The Main Secret of Spiritual Prosperity

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

8Apr  The meaning of Jesus’ words in Mark 4:24-25may not be immediately apparent to you, but your soul’s spiritual prosperity depends on living it out.  The Bible says in those verses, “Then He said to them, ‘Take heed what you hear.  With the same measure you use, it will be measured to you; and to you who hear, more will be given.  For whoever has, to him more will be given; but whoever does not have, even wht he has will be taken away from him.’”

These words follow the Parable of the Sower in Marl 4:1-20 where Jesus stresses the importance of hearing the Word of God (Verses 9, 12, 16, 18, and 20).  In Mark 4:24-25, Jesus teaches that diligence in engaging God’s Word pays off big time and negligence will forfeit spiritual understanding.  This is why Jesus often would say “He who has ears to hear, let him hear” – because some would treat the Word of God lightly, only to harden their hearts and continue in disbelief.  It is God’s desire that this never be said of us.

In studying the passage more, I ran across J.C. Ryle’s comments on these verses from Expository Thoughts on the Gospels:

“Hearing the word is one of the foremost means of grace that God has given to man … This is a principle which we find continually brought forward in Scripture.  All that believers have is undoubtedly of grace.  Their repentance, faith, and holiness, are all the gift of God.  But the degree to which a believer attains in grace, is ever set before us as closely connected with his own diligence in the use of means, and his own faithfulness in living fully up to the light and knowledge which he possesses.  Indolence and laziness are always discouraged in God’s word.  Labor and pains in hearing, reading, and prayer, are always represented as bringing their own reward. “The soul of the diligent shall be made fat.” (Proverbs 13:4) “An idle soul shall suffer hunger.” (Proverbs 19:15)

Attention to this great principle

Is the main secret of spiritual prosperity.

The Christian who makes steady progress in spiritual attainments – who grows visibly in grace, and knowledge, and strength, and usefulness – will always be found in searching and studying the Scriptures.  He leaves no stone unturned to promote his soul’s well-doing.  He is diligent in his daily time spent with God and His Word, diligent in studying and living by the Scriptures, diligent as a hearer of sermons, diligent in his worship.  And, he reaps according as he sows.  Just as the muscles of the body are strengthened by regular exercise, so are the graces of the soul increased by diligence in using them.

Do you wish to grow in grace?  Do you desire to have stronger faith, brighter hope, and clearer knowledge?

Beyond doubt we do, if we are true Christians.

Then let us live fully up to our light,

And improve every opportunity.

Let us never forget our Lord’s words in this passage.

“With what measure we use;”

To edifying our souls,

“It shall be measured to us again.”

The more we do for our souls, the more shall we find God does for them.

I’ve had ups and downs in the Christian life and have experienced both the rich treasure of diligence and the bitter fruit of neglect as it comes to paying attention to God’s Word. Jesus’ words from Mark 4 encourage me to give my all to hearing, loving, and obeying God’s Word.  I hope they do for you too.

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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What Judges Teaches the Church About What We Are To Teach The Current Generation

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

5Apr5Apr2

The Bible says in Judges 2:10, “And there arose another generation after them who did not know the Lord or the work that he had done for Israel.”  It seems incredible that it could happen.  Only a generation after Joshua, Israel no longer knew the Lord.  The Lord instructs His people in Psalm 78:1–, “Give ear, O My people, to My law; incline your ears to the words of My mouth.  I will open my mouth in a parable; I will utter dark sayings of old, which we have heard and known, and our fathers have told us.  We will not hide them from their children, telling to the generation to come the praises of the LORD, and His strength and His wonderful works that He has done.”  God knew the tendency of fallen man, even those who were His people; He knew the danger of forgetting His way and word.  Joshua is a book that God has given us to answer the question, “How is such a development and decline possible?”

This is a very important question, not just for the ancient Israelites, but for us.  Churches, too, have seen declines from one generation to another.  How can we understand and prevent this kind of calamity?

The book of Judges provides

A very clear answer

To our questions.

Its answer does not say everything that might be said in general, but it does say specific, crucial things that we must ponder to understand both Israel’s situation and our vulnerability.

To begin with . . .

Judges shows us that Israel

Descended into calamity

When it moved away from living

By faith and in the Word of God

To living by sight in the wisdom

And values of the world.

In Judges 2–3 the Bible records how Israel rapidly descended into great sin and disobedience, serving the idols and altars of the Baals and intermarrying with those who did not worship or walk with the Lord or live by His standards.  Idolatry and intermarriage are the great sins against which Joshua warned Israel again and again (Joshua 23:6–13).  And with good reason, for these two sins are interconnected.  The one leads to and reinforces the other.

This descent into idolatry and intermarriage

Did not happen overnight, however.

These acts of sin were the end results

Of various compromises that Israel had made earlier.

Israel had served the Lord faithfully in the opening of the book of Judges, but that begins to change at Judges 1:19, where the Bible says, “So the Lord was with Judah.  And they drove out the mountaineers, but they could not drive out the inhabitants of the lowland, because they had chariots of iron.”

It does not appear that the Israelites actually fought

Against the chariots of iron and were defeated;

Rather, it seems that they saw the chariots of iron

And decided not to fight.

That decision seems very reasonable and proper

. . . To a people living by sight.

Chariots of iron were the most powerful military weapon of that time.

Israel, however, was called to live by faith in,

And obedience to, the Word of God.

The Word of God had come to her through Joshua, who said, “… For you shall drive out the Canaanites, though they have chariots of iron, and are strong” (Joshua 17:18).  Later in the book of Judges, we are shown how God kept His promise because Deborah and Barak were able to defeat Jabin, a king of the Canaanites, even though he had nine hundred chariots of iron (Judges 4:3).  The Word of God reminds God’s people that God “does not delight in the strength of the horse; He takes no pleasure in the legs of a man.  The LORD takes pleasure in those who fear Him, in those who hope in His mercy.”

We can see what went wrong –

The children of Israel were

Living by sight and not by faith –

But that does not show us why things went wrong.  For that, we must turn again to the words of Joshua recorded in Joshua 24:19-20, 23 where the Bible says, “But Joshua said to the people, ‘You cannot serve the LORD, for He is a holy God.  He is a jealous God; He will not forgive your transgressions nor your sins.  If you forsake the LORD and serve foreign gods, then He will turn and do you harm and consume you, after He has done you good” … “’Now therefore’ he said, ‘put away the foreign gods which are among you, and incline your heart to the LORD God of Israel.’”

Now, you may be asking, In what sense were they not able to serve or live for the Lord?  “If Israel was not able, how were they accountable?  What did Joshua mean when he said those words?”  He did not mean that the people were individually unregenerate and so were unable.  He did not mean that they would not be able to understand and live by God’s truth, and so would be unable.

The context of these verses suggests

That they would soon be leaderless –

Having neither Moses, nor Joshua,

Nor the elders who knew them –

And so would not be led and guarded

In faithfulness to the Word of God.

Joshua was recognizing that God would not give them another Moses or Joshua.  He would give them judges who would be for “delivers” for them (Judges 2:16).  But these judges would be only regional and temporary leaders.

The lesson that God was teaching Israel – and us –

In a variety of ways in the book of Judges

Is that the people needed a good and faithful king.

Israel’s problem was clear: “In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (Judges 17:6).

Israel had to learn its need for a king and in turn to yearn and yield for a king – not a king like the nations as they would have in Saul, but a man after God’s own heart, namely, David.  Yet even David could not protect and lead God’s people ultimately.  He sinned, his house was divided, and he died.

Who, then, is the leader –

Perfect, faithful, and undying –

For God’s people?

Obviously,

Only

Jesus is such a king!

What is the antidote, then, for the church and its problems?  What will preserve a saving knowledge of God from generation to generation?

It is following our one and only

King and Lord, Jesus,

According to His Word.

Where the church fails to do so,

It will find itself, like Israel,

Unable to live by faith and obedience

Rather than sight.

But where the church turns to Jesus and follows ministers who faithfully preach His Word, it will live before Him.  The book of Judges is a mirror held up to the church that forces us to ask ourselves, “Is Jesus our Lord and King and do we live by faith in, and obedience to, His Word?”  If the answer is yes, the church from generation to generation will know the Lord.

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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Telling Our Story . . . Standing On Your Story

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

4Apr In John 9:25, the Bible records the man who Jesus healed of blindness responding to the interrogation of the Pharisees, “He answered and said, ‘Whether He is a sinner or not I do not know.  One thing I know: that though I was blind, now I see.’”  In today’s blog, I would like to continue looking at the topic that I wrote about yesterday on “Telling Our Story.”

If you don’t have a conversion story,

You don’t have a conversion.

I’m not saying you need to know the date, or the exact moment you were saved.  But . . .

You need to know it’s happened,

And

You should be able to relay the experience of it.

If a woman has become a mother, for instance, does she know it?  Is she sure of it? Does she know how it happened?  Does she remember going to the hospital and having her first baby?  She can give you all kinds of details, not only of how she became a mother, but how she continues being a mother today?

It’s the same way with knowing Jesus.  The Bible says in 2 Corinthians 5:17, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away: behold, all things have become new.”  Note two key truths in that verse – 1) A definite change takes place when we repent of our sin and ask Jesus to be our Lord and Savior; and; 2) That change is known and observable.  The word “behold” means “to look and see the difference.”  Salvation doesn’t just sneak up on you while you’re asleep.  You don’t catch it like a cold.  You can’t enter into an eternal relationship with God the Father through His Son Jesus Christ without knowing you’ve done it.

Granted, it can take some time to develop.  It can take some time to grasp.  Maybe you’re like one of the blind men Jesus healed.  He knew something had happened to him.  The Bible tells us in John 9:10-11, “Therefore they said to him, ‘How were your eyes opened?’  He answered and said, ‘A Man called Jesus made clay and anointed my eyes and said to me, ‘God to the pool of Siloam and wash.’ So I went and washed, and I received sight.”  He knew he’d had a memorable encounter with this “Man called Jesus,” but he didn’t know much more about Him in that moment than His name.

Yet, the account goes on.  The more he processed what Jesus had done and who He must be, he knew Jesus couldn’t be merely a man.  In John 9:33, the Bible record him responding to further questions from the Pharisees, “If this man were not from God, He could do nothing” – like heal someone from blindness.  As the day continued, Jesus found this person again and asked him, “’…Do you believe in the Son of God?’  He answered and said, ‘Who is He, Lord, that I may believe in Him?’  And Jesus said to him, ‘You have both seen Him and it is He who is talking with you.’  Then he said, ‘Lord, I believe!’  And he worshiped Him.”

For a while, this formerly-blind man knew the Lord only as “the Man called Jesus.” Maybe He was at least a prophet, a man sent from God.  But as Jesus revealed Himself more clearly, the man’s response became an absolute, “Lord, I believe.”  Jesus was the Son of God, and this man was now His follower.  That was his story, and he was sticking to it.

I’ve known people who’ve taken a long time – I can think of one man in particular who came to our church for ten years before accepting and confessing Christ as Savior.

The details of their stories are always different.

The way it happens is never quite the same,

Despite the fact that Jesus never changes.

But I don’t know anyone who’s been converted to Christ

Who couldn’t tell you what happened to get them there.

Their story is straightforward, simply, and powerful: “I know who He is.  I know what He’s done for me.  I know what I was like before I accepted Him.  I know how I met Him, how He’s changed me since I gave my life to Him, and I know that He’s still working in me today.” There are a lot of things I don’t know, but “one thing I do know . . . though I was blind, now I see.”

It’s the story of every believer.

Do you have that story?  Could you tell it to somebody today if God gave you the opportunity?  Don’t forget the part about how He’s still changing your life!  How would you describe this?

Because you have accepted Him as Savior and He is still working on you (Philippians 1:6) you should join me in a prayer of praise and thanksgiving:

“Lord, thank You for loving me, for Your grace that saves me.  Thank You for giving me a story that I could never have crafted on my own.  It still contains a lot of things I wish weren’t there, but it’s a story brimming with hope because You’ve written it and You continue to write it.  Help me to share it with others as a testimony of Who You are and of Your awesome power to redeem.  I praise You for loving me and saving me through Jesus, in whose name I pray, amen.

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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Telling Our Story . . . How God Saved Me and Changed Me

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

3Apr  When I lose sight of my hope, I’m prone to believe lies.  One lie I hear whispered frequently is, “I’ll never change,” that “I can’t change.”

It’s a lie completely contrary to the Gospel –

The good news that I can change,

Or rather that I can be changed.

Why is it after more than sixty years after God called me to Him, I can still find myself despairing, believing that I’m stuck as I am?

God’s Word is clear that

He is working to transform

Those He calls His own.

He’s making dead people alive;

He’s transforming His enemies

Into His children who share In the full inheritance of His Son;

He’s replacing hearts of stone

With hearts of flesh!

In Acts 9 we see a wicked man – a man with murderous intent – completely and radically changed. Saul sees a light and hears the Lord call him.  God changes Saul’s heart, gives him life, and makes him into a new man: Paul.  We all know what Paul went on to endure for the sake of the gospel – imprisonment, beatings, shipwrecks, martyrdomHe changed in a way that most people, maybe all people, would have never thought was possible.

My conversion story, and your conversion story, is the same as Paul’s.  We were wicked and dead when God saved us and made us new.  My conversion story is part of my favorite story, a small piece of God’s redemption plan of the world where He is restoring and reconciling and renewing.

Salvation means that we have been changed, and we are being changed even yet.  Our affections are being ordered to love the things God loves.  Our behavior is changing as we act more and more like Christ.  Our ambition is changing as we desire less and less glory for ourselves and more and more for God.

Christians who share this salvation story

Of how God is at work in their lives

Are testifying to God’s goodness and sufficiency.

When I visit with people, I love to ask how they came to know Christ.  How exciting, and what an encouragement I get, to hear how God revealed Himself to all kinds of people and saved them.  He changed them and is changing them!

We need to tell these stories of our conversion

To remind us that God is working.

The Good News of the Gospel means that we can know God personally, learn and experience His salvation power, and grow and discover God’s sufficient grace for every situation and stage of life; that we are not stuck with who we are and as we are until the day we die.

When my daughters were young, often they would ask me, “Daddy, why do you always read and pray?” or “Why do you always have to go to church?”  When we apply the term “always” or “never” to other people, we speak an untruth.  Human beings don’t “always,” or “never” do anything.  In our natural state we are not that consistent.  We “frequently,” we “fairly regularly,” or we “often” do things, but we do not “always” or “never.” 

As finite and sinful creatures,

We cannot lay claim to these terms,

They can only truly be spoken of God.

Only God is consistent in His nature and His action.  He alone has the power to change us.  When we believe the lie that we cannot, or will not change, we deny that God has the power to work in our lives.  We are rejecting the truth that we can trust Him for salvation because of His steadfast, unchanging love.

We must come to believe and accept with the writer of Hebrews that “Jesus is the same, yesterday, today, forever.”  In Numbers 23, we hear God, declaring through Balaam, “God is not man, that He should lie, or a son of man, that He should change His mind. Has He said, and will He not do it? Or has He spoken, and will He not fulfill it?”  

What great and glorious news this is!

When we are weary or defeated, let us be reminded and comforted with the words of A.W. Tozer:

“Our Heavenly Father never differs from Himself.  In coming to Him at any time we need not wonder whether we shall find Him in a receptive mood …Neither does He change His mind about anything. Today, this moment, He feels toward His creatures, towards babies, toward the sick, the fallen, the sinful, exactly as He did when He sent His only-begotten Son in the world to die for mankind.”

Salvation, regardless of the details

Of the person’s life before Christ,

Is a dramatic story.  It’s a story of change

That we need to share with each other

So that we wouldn’t forget who God is

And how he is faithful to us.

Truly, God is in the business of giving life,

Changing lives, and making all things new.

Sometimes we look at our live, or the lives of others, and wonder how things got that way and if it is possible for things to change.  Sometimes, even to Christians, the message of the Gospel seems to good to be true.  It is then that we find ourselves asking the age-old question, “Can bad guys really change?” 

As we understand and live by

The power of the salvation we have in Jesus,

We can emphatically declare,

“All the time, man!.  All the time!”

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

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

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

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

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Happiness Hijackers

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

Apr1  An old, somewhat joyless man was nearing the end of his life.  His pastor asked him, “What robbed you of the joy of the Lord throughout your lifetime?” This was his insightful reply:

“THINGS THAT NEVER HAPPENED!”

I think we can all relate to that statement.  How frequently we become troubled and allow our happiness to be hijacked by things that never happened.  All too often we find ourselves believing the wry adage of Murphy’s Law: “Anything that can go wrong . . . will!”  We begin to believe that is an eternal, immutable truth, rather than the truth of God’s Word: “We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).

The Bible prescribes a 3-part cure for our natural tendency to look for dark linings in every silver cloud. Let’s take a look:

1) Fret Not

The Bible says in Psalm 37:1-4, “Do not fret because of evil men or be envious of those who do wrong; for like the grass they will soon wither, like green plants they will soon die away. Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture. Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.”

The cure for fretting is focusing on the Lord.

The more we focus on the Lord,

The more we will delight in Him;

And

The more we delight in Him,

The less we will fret.

The Scripture commands us to trust our Lord even when we cannot trace Him.

2) Faint Not

The Bible says in Galatians 6:9, “Let us not become weary in well doing, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not faint.” The Bible also says in Isaiah 40:31, “Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.

The cure for fainting

Is to be working

In the strength of our Lord,

Not in our own strength.

God has given us everything we need to do everything He has called us to do. That activity begins by acknowledging our dependence upon Him and trusting that He will renew our strength.

3) Fear Not

The Bible says in Isaiah 41:10, “Fear not, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.”

Someone once said that fear can be described as “False Evidence Appearing Real.”

When we look through our natural eyes,

There is a great deal of false evidence that appears real.

But when we look through the eyes of faith,

We see a God who loves us and is in control of all things.

Recall the lovely, encouraging words of our Lord in Matthew 10:29-31, “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.”

So . . . have you been troubled by any of the “things that never happened” in your life lately?  Remember: these things will hijack your happiness and steal your joy.

Let me exhort you to …

Fret Not . . .

Faint Not . . .

Fear Not . . .

But,

Have faith in God!

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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