Emotional Resurrection

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

16Mar

In yesterday’s blog, I addressed the reality of the Christian’s periodic valley-like experiences.  In that season we can experience one or more of the following undesirable realities:  1) dryness 2) distance 3) discouragement, and 4) desperation.  Today we will look at the remedy.  My own personal experience is that breakthrough typically comes when we have gone fully though our times of desperation for God.

Desperation is that excruciating and necessary season where we find that our desire

for the presence and power of God eclipses anything and everything else.

It is here that we stop asking for our circumstances to change, as we are now only hungering for that sense of His nearness and covenant, no matter if things improve for us or not.  During the palmist’s journey through the valley we see him instruct his very soul in what needs to occur as he is to come out of the valley.

In four verses, his spiritual equilibrium returns to him and he exclaims, “Hope in God; for I shall again praise Him, my salvation and my God. By day the LORD commands His steadfast love, and at night His song is with me, a prayer to the God of my life. Hope in God; for I shall again praise Him, my salvation and my God” (Psalm 42:5, 6, 8, and 11).

If you are looking for a perfect recipe that you can whip out every time your valley season arrives, I will likely leave you disappointed today.

Because God is not into giving us repeatable, predictable formulas by which to live.

He desires that each trial and test reveals something

new to His children, and produces something new in them.

Because He is supremely worthy, He purposefully inserts unsolvable elements into each valley experience which force us to come to Him with our need.

The Father requires that we trust Him in the end, not in some formula that He gives us.

So, the psalmist doesn’t reveal too many specifics in his answer to his own dilemma.  He simply determines that, while walking through his own valley season, he will wait on his God in steadfast faith.

Waiting and abiding are not spectacular

But they are the core elements in exiting our valleys victoriously.

The psalmist says in the verses above that he will Hope, Praise, Sing, Pray, Hope again and then Praise again.

He preaches to himself that the answer in his valley

Is to fully fixate his heart on the greatness and worthiness of God.

While still in the valley, He confidently declares that God is his lone saving hope.  He pushes through the thicket of his trouble and summons a song from his spirit. He remembers that God is in control of his life, so he counsels himself to hope rather than to despair of being forgotten. At the risk of my sounding overly simplistic, I suggest that the psalmist is showing us that, if we will fight through all of our weakness, fear and trouble, and then lift a hopeful song to Him, the valley will no longer seem like a grave.

This is not fake reporting … it is real and trustworthy news!

The psalmist is experiencing emotional resurrection..

Christian, God is not some stoic scorekeeper sitting on a umpire’s chair in Heaven.  Our praise and trust of Him when we are stretched, pressed, or crushed actually means something to Him.  God is not an inventor remotely operating His robotic creations.  He is a Father – loving, raising, teaching and accompanying those to whom He has imparted precious life.

The valley is not the end of you.

It is your new beginning.

So, with the psalmist, you can Hope…Praise…Sing…Pray…Hope again and then Praise again.

That’s when the light dawns and, for the first time in a long while, you will see that the exit end of your valley has brought you to a high mountain, from which you will have an elevated perspective that you never would have found without walking that valley all the way through.

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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4 Places In Our Valley

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

15Mar  One of my desires in communicating Bible truths is that I might be able to help others in their personal faith-walk with the Lord Jesus Christ.  Over the last forty-eight years, I have been able to experience how amazing it is to walk closely with Jesus Christ.

He has truly become everything to me.

Yet, that becoming involved some intense seasons of Him leading me where I never would have volunteered to go.  You likely have some similar seasons in your history of walking with the Lord Jesus.  These times of trouble, difficulty, and overwhelming circumstances are commonly referred to by us as “the valley.”

In today’s post, I want to look at Psalm 42 and draw attention to four places in “the valley” that Jesus has often taken us though.  Then, in tomorrow’s post, I will explain from this same Psalm 42 why God does this to each one of us who long to become like Jesus.

Before I share the remedy, let’s look together at what the Bible teaches us about the reality of that undesirable and mostly unpleasant walk into “the valley.”

1. The place of dryness – Psalm 42:1-2 says, “As a deer pants for the water brooks, so pants my soul for You, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living        God.  When shall I come and appear before God?”

It happens to all of us.  We ride out the crest of that beautiful wave of nearness, intimacy, and communication with the Lord, only to have that same wave crash on the sun-bleached sands of dryness.  We are doing all the same things we did when times were good and we were so blessed, but we now sense that loss of intensity, fruitfulness, and joy in our relationship with God.  We try harder, but we sense the furthering of dryness.

Days, weeks, and maybe even months can go by and we cannot seem to reclaim those former days of presence-soaked moments with our beloved Lord and King.  We pray longer, read more, serve harder, wait more determinedly … and yet we feel like the spiritual air we breathe is choked with the smog of this world.  In this place in the valley, our weakness is apparent, our minds are distracted, and our fears that we have failed Him begin to arise within us.

Dryness is often the hardest place in “the valley” because, somewhere in this season, we find that none of our actions seem to be able to reverse our reality.  So, we are forced to wait (Isaiah 40:31).  And none of us really enjoys waiting.

2. The place of distance – Psalm 42:3-4 says, “My tears have been my food day and night, while they say continually say to me, ‘Where is your God?’  When I remember these things, I pour out my soul within me, for I used to go with the             multitude; I went with them to the house of God, with the voice of joy and praise,          with the multitude that kept a pilgrim feast.”

I have found that the place of distance is almost always attached to the place of dryness.  As a matter of fact, it seems to me that the sense of dryness is the mother of the sense of distance.  Notice that the “panting after God” has now become the “crying before God.”  Night and day tears have become frequent in this place.  It is also in this place that the accuser’s voice arises and dares you to address the question of where your God has gone.  In the place of distance, the memories of better days, closer communion, and even powerful times of worship seem to creep up in your mind and cause you to long for the past.

Here, you feel like your best days with Jesus are behind you.  You wonder if you have sinned against Him, causing Him to walk away from you.  Thinking back on former days of singing, connecting with believers, and being involved in joyful worship, you begin to wonder if any of it was real.  The place of distance arouses fear and provokes an orphan spirit of questioning, where we wonder, “Where did God go?  When is He coming back?  Will it ever be good again?”  Yes, this place of distance upon “the valley road” is a very troubling experience even for the best of God’s children.

3. The place of discouragement –Psalm 42:5-7 says, “Why are you cast down, O    my soul, and why are you disquieted within me?  Hope in God, for I shall yet      praise Him for the help of His countenance.  O my God, my soul is cast down   within me; therefore I will remember You from the land of the Jordan, and from        the heights of Hermon, from the Hill Mizar.  Deep calls unto deep at the noise of    Your waterfalls; all Your waves and billows have gone over me.”

When “the valley” experiences bring us to the place of discouragement, all our dialogue turns internal.  We start talking to ourselves and wrestling within about how we came to this undesirable place.  Outwardly, we can still be going through the motions – attending church, serving in ministries, saying and doing all the proper Christian things.  Inside our hearts, however, it’s a whirlwind of question marks and a feeling of being drowned by a downpour of frustration and fear.

The psalmist’s own words describe his sense of being drowned under a deluge of trouble from God.  Did you catch that?  In that place of discouragement we are no longer dry.  We are drowning.  We sense that we are about to go under and the only person we are talking with is ourselves.  We look for solutions in the very source of the problem.  And, not surprisingly, we find no suitable answers.  It is here that we truly live in the sense of being cast down by life, by circumstances, and even by God.  I have been here more than once.  I deeply despise this place in the valley because it prevents me from experiencing the victory that I am theologically convinced is mine.  I feel taunted by everything when I am stuck in that place of discouragement.

4. The place of desperation – Psalm 42:9-11 says, “I will say to God my rock, ‘Why have you forgotten me? Why do I go mourning because of the oppression        of the enemy?’   As with a breaking of my bones, my enemies reproach me,      while they say to me all day long, ‘Where is your God?’  Why are you cast down,          O may soul?  And why are you disquieted within me…? 

This, my friend, is where it gets raw.  This is the place upon “the valley” experience where we become brutally honest with ourselves and our struggle.  It is in this place that we must break off from all the dignified decorum that we learned in our “churchified” past.  We want answers when we get to this part of the valley.

It is here that we need to realize that it is necessary to stand against the great accusation of Satan that leads us to scream with the psalmist, “Why have You forgotten me, God?!”  It is vitally important during this part of the journey that we be honest about the sorrow and pain deep within us.

There is good news in the place of our desperation.  This is always the last leg of your journey through the valley.   It is in this place that we finally and fully become honest and transparent before the Father who has seemed so elusive and indifferent towards us as we journeyed through dryness, distance and discouragement.

We know we cannot get out of this place without His aid.

We struggle to stand on faith’s rock.  Yet, within us we are moved to harmonize with Job when he cries out, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him … (Job 13:15a).

Our hearts know, we just nn to . . . shift.

Jesus has led us to the very place that He has designed for us.  The place of our reduction.  The place of our death.  The place of our fullest and absolute surrender.

The next words out of the psalmist’s mouth are, “Hope in God; for I shall yet praise Him, the help of my salvation and my God.”

We begin to learn right there, at our lowest place in “the valley,” that desperation gives birth to hope.

I will unpack this hope and help that we desperately need from God in tomorrow’s blog.

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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To Meditate or Not to Meditate …

 

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

14Mar

Recent studies from the world of psychology have created doubts upon the effectiveness of meditation as a therapy and have undermined the widespread idea that Eastern-style meditation can be good for whatever ails you.  One news article reports:

‘Scientists have revealed the trendy Buddhist practice does not make you more compassionate, less aggressive, or less prejudiced.  Meditation, incorporating a range of spiritual and religious beliefs, has been touted for decades as being able to make the world a better place.  However, researchers from the U.K., New Zealand, and The Netherlands have found meditation doesn’t change how adults behave toward others.”

One popular meditation therapy that is being questioned is mindfulness therapy. According to the website of Psychology Today:

“Mindfulness is a state of active, open attention on the present.  When you’re mindful, you carefully observe your thoughts and feelings without judging them good or bad. Instead of letting your life pass you by, mindfulness means living in the moment and awakening to your current experience, rather than dwelling on the past or anticipating the future.”

Now, this blog is neither adequate to review the evidence nor to come to any conclusion regarding the science behind meditation therapy, but I want to use my blog to provide helpful comments from Scripture about it all.

People of the West are not meditating people.  We are in a big hurry most of the time, and we are more interested in searching for practical solutions on the internet than in searching our souls, or, as someone has put it, in “just sittin’ there thinkin’.”  But the hurry of life has left many cold, and many have turned to the East for help.

Eastern religions have fueled the rise of meditation, a way to slow down and to focus.  It sounds good.  It looks peaceful.  But now scientists tell us, perhaps it is not what it appears.

It is strange that we in the West do not meditate, since our culture springs from a meditating religion.  The Old Testament often speaks of meditation and reveals it to be a normal part of life among God’s people.  Yet, we who follow Christ, within whom the Holy Spirit of God dwells, have little time for engaging our minds in what seems to be “doing nothing.”

But biblical meditation is not “doing nothing.”  Yes, “nothing” is the end result of mindfulness meditation, as we see it explained above.  You become merely an observer, focused upon yourself.  You live “in the moment,” observing “your thoughts and feelings without judging them good or bad” and ignoring both the past and the future.

And if all I can see is me, then really all I can see is nothing!

Biblical meditation is far different from what is proposed in Eastern meditation, especially as it is portrayed in mindfulness.  Listen to the Word of God . . .

Joshua 1:8a, “This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it.”

Psalm 1:1-2, “How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, nor stand in the path of sinners, nor sit in the seat of scoffers! But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night.”

Psalm 19:14, “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my rock and my Redeemer.”

Psalm 20:7, “Some trust in chariots, and some in horses; but we will remember the name of the Lord our God.”

Psalm 63:6, “When I remember You on my bed, I meditate on You in the night watches.”

Philippians 4:8, “Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.”

These verses teach us several things:

  • First, the key Hebrew words for “meditate” are used to signify something that we consciously are concerned with.  The biblical teaching about meditation is not “observing myself,” but rather it is engaging in deep thinking toward God and what He wants, making judgments based upon what He show us, and think consistently upon God and what He wants.
  • Second, the biblical call to repeating is about remembering.  We understand that the Lord is with us now by remembering where we have been with Him before.
  • Third, the primary object of biblical meditation is the Law of God, the standard and guide of our daily living.
  • Fourth, biblical meditation is to be done while we are living life, day and night.

Meditation is not reserved for times of aloneness, aloofness, or introspection.

Meditation must invade every part of our lives. This is part of what it means to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17) and “Study to show yourself approved unto God, a workman who needs not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the Word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15a-c).

  • Fifth, biblical meditation has a purpose – “that the man of God may be perfect (complete), thoroughly furnished unto all good works.” (2 Timothy 3:17).  It leads to self but to a life of honoring and glorifying God.
  • Sixth, biblical meditation has an external standard of success. Our meditation succeeds when it pleases our Lord.
  • Seventh, biblical meditation ultimately is focused upon our Lord God Himself.

It is easy to see that biblical meditation is far different than the meditation of eastern religions.

Eastern meditation leads us to look within and

draw strength and balance from “the source” within us.

Biblical mediation leads us to God and to a life

that is progressing toward His purpose and goal for us.

When God Himself and His Word is our greatest concern and living out that truth is our utmost thought, biblical meditation.  And such meditation is strong medicine, good for whatever ails you … and so much more.

Let’s stay with God’s way … it is not only the best way it is the sure way to peace and power!

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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There is No “Small Print” in Sacred Scripture

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

13Mar  The terms “small print,” “fine print,” and “mouse-print” all refer to less noticeable print that is dwarfed by the more prominent larger print contained in documents and advertisements.  Small print is frequently used by advertisers selling a product or service.  Some merchants, who hope to deceive the consumer into believing an offer is more advantageous than it really is, will sidestep the legal technicality which requires full disclosure of all terms or conditions (even the unfavorable ones) by relegating the “bad news” to the tiny type at the bottom of the page and trumpeting the “good news” of spectacular sale prices with brightly colored oversize type.

The small print often contradicts what the larger print says.  For example, if the large print says “No Credit?  No Problem!” the fine print may say, “Subject to bank approval.”  You are probably familiar with television advertisements that flash small print text in camouflaged colors, and for the briefest periods of time, making it all but impossible to read.

And when the spokesman for advertiser reads the small print disclaimer out loud, you’d think you suddenly had been transported to an auction with the fastest speaking auctioneer on the planet!  Sadly, we have all grown cynically accustomed to “small print” advertising designed to mislead us about the price, quality, or content of a particular product.

But, there is no small print in the Bible, even though many in the pulpit today preach as if there is.  Far too many preach a “small print Savior and salvation,” for fear that people will refuse to “sign up” if they know the truth about what is involved . . .

  • They preach blessing without burden.
  • They preach success without sacrifice.
  • They preach getting without giving.
  • They preach living without dying.

The irony in all this is the truth that . . .

The Gospel “is the power of God unto salvation.”

The more we water it down to try to make it more appealing,

The more we strip it of its supernatural power.

The truth of the matter is – the Gospel is designed to both convert and challenge.  Sadly, many who sit under shallow “small print” preaching, which is crafted to attract by tickling the ears of the listener, are ill-equipped for the promised trouble to come.

Jesus said the day of tribulation will come; and when it does, if all one has built his or her faith upon has been the shifting sand of “small print” theology, they will find themselves knocked off their foundation when the waves of challenge begin to wash over them.

They will be  . . .

  • Confused by challenge
  • Surprised by suffering
  • Derailed by difficulty.

But this is not what God wants for His born-again, blood-bought children!

Jesus said in Luke 9:23-26, “… If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.  For whoever desire to save his life will lost it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it.  For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and is himself destroyed or lost?  For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, of him the Son of man will be ashamed when He comes in His own glory, and in His Fahter’s, and of the holy angels.”

Jesus refused to hide the truth of the Gospel in small print in order to increase His “success rate.”  In fact . . .

It seems as though He went out of His way

To make it clear just how difficult

It would be for one to follow Him.

If the rich young ruler (Luke 18:18-23) showed up in the church today he would be at the top of the list of potential leaders.  Yet after a conversation with our Savior, who refused to shroud the Gospel in “small print,” the rich young ruler went away sad.

You see, the Gospel Jesus preached – and the one we are to be preaching with both our lips and our lives – is a Gospel of self-denial and self-sacrifice.  Jesus refused to tell people what they wanted to hear just so He could get someone to consider being His follower.  Our Lord spoke the truth, and the truth was this . . .

To follow Jesus is to follow Him to the cross

Where dying to self is the only way

To live for the Savior.

We know the apostle Paul fully understood there was to be no “small print” in the church’s message for the Bible tells us in Acts 14:21-22, “And when they had preached the gospel to that city and made many disciples, they returned to Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch, strengthening the souls of the disciples, exhorting them to continue in the faith, and saying, ‘We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God.’”

The Christian life is not only a blessed life,, it is a battle fought daily against our sinful nature, the world, and the devil.  Only through preaching, not a “small-print Savior and salvation” but the “whole counsel of God” will the Christian have the solid foundation and faith to be what God wants him to be and to overcome.

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 LESSONS OF LYSTRA

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

 

The Bible says in Acts 14:20b-21, “And the next day He (Paul) departed with Barnabas to Derbe.  And when they had preached the gospel to that city, and made many disciples, the returned to Lystra …”

God sent the apostle Paul, and his companion Barnabas, to Lystra to preach the Gospel there.  In Lystra a man, who had been crippled from birth, was healed by the power of God.  The crowds thought the gods had come down from heaven in the likeness of Paul and Barnabas, and they called Barnabas “Zeus” and Paul “Hermes.”  Paul and Barnabas would not receive their praise and worship and quickly corrected their misunderstanding (Acts 14:1-17).

But the episode does not stop there.  While they were there, some of the Jews who rejected the Gospel of Christ arrived from Antioch and stirred up the crowd to stone Paul; they dragged him out of the city and left him for dead.  Miraculously, Paul was alive and well the next day. He and Barnabas left for Derbe to preach and teach (Acts 14:19-20).

Then something very strange happened.  They went back to Lystra!  Why?  Because God had called them back to learn the lessons of Lystra.  I want to look at two of the lessons that God ordained for Paul and Barnabas to learn.

Lesson #1. Learn from every defeat

Rarely do we learn much when the sky is blue, the clouds are fluffy, and the sun is brightly shining.  More often than not, God’s deep teachings will only be learned on the other side of a devastating difficulty or defeat in life.  So we must seek to find the lesson in every defeat, letting it shape and mold us into the person God is calling us to be.

Lesson #2. Return to some defeats

Sometimes God calls us to return to a place where we experienced defeat because He intends to turn that defeat into a divine victory.  This is not an easy thing for the natural man to do!  When we are defeated, we would rather learn the lesson – or just forget about it as quickly as possible – and get on with life.

But there are times when God has determined to take us above and beyond a lesson learned and to turn that devastating defeat into a divine deliverance.  When that happens, we need to remember the words our Lord, “With man, this is impossible, but with God, all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26).

That is the lesson that God gave Paul and Barnabas;

But in order to understand it,

They had to learn to think supernaturally rather than naturally.

Think back to the last time God determined that you should return to some particular difficulty or defeat, rather than simply learn from it . . .

  • A heated argument with a loved one?
  • A broken relationship that needed to be made whole?
  • A stronghold that became a stranglehold on you?

When you encounter these trials, it may very well be that God has ordained that the lesson learned will not lift you high enough.  Rather, you must return to rise above that defeat in order to receive the victory that is only possible with God.

Return with a humble heart.

Return with a yielded spirit.

Return, despite the threat of a “second stoning,” knowing that God is with you every step of the way . . . just as He was with Paul and Barnabas.

Take to heart the wonderful promise of God in Psalm 37:3, “Trust in the Lord, and do good; Dwell in the land, and feed on His faithfulness.”

My prayer is that you will feed on the faithfulness of God this day as you consider the lessons of Lystra.

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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Groaning Because Of Sin … Glad Because Of Grace

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

9Mar  Did you know that “groaning” is a great grace from God, and that it is to be the mark of the Christian on the way into glory?  The creation groans; the Christian groans; the Holy Spirit groans.  The Bible make it clear that groaning identifies those who are awaiting the glories of the life to come.  Between justification (the instant you were saved) and glorification (the time you enter into your eternal rest) groaning is to be the default language of every Christian.  Is it yours?

The Bible tells us that, because of sin, all of creation groans through deterioration, decay, and death, and is awaiting the day when Jesus will make all things new.  The Bible says in Romans 8:22, “For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now.”

Under the divine decree of Almighty God, creation suffers – not because of anything it did, but because of what Adam did through original sin and what we do through our continual sin.

Next Paul confirms that not only is creation groaning, but believers are groaning as we wait for the return of our Lord.  The Bible says in Romans 8:23, “And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.”

Sinners by both nature and habit, we groan because of the corruption and futility that exists in us and the world around us.  We mourn because we do not do the good we want to do, but the evil we do not want in our lives is what we keep on doing (Romans 7:19).  The difference between what we currently are (great sinners) and what we one day will be (sinless saints) causes us to groan even more.

Finally, Paul assures us that along with creation and the Christian, God’s Holy Spirit roans also, interceding for us with “groanings too deep for words.”  The Bible says in Romans 8:26, “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.”

The Spirit of Christ testifies to the fact that something is terribly wrong with us and with the world around us, causing us to groan and long for the day when we will live with Jesus in the new heavens and the new earth.

The groaning the Scriptures speak about is a deep, inward, agonizing ache of the heart in response to the brokenness of this fallen world.  It is not the whining, grumbling, and complaining we frequently engage in when our plans are thwarted, our agenda is interrupted, and our preferences are put on hold.

Christians living in a broken world

Are to be groaning for the return of our Lord,

When He will make all things new.

If we are not groaning, we have grown too comfortable with the things of this life – and sadly this is the condition of far too many in the American evangelical church today. When we find fulfillment in things other than God we don’t groan!  Yet . . .

God in His grace wants to break the power our possessions have over us,

And this will only happen as we look more to our Savior than to our stuff

To meet our deepest needs and longings of the heart.

The life of the Christian is to follow the path of groaning to glory, which focuses our hope beyond a life defined by the earthly to a life directed by the eternal.  To be sure, the Kingdom of God has come, but it is not yet fully what it will be; therefore we groan!

And the only people who are groaning for the glory of God

Are those who have surrendered their will to His will . . .

Their goals to His goals . . . their desires to His desires.

They are living for the Kingdom of the Savior rather than the kingdom of the self.

What we need to remember is that “He who began a good work in us” is not finished with us yet (Philippians 1:6).  And that should make us groan with anticipation of what we shall one day be – like Him!

In a sermon preached on September 28, 1885, Charles Spurgeon said: “We cannot help feeling that we need somewhat more than this visible world can offer us.  Many of us find our greatest joy in the cultivation of that feeling, for it is to us the token of our spiritual nature and the prophecy of immortality.  To us, this life is mainly worth living because it promises to be the introduction to a better life.”

Godly groaning conforms our concerns and cares to the size of God’s concerns and cares, and this is the only place for the Christian to live.

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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“Seizing Moments that Shape Eternity

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

“When Christ comes, I want to be

caught living the gospel.

I want to be surprised right in the act

Of spreading the faith and doing

Something for God”

Jeffrey R. Holland

The Bible account in Acts 8:26-40 of the conversion of the Ethiopian eunuch through the witness of Philip fascinates me every time I read it.  There are so many surprise factors in the story . . .

  • I’m surprised by an angel commanding Philip to go to the desert road that led from Jerusalem to Gaza.
  • I’m surprised by Philip running up to the eunuch’s chariot and overhearing the Ethiopian reading from Isaiah 53, a passage so clearly about the suffering of the Messiah.
  • I’m surprised by the eunuch’s question, “Is the prophet talking about himself, or someone else?” That simple question gave Philip an opportunity to tell the Ethiopian about Jesus.
  • I’m surprised that, on a desert road, at just the right time, there was enough water for the eunuch to be baptized on the spot.

The passage overflows with surprising providences of God.

I think the main reason I am surprised is because, like many people, I underestimate God’s supernatural ability to order the daily details of our lives.

However, the biggest surprise by far is what happens at the end of the story.  The Bible says in Acts 8:39, “When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord snatched Philip away; and the eunuch no longer saw him, but went on his way rejoicing.”

Instantly, Philip found himself whisked away, and the eunuch traveled on, celebrating his newfound salvation, never to see Philip again.  It’s a reminder . . .

God can bring us momentarily into the life of someone

Just for the sake of bringing that person to Christ.

I remember a mission trip I took not long after I was out of seminary.  As our group went into schools, factories, and in the streets in a suburb of Johannesburg, South Africa witnessing to people, we were amazed at how receptive and hungry the people were to hear about the Gospel of Jesus Christ.   We, of course, were thrilled at this.  But I was also concerned and asked our translator, “Do you think their decisions are real?  And how can we know when we’ll never see them again?”  Cokie smiled and said, “We don’t have to see them again. God will work.”  Then he told us his story.  During his last year of business school, one of his requirements was to go to public schools and teach business principles.  He traveled across the city with his girlfriend, Anna and made the presentation at a high school.

After Cokie finished, he found his girlfriend, Anna, in the principal’s office.  The principal, a middle-aged woman, had been sharing the Gospel with his girlfriend while he was speaking to the class.  AnnaHis girlfriend had received Christ.  Cokie also wanted to hear the same message.  After sharing the Gospel, the principal asked our translator, “Would you like to ask Jesus to save you?”   Our translator said he, “Yes, yes, I’d like to pray.”  Just as they were bowing their heads, the principal looked at our translator and said, “You have to mean it with all your heart.”  He responded, “Okay, I will mean it with all my heart.”  As he told his story, he said, “Somehow, in that moment, I went from doing something just to appease that principal to really asking Jesus to save me.  And He did!”  Cokie said that they never saw the principal again.  He and his girlfriend wound up getting married and finding a church that helped them grow in their faith.  They have spent the rest of their lives serving Jesus.

When we seize moments to share the Gospel, God can use us just as He used Philip with the Ethiopian and that principal with Cokie and Anna.

Is there value in sharing Jesus with people you already know and can disciple?  Yes, without a doubt.  But God can also supernaturally bring you into the paths of people you’ve never seen before and may never see again to make an eternal difference in their lives.

Here are a few things we can do to seize moments for sharing the Gospel:

Pray for such moments.  Ask God to bring lost people across your path.  The truth is, He’s already doing that every day.  So ask for alertness, courage, and willingness to share with lost people when the moments arise.

Prepare for such moments.  When people ask, “What’s the best Gospel presentation?”  I like the answer one of my college professors gave, “The one you will actually use!”   One simple way to be prepared is to memorize verses that will help you share the Gospel – Romans 3:23; 6:23; 5:8; 8:1 and 10:13 are a great place to start.  Carrying a Gospel tract in your pocket or handbag will help prepare you and also remind you to share the Gospel consistently.

Present the Gospel during such moments. Consider how you might lead into a conversation with someone that can open an opportunity to share the Gospel.  Some “Gospel-conversation openers” that I have used are questions like . . .

  • “Can I pray with you about that?”
  • “What is your religious background?”
  • “Have you heard about the Good News of Jesus Christ?
  • “If you were to die tonight and stood before God and He asked you ‘Why should I let you into heaven?’ What would you say?”
  • “If you were to die tonight do you know that you will go to heaven?”

These questions can create opportunities and lead to more in-depth discussion about spiritual and eternal issues.

Place such moments into God’s Hands.  Sometimes, the moment God gives you to share with someone will result in them trusting Christ as Savior.  At other times, your moment may be a time for planting or watering seeds of Bible truth that will come to harvest later.  And, sadly, some people will reject Christ not only for a moment, but for a lifetime.  Even so, you can trust God to keep working beyond the initial moment when you share the Gospel.

So, live to seize the moments and see how God uses them to shape someone’s eternity!

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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Not Just Permission, but the Privilege to Fail!

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

7Mar

I know, after reading the title of today’s blog, what you might be thinking:

Pastor Terry has lurched past the line of sanity

In linking the word “privilege” with “failure!”

Who in their right mind would consider it a privilege to fail at anything?!

I encourage you to read on.  I think you will find today’s blog a great comfort – regardless of whether you are experiencing victory or failure in your life.

There are countless places in Scripture where we can go to learn about this truth, but I have chosen the passage in the Bible where Jesus foretells Peter’s denial in Luke 22:31-34, “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail.  And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.’  Peter said to him, ‘Lord, I am ready to go with you both to prison and to death.’  Jesus said, ‘I tell you, Peter, the rooster will not crow this day, until you deny three times that you know Me.’”

In this passage we can clearly see that Peter was not only given the permission to fail, but it was a privilege to do so!  Now . . .

I am not suggesting that

We go out and do our best

To fail in living for

And serving our Lord.

What I am suggesting is that when we do fail Jesus, we see it as a privilege.  Why? Because of the One we are failing!  Jesus called Peter into service, knowing from all eternity that Peter would fail.  In the above passage we see both the permission and the privilege in our failure.

Permission means .. .

Jesus knows we are going to fall short of the mark at times . . . many times.

Privilege simply means . . .

 Jesus is the One we are serving, and we should always see it

As a privilege to serve Him, whether we are succeed or fail.

How often we are like Peter!  We resolve to win the day for Christ, no matter what hardship or opposition may come, but along the way we stumble or fall in hopeless defeat.  We set out to walk on water, but all too quickly we take our eyes off the Lord and quickly sink into defeat and despair.

Our failures do not catch Jesus by surprise.

He told Peter exactly what was going to happen before it happened.  He is telling us the same thing today.  There will be times when we fail.  Failure is a part of daily living for sinful, broken people living in a sinful, broken world.

But our failure is never final.

Satan asked for Peter but Jesus said no.  Final, complete failure is not an option for those who are in Christ.  And that is what makes it a privilege to risk for Jesus, regardless of the outcome.

The privilege to fail brings with it the grace of forgiveness and permission to try again, and again, and again.  We serve the God of second chances . . . and third chances . . . and so on.  The unconditional and eternal love of God removes any dread we might feel about a mistake or a failure . . . We have His eternal promise in 1 John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”  Permission to fail is always accompanied with the promise of forgiveness.  This frees us to reach and risk – to advance the cause of Christ without constantly looking over our shoulder to see if God is coming after us for past errors.

Remember, after Peter’s abject failure – calling down curses on himself in an attempt to convince a servant girl that “I do not know the man” – Jesus restored him to fruitful service . . . but not perfect service!

The Bible relates the occasion when Paul rebuked Peter for refusing to eat with Gentile believers because of the disapproving scowls from certain Jews (Galatians 2:11-14)/ Jesus was not angry with Peter’s failure at that time either, and He did not send Peter away.  He urged him and encouraged him to continue to strengthen his brothers.  Jesus loved Peter and died for Peter’s sins – all of Peter’s sins, just as He loves you and me and died for all the sins you and I did, do, and will commit.

The Bible doesn’t explain why, when Jesus appeared to Peter after His resurrection, He asked Peter three times if he loved Him.  Many scholars believe it was because Peter had denied Jesus three times.  I think the main thing Jesus is doing is sending Peter a powerful message:

“Regardless of the number of times you fail Me,

I want you to remember that you are never disqualified

From serving Me and feeding My sheep.”

Now that is a comfort we need to be reminded of daily: we don’t only have permission, but the privilege to fail the One who has forgiven every failure.

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 Bible’s Blow

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

6Mar

It would be a great disadvantage to see the Bible only as a book designed to bring constant comfort to the soul.  Don’t get me wrong, this is one of the things the Word of God does in the lives of all those who read Scripture through the eyes of faith.  But the prophet Jeremiah declared that the Bible also strikes a blow like a holy hammer, breaking a rock in pieces.  The Bible says in Jeremiah 23:29, “’Is not My word like a hammer that breaks a rock in pieces?’ declares the Lord.”  What is that “rock”?  It is your rock-heart, and my rock-hard heart, with all its self-righteousness and sinful pride.

The problem in far too many pulpits today is that the preacher is more concerned with pleasing man than he is with pleasing God.

Messages designed to tickle the ears and minister

To felt needs dominate the theological landscape.

But when the whole counsel of God is preached, it wields a holy hammer that begins breaking away pieces of our pride and self-righteousness, for the purpose of exposing more and more of the image of our Lord Jesus Christ.

There are many false prophets who preach “Peace, peace,” but God would have us know there is no peace for those whose eyes are fixed on self, rather than the Savior.

The natural man craves this false peace,

For his greatest goal in this life is to be happy.

But God desires so much more for His people!

God’s perfect plan for our imperfect lives is holiness, not happiness.

This is the path God intends for us to travel.  And the pathway leading to holiness is not lined with peace, but rather, persecution.

There is a phrase I learned many years ago that I committed to memory and on many occasions remind myself of:

As a minister of the Good News of Jesus Christ,

God has called me to comfort the afflicted

And to afflict the comfortable.

The Christian life is not designed to be lived within a “safe space” of comfort,

or a comfort zone is not conducive to conformity to Christ.

The Bible’s blow is the believer’s blessing.

Comfort must be mixed with challenge; Peace must be mixed with pain.

On more than one occasion, the apostle Paul used the athletic metaphor to describe the life of a disciple of Christ.  One of those metaphors is that of a runner, who will never reach the goal of winning a race without developing the discipline required to push past the pain and discomfort of training.

We are not called to comfort;

We are called to Christlikeness.

The Word of God is designed to train us up in the way we should go, and that way is marked by discipline and struggle as much as, if not more than, by rejoicing.

The Bible says in Hebrews 4:12-13, “For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.”

When was the last time the Scriptures caused you to be uncomfortable?  When was the last time you felt the Bible’s blow, hammering away at your old sin nature within, penetrating to the essence of your soul and laying bare that which is displeasing in God’s sight?

Remember . . . Jesus promised that the truth would set you free.  The truth of God’s Word is designed to change you . . . To turn your life inside-out and upside-down as God reshapes and redesigns His image in you.

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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Lions And Tigers And Bears . . . Amen!

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

5Mar  You may recognize the title of today’s blog as a play on the words from one of the most memorable lines of the Wizard of Oz.  Dorothy and her companions she met along the yellow-brick road that led to Oz were confronted with many dangers.  At one point during their journey they cried out in fear, “Lions and tigers and bears!  Oh my!”

We Christians face many dangers on the road to our heavenly destination, but unlike the characters in Dorothy’s dream, the Gospel empowers us to cry, “Lions and tigers and bears, Amen!”  We will walk “through many dangers, toils, and snares” on this side of the grave, but the Christian is empowered to cry “Amen” instead of “O my!” for two important reasons: the promise of the dangers and the power in the dangers.  I want us to look at these tremendous truths in today’s blog.

THE PROMISE OF THE DANGERS

The first thing every Christian must remember is that we have been promised to encounter a lifetime of lions, tigers, and bears.  We should not be surprised by the dangers and difficulties that beset us, because we live in a fallen and broken world as fallen, broken people.  If our Lord was despised and rejected and experienced pain and suffering for the life He lived, should we expect to receive a crown of glory for ours?

  • He was betrayed; we will be betrayed.
  • He was falsely accused; we will be falsely accused.
  • He was slandered; we will be slandered.
  • He was abandoned; we will be abandoned.
  • He was mocked; we will be mocked.

The Bible never promised us a walk in the park!  Jesus reminded us about that truth in John 16:33, “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace.  In the world you will have tribulation: be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”

Also, in Philippians 1:29, God tells us through the apostle Paul, “For to you It has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake,.”

And in 1 Peter 5:8, the Bible says, “Be sober-minded; be watchful.  Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”

We should not be surprised by the many dangers and difficulties we face on a daily basis because we have been promised them in Scripture.

The Christian faith is forged in the fiery trials of life.

We need not fear them nor flee them because of . . .

THE POWER AVAILABLE IN THE DANGERS

Once we understand the promise of life’s challenges, we need to rest in the God-power to face them.  We do not face our problems, challenges, and difficulties alone and we do not fight them in our own strength.  Our power is in the person of Jesus Christ.

The Bible says in Romans 8:37, “What shall we say to these things?  If God is for us, who can be against us?” … “What shall separate us from the love of Christ?  Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? … Yeah, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.”

The Bible also says in 1 Corinthians 15:57, “But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Again the Bible says in Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives I me, and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who love me and gave Himself for me.”

So . . . what lions, tigers, and bears have you been facing lately?  Have you been surprised by the number of them or their ferocity?  Faith in the focus of our faith (Jesus Christ) will help us overcome our fear of every opposition to our faith.  Because God has ordained all things (Romans 11:36), no matter what storms beset us, we can rest in Him.

He is not only with us in the storm,

He sent the storm for two important reasons:

For His glory and our good.

Therefore,

We can stand on God’s promises

And

Be victorious through the power of Christ

By the way, did you notice what Jesus does in John 16:33?  He not only said, “In the world you will have tribulation.”  He went on to say, “But be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”  That is a promise that equips us to move from “Oh my!” to “Amen!” . . . no matter how fierce the trials facing us!

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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