STRENGTH IN THE SEA OF TROUBLE

Grace For The Journey

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14Nov  Regardless of where this finds you today, could you use a little extra strength to get you through everything you are going through?  If you could use a word of encouragement, read on!

The Bible says in Zechariah 10:11-12, “‘They will pass through the sea of trouble; the surging sea will be subdued and all the depths of the Nile will dry up . . . I will strengthen them in the LORD and in His name they will walk,’ declares the LORD.

Notice a few things that God told His people through the prophet Zechariah.

First, they would find themselves in the sea of trouble. The people of God were never promised calm seas . . . only safe passage. “They will pass through the sea of trouble,” the Lord said.  This means that whatever you are currently going through, you are going through it.

You will be brought out on the other side by God’s mighty hand!

Next, God promises to strengthen His people as they are passing through the sea of trouble.  So instead of getting weaker along the way, as we would expect in the economy of this world, God promises that we will go from strength to strength.  The Bible says in Psalm 84:7, “They go from strength to strength; each one appears before God in Zion.”  You may be thinking, “How is that possible?”  It is possible because we go – not in our name – but “in His name,” and . . .

There is power in the name of our God!

Finally, notice that the strength our Lord gives us causes us to walk, which suggests forward progress.  It’s true that it is possible for us to walk backwards, and at times we do just that in our proverbial “one step forward and two steps back” mode of growth in the Lord.  But here God is assuring us through His Word that He will give us the strength to go through everything He is calling us to go through.

So regardless of the “surging sea” you may be facing today, it will be subdued in the name of your Savior!  There is a special word of comfort when God says in the above passage, “the depths of the Nile will dry up.”

Imagine what power and might would be required to make that happen!

Just like the children of Israel who walked along on dry ground, with surging walls of water on both sides as God parted the Red Sea, God will dry up any “surging sea” you may be facing today.

Oh, by the way . . . do you remember the end of the Red Sea story?  God caused the waters to swallow up all the pursuing enemies of His people.  The Bible records in Exodus 14:28, “The water flowed back and covered the chariots and horsemen – the entire army of Pharaoh that had followed the Israelites into the sea. Not one of them survived.”

Call on His name today; He is ready to do the same for you right now!

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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REMEMBER AND RISE!

Grace For The Journey

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13Nov  We all face a multitude of challenges on a daily basis. There is a wonderful word our Lord has given to His children, so that we will not be surprised when the winds of challenge begin to blow in their direction.

The Bible says in John 16:33, “I (Jesus) have told you these things, so that in Me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble.  But take heart!  I have overcome the world.”

Notice that Jesus promises both trouble and triumph as we live in this world. We will face all sorts of trouble on this side of the grave, but our Lord has overcome it all.  And because we are united by faith to Him, we too have overcome it all.

I want to share a deep biblical truth with you that will help you when you face challenges in life:

Remember and rise!

Here is what I mean . . .

Current danger can be overcome by remembering past deliverances.

It helped David and it will help you.

In 1 Samuel 17:37, the Bible records David saying to Saul, “The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.”

David knew what we all know by way of experience, that if we will simply look back, we will see what God has been doing in our lives.  Just like David, God has delivered you out of the paw of the lion and the bear.  Now, it is unlikely that you were confronted with a real, live lion or bear.  It’s far more likely that God has delivered you from the “lion of loss” or the “bear of burden” on more than one occasion.  The key, then, is to remember and rise above your current difficulties!

David was careful to acknowledge that he did not conquer the lion and the bear in his own strength.  He conquered them in the strength of His God, who was gracious to deliver him out of trouble and into triumph.  Will God not do the same for you today, as He has done repeatedly for you in the past?  God said He will never leave you nor forsake you, so you can be assured that He will deliver you once again from whatever “lion” or “bear” you are facing today.

You do remember what happened between David and that giant Philistine, don’t you? David was trusting in God, who delivered him in the past and would deliver him once again.

And that is exactly what God did.

Facing overwhelming odds in the form of Goliath,

David overcame in the strength of the Almighty.

Take a moment to reflect on all of your past deliverances and determine to face whatever challenge lies before you today.  You can be sure that what God did for you in the past, He will do again today.

You have His Word on 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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Never Forget … Always Be Thankful For Our Veterans

Grace For The Journey

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

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

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

Here is a fact that few of us know, because we live in a culture that cares less and less for the things of God.  On June 4, 1926, Congress passed a resolution that the recurring anniversary of November 11, 1918, “Should be commemorated with thanksgiving and prayer.”  

That is what we all should do – Not only on Veterans Day,

But every day throughout the year.

 We ought to thank our God for the great gift of the countless brave men and women who served and sacrificed to secure our freedom and pray for them and their families.

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

The Bible tells us in James 4:1-3, “Where do wars and fights come from among?  Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members?  You lust and do not have.  You murder and covet and cannot obtain.  You fight and war.  Yet you do not have because you do not ask.  You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures.”

It wasn’t long after Adam and Eve sinned that Cain, the firstborn of our first parents, killed his younger brother, Abel.  From that moment on, the pages of Scripture and written history are filled with wars.

But, there is a day coming when no one will serve in any armed forces anywhere, because Jesus fought and won the ultimate battle against sin, Satan, and death itself!  Hanging on the cross, Jesus took all the punishment for our sin and became the death of death. On the third day, He rose from the grave, proof positive that God the Father was fully pleased with Christ’s atoning work.  And what Jesus began in His first coming, He will finish in His second; there will be no more tears, no more sorrow, no more wars, and no more death.  The lion will lie down with the lamb, and peace will reign forever and ever.

Until that day, let us pause and thank our God for the great gift of our veterans.  In this great nation, God blesses us by raising up men and women of courage and commitment who are willing to pay the ultimate price to ensure our freedom by serving in our armed forces.  Let us salute all those who have served.  Let us thank God for them and pray for them and their families.  And let us never forget all those who have fought for our freedom – all paying some . . . and some paying all.

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

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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Do I Matter?

Grace For The Journey

9Nov  When was the last time you wondered, “Do I matter?”  Notice I did not ask, “Have you ever wondered, ‘Do I matter?’”  We have all wondered if we matter, and for many of us it was on more than one occasion . . . and recently!

Have you ever heard the phrase, “Mind over matter; I don’t mind and you don’t matter?”  The world says you matter only to the extent that you have power, position, prestige, prosperity, or pedigree.  We live in a world that judges a man by the size of his bankroll and a woman by her external beauty.

But in God’s economy, the world has been turned upside down.

The Bible says in 1 Samuel 16:7, “The Lord said to Samuel, ‘Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him.  For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.’”

Here is great news . . . You matter to the only One who truly matters!

You matter to God, not because of what you have or what you have done, but because of who you are – You are created by God and have the opportunity to know His love and life in Jesus.

Let me ask you a question, “What do birds, hairs, and flowers have in common?”  They all matter to God, and are continually under His divine care.  Because “God doesn’t make any junk,” everything He has made matters to Him.

The Bible says in Luke 12:6-7, 24, 27, “Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies?  And not one of them is forgotten before God.  Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered” … “Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them.  Of how much more value are you than the birds” … Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.”

Perhaps you are going through a difficult season right now and feel like you don’t matter much to anyone, including God.  Maybe you feel unimportant, unwanted, under-appreciated, or unloved.  Is it possible you feel like you are only a number at work, a nobody at church, and a knucklehead at home?  If that is the case, this blog is written to cheer you up!

The Bible teaches us that birds matter to God … and flowers matter to God … If the Creator of the universe takes special care of birds and flowers, how much more will He take care of you!  The fact that He knows the number of hairs on your head no matter how plentiful or sparse they might be) should be a source of great comfort to you today.

You matter to God more than you could ever imagine!

He knows the nights we toss and turn on our beds; the Bible even says He knows the number of ever tears we’ve shed (Psalm 56:8 – “You number my wanderings; put my tears into your bottle; Are they not in Your book?!”

Unlike birds and flowers, you were made in the image of God.  To be sure, since the fall of Adam and Eve in the garden, that image has been marred, twisted, and stained with sin, but still it is the image of God.  As His image bearers, God is infinitely more concerned for you than anything else in the entire universe.  So much so, He sent His only Son to the cross to pay the penalty for your sin.

You matter to God, and that should matter to 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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The Worst Investment In The World

Grace For The Journey

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  It is important, especially in our current economy, to understand the difference between a good investment and a bad investment.  However, in God’s economy, it is more than important; it is the difference between life and death!  The best possible investment in the world is the investment we make in expanding the cause of God’s kingdom in this world.  The worst investment in the world is the investment we make in expanding the cause of our own little kingdom.

How have you been investing lately?

The Bible says in Luke 12:16-21, “Then He [Jesus] spoke this parable to them: ‘“The ground of a certain rich man yielded plentifully.  And he thought within himself, saying, ‘What shall I do, since I have no room to store my crops?’  So he said, ‘I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build greater, and there I will store all my crops and my goods.’  And I will say to my soul, ‘Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry.’  But God said to him, ‘Fool!  This night your soul will be required of you, then whose will those things be which you have provided/” So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and Is not rich toward God.”

You know you are expanding the kingdom of the self when the accumulation of stuff seems functionally more important and satisfying than a growing relationship with your Savior.  The man in this parable focused on expanding his own kingdom rather than the kingdom of God.

He wanted bigger barns rather than a bigger love and heart for God . . .

Which, in the end, is the worst kind of investment we can make in this world.

So . . . is there anything you could identify right now that seems more important and satisfying than your relationship with Jesus?  Where in your life are you investing your time, talent, and treasure to expand your kingdom rather than expand the kingdom of God?

The poorest man in the world who knows God and lives for Him

is worth more than the richest man without Him.

Another sign that you are working to expand the kingdom of self is your focus to store up for yourself the stuff of this life: more money . . . newer clothes . . . a bigger house . . . a fancier car . . . a better body.  In and of themselves, none of these things are bad; they can actually be good gifts from a gracious God.

But when good things become ultimate things they become bad things.

We declare to a watching world what is most important to us simply by the evidence of what we desire most in this life.

What do you desire most in life?

Jesus’ parable challenges each of us to examine our heart to see exactly what it is beating for.  Jesus wants us to be thinking beyond the stuff of this world and all that we are working to accumulate to expand the cause of our little kingdom.  He wants us to see how everything we have been given is to be used for expanding the cause of His kingdom.

As I said previously in this blog, good things become bad things when they become ultimate things.  There is absolutely nothing wrong accumulating wealth and enjoying the things of this world.  What is wrong is when we accumulate it without any concern for expanding God’s kingdom and helping others.

Let us examine our hearts today and consider what matters most to us regarding the good things God has given to us.  Are we simply satisfied with enriching ourselves, which is the worst investment in this world?  Or are we enriching the lives of others?

That difference makes all the difference in the world!

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.”

Mary Marks The Spot

Grace For The Journey

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You’re probably familiar with the phrase “X marks the spot,” which means an “X” has been used to mark the exact spot of something – where to find something, put something, or where something happened.  Well, today I have a word of great encouragement for you, offered by Mary, who “marks the spot” for all Christians to find.

Look at what the Bible says about this . . .

Luke 10:39, “[Martha] had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said.”

John 11:32, “When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, ‘Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.’”

John 12:3, “Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.”

Not just once, but three times Mary of Bethany marks the spot.  She models perfectly the place where every Christian should be found:

At the feet of Jesus.

Notice that Mary had three different experiences at the feet of Jesus . . .

  1. She was taught by Him.
  2. She was comforted by Him.
  3. She worshiped Him.

That about covers it wouldn’t you say?  To be sure, we cannot take the position of Mary at the actual feet of Jesus, but we can assume the posture this position represents:

Both in submission to and dependence on the Lord Jesus Christ.

Mary submitted to Jesus as the Supreme teacher

Mary depended upon Jesus for comfort in crisis

Mary worshiped Jesus sacrificially as she poured out expensive perfume on His feet.

What a wonderful testimony Mary recorded at the feet of Jesus!  What a wonderful testimony you and I would have if the same thing could be said about us.  Bible study and church attendance is time spent at the feet of Jesus.  Prayer is time spent at the feet of Jesus.  Giving sacrificially of our time, talent, and treasure is time spent at the feet of Jesus.  Serving others is time spent at the feet of Jesus.  Sharing the Gospel with others is time spent at the feet of Jesus.

So . . . what is your primary place in life?  What would those closest to you say?

Mary marked the spot that matters most: at the feet of Jesus.

How well are you acquainted with being with Jesus?  What changes do you need to make to begin spending more time there?  Remember, when you spend an hour, you have one less hour to spend.  So, we need to spend it wisely!

And there is no wiser investment of time than to invest it at the feet of 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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The Giver of Grace and Glory

Grace For The Journey

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6Nov  Today’s blog highlights two gifts beyond measure . . . two gifts which are a source of unimaginable comfort to all those who belong to the King of ages.

The Bible says in Psalm 84:11, “The Lord God is a sun and shield; The Lord will give grace and glory.”

What an extraordinary promise!  As the sun gives light and a shield protects, the Lord will give grace and glory.  This truth is so significant that we need to take time to unwrap it.

Notice first, God gives His children grace.  This grace . . .

  • Raises the dead sinner to life.
  • Pardons all his sins
  • Brings him into the family of faith
  • And gives him abundant and forever life.

This is the grace of justification – In Jesus, God the Father regards you just as if you had never sinned and just as if you had always and only done what is right!

But there is more . . . so much more!

God not only gives grace, He also gives glory.

Do you see the incredible promise in this truth?  Glory can only be realized on the other side of the grave.  So when God gives us His grace, He continues giving grace until we are finally and fully received into our heavenly estate.

Charles Spurgeon wrote: “The little conjunction ‘and’ in this verse is a diamond rivet binding the present with the future: grace and glory always go together.  God has married them, and none can divorce them.  The Lord will never deny a soul glory to whom He has freely given to live upon His grace; indeed, glory is nothing more than grace in its Sabbath dress, grace in full bloom, grace like autumn fruit, mellow and perfected.”

The promise inherent in God’s grace is the final state of glory.  God always finishes what He begins and what He began in you He will one day finish.  With Paul, we can be “confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it” (Philippians 1:6).  And that completed state is to be glorified.

Do you see the incredible power in this promise?

The fact that God began His work in you is the guarantee that He will finish it.  Your glorified state is not in your hands and will not be achieved in your strength.  Glory is the gift you have been promised by God, and nothing will get in the way of Omnipotence completing what it started . . . and that includes you!

Regardless of what you are struggling with today, there is a day coming when all your struggles will end:

  • Every foe vanquished.
  • Every storm stilled.
  • Every fire doused.
  • Every obstacle overcome.
  • Every sickness cured.
  • Every problem solved.
  • Every Jordan crossed.

God is not finished with you yet.  And if He chooses to bless you through sunshine or rain . . . clouds or clear skies . . . pain or pleasure, you are being perfected for that great day of perfection.

To know that God never gives grace without glory is to know that a day is coming when there will be no more tears, no more pain, no more sorrow, no more sin, and no more death.  What once was will no longer be, and the saints glorified by His grace will reign with Him forevermore!

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 Five Major Teaching Of The Reformers

Grace For The Journey

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3Nov  Yesterday’s blog dealt with the historical aspect of the Reformation, the current attention given to it in light of its 500th anniversary, and two reasons why we should appreciate the stand and sacrifice of the Reformers.

Today’s blog will deal with further appreciation of the major biblical teachings of the Reformation.  Without these doctrines the Gospel is lost man’s philosophies and religions.

There are five of the major teachings of the reformers by which they distinguished their beliefs from those of the Roman Catholic church of their day.  It is important that we  affirm all five of these beliefs because think they reflect the Bible’s teaching:

Sola Scriptura: The Scripture Alone is the Standard

The doctrine that the Bible alone is the ultimate authority was the “Formal Principle” of the Reformation. In 1521 at the historic interrogation of Luther at the Diet of Worms, he declared his conscience to be captive to the Word of God saying, “Unless I am overcome with testimonies from Scripture or with evident reasons — for I believe neither the Pope nor the Councils, since they have often erred and contradicted one another — I am overcome by the Scripture texts which I have adduced, and my conscience is bound by God’s Word.” Similarly, the Belgic Confession stated, “We believe that [the] holy Scriptures fully contain the will of God, and that whatsoever man ought to believe unto salvation is sufficiently taught therein…Neither may we consider any writings of men, however holy these men may have been, of equal value with those divine Scriptures nor ought we to consider custom or the great multitude, or antiquity, or succession of times and persons, or councils, decrees or statutes, as of equal value with the truth of God… Therefore, we reject with all our hearts whatsoever does not agree with this infallible rule” (VII).

As the Scripture says,
“Open my eyes, that I may behold Wonderful things from Thy law.” (Psalm 119:18)

“I will bow down toward Thy holy temple, And give thanks to Thy name for Thy lovingkindness and Thy truth; For Thou hast magnified Thy word according to all Thy name….” (Psalm 138:2)

“You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them; and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:14-17)
Soli Deo Gloria! For the Glory of God Alone

The Reformation reclaimed the Scriptural teaching of the sovereignty of God over every aspect of the believer’s life.  All of life is to be lived to the glory of God. As the Westminster Shorter Catechism asks, “What is the chief end of man? Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever.” This great and all-consuming purpose was emphasized by those in the 16th and 17th Centuries who sought to reform the church according to the Word of God.  In contrast to the monastic division of life into sacred versus secular perpetuated by Roman Church, the reformers saw all of life to be lived under the Lordship of Christ.  Every activity of the Christian is to be sanctified unto the glory of God.

As the Scripture says,
“Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31)

 “Whoever speaks, let him speak, as it were, the utterances of God; whoever serves, let him do so as by the strength which God supplies; so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever.  (1 Peter 4:11)

“He has made us to be a kingdom, priests to His God and Father; to Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen.” (Revelation 1:6)

Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  To Him be the glory, both now and to the day of eternity. (2 Peter 3:1)

“To Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever.” (Ephesians 3:21)

“Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might, be to our God forever and ever.” (Revelation 7:12)

For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen.” (Romans 11:36)

Solo Christo! By Christ’s Work Alone are We Saved

The Reformation called the church back to faith in Christ as the sole mediator between God and man.  While the Roman church held that “there is a purgatory and that the souls there detained are helped by the intercessions of the faithful” and that “Saints are to be venerated and invoked;” “that their relics are to be venerated” — the reformers taught that salvation was by Christ’s work alone.  As John Calvin said in the Institutes of the Christian Religion, “Christ stepped in, took the punishment upon himself and bore the judgment due to sinners. With his own blood he expiated the sins which made them enemies of God and thereby satisfied him…we look to Christ alone for divine favour and fatherly love!” Likewise the Heidelberg Catechism, Question 30 asks, “Do such then believe in Jesus the only Saviour who seek their salvation and happiness in saints, in themselves, or anywhere else? They do not; for though they boast of him in words yet in deeds they deny Jesus the only deliverer and Saviour: for one of these two things must be true that either Jesus is not a complete Saviour or that they who by a true faith receive this Saviour must find all things in him necessary to their salvation.”

As the Scripture says,
“There is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all, the testimony borne at the proper time…” (1 Timothy 2:5-6)

“For He delivered us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. And He is the image of the invisible God, the first-born of all creation. For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities– all things have been created by Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the first-born from the dead; so that He Himself might come to have first place in everything.” (Colossians 1:13-18)

Sola Gratia: Salvation by Grace Alone

A central cry of the Reformation was salvation by grace.  Though the Roman church taught that Mass is a “sacrifice [which] is truly propitiatory” and that by the Mass “God…grant[s] us grace and the gift of penitence, remits our faults and even our enormous sins” — the reformers returned to the biblical doctrine of salvation by grace through faith.  Our righteous standing before God is imputed to us by grace because of the work of Christ Jesus our Lord.  In contrast to the doctrines of self-merit taught by Rome, sola gratia and the accompanying doctrines of grace — total depravity, unconditional election, particular redemption, and perseverance of the saints — were preached by all the reformers throughout the Protestant movement.  As the Baptist Confession of 1689 says, “Christ, by his obedience and death, did fully discharge the debt of all those that are justified; and did, by the sacrifice of himself in the blood of his cross, undergoing in their stead the penalty due unto them, make a proper, real, and full satisfaction to God’s justice in their behalf;…their justification is only of free grace, that both the exact justice and rich grace of God might be glorified in the justification of sinners.”

As the Scripture says,
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace, which He lavished upon us.” (Ephesians 1:3-8)

Sola Fide: Justification by Faith Alone

The “Material Principle” of the Reformation was justification by faith alone.  As the Westminster Confession of Faith says, “Faith, thus receiving and resting on Christ and his righteousness, is the alone instrument of justification: yet is it not alone in the person justified, but is ever accompanied with all other saving graces, and is no dead faith, but worketh by love.” The Genevan Confession likewise pointed out the necessity of those justified living by faith saying, “We confess that the entrance which we have to the great treasures and riches of the goodness of God that is vouchsafed us is by faith; inasmuch as, in certain confidence and assurance of heart, we believe in the promises of the gospel, and receive Jesus Christ as he is offered to us by the Father and described to us by the Word of God.” (Genevan 11).

As the Scripture says,
“Even so Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness. Therefore, be sure that it is those who are of faith who are sons of Abraham. And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “All the nations shall be blessed in you.” So then those who are of faith are blessed with Abraham, the believer. For as many as are of the works of the Law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who does not abide by all things written in the book of the law, to perform them.” Now that no one is justified by the Law before God is evident; for, “The righteous man shall live by faith.” (Galatians 3:6-11)

That is what the Reformation was all about.  I believe the Reformation has much to do with us, and we are duty-bound to celebrate it . . .

Here is why . . .

At its heart, the Reformation was a rediscovery of the Gospel

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

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

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

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

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Why The Reformation Still Matters

Grace For The Journey

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2NovOctober 31 marked the 500th anniversary of what historians have overwhelmingly agreed is the event that launched the formal beginning of what we call the Reformation.

At the center of the controversial movement was an obscure Augustinian monk in an insignificant German town whose search for peace with God drove him to the Bible, while his frustration with exploitation compelled him to activism.  Both quests set him on a collision course with the established norms and authority of the Roman Catholic Church.

The Reformation was, of course, the birth of Protestantism, which manifested itself in various forms. It was also a revolt against the religious establishment which many considered corrupt in teaching and practice.  This conflict was intense, fracturing western civilization’s religious, political and social spheres.  Because of the wedding of state and church in 16th-century Europe, bloody conflict between states and within their own citizenry resulted.

Now, 500 years later, the hostilities have long since ceased.  In modern western civilization, we now cherish individual freedom in matters of religion.  We have effectively compartmentalized government and religion to keep them out of each other’s business, even if occasionally we find ourselves debating which has the proper jurisdiction on a certain issue.

Five hundred years seems to separate two worlds completely foreign to one another. Those of the 16th century could not have imagined such individual freedom and the toleration of certain beliefs and behaviors today.  Conversely, we can’t imagine people literally killing each other over what we would consider religious issues.  Because of this stark contrast between then and now, it may be natural to wonder why the Reformation should matter to us today.  Why celebrate it?

Among all the complexities of the Reformation — within all its triumphs and tragedies — two key aspects of its significance for faith still need our historical appreciation and current attention and application.

The Reformation offered revolutionary answers for two vital questions:

How do I know what I should know about God?

And

What must I do to have favor with God?

The reformers’ answers to these turned the common notions upside down and ignited a true spiritual awakening.

A renewed authority

The first reason the Reformation still matters: The reformers boldly established the Bible as the supreme authority for the church. The Roman Catholic Church asserted that three sources of authority worked together — the Bible, the papacy and its official laws and customs. In theory these three sources of authority worked harmoniously together. In reality, educated men like Martin Luther saw clearly where popes and councils and Scripture had often contradicted one another.

The reformers declared that for matters of faith it was no longer a matter of what the church hierarchy declared to be true, but whether doctrine and practice were upheld by the clear teaching of the Bible.

This continues to be of vital importance for us today.  Our culture suffers from the church’s lack of biblical authority.  Individualism rules the day, with one’s right to personal opinion seen as a sacred treasure, even in the church.  Our intellectual default is to respect each other’s opinions, which sounds reasonable, tolerant and enlightened. However, it’s pure nonsense if our goal is to know truth.

Truth by nature is specific and absolute, not subject to my opinion.  I am subject to it. We have no problems with this when it comes to subjects like math or physics.  However, many push back at the notion of an absolute religious truth to which we must submit, especially in matters of morality.

For the Reformers, the Word of God would no longer be subject to the control of the church; it would be unleashed so it would dictate to the church the truth of God.

Faith alone

The second reason the Reformation still matters: The reformers, through the Bible, recaptured a biblical understanding of how each of us can have forgiveness and the favor of God.

This understanding became captured in the phrase “justification by faith alone.”  In other words, personal salvation was not the result of earned merit through a sacramental system of religious works and observances.  The Roman Catholic Church had conditioned people to think of salvation as doing.  Protestants seized upon the biblical truth that salvation is about believing, after which came the doing.  Salvation was through grace alone by faith solely based on the merits of Christ alone.

Today, this still must be repeated over and over because human nature continues to want to earn God’s favor.

Martin Luther found himself desperately seeking to accomplish various aspects of devotion in acts of penance and spiritual disciplines.  However, he never achieved peace in his soul but only became more aware of his own hopeless sinful condition. Only when he was enlightened to the truth of the Bible — that the just shall live by faith — did he finally encounter the truth that brought spiritual transformation and satisfaction for the soul.

We must never lose sight of the biblical truth for each man and woman.  Reconciliation with God comes through Christ alone, by grace alone, through faith alone.  Our relationship with our Creator is not based on what we can bring and offer to Him; it is dependent on faith in the person and work of Jesus Christ.  And if that faith is real, then it follows Him, loves Him and keeps His commandments.

The Reformation is not dry, dusty irrelevant history.  What we wrestle with today in regard to questions of authority and how we have favor with God is exactly what they were wrestling with then.  The reformers’ voices still speak loudly to these matters on which we need greater clarity and stronger conviction.  We would be wise to renew our commitment to that for which they sacrificed so much.

Tomorrow we will conclude this topic under topic, The Five Major Teachings Of The Reformers.”

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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GROWING FAINT BUT NOT FAINTING!

Grace For The Journey

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1Nov   There is much on this side of the grave that can bring us to the point of fainting, both in our personal and professional lives.  Yet, the Christian has the formula for not fainting, even as we are growing faint – this truth is found throughout all of the Bible.  Today I’d like to share one of these life-changing, heart-strengthening truths with you.

The Bible says in Psalm 61:2, “From the ends of the earth I call to You, I call as my heart grows faint; lead me to the rock that is higher than I.”

Here is the key that unlocks the door leading to a supernatural strength that will keep us from fainting, regardless of the circumstances we are facing, such as . . .

  • Family troubles
  • Marriage difficulties
  • Parenting challenges
  • Work stress
  • Health issues
  • Financial shortcomings

The list, of course, could go on and on, spotlighting pressures and sorrows that will try our patience and cause our hearts to grow weary and faint.  However, we have a Rock who is higher than what we are, which means we are standing on a Rock who is higher than any challenge we are currently facing.

The great challenge is to remember this Gospel truth

And

Call out to the Lord Jesus Christ, who is our Rock and our Redeemer.

Jesus is overruling all things.  The Bible says in Colossians 1:15-18, “For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers.  All things were created through Him and for Him.  And He is before all things and in Him, all things consist.  And He is the head of the body, the church who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence.” Do you see that?  Jesus Christ our Lord not only created all things but He has the power to rule over all things, and that includes the details of every area of our lives.

We are to trust not in anything other than our Rock . . .

  • Not a resource,
  • Not a relationship,
  • Not any religious practice.

 

Our Rock is not only high enough . . . He is strong enough

to bring us safely through whatever storm we are currently experiencing.

So . . . to what are you looking for your strength?

Has it been everything other than

The One who can actually help you get

Through whatever you are facing?

The Bible tells us to “Look unto Jesus . . .”

I talk to people who don’t know Christ as Savior and Lord who confess that they see prayer as a last resort when all else has failed, rather than THE most powerful source of strength available to us!  Jesus commanded us to “always pray and not give up” (Luke 18:1) and He has assured us that if we have faith the size of a mustard seed (which is a very small seed) we can “say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you” (Matthew 17:20).

What are you facing in your life today that seems like an impassable mountain looming before you?  Call on Jesus, your Rock!  He is the only One who will never leave you, forsake you, or fail you.  He cannot make a promise to you that He will not keep, because it is impossible for Him to lie (Hebrews 6:18).

Perhaps you’re not feeling faint today; it may be that you are currently enjoying a season of great strength.  Well, let me offer this exhortation:

Don’t wait for your strength to run low!

Call out to Jesus, your Rock, and be recharged by the infinite power source He offers to you.  This is the Source that always keeps you from fainting, even when you find yourself feeling faint.

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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