What Happens To What Happens To You, Part 1

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

21Nov  The Book of Philippians was written at a time when Paul was arrested for proclaiming the Lord Jesus Christ.  He was under house arrest in Rome, awaiting his hearing and verdict.  The church at Philippi heard about Paul’s ordeal.  They collected a love-offering for him. A disciple named Epaphroditus was commissioned to deliver their gift to Paul.  Likewise, Epaphroditus was to remain in Rome as long as necessary, to serve Paul on the behalf of the church.  Epaphroditus became sick.  God mercifully healed him.  When he was able to travel, Paul sent Epaphroditus home, to relieve the concern of the Philippians.  Epaphroditus returned to a hero’s welcome.  After the Philippians rejoiced over his safe arrival, they resumed their origins concern about Paul’s circumstances and gospel work.

Epaphroditus then read the letter that Paul wrote to them.  The letter was read to the assembly.  It began with Paul’s greeting, thanksgiving, and prayer in Philippians 1:1-11. The saints were encouraged.  When they reached verses 12-14, their interest piqued. Now they would receive the news they were anxious to hear:  In Philippians 1:12, the Bible says, “I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel.”  

To friends eager for an update,

Paul acknowledged  some things happened to him.

They were unplanned, unwanted, unpleasant things.

But Paul did not dwell on the details.

His focus was on the outcome of the ordeal.

It was not about what happened to him.

It was about what happened to what happened to him.

Verse 12 says that what happened to Paul served to advance the gospel.

In one sentence Paul

Shifts the legitimate interests

Of the Philippians

From himself to

The great undeterred

Purpose of God in history.”

Things happen to Christians.  You do not have to do wrong for things to happen to you.

Adverse things happen to faithful Christians.

But things do not just happen.

God is in control.

Man has his wickedness.

But God has His way.

The Lord is able to employ, manipulate, and overrule your circumstances for His glory and the good of others.  Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” Do you believe that?  Then forget what happened to you and focus on what happens to what happens to you.

THE THINGS THAT HAPPEN TO ME

ARE NOT BY CHANCE I KNOW

BUT BECAUSE MY FATHER’S WISDOM

HAS WILLED TO HAVE IT SO

FOR THE “FURTHERANCE OF THE GOSPEL”

AS A PART OF HIS GREAT PLAN

GOD CAN USE OUR DISAPPOINTMENTS

AND THE WEAKNESSES OF MAN

Look beyond what happens to you and trust the Lord rules over and works through the circumstances of life.  The verses for our blog today remind us of three powerful truths

The Lord Rules Over The Circumstances Of Life.

Paul’s concerned friends wanted an update about his welfare.  They also wanted to know how his state of affairs affected his missionary work.  After the introductory section of the letter, Philippians 1:12-17 reports Paul’s circumstances.

His opening statement is the prism

Through which everything

He writes should be seen.

It is his spiritual perspective

Of his worldly circumstances.

Verse 12 reads: “I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel.” 

 The Lord takes our life-lessons

And

Uses them to teach others about Him.

This “learn-and-return” system is often short-circuited when we do not want people to know what happened to us.  Paul was the apostle who founded the church at Philippi. Yet he did not seek to maintain a perfect image before them.  He writes, “I want you to know…”  

Paul desired to do more

Than pass on information.

He wrote to teach a lesson

And

Clarify a misunderstanding.

The Philippians knew about Paul’s troubles.  It is why they sent Epaphroditus to Rome with an offering.  But they did not properly interpret his troubles.  The one in the driver’s seat has blind-spots.  So does the one in the passenger’s seat.  Observing it does not necessarily mean you understand what is going on better than the one who is experiencing it (We see that in the encounter of Job and his friends).

Paul wanted his brothers and sisters in Philippi to know his story.

But he did not

Describe the scenery,

Explain the plot,

Or

Identify the villains.

He focused on

The end result.

The full story is recorded in Acts 21:17-28:31.  But nothing recorded in Acts by Luke is mentioned here in Philippians by Paul.  He does not talk about the mob attack, false arrest, unfair trial, shipwreck, or imprisonment.  He summarizes the whole ordeal with an ambiguous phrase: “what has happened to me.”  Some of us do not want others to know what happened to us.  Others constantly gab, vent, whine, and fuss about it.

With no direct reference

To his personal concerns,

Paul explains how his

Circumstances should be understood.

This godly perspective

Requires godly patience.

Life is lived forward.

It is understood backwards.

This is why you should be slow to give up.  An immediate response to what happens to you may cause you to miss the redemptive purpose of what happens to you.

Paul trusted the Lord

Through circumstances

He could not understand.

Now he testifies, “I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel.”  

 This is the ironic providence of God.

You would assume Paul’s confinement

Would have hindered the gospel.

It advanced the gospel.

The gospel did not advance

In spite of his confinement.

It advanced

Through his confinement.

The Lord transformed a setback into a springboard.  The same God who used Moses’ rod, and Gideon’s pitchers, and David’s slings, used Paul’s chains.

Little did the Romans realize

That the chains they

Affixed to his wrists

Would release Paul

Instead of bind him!

This text is not just a personal testimony; it is pastoral counseling.  Philippians 1:29 says, “For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in Him but also suffer for His sake.”  

 The Philippians were not in prison.

But they endured suffering.

Paul’s experience was their example.

The Lord ruled over their circumstances.

This biblical truth speaks to whatever confines you today.  It may be . . .

  • The restrictions of youth.
  • The weakness of old age.
  • The pain of sickness.
  • The challenges of family life.
  • The responsibilities of work.
  • The scarcity of finances.
  • The valley of indecision.

There are things in your life that confine you.  But you do not have to live with the “If-Only” syndrome.

The “if-only” syndrome

Seduces you into thinking

You have to be

In a certain place

For the Lord use you.

The antidote is to recognize

That the Lord can use you

Right where you are!

God’s logic is very different than ours.  We assume that the circumstances must be right if we are to be really effective Christians.  But . . .

God is not waiting for

The circumstances

To be right;

He is committed

To producing

Really effective Christians,

Whatever their circumstances may be.”

What is the gospel?  It is the good news of the saving work of God in Christ.  God created us to glorify Him and enjoy Him forever.  However, all of us have sinned and fall short of His glory.  But God sent His Son Jesus who lived the life of righteousness we should have lived and died the death of punishment we should have died.  God raised Him from the dead.  If you trust the finished work of Christ for salvation, your sins are forgiven graciously, completely, and eternally.  But the gospel is more than a ticket to heaven.  It is a way of life.  Philippians 1:21 says, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”  

 The test is not whether you want

To go to heaven when you die.

It is what you are willing to

Joyfully endure to advance the gospel.

The word “advance” was used of soldiers who removed obstacles and established roads for marching armies.  This was Paul’s imprisonment.  He was on lockdown.  But the gospel progressed.  The imprisoned preacher charted new territory.  His chains destroyed barriers to the gospel.

This was not just the Lord’s providential orchestration.

It was Paul’s consuming passion.

To ask Paul, “How are you going?”

Was to ask Paul, “How is the gospel doing?”

It did not matter to Paul what happened to him.  If the gospel advanced, Paul was content, even if it meant he did not taste freedom again.  What does the gospel mean to you?  

Here is why you put the gospel first.

There are things that happen to you

That you cannot handle, understand,

Or overcome unless you view

It from a gospel-centered perspective.

True Christianity is a life of gospel sacrifice.  The Bible says in 2 Timothy 2:8-9, “Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David, as preached in my gospel, for which I am suffering, bound with chains as a criminal.  But the word of God is not bound!  Therefore, I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory.”

Tomorrow we will look further into these fantastic and freeing truths.

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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Not Losing Heart While Dealing With Affliction

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

20NovThe Bible says in 2 Corinthians 4:17, “For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.”  Yesterday we looked at this verse and saw how we will not lose heart in life even as we lost strength toward the end of life.  In verses 17 and 18 of this passage, God teaches us five important facts about affliction and how we can avoid not lose heart as we go through them.

  1. Affliction Is Real.

The word “affliction” literally means “pressure.”

 It is not what we would call stress.

It is life-threatening,

Faith-stretching,

Soul-crushing pressure.

It pictures a burden placed

On a person that can

Crush the life out of them.

The Bible uses it to refer to the trials, troubles, and tribulations that pressure the believer.  Do not miss that!

Christians face affliction.

We face affliction,

 In spite of our devotion to Christ.

. . . We face affliction,

Because of our devotion to Christ.

In John 16:33, Jesus says, “In the world you will have tribulation.”  Acts 14:22 says “through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.”  2 Timothy 3:12 says, “Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.”

As a boy, I participated in a Kids Songs production. During a break, I played with my friend Reggie. Standing on a hill, I threw rocks down to him. He threw rocks back up to me. One rock busted me in the head. I ran onto the set screaming and covered with blood. When Reggie’s dad chastised him, I intervened, claiming that we were only playing. He reminded us both that rocks don’t have eyes. Neither does trouble. Affliction is real.

  1. Affliction is light.

 Verse 17 describes affliction as “light.”  

 This seems to be a contradiction.

Affliction is the pressure of a burden

That is so heavy it may crush you.

Yet Paul says it is light.  How can affliction be light?

 The Greek term is only used twice in the New Testament.  It is used here and in Matthew 11:30 where Jesus says, “For My yoke is easy, and My burden it light.”  

 The Lord gives burdens.

But His burden is light.

My dad told me about working on the farm when he was growing up.  He said that his dad never put two strong or weak horse together.  He would yoke a strong and weak horse together.  The strength of one would compensate for the other.

So it is with the burden of Jesus.

His burden is light,

Because He always

Carries the heavy part.

If the burden of trusting and obeying Jesus seems too heavy, it is because you are trying to carry it on your own.  But no burden is too heavy if you lean on Jesus.

  1. Affliction Is Momentary.

Not only does Paul describe affliction as light, he also calls it “momentary.”  Affliction is just for the moment. This is no guarantee that your troubles will be brief.  To the contrary, some burdens you will carry for years, decades, a lifetime.  The Bible says in Psalm 90:10, “The days of our lives are seventy years; and if by reason of strength they are eighty years, yet their boast is only labor and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away.”  But . . .

In Christ we have the assurance

That trouble won’t last always.

A mother makes his daughter spend the afternoon practicing the piano.  She would rather be anywhere in the world.  But the mother makes her stay at the piano, rather than going outside to play, because she knows that struggle today will produce music tomorrow.  Psalms 30:5 says, “For His anger is but for a moment, and His favor is for a lifetime. Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning.”

  1. Affliction Is Productive.

 The Bible says, “For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.”  The Bible is not saying that suffering produces salvation.  Ephesians 2:8-9 is clear: “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”  

Affliction is not the way to heaven.

Christ is the way.

But there is a heavenly reward

To be won or lost.

2 John 8 says: “Look to yourselves, that we do not lose those things we worked for, but that we may receive a full reward.” 

 In a real sense,

Present affliction

Is spiritual preparation

For future glory.

This is why

We do not lose heart.

Our light and momentary affliction

Is preparing for us

An eternal weight of glory

Beyond all comparison.

If only you knew what God was preparing for you through the troubles you have to trust Him through now, you would not worry, complain, or give up.  It is no comparison! The Bible says in Romans 8:18, “For I consider that the suffering of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.”

 5. During Affliction Have The Right Perspective On Eternal Realities.

2 Corinthians 4:18 says: “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 see are eternal.”  The word “look” here is not a casual glance.  It is the word you would use if you were to pick up a telescope and try to bring something far away into view and into focus.  It is a word that suggests an intense examination, a constant scrutiny, a steady gaze.  The statement carries a conditional force.  The only way you will be able to endure if you keep focusing on invisible and eternal realities.

The distinction here is not between mature Christians and carnal Christians.  It is between Christians and non-Christians.  Unbelievers look to the things that are seen. But 2 Corinthians 5:7 says: “We walk by faith, not by sight.”  What is faith?  Hebrews 11:1 says, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”  

 If you only look at

What you can see,

You will inevitably lose heart.

Strength to endure comes

To those who look

To the things that are unseen.

The Bible says in 1 Peter 1:8-9, “Whom having not seen you love.  Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, receiving the end of your faith – the salvation of your souls.”  In 1937, Walt Disney released the first full-length animated movie: Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.  Disney artists drew over one million pictures for that film.  Each picture flashed on screen for one-twenty-fourth of a second.  Watching at regular speed, the movie-goer had no clue the work that went into it.  Our lives are like that movie.  The Lord has put infinite thought, skill, and attention into every detail of our lives.  As life runs at regular speed, we cannot see it.  But trust God is at work, and that causes us not to lose heart!

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 Not Lose Heart … Let God’s Word Lift Your Heart

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

19Nov  The theme of 2 Corinthians chapter 4 is “Do not lost heart.”  In verse one the Bible says, “Therefore, since we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we do not lost heart.”  In verse 16 the Bible says, “Therefore we do not lose heart.  Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day.”  In this chapter, Paul argues that his faith in Christ enables him to live and minister with unwavering confidence.

The verb translated “lost heart” means “to be exhausted, spiritless, or weary.”  It pictures a laborer in the field who becomes so exhausted that he quits his work, or a soldier in a battle who becomes so discouraged that he retreats from the fight.  The term literally means “to grow fainthearted to the point of giving up.”  In Luke 18:1, the Bible records Jesus teaching that His disciples “that men ought always to pray and not lose heart.”  In Galatians 6:9, the Bible says, “And let us not grow weary in well-doing, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.”  Paul uses the term here to testify about his spiritual resolve.  Would-be leaders in the church at Corinth challenged Paul’s ministerial authority, credentials, work.  They claimed he was spiritually weak and that he experienced more suffering than success.  Paul responds by agreeing with his enemies.

But . . .

He contends his weakness

Is the platform

For God’s strength,

His suffering is

The platform

For God’s glory.

The proof of this

Is That Paul

Did not lose heart.

In 2 Corinthians 11:23-28, Paul recounts his sufferings for Christ: “in labors more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequently, in deaths often.  From the Jews five times I received forty stripes minus one.  Three times I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned; three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned; three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a da I have been in the deep; in journeys often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of my own countrymen, in perils of the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; in weariness and toil, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fasting often, in cold and nakedness – besides the other things, what comes upon me daily: my deep concern for all the churches.”

A fraction of these sufferings

Would cause the average person to give up.

Yet, Paul says, “We do not lose heart.”  

Paul’s unbreakable and undefeatable spirit

Was not the result of personal fortitude.

Spiritual realities undergirded Paul’s faith.

These spiritual realities are available

To all who trust Christ.

You will never face the variety, intensity, and severity of sufferings Paul endured.  But we all face quitting points that tempt us to lose heart.  Faith does not prevent this temptation. Even those who follow Christ face overwhelming circumstances that tempt us to lose heart.  You have no control over it.  But you can control how you respond. You can give up or hold on.

During a flight from Portland, Maine, to Boston, pilot HENRY DEMPSEY heard a noise near the rear of his small aircraft.  He turned over the controls to his co-pilot and went back to investigate.  As he reached the tail section, the plane hit an air pocket, and Dempsey was tossed against the tail section.  He quickly discovered the source of the noise.  The rear door had not been properly latched.  As it flew open, Dempsey was sucked from the jet.  Seeing the light that indicated an open door, the co-pilot made an emergency landing.  He reported the pilot had fallen out of the plane and requested a helicopter to search for him in the waters below.  After the plane landed, they found Dempsey holding onto the outer ladder of the aircraft.  Somehow, he had caught the ladder, held on for ten minutes as the plane flew 200 mph at an altitude of 4,000 feet, and survived the landing.  It took airport personnel several minutes to pry his fingers from the ladder.

The turbulence of life will place you in precarious situations where you only have two choices: give up or hold on.  2 Corinthians 4:16-18 gives three reasons to hold on no matter what.

The Process Of Inward Renewal.

Verse 16 says, “Therefore we do not lost heart.  Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day.”  There is a contradictory process taking place within us.

  • The Outer Man Is Wasting Away.

“Outer man” is one of several ways Paul describes one’s physical life in this chapter.

  • Verse 7 the Bible calls it “earthen vessels.”
  • Verse 10 the Bible calls it “the body.”
  • Verse 11 the Bible calls it “our mortal flesh.”

Here Paul calls it the “outer man.”  The term refers to life in our physical bodies.  Paul says it is “perishing” or “wasting away.”  It is possible Paul wrote this with reference to the toll his labors for Christ and battles for the gospel had taken on him. But this statement primarily refers to the present, constant, and inevitable process of physical deterioration every person experiences.

In Genesis 3:19, The Lord said to Adam, “By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”  This is the fate of every descendent of Adam and Eve.  The outer man is wasting away.  It is not obvious when you are young.  Young people are so filled with life, health, strength, vitality, and hope, is seems they will live forever.  But even young people are wasting away.  Ecclesiastes 12:1 wisely warns: “Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come and the years draw near of which you will say, “I have no pleasure in them.”

This is not a conditional thing that only applies to the old, sick, or weak.  This process is happening in all of us right now.  The scientific term, “apoptosis,” describes the process by which 50-70 billion cells die in the average adult every day.  The outer man is wasting away.  There is nothing you can do to stop this process – proper diet, exercise, and living right will make you healthier and feel better.  As stewards of our God-given bodies, it is right to do these things.  But none of these things halt our steady march to the grave.  Some protest that they are getting better, not older.  They only comfort themselves with a lie.  The outer man is wasting away.  This is a rebuke to the cosmetic culture we live in.  We nip and tuck to give the allusion of youth, beauty, and vitality.  But we are still wasting away.

The Bible says in Isaiah 40:6-8, “A voice says, ‘Cry!’ And I said, ‘What shall I cry?’ ‘All flesh is grass, and all its beauty is like the flower of the field. The grass withers, the flower fades when the breath of the Lord blows on it; surely the people are grass. The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever.’”

  • The Inward Man Is Being Renewed.

Verse 16 says, Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day.”  Paul described his outer self as wasting away.  Physically, he was becoming old, tired, and weak.  This process was intensified and accelerated by his sufferings for Christ.

Yet, a paradox was at work . . .

As the outer self wasted away,

The inner self was

Renewed day by day.

Physically, Paul was facing death.

Spiritually, Paul was enjoying life.

A transformation took place

Underneath the skin.

Paul was being “renewed.”

New life was growing

As his mortal life was dying.

This process of inward renewal

Was a being repeated day by day.

This is the testimony of Christian.

The Bible describes it in Colossians 3:10 as putting on the new man, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.  You may not feel it.  But the inner self is being renewed day by day.  In the ultimate sense, Christians live Lamentations 3:22-23: “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.”  Though the outer self is wasting away, the inner self is being renewed day by day. Michelangelo is reported to have said, “The more the marble wastes, the more the stature grows.”  This is only true for those who have trusted Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord.  Without Christ, the outer self is wasting away, and the inner self is wasting away.  Ecclesiastes 1:2 describes life without a relationship with God: “Vanity of vanities,’ says the Preacher, ‘vanity of vanities.  All is vanity.”  But everything changes when you give your life to the crucified but risen Savior. 2 Corinthians 5:17 says: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.

When Adam and Eve sin, they died.

 Immediately, they died spiritually,

As sin separated them from God.

Progressively, they died morally,

Going from bad to worse.

Ultimately, they died physically.

This is the crisis of inherited sin.

1 Corinthians 15:22 says, “For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.”  

Saving-faith in the Second Adam

Changes everything!

Immediately, you are born again.

Progressively, you are growing

In the grace and knowledge of Christ.

Ultimately, you will live forever in eternal glory.

Though the outer self is wasting away; the inner self is being renewed day by day. The Bible sums up our attitude in situations that cause us to lose heart, “But He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.’  Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities.  For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

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 We Are Positionally Needs To Be Lived Out Practically

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

18Nov  If we are to be disciples of Jesus we should be like Him in every way.  Now . . .

That does not mean we

Will be like Him

In His perfection,

But rather His practice.

The life we live should resemble the life He lived, and there is no better portrait of His life than the one found in the book of Acts in five simple words.  It is presented in Acts 10:36-38 where the Bible says, “The word which God sent to the children of Israel, preaching peace through Jesus Christ – He is Lord of all – that word you know, which was proclaimed throughout all Judea, and begun from Galilee after the baptism which John  preached: how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, who went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him.”

There are three things I would like to highlight in those remarkable verses: HE WENT ABOUT DOING GOOD!

  1. HE went about doing good.  To be sure, Jesus had His disciples whom He sent out to do good, but He never neglected to do good Himself.  The King of kings and the Lord of lords did not neglect to do good Himself.  In today’s language, it’s one thing to write a check in support of ministry needs; it’s another thing altogether to show up personally and meet that need physically when possible.
  2. He WENT ABOUT doing good.  He did not set up shop in the center of Jerusalem waiting for others to come to Him.  He went out to them, meeting people in their place of need.  He went to the sick.  He went to the hurting.  He went to the lame.  He went to the broken.  He went to the poor.  He went to the outcast.  He went to the demon possessed.

He went on errands of eternal good

For the lives of so many,

In spite of distance, difficulty,

Danger . . . and ultimately death.

  1. He we about DOING GOOD.   The portrait of the life of Christ makes it clear that the gospel was never intended to meet only spiritual needs.  Jesus came not only to redeem, but to restore. His rescue is far reaching with the intended good of all of the broken creation.  He went about doing good as a portrait of His ultimate goal of making all things new; And He who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new” (Revelation 21:5).

His main business it was to travel

From place to place to do good.

He did not go for applause,

Or wealth, or comfort, or ease,

But to power to experience

And enjoy life

As far as possible.

This is the simple

But sublime record

Of His life.

It gives us a distinct portrait of His character, as He is distinguished from conquerors and kings, from false prophets and from the mass of people.

Someone has said, “God wants us to join Him in His work of renewing people, places, and things.”

He wants Christians to renew their cultures

To the honor and glory of God.

God wants those He’s redeemed

To work at redeeming and transforming

This broken world and all its broken structures

– Families, churches, governments, business –

In a way that reflects an answer to the Lord’s Prayer:

‘Your kingdom come, Your will be done,

On earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10).

The life of Christ makes it clear that what we are positionally (a child of the Most High God) needs to be lived out practically (going about doing good).  The only way we will ever become what we already are is by surrendering our lives to the service of our Savior, so that He, by His grace, can paint a portrait that matches our profession.

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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God Wants To Use You!

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

15Nov  If you have ever felt “used” by someone, you know first-hand the ugly, negative emotions that produces in us.

We’ve all been on the receiving of this experience . . .

And probably on the delivering end as well.

The sin nature in all of us does everything in its power to satisfy its selfish desires and this may often be accomplished by using others.

However . . .

There is One who wants to use you,

And He brings with Him a sense

Of empowering freedom and joy

That can only be experienced

On the other side of being used.

The Bible says in John 21:15-17, “When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, ‘Simon son of John, do you truly love Me more that these?’  ‘Yes, Lord,’ he said, “you know that I love you.’  Jesus said, ‘Feed my lambs.’  Again Jesus said, ‘Simon son of John, do you truly love Me?’  He answered, ‘Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.’ Jesus said, ‘Take care of My sheep.’ The third time he said to him, ‘Simon son of John, do you love Me?’  Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, ‘Do you love Me?’ He said, ‘Lord, You know all things; You know that I love you.’ Jesus said, ‘Feed my sheep.’”

You will remember that on the night Jesus was betrayed by Judas Iscariot, Peter denied knowing Jesus three times, just as Jesus had predicted he would do.  Peter was crushed under the weight of his denials and was filled with a godly sorrow for having turned his back on his Lord.  Peter must have felt like he was completely disqualified for future service, having so wretchedly failed the Lord in His hour of greatest need.  And Peter was the guy who condemned all of the other apostles who were gathered at the Last Supper!

Jesus told them, “This very night you will all fall away on account of me, for it is written: ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’  But after I have risen, I will go ahead of you into Galilee.’ Peter replied, ‘Even if all fall away on account of you, I never will.’  ‘I tell you the truth,’ Jesus answered, ‘this very night, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.’ But Peter declared, ‘Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.’ (Matthew 26:31-35)

Can’t you picture Peter self-righteously thumping his chest as he declared that he would follow Jesus to the death?  The apostles certainly had a reason to consider Peter as “useless” in serving the kingdom of God after such arrogance, which was followed by such a pathetic and self-protective response to a servant girl who questioned Peter’s involvement with Jesus.

But this was not the view Jesus took!  Jesus asked Peter three times, “Do you love me?”  And each time Peter responded with an emphatic “Yes.”

Why do you think Jesus asked him three times?

Peter’s three confessions of his love

Paralleled his three denials.

It was almost as if Jesus

Had handed Peter an eraser and invited him

To wipe his craven denials, one by one,

Off the blackboard of his mind.

Clearly, Jesus intended to leave

No doubt in Peter’s mind –

And in the minds of the apostles –

That Peter was not only still “usable”

But that he would

Most surely be used by God.

We should all see ourselves in the role of Peter.

  • We deny our Lord every day when we seek to satisfy our selfish desires rather than serving our Lord.
  • We deny Jesus in our marriages when they become a battle for control and self-satisfaction.
  • We deny Jesus in our relationships when we look at people as obstacles to getting what we want, when we want it, and how we want it.
  • We deny Jesus in our personal lives when our love for self supersedes our love for God and others.
  • We deny Jesus when we are filled with envy, blame, and greed.

There is simply no end to the ways we deny our Lord.  Peter only denied Him three times!  You and I are much, much worse.

Yet in all of our daily denials, Jesus is there, ready to receive us back into the fold of faithful and fruitful service, asking us, “Do you love Me?”

If not for that loving confrontation with Jesus,

Peter would have lived a life shrouded

In the darkness of denial.

But the darkness was vanquished forever;

Jesus let Peter know that God

Still had a plan to use him for

The rest of his life

In doing the Lord’s work.

What was true for Peter then is true for you and me today.  We are never disqualified for service, no matter how many denials we deliver up to our Lord.  We need only to repent of our sin, receive His forgiveness and restoration, and remember the question Jesus asked Peter – “Do you love me?” – and know that if our hearts beat with an emphatic “Yes,” we can get back up and get back into being used by God to expand His kingdom in this world.

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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Be Faithful In The Little Things

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

13Nov  Several years ago, when I was feeling a bit discouraged about not being used by God as much as I thought I should be, one of my best friends would frequently paraphrase Matthew 25:21 and remind me  . . .

“My brother,

Be faithful

In the little things

And the Lord will

Grant you with much!

Because we serve a BIG GOD, I expect BIG THINGS from all He is calling all of us to do at First Baptist Church.  To be sure, a big God does indeed accomplish big things through His people, but I need to be constantly reminded of three things:

It will always be done . . .

  • In His time,
  • In His way,
  • And it may not look like anything I had pictured it would look like!

Let’s look at God’s Word, as God proclaimed these truths to the prophet Isaiah.  The Bible says in Isaiah 60:22, “The least of you will become a thousand, the smallest a mighty nation.  I am the LORD; in its time I will do this swiftly.”

I am a slow learner, but I am learning that God often begins His work on small scales. God’s plan is always better than our plan.  In the Master’s miraculous multiplication, the least – which I certainly am – will become a thousand.  The point is . . .

God can do much with little.

 In fact . . .

God can do much with nothing,

Which is the way He created

The earth and everything in it

Ex nihilo – out of nothing.

All of Scripture suggests we have been made for more.  God has wired us for increase. Problems arise, however, when we begin to seek this increase apart from the One who promised it . . . or in areas where we ought not to be seeking it.

The apostle Paul said, “I have learned in whatever state (circumstance, situation) I am, to be content” (Philippians 4:11).

Paul had learned to be content,

But he was never satisfied.

He always wanted more of a relationship with Jesus.  He always wanted to make more of an impact for Jesus.

Paul understood his “more” was

To be anchored in his Master

. . . And then the result would

Be miraculous multiplication.

Notice that the Lord told Isaiah that He will do these miraculous multiplications swiftly . . . in its time.

God does not delay

In delivering good things

To His children.

He delivers exactly what we need,

In the perfect time we need it,

And

In the perfect way we need to receive it.

It’s just that God’s perfect timing may not align with our imperfect understanding of “the right time.”

So . . . how are you doing today in being faithful in the little things?  With your family?  In your business?  At school?  In your church ministry?  Remember the encouragement my dear friend gave me: “Be faithful in the little things . . .  and the Lord will grant you with much.”  This is the Master’s miraculous multiplication!

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

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

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

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

GraceForTheJourneyBottomOfPagePicture

Our One Constant

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

12Nov  How well are you doing in dealing with the winds of change that are blowing through your life right now – both personally and professionally?

Someone has observed that the only people who like change are wet babies!  Every parent can testify to this truth.  Kay and I sure can, having had four babies to change over the years.  One of our daughters would be crying for no apparent reason, but as soon as the wet diaper was removed and a dry one put on, calm would return . . . but not for long!

The writer of Hebrews tells us that the only constant in the world is Jesus.

Hebrews 13:8 says, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”

What a comfort for all of us who are

Experiencing disruptive change in our lives:

To know that Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and for all eternity.

That doesn’t mean Jesus is manageable . . . or even predictable!  C.S. Lewis writes in The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, when Lucy asks Mr. Beaver about Aslan, the coming King: “Is he – quite safe?  I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion . . . ” ‘Safe?’ said Mr. Beaver . . . ‘Who said anything about safe?  ‘Course he isn’t safe. But He’s good.’”

Indeed, our great, coming King, the Lion of Judah, is great; and He is good – and He can be trusted for the good that is the inevitable result from every kind of change for those who love God (Romans 8:28).

As our understanding of the Gospel deepens, we grow in our ability to accept change and even to embrace it as God’s divine providence passing through nailed-scarred hands – delivered to make us more like Jesus.  We are to rejoice in the salvation He has purchased for us . . .

The Bible says in 1 Peter 1:6-7, “Though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith – more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire – may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”

With Jesus seated on the throne of our lives, we can give up our need for control and predictability, as we walk by faith and not by sight.   At this level of living, we can love Jesus with zeal and serve Him with abandon.

Jesus Christ as our only constant

Means that He always was,

Always is, and always will be.

His finished work is still finished.

We cannot enhance it

Nor diminish it by anything

We do or don’t do.

He is the surety of all covenant blessings and the faithful fountain that pours out continually upon His people.

When change casts you into the middle of the Jordan at flood stage, this unchanging truth empowers you to look confidently toward heaven, as David did, and say, “I will fear no evil, for You are with me.”  When change drives you to the edge of the Red Sea with no apparent way out, this unchanging truth empowers you to receive and rest in these words of Moses, “Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the Lord” (Exodus 14:13).

The One who never changes

Is working through

All of the changes

In your life,

Bringing you to the end of yourself

Through the incessant winds of change;

He will not stop until

His perfect work is done.

Instead of cursing, or dreading, the changes in our lives, let us cry out to Jesus for the grace to embrace them, being confident that we are heading into an eternity where the winds of change will blow no more.0

I enjoy the way the Amplified Bible renders Romans 4:20-22 , “No unbelief or distrust made [Abraham] waver (doubtingly question) concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong and was empowered by faith as he gave praise and glory to God, fully satisfied and assured that God was able and mighty to keep His word and to do what He had promised. That is why his faith was credited to him as righteousness (right standing with God.”  Now that brings a calmness to my heart!  I pray today’s blog does the same for 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.”

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Stepping Stones or Stumbling Blocks? Part 2

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

10SeptThe boy should never have been hiking at that hour of the night in that neck of the woods.  At 14, he was already an experienced hiker, having grown up in the mountains.  But it was rainy.  The ground was slick and the night was dark.  He should have been in bed, but his father, an elder and an usher in the church, had gone on another rampage, yelling, screaming, threatening, throwing things and blowing up his family.  The boy, listening to all in his bedroom, climbed out through the window; and he was still hiking at midnight, trying to figure out why his father, a professed Christian, was always so angry, violent, and out of control.  In the darkness, the boy didn’t see the fallen log.  He stumbled, tumbled, grabbed a branch, and swung to his left.  The next moment, he was plunging through the air down the side of a quarry, all the way to the grave.

Today we’re continuing to consider the topic “Am I A Stepping Stone Or A Stumbling Block.”  The passage of Scripture that we will be looking at warns Christians to live so as to never cause anyone to stumble on their pathway to Christ by our negative behavior.

We’re to be stepping stones,

Not stumbling blocks.

Everyone who professes Christ as Savior carries around a certain influence.  We identify as a Christian.  People are watching to see if our faith is real and if we live according our beliefs.  None of us are perfect.  But whenever we grievously or repeatedly fall into sin or create a scandal, it can be stumbling block to another.  It can make people cynical and cause them turn them away from the Lord.  The Bible calls that being a stumbling block.

We cannot let that happen to us personally – and that’s the subject of the passage we’re coming to today.  The Bible says in 2 Corinthians 6;3-10, “We put no stumbling block in anyone’s path, so that our ministry will not be discredited.  Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships, and distresses; in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger; in purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love; in truthful speech and in the power of God; with weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left; through glory and dishonor, bad report and good report; genuine, yet regarded as imposters; known, yet regarded as unknown; dying, and yet we love on; beaten, and yet not killed; sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything.

The theme of this passage is in verse 3: “We put no stumbling block in anyone’s path, so that our ministry will not be discredited.”  In the verses that follow, Paul gives a list of 28 behaviors he is committed to follow. His list falls into three natural sections.

  1. In The Way We Handle Pressures of Life.

Verses 3-5 says: “We put no stumbling block in anyone’s path, so that our ministry will not be discredited.  Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships, and distresses; in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger….

He begins with the word “endurance.”  Today this term designates an entire field of athletics – endurance sports, like marathons or triathlons.  Endurance is the ability to bear up and keep going despite pain, hardship and fatigue.  Paul was saying life was harder than he expected it to be.  People are watching us to see how we handle adversity and problems.

When people see us coming apart at the seams, collapsing in depression or exploding in anger – it’s a poor recommendation for the Christian life.  Paul says that he has endured through troubles, hardships, and distresses, including beatings and imprisonments.  He endured riots.  On several occasions in the book of Acts, Paul’s preaching, or his very presence, caused crowds to riot, threatening his life.  These are not riots like you see on television, in which demonstrators are protesting a political issue.  These are moments when large crowds become so enraged by Christians that they surrounded them, attacked them; and on one occasion Paul was nearly killed and left outside town for dead.

In the middle of verse 5, Paul goes on to talk about “hard work, sleepless nights, and hunger.”  Many years ago a teenager I asked Billy Graham’s wife, Ruth, “Does Dr. Graham realize how great and glorious his work is around the world?”  She responded, “Oh, it’s not that at all.  It’s just hard work.  Bill works to exhaustion, and there’s nothing glorious about it.  God doesn’t share His glory with another.  We would have been just as happy to have been assigned to an obscure place on some forgotten mission field.  Wherever God puts you, it’s simply a matter working hard for His glory.”

We can learn a lot from that answer . . .

Serving the Lord

Isn’t about

Fame and fortune;

It’s just hard work

And being faithful.

For Paul, that sometimes included sleepless nights and hunger.

The point of

  1. In The Way We Maintain Purity of God.

In verses 6-7, Paul shifts gears. He said that we should be a good representatives of Christ, not only in the way we handle difficulties but in the way we maintain purity.  Verse 6 says, “(We commend ourselves) in purity.”  Nothing can damage our testimonies more than failing to maintain personal holiness in our lives. If you’re allowing something to violate your personal holiness and purity, it’s bound to negate your testimony and bring some degree of reproach to the cause of Christ.

Is anything contaminating your body, mind, words, or your spirit?  That could be a stumbling block for another person, so let’s endure in purity and holiness.  The Bible says we must endure in holiness and purity.

The passage goes on to say we must endure in “understanding.”  This word can also be translated,  “knowledge and spiritual insight.”  When we encounter struggles in life, we have an advantage.  We have God’s Word that sheds light on whatever we’re going through.

Verse 6 says we must continue in “patience and kindness.”  All of us could agree that we need more patience and kindness in our responses to others.  Not being that way with others creates stumbling blocks that hinder others from coming to Christ.

And then verse 6 goes on to say that commend our lives and ministries in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love.”  We have presence and power of the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit will help us grow in our faith and live in such a way that will always glorify Christ.  So, when we go about our day in the Holy Spirit, we’re lifting up Christ.

Verse 7 continues with, “truthful speech and the power of God,” and with “weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left.”  What does that mean?  We can cross-reference this verse with Ephesians 6 about the shield of faith and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.  A Roman soldier kept his shield in his left hand for defense, and his sword in his right hand for attack.

This is the way we keep from being a stumbling block to anyone else – by the way we handle pressure and the way we maintain purity.  But there is more . . .

     3. In the Way We Embody the Paradoxes of Faith.

There’s another series of words here, and that leads to the final thing.  Look at verses 8-10: [We are] genuine, yet regarded as imposters; known, yet regarded as unknown; dying, and yet we love on; beaten, and yet not killed; sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything.

The apostle Paul gives us a list of seven paradoxes of the Christian faith.  Jesus said in John 3 that His followers are as mysterious as the wind.  No one knows where the wind comes from; no one knows where the wind is going; but everyone can sense His presence as He passes by.

I don’t have time to dissect each of these seven phrases, but I’ll give you an illustration of them.  In spite of advancing age and declining health a Christian woman shared God’s love through giving out Bibles to doctors, nurses, everyone that walked in to her room.  Even when she could no longer speak this past week she would point and people knew she wanted them to have a Bible.  Over 60 Bibles were given out – when the last one she had with her was gone she knew God was ready to take her home.  A nurse was impacted by this women’s last days ministry.  She shared the news to her family that God had touched her life in such a way that upon reading the Scriptures she was saved and her life was different because this ladies’ prayers and ministry.  .  She did exactly what God calls each of us to do.  Do it well and do it until your last breath on this Earth.

I would call that 2 Corinthians 6 living!

Here is what the Lord is telling us in today’s passage.  He doesn’t want us to create any scandal in our life that would cause others to be disillusioned with Him.  Instead, He wants us to live in such a surrendered and special way that the Holy Spirit can use our life to commend ourselves and our message to the world.  We do that by handling the pressures of life, maintaining the purity of holiness, and embodying the paradoxes of Christianity.

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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Am I A Stumbling Block or A Stepping Stone?

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

10SeptThe Bible says in Philippians 3:15-19, “Therefore let us, as many as are mature, have this mind; and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal even this to you.  Nevertheless, to the degree that we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us be of the same mind.  Brethren, join in following my example, and note those who so walk, as you have us for a pattern.  For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: whose end is destruction, whose god is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame – who set their mind on earthly things.”

The story is told about an actor who was playing the role of Jesus in a Passion Play in the Ozarks of Missouri.  As the actor carried the cross up the hill one of the tourists started heckling him.  Finally the actor had all he could take so he threw down the cross and walked over and punched the guy right in the mouth.  After the play was over that night the director pulled the actor aside and said, “Listen, I know that guy in the audience was an obnoxious pest, but you’ve got to remember you are playing the part of JESUS and JESUS would never punch someone in the mouth.”  The next night that same heckler was back and sure enough he started taunting the actor even worse than the night before. Once again, the actor threw down the cross and walked over and punched the guy.  The director came to him after the play that night and said, “That’s it…….you’re FIRED! I can’t have a “Jesus” who beats up people in the audience.”  The remorseful actor begged and pleaded with the director to give him one more chance, assuring him he would keep his temper under control. Reluctantly the director agreed to hire him back.  Well sure enough, the next night the heckler was back and this time he was more obnoxious than ever. The director watched anxiously to see what the actor would do. When he was about to reach his breaking point, the actor walked over to the heckler and said, “I’ll deal with you after the resurrection buddy!”

Like that actor, you and I represent Christ in this world.  The Bible tells us in 2 Corinthians 5:20 that we are “ambassadors of Christ.”  An ambassador is one who has been given the authority to be a messenger or a representative of another.

This means . . .

You and I have an extremely important responsibility

To live our lives in such a way

As to bring glory and honor to the One

Who has chosen us to represent Him to the world.

As Christians, you and I are personally responsible for our Christian influence.  Each and every one of us is a “model” of Christianity. You are either “a good model” or you are “a bad model.”

You are either A STEPPING STONE

That leads others to Christ

Or you are A STUMBLING BLOCK

That turns others away from Christ.

And the soul-searching question all of us need to ask ourselves today is this:

“AM I A STUMBLING BLOCK”

Or

“AM I A STEPPING STONE?”

In our text, Paul reveals some characteristics of “stepping stones” and “stumbling blocks.”

Let’s begin with the stumbling blocks.

Characteristics of A STUMBLING BLOCK –  Verses 18,19.

Before we look at these characteristics let me remind you just how serious it is to be “a stumbling block.”  Jesus gives us this stern warning in Mark 9:42, 43 , “But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were thrown into the sea.  If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter into life maimed, rather than having two hands, to go to hell, into the fire that shall never be quenched.”

In Jesus’ day there were two kinds of millstones.  One was small and would be used by a woman to grind a small amount of grain to make a loaf of bread. The other millstone was very large.  In fact, it was so large it could only be turned by a donkey or an ox.  These large millstones were used to grind large amounts of grain.  It is this “large millstone” Jesus had in mind when He issued this stern warning.

Do you grasp the seriousness of what Jesus is saying?  He is saying it would be better for someone to hang a huge millstone around their neck and drown in the bottom of the ocean than for them to live their life in such a careless and wreckless way that they would cause someone else to miss heaven. That’s a sobering thought isn’t it?

Well if being “a stumbling block” is that serious, then it is important that we know what the characteristics of a stumbling block are so we can examine to see if we are one.

We see three characteristics of “a stumbling block” in verses 18, 19.

First of all, A STUMBLING BLOCK IS AN ENEMY OF THE CROSS OF CHRISTVerse 18a, “For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ.”

It’s not the hardened criminals . . .

Or the godless atheists

Who have moved Paul to tears

It is the Christians who are not living up

To their professed faith in Jesus Christ.

For me to profess to be a Christian and then to live my life in a way that contradicts my profession of faith makes me an enemy of the cross of Christ.

It means my poor example

Is doing more HARM than GOOD.

It means my life is turning people away from Christ rather than turning people towards Christ.

  • For me to talk about LOVE and yet hate my brother or sister-in-Christ, makes me an enemy of the cross.
  • For me to talk about MORAL LIVING but to live in immorality makes me an enemy of the cross.
  • For me to PRAISE GOD ON SUNDAY MORNING but “cuss like a sailor” and tell filthy jokes during the week makes me an enemy of the cross.
  • For me to PREACH ONE THING and practice another, makes me an enemy of the cross.

When our lives are filled with inconsistency and hypocrisy we do more damage than good for the cause of Christ.

Secondly, A STUMBLING BLOCK IS DRIVEN BY FLESHLY APPETITES: Verse 19a – “the god of stumbling block is his belly.” 

What Paul is saying is that when someone who professes to be a Christian is more concerned with satisfying the desires of the flesh than they are with spiritual matters they are no different than those who don’t even believe in GOD, and therefore they become a stumbling block that turns people away from the LORD.

Paul is NOT saying we should neglect our physical needs, but when our lives are “driven” by our SINFUL cravings, we forfeit our Christian INFLUENCE over those who do not know Christ.

How can our lives possibly have any positive impact on the lives of our non-Christian relatives and friends if our habits and our behavior is no different than theirs’?  Is it possible that the reason more people aren’t attracted to Christ and His Church is because they don’t see any noticeable difference between the way we live and the way they live?

When we are driven by the same “fleshly appetites” as the world, we become a stumbling block to those who don’t know Christ.

Thirdly, A STUMBLING BLOCK IS FOCUSED ON THE THINGS OF THIS WORLD: Verse 19b, “Their minds are set on earthly things.”

To have one’s “mind set on earthly things” means “to be so preoccupied with the world that one neglects the more important SPIRITUAL matters.”  There’s nothing wrong with having nice things, but when I value temporary earthly treasures more than eternal heavenly treasures, I become a stumbling block.  There’s nothing wrong with enjoying good, clean recreational activities and hobbies, but when those activities become more important to me than being in the LORD’S house on the LORD’S DAY, I become a a stumbling block to others.

Next, let’s consider . . .

The Characteristics Of A STEPPING STONE

First of all, if I am to be a stepping stone I must FOLLOW IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF JESUS: Verse 17, “Brethren, join in following my example, and note those who so walk, as you have us for a pattern.

By admonishing the Philippian Christians to “follow his example” Paul is identifying himself as a STEPPING STONE to Christ.  How did Paul become “a stepping stone?”  By following “the PATTERN” . . . by following in the FOOTSTEPS of JESUS.  Earlier in Philippians 1:21 Paul said, “For me to live is Christ, to die is gain.”  To live for CHRIST was the whole AIM and PURPOSE of Paul’s life.  Jesus was his very BREATH.  Jesus was the SOUL of Paul’s soul . . . he was the HEART of Paul’s heart . . . he was the LIFE of Paul’s life.

If someone were to ask Paul to describe His life in one word, Paul’s answer would be JESUS.  Few of us can claim the depth of devotion and commitment to Christ that Paul had, but if you and I will determine to FOLLOW IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF JESUS our lives will become A STEPPING STONE for others to come to Christ.

Second, if I am to be a “stepping stone” I MUST FOCUS ON HEAVEN: Verse 20, “For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the LORD Jesus Christ.”

If you and I are to be “stepping stones” for others to come to Christ, we must shift our focus from earthly things to heavenly things.  The earthly phase of our experience is purely temporary, the goal is to be with the Lord forever.  Accordingly, our hope is not simply deliverance from sin in this life or growth in grace or the knowledge of Christ, but our anticipation leaps forward to that day when we will see our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.

 A little girl who was taking an evening walk with her father. She looked up at the starry sky and said, “Oh, Daddy, if the wrong side of heaven is so beautiful, what must the right side be!”  If you and I are to be “stepping stones” to lead others to Christ, we must focus on our eternal destination and not be distracted by the allure of this temporary world.

Several months ago Bob Russell wrote an article in THE LOOKOUT entitled: “What General Douglas MacArthur Learned About Effective Evangelism.”  In the article Bob Russell noted that when General Douglas MacArthur led the U.S. Military Forces in Japan following the end of World War II, he believed the best antidote to communism and the establishment of a lasting democratic government was for the American Churches to send missionaries to Japan and convert the Japanese people to Christ.  Many American missionaries answered the call and went to Japan to preach the gospel to the Japanese people.

While the initial response to the gospel was very favorable, in time the missionaries began to notice a strong resentment from the Japanese people.  The reason?  Many of the Japanese people saw American soldiers who professed to be Christians, cohorting with prostitutes, and turning Japanese women into “sex slaves.”  They saw many of our soldiers engaged in drunkeness and bar-room brawls.  Many of our soldiers were living for this world and not longing for the world to come; many of them we living to satisfy their desires and not living to fulfill Christ’s desire; and as a result, they became a “stumbling block” to the Japanese people and totally turned them off to Christianity.  As a result, a wonderful evangelistic opportunity was lost.

Friend, don’t think for one minute that how you and I conduct ourselves outside before the world doesn’t matter.  Because we profess to be Christians, our lives are being closely watched and scrutinized by the lost world around us.  Does your life point people to Christ or turn people away from Christ?  Are you a “stepping stone” or are you a “stumbling block?”

 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 Mission You’re On Makes You A Missionary

Grace For The Journey

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08Nov  What comes to mind when you think of the word “missionary”?  How would you define it?  Here is a sampling of dictionary definitions:

A person sent by a church into an area to carry on evangelism or other activities, as educational or hospital work.

A person strongly in favor of a program, set of principles, etc., who attempts to persuade or convert others.

A person who is sent on a mission, especially one sent to do religious or charitable work in a territory or foreign country.

These are solid textbook definitions for a missionary.  But the Bible details what makes a missionary in more specific ways.

What does the Bible teach a Christian missionary does?

A Christian missionary proclaims Jesus as Savior and Lord. Whom do they tell? Jesus made it clear that Christians are to reach out to “all the nations” (Matthew 28:19), especially those ethnic groups without a Gospel witness.  Unreached people groups are still waiting for the way, truth, and life found in Christ (Romans 15:20).  But Christians at home should be missionaries in their own communities, doing personal evangelism (Acts 1:8).

Missionaries do more than evangelism. The commission was to make disciples, not immature believers.  Thus, a Christian missionary’s outreach involves evangelism, discipleship, and church planting.  These main goals are accomplished in a variety of ways: street preaching, tract hand-outs, church building, Bible studies, teaching English as a second language, relief projects, children’s clubs, mountain trekking, literacy teaching, radio broadcasting, etc.

Why does a Christian missionary go?

Christian missionaries go in obedience to God’s call.  God called the apostle Paul.  Acts 26:16-18 says, ”But arise and stand on your feet; for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to make you a minister and a witness both of the things which you have seen and of the things which I will yet reveal to you.  I will deliver you from the Jewish people, as well as from the Gentiles, to whom I now seen you, to open their eyes, in order to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who are sanctified by faith in Me.”

Christian missionaries of this sort are both vital and valuable to expanding the cause of the kingdom.  They are a very special breed of Christian, who have been called and equipped for kingdom work, often in some of the most remote places and harsh environments.  They embody our Lord’s Great Commission to “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations.”  Every member of the church of Jesus Christ should be committed to supporting these mighty warriors of the Word.

But they are not the only ones

In the church

Who are called to be missionaries!

Far too many in the church today regard a missionary as someone else who has received special gifts and has been sent off into some distant land to reach out to a particular people.  When we think this way . . .

We remove ourselves from

The front lines of faithful living

Under the Lordship of Christ

And mistakenly assume it is

Someone else’s job to reach out

To the lost and broken people of this world.

This results in sleepiness of the soul

And a woefully weakened witness.

I would like to expand on the job description of “missionary” just a bit, so we can see that we are all missionaries who have been called by God into the mission fields – right where we currently are!  Make no mistake, you are a missionary, no matter what your gifting, your education, or your vocation.

So . . . what mission are you currently on?  Is it a mission of expanding the kingdom of your Savior?  Or the kingdom of yourself?  Below are two primary marks of the Christian who is living for the Savior and not the self.

  1. “Other” Orientation – Living for the kingdom of your Savior is marked by being oriented toward others.  You put others first.  You consider others better than yourself.  You want to serve others rather than being served by others.
  2. Self-Sacrificing – Living for the kingdom of your Savior is marked by self-sacrifice, rather than self-protection.  Being inconvenienced is not an inconvenience.  Being discomforted is not discomforting.  Being troubled is not troubling.  A day well spent is a day spent in sacrificial service to others.

Putting others first and serving them sacrificially is the way we act out practically what we already are positionally.  When we locate our identity in Christ and not in the things of this world, we rightly see ourselves as missionaries, privileged to be serving our Lord wherever we are and in whatever way we have been equipped to do it.

We have been called to be the aroma of Christ to the world (2 Corinthians 2:15-16)—whether that part of the world be darkest Africa . . . or your local grocery store.  Every child of God is commissioned by God.  The Bible clearly tells us in Matthew 28:19-20, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have  commanded you …”

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

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

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

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

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