The Importance Of Christian Greetings

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme
16Aug  The Bible says in 1 Timothy 1:1, “To Timothy, a true son in the faith: grace, mercy, and peace from God our Father and Jesus Christ our Lord.”

Within our lifetimes, greetings have changed with the advent of e-mail, instant messaging, texting and twittering.  Our communication has become ever more perfunctory and truncated.  We don’t even write “Dear John” letters anymore.

Even in Christian circles

Our greetings are with curt superficiality.

Rarely do we retain

A spiritual agenda in our talk,

And when we do

We fail to go very deep.

We may get to the point in the conversation where we offer to pray for another but stop short of telling them specifically what we are asking God to do, let alone actually pray with them right then and there.

If the letters of Paul are any indication of the early church,

We have lost something very precious in the life of the modern church.

Paul characteristically greets individuals differently than he does churches in the New Testament.  He introduces himself and addresses to whom he writes in all his letters. But to individuals he greets them with something of a prayer and simultaneously an expression of blessing as he wishes them grace, mercy and peace.  Note the greetings to Timothy, Titus, and Philemon:

Philemon 3, “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”

1 Timothy 1:3, “Grace, mercy, and peace from God our Father and Jesus Christ our Lord.”

2 Timothy 1:2, “…Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Titus 1:1:4, “… Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ our Savior.”

John has a very similar greeting in his second epistle.

2 John 3, “Grace, mercy, and peace will be with you from God the Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father, in truth and love.”

It may have been a formulaic greeting common among the saints but the sentiments are uncommon.  An unsaved person could only hope for such a benefit!  Allow me to explain what I mean by a quick review of these blessed terms.

The source of the benefit is “God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”  A Father’s love and a Son’s sacrifice are in view all in “God-size” capacity.

Grace is the manner and means in which God bears Himself toward the believer.  Grace is greater than love for it is love in action.  It is unmerited favor done by one for another, spontaneous and generous with no expectation of return.  It is illustrated by God’s free gift of forgiveness.  It is this which sanctifies the saint more and more in the walk of life.

Mercy is tasked with dealing with all manner of human misery as a consequence of sin.  It is a pitying love much like the phrase “God so loved the world.”  This term is expressive of the balm for the ailing soul of a saint beset by the cares of this life awaiting the final glorification.  Mercy enfolds the saint with divine arms of love.

Peace speaks of that which has been bound together after having been separated.  It is characterized by tranquility, comfort and well-being.  It is the sense of satisfaction with our Lord and satisfaction with our life based upon trusting God’s work of grace and mercy in our behalf.

Do you see what I mean when I say that an unsaved person can only hope for such certainty in relationship with his Creator?

Every genuine believer

Regularly needs a reminder

Of his unique

Privilege and provision

In the favor of the Almighty.

It was true in Paul’s day and so it is true in our day.

The next time you write a note to a brother or sister in Christ try to weave in this prayer of blessing as a reminder of God’s providential love.  But do not stop with letter writing. What about how you greet another believer?  And what about including these words in your prayers for each other?  Trust and obey.

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 Does The Bible Say About The Cost Of Making God Wait For You?

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

15AugThe Bible says in Isaiah 30;18, “Therefore the Lord will wait, that He may be gracious to you; and therefore He will be exalted, that He may have mercy on you. For the Lord is a God of justice; blessed are all those who wait for Him.”

Do you recall the voice of your child saying, “I can do it myself!” meaning, “Stop helping, I can manage on my own?”  Remember how you would wait close by watching his/her little fingers make an ungainly attempt at imperfect self-sufficiency?  Parental waiting was a part of his struggle to grow up.  Your love for them meant you were there to lend a hand and guide him to success.

Parental supervision is a different story when danger lurks in the shadows.  The child’s desire to “I can do it myself” can have disastrous consequences and the child needs immediate intervention or destruction is assured.

The Children of Israel in Isaiah’s day were like willful children seeking to rescue themselves in the face of danger without coming to the Lord for help.  In their case they did not have the child-like excuse of innocence.  They were pursuing other avenues of rescue from the dreaded Assyrian enemy.

They were turning to other nations

And their own resources

Rather than

Turning in repentance and

Waiting upon God for deliverance.

The intervening verses between 15 and 18 display their own inept attempts and paint a picture of self-inflicted terror.  God tells them that though they seek fast horses to flee the enemy the enemy will also have swift horses to pursue them.  Judah will be upended by the fearsome ravings of a few and the story of their self-destruction will stand out like a lonely tree on a hill.

When God’s people do not rely on Him

They often trip themselves up spectacularly,

Not because God is not able,

But because they forgot God in their pursuits.

Verse 18 is the key of the passage.

God does not give up on His own people.

When we do not wait on God

The Bible says that He waits on us

And His waiting is so that

He may show His favor

Upon His own when it is just.

He is righteous, loving the right.

The word that Isaiah was led by the Holy Spirit to use to describe God’s seeming absence is the word “wait.”  It signifies the gracious heart of the Almighty toward His errant children because it means “to wait with an earnest expectation and longing, with a desire for something.”  How amazing to grasp the meaning that when God’s people do not “wait” upon God we cause Him to “wait” for us!

Allow me to share four things about this biblical concept.  As we consider this truth, our first thought is, “Why should He wait – Why does He not act at once?”  Because something in us hinders Him from working at this time.  We cannot enter into spiritual blessings till we are made capable of them by faith.  It would not be for our good to receive some temporal blessings until sorrow has done its work on us.

The great thought here is that

God has a right time for help.

He is “a God of judgment,”

This means, “He discerns our moral condition

And shapes His dealings accordingly.”

He never gives the wrong medicine.

Second, His waiting is full of work to fit us to receive His grace.  It is not a mere passive standing by, until the fit conditions are seen in us; but the Bible tells us that He ‘is exalted’ while He waits.  Literally this phrase means, “lifted up in the manifestation of His might, and by His energy in preparing us for the gifts that He has prepared for us.” Elsewhere the Bible reminds us, “He that hath wrought us for the self-same thing is God.”  

He who prepares a place for us

Is preparing us for the place.

He who has grace which He is ready to give us here,

Is making us ready for His grace.

The meaning of all God’s work on us is to form a character fit to possess His highest gifts.

Third, His waiting is very patient.  The divine husbandman “waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient over it.”  How wonderful that in a very real sense He attends on our pleasure, as it were, and lets us determine His time to work.

Fourth, God’s waiting is full of divine desire to help.  It is not the waiting of indifference, which says: “If you will have it-well and good. If not, it does not matter to Me.”  But “more than they that watch for the morning,’ God waits ‘that He may be gracious unto you.”

Some people think that we should come to God after we take care of everything first, or after things get just a little more out of hand, or when we are ready.  Those who think this way are, in effect, making God wait and ignoring the disaster that dogs their footsteps.

Believers are summoned to repent, obey, and wait upon God.  Do you know how to wait upon God?  Is there some aspect of your life where you need to practice waiting upon your Heavenly Father?  He promises, “Blessed are all those who wait for Him.”

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 Does The Bible Say About The Eyes Of God?

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

14Aug  The Bible says in 2 Chronicles 16:9, “For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him. In this you have done foolishly; therefore from now on you shall have wars.”

Someone has said, “The eyes are the light of the soul.”  I believe that the eyes can generally reveal what is taking place in the heart.  The eyes say a lot when someone is startled, joyful, downhearted, or angry.  In some lands there are superstitions regarding the color of “the evil eye.”  Our mothers had “eyes” in the back of their heads.  The eye’s design is one of the astounding miracles of the Almighty and in His divine purpose sight is one of the five senses we treasure.

It is no wonder that the Bible speaks of the “eyes of the Lord.”  Though God is Spirit and not confined to physical form there is no doubt that He “sees.”  The Scriptures refer to the sight of God in such phrases as “nothing is hidden” from Him, we stand “before Him,” and “He sees” the plight of those who fear Him.

Referring to the “vision” of God is a human way of saying that God is omnipotent (all powerful) and omniscient (all knowing).  In practical terms, He is all seeing, all sensing, all wise, all evaluating, all superior, all noting, all remembering, and either rewarding or judging as fitting to the circumstance.

In the Bible these signify two important aspects of God:

  1. His knowledge

Job 34:21 – “For His eyes are on the ways of man, and He sees all his steps.”

Hebrews 4:13 – “And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things a naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.”

  1. His providence.

For good:

Psalms 32:8 – “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should; I will guide you with My eye.”

For evil:

Isaiah 3:8 – “For Jerusalem stumbled, and Judah is fallen, because their tongue and their doings are against the LORD, to provoke the eyes of His glory.”

Our text is interesting because it is found in the story of King Asa of Judah.  In 2 Chronicles 14:2–4 the Bible records that, “Asa did what was good and right in the eyes of the Lord his God, for he removed the altars of the foreign gods and the high places, and broke down the sacred pillars and cut down the wooden images. He commanded Judah to seek the Lord God of their fathers, and to observe the law and the commandment.”  During Asa’s reign a prophet told him, “the Lord is with you while you are with Him. If you seek Him, He will be found by you; but if you forsake Him, He will forsake you.”  Asa generally followed that advice, but towards the end of his reign he looked elsewhere for his security and found it from worldly sources without consulting God.  Because of this breach of God’s plain command is given.

Asa had forgotten the words of King David (his forebear) who proclaimed this truth in several of his psalm, “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will guide you with My eye” … “The Lord looks from heaven; He sees all the sons of men. From the place of His dwelling He looks on all the inhabitants of the earth; He fashions their hearts individually; He considers all their works. No king is saved by the multitude of an army; a mighty man is not delivered by great strength. A horse is a vain hope for safety; neither shall it deliver any by its great strength. Behold, the eye of the Lord is on those who fear Him, on those who hope in His mercy, to deliver their soul from death, and to keep them alive in famine” … “The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and His ears are open to their cry.” (Psalm 32:8, 33:13–19, 34:15)

Why such an intense interest displayed by God?  It is in the affairs of men (created in His image) that God intentionally and personally acts in relationship to His revealed Word.

Those who yield in loyalty to His divine prerogative

Are treated to ringside seats to see displays

Of His strength, wisdom, sustaining grace,

And covenantal lovingkindness.

In Psalm 17:8 David says, “Keep me as the apple (pupil) of Your eye; hide me under the shadow of Your wings.”

With a pure heart and clear conscience the believer desires the approving “eye of God” to rest upon him in harmony with God’s all-wise and all-loving plan.

Are there things you do in your life

Which you wish God did not see

Of which you must repent and confess?

Do you make yourself available to God

And make it your daily request

That He demonstrate His strength

Through you as He pleases?

Do you desire for His eye to rest on you?

In this verse we find a picture of God’s eyes scanning the earth for those seeking God’s assistance.  The context of this passage is actually a confrontation of king Asa’s lack of reliance on the Lord.  Asa, who had once trusted in God, turned to Syria’s military might instead of God’s might for help.

Like Asa, we are confronted

With daily decisions of trust and reliance.

The eyes of man run to and fro throughout the earth looking for people and things it can rely on for support.  Asa chose to put his hope in another nation’s strength instead of God’s strength.  What do we put our trust in?  Our own strength and abilities? Our relationships?  Our savings account?  The stock market?  Our academic degree?  Our paycheck?  Our spouse’s affection?

The problem is that the minute

We put our ultimate reliance

On finite powers and things,

We are asking those things

To do for us something

They are incapable of doing.

Only God Himself can provide

True stability, life,

And support to us.

God is seeking to provide support to us not because He needs validation, but rather because He knows we need Him!  He beckons us to trust Him because He knows anything less than Himself won’t be enough and will let us down.

As our eyes run to and fro,

May our eyes meet

The eyes of the living God

Who is seeking to come

To our assistance!

He promises to not just give support, but strong support.  He doesn’t merely give you a pat on the back and whisper an encouraging uplifting word and then walk away, but rather comes with His mighty strength and support to help you and stand by you.

What does He look for?

A blameless heart.

A heart that knows

It can’t do it on its own.

A heart that knows it needs Him.

A heart that does not turn

Elsewhere for ultimate hope.

A heart that has put its faith (confidence)

Not in its own perfection & blamelessness,

But rather in Jesus and His perfect obedience

And atoning death on the cross.

The Bible teaches that those who turn away from their sin and self-reliance and put their trust in Jesus’ work for them are now found “in Christ.”  What does this mean?  It means that when God looks at us, He no longer see our sin and blame, but sees His Son and His blood.  He sees a blameless heart because He sees His Son’s heart in us.  This doesn’t mean we don’t sin anymore; it just means that God no longer counts our sin against us and is working in us by His Spirit to set us free from this sin more and more.  Because of Christ, you can cry out to the Father in His Son’s Name and in the Spirit’s power, knowing that God will not only hear you, but give you “strong support.”  What a miracle and what a privilege!

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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How God Opens the Eyes of the Heart

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

13Aug  How does someone who is blind to the glory of God come to see Him for who He really is?  To be sure, the natural eyes and ears and brains are part of the process.  Without them we cannot even see or hear or construe the natural things that reveal God’s glory: creation, incarnation, the gospel, and Scripture.  But this natural seeing is not decisive in seeing the glory of God.  Jesus said in Matthew 13:13, “Seeing they do not see.”

Something more than the use

Of the natural eyes and ears

And brains must happen.

The way the apostle the Bible puts it is that you must have “the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know …” (Ephesians 1:18).  This too is strange – the heart has eyes!  But perhaps not beyond comprehension.

Most people do not speak of “the heart” as something more than the blood-pumping organ in our chest.  Such language is not foreign to us.  This “heart” is the real us. Intuitively we know that there is more to us than flesh and bones.  We know we are not mere chemicals in a sack of skin.  We would not talk the way we do about things like justice and love if we didn’t believe that.

Is it so strange, then, to add to this immaterial personhood the idea of immaterial eyes – “the eyes of the heart?”  This inner person, who is the real us, sees and knows things that are not identical with what the eyes of the body can see.  Pascal said, “The heart has its reasons, which reason does not know.  We feel it in a thousand things.”

There is a spiritual seeing through and beyond natural seeing.

There is a spiritual hearing through and beyond natural hearing.

There is spiritual discerning through and beyond natural reasoning.

How, then, may we conceive of what happens when the heart sees the glory of God?  I found a clue in the way Paul speaks of our knowledge of the glory of God in nature. On the one hand, Paul says that we all “know God.”

“Although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him” (Romans 1:21). That is astonishing. Everyone knows God! But in other places, Paul emphatically says that by nature people do not know God. For example, “In the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom” (1 Corinthians 1:21).  The “Gentiles do not know God” (1 Thessalonians 4:5).  Formerly “you did not know God” (Galatians 4:8; see 2 Thessalonians 1:8; 1 John 4:8).

So, what does Paul mean in Romans 1:21 when he says that all human beings “know God?”  To answer this, we might simply quote Romans 1:19-20, “What can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made.”

But is that all Paul means when he says, “They knew God?”  I think there is more.  In Romans 2:14-15, Paul says that people who have never heard of the law of God sometimes do what the law requires.  Their consciences witness to God’s will.  He puts it like this: “They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts.”

So, here is what the Bible is teaching: “Knowing God” in Romans 1:21 includes this deeper heart experience of Romans 2:15.  The analogy that I find helpful is to conceive of the innate knowledge of God and His will as a kind of template or mold in the human heart.  This template is designed by God in every human heart with a shape, or a form, that corresponds to the glory of God.  In other words . . .

If the glory of God were seen with the eyes of the heart,

It would fit the template so perfectly

That we would know the glory is real.

We would know we were made for this.

When Paul says that every person “know(s) God,” or that everyone has the work of the law “written on their hearts,” he means that there is a glory-shaped template in every heart waiting to receive the glory of God.

We all “know God” in the sense

That we have this witness in our hearts

That we were made for this glory.

There is a latent expectancy and longing,

And the shape of it

Is buried deep in our souls.

The reason we do not see the glory of God is not that the template is faulty.  The reason is what the Bible calls “hardness of heart” (Ephesians 4:18).

This hardness is a deep aversion to God,

And a corresponding love for self-exaltation.

Paul said that the mind-set of the flesh is hostile to God (Romans 8:7).  And Jesus said that “light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light” (John 3:19).

Our problem is not

That we lack the light,

But that

We love the dark.

This is the hardness of our hearts.

This means that the hollowed-out shapes of the mold, which are perfectly shaped for the all-satisfying glory of God, are instead packed hard with the love of other things.  So, when the glory of God shines into the heart – from creation or Jesus or the gospel – it finds no place.  It is not felt or perceived as fitting.

To the natural mind – the mind whose glory-shaped mold is packed hard with idols — the glory of God is foolishness (1 Corinthians 2:14).  It doesn’t fit.  As Jesus said to those whose hardness pushed them to the point of murder, “You seek to kill me because My word finds no place in you” (John 8:37).  Of course, they could hear His words, and remember His words.  But they could not understand them.  They heard the words, but they did not love them or surrender to them.  They loved the darkness that filled the template that was designed for the brightness of the glory of God.

The only hope for seeing the glory of God in Scripture

Is that God might cut away the diamond-hard,

Idolatrous substitutes for the glory of God

That are packed into the template of our heart.

The Bible speaks of this supernatural act in many ways.  For example, it describes this supernatural work . . .

  • As a shining into our hearts of divine glory (2 Corinthians 4:6),
  • As a granting of truth and repentance (2 Timothy 2:25),
  • As the giving of faith (Philippians 1:29),
  • As raising us from the dead (Ephesians 2:5-6),
  • As new birth by the word (1 Peter 1:23; James 1:18),
  • As the special revelation of the Father (Matthew 16:17) and the Son (Matthew 11:27),
  • As the enlightening of the eyes of the heart (Ephesians 1:18),
  • As being given the secret of the kingdom of God (Luke 8:10).

When this salvation miracle happens to us, the glory of God cuts, burns, melts, and removes from the template the cement hardness of alien loves and takes its rightful place.  We were made for this.  And the witness of this glory to the authenticity of the Scriptures is overwhelming.  Where we saw only foolishness before, we now see the all-satisfying worthiness and faithfulness of God.  It is like John Piper says, “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.”  This is result of the supernatural work that God achieves in us through our repentance and faith in the saving work of Jesus Christ

No one merely sees or decides that the Bible, as the all-compelling, all-satisfying truth of one’s life.  Seeing and understanding is a gift of God.  And so, the full embrace of God’s Word is a gift. God’s Spirit opens the eyes of our heart, and what was once boring, or absurd, or foolish, or mythical is now self-evidently real and powerful to change us and lead us into the will and ways 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.”

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Do We See People As God Wants Us To See Them?

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

12Aug  Because we are all made in the image of God, everyone matters.  Both believer and unbeliever alike are valuable, important, and needed.  Because God doesn’t make junk, every person has meaning and significance.  And that is why we should look at people – all people – as created in the image of our Holy God.  To be sure . . .

Sin has twisted and corrupted this image,

But the image still remains.

Every person bears the image of God,

Regardless of where they live,

How they look,

Or what they have done.

Think about the people Jesus hung around with.  In the eyes of the “good” and “valuable” and “important” people like the Pharisees, Jesus hung around with the wrong crowd.  He spent time with the dregs of society: prostitutes, tax collectors, criminals, the marginalized, and the outcasts of society.  He would have lived a far more comfortable and convenient life if He had invested His time in the socially acceptable and politically correct.  But He did not!  He was here for the down and out, not the up and in, and . . .

He would not let the opinions of others

Keep Him from helping the hurting

Reconnect and recapture their true humanity

As image bearers of the Most High God!

Only the power of the Gospel enables us to tear down walls of self-focus and self-protection, freeing us to see the image of God in every person we meet.

This is what empowers us to live beyond the borders of our own lives.

We begin living for the glory of God and the good of others.

We begin caring about people and for people

Who in no way can care about and for us.

Certainly they are in no position to benefit our lives.

Fredrick Buechner hits this proverbial “nail” squarely on the head in his book, The Magnificent Defeat  . . . “ The love for equals is a human thing – of friend for friend, brother for brother.  It   is to love what is loving and lovely.  The world smiles.  The love for the less   fortunate is a beautiful thing – the love for those who suffer, for those who are poor, the sick, the failures, the unlovely.  This is compassion, and it touches the heart of the world.  The love for the more fortunate is a rare thing – to love those who succeed where we fail, to rejoice without envy with those who rejoice, the love of the poor for the rich, of the black man for the white man.  The world is    always bewildered by God’s peoples.  And then there is the love for the enemy – love for the one who does not love you but mocks, threatens, and inflicts pain. The tortured’s love for the torturer.  This is God’s love.  It conquers the world.

We love because we have been loved

And

We serve because we have been served

By the One who purchased us

With His precious blood.

As Jesus told His disciples in Matthew 20:28, “The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.”

Don’t miss this . . .

Jesus knew we could never pay Him back

In any way for all that He did for us.

And . . .

Because of that marvelous truth

It changes us

And

Everything in our world.

For this reason …

  • Our purpose is built upon His will.
  • Our passion is structured upon His mission.
  • Our potential is connected to His power.

At this level of living . . .

Every person

Matters to us

Because every person

Matters to God.

God is in the process of making all things new, and in that process He has called us to live for something bigger than ourselves.  Everything we have belongs to God; therefore, we are to be using it all for the expansion of His kingdom, not our own.

When we care more about what God cares about,

We will care more about other people.

Mercy and love will be the distinctives of our lives,

And all those we touch will see a God who is both merciful and loving.

We make our God attractive

When we look for and acknowledge

The image of God in the souls God brings into our lives.

Jesus drove this point home in Luke 14:12-14, “When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid.  But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed.  Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteousness.”

I know this all sounds so radical and counterintuitive . . . but what would you expect from such a radical Savior who profoundly talked and personally walked such a different life and message?

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 It Means to Make Disciples

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

10Aug Biblically, to be a disciple is to make disciples.  But if you were to ask the average Christian today what it means to make disciples, you’d probably get jumbled thoughts, ambiguous answers, and likely even some blank stares.  This is a problem.

If we’re going to know how

To do anything as Christians,

We need to know

How to make disciples.

So, what does it mean to make disciples?  Here’s my best attempt to sum up disciple-making based on Matthew 28:19.  There are four things we are to do to make disciple:

1. We Share the Word.

We speak about the gospel as we live according to the gospel.  We tell people how they can be saved from their sins through Jesus’ death on the cross.  There’s no question that this is the thrust behind Christ’s command to go and make disciples.

Jesus was not telling these eleven guys on a mountain to pair up and disciple each other.  He was telling them to reach people who have not been reached with the gospel. And Christian, remember:

This is why

You have

The Spirit of God

Inside of you!

To speak the gospel.

(Acts 1:8)

So, who are you speaking the gospel to?  Who has God put in your life that you can share the gospel with?  If not, what are you waiting for?  To make disciples is to go to people who don’t know the love of Christ and lead them to experience the life of Christ.

2. We Show the Word.

Once we share the Word and people put their faith in Christ, we baptize them.  Have you ever wondered why Jesus includes instructions on baptizing people in His command to make disciples?  

Because baptism symbolizes

Identification with the person of Christ

And inclusion in the body of Christ.

Disciple-making is not about sharing the gospel with people and then leaving them to figure out the Christian life on their own.  Instead, we show them how to follow Christ on a day-by-day basis.  This is why we can never limit disciple-making to a weekly meeting in a classroom.  Disciple-making is what happens when we walk through life together, showing one another how to pray, study the Bible, grow in Christ, and lead others to Christ.

And remember, God has designed disciple-making not only for the good others, but also for our growth in Christ.  If you lead a new believer to Christ, then how is that person going to learn to pray or study the Bible or share the gospel?  By watching you!  God has this thing rigged.

3. We Study the Word.

The Great Commission also involves “teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19, emphasis added).  As followers of Jesus, we don’t just receive the Word; we reproduce the Word.  Now there’s obviously a sense in which some in the church are particularly gifted to teach (Ephesians 4:11–12).  However, every disciple of Jesus is intended to saturate his or her words with God’s Word.  We are teaching people all that Christ has taught us.

4. We Seek to take the Word to all the World.

Finally, obeying the Great Commission will mean not only taking the gospel to our neighbors, but also the world.  The Bible tells us we are to make disciples of “all nations” (panta ta ethne) (Matthew 28:19).  The word for “nations” here is not a reference to the approximately two hundred geopolitical nations, or countries, recognized in the world today.  The word “nations” refers “to tribes, families, clans, and peoples, what we call people groups today.”  We see this concept throughout the Old Testament, where God identifies specific people groups: Amorites, Hittites, Perizzites, Canaanites, Hivites, and Jebusites.

Today there over 11,000 people groups in the world.  These are groups of people that share a similar language, heritage, and cultural characteristics.  So . . .

This is not just a general command

To make disciples among

As many people as possible.

This is a specific command

To make disciples among

Every people group in the world.

Did you know that there are 6,000 people groups who still have not been reached with the gospel.  Making disciples of all nations necessarily involves intentionally going after these 6,000 people groups.

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 Desperate Need of This Generation

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

9Aug  Each generation faces a most serious dilemma. A disturbing pattern emerges from the chronicles of faith.  The conviction that blazes brightly in one generation becomes a torch, then an ember, and then cold ash in following generations.

This generational degeneration happens so repetitively in biblical history you can set your clock by it.  It is called “the third and fourth generation problem.”  It is written in the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:5).  It lived out in the dark days of the Judges (Judges 2:10).  It led to the violent and immoral history of the Kings (1 Kings 11-12; Nehemiah 8-9).  It triggered the failure of every Christian (Hebrews 2:1-4).

Our personal history can also reveal the presence of generational degeneration today.

The sacrificial and passionate faith

Of the first generation

Is accepted as an important

Set of doctrines by the second.

The third generation continues

The traditions of the faith,

But they have little inner conviction

Or practical expression of it.

The fourth generation brings

The charade of faith to an end.

In four generations faith goes

From passionate, to important,

To cold, to dead.

Now, do you see the dilemma?  Are you in the same boat?  What will happen to our generation?  Or the next!?

Many local churches are made up

Of third and fourth generation believers.

Some are spiritually cold and growing restless.

The bold repentance and sacrificial

Faith of their predecessors,

Is being replaced by spiritual convenience

To accommodate a worldly lifestyle.

If history holds true,

The result won’t be pretty.

Yes, “the third and fourth generation problem” is . . .

A pattern, but it need not be a prophecy!

The fire doesn’t have to die,

It can be rekindled.

Every new generation can make a fresh and authentic commitment to worship the Lord their God and serve only Him (Luke 4:8).  But how?

Surprising lessons are learned from a generation who failed.  Their spiritual failure led to the horrific period of the Judges.  Their generation was blessed with more land, power and wealth than any previous generation, and they used them to create a hell on earth. Oh, they didn’t plan to destroy their society and ruin their children’s future.  They just failed to see the desperate need of their generation (are we in that same condition!).  Let me share three ways this generational problem can be overcome.

First, they have an urgent need to know the Lord personally.  The opening words of Judges diagnose the reason for Israel’s collapse.

The Bible says in Judges 2:7,10, “So the people served the LORD all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders who outlived Joshua, who had seen all the great works of the LROD which He had done for Israel.  When all that generation had been gathered to their fathers, another generation arose after them who did not know the LORD nor the work which He had done for Israel.”

Israel had a generational problem.

It took three generations to go from

Courageously faithful to practically forgetful.

How could this happen?

Certainly, the parents shoulder some of the responsibility.  After all, Moses warned parents that their children didn’t see what God had done in delivering them from Egypt, they did not hear the thundering voice of God they heard, they did not see the many miracles He did in providing for them in the wilderness (Deuteronomy 11:1-9).  So, it was crucial that they model a wholehearted love and service to God (Deuteronomy 11:13-16), and it was necessary that they personally share the story of God with their children (Deuteronomy 11:18-21).

The spiritual silence of one generation

Becomes the spiritual indifference of the next.

However, the children bear some of the blame as well!  When Judges 2:10 says, “they did not know the Lord” it does not mean they didn’t know who God was.   Eli, the priest, had two sons who illustrate the children of the Judges era.  They served in the Tabernacle daily.  They “went to church” all the time.  But, “the sons of Eli were corrupt; they did not know the Lord” (1 Samuel 2:12; a bookend with Judges 2:10; one starting an era, the next ending it.).

They knew who God was,

But they were driven by their pleasures

Not the principles of God’s Word.

They did not know

The Lord personally or practically.

It means the Lord didn’t matter to them.  He had no major influence in their lives.  They liked the ways of Canaanites!  They loved the idols of the land!  They found their security and pleasure from their possessions.

Every generation needs to rediscover

A passion to know the Lord,

Personally and practically

In every area of our lives.

But . . .

Wherever the social eclipses the spiritual

And the superficial is preferred

To the transformational,

You will find a generation

Of spiritual failures.

Secondly, this generation has a pressing need to live differently from the world. Today’s “Third and fourth generation” Christians know the world is a spiritual graveyard, and yet they want to dress and act like a corpse!  In the same way, Israel knew the Canaanites were under the judgement of God, yet they joined in their lifestyle and admired their idols.  God said in Judges 2:1-2, “Then the Angel of the LORD came u from Gilgal to Bochim, and said: ‘I led you up from Egypt and brought you to the land of which I swore to your fathers; and I said, ‘I will never break My covenant with you.’  And you shall make no covenant with the inhabitants of this land; you shall tear down their alters.  But you have not obeyed My voice. Why have you done this?”

Israel chose “accommodation” and “participation” with their world’s values, rather than separation from its ways!  Like the striking of a cymbal this message rings repeatedly in Judges 1.  Each family was charged to cleanse their home from influences that would compromise their morals and faith, “but they failed to completely drive out the inhabitants of the land” (Judges 1:19, 21, 27, 28,29,  30, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35).

A troubling progression happens in Judges 1. The family of Ephraim compromises and allows the Canaanites to live “among them” (1:29).  But then the family of Asher gives in and just “lives among the Canaanites” (1:32).  And then finally, the “Canaanites” (Amorites) forced the family of Dan from their land all-together.  Israel’s compromise with the Canaanites led to the dispossession of the blessing of God!

God asks our generation the same question!  Through Christ’s redemptive work upon the cross and through the empty grave, we are rescued from the terrifying destiny of this world.  How then can we derive our pleasures from its values?  How can we align ourselves with its activities?  Are the delights of the Lord and the work of His kingdom not enough?

The way to spiritual life for this generation

Is not by accommodating

Our faith to our lifestyles,

But by conforming our lifestyles

To the faith (Romans 12:1-2)!

A generation that whines about how their religion is an intrusion to their happiness, is a generation headed for spiritual failure.  But, a generation that revels in the beauty of distinction will know the joy of spiritual life.

This generation

Doesn’t just need

To know something,

Or refrain from something,

It urgently needs to do something!

Thirdly, it needs to serve the Lord’s purposes, not its own.  The writer of Judges identifies this as a defining characteristic of a faithful generation.  He is led to writ in Judges 2:7-8, “The people served the Lord throughout the lifetime of Joshua and of the elders who outlived him and who had seen all the great things the Lord had done for Israel.  Joshua son of Nun, the servant of the Lord, died at the age of a hundred and ten.”

“They served the Lord” is declared at the beginning of Judges, and it is answered by an opposite refrain at the end of Judges, “everyone did what was right in their own eyes” (Judges. 17:6; 21:25).

Every generation has a choice.

Know and serve the Lord,

Or serve ourselves.

One generation can rejoice in a living faith, enjoy intimate communion with God, revel in the Lordship of Jesus over daily life, even delight to teach their faith to those closest them; yet, the next generation may come along and care nothing for all that.

Not that they will formally repudiate everything.

It’s just that they will know about the Lord

Rather than know the Lord.

They may remain within the church

In their cold, dead, formal way.

But there is no fire in their “faith,”

No warmth in love,

No joy from hope.

What Paul calls ‘the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord’ (Philippians 3:8) sounds utterly foreign to them.  They cannot fathom it.  Our children must not merely mimic our faith – they need to be converted.

The pressing need of our generation is to make that choice.  At the end of the day are we more concerned with our glory or God’s; our kingdom or His, our work or His mission?  One path leads to the tragic return to the days of the Judges.  The other path leads to the useful life and hopeful death of Joshua.

With one breath God could have swept the Canaanites out of the land.  Why did God allow them to remain?  God tells us in Judges 2:22, 3:4, “So that through them I may test Israel, whether they will keep the ways of the LORD, to walk in them as their fathers kept them, or not” … “And they were left, that He might test Israel by them, to know whether they would obey the commandments of the LORD, which He had commanded their fathers by the hand of Moses.”

Each generation must make the choice, “Will I live to know God and live for my God, or for this world?”  What choice are you making?

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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Biblical Truth Can Only Be Discerned Spiritually

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

7Aug  Jesus asked an important question, and then offered an interesting answer in John 8:43, “Why do you not understand what I am saying? It is because you cannot hear My word.”  In this verse, Jesus tells His would-be followers, “You cannot hear My word.”  These would-be disciples cannot understand His word, which is truth, because of a very significant reason – they belong to a different father and another world (John 8:23, 44).

No matter how much truth Jesus may speak,

They simply will not understand.

Why?

Because biblical truth

Can only be discerned spiritually.

Human wisdom and Bible wisdom

are on two different planes of existence.

This verse tells us that when Jesus spoke, the men “heard” truth but could not “understand” it.  To them, the truth doesn’t make sense and leads to wrong conclusions.  They can do no less because they belong to the father of lies, to the realm of untruth.

Thus . . .

In order to understand truth,

One must first be in the truth.

Jesus alludes to this fact in John 18:37, “Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.”

During the earthly ministry of Jesus, a few of the disciples confessed a splinter of the truth . . .

  • Illumination to recognize the identify of Jesus (Luke 24:31; Acts 9:18);
  • Their eyes were opened to understand the Scriptures (Luke 24:45);
  • Their eyes were opened to turn from Satan to God (Acts 26:18).
  • The opposite is also true, where eyes or minds were “darkened” so they could not understand (Romans 11:8-10).

But it is not until after the cross and outpouring of the Holy Spirit that the disciples finally received the ability to understand.  People can hear, see and even parrot the truth all day without ever understanding it.  As Jesus taught, it is not until individuals receive the ability through the Holy Spirit to understand the truth that they can learn it and live it.  There are many examples where the disciples’ minds and eyes were opened so they could recognize truth.  Some examples include:

Without being given the condition to understand, we remain on the dark plane of untruth.

So . . .

How can one be persuaded of biblical truth

If it is unknowable through human understanding?

Much research deals with this knowledge paradox.  One such study outlines what is now called “the Kruger-Dunning effect.”  Basically, it states that the knowledge necessary to produce correct judgment is the same knowledge necessary to recognize correct judgment.  In this realm of thinking, if one happens to be incompetent in a certain field for lack of knowledge – like English grammar, for example – it is that same lack of knowledge that impedes one from realizing he is incompetent in English grammar.  So . . .

If your grammar is bad,

You won’t know it,

Because you are bad at grammar!

In other words,

You need to know

What you don’t know

In order to know

If you are right.

What an insurmountable paradox!

Philosophers and scientists have dealt with this question of discovering that which is unknown for millennia.

How is it possible to seek what we are unaware of?

How can we recognize what we don’t know?

I believe the Bible helps us come to the solution of this problem.  The Bible teaches that sin has broken man’s relationship God and has caused man to not be able know God or come to understand the spiritual truth needed to come to God and to relate to Him.  The following passages show us what sin has done to each of us:

Isaiah 42:6-7, “I the LORD, have called You in righteousness, and will hold Your hand; I will keep You and give You as a covenant to the people, as a light to the Gentiles, to open blind eyes, to bring out prisoners from the prison, those who sin in darkness from the prison house.”

Jeremiah 17:9, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?”

Romans 1:21, “Because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful., but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened.”

Ephesians 4:17-18, “This I say, therefore, and testify in the Lord, that you should no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk, in the futility of their mind, having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart.”

Colossians 1:26-27, “The mystery (something that cannot be discovered or known by self-effort, but must be disclosed by God) which has been hidden from ages and rom generations, but now has been revealed to His saints.  To them God will to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.”

Romans 11:7, “What then?  Israel has not obtained what it seeks; but the elect have obtained it, and the rest were blinded.  Just as it is written: ‘God has given them a spirit of stupor, eyes that they should not see, and ears that they should not hear, to this very day.’”

The most thorough passage that deals with this truth is in 1 Corinthians 2:10-14, where the Bible says, “But God has revealed them (the things of God) to us through His Spirit.  For the Spirit searches all things, yea, the deep things of God.  For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him?  Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God.  Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God.  These things we also speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual.  But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them because the are spiritually discerned.”

Paul is trying to show the believers in Corinth where true wisdom comes from, and how people learn about the things of God.  Paul is talking about how all people learn spiritual things.  And how is that?  People learn spiritual things through their spirit.  Spiritual truth is spiritually discerned.

This is why Paul goes on to say, he could not teach the Corinthians very much when he was with them previously.  When he was there, they were operating out of their flesh, and so he could only provide them with elementary, simple (“milk”) teaching, not solid food for the mature (1 Corinthians 3:1-2).  And though they now believe they are super-spiritual, Paul says they are still carnal, for they exhibit all the signs of operating through the flesh.

When Paul says that the “soulish” man cannot receive the things of the Spirit of God, he is simply saying that the soul (mind, emotions, and will) of a person, by itself, with only imagination, memory, reason, and emotions to guide it, cannot grasp spiritual truth.  Spiritual truth is learned through the spirit.  Spiritual truth is not learned through the soul, nor through the flesh, but only through the spirit.  Romans 7 teaches that the unregenerate person is spiritually dead, which means their spirit is separated from God and thus, they cannot properly receive spiritual truth from God until they receive a new Spirit, which is the Holy Spirit.

So, in 1 Corinthians 2:14, Paul is simply saying that spiritual truth is not a product of reason, imagination, or emotions.  Spiritual truth is spiritually discerned.  Paul is inviting the believers at Corinth to not seek to learn about God by their reason and emotions alone, but through the Spirit of God which was in them.

The Bible teaches that “the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God. “  To understand this profound statement, we must examine the key words within it.

First, who is the “natural man?”  The Apostle Paul sets up a great contrast throughout the chapter – a great divide between the natural and the spiritual, between that which is of this world and is opposed to God, and that which is of God’s Word, and of faith in Jesus Christ.

Paul speaks, on the one hand, of “human wisdom” (verse 4) – “the wisdom of men” (verse 5) – “the wisdom of this age” (verse 6) – “the things of man” (verse 11) – “the spirit of the world” (verse 12) – “man’s wisdom” (verse 13).  He speaks, on the other hand, of “the demonstration of the Spirit and of power” (verse 4) – “the power of God” (verse 5) – “the wisdom of God” and “hidden wisdom” (verse 7) – “the deep things of God” (verse 10) – “wisdom which the Holy Spirit teaches” (verse 13) – “things that are spiritually discerned” (verse 14) – “the mind of Christ” (verse 15).

The “natural man” is not a Christian – a man who has accepted Jesus Christ as His Savior and Lord and is indwelt by the Holy Spirit.  He is man controlled by the wisdom of other fallen men, the wisdom of this age, the things of man, and the spirit of this world.

Secondly, what is meant by the word “receive” in verse 14“the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God?”  The word “receive” means “to welcome, to take hold of, to grasp, and thus to accept as true.”  The unbeliever does not welcome the Word of God.  He rejects it, denies it, and disputes it.  He does not grasp God’s Word, he misunderstands and misconstrues it.  Therefore, he does not accept it as infallible and authoritative truth that by its very nature demands his submission.

Thirdly, we are told that the natural, unsaved man views God’s Word as “foolishness.”  The word translated “foolishness” in verse 14 is the Greek word from which we get the English word “not in the right mind, foolish, dull, sluggish.”  To the unbelieving mind, to the humanistic mind, the Bible doesn’t make sense and is foolishness.

Fourthly, we are told that the natural man cannot “know” the things of the Spirit of God. The words in the Greek mean that “the natural man lacks even the capability to understand these things”

Fifthly, we are told in verse 14 why this is true: “because they are spiritually discerned.”   The Greek is, literally, “because by the aid of the Spirit they are learned, through the process of teaching and careful study in the Spirit.”

What is the sum of all of this?  First Corinthians 2:14 tells us two important things about man in relation to Scripture.

First, no one can truly believe that the Bible is the Word of God unless he is already a Christian.  That may sound like a paradox, but it is not.

The understanding of the fact

That the Bible is truly the Word of God

Does not come first.

New life comes first.

The Holy Spirit comes first.

He regenerates the individual.

He indwells the individual.

God makes you a Christian first.

Then He gives you spiritual eyes and ears

To be able to learn and understand

And opens up the truths of the Bible for you.

To put it the opposite way: If you have not believed on the Lord Jesus Christ as your Savior, you cannot possibly have come to the point where you truly believe and understand that the Bible is the Word of God.  The non-Christian may say that he believes the Bible is the Word of God, but the fact is that the non-Christian does not even know what it means to say that the Bible is the Word of God.

Secondly, no one can truly understand and properly interpret the Word of God unless he is a Christian.  The Bible tells us in 1 Corinthians 2:12, “Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God.”  But here is the contrast, verse 14: “But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them.”

He is utterly incapable of knowing them.  Why? “Because they are spiritually discerned” – they are learned by the aid of the Spirit, through the process of careful study.  The natural man does not have the indwelling Spirit of God.  As Jesus said to the unbelieving Jewish religious leaders, “He who is of God hears God’s words; therefore you do not hear, because you are not of God” (John 8:47).

The non-Christian utterly lacks the power to properly understand and interpret God’s Word, because he does not have the power of spiritual perception that comes only from the indwelling Holy Spirit.

Unless the Author of the Book has regenerated you,

Unless He is dwelling in you,

It is impossible for you to understand the Bible

And handle the Bible properly.

What can we make of all this? First, do not underestimate the power of the Gospel. Remember that, before we came to Christ, we all lived on the some level, living in darkness and unable to come to the truth.  Yet, a concerned Christian challenged our untruth and planted the seed of truth in us.  And one day, by the grace of God, that tiny seed of truth burst forth in power and faith and overcame our untruth!  Remember . . .

The Gospel overpowers all untruth

(Romans 1:16).

Second, proclaim boldly the Gospel in the fields of untruth.  The culture in Jesus’ day reviled the truth, and many in our postmodern culture can’t handle it either.  Still, our mission remains, and we must bravely follow in our Lord’s pattern (2 Corinthians 5:20-6:1).  We belong to God and speak His truth, not our own ideas.  We represent Christ and His Kingdom, not our personal relativism or agenda.  Let us, then, as ambassadors of the Kingdom of God, boldly proclaim the truth of the Word with love, compassion and courage.

Lastly, do not fear the mission.  Fear is one of the reasons Christians refrain from proclaiming truth.  We get apprehensive about being called foolish and weak, or put on the defensive and challenged to “prove” something to those who cannot understand it.

It truly is a hopeless cause

Because the Gospel

Cannot be explained,

Only announced.

We do not need to make excuses

For the truth to those

Who cannot grasp it yet.

The Gospel may appear weak

Because, at the present time,

It is an offer of grace that can be rejected.

But again, do not confuse

Gentleness and grace

With weakness;

The Gospel is the power of God

And the only way anyone

Has to escape untruth.

No matter how hopeless

It may feel

To preach the truth

In our world of untruth,

Preach on!

In the end, truth will prevail.

What About You?

Dear reader, in which position are you?  Are you still a natural man who needs to bow the knee to the Word of God by the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit?  Do you need to be redeemed from your sins through faith in the person and work of Jesus Christ?  If that is your position, I urge you to contact me.  I will be glad to explain to you how you can be saved, how you can become capable of understanding the riches of God’s Word.

On the other hand, can you say that you are trusting in Christ alone for your salvation from sin, and increasing in your understanding of the Scriptures by careful study, aided by the Holy Spirit? That is an evidence of your salvation.  To you God’s Word says . . .

In Colossians 1:3, 9-14, “We give thanks to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you … that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power, for all patience and longsuffering with joy; giving thanks to the Father who has qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the light. He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins.

In Romans 15:4, “For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience [literally, the perseverance] and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope.”

And In Romans 15:13, “Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the 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.”

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The Atmosphere Of Obedience

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

6Aug  It seems the constant theme for my life these days is obedience.  “It’s great to say that we are Christian but if we aren’t doing what Jesus told us to do then we aren’t who we say we are.” “Go ahead and say that you love Jesus but prove it in living his commands.” These are the sort of things I have been dealing with for the past month, in the Word, in meditation, in relationships, in work – Obey.

If we are willing to examine it, most of our problems come down to disobedience, whether on purpose or through ignorance.  We cause ourselves a lot of grief by not knowing and obeying the instructions Jesus gave us.  Most people I see quoting Scripture verses and passing on good thoughts to others know almost nothing about what Jesus taught.  But obedience didn’t start with Jesus.  It is something God has required of His people since the beginning.

He demanded it from Adam and Eve.

He demanded it from Noah.

He demanded it from Abraham.

He demanded it from Moses.

He demanded it from Israel.

In fact, He laid out all of His expectations to the people of Israel; He taught them His Law.  He told them that they were free to go on their way, but if they chose to be His people then He would hold them accountable to the Law.  Obedience was not optional and disobedience would be punished.  Those are the simple facts.

It isn’t that God is being mean about this.  If we want a proper, intimate and blessed relationship with Him, obedience must be a given.  But this is not a reluctant obedience. It doesn’t work with reluctance because God is looking for a people who will chose to obey because they love Him. Jesus said it plainly, “If you love Me, you will keep My commands.” (John 14:15) And a little further on: “Whoever loves Me will keep My word.” (verse 23).  No wiggle room there . . . Obey out of love.

Disobedience is a battle in us.  It disturbs our peace.  It causes problems.  It makes us stumble.  It keeps us dissatisfied, with an unfulfilled longing.  But obedience allows for God’s blessings to flow:

The Bible says in Psalm 128:1-2, “Blessed is everyone who fears the LORD, who walks in His ways.  When you eat the labor of your hands, you shall be happy, and it shall be well with you.” That’s just a sample of the many Scriptures that lift-up the benefits of a right and obedient relationship with God.  The simple truth is that God wants to flood our lives with His blessings, but no parent can bless disobedience.

Disobedience interrupts the flow of relationship,

Of growing together, of oneness.

Obedience creates an atmosphere

That allows this relationship to flourish.

If we want to walk in the ways of our God, trying to live by the Law will not help, because you can’t do it.  That’s why Jesus had to die in our place.  He had to fulfill the requirements of the Law.  Instead, concentrate on developing a love for the Lord which will allow for intimacy.  This love will provoke you to obey because you want to please the one you love not because you are trying to manipulate him with your actions. As the old chorus goes: “Trust and obey, because there is no other way to be happy in Jesus, then to trust and obey.”

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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When ” The Good Life” Isn’t That Good!

Grace For The Journey

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5Aug    The online encyclopedia Wikipedia defines the “good life” as “a philosophical term, originally associated with Aristotle, for the life that one would like to live.”  The world of marketing and advertising has many definitions for the “good life,” all of which revolve around the stuff of this world:

  • Expensive new car.
  • Expansive home in a nice neighborhood.
  • Fancy clothes.
  • Fantastic marriage.
  • Trouble-free children.
  • Well-paying job with room to climb.
  • Influential social circle.
  • Enough money not to work.
  • Lying on the beach sipping a cool drink.

I’m sure you could add to the list of all the “more” that the world tells us we need in order to live “the good life.”

The problem with looking for this good life, as the world defines it,

Is that when and if you find it, it never delivers what it promised.

As a pastor, I get to work with a lot of men.  Many of them have achieved what the world would call the “good life,” yet many of them are still not satisfied.

Last year, I preached a series of messages from the Book of Ecclesiastes.  The author, who was King Solomon, had amassed great wealth and possessions . . . everything he could possibly imagine under the sun that would comprise “the good life.”

He states in Ecclesiastes 2:7-11, “I had also great possessions of herds and flocks, more than any who had been before me in Jerusalem. I also gathered for myself silver and gold and the treasure of kings and provinces . . . I became great and surpassed all who were before me in Jerusalem . . . And whatever my eyes desired I did not keep from them. I kept my heart from no pleasure, for my heart found pleasure in all my toil, and this was my reward for all my toil. Then I considered all that my hands had done and the toil I had expended in doing it, and behold, all was vanity and a striving after wind, and there was nothing to be gained under the sun.”

Here is a question to consider:

When you get

Everything you want

And you are still not satisfied,

Then what?

The answer to that questions is

Jesus plus nothing

Equals everything;

Everything minus Jesus

Equals nothing at all!”

How would you define the good life?   What would make for a satisfying life, one marked by meaning, significance, and purpose?   Let me suggest that a change in vocabulary would be profitable for all of us.

Instead of focusing

On the proverbial “good life,”

We should be focusing

On the “grace life”

That naturally flows

Out of an intimate,

Personal relationship

With Jesus.

You see, the grace of the Gospel changes our perspective about the “good life.”

Gospel grace opens us up

To understanding the truth

That the Giver is more important

Than the gifts He gives.

Now, I know there are countless gifts the Giver gives to those who are His children and they are indeed good gifts.  He loves to give good gifts to His children; what good father doesn’t?

But God never intended

For His children

To find more meaning . . .

More pleasure . . .

More happiness . . .

More satisfaction . . .

More life in the gifts

That were given,

Rather than in the Giver

Who so graciously gave them.

We need to remember that the greatest gift God has given is Jesus (John 3:16)!  To be sure . . .

There are great rewards

To being in Christ,

But none of them

Are better than Christ Himself.

Christ brings great change in the life of everyone He saves – Wounds get healed . . . Alcoholics get sober . . . Drug addicts get clean . . .  Angry people get calm . . . Pharisees get grace.  I could go on.

Yet, if we focus more

On the change

Than we do

The Changer,

We miss

The greatest portion

Of what Jesus gave us:

HIMSELF!

Make Jesus your definition of the “good life;” pursue Him will all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.

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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