Unholy Hiding

Grace For The Journey

  When we read the account of the horrific fall of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, we may not give the proper attention to the exchange recorded in Genesis 3:8-10 between God and Adam.  Here is what the Bible records about that conversation, “The man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man, ‘Where are you?’ He answered, ‘I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.’”

We’re anxious to “get to the good part” about God’s plan to redeem man and restore him to fellowship with Him, so it’s easy to skim past one of the saddest moments ever recorded in the Bible.

The one who was formed by God

And made for God

Was now trying to hide from God.

Adam and Eve were created . . .

To walk with God,

Talk with God,

And

Rejoice in God.

They were created to find

Purpose in His presence;

Meaning in His majesty;

Significance in His sovereignty;

Identity in His immutability.

Now they crouch, trembling in the brush . . . and in their hiding they are denying their humanity.  Made for intimate relationship with the Creator of the universe, they are now on the run from Him.

Before Adam and Eve committed their act of defiance and disobedience, their hearts filled with delight in the presence of God; after they sinned, their hearts filled with dread at the sound of God walking in the Garden.

They now find themselves

At the beginning of a drama

That will be played out

Until Jesus returns,

A story marked

By “unholy hiding”

From our holy God.

So . . . where in your life today do you find yourself hiding from God?  Where have you been hiding from those who love you most?

Life is not to be lived in the shadows; it is to be lived in the light, and that light shines brilliantly through the truths of the Gospel.  You see, God knows you.  He knows you fully; He has created you and He knows you; He is familiar with all your ways; before a word is on your tongue He knows it fully (Psalm 139:1-4) . . . and yet He still loves you.

There is no hiding from the One who knows everything and sees everything.  And only a clear view of the Gospel can help us to come out from behind the bushes without fear of rejection or removal from the presence of God.

The Bible says in Psalm 139:7-10, “Where can I go from your Spirit?  Where can I flee from your presence?  If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.  If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.”

The Gospel makes it clear that Jesus was the One who would take our place and pay the penalty for our sin.  The Gospel also makes it clear that Jesus was removed from the presence of His Father during the darkest time in the history of the world: the day when the Light of the world was spit upon, scourged, and nailed to a cruel cross.  And because Jesus took our place on that cross – rejected by God and removed from His presence – all those who are in Christ need never fear rejection or removal from the presence of God ever again.

God loves you!  He accepts you!  God is for you (Romans 8:31), so it doesn’t matter who is against you . . . which means you can stop any kind of “unholy hiding” from Him and from those who matter most in your life.

Think about the last time you went into hiding.  You could hear His voice, couldn’t you?  Of course you could!  God did not leave Adam and Even in their hiding and He will not leave you either.  God is in the business of pursuing rebels on the run – not to crush them but to restore them – and that includes you.

Always remember . . .

God is not pleased with you

Because of your performance.

God delights in you

Because of the perfect

Performance of your Prince,

Who lived and died

And was raised from the dead

So that you could stop hiding

In shadows and begin living

In the warm sunlight

Of God’s unwavering love,

Which is expressed

In the truths of the Gospel.

If you will pause for a moment and sit still long enough, you just might hear the sound of God walking in your garden, calling out to you, “Where are you?”  Come out from behind the bushes of unbelief and your unholy hiding.  Go to Him.  Run to Him!  And you will find that, while you are still a long way off, He will come running to you, His arms outstretched and nail-scarred hands held open, just waiting to take you into His loving, healing, eternal embrace.

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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Solution To Our Culture’s Identity Crisis

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

16Oct  Man has been plagued with the desire to “play God” since Genesis 3. This includes promoting imago self rather than imago Dei. That is, culture is obsessed with representing self, according to one’s own design. Although the created has always sinfully desired to be the Creator, contemporary culture is fraught with heightened forms of creating one’s identity. To be sure, we can easily and rapidly recreate our identities in both our real and virtual lives.

Online avatars permit us to create a virtual self where visual appearance, attributes, and behavior may be represented in any manner in the perceived risk-free environment of online spaces.  This permits individuals to act out their personal fantasies without apparent consequences.  Online screen names and profiles also permit us to self-represent ourselves in a particular manner that is often far from reality.  Social media permits us to define facets of self with mere images and a few characters.

Gender fluidity is being promoted as a cultural norm.  Individuals may now self-identify as someone or something else.  Bookstores and blogs are rampant with self-help, self-awareness, and self-actualization topics.  Tattoos have moved from expressing identity to defining identity.  Advances in artificial intelligence are rapidly colliding with concepts of identity and personhood.  TED talks provide unending lectures on personality, self-motivation, and humanity, all with the goal to assist us in defining our identity.

The Who’s 1978 classic song, “Who Are You” is the siren lament of contemporary culture.  People do not know their identity.  Culture has more adjectival labels for people now than one’s favorite cup of coffee at the boutique coffee shop.  People are in an identity crisis, desperately trying to define themselves in a world that strangles uniqueness as it makes everything normative.

We, believers in

Our Savior and Lord,

Jesus Christ,

Have the answer!

Our identity is not defined . . .

  • By a denomination or a church.
  • By what coffee we drink,
  • By what clothes we wear,
  • By what political party we align with,
  • By what phone we use – an iOS or Android phone,
  • By what sports team we root for,
  • By what blogs we read,
  • Or whether or not we have a beard.

Rather . . .

The Bible clearly and succinctly

Defines our identity with the

Two-word prepositional phrase,

“ἐν Χριστῷ” – “in Christ.”

The Bible repeatedly uses this expression in the letters the Holy Spirit led the Apostle Paul to write (along with “in Him” and “in the Lord”); it was critical to Paul’s understanding of himself and God, and it is the same for us.

Our identity

Is a Gospel identity

Fully defined in Christ.

To be in Christ means we share in Jesus’ death and resurrection. The old us is dead, and we are a new creature placed under the headship of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17; Galatians 2:20; Ephesians 1-2).  Hence . . .

Our identity has been changed,

And

We think and act differently.

We are adopted into the family of God (1 Corinthians 12:13).  Having been justified, we are able to come boldly before the throne of God (Ephesians 2:13; Hebrews 4:16) as a people set apart (1 Peter 2:9).  Our identity comes with citizenship in heaven as we are changed to be in the world and not of the world (John 17:14-16; Romans 12:2).

Our identity does not depend

On us or material things of this world,

But solely on Christ.

In Christ alone.

We are united with Christ

And

Are His ambassadors (2 Corinthians 5:20).

So … if you have admitted to yourself and God that  you are a sinner and cannot save yourself; seen and are depending upon, what Jesus did on the cross and through the empty tomb, have turned from  your sin and accepted Christ’ substitutionary death for you, and asked Him to be your Savior and Lord …   the next time someone asks who you are, answer them with “in Christ.”

When they look at you strangely, begin a Gospel proclamation.

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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Hope In Our Hopelessness, Part 4

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

11Oct  The whole event in John 11 was for far more than Lazarus’ sake alone.

It was so that our attention would be drawn –

Not to the event itself –

But to the One who had performed it.

So now; let’s go back and look again at Jesus’ words in verses 25-26.  As we do, we find the following principles.

First, we see that . . .

  1. RESURRECTION AND LIFE IS FOUND IN JESUS HIMSELF.

Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life.”

He didn’t simply say what the Jewish people

Had known from the Scriptures –

That there is a promised resurrection of the dead.

Rather, He made Himself

The central focus of that resurrection hope.

In fact, His original words

As they’re found in Greek are emphatic:

“I – even I alone –

Am the resurrection and the life.”

This is the first great lesson that we should learn from this passage.

There is no hope for resurrection –

No hope for victory over death –

Apart from Jesus Christ.

He isn’t simply passing on the hope of resurrection to us.  He isn’t even just our example of what resurrection will be like.  He is those things; but He’s much more.  He said that He Himself IS the resurrection and the life. Lazarus could not walk out of the tomb until the Son of God said, “Lazarus, come forth!”

The apostle John was an eyewitness of these events.  He later wrote, “And this the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has life: he who does not have the Son of God does not have life” (1 John 5:11-12). “Resurrection” and “life” are found in Jesus Christ, and in Him alone; because He alone is “the resurrection and the life.”

Second, we see that . . .

  1. BECAUSE HE IS THE RESURRECTION AND THE LIFE, WE HAVE HOPE.

Because Jesus Christ alone is “the resurrection and the life;” and because He Himself has tasted death for us – bearing our sins on the Cross; and because Himself now lives forever more – having been raised from the dead three days later; we now have hope in Him!  If we have placed our trust in Jesus, then the great “trickle-down” truth of the resurrection can permeate every area of our lives and change everything about us.  Our whole lives can be characterized by hope.

Jesus Himself said that He presents hope to us in two ways.  First, He presents hope concerning those who have died in Him.  He told Martha, “He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live” (verse 25).  This is a hope that comforts us with respect toward those who have passed on before us.

When death has taken away someone we love, our sorrow is real.  We miss them; and we long for their fellowship again.  We genuinely grieve.  Jesus Himself knew what that grief felt like.  But because Jesus Himself is “the resurrection and the life,” our grief is experienced in the context of future joy and victory.  The apostle Paul wrote to his fellow believers in the city of Thessalonica, because many of their loved ones had died for their faith through persecution.  He acknowledged their sorrow; and he then told them in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, “But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus. For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words.”.

And second, Jesus presents hope concerning those of us who live.  Jesus not only meant for this hope to be a comfort to us when we lose a beloved family member in the Lord by death; it’s also meant to give us, who are living, hope even while we live.

Jesus also told Martha, “And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die” (verse 26).  Literally, He used an emphatic negative construction that would read something like this: “… he shall in no way die unto eternity.”  As Christians, we live our lives with the recognition that death may come to us at any time; but we also live with the recognition that death is in no way permanent.  We will in no way die unto eternity. Death, for us, is only temporary; and so, we live in hope.

The apostle Paul lived very much in that hope. He said in 2 Corinthians 4:16-5:1, “Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. for the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal. For we know that if our earthly house, this tent, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.”

We can “know” this too, because of the glory that God has revealed through His Son Jesus Christ – who is “the resurrection and the life.”

So then, we celebrate the resurrection of our Savior from the dead every day.  But in our celebration, let’s make sure that we don’t miss one of the great, life-impacting lessons God wants us to learn about the risen Savior.

Our celebration of His resurrection

Isn’t meant to be something distant and lofty

– Something somehow separated from our everyday experience.

God wants us to see that Jesus Himself

Is the substance of real hope for everyone

Who has placed their trust in Him.

“I am the resurrection and the life”, He said.

“He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live.

And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die.”

After He made that affirmation, He asked, “Do you believe this?”

Well?  Do you?

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.”

 

 

 

Hope In Our Hopelessness, Part 3

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

11Oct  In the two blogs, we have looked at the passage in John chapter 11 verses 1-27 of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead.  We have looked at several biblical truths that are presented in this encounter of Jesus with the sorrowing Mary and Martha.  We have come to the part of the passage where Jesus finally arrived and Martha has gone out to meet Jesus (verses 28-37).

These verses tell us that Martha – ever the high-controller – ran back home, secretly called Mary, and said, “The Teacher has come and is calling for you.”  Perhaps Martha did this secretly because she wanted their time with Jesus to be private.  But whatever the motivation was for the secrecy, God clearly had other plans.  It was His purpose in all this to display His glory before the eyes of all.

When the Jewish people who were there to comfort the two sisters saw Mary jump up and run away, they thought that she was going out to the tomb of her brother to weep there.  They, no doubt, thought that they needed to take care of Mary too; so, they followed her out – only to find her fallen on the ground at the feet of Jesus.  “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died,” she said – in the very same words that Martha spoke to Him.

But interestingly enough, Jesus didn’t say the same thing to her as He had said to Martha.  Instead, He looked upon her as she wept; and then He looked upon the Jews that came with her as they also wept.  And the Bible tells us that “He groaned in the spirit and was troubled” (verse 33).  “Where have you laid him?” Jesus asked; and after they said to Him, “Lord, come and see,” that’s when we find those marvelous words, “Jesus wept” (verse 35).

Why did Jesus weep?  Wasn’t He about to raise Lazarus?  He certainly wasn’t sorrowing for despair as they were.  There can only be one reason.  And it is found in Hebrews 4:15-16, “For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.  Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:15-16).

When Jesus said that He was

The resurrection and the life,

He didn’t speak as if He were merely

Giving a lecture in theology.

He spoke those words as a loving friend

Who felt very much the pain

Of the people around Him,

And sought to set substantial hope

And genuine comfort before them.

As He went to the tomb weeping . . .

Jesus not only made it plain

That He knew what it felt like

To lose someone through

The great enemy “death;”

He also made it plain that

He is the only One

Who can conquer it!

Still groaning in His heart, the Bible tells us that Jesus came to the tomb.  The tomb was a cave with a large stone rolled in front of it to close it off.  It must have had a very ‘final’ look to it.  And yet, Jesus commanded, “Take away the stone” (verse 39).

That’s when Martha just had to get another word in again. “Lord,” she said, “by this time there is a stench, for he has been dead four days.”  Like we have said before: Martha is “practical.”  But note those important words that Jesus spoke in response: “Did I not say to you that if you would believe you would see the glory of God”? (verse 40).

The Bible is breathtakingly plain in the way it described what happened next.  It says: “Then they took away the stone from the place where the dead man was lying. And Jesus lifted up His eyes and said, ‘Father, I thank You that You have heard Me. And I know that You always hear Me, but because of the people who are standing by I said this, that they may believe that You sent Me.’  Now when He had said these things, He cried out with a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come forth!’  And he who had died came out bound hand and foot with grave-clothes, and his face was wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Loose him, and let him go” (verses 41-44).

Some say that Jesus had to call Lazarus out by name; otherwise all who were dead would have come out!  And don’t miss the result: “Then many of the Jews who had come to Mary, and had sent the things Jesus did, believed in Him” (verse 45).

Jesus went to great lengths to repeatedly affirm God’s purpose in all this.  It was the Father’s plan to display His glory through His Son Jesus – the One who is “the resurrection and the life.”  We find this purpose stated often in this passage.  Jesus had said that “this sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it” (verse 4).  He even told His disciples that He was glad for their sakes that He was not there to save Lazarus’ life, “that you may believe” (verse. 15). He told Martha, “Did I not say to you that if you would believe you would see the glory of God?” (verse 40).  When He prayed, He even affirmed to the Father that it was so that those standing around would believe that the Father had sent Him (verse 42). And when it was over, many who saw did believe in Him (verse 45).

I want to close today’s blog with these words . . .

All this is presented so that

As we go through times

Of hopelessness and helplessness

We will not be overwhelmed or overcome

But will look to the One who has ultimate power

Over all that goes on in life

And lean upon Him

For the grace and strength

That we need to see us through.

Tomorrow we will conclude our time in John 11.

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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Hope In Our Hopelessness, Part 2

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

11Oct  In yesterday’s blog we began to look at what Jesus said in John 11:25-26, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?’”

Jesus didn’t speak these amazing and astonishing words

During a lecture in philosophy.

He didn’t write them in a book of poetry.

He spoke them in “the real world –

A world filled with “death and sorrow,”

And to people just like you and me

– People who lived, and worked, and

Enjoyed being with their loved ones;

People whose lives were suddenly

And abruptly interrupted

By the great enemy of death.

He spoke those words in the context of real sorrow; in the hearing of real people who were feeling the painful loss of someone that they loved.  He spoke those words to people whose souls were starving for the hope of eternity.  He spoke those words of victorious hope in order to give an answer to the loss felt by real, hurting people like us.

The Bible tells us in John 11 that Lazarus became gravely sick.  Jesus was several days’ journey away at the time; and Lazarus’ two sisters sent a messenger to Jesus to tell Him, “Lord, behold, he whom You love is sick” (John 11:3).  They believed that Lazarus was about to die; and they expected that Jesus – who had healed so many sick people – would come right away and heal His dear friend.

But the amazing thing is that Jesus didn’t come.  Instead, He sent the messenger back with the strange message, “This sickness is not unto death but for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it” (verse 4).  And then, Jesus stayed right were He was for two more days.

Finally, after two days, Jesus suddenly told His disciples, “Let us go to Judea again.”  He told them, “Our friend Lazarus sleeps, but I go that I may wake him up” (verse 11).  Perhaps it was because His disciples remembered that He had said that the sickness wasn’t unto death; but for whatever reason, they didn’t understand.  They said, “Lord, if he sleeps he will get well.”   They thought it would be a little like going to wake Lazarus up to give him his medicine!

It was then that Jesus said something very remarkable

– Something that would be astonishing

To hear from a friend.

He said, “Lazarus is dead. And I am glad . . .” 

Taken by itself, what an odd thing to say!

But that’s not all Jesus said.

What He goes on to say indicated

His sovereign purpose

In all that was going on.

He said, “Lazarus is dead. And I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, that you may believe.  Nevertheless, let us go to him” (verses 14-15).

By the way; do you notice a continual theme in all this?  Jesus kept letting everyone know that there was a purpose in the sickness of Lazarus – and even in his death. Jesus asserted that it was for “that the Son of God may be glorified through it” (verse 4), and “so that you may believe” (verse 15).

Jesus was testifying that God was going

To demonstrate something significant

About Jesus in the events

That were about to take place.

If I may pause here for a moment; there’s a lesson for us in that.

Sometimes, the things that seem

So tragic and pointless to us

Are, in reality, the appointed means

That our sovereign God

Uses to demonstrate the greatness

Of His wonderful Son, Jesus.

It may seem to us at such times that God isn’t listening to our prayers, or that He’s being insensitive and uncaring toward us – making us wait for no reason; when in reality, God is waiting for just the right moment to display His grace and glory to us during those times of trial.

Such was certainly the case here; and I suspect such is very often the case for us – without our realizing it – in some of the difficulties and trials we face in life.

We should learn to trust Him,

Wait on His perfect timing,

And

Watch for the display of

His glorious grace and power.

As Jesus says later in this passage, “Did I not say to you that if you would believe you would see the glory of God?” (verse 40).

And so, Jesus and His disciples made their way to Bethany.  And when they arrived a few days later, they found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. Many of the people from the city of Jerusalem had come to comfort Mary and Martha over the loss of their brother.  And perhaps we aren’t too surprised to find that, as soon as she heard that Jesus was coming, Martha couldn’t even sit still and wait for Him to arrive.  She left Mary sitting at the house and ran off to meet Jesus on the road.

Martha, no doubt, remembered what Jesus said – that “this sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it” (verse 4).  And as Jesus drew near, I believe she felt a mix of emotions all at once . . .

  • Comfort at Jesus’ presence;
  • Grief over her brother’s death;
  • Disappointment because of Jesus’ delay;
  • Confusion about His promise;
  • And – with it all – hope over what He might even still be able to do for her brother.

I can’t help but picture her in tears as she said, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.  But even now I know that whatever You ask of God, God will give You” (verse 22).  I also imagine Jesus being very tender toward her.  I can imagine Jesus holding her by the shoulders, looking gently into her eyes, and saying, “Your brother will rise again” (verse 23).

Martha didn’t really understand what Jesus meant by those words.  She thought He was simply saying one of those kinds of things that people say at such times when they just don’t know what else to say.  And even though I believe her heart sank in despair for a moment, she wiped her tears away, nodded, and said, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day” (verse 24).  Yes, Martha thought; Lazarus will “rise” on that great day – just as the Scriptures that all Jewish people read had promised.  Martha was being what she always was: “practical.”

Martha was right to believe

That Lazarus would be resurrected.

But what she didn’t understand was

That the only One who had

The power to fulfill

The promise of the Scripture

And raise the dead –

Whether on the last day,

Or right then,

Or at any other time

 – Was standing right before her.

She thought that “the resurrection” was – somehow – some independent event . . .

And yet, Jesus asserted to her

That the resurrection was

Inseparable from Himself.

Still looking her in the eyes, it’s then that Jesus uttered those important words; “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?”  And she said to Him, “Yes, Lord. I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.” (verses 25-27).

And before we go on, I’d like to suggest to you that . . .

That is the main point that this story

Jesus is seeking to bring home to us.

On another occasion, Jesus said, in John 5:25-29, “Most assuredly I say to you, the hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God; and those who hear will live.  For as the Father has life in Himself, so He has granted the Son to have life in Himself, and has given Him authority to execute judgment also, because He is the Son of Man.  Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth – those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation.”

Let that sink in.

The resurrection is not

Just an event.

It is a Person.

Jesus is the Son of God.

All authority rests in Him.

“Resurrection” is His initiative.

The great hope we are to have is never to be seen as something that is somehow distinct from Him; because He Himself IS “the resurrection and the life.”

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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Hope In Our Hopefulness, Part 1

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

11Oct  With the myriad of bad news all around us – from the threat of terrorist attacks to the persecuted church; from a climate of hate and disrespect among the top leaders of our country, to the condition of our country and its future – it is easy to feel a sense of despair.

Yet, the believer is still to have hope,

Even in the face of hopelessness.

Why?

Because our hope is not in one who rose from depression,

Difficulty, disease, disadvantage, or even despair;

Rather,

Our hope is in the One who rose from the dead!

Is there anything more hopeless than death?  I can’t think of anything more devastating than . . .

  • The death of our comfort
  • The death of our desires
  • The death of our plans
  • The death of our promises
  • The death of our career
  • The death of our dreams

Yet . . .

Even when we seem to be facing the death

Of the life we hoped to be living,

We can still have a joyful, expectant hope,

Because the One we hope in rose from the dead!

Just as Jesus rose from the dead and lives forevermore, all those who have placed their trust in His atoning work on their behalf shall rise from all the death they have experienced in their lives.

  • Our comfort shall rise from the dead.
  • Our desires shall rise from the dead.
  • Our plans shall rise from the dead.
  • Our promises shall rise from the dead.
  • Our career shall rise from the dead.
  • Our dreams shall rise from the dead.

And as good as all that is, there is something even better . . .

We shall rise bodily from the dead

On that great day when Jesus

Returns to finish what He started.

The Bible says in John 11:25-26, “Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?’”

Our hope for resurrection and eternal life

Is found in a wonderful Person—Jesus.

We will look at John 11:25-26 through the next several blogs, and see how Jesus’ resurrection is to be the substance of our own hope in everyday life – and of the truth of Jesus’ words to His followers; “Because I live, you will live also” (John 14:19).

There are certain truths

God presented to us

In the Bible that are central.

They are so crucial,

That every aspect

Of our spiritual well-being

Depends on our believing them.

Someone has called them as “trickle-down truths.”   Our orientation toward them will trickle down to every other area of life.  The Bible’s teaching about the hope of the resurrection is one of those “trickle-down” truths.  Everything else in our life will depend on how we are oriented to the hope of the resurrection.

If it is true that we who are in Christ can expect – as the Bible teaches – to one day be resurrected from the dead, then the fear of death is ultimately conquered in us; and we can go on to live a life fundamentally characterized by confident hope, peace, and joy.

We can rejoice in hope just as King David declares in Psalm 16:9-11: “Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoices; my flesh also will rest in hope.  For you will not leave my soul in Sheol [that is, in the abode of the dead], nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption.  You will show me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”

By contrast, if your heart is not gripped by that hope – if you are like so many today who simply believe that, when you die, you just die and that’s the end of it – then that lack of faith in the Bible’s teaching about the resurrection will trickle down into every area of life as well.  As the Bible declares in Ecclesiastes 3:19-20, the man or woman who has no hope of resurrection is no better off than an animal, “For what happens to the sons of men also happens to the animals; one thing befalls them: as one dies, so dies the other.  Surely, they all have one breath; man has no advantage over animals, for all is vanity.  All go to one place: all are from the dust, and all return to dust.” (Ecclesiastes 3:19-20)

How grim!  And if this is true of men or women who spend their whole lives pursuing their own pleasures and interests; how much more true is it of those of us who would give ourselves in sacrifice to the concerns and interests of the Kingdom of Jesus Christ!  As the Bible says of Christians in 1 Corinthians 15:19, “If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable.”

But . . .

The Good News we will learn about today

Will lead us to affirm that,

Because Jesus rose from the dead,

We live in hope.

Our whole lives are characterized by hope because Jesus’ tomb is empty and He is alive today!  He Himself is the “living hope.”  This passage of Scripture teaches us that because He is alive today, He Himself is to be the substance of our own personal experience of hope in the midst of all the challenges of daily life.   Again, we need to remember, Jesus said, in John 11:25-26: “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die.”

Is there any area in your life where you find some kind of “death” knocking at your door? Remember, Jesus is bigger than any problem you are currently facing and He has a Word that will guide you through every storm.

Our Lord Jesus Christ is

The resurrection and the life.

He and He alone takes what is dead and brings to it life.  And that includes every set of circumstances that may seem utterly hopeless to you.

In Him you always have hope!

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 Daily Hardships The Christian Faces

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

09Oct  Ever wonder why we face so much hardship in this life?  In a word, the answer is sin.  It will not always be this way!  When the church is presented to Christ as His bride, God will wipe away every tear from our eyes, and the Bible promises us in Revelation 21:4, “Death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain anymore” (Revelation 21:4).  However, until that glorious day comes, we can expect to deal with hardship in this life.  And . . .

There is something profound

Lying just beneath the surface of sin

That needs be understood

By every child born of grace.

Thanks to the finished work of Jesus upon the cross . . .

Hardship is never a punishment, penalty, penance, or pain

Being exacted by an angry God

To make believers “right” with Him.

Because God’s justice has been fully satisfied in Jesus, our hardship is designed to draw God’s children nearer to Him, not push us further away.  Far too many Christians interpret hardship as a sign of God’s displeasure with them, perhaps even of His abandonment – but it is not!  God loves you with an everlasting love; hardship is merely a sign of His sanctifying activity in your life.

The Bible says in Revelation 3:19, “As many as I love, I reprove and discipline.  There be zealous and repent.”

Hardship in the life of the believer is designed

To discipline and to draw,

Never to discourage and destroy.

God uses hardship in the lives of His children for a number of reasons:

  • To train us in character.
  • To teach us in conduct.
  • To turn us from sin.

We must always remember that God’s discipline – which we frequently experience in the form of hardship, trials, storms, and struggles – is never destructive; it is always redemptive, and always intended to cause us to draw nearer to Him.  God is not exacting His “pound of flesh” from us because of our wrongdoing.  Jesus paid the price for our sin on the cross.  God will not collect a second time on a debt that has been paid in full.  So, God is using His holy hardship for His glory and our ultimate good by conforming us to the image and likeness of His beloved Son.

The Bible says in Hebrews 12:10 that God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in His holiness.

The fact that hardship is inevitable should not drive us to despair, because it is a loving Father who delivers it to us.  God only wants what is best for His children; at times, the only way to achieve that “best” is through the holy hardships of life.  God is training us in our character and our conduct, so that we might become ever more useful for the advancement of His kingdom purposes.

When we are forged in the fire of betrayal, abandonment, loneliness, heartache, false accusations, and denials we are being prepared for greater service in the lives of others who are experiencing the same.

We will be able to empathize

With our brothers and sisters in Christ,

Not merely sympathize.

We will be able to minister from the heart – as the Bible says in Romans 12:15, to “Rejoice with those who rejoice, [and] weep with those who weep.”  The more we suffer as Jesus suffered, the more we serve as He served . . . forgive as He forgave . . . minister as He ministered . . . and love as He loved.  Our hardship is holy because it passes through the hands of a holy God.

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

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

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

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

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Your Might? Or Your Mighty One?

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

8Oct   A big part of a pastor’s job involves counseling others.  I am continually confronted by situations where it becomes painfully clear that the root cause of a person’s distress is what he or she is trusting in . . .

And I’ve found that far too many people

Are trusting in their own personal might.

The result is less than what we’d hoped for

At best . . . And a train wreck at worst.

You see, we always have two choices in life:

We can trust in our own might . . .

Or we can trust in the Mighty One!

The Bible says in Psalm 50:1-6, “The Mighty One, God, the LORD, speaks and called the earth from the rising of the sun to its going down.  Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty, God will shine forth.  Our God shall come and shall not keep silent; a fire shall devour before Him, and it shall be bery tempestuous all around Him.  He shall call to the heavens from above, and to the earth, that He may judge His people; gather My saints together to Me, those who have made a covenant with Me by sacrifice.”  Let the heavens declare His righteousness, for God Himself is Judge.  Selah.”

After reading a passage like that, it seems kind of silly to trust in our own might, doesn’t it?  The psalmist began his exaltation with three splendid divine names: Mighty One, God, and Lord.  How mighty is this Mighty One?  First, we see that God rules over the whole earth.  Next, we see that our Mighty One has fire at His disposal, a fire of righteous judgment that devours before Him, while a tempest rages around Him.

We know from the Book of Psalms that none of these things are random or beyond God’s sovereign hand; lightning and hail, snow and clouds, stormy winds, all these do His bidding (Psalm 148:8).  He makes flames of fire His servants and rides on the wings of the wind (Psalm 104:3-4).  He, and He alone, can command the lightning bolt precisely where it should strike (Job 36:32).  Indeed, He is a Mighty One!

God is in control of all things

And uses all things for His glory

And to accomplish His purposes.

But there is more!  We see in this passage that this Mighty One has made a covenant with His people.  A covenant is a solemn agreement between people; when one of those persons is the Mighty One, you can take that agreement to the bank.  And so . . .

We should never trust in our own might

But always trust in our Mighty One!

  • In your weakness – He is your strength.
  • In your impossibilities – He is One who makes it possible
  • In your brokenness – He is your healing.
  • In your restlessness – He is your peace.
  • In your pain – He is your comfort.
  • In your doubt – He is your truth.
  • In your fear – He is your faith.
  • In your darkness – He is your light.
  • And in your death – He is your life.

Your Mighty One is your everything;

He is the answer to every question

. . . The solution to every problem.

As a father of four children, I can tell you that there is nothing that blesses me more than when they come to me for advice, help, or simply just to talk.  It blesses me, and I hope I am able to provide a blessing for them.  But how much MORE is our mighty, heavenly Father able to bless us when we come to Him!  And yet . . . all too often we trust in our own might and neglect coming to our Mighty One.  Or we think of coming to Him as the last resort, when all else has failed, rather than coming to Him right at the outset and then waiting confidently for His promised deliverance.

I pray that today’s blog will remind you – and me! – to reach out to the only true Source of might: our Mighty One.  Because God is a covenant-keeping God, you can trust in every promise He has made, including the one to never leave nor forsake you (Hebrews 13:5).

Now, that is a “might” worth trusting in!

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

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

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

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

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The Daily Battle Every Christian Faces

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

4Pct  Do you ever feel that way? Does your life seem like a tug-of-war?  Every child of God feels this way, because that is exactly what goes on inside us each day!

The Bible says in Galatians 5:17, “For the flesh lusts against the Spirit , and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish.”  This verse is describing the battle that is being waged in everyone who has come to accept God’s gift of eternal life through Christ alone, through grace alone, and by faith alone.

There is an internal conflict between flesh and spirit – between our old and new nature. And the strange thing is, that in this conflict the power and faculties of the Christian seem to be occupied at one time by the one, and at another time by the other. The same intellect, will, and affections come under different influences, like two conflicting armies occupying the ground, and in turn driven from the field.

The Bible teaches that we are delivered from the dominion and reign of sin in our lives when we are untied to Christ by grace through faith.  But sin remains in us all, and we all experience the tension Paul described to the Galatian Christians.

A tug-of-war seems to be the best way to describe the battle within for every child of God born of grace.  How often we feel like there are two opposing teams inside of us, pulling in opposite directions on the same rope!  Sometimes the good team wins and sometimes the bad team wins.  But in the end, we know that our victory has been assured, and the good nature will prevail – not because there is anything special about you or me, but because of the work of Christ on the cross and through the empty grave.

If we refuse to acknowledge the truth that we are in a daily, ongoing struggle against sin, we will not make any progress against it.  It is only by affirming the truth that there is such a battle that we are set free to take the sword to our enemies.  As we look to Jesus as the One who is fighting on our behalf, we rest in the truth declared in Romans 6:14, “For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace.”

We are not to be mastered by sin,

Because sin is not our master.

Jesus is our Master . . .

But sin will seek to entangle us

Along the way to heaven.

Enabled by the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit, we tug on our side of the rope and never stop pulling in the right direction until we pull that old sinful nature into the mud pit.

We must remember that willpower

Will not win the battle for us;

We must always acknowledge

And depend upon the power

That God has given to us in Christ

To fight the good fight of faith,

Knowing that ultimate victory

Has been assured.

This Bible injunction in 1 Peter 2:11-12 should be a constant reminder of the tug-of-war we are called to each day we are on this side of the grave,  “Beloved I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul, having your conduct honorable among the Gentiles, that when they speak against  you as evildoers, the may, by your good works which observe, glorify God in the day of visitation.”

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 Miracles Affirm Who Jesus Is

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

3Oct John’s gospel tells us about the seven miracles that Jesus performed which, in a word, provided the credentials to back up His claim.

And what was His claim?

Jesus claimed to be God!

He made this claim in a number of ways, most profoundly through His seven great “I AM” statements:

  • I am the bread of life – John 6:35
  • I am the light of the world – John 8:12
  • I am the door – John 10:9
  • I am the good shepherd – John 10:11
  • I am the resurrection and the life – John 11:25-26
  • I am the way, the truth, and the life – John 14:6
  • I am the true vine – John 15:1

These “I AM” statements echoed Exodus 3:14, where God revealed Himself to Moses at the burning bush.

When Jesus repeated these words,

He was making it crystal clear

That He was God incarnate.

And that is why the religious leaders sought so many times to put Him to death and ultimately nailed Him to a cross.

The seven miracles Jesus performed were proof that confirmed Jesus as the promised Messiah, who had come into this world to save His people from their sins.  Here are those seven miracles, along with a statement of practical application to your life today, right where this finds you . . .

  • Turning water into wine (John 2:1-11) – Jesus is the answer for our disappointments.
  • Healing the nobleman’s son (John 4:43-54) – Jesus is the answer for our doubts.
  • Healing the paralyzed man at the pool 9John 5:1-9) – Jesus is the answer for our disabilities.
  • Feeding of the 5,000 (John 6:1-5) – Jesus is the answer for our daily bread.
  • Jesus walks on water (John 6:16-25) – Jesus is the answer for our despair.
  • Healing of the man born blind (John 9:1-41) – Jesus is the answer for our darkness.
  • Raising Lazarus from the dead John 11:1-44) – Jesus is the answer for our appointment with death.

Jesus is the answer but what about some questions in life, such as . . .

  • What job should have?
  • What kind of car should we drive?
  • What clothes should we wear?
  • What food should we eat?
  • Who should we marry?
  • Where should we live?

Those kinds of questions are addressed as you live your life in obedience, follow the truths for live laid out in the Word of God, and seek to honor and glorify the One who love us and gave Himself for us.  When it comes to the major issues in life that matter most . . .

Jesus is the answer

 And

 Each one of the Master’s Miracles

 Provides us with a map

 In which to find them.

Keep looking to Jesus …

The author of life …

The answer to life …

The anchor in life

And

The perfecter of 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.”

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