The Greatness Of God – Magnifying The Greatness Of God, Part 3

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

15July

In the book of Psalms, David shows the appropriate starting point for worship.

It involves . . .

Thinking about,

Magnifying,

And responding

To the glory

And splendor of God.

He reminds us of this in Psalm 145:3 by saying “Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised, and His greatness is unsearchable!”  If we go along with the starting point of worship, to praise Him, to magnify Him for His greatness . . . We are doing it right!

Many times, it is so easy for us to get caught up in a million other things in our lives.  We may get distracted by our jobs, our family, our finances, etc.  When this happens, what size does God appear to be when our mind is preoccupied with all the cares, worries, and concerns of life?  Extremely small.

But the good news is

That God is not small.

God is extremely GREAT.

J.I. Packer reminds us that “our personal lives are limited in every direction, in space, in time, in knowledge, in power.  But God is not limited. He is eternal, infinite, and almighty. Like us, He is personal, but unlike us, He is GREAT.”

The first priority of our time together

As believers and as worshippers

Is to magnify the Lord.

Sometimes we may get caught up in catching up with friends, family, our personal lives, our personal preferences, etc. but… our FIRST priority should always be to magnify the Lord.

God is bigger than our problems and joys,

Greater than our sorrows and successes,

More significant than our tests and triumphs.

It can be so easy to get distracted by things in our life and by our own preferences, but in all reality, God needs to become bigger in our eyes and in our lives.

The distractions and preferences

Need to fade away

And we need to focus

Oon glorifying and magnifying God’s greatness.

God’s greatness never changes

… Our focus does.

One beautiful example is our view of the stars.  To the naked eye they appear like tiny pinpoints of light, barely visible against the black backdrop.  Twinkling dots suspended in vast darkness.  We can walk outside and barely notice them.

But when we look through a high-powered telescope,

We’re awestruck by what they really are:

Massive spheres of raging fire,

Mmillions of times larger than the earth,

Brighter than our human eyes can bear.

The stars haven’t changed

… Our vision has…

God doesn’t change

… We do.”

So the question is now… HOW do we magnify?  There are 3 categories in which we can magnify God’s greatness: His Word, His nature, and His works.

1. God’s Word. The Bible is His self-revelation to us. We come to know God’s greatness through His Word.  Psalm 19:7-9 states that the Word of the Lord is “perfect”, “sure,” “right,” “pure,” and “true.”   As believers, we live in awe that God would speak to us – as we listen to what He says, we are . . .

Encouraged by His promises

Challenged by His commands

Fearful of His warnings,

And grateful for His blessings.

Reading God’s word creates a desire to see and proclaim God’s greatness.

2. God’s nature. The Psalms also focus on Who God is, conveying the reasons God deserves our praise.

We’ll never reach the end of them!  How beautiful is that?!?  All of God’s attributes, the way He loves, the nature of who He is exist together in perfect harmony, perfect balance, perfect cooperation, with no contradiction, no confusion, and no diminishing of their glory forever.

3. Magnifying God’s works. As we learn from the Psalms, also includes drawing attention to His Works.

One of the problems

We as humans face

Is that we tend to be

More impressed with what we do

Than with what God has done.

God has revealed to us all the works He has done.  He has revealed them to us for our comfort, correction, strengthening, protection, and joy.  He has revealed them to us for our worship.

Magnifying God’s greatness,

Then,

Involves proclamation and passionate worship.

Through our worship of glorifying God

And magnifying His greatness,

We have every opportunity to magnify

And encounter our GREAT and awesome God.

 May we encounter our GREAT and AWESOME God as we MAGNIFY His GREATNESS this week!

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.”

GraceForTheJourneyBottomOfPagePicture

 

The Greatness And Goodness of God, Part 2

Grace For The Journey

Yesterday, we began looking at the greatness and goodness of God.  This is one truth that is essential to understand if we are going to know God as He is.  God says in Isaiah 40:25, “’To whom will you compare Me? Who is My equal?’ asks the Holy One.”

No one can fully describe God

Because no one can

Fully comprehend God.

When Isaiah tried to understand God’s greatness, he concluded in Isaiah 40:22, “The people below must seem to Him like grasshoppers!”  That’s how we feel sometimes, isn’t it?

We feel as though God is so great

That He can’t possible care about us.

Yet, that is not what His Word teaches.

Isaiah begins this chapter with these words from the Lord – “Comfort, comfort My people,” says your God.”  In other words, God is declaring and wanting us to know –

“Let My people know

Just how much I care.”

Concerning God’s care, we read these words in Isaiah 40:11, “He will feed His flock like a shepherd.  He will gather the lambs with His arm, and carry them in His bosom, and gently lead those who are with young.”  Though God is infinitely more marvelous than we can possibly imagine, He cares about each of us even as a shepherd cares for his sheep.  God carries us in His arms and hold us close to His heart.

Yet, perhaps many of you are thinking, “I don’t feel such care. I don’t feel such closeness.  I feel as though God is a million miles away and I am less than nothing.”  We all have times when we feel this way; yet . . .

We can’t always trust our feelings.

Instead we must go to God’s Word

And study His truth and stand upon His Word.

The people of Israel wondered if God still cared for them.  They had sinned and punishment had been promised.  But even with their sin, God sought to give them comfort.  The Bible says in Isaiah 40:27-31, “O Israel, how can you say the LORD does not see your troubles?  How can you say God refuses to hear your case?  Have you never heard or understood?  Don’t you know that the LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of all the earth?  He never grows faint or weary.  No one can measure the depths of His understanding.  He gives power to those who are tired and worn out; He offers strength to the weak.  Even youths will become exhausted, and young men will give up.  But those who wait on the LORD will renew their strength.  They will fly high on wings like eagles.  They will run and not grow weary.  They will walk and not faint.”

“God will continue to care for you,” Isaiah promised, “but you must learn to wait upon Him and not do things on your own.”  

God gives power

To those who

Are tied and worn out –

If they wait upon Him.

God gives strength

To the weak –

If they will learn

To lean upon His strength

And not their own.

The word for “renew” here literally means “exchange.”  God promises to exchange our weakness and inability with His power and ability.

The key is to “wait.”

What does it mean

To wait upon the Lord?

This word is used in the Bible not to convey idleness or inactivity – like waiting in the doctor’s office – but it speaks of pursuit and progress.  Simply put . . . The word ‘wait’ means “to look to something and pursue it with hope and expectation.”   It means “to surrender to God and lean upon His greatness and goodness.”

How good can God be to His people?

Perhaps His goodness can

Only be measured by His greatness.

The encouragement Isaiah gives us is that this God who could look upon us as grasshoppers, wants us to be His sons and daughters!  More truths about God’s greatness in tomorrow’s blog.

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.”

GraceForTheJourneyBottomOfPagePicture

The Greatness Of God, Part 1

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

15July For the next four days I want to look at what the Bible says about the greatness and goodness of God.  I pray that the truths that we discover will not only encourage you but create great excitement and enthusiasm in your heart for the privilege of knowing and experiencing the many daily blessings from our wonderful Creator and Savior.

The Bibles says in Psalms 8:3-4, “When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You have ordained; What is man, that You are mindful of him? and the son of man, that You visit him?”

I have done exactly what David was doing in the above verses.  I have looked up at the sky and considered the vastness of the heavens.  In David’s day, it must have seemed impossible to try to count the stars, but now we have made great strides in our telescopic technologies.  I was reading of the attempt made not long ago by some astronomers in Australia.  Consider what they found . . .

The Australian astronomers used some of the world’s most powerful instruments to measure the brightness of all the galaxies in one sector of the cosmos – and then calculated how many stars they must have contained.  From that measurement, they proceeded to work out a figure for the whole of the visible Universe, which they believe is much more accurate than previous estimates.  That figure – presented to the International Astronomical Union conference in Sydney – is the kind that really can be called astronomical: 70 sextillion, or seven followed by 22 zeroes.

But. . .

That is only the stars in the visible Universe

Within range of our telescopes.

Let me try to help put this in perspective.  If we took only one quintillion of the stars and simply count them [from 0 to quintillion] one number per second, day and night, this will take 32 billion years!  That is how long it will take to just “count” them.

We can appreciate the vastness of our universe if we imagine going on a journey through space at the speed of light (670,616,629 miles per hour).  When we leave the planet Earth towards the sun, at the speed of light, in only 8 minutes we reach the sun, which is 93,000,000 miles away.  If we wanted to leave our galaxy (the Milky Way) it would take us more than 50,000 years!  That makes the phrase “Are we there yet?” seem inconsequential.  It would take 2,000,000 years to reach the next galaxy; and 10 billion years to get to the outer edge of the universe.

All of this was spoken into existence

By God when He created this world (Genesis 1:1)!

Indeed … God is great,

But how can we understand His greatness?

Let me suggest three areas that will help us get that understanding . . .

He is Great in His Goodness

We use the phrase, “God is good.”   Of course, He is good!  He can’t be anything else.

He is good because He is God.

He is not good because of what He does,

But He is good because of who He is.

He is not good because He does good things for you.

He does good things for you because He is God.

He is good because He is God,

But He is not God because He is good.

The Bible says in Psalm 107:8, “Oh that men would praise the LORD for His goodness, and for His wonderful works to the children of men!”

God is good . . . all the time!  God is not like us … He doesn’t have ‘good days and bad days’.  God is eternal … He is everlasting … He will not and cannot change!  He is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow.  As someone has sung, “The God on the mountain is still God in the valley …The God of the day is still God in the night.”  Praise Him for His goodness!

He is Great in His Grace

There is no measure to His grace.  Two wonderful words are Grace and Mercy.  Although they are similar, they have distinct meanings . . .

God’s mercy is demonstrated

By not giving us what we deserve.

God’s grace is demonstrated

By giving us what we do not deserve.

A biblical example that helps us understand this truth is Parable of the Prodigal Son.  He deserved to be turned away … He made his prideful choice to go his own way … and now he was suffering because of it.  He deserved to be mocked and scorned for his foolish choice … but . . .

The father didn’t give him

What he deserved …

That was mercy.

When he drew near to the old home place, his father saw him … ran to him … and embraced him.  He wasn’t even worthy to be called a servant … but the father restored him as his son.  The father called for the robe, the shoes, the ring, and a celebration.

The father gave him

What he did not deserve.

This is an illustration

Of God’s mercy and grace.

God’s grace always amazes me.  One of the most beloved hymns ever written is “Amazing Grace.”  It was penned by a former captain of a slave ship.  His name, John Newton.  Can you imagine that?  A man who made his living buying and selling other human beings?  His testimony is written in the words of that song …

Amazing grace! (how sweet the sound)

That sav’d a wretch like me!

I once was lost, but now am found,

Was blind, but now I see.

If you are saved this morning … it is ONLY by God’s grace.  The Bible tells us in Ephesians 2:8-9, “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.”  Salvation by grace is basic Bible doctrine.  Many groups confuse grace and works.

It is vital that we understand

That God’s grace is amazing

Because He saved us …

Not because we earn it or deserve it

… But simply because of His grace!

Praise God for His grace!

He is Great in His Gift

The Bible says in 2 Corinthians 9:15, “Thanks be unto God for His unspeakable gift.” 

That Gift is His Son, Jesus Christ.

The Bible says in John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

That Gift is Eternal Life.

The Bible says in Romans 6:23, “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” 

That Gift means we have an inheritance.

The Bible declares in Romans 8:16-17, “The Spirit Itself bears witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with Him, that we may be also glorified together.”

Why is God so great?  Because He saw you and me in our sin, condemned to hell, and because He was not willing that any should perish; He sent His Son to become sin for us and to give His righteousness to all who will believe.

He is Great in His Goodness

He is Great in His Grace

He is Great in His Gift

Tomorrow we will look at further aspects of the greatness and goodness of 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.”

GraceForTheJourneyBottomOfPagePicture

What Is So “Great” About The Great Commission?

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

12July Words like “great” and “awesome” have lost a little bit of their punch in our language.  We use them so often and for so many things that they’ve lost a little bit of their significance.  For example, we might eat a really tasty pizza and say, “Wow! That pizza was awesome!”  Or on the Fourth of July, we might rig up some kind of homemade firework and when we set it off we say, “That was awesome!”

I think it’s kind of humorous to put the dictionary definition of “awesome” into those statements.  We’d feel kind of silly saying, “That pizza filled me with an overwhelming sense of reverence!”  The dictionary does also mention an overwhelming sense of fear, so that might apply to your homemade bomb on the Fourth of July!

Because of the way that we use words like “great” and “awesome,” when we talk in church about the Great Commission, we might wonder what’s great about it.

Why do we call it

The “Great” Commission, anyway?

In today’s blog, I’d like to give you four answers to that question today as we take a look at the commission that Jesus gave His disciples in Matthew 28:16-20.

The event recorded in this passage is taking place after Jesus rose from the grave.  The text says, “Now the 11 disciples went to Galilee [remember that Judas Iscariot is no longer part of the group!], to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. And when they saw Him they worshiped Him, but some doubted.”

That statement in the context of this story takes us by surprise.  What were the disciples doubting?  Were some of them doubting whether Jesus had really come back to life?  Most likely, their doubts were about their worship.  The Greek term here includes the act of bowing down to someone, and even though the disciples were coming to understand that Jesus was God and the Messiah, He was also a human being, and the thought of bowing down to a human being would have been very foreign to the minds of these Jewish men.

So most likely, they were having questions or doubts about what they should do now in the presence of Jesus.  They most likely were wondering, “Does He want us to bow down to Him?  After all, we remember Him washing our feet and telling us not to act all high and mighty.  What does He want us to do?”

Jesus doesn’t address any questions of etiquette, but instead He gives them a mission, or we might say he commissions them for a job.  Starting in verse 18, we begin to see why we refer to this as the “Great” Commission.

1. It comes from a great authority.

The Bible says in Matthew 28:18, “And Jesus came and spoke to the, saying, ‘All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.”  The first part of the Father’s plan for Jesus required Him to submit to various human beings.  He submitted to His parents while He was growing up, then later He submitted to the Jewish and Roman authorities.

But the days for Jesus to submit to other humans are over.  The Father has declared Him to be the Lord of heaven and earth, and if only all men everywhere would worship Him as such!  But many people have not heard that Jesus is their Lord and Savior, or some have heard, and they have continued in rebellion against Him.

And so, there is a need for the commission Jesus gives his disciples in verses 19 and 20.

2. It has a great goal.

The Bible says in Matthew 28:19-20, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.  Amen.” 

What a lofty and satisfying goal this is, to call people to become apprentices of Jesus – to call them to embrace Jesus as their Lord and Savior, make that fact known through baptism, and then to learn from Jesus’ teachings how to navigate all the ins and outs of life.

This is the greatest goal to which

We could possibly devote our lives.

What even compares to it?  Accumulating a fortune that you just have to leave behind anyway?  A fortune that your kids might fight over or even squander?  Grasping for your 15 minutes of fame that might be gone even before you are?

No goal could possibly be greater than this Commission, and this Commission also serves as the marching orders for the church.  If you’ve ever asked yourself . . .

“What should our church really be focused on?”

There’s really no mystery to the answer.

We are to make disciples of all nations,

Lead people to be baptized,

And teach them how to live a life

That’s based on the Word of God.

Sure, some of the details will be different for different churches based on where they’re located and the resources they have, but our common goal is laid out right here, and it’s as plain as day.

3. It has a great scope.

Notice that Jesus told them to make disciples of “all nations.”  Previously, in Matthew 10, Jesus had sent the disciples out on a short-term preaching tour, and at that time He had told them to stay within the boundaries of Israel.

But now there was to be no such restriction.

Since Jesus has all authority on earth,

All the inhabitants of Earth

Need to hear the offer

Of forgiveness & eternal life

From their crucified and risen King.

The Gospel is not a message for Israel alone, but for all people.  There is also no room for prejudice or racism in our efforts to spread the Gospel.  The offer of salvation is made to all people, and all people need to hear it.

4. It comes with a great promise.

After giving His disciples this commission, He gives them this promise: “And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

In may seem ironic that after giving this promise, Jesus left the Earth and returned to heaven just a few days later.  But by doing so, He made it possible to be with all of his disciples all the time – at the same time, no matter where they might be.  Remember that Jesus’ physical body could not be in two places at once any more than yours or mine can.

But after returning to heaven, Jesus sent His Spirit upon His disciples on the day of Pentecost.  The Spirit has come to live in every believer since that time.  So, Jesus has certainly made good on this promise, and He will continue to do so.

The Spirit’s presence within us is a wonderful reality of the unity that we enjoy with Jesus through faith.  Baptism is a wonderful picture of that unity as we symbolize the fact that through faith, we have died, been buried, and have been raised to new life with Jesus.  Let us celebrate with those who choose to take this important step

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.”

GraceForTheJourneyBottomOfPagePicture

How To Strengthen Your Faith

Grace For The Journey

 

2018BlogTheme11July Need to strengthen your faith?  You might feel like you are the only one.  But you are not.  This side of heaven – every believer has times when his or her faith is weak.

What does weak faith feel like?  When I’m weak in faith –

  • I can doubt God’s forgiveness.
  • I’m not sure God loves me.
  • I don’t believe God is in control.
  • I am tempted to pursue sin more than Jesus.
  • I worry about the future.
  • I feel discouraged or blah.
  • I lack spiritual motivation.

And when faith is weak, we can feel like nothing will ever change – that we’ll never again be strong in faith or feel close to God.

There’s Good News

The good news is that no matter how weak your faith, God has the power to strengthen you!  You can see that in these encouraging passages from the Word of God –

  • Mark 9:24 — where a man prays “I believe, help my unbelief.”
  • Luke 22:31-32 — where Jesus prays that Peter’s faith would be strengthened.
  • Ephesians 3:16 — where Paul prays that God would strengthen the faith of the church in Ephesus.

The One who spoke a Universe into existence, Who brought Jericho’s walls down, Who raised Lazarus from the dead – He can and will strengthen your faith.

But How?

It’s not through trying to be good enough to earn strong faith from God – or learning to be positive and how to claim what is ours.  Neither of those are taught in the Bible.  But, in the Bible God invites us to take steps which He will use to strengthen our faith.

First – Pray and Ask Jesus to Help Your Unbelief.

The Bible tells us in Mark 9:24, “Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, ‘I believe; help my unbelief!’”  How did Jesus respond?  He answered the man’s prayer.  So, don’t think you need strong faith before Jesus will listen to you.  Turn to Him just as you are – with your weak faith – and cry out to Him for help.

Confess that your faith is weak.  Ask Him to forgive you through the Cross.  Ask Him to strengthen your faith.  Because of His death on the Cross, He will welcome you, love you, forgive you.  AND – He will strengthen your faith – especially as you then take this next step . . .

Second – Hear And Live By The Word of God.

The Bible says in Romans 10:17, “So then, faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.”  Paul teaches that as we hear (read, study, live by) the Word of God, God will bring His power upon us and strengthen our faith.

Open to a passage which is full of God’s love and faithfulness and promises in Christ.  And prayerfully read over that passage, asking Jesus to strengthen your faith, so you see and feel that His promises are true.

Here’s some passages I have found helpful to pray over . . .

  • Psalm 50:15 — that I will experience God’s deliverance in every trial.
  • John 6:35 — that if I come to Jesus and surrender Him, He will fully satisfy me in Himself.
  • 2 Corinthians 4:17-18 — that God plans every trial to bring me even more joy in Him forever.
  • 2 Corinthians 12:9 – that God’s grace is sufficient to get me through anything I will face in life.
  • Philippians 3:10 — That I can know Jesus fully and live by His resurrection power.
  • Hebrews 13:5-6 — that God will certainly meet my financial needs (not that I’ll be rich, but my needs will be met).
  • James 1:5 — that God will give me all the wisdom I need.
  • 1 John 1:9 — that if I confess my sins, then because of Jesus’ death, God will surely forgive me.

So . . . pick whichever one of these fits your circumstances and look for others from God’s Word – and pray over it, think deeply on it, stand on its truth – and God will strengthen your faith.  This might happen quickly – or not.  But you can trust God’s timing.  And He WILL – in His perfect timing – strengthen your faith.  You will discover the Holy Spirit changing your heart, making Jesus more real to you, satisfying your soul, and strengthening your faith.

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.”

GraceForTheJourneyBottomOfPagePicture

 

Being The Church In A “Follow Your Heart” Age

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

10July  Not long ago, relativism defined the cultural conversation. Truth was “unknowable.” Perhaps it was somewhere “out there,” but anyone’s guess as to where one could find it was as good as the next.

This is no longer the case.

Today, we’re in a new cultural moment – one marked not by relativism, but by a new phenomenon known as expressive individualism.

While relativism

May label an

Assertion of external

And objective truth

As arrogant,

Expressive individualism

Calls it oppressive.

The relativist asks,

“Who’s to say what’s true?”

The expressive individualist replies, “Me.”

Look across the landscape of cultural artifacts, and you’ll find the same motif time and again:

Power and freedom are found in self-discovery.

As Tim Keller notes, “The only heroic narrative we’ve got left in our culture is the individual looking inside, seeing who they want to be, and asserting that over and against everyone else in society.”

So we really have moved on from relativism:

Truth is now not only knowable,

It’s been found.

All you have to do

Is look inside yourself.

Many in the church can identify, and to some degree even refute, relativism.

We’ve been handed enough apologetic tools and basic reasoning skills to dismantle the notion that truth is subjective.

Expressive individualism, however, is more insidious.

It allows us to appear as if we’re worshiping God, when in reality we are bowing to the god of self.  It acknowledges the power of Jesus but convinces us that He intends to use His power to further our own self-centered goals and aspirations.  It agrees we can be certain about truth, but points to our own hearts as the source.

When we center everything,

From Sunday worship to small groups,

On the individual experience,

We stoke the fire of self-worship.

It’s sobering to think about the church’s collusion with this mentality.  Rather than pushing back against individualism, congregations often subtly encourage it.

If we’re not careful,

We can betray the message

That “Christ is king”

With a method that says,

“Actually, you are.”

Biblically speaking, it’s difficult to find two terms more antithetical than self and church. And it’s not as though we must wade through cloaked language to discover this antithesis.

When Jesus calls us into His church,

His charge is not

That we discover

But deny ourselves (Matthew 16:24-25).

Further, when Jesus enumerates

The things that spring from our hearts,

Truth doesn’t make the list.

Only false testimony and evil thoughts do.

Or look to any teaching in the rest of the New Testament, and you’ll find it connected to a call to pursue humble unity and consider others more significant than yourself.

Simply put . . .

A biblical understanding of what it means

To believe in Jesus and belong to His church

Is incompatible

With expressive individualism.

Truth is neither relative nor self-generated; it is knowable.  In fact, it’s touchable.

Ultimate truth exists in

The form of a man, the God-man –

The One who died for our sinful hearts

So that we could die to them.

The fruit-desiring, lie-believing, wilderness-wandering self is the very thing we bury as we are buried with Christ.

His death for us

Becomes our death to self,

And His new life

Becomes our new life –

A life in which we deny ourselves

Instead of listening to ourselves,

In which we take up our cross

Instead of taking up our dreams,

And in which we follow Him

Instead of following our hearts.

Being a member of a local body of believers requires a radical commitment to a unified, corporate identity.  This commitment naturally undermines expressive individualism, since it simply won’t allow us to place ourselves – our beliefs, our preferences, our desires – at the center of the church’s reason for existence.

At a time when the church is, sadly, one of the first places to capitulate in the age of expressive individualism . . .

Growing in our relationship and walk with Christ

Through the local church gives Christ’s followers

A chance to regularly exercise the much-needed practice

Of leading our hearts rather than following them.

It takes whatever “truth” we think we’ve found within and subverts it with the pre-eminence of Christ and the truth of the gospel.  And the more we keep that truth – the truth – at the forefront, the quicker the so-called truth we find “within” gets exposed for the counterfeit that it is.

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

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

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

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

GraceForTheJourneyBottomOfPagePicture

Christians Today Need Gospel Fever

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

9July  I recently read about mission work being done in a Muslim country.  The article was about an indigenous Christian who preached with passion at a church in the capital city. The author described the sense of spiritual energy and urgency that the believers had and about how the church was growing rapidly.  This being evidenced even in the midst of great opposition.  The week before Easter, some of the Christians were arrested for their faith.  Many prayed for them.  The next Sunday, Easter Sunday, they were released.  You can imagine the elation and joy that vibrated through that church.  But that wasn’t all –  Having been arrested, thrown in jail, and persecuted for their faith, these Christians had witnessed to the other prisoners.  And . . . they had brought some of the prisoners with them to the service.

As I read this marvelous account of what God is doing, I couldn’t help but think . . .

“Such is the way of the Lord.”

Just as in Paul’s day,

A prison is no barrier to the gospel.

And around the world faithful Christians are either at risk of prison or are preaching the gospel in one.

I also thought about us in the Western Hemisphere, who have not been persecuted for our faith.  Yet, in the current climate we often live in some understandable fear of what the culture will do if we stand up for – or speak too loudly about – Jesus Christ.

As I read the article, I became fascinated by the evangelistic technique of these believers.  I was eager to learn something from how they were doing evangelism.  The young pastor of the church gave a rather simple response when he was asked what his method wasThis is what he replied:

“I’ll tell you our method.

We tell them they are sinners

Until they believe it.

And then we tell them

That Christ died for sinners.”

Simple yes …

But extremely powerful

In the hands

Of our Sovereign Lord!

One of the best books on evangelism is Michael Green’s classic, Evangelism in the Early Church.  It is an excellent read from a good scholar and gifted evangelist who is now in glory. At one point, he comments on an apocryphal story about the martyrdom of the apostle Peter.  This is how he wraps the story up: “Although this story is specifically concerned with martyrdom rather than evangelism, the two cannot be easily separated.  Peter was tempted to save his life at the cost of disloyalty to his commission from Christ; but the vision of the Lord suffering crucifixion for him was the compelling factor which drove him back onto the path of complete and utter dedication, even to death itself.  That reflection upon the cross as the supreme impulse to costly service for others in the name of the gospel and was unquestionably the greatest single element in keeping the zeal of Christians at fever pitch.”

It’s been a while since I’ve heard those words, “the zeal of Christians at fever pitch” attributed to Christians in the West.

I don’t know about you, but I want this kind of fever pitch … the kind of audacity, boasting in weakness, preaching about Christ crucified, and zeal that is biblical.  It is this sort of genuine passion and zeal that has a kind of appeal and attraction to it.  It is not something that  results in people not only seeing it our faces but will sensing it in our hearts.

So then . . .

The question seems to be:

Can we have that kind of zeal – again –

In America, Europe, the West?

And if so, how?

What is the right way for us to be boldly,

Even audaciously, evangelize in our current cultural situation?

How do we do it in a way that is missional and culturally engaged

– And yet rigorously and unashamedly biblical,

Christocentric, and oriented to the glory of God?

It happens as we follow what the early church did to promote evangelistic passion:

Reflect on the cross

Refer to why Jesus went to the cross

Relay what Jesus happened as a result of going to the cross.

Require acceptance of that Gospel truth.

Let’s pray that God would give us this kind of zeal – even at fever pitch.

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.”

GraceForTheJourneyBottomOfPagePicture

 

From Imperfection To Perfection!

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

8July  Do you remember the story of the thief on the cross who entered into heaven moments after his conversion?  He went instantly from imperfection to perfection.  God has done this great work of salvation countless times in the lives of His saints; some folks have used the phrase “deathbed conversion” to describe it.  But our loving Lord did not do this for us.  Why?  Why would God keep us out of His heaven when heaven is what we all long for?

Charles Spurgeon profoundly asked, “Would God keep His children out of paradise a single moment longer than was necessary?  Why is the army of the living God still on the battlefield when one charge might give them the victory?  Why are His children still wandering hither and thither through a maze, when a solitary word from His lips would bring them into the center of their hopes in heaven?”

The answer to the great preacher’s question

Is found in the oft-repeated refrain,

“We’re on a mission from God!”

If God did not have work for us to be doing, we would have already entered into our eternal rest alongside the saints who have gone before us.

We remain here on earth as ambassadors for Christ

(See 2 Corinthians 5:20),

Tasked with expanding the cause of His kingdom.

We are here to be both salt and light.  Our Lord commands in Matthew 5:13-16, “You are the salt of the earth.  But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again?  It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men.  You are the light of the world.  A city on a hill cannot be hidden.  Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl.  Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.  In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.”

Jesus used the metaphors of salt and light to tell us something very important about our mission.

Salt in ancient times was used both to

Enhance flavor and to act as a preservative.

As salt, we are to bring Gospel flavor to all we do, as well as preserve and enhance life with the truths of the Gospel in our fallen and broken world.

As light . . .

We are to be visible as living epistles of Christ,

Shining the light of His truth

Into every dark place,

So that God would be glorified.

So don’t fret about the length of time God takes to complete your transformation from imperfection to perfection.  There is work to be done!  You’re on a mission from God!  And the mission He has given you is Kingdom work, in which you live beyond your personal wants, needs, and desires, and live instead for the glory of the King and the good of others!

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.”

GraceForTheJourneyBottomOfPagePicture

Why Do You Do What You Do?

Grace For The Journey

5JulyIn a culture consumed by the concept of instant gratification, we must be careful not to bring that sort of “I want it now!” thinking into the service of our Lord.  We must not expect (nor will we receive) immediate reward for the good we do in the name of Jesus for the glory of God.

Hear the inspired message from the Wise Preacher in Ecclesiastes 11:1, “Cast your bread on the waters: for you shall find it after many days.”

For the servant of God, the good received is to be found in the service itself.  To be sure . . .

God is gracious and often returns

A harvest to His workers;

But the real harvest is reaped

In the service alone,

Not in the hope of what

It may one day yield.

We have been commanded to simply “Cast our bread on the water” and leave it up to the good Lord to fulfill the promise He has made . . . in His time and in His way.

When we understand this truth,

We find it far easier to serve all those

Whom God sends our way,

Giving no thought to what

We will receive in return.

No labor is in vain

When we labor for our Lord!

So . . . why do you do what you do?  Reflect on that question for a moment and prayerfully consider your response.

Why do you do what you do?

Is it because of what you

Hope to receive in return?

Or is it simply because

You are grateful

To be serving your Savior?

Notice a very important truth contained in this verse from Ecclesiastes:

We have all been given bread

From the hand of our God,

Not to hoard and store,

But to cast upon the waters.

  • We have been blessed to be a blessing.
  • We have been helped to help others.
  • We have been served to serve others.
  • We have been loved to love others.

Jesus Christ died for us so that we might die to self and live for others. God has given to us that we might give to others.

Often we find ourselves serving people who are indifferent and ungrateful.  But that gives us no excuse to shrink from our service, because it is the Lord we are truly serving when we are serving others . . . all others.

Do you remember what Jesus said to His disciples in Matthew 25:34-?  In describing the Final Judgment, Jesus described a scene when . . . “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you blessed by my Father; inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was hungry and you gave Me food, I was thirsty and you gave Me drink, I was a stranger and you took me in, I was naked and you clothed Me, I was sick and you visited Me, I was in prison and you came to Me.’  Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink?  When did we see you a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? Or when did we see you sick or in prison and come to You?’  And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Verily, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it ot one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’”

Often we find ourselves serving

Where we are unlikely to receive

A recompense for our labors,

And this is a good thing.

In God’s economy,

He has ordained it to be this way

So that we would look to Him

And Him alone

For the reason

Why we do what we do.

True servants of God, who understand what it means to cast their bread upon the waters, look for opportunities to serve those who cannot pay them back.  Often they serve in the shadows, where nobody knows who has brought them the blessing.  They do not seek the applause of man, only the acclaim of their God.  In so doing, they find their harvest . . . not after so many days, but moment-by-moment.

Who in your life needs your service today?  Who has God laid on your heart to pray for or give to?  What are you waiting for?  Cast your bread on the waters through your faithful witness, and receive the blessings God pours out on those who serve for the sake of serving.

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.”

GraceForTheJourneyBottomOfPagePicture

 

Our Allegiance – To God And Country

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

4July   Today is the Fourth of July . . .

A time for food, fellowship, and fireworks.

But for the Christian,

It is a time for so much more!

Today is a day to reflect

On the fact that we are

A nation that was founded, rooted,

And established on Christian principles.

Don’t take my word for it; read the words of our founding fathers.

George Washington, “Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports.  In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism, who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of men and citizens.”

John Adams, “The general principles on which the fathers achieved independence were the general principles of Christianity.  I will avow that I then believed, and now believe, that those general principles of Christianity are as eternal and immutable as the existence and attributes of God.”

Samuel Adams, “May every citizen . . . have a proper sense of the Deity upon his mind and an impression of the declaration recorded in the Bible, “Him that honoreth Me I will honor, but he that despiseth Me shall be lightly esteemed.”

Thomas Jefferson, “The 1st Amendment has created a wall of separation between church and state, but that wall is a one directional wall, it keeps the government from running the church, but it makes sure that Christian principles will always stay in government.”

Thomas Jefferson, And can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are the gift of God?  That they are not to be violated but with his wrath?  Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just: that his justice cannot sleep forever.”

John Quincy Adams, “Why is it that, next to the birthday of the Savior of the World, your most joyous and most venerated festival returns on this day [July 4th]? . . . Is it not that, in the chain of human events, the birthday of the nation is indissolubly linked with the birthday of the Savior?  That it forms a leading event in the progress of the gospel dispensation?  Is it not that the Declaration of Independence first organized the social compact on the foundation of the Redeemer’s mission upon earth?  That it laid the corner stone of human government upon the first precepts of Christianity . . . ?”

Regardless of what we hear from politicians, liberal media, historical revisionists, or local, state, or national courts our great nation was founded on Christian principles and religious freedom – not to worship whatever god we want, but rather, the God who is: the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

Our founding fathers not only pledged allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, they first and foremost pledged allegiance to their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.  They echoed the inspired and infallible words of the apostle Paul in Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.  The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me.”

Our founders’ ultimate allegiance was to the Almighty.  They were devoted to Him.  They were dedicated to Him.  They were committed to Him.  Their entire existence was rooted in their right relationship with their Redeemer.  Patrick Henry, the fiery “Give me liberty or give me death!” orator of the Revolution, said simply, “This is all the inheritance I can give to my dear family. The religion of Christ can give them one which will make them rich indeed.”  And that, beloved, should be the confession of the lives of all those Christians who pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America . . . and every other Christian around the world, regardless of the flag that flies over their land.

The greatest gift we possess,

And the greatest gift we can pass

On to our posterity,

Is faith in Jesus Christ

As our Savior and Lord.

On the day that we Americans commemorate the adoption of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, declaring independence from the Kingdom of Great Britain, let us meditate on our declaration of dependence upon our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, and His sovereign rule in our lives.

Jesus is to be our first priority in both life and death.

He is to be our safety in the storm.

He is to be our peace in times of trouble.

He is to be our portion in times of need.

He is to be our All in all.

There is no greater declaration for the Christian to make and honor than the one made to the King of kings and Lord of lords.

When we declare to be His,

We declare that we are no longer our own.

We have been bought at a price

No man can measure.

The very Son of God was crucified and nailed to the old rugged cross to pay our penalty for every our sins.  We are His – we belong to no other – and He will tolerate no rival.

So today, as you enjoy your Independence Day celebration, pause to remember and give thanks to the One who purchased your freedom from the kingdom of the prince of this world.  Jesus has brought you out of darkness and into His marvelous light to remain with Him forever and ever, world without end.  By God’s grace, may we live lives that confess both our pledge of allegiance to the republic for which our American flag stands . . . and to our triune God in heaven – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

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.”

GraceForTheJourneyBottomOfPagePicture