Focus On God’s Love Today

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

14Feb  Today is Valentine’s Day; regardless of where this blog finds you – whether you are in the midst of a storybook romance or dealing with no romance in your life at this time – it seems like a good time to celebrate a heavenly love that “so loved” you.  The inspired pen of John could find no better way to describe this unimaginable love that created you, knows you, sought you, bought you, and seeks you than to use the word “so!”  The Bible says in John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that He gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life.” 

Decades ago, blues icon BB King sang this phrase in one of his songs, “Nobody loves me but my mother . . . and she could be jivin’ me too.”  Think of the implication of that statement.

Have you ever wondered just how loved you really are?

I want you to consider the truth that is presented in today’s blog and let it sink into your heart – not just on Valentine’s Day, but every day throughout the coming year.

Jesus did not come because of sin; He came because of love.  Sin happened long before Adam and Eve were created.  Adam and Eve were the first human sinners, but there was a sinful creature lurking in the Garden of Eden who had embraced a wicked, depraved, and fallen condition long before God breathed life into the first two human beings.

Let’s take a look at the prophet Isaiah’s account:

“How you have fallen from heaven, morning star, son of the dawn! You have been cast down to earth, you who once laid low the nations! You said in your heart, “I will ascend to the heavens; I will raise my throne above the stars of God; I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly, on the utmost heights of Mount Zaphon. I will ascend above the tops of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High!”  (Isaiah 14:12-14)

Satan’s grandiose ambitions ended very badly!  The Lord Jesus told His disciples, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven” (Luke 10:18).

Adam and Eve followed the voice of the Serpent (Satan, the fallen angel) and thumbed their noses at God, just as Satan did.  They centered their entire existence on the same “I” that inflamed the heart of Lucifer.  Notice that this “I” is in the middle of both SIN and PRIDE!  Satan was filled with sinful pride, and he convinced Adam and Eve to focus on “I” rather than the great “I AM.”

Take a look at Satan’s five ‘I WILLS,” as recorded by Isaiah:

  • I WILL ascend to the heavens.
  • I WILL raise my throne above the stars of God.
  • I WILL sit enthroned on the mount of assembly.
  • I WILL ascend above the tops of the clouds.
  • I WILL make myself like the Most High.

For Lucifer, it was not enough

To be in the presence of God;

He coveted the position of God.

For Adam and Eve, it was not enough for them to be made in the image of God; they too wanted to be in the position of God.  And all mankind has been pursuing that same awful ambition ever since.

So if sin already existed before men and women were created, and God did not go after Satan, the first sinner, to redeem him, there had to be something else besides sin that motivated God to pursue those first two human rebels.  And that motivation, dear reader, was the “special love,” the “so loved” love that God has for humanity . . . the special love He has for you!  For God “so loved” you that He sent His Son to die on a cross so that you would never die, but have eternal life.

God could have pursued the fallen angels, but He did not.  He chose instead to pursue fallen humanity and to send His precious Son to redeem those who were His special image-bearers (Genesis 1:26).

This Gospel truth in all its glory

Makes it crystal clear

That God’s love for us is unparalleled.

The love of God has for you in Jesus Christ is

As measureless as it is fathomless;

Truly, it cannot be explained.

Paul said the love God has for us in Christ “surpasses knowledge,” and yet he prayed that we would be given the supernatural power “to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ” (Ephesians 3:18-19).

The best we can do is simply acknowledge that we are “so loved” and receive that love by faith and respond to the One who showers it upon us with a heart of adoring gratitude – not only daily, but moment by moment.

Let’s focus upon His love

On this Valentine’s Day

And Every Day!

This is God Word … This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

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

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

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What’s The Point?

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

13Feb  Deep inside of every human being is the need to discover the answer to this penetrating question: What’s the point?  There are, of course, only two possible answers: the first is you; the second is God.

So . . . what’s the point of your life?  Is it you? Or is it Jesus?

When you are the point, life becomes all about your success . . . your fulfillment . . . your happiness . . . your significance.  Your goals are rooted in what you want and how you want your life to work out.

The key question you continually ask and order your life around is,

“What’s in it for me?”

When you become the point of your life, you point only to yourself.  As someone has said, “At this level of living you have shrunk the size of your life down to the size of your life!”

On the other hand, when Jesus is the point, life becomes all about the advancement of His kingdom, regardless of the cost or circumstance.  You main goal becomes knowing Christ and living by His power (Philippians 4:10 – “… That I may know Him and the power of His resurrection …”).

The key question you continually ask and order your life around is,

“What’s in it for the King and the advancement of His kingdom?”

Jesus becomes the point of your life,

And

When He is the point you point to Him.

This might be a moment for some self-examination.  Is what you are currently doing advancing the cause of Christ’s kingdom?  Or are you busy building your kingdom?

Are you the point of your life or is Jesus the point of your life?

Only the transforming power of the Gospel can keep Jesus in His rightful position as the point of life.  Grace empowers you to live for another King and His kingdom.  You are able to look past your own good and live for the good of others and the glory of God. Your life expands beyond the borders of your own cares and concerns to the cares and concerns of Christ.  This is living large for a glory beyond your own.  This is “big living,” lived by “big Christians,” who are living doxologically – living coram deo, before the face of God – living for the glory of God.  Everything in life becomes an act of worship and echoes in eternity.

Adam and Eve lived this way in the Garden . . . until they changed the point of life from God to themselves.  Instead of pointing to their Creator, they pointed to the creature (themselves) and plunged all of creation into a catastrophic Fall, where the entire created order turned inward and plummeted downward.

Apart from Jesus, we are every bit as willful and rebellious and self-absorbed as our first parents.  But after Jesus comes into our lives, we have the ability to make Him the point of our lives once again.

The grace of the Gospel enables us to point up to Jesus and out to others.

In doing so, we live the way we were originally designed to live

– for God and His magnificent glory.

This is God Word … This is Grace for your 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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Facing Giants . . . What Do You See?

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

  The Bible records in Numbers 13 what happened when Israel came to the borders the Promise Land.  God told Moses to select one man from each of the twelve tribes to go in and scout the land that God had promised to give to them.  When the men returned, ten of them saw giants; only two saw their giant God!

Today’s blog deals with the question all of us face as we walk with God on life’s journey . . . What do you see as you face your “Canaans” today?

Are you more focused on the obstacles you are facing

Rather than the omnipotence of the heavenly Father?

Do you trust that He will overcome all those obstacles

As you move toward the life He has promised you?

Are you more focused on your problems or on the Prince of Peace?

We all need to be reminded daily that it is not

The size of the giants we face in life that makes the difference

In how our lives work out, it is the size of our God!

And our God is bigger than any giant we will ever face!

From the boardroom, to the locker room, to the family room, we all look toward our own “Canaan,” and we can become deeply discouraged if we focus on the wrong things.  We can let the giants of life get the best of us, just like the ten spies did who convinced a nation to live by sight rather than by faith.

Joshua and Caleb saw the same giants and fortified cities the other ten spies saw, but they chose to focus more on the size of their God than the size of the giants that stood in their path.

  • They had seen God deliver Israel from 400 years of bondage in Egypt with a mighty hand.
  • They had seen God separate the waters of the Red Sea and an entire nation walk through on dry ground.
  • They saw the pursuing Egyptians swallowed up by that same Red Sea as God brought the water back together again.

They knew that nothing was impossible with God!

Can the same be said about you today?  Regardless of whatever trouble you are facing in your personal “Canaan,” if you have accepted Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, you are not facing it alone.  You face it with a God who is bigger, stronger, and wiser than any giant you will ever encounter.  This poem by Gertrude Jefferies is a great reminder of that . . .

GOD IS ABLE

God is able, oh so able
To restore that peace within,
That was lost by sin and straying
From the Master’s fold within.

God is able, oh so able
To supply your every need.
Trust Him when the way seem darkest,
Lean on Him, and let Him lead.

For He is the Master Builder,
For your life He has a plan;
Though it seem to you confusion,
Trust Him, give Him full command.

He can take the broken pieces
Of a life that’s ruined by sin,
Make them into something beautiful,
Clean and pure, and whole again.

Because the Israelites listened to the ten spies who focused more on giants than on their God, they wandered in the wilderness for forty years.  Wilderness wandering is reserved for those who shift their focus away from God and put it on the giants of life.

But this is not what God wants for His children!  The cure for whatever “Canaan” you are facing is to remember that “greater is He who is in you than he (the anyone or anything) that is in the world.”

You have His Word on it!

This is God Word … This is Grace for your 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

What Is Your Heart Drawn To . . .?

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

09Feb  How would you answer that question?  Would you be offended to be even asked such a question?  I hope not, because we are all struggling heat attractions since the fall of Adam and Eve in the Garden.  What started out as a “heart commitment to the Almighty,” which is great, wound up being a “heart commitment to sin and self,” which is not great at all!   Mankind has been on a downward spiral ever since, moving from relationship with God to rebellion against God.  Let me make this perfectly clear: for Christians, if our heat attraction is not to the Almighty, it’s the wrong attraction!

As a pastor, I have counseled people who are facing very difficult and often debilitating addictions: workaholism, gambling, alcohol, drugs, food, pornography, success, money, image, approval, or acceptance, to name some of the most common.  Regardless of the addiction, the goal of our counseling sessions is to identify what the person views as their missing link in life that compels them to surrender to their particular addiction.  You see, it’s not the actual thing they are addicted to that they believe is meeting their needs; it’s what they get from their addiction that is.  And what they get is only a fleeting, illusory filling of the void that runs deep within their souls.

What we all need is a little Gospel-satisfaction in our lives.  The Gospel tells us that we all have a hole in our soul; that hole is in need of constant filling, or we will feel empty, lost, and hopeless.  But when we try to fill the hole with anything other than God, the filling never lasts – and in fact, it only makes us try harder the next time to fill it more.  Apart from a personal relationship with the Almighty, this vicious cycle never ends.  We move frantically from one attraction to another, in a fruitless attempt to fill the hole that can only be filled by Jesus Christ.

Many Christians remember that when they were first saved, they sensed an overwhelming sense of fulfillment, joy, and peace – a filling of that hole in their soul.  This is what the Gospel is designed to do.  It fills the void caused by sin with life, love, forgiveness, joy, freedom, and faithfulness.  The problem is that many move on from the Gospel, thinking it was only meant to start the filling process by getting them saved.

They see the Gospel only as the “door”

Leading into the Christian life;

They miss the truth that it is also

The “material” upon which they are

To build their entire existence.

Only the Gospel of Jesus Christ can fill the hole in our soul, satisfy our soul, and keep on filling it for the rest of our lives.   Nothing in this world can do what only the Jesus can do, and God designed it for just that reason.  Some think they can fill the hole in their soul completely and finding deep satisfaction in work, or success, the applause of man, of some other worldly pursuit.  If this was possible we would never long for or look to God.  We would live like Adam and Eve attempted to live – autonomous and apart from the rule of God.  Yet, to attempt to live this way is to deny our reason and purpose for living.

All of life needs to be centered in and built upon the truths of the Gospel, the finished work of Jesus Christ.  This is the one thing God designed to fill the void and keep on filling it without any effort on our part.  That’s the point of grace!  It’s a gift that has been given freely and completely and it never stops giving.

Tim Keller writes, “We can make him the new center of our lives and stop trying to be our own Savior and Lord.  We can accept both his challenge to recognize ourselves as sinners in need of his salvation, and his renewing love as the new basis of our identity.”

We need to keep looking to Jesus and stop looking to, and longing for, anything else.  With hearts “drawn to the Almighty,” we will find a filling that overflows from the Fount of every blessing (John 10:10).

So . . . what are you addicted to today … what is your heart drawn to?  Would a little reorientation of the heart do you some good?

This is God Word … This is Grace for your 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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Jesus Didn’t Die To Make You Good!

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

8Feb

Now I know the title of today’s blog may sound a little radical, but radical is what the Gospel is all about.

This is the power of the Gospel –

The Gospel doesn’t make bad people good;

The Gospel makes dead people alive!

That’s the difference between the gospel of Jesus Christ and every other world religion.  All other religions exhort their followers to save themselves by being good, by conforming their lives to whatever their worshiped deity is.  But . . .

The gospel is God’s acceptance of us

Based on what Christ has done,

Not on what we can do.

In other words . . .

Jesus didn’t die to make you good;

He died to make you His,

By raising you from death to life.

And that, my friend, should change everything for you!

  • Life in Christ is not about what you can do for Him, but rather what He has already done for you.
  • Life in Christ is not about what you can give to Him, but what He has already given to you.

Because you are His, you are loved – not because of what you do, but because of who you are: His!  And as a child of the Most High God, you are forever loved unconditionally, no matter what you do.

If Jesus died to make you good, the Bible would be nothing more than a book of rules and regulations for religious people.  It would instruct you on what to do in order to be loved, accepted, and blessed by God.

In essence, the Bible would be all about you.

However, if Jesus died to make you His – before you did anything good and in spite of your sin – then . . .

It has to be all about Him and what He has already done for you.

You see . . .

Your goodness (obedience)

Does not precede acceptance.

It flows out from it.

The Bible says in 1 John 4:19, “We love Him because He first loved us.”  The moralists, who think the Christian life is about being good, believe that they can expect God’s favor only when they are good.  They are trusting in their own goodness to broker God’s approval, not in their Savior.  They believe God is keeping score, and at the end of the day, they hope to have more points on the “good” side of the ledger rather than the “bad” side, so that God will bless them instead of curse them.

But those who know they are already accepted in Christ find their desire for obedience flowing like a river out of a heart that is overwhelmed with thanksgiving for all that Jesus has done for them.  I have learned over the years that only those who know they are loved, in spite of their sin and shortcomings, find the continual strength to get back up and go further into their “so-great salvation.”

Think about it for a moment: How good would the “Good News” really be if the only way you could share in it was because you earned it and deserved it?  I don’t know about you, but no way that would be “good news” for me!  If I thought for a second my relationship to Jesus and the blessings He gives to me was dependent upon me, I would be driven into the ashes of utter despair.  The “Good News” would cease to be good; instead it would be “impossible news.”  I know just how bad I really am!

So the next time you are feeling down because you have fallen short of the biblical mark for your life in some area, remember Jesus died to make you His.  When He said, “It is finished!” He was speaking about more than His atonement for our sin; He was also speaking about His acceptance of us.  Jesus can’t love you anymore because of the good things you do, and He can’t love you any less because of the bad things you do.  Make no mistake, the finished love of Jesus is a love that is never finished!

This is God Word … This is Grace for your 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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Memorials To The Master

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

07FebThe Apostle Paul wrote, by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, in Colossians 4:18, “I Paul, write this greeting in my own hand. Remember my chains. Grace be with you.”

Paul is writing the Christians at Colossae and telling them that his life is a memorial for the Lord Jesus Christ.  I want us to think about what kind of a memorial are we leaving for our precious Lord in today’s blog.  There are a variety of ways to define the word memorial, but for our purposes today, this one serves as the best: a memorial serves to help people remember some person. 

For the Christian, there are really three ways to memorialize our Master:

  • With our speech
  • In our service
  • And through our suffering

After years in the ministry, serving the Lord Jesus as a pastor, I have had numerous precious souls, whom God has given me the privilege to serving, share the hardships and happy times of their witness for the Lord, work of the Lord, and warring with the Lord.  I have rejoiced with those who rejoice and wept with those who weep.  In the majority of those times of sharing the person’s devotion to the Lord has been not only a powerful witness of God’s faithfulness, but also a powerful testimony of their commitment and trust in Him.

I am convinced that the greatest depth of our devotion to our Master is revealed in the third of these actions – our suffering.

Think of the great apostle Paul and the magnificent memorials he left behind for all the world to read and remember regarding his Master. Paul left us many speeches, sermons, and epistles; he left some magnificent miracles; but he also left us the memory of his many chains.  Paul’s suffering is the most powerful memorial of all.

Consider these words he penned for the Christians at Corinth in 2 Corinthians 11:23-28, “Are they [false teachers] ministers (servants) of Christ? – I speak as a fool – I am more: In labors more abundant, in stirpes above measure, in prisons more frequently, in deaths often.  From the Jews five times I received forty stripes minus one.  Three times I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned; three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been in the deep; in journeys often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of my own countrymen, in perils of the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; in weariness and toil, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness – besides the others things, what comes upon me daily: my deep concern for all the churches.”

To be sure, there are many ways to measure the depths of Paul’s devotion to Jesus, but none reveals as much as the depths of his suffering.   And the same is true for every disciple of Christ, including you and me.  In our cultural context today, you and I may never experience the physical dangers and suffering that the apostle Paul endured, although many of our brothers and sisters around the world certainly do.  You and I may not be shipwrecked or beaten with rods like Paul, but as we live for our Master, we certainly may be shunned, ridiculed, and mocked.  We may not be lashed or stoned, but we can expect rejection.

I will never forget these words that I read from the late Dr. R. C. Sproul, “When you are out in the world preaching the Gospel of Christ, if some people are not angry with you, one of two things has happened: either they don’t understand what you are preaching or you are not preaching it!”  The Gospel either attracts or repels, and it is our responsibility to share it with others, leaving the results in God’s hands.

So . . . what memorials are you leaving regarding your devotion to Jesus?  May God give us the strength to refuse to be less in our witness, even when our devotion is revealed in the form of suffering.

This is God Word … This is Grace for your 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.

 

The Best Defense … A Godly Offense!

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

06Feb  I am sure you have heard the old adage, “The best defense is a good offense” which simply implies the idea of being proactive rather than reactive.  This phrase is used in a variety of fields: Sports teams that constantly press their opponent and score lots of points will usually win the game.  Armies that don’t wait for the enemy to mount an attack but instead go on the offensive tend to gain the upper hand.

This maxim proves especially true in the spiritual realm.  We are surrounded by the powerful triple threat of . . . the world, the flesh, and the devil.  We face a constant battle on all three fronts, and at times the onslaught seems overwhelming.

So how can possibly gain victory in this ongoing fight?

God tells us how in His Word . . .

He says In Psalm 1:2, “But His delight is in the law of the LORD, and in His law he meditates day and night. He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth its fruit in its season, whose leaf also shall not wither; and whatever he does shall prosper.”

He says in Psalm 119:11, “Your Word have I have hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against You.”

For the Christian, the best offense is a godly, spiritual one:

Staying rooted in the Word of God.

Instead of waiting for the attacks of temptation to test the outer edges of our faithfulness to Christ, we go on the offense by looking to the Lord, learning from on Him, and living by the Holy Scriptures – God’s living and active Word.

You see . . .

The more you are in the Word of God, the more the Word of God gets into you!

In the apostle Paul’s famous “armor of the believer” passage in Ephesians 6:13-18, he exhorts us to take up “the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.”  Bible scholars frequently point out that the Greek translated “sword” here, referred to the short sword that every Roman soldier carried on his belt for hand-to-hand combat.  It was a powerful offensive weapon that the Roman legions used to conquer the world.

You will remember that this “sword” was the weapon that our Lord took up to confront and conquer every temptation Satan threw at Him during His wilderness experience (Matthew 4:1-11).

Three times, Jesus slashed at the devil with these words: “IT IS WRITTEN!”

Our Savior’s encounter with Satan underscores the fact that . . .

As important as it is for us to

Look to God’s Word and

Learn from the Word of God,

We must hide it in our hearts as well.

When we memorize the Word of God, the Holy Spirit can help us recall truths to stand upon throughout our lives, be reassured and given hope through the promises of God, and resist the efforts of Satan, the world, and the flesh to defeat and destroy our walk with God, witness for God, and work of God.

The good news is that for every battle you face against the world, the flesh, and the devil, God has a Scripture to address that specific fight.

Remember: to know what is written, we have to read what was written.

So read your Bible regularly and develop your godly offense.

One final thought: when you find yourself on the losing side of a particular skirmish – as we all will, for we are all sinners – God’s Word has a promise for you to tuck securely into your mind, heart, and soul, so that you can get right back up after you’ve stumbled or fallen and keep on fighting: The Bible says in Hebrews 13:5, “God has said, I will never leave you; nor will I forsake you.”

Remember what God says in His Word, “Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39).

If you have placed your trust in Jesus Christ as your eternal Savior, there is nothing you can do, nor is there anything that the world, the flesh, or the devil can do to you, that will separate you from God’s amazing, gracious, eternal love.

This is God Word … This is Grace for your 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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All Things Are Not Good…But For Our Good

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

05Feb  It is absolutely important to understand what the Bible says and what the Scriptures do not say regarding “all things.”

The Bible says in Romans 8:28, “We know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.”

Notice first what the apostle Paul does not say. He does not say that “All things are good.”  Why?  Simply because all things are not good!

  • Broken families are not good.
  • Sickness and disease are not good.
  • Violence is not good.
  • Verbal and physical abuse are not good.
  • Wars are not good.
  • Loss of life is not good.
  • Our sin is not good.

I’m sure you could add a great many more things to this list.  The Bible never said that all things are good; what it does say is that all things will ultimately work together for good . . . to those who love God.  A lot of bad things happen in this life because everything is broken.  Because of the sin of our first parents, our vertical relationship with God is broken and our horizontal relationships with each other are broken.  In addition to these vertical and horizontal breakdowns, we live in a creation that was once perfect but now groans in frustration and decay (see Romans 8:19-22).  We see evidence of this in the countless diseases and natural disasters that devastate lives all over the world.

It is plain to see that there is a lot of bad in this world.  But in spite of all the bad, God has promised to work all of it out for our good!  Isn’t that good news?  God is working everything we go through – all the pain and suffering and sorrow and loss – for our good.

Now, I know from personal experience that this is very difficult to see when we are in the middle of a mess.  I’m sure you can relate to that!  But as time passes, we often look back and see how God used every bit of that mess for our good.

This is not always the case, however.  As a pastor, I am confronted with some of the really awful things that happen in life, and I often have to acknowledge that we will not see the good on this side of the grave.  And that is why we must trust in this promise:

That the God who made heaven and earth is working everything out for our good.

Here is one of the best ways to look at the difficulties of life:

Picture the cross.

The absolutely worst act of violence and evil occurred when Jesus was crucified on a cross.  To the watching world, Jesus died a criminal’s death as a false prophet and blasphemer.  The disciples went into hiding, fearing that they would meet with the same fate.  But on the third day, the worst thing that ever happened turned out to be the best thing that ever happened!

Remember, whatever you are facing today, God has a different perspective than you do.  He has ordained both the beginning and the end, and He knows precisely what is best for you in your life right now.  We must trust in God, even when we cannot trace His hand, we can trust His heart … and know that all things – the good, the bad, and the ugly – will ultimately work for our good and His glory.

This is God Word … This is Grace for your 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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How Do You Deal With Suffering? Part 4

Grace For The Journey

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20Jan For the last three days we have been looking at the biblical way of dealing with suffering.  We have learned about the principle of suffering – that even Christians will experience times of trouble, tragedy, sorrow, and pain but that God can used that for His glory and our ultimate good.  We also learned about the purpose of trials – God allows trials in our lives to refine their faith.

Today’s blog will the product of trials – We gain the biblical joy by looking to the Savior with faith, hope, and love.

The result of our doing this will be “praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”  Whose praise, glory, and honor is Peter talking about?  Since God alone is worthy of praise, glory, and honor in the ultimate sense, that His praise alone is in view. But there is a secondary sense in which God will reward believers at the coming of Christ with praise (1 Corinthians 4:5; Matthew 25:21, 23), glory (Romans 2:7, 10; Colossians 3:4), and honor (Romans 2:7, 10; 2 Timothy 4:8).  We share these because of our identification with Christ (Romans 8:17), and we will properly cast all honors down at His feet.  Yet, we can endure trials knowing what the future holds for us who are in Christ.

In the last two blogs, we discovered that God takes all whom He loves through trials; and that He does it to refine our faith.  Today we will see that . . .

We can have joy during times of suffering

By looking to the Savior and His salvation.

Peter was led to write “in this you greatly rejoice” (1:6).  This should lead us to ask, “In what?”  The answer to that question is stated in verses 3-5 – In our great salvation.  Even though we are temporarily distressed by our times of suffering and trials, we can look to our Savior and the salvation He has provided, which we already have begun to enjoy, but which we won’t experience in full until He returns.

How do we gain this joy during times of suffering?

I am glad you asked … the Bible teaches we do it by . . .

  • Looking to the Savior with faith.

We’ve already seen that times of suffering and trials are meant to purify our faith.  Peter says (1:8) that inexpressible joy in trials comes through believing in Jesus even though we do not see Him.  We need to understand that faith is not an automatic response. Neither is it passive endurance.  Faith is actively choosing to trust God in spite of my circumstances.  Faith is putting my weight down on the firm promises of God.  Charles Spurgeon said that trials aren’t just to “burn out the dross, but also to burn in the promises.”

In a time of suffering and trials, it seems as if Christ is not there with us.  So by faith we must say, He promised “to be with me even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20), He promised “never to leave or forsake me’ (Hebrews 13:5), so I lay hold of Him right now by faith.”  As Jesus told Thomas, who didn’t believe in His resurrection until he saw Jesus with his own eyes, “Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed” (John 20:29). That’s us!  We will be blessed when we look to the Savior by faith even when we’re in difficult times of sorrow and trials.  It’s our choice and duty.

  • Looking to the Savior with hope.

Note the future look of these verses.  I’ve already mentioned the temporary nature of our trials in light of eternity.  Peter mentions “the revelation of Jesus Christ.”  That means His coming, but it brings out a subtle nuance that is important to grasp, namely, that Jesus is present but unseen right now, but the day is coming when He will be revealed. (Peter repeats this word, in noun or verb form, in 1:5, 7, 13; 4:13; 5:1.)

In addition, Peter emphasizes the future sense of our salvation (1:9).  In the New Testament, there are three tenses of our salvation.  Once we have accepted the redemptive work of Christ on the cross and empty tomb and have asked Him to be our Savior and Lord, we can say, “I have been saved from sin’s penalty” (John 3:36; Titus 3:5-8).  But our salvation does stop there.  All who have been saved will be able to say, “I am being saved from sin’s power” (1 Corinthians 1:18; 15:2).  But our salvation does end there.  Some day we will be saved from sin’s presence (Romans 5:9-10; 13:11; 1 Peter 1:9).  Thus in times of suffering and trial, we look with hope to the Savior who has saved us, is saving us, and will save us completely when He returns.

  • Looking to the Savior with love.

Peter states in 1:8, “Though you have not seen Him, you love Him.”  Love for Jesus Christ in response to His ultimate love for us as seen in the cross, is the central motivation for the Christian life.  It’s so easy to drift into the place of the church in Ephesus, which Jesus commended by saying, “I know your deeds and your toil and perseverance, and that you cannot endure evil men, and you put to the test those who called themselves apostles, and they are not, and you found them to be false; and you have perseverance and have endured for My name’s sake, and have not grown weary.” Wow!  What more could you want, Lord? Jesus gets to the heart of the issue when He concludes, “But I have this against you, that you have left your first love” (Revelation 2:2-4).

It’s easy to drift there in your marriage, isn’t it?  You’re faithful to one another.  You live together in relative harmony.  You function as husband and wife, you raise your children, you pay the bills and do the other things required to run a household.  But somewhere the romance went cold.  You need to rekindle the delight in your spouse you once knew.

It’s the same with the Lord.  We can be dutifully living the Christian life, but we’ve lost the excitement of our relationship with Christ.  I’m talking here not just about commitment, which is the core of love, but also feelings which stem from that commitment.  I agree with Jonathan Edwards, that ‘the core of religion is emotional.”  Our hearts need to be filled with love for Jesus Christ.  Times of suffering and trials cause us to reflect upon all that Jesus has done, remember how good, faithful, and loving He is to us, and revive our love and appreciation for His presence, power, and provisions at every turn of our lives.

How do we cultivate and maintain that kind of love for our unseen Savior? Three suggestions:

First, Spend time alone with Him.  You can’t cultivate love for your mate if you never spend time alone together.  If you want to love the Lord more, spend time alone with Him in His Word and in prayer.

Second, Obey Him.  In our day of “sloppy grace,” people think that obedience is legalism and has no place under grace.  Those who think so need to read their Bibles. Jesus said, “If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love” (John 15:10). The apostle John wrote, “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments” (1 John 5:3).  If you are disobeying God, you will not be able to love Him as you should.

Third, Come frequently to the Lord’s table.  It is a time to look to the Savior and the salvation He provided for us at the price of His blood.  He knew that we tend to forget, so He instructed us to do it often “in remembrance of Him.”  It’s a time to receive His love and express your love back to Him. As you look to Christ and His salvation, as seen in those elements, you will experience His joy, even during the difficult times of suffering and trials.

This is God Word … This is Grace for your 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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How Do You Deal With Suffering? Part 3

Grace For The Trials

2018BlogTheme

 

20Jan   For the last three days we have been looking at the biblical way of dealing with suffering.  We have learned about the principle of suffering – that even Christians will experience times of trouble, tragedy, sorrow, and pain but that God can use that for His glory and our ultimate good.  We also learned about the purpose of trials – God allows trials in our lives to refine their faith.  Today we will look at the need to have the proper perspective while going through times of suffering and trials – to see that they are temporary, necessary, and under God’s control.

Kay and I used to fly out to California when my older sister lived there to visit her, attend a Pastor’s Conference, and have some down time with each other.  I like to fly because it was not only the quickest way to get from Missouri to the west coast but it provided  the most panoramic views of the vast landscape of America.  While flying, you can see the whole lay of the land … You gain perspective that you simply can’t get while you’re driving the roads below.

In the same way, it helps to gain God’s perspective when we go through times of suffering and trials.  Peter does that (1:6) by reminding us that they are temporary: “for a little while.”  Maybe you’re thinking, “A little while? Good grief, I’ve been going through this trial for years!”  That’s a little while compared to eternity.  Paul expressed the same thing when he said, “For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.  While we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen.  For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:17-18).

Trials are temporary; salvation is eternal.  In a short while, Jesus Christ is returning in glory and we will spend all eternity with Him.  Our present trials, no matter how great, will pale in significance in the light of eternity.  Thus, in the midst of our pain, we can have great joy if we will focus on the shortness of time and the eternal glory that awaits us when Jesus returns.

Peter also adds perspective by saying that trials are necessary (“if need be”).  They are necessary, as we saw yesterday, to refine our faith.  But also, I think Charles Spurgeon is right when he says that not only “the trials but also the distress, is necessary.”  He argues (“The Christian’s Heaviness and Rejoicing,” Spurgeon’s Sermons [Baker], 5:210-221) that it is needful that sometimes a Christian’s spirit even be cast down. Christ experienced distress even unto death in the garden.  If a Christian doesn’t go through those times when he is depressed, Spurgeon argues, he will grow proud, he won’t be able to relate to others who suffer, and he will miss lessons that we learn no other way.  He cites Luther as saying that “affliction is the best book in my library.”

Malcolm Muggeridge, who became a Christian before his death, said late in his life, “Contrary to what might be expected, I look back on experiences that at the time seemed especially desolating and painful with particular satisfaction.  Indeed, everything I have learned, everything that has truly enhanced and enlightened my existence, has been through affliction and not through happiness” (Reader’s Digest [1/91], p. 158).

The third perspective Peter offers is that trials are under God’s control.  The overall implication here is . . . that God is using trials as a goldsmith, watching the molten metal, skimming off the dross until He can see His face reflected in it.  To know that God is sovereign is a great comfort when you’re going through trials.  He hasn’t forgotten you. He wasn’t asleep or on vacation when your problem hit.  He is working all things, including our trials, for good according to His sovereign plan (Ephesians 1:11; Revelation 6:9-11).

Having a proper perspective on suffering and trials [that they are temporary, necessary, and under God’s control] helps us respond properly the principle of suffering [even Christians will go through times of trouble, tragedy, sorrow, and pain] and the purpose of suffering [God allows times of suffering and trials to refine our faith].

Tomorrow we will look at the product of trials.

This is God Word … This is Grace for your 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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