever we come to Him in the future as we live for Him as Savior and Lord, our future sins will be forgiven when we confess them and ask forgiveness for them.

God’s glorious promise assures us that we are not cleansed from “some” sins, or “most” sins, but from all sin!  This amazing promise from God is anchored in His Word just two verse later.  In 1 John 1:9, God says, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”  As we confess our sins past, present sins, and those sins still to come – we have God’s Word that He has forgiven us and we are cleansed by the blood of the Lamb of God, who paid the full and final price for all our sins.

Take a moment to think about this truth!

It will give you a peace that passes all understanding and provide for you a joy unspeakable and full of Glory!

We should carry no baggage from our past, which is one of the sharpest darts that Satan employs to pierce our hearts and cause us to focus more on ourselves than our Savior.

Satan would have loved for Peter to carry the baggage of denying Christ three times during that awful night of Jesus’ betrayal.  Peter could have been so burdened with guilt and shame that he would never have been able to get on with God’s plan for his life.  But Jesus made sure Peter’s past would not define his present or future.  Asking Peter three times if he loved Him (John 21:15-17) was our Lord’s way of telling Peter (and us) that his three denials had been cleansed by the atoning blood of the Lamb.

Christian, you and I deny Christ every day!

  • We deny Him with our anxiety and anger.
  • We deny Him with our self-righteousness and self-centeredness.
  • We deny Him with our unbelief and unforgiveness.

The record of our sins is much, much longer than you and I could ever imagine, and it should cause us to do as Peter did – to grieve about it and weep bitterly.  Yet, regardless of how many or how terrible our sins are, as we confess them and ask forgiveness for them, “the blood of Jesus cleanses us from all of them!”

That fountain filled with blood, drawn from Emmanuel’s vein removes both the sinful baggage of our past and the sinful failures in our present and future, which frees us to walk by faith and confidence into the Promised Life that God has set before us.  Yes, dear believer, you and I are clean and beautiful, just like Dennis the Menace’s beautiful flowers – in spite of our dirt – and that is a truth that leads us to appreciate grace and truly sets us free.

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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Traveling Mercies

Grace For The Journey

 

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08Aug  When Christians hear the phrase “traveling mercies,” we usually think of the words we use when we ask God to protect and provide for those who are about to go on a journey.  But I’d like to share another picture of traveling mercies, one that we should understand and emulate.

The Bible says in Acts 10:38, “How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with Him.”

The Traveling Mercies pictured in this verse is none other than the Lord Himself.  He was continually on a mission from His Father in heaven as He went around doing good.  Notice a few things in this wonderful picture of Traveling Mercies:

  1. Jesus did it Himself.  He went around doing good.  He did not send others to do His work; He did not send the angels or the apostles; He Himself went about doing good personally.  The incomparable Charles Spurgeon summed it up beautifully when he said, “Jesus went on His errands of mercy.” 
  • Jesus used His legs to walk.
  • He used His fingers to touch.
  • He used His eyes to see.
  • He used His voice to speak.
  • He used His ears to hear.
  • He used His heart to ache with compassion

for those who were “harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd” (Matthew 9:36).  What a wonderful example He has left for us – that we also might go around doing good personally with the passion of our Lord!

  1. Jesus did not wait for the hurting to show up.
  • He went to the woman at the well.
  • He went to the lame at the pool.
  • He went to the sick in the bed.
  • He went to the dead in the tomb.

Difficulty did not deter Him, nor did danger.  He went personally to every object of His affection and mercy to do good.  The Bible tells us in Luke 9:51, “And it came to pass, when the time was come that he should be received up, He steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem.”  He went – even to His sacrificial death; nobody had to come looking for Him.  His face was set in determination to go and die for you and for me.

What a wonderful example He has left for us – that we might go to those in need rather than waiting for them to seek us out!

Now, it is true that Scripture teaches us God does not need our good works,

But it also teaches us that our neighbor does.

The Bible tells us that we are God’s workmanship (Ephesians 2:10), created in Christ Jesus to do good works for His glory and for the benefit of all those we come in contact with who need a touch from God – and that’s everyone.

The truths of the Gospel should compel us to be continually engaged in traveling mercies, regardless of the cost or circumstance.  Because of what Jesus has already done for us (past grace), and all that He has promised He will do for us (future grace), our hearts should beat to the rhythm of the traveling mercies drum.

  1. One final point: God was with Jesus throughout His “errands of mercy.”

Jesus went out with God’s presence, His power, and His love.  God gave Him all He needed to carry out His work.  Our precious Lord has promised to do the same for us: “Behold, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20).  Our good works are an inevitable by-produce of our growing in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

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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Living A Life Of Praise

Grace For The Journey

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7Aug  A doxology is an expression of praise and adoration to our Most High God.  It is usually sung as a short hymn as part of the worship service.  The word doxology comes from the Greek “doxa,” which means “glory” or “splendor,” and “logos,” meaning “word” or “speaking.”  So a “doxology” is something that God’s people use to speak or sing about the glory, splendor, and majesty of God.  Most of us are familiar with the doxology that is sung in many Christian churches.  This familiar hymn of praise was written in 1674 by Thomas Ken, a priest in the Church of England:

Praise God from whom all blessings flow;

Praise Him all creatures here below;

Praise Him above, ye heavenly host

Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost

Amen!

This was one of the “early” praise songs.  Although the word “doxology” is not found in the Bible, doxological themes are found throughout sacred Scripture, from praising God for His many blessings (Ephesians 1:3), affirming the Trinity (Matthew 28:19), and ascribing all glory to Him (Romans 11:36).

So . . . is doxology simply a song we sing in worship?

Or should it be something more

– A way of life rather than a way of singing?

And if doxology should be more,

What would doxological living mean?

And what should it look like in the life of the believer?

I believe God calls us to live a life of praise.  We are commanded in Scripture to reorient every aspect of our lives for the praise, glory, and worship of God.  Instead of living for self we begin living for the Savior, regardless of the cost or circumstance.  We no longer push Christ and the cause of His kingdom to the periphery of our lives; instead, we keep Jesus in His rightful place: in the center and on the throne of our lives.  And we do it not out of fear or a sense of duty; we live a life of praise because our hearts are filled with joy and gratitude.

Paul exclaimed in 2 Corinthians 9:15, “Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift.”

The indescribable gift of Jesus that God has given us is to be the motive and motivation for living a life of praise in every circumstance we face.  Now, it’s easy to give glory and praise to God when the sky is blue and the clouds are fluffy.  But what about when we are in the middle of the storm?

The Bible answers that question in Acts 16:19-26, “When her owners saw that their hope of gain was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace before the rulers.   And when they had brought them to the magistrates, they said, “These men are Jews, and they are disturbing our city.  They advocate customs that are not lawful for us as Romans to accept or practice.” The crowd joined in attacking them, and the magistrates tore the garments off them and gave orders to beat them with rods.  And when they had inflicted many blows upon them, they threw them into prison, ordering the jailer to keep them safely.  Having received this order, he put them into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks.  About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them, and suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken.  And immediately all the doors were opened, and everyone’s bonds were unfastened.”

Clearly, Paul and Silas were in the middle of a storm!  They had been falsely accused of disturbing the peace, attacked by a mob, beaten with rods, and were bound and thrown into prison.  And what do we find them doing?  Around midnight, Paul and Silas were offering prayers and songs of praise to God – and doing so with such enthusiasm that the other prisoners were listening!   And please take note that their life of praise was on display prior to the doors of the prison opening up.

James Allen once wrote, “Circumstance doesn’t make the man.  It reveals him.”  The circumstance Paul and Silas found themselves in revealed them for who they really were: disciples of Christ who intentionally chose to live a life of praise, regardless of the harsh circumstances they were in.

What a great goal for every child of God – to be able to see the good God is doing, even behind the worst stuff in life, and calmly accept that God is working it all together ultimately for our good and His glory.  If we continually keep in view the truth that nothing happens to us that doesn’t first pass through His nail-scarred hands, we can sail over every rough sea and withstand every storm wind that blows in our lives.  And through it all, we can live a life of praise, witnessing to a watching world just how awesome our God really is and how amazing is His grace!

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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J.O.Y. Priorities

Grace For The Journey

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4Aug  How joy-filled is your life right now?  How would those closest to you answer this question on your behalf?  The Bible teaches that “the joy of the Lord is our strength” (Nehemiah 8:10) and that joy has absolutely nothing to do with the circumstances we face in life.  Joy is a fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22) that empowers Christian believers as they go through the struggles and challenges of daily living.  It is this joy that allows us to cheerfully keep our Lord’s command – “Do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear” (Matthew 6:25).

The world’s understanding of happiness is wholly different … the world’s joy is dependent upon outward circumstances.  When things are going well, the worldly man is happy; when things are going badly, he is unhappy.

The joy every believer was redeemed by Christ’s precious blood to experience on a daily basis is based on priorities rooted in the word J.O.Y:

J = JESUS

O = OTHERS

Y = YOU

These are the priorities in life which will, whether we are fully conscious of it or not, determine our experience of joy in this life.  Putting JESUS first in life, followed by OTHERS, followed by YOU puts you in the center of the will of God that produces the joy of the Lord, which is our strength.

We all know this by way of personal experience, don’t we?  When we put Jesus first, followed by others, we experience a feeling of joy that wells up from deep within us and overflows into every area of life.  This is our divine design, and when we are living according to God’s design, we experience our strength – the joy of the Lord.

The Bible says in Psalm 16:11, “You will show the path of life; in Your presenece is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”

True joy – lasting joy – can only be found in the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ.  God made us that way.  We have a God-sized void inside of us that can only be filled by God if we are to experience the joy of the Lord which is our strength.  Sure, we can try to fill it with other things.  And we do in countless ways.

  • Some use alcohol.
  • Others use work.
  • Still others the pleasures of this world.

But God has designed it in such a way that nothing will fill that void and satisfy us at our deepest level but Jesus.

With that truth firmly established, what follows is our next priority: our service to others. “Other” orientation is the second priority in experiencing the joy of the Lord which is our strength.  Jesus demonstrated this very clearly in both His words and His live.  His life was rooted in OTHERS.

Jesus says in Mark 10:34, “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.”

Jesus came for others.  Jesus lived and died for others.  Jesus made it clear how His disciples will live when they are living for Him.  If we are living our lives with Jesus on the throne, we will live for the good of others.  We will model our Master and put others before ourselves.  In doing so, we will experience the joy of the Lord, which is our strength.  When we are following these two priorities in living cross-shaped lives (vertical with God and horizontal with others), the third priority naturally follows . . . YOU!

Jesus desires that we be filled with joy and He has given us the perfect prescription for making sure our cup overflows with it: JESUS . . . OTHERS . . . YOU!  Now that’s a prescription that delivers on its promise every time.

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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Everyone an Epistle!

Grace For The Journey

3Aug  Take a moment to read the following Bible verse and think about it for a moment . . .

“You are our letter, written in our hearts, known and read by all men.  Clearly you are an epistle of Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but by the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone, but on tables of flesh, that is, of the heart.”  (2 Corinthians 3:2-3)

What do you think it means to be an “epistle” – a letter from Christ?

You will encounter many people throughout your lifetime who will never, open a Bible or read a single verse.  But they are reading your “translation” of the Bible in the life you are living, moment by moment, as a child of the Most High God.  Scores of unbelievers are reading your “version” of the Scriptures as they scrutinize the things you do: on and off the job, in the music you listen to, the movies you watch, the web sites you visit, the places you go, how you react to challenges in life, and how you deal with suffering and hardship.

It is important to remember …

That we not only preach the Gospel to others with our lips,

We preach it with our lives.

Sometimes what we do speaks so loudly, unbelievers can’t hear what we say!

Let me caution you before we go any further: I am not suggesting that we should or could live a perfect life in the eyes of the watching world.  We can’t!  Nor do I have any desire to lead us in the direction of feeling responsible for the salvation or condemnation of anyone because of the way we live.  We aren’t.  We are fallen, broken, and imperfect people who live fallen, broken, and imperfect lives.  Everything we do we do imperfectly.  We serve imperfectly; we give imperfectly; we love imperfectly.  Yet, in spite of all of our imperfections, when our heart beats in tune with the heart of God, when our heart desires to live a life that is pleasing to Him we become a letter from Christ to an unbelieving world.

The Bible teaches that even our best works are “as filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6) before a holy God.

Our God does not “need” our good works . . . as if He needed anything!

But our good works are needed by our fellow man.

God has raised us from death to life to be the hands and feet of Christ in a fallen and broken world.  Yes, our hands get dirty and our feet often stray far from the path God has directed us to follow.  So let me give you the key that unlocks the door which will lead others into a deeper understanding of the Gospel you live and preach, the God you serve, and the epistle you are called to be:

Jesus says in John 13:34-35, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: as I have loved you, that you also love one another.  By this all men know that you are My disciples, if you have love one another.”

Let me ask you: based on this command from our Savior, what kind of epistle have those around you been reading lately?  I must confess that there are times when I dream about the great and grand things I can do for the glory of God . . . when in fact the greatest thing I can do is to be more loving!  In 1 Corinthians 13, known as “the love chapter” to many, the apostle Paul makes it perfectly clear that no matter how spectacular our deeds, if we do them without love, we do them without any redeeming value.  Our works return void, because we are poor, blind, and naked; living more for self than for our Savior.

The Bible teaches us in Ephesians 5:25-33 that the type of love God is talking about is a love that transforms our lives and effectively touches our relationships.  Take note of how many times God inspired the apostle Paul to write the word “love” as he instructs the members of the church of Ephesus about their marital relationships.  Paul says the type of love that God gives is a tangible love that can be seen, felt, and expressed.  These verses tell us three things practically demonstrating that love: (1)Paul says it is a passionate love (Verse 25-26).  This leads one to be sacrificial and self-giving; to be committed to live for the other person; even giving up yourself to demonstrate that love; (2) Paul says it is a purifying love (Verse 27.  This leads one to understand that is our assignment to make our wife/husband more lovely, more holy, etc; (3) Paul says it is a protecting love (Verse 28).  It is important to understand that this type of love is to be expressed in all areas of our life, not just in our married lives.

We are surrounded by people who are searching for answers to questions they don’t even know how to ask.  They strive and ache with a longing they cannot begin to articulate.  If you have trusted in Christ’s atoning death on your behalf, you possess the truth; unbelievers will look to our truth when it is lived out in the life of someone whose words and actions clearly communicate the love of Christ.  The love of Christ is not only meant to compel us, it is to convince others we have something they desperately need, even though they will not admit they want it.  If you want to be a “living epistle” that attracts rather than repels, let the love of Christ guide, govern, and direct your steps. And in those times when you stumble or fall, tell the watching world that your sin is why you needed a Savior who would die on a cross to pay for your sins.  And He is waiting to welcome them also!

His invitation is simple and comforting:

“Come to Me, all ou who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am meek and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light.”  (Matthew 11:28-30)

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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Pulling Yourself Up By Your Own Bootstraps

Grace For The Journey

graceforthejourneythemefor2017

2AugWe are raised in a culture which teaches us not to show our weaknesses.  We are told that we can improve our situation through our own efforts.  A phrase that is commonly used for this is “pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps.”   The origin of this descriptive phrase isn’t known.  It refers of course to boots and the straps that some have attached to help the wearer pull them on; and to the imagined feat of a lifting oneself off the ground by pulling on one’s bootstraps. This impossible task is supposed to exemplify the achievement in getting out of a difficult situation by one’s own efforts.

If you’ll give it just a little thought, you’ll see just how ludicrous this “bootstrap” idea really is.  No matter how hard you pull on your own bootstraps while standing in your boots, you will never be able to lift yourself up off the ground!

So, if that is not a good way to face situations in our lives, what are we to do?  How are we to get on in this life and do the things God is calling is to do, especially when the odds often seem to be stacked against us?

The Bible says in Psalm 29:9, “Do not hide Your face from me, do not turn Your servant away in anger; You have been my helper.  Do not reject me or forsake me, God my Savior.”

The Bible teaches that we were never designed to be “pulling ourselves up by our own bootstraps” independently and apart from God.  Our need for God did not begin in the Garden of Eden after the Fall, as many mistakenly believe.  We were created with that need, and our needs are to be met only by God.

We were made by Him, in Him, and for Him;

That means we are fully dependent upon Him.

Here’s some really good news:

The fruit of your labor is not dependent upon you!

Your success in life does not rest squarely upon your shoulders.

The goal for every child of God is simply to be faithful and leave the fruits of our labor in the hands of the Almighty.

When you read in Scripture about the lives of some of the great saints, you see just how needy they really were.

  • Abraham and Sarah were old.
  • Moses was not an eloquent speaker and needed Aaron to be his spokesman.
  • Elijah fought depression and feeling of hopelessness and needed to be strengthened by God.
  • Martha was a workaholic and needed a new perspective . . . which was provided by her sister Mary, who sat calmly at the feet of Jesus.
  • Peter was impulsive and ill-tempered and needed the patience of his Savior and Lord.
  • Timothy was timid and fearful and needed the encouragement and boldness of God.

We all have more needs than we might care to admit.  But instead of expending all of our energy trying to hide our needs and construct a façade to present to others, we do better to simply identify our needs and look to God, who has been and always will be our Helper!  In looking to God, we often find that He sends us helpers in the form of friends, family, and even complete strangers.

As we go about the business of life, we can easily forget just how needy we really are and how much we need God’s help each day . . . until we have gone too long looking in the wrong direction!  When we keep looking to ourselves, attempting to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps, we get worn down, beat up, and burned out.  God is the ultimate and only help we need, regardless of the circumstances we are facing.

He not only saves us from our sin, He saves us from ourselves!

His gracious rescue creates the “great exchange,” where we are decreasing and He is increasing in our lives.

The more we look to and live out the truths of the Gospel, the more these truths will renew our minds, enlarge our hearts, and bend our wills.  This is the place where we begin to embrace the truth that we simply can do nothing apart from Christ.  God wants you to look to Him and no one else for all the help you need to do all the things He has called you to do.  It is God’s grace that sustains you and God’s wisdom that overrules every challenge and trial for your ultimate good.

God is your help for a difficult relationship . . . a troubled marriage . . . a rebellious child . . . trouble on the job . . . a major health concern . . . and any loss you have encountered or will encounter in this life.  You are His, and He has promised to get you home safely.  Sure, the road is long and hard, but He has walked it before you and is walking it with you right now.  So forget about those silly bootstraps and fix your eyes on Christ!

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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