Thankful For All That God Is And All He Had Done

Grace For The Journey

31Dec  As we approach the final days of this decade, I think it is helpful for all of us to get a little bit contemplative about the last ten years.  I don’t know about you, but I have experienced that sense of things moving more quickly as we get older.  That reality has been difficult to deny as we wind up the last of the “two-thousand-and-teens.”  It hardly seems possible that it was twenty years ago when we were all wondering if the world was going to implode on Y2K – would some unavoidable computer glitch shut down the global grid?  Of course, that never occurred, and we have been able to continue cruising through the first two decades of the twenty-first century.

The Bible says in Psalm 143:5, “I remember the days of old; I meditate on all that You have done; I ponder the work of Your hands.”  The psalmist wrote of his practice of slowing down and intentionally centering his thoughts on God’s ways and God’s works.  The highest place upon which he could set his mind was on the goodness of God. I think we would benefit greatly if we did the same thing as often as possible.  When I get intentionally thoughtful towards God, I become increasingly thankful toward Him.

I want to end this year, and this decade, with prayerful thoughts and words of praise on how wonderful and awesome God has been to me.

Thank You, Father, for another year filled with Your grace. Thank You for shepherding me through intense and difficult moments I never would have signed up for if You had asked us.  Thank You for the wisdom and depth of faith you supplied me through trials and testings that took me outside of my own resources and capacities.  Thank You, Father, for new friends I made this past year and how they have enriched my life.  Thank You for reinforcing to me that my relationships are far more valuable than my possessions.  Thank You for Your astounding mercy and grace as throughout the decade I said goodbye to those that I would have kept by my side forever if it had been in my power.  Only by Your grace did I not fall apart in my grief, never to arise.  Thank You, Father, for sustaining grace that I could only experience in the moments where it was needed.  You have upheld me with Your hand during each day. You are an unspeakably great and good God.

Thank you, King Jesus, for ruling faithfully and wisely over the entire world and universe for another twelve months. With the psalmist, I am humbled when I consider all that You have done, I see the work of your hands.  Even though the nations rage and proud, ignorant men beat their arrogant chests in thunder and fury, while American politicians continue to direct their empty streams of polluted platforms, You, Lord Jesus, abide in the strength of Your decrees which abide forever.  What joy it will be when the foolishness of man is forever silenced by Your uncontested authority.  I am immeasurably blessed today to think on this one thing: the Word of my Savior and King eternally endures, and He have the final word.  Every other voice will fall silent.  All that will be heard will be the bending of every knee just before the global confession that Jesus Christ is Lord.  I say reverently, Jesus, that I cannot wait for this moment to come.

Thank you, Holy Spirit, for patiently abiding with me as I sometimes stumble my way toward my appointed finish lines.  The more I know You, the more humbled I am that You are willing to abide with me in the midst of my too-frequent follies.  I say such foolish things at times – things unfitting for those who are forgiven and redeemed. I bark and bite at others instead of blessing and building them. I am prone to grieve Your holy heart.  I quench the flame of Your power within me because I spend unprofitable time dialed in on things that will not matter in eternity.  You are the undeterred teacher and trainer of my heart.  You strive with me, yearning to bring about the full manifestation of who I am in Christ.  I so deeply need You!  It is not my might that sustains me.  It is not my power that wins the day.  It is You, Spirit of God, who inhabits me, empowers me, sanctifies me, seals me, gifts me, and delivers me. Thank You for being God in me!  Thank You that, as with the Father and the Son, Your special mercies to me are new every morning.  Do not relent, Holy Spirit!  Let the glory of Jesus be released through me in greater measures as I decrease, and He increases in my life.

With the psalmist, we must remember Who is our God.  With the psalmist, we must meditate upon the goodness of God toward us.  With the psalmist, we must ponder in childlike wonder the marvelous works of God.

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

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

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

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


A New Attitude For A New Year

Grace For The Journey


30Dec  As we come to the close of the year, I think all of would like to begin 2020 saying, “This is the year that the Lord has made. I will rejoice and be glad in it!”  But perhaps depression, one of the great afflictions of our age, is dulling your spirits. In today’s blog I want us to look at God’s Word and see how one man exchanged depression for joy to begin a new emotional era in his life.

The Bible says in Psalm 42:5, “Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him for the help of His countenance.”

Our attitude is very important.  The Bible says in Proverbs 23:7, “For as a man thinks in his heart, so is he . . “  Because of the circumstances and situations many have faced in their past and current life, they may cause us to have a soar view of life which will affect how they look at the New Year.  I want to use today’s blog to offer some good Gospel News that will not alter our attitude about the coming year but also affect our actions.  The key for this to happen is what we are going to focus on.  The Bible says in Psalm 45:1, “My heart is overflowing with a good theme …” 

There are three biblical truths from Psalm 42:5 which are necessary if we are to have a good “theme” for our lives in the coming year.  This verse that will give each of us the insight and power to have a new attitude for the New Year.

1) My Condition.

Three key words describe this man’s condition. First, downcast“Why are you cast down, O my soul?”  One person translates this: “Why are you down in the dumps?” Other translations say, “Why are you so sad?” or “Why are you discouraged?”  All of us face this reality at times in our lives.  There are many things that can cause us to be downcast or discouraged.  Sometimes we can’t prevent them from happening but a good first step in getting through these feelings is to recognize what we are feeling.

A second word is disquieted.  The psalmist goes on to say, “…” and why are you disquieted within me?”  The Hebrew term conveys the idea of “an unpleasant sound, a commotion or clamor.”  It refers to unpleasant music in the soul.  One person translates it this way – “Why are you singing the blues, O my soul?”

The third word is mourning in verse 9, “… Why do I go mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?”  The Hebrew for “mourning” is means “to be ashen, dark and dingy.” The reference may be to one’s facial expression or to the garments of sackcloth worn by the grief-stricken.

Can you identify with this man’s condition?

2) My Circumstances.

The writer was one of the sons of Korah, Israel’s renowned musicians and worship leaders. Yet, he begins Psalm 42 telling us he feels separated from God.  Evidently this man is exiled both spiritually and geographically.  He has been taken from Jerusalem, away from his normal ministry in the temple courts (verse 4). Where is he?  Verse 6 offers a clue: “O my God, my soul is cast down within me; Therefore, I will remember You from the land of the Jordan, and from the heights of Hermon, from the Hill Mizar. Deep calls unto deep at the noise of Your waterfalls.”  This man is in the far north, at the headwaters of the Jordan, in the foothills of Mount Hermon.  The word Mizar means “little,” perhaps referring to a smaller hill in the Hermon range in the area known as Caesarea Philippi or Banias.  Here the springs and creeks plunge from the mountains, crashing and roaring and forming the beginnings of the Jordan River.  Second Kings 14:14 tells of a time when King Jehoahaz invaded the nation of Judah.  He swept into the temple, looted its treasures, and took some of the temple workers hostage to the north.  We don’t know if this is the historical setting of Psalms 42, but it fits.  Perhaps one of those hostages wrote this psalm.  Have you ever had a time when you felf alone and separated from family and friends?  Have you ever felt downcast and disquieted?  Exiled? Far from where you want to be in lif

3) My Cure.

This man is determined not to give in to despondency or self-pity.  He’s going to fight with three lifelines.

Talking to God. Psalm 42 begins as a prayer; and as he prays, this man’s confidence grows and his courage returns, as we see at the end of 42:5 and where he repeats it in Psalm 43:5.

Talking to Others. In Psalm 42:2, the writer is no longer praying; he is talking to you and me, to his readers, to whoever will listen. There are seven billion people in the world, yet we long for someone to talk to.  That’s why support groups, chat rooms, and bars are so popular.  But you don’t need a bar or chat room.  Find a Christian friend, open up, and share your heart.  Ask others to pray with you.  We’re never as strong as when kneeling side by side with a friend in need.

Talking to Myself. The psalmist also learned how to talk to himself – “Why are you cast down, O my soul? Why so disquieted within me? Hope in God . . . !” He is addressing himself.  We often listen to ourselves when we should talk to ourselves.  We have negative little voices inside us, playing discouraging tapes in endless loops.  We need to eject those tapes, take ourselves in hand, sit ourselves down, and give ourselves a talking to.  We need to learn to preach to ourselves God’s wonderful good news truth from His Word.

If you’ve been singing the blues, talk to God about it; talk to a good friend; and talk to yourself.  Those three lifelines will be like a triangle of triumph and will enable you to say: “Why are you cast down, O my soul? Why are you disquieted within me? This is the year that the Lord has made. Rejoice and be glad in it.”

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.”


Living from the Inside Out

Grace For The Journey


  It is two days after Christmas.  Most of us still have Christmas on our minds.  Because of that I want to start out my blog today with this story: A man in south Florida ordered a Christmas tree from the Christmas tree capital of the world – western North Carolina.  It was a 9-foot blue spruce, and it was beautiful.  When It arrived, he put it up and his family decorated it with ornaments collected from around the world, along with golden beads, tinsel, a thousand lights.  It was the most beautiful Christmas tree in the neighborhood.

Outside the window in the back yard were other trees.  They didn’t have any lights, ornaments, or tinsel; but they had something better – they had roots, sap, and life – and they had oranges, tangerines, and grapefruit that kept coming season after season, year after year.  No one had to hang any fruit on those trees.  These trees produced them from within. They came from the inside out.

The Christmas tree that the man brought in for Christmas and the trees in his back yard represent two different views of the Christian life in particular:

A lot of people in this world call themselves Christians, but their faith and lives are not really rooted and grounded in a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.  They have no fruit that comes through the presence and work of the Holy Spirit.  They hang a lot of ornaments, tinsel, and lights on their lives, and they make an impression.

But they are living

From the outside in.

The Bible describes other kind of person is like a tree planted by rivers of water that brings forth its fruit in season (Psalm 1:1-3).  Their leaves also do not wither, and whatever they do honors God and contributes to the increase of His kingdom.

One view is that of religion

Trying to live from the outside in;

The other view is that of the Christian life

Living life from the inside out.

I believe the Lord gave us the Sermon on the Mount to show us the difference between those two approaches to spirituality.

We sometimes call the “Sermon on the Mount” our Lord’s Inaugural Address.  He introduced it with what we call the Beatitudes in Matthew 1:1-12, the statements that begin, “Blessed are….”

And then in Matthew 5:17-20, Lord declares the theme of the entire sermon – and the key sentence is verse 20: “For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.”

This sermon is all about righteousness.

What is righteousness?  I

t is being in a right relationship with God

That enable us to live exactly

The way God wants us to live.

It is a life that corresponds

To His holiness, love, and purity.

As someone put it, “It is right living from God’s of view – right-living-ness, righteousness.”

Now the people who appeared to live that way in the days of Jesus were the Pharisees, a Jewish group that had very strict and high standards.  Everyone thought they were the holiest people around.  But Jesus said in effect, “No, they’re not!  Their righteousness is only on the outside …  It is only on the surface.  They are like Christmas trees, bedecked with righteous ornamentation, but inwardly they are dead.  Let Me tell you what genuine righteousness and godliness is all about” – and He preached this Sermon on the Mount.

I believe Jesus gave the Sermon on the Mount for three reasons:

First, to define and describe true righteousness and godliness as God sees it.

God’s kind of righteousness is different than man’s.  Man focuses on what he can do or should do.  God focuses on the heart – man must be right from the very core of his being if he is to be accepted by God and be righteous.

Second, to preview for us the kind of life He Himself was about to live.

He described for us in advance what the world would see over the three years of His public ministry.  The death of Jesus Christ would have been worthless and wasted had He not been sinless, or righteous.  He had to offer Himself as a sinless, pure, and perfect sacrifice.  So, Jesus came to demonstrate what a truly sinless, righteous, perfect personal person is like.  He tells us in Matthew 5-7, and then He shows us in Matthew 8 – 28.

But there is a third reason Jesus gave us the Sermon on the Mount – To show us the kind of life He wants to form within us by the presence and power of the Holy Spirit.

It isn’t a righteousness

That is from the outside in

– That’s religion –

Man’s attempt to please God;

It’s the growing righteousness

Formed within us

From the inside out

By the Holy Spirit.

That’s the theme and the purpose of the Sermon on the Mount.  Jesus introduces the sermon with the Beatitudes, then states His theme, and in Matthew 5:21, the Lord brings it down to right where we live and shows us how this works out in the various applications of life.  In the remainder of chapter 5, He shows us how this works in four different areas of life.

  1. It’s Not Enough to Avoid Murder on the Outside … You Must Avoid Hate on the Inside – Matthew 5:21-26.

Verse 21 says: You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, “You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.”

Murder is an outward act.  Every year in the United States funerals are performed for thousands of murder victims, and in each one of them a person had been robbed of the most precious possession they owned – their own life.  But, in this verse, Jesus is saying in effect, “Even if you don’t physically murder someone, you are still breaking the commandments and requirements of God if you carry around hatred for them in your heart.  God sees your hatred just as He sees every act of murder.”

Verse 22 says: “But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca’ (which was an Aramaic term of contempt, like we would say, “Idiot!”) is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.

You can go through your whole life without murdering anyone, and yet be guilty of murder in your heart because of your hatred for another person.  Hatred is akin to murdering someone in your heart.

Of course, we all get mad at other people occasionally.  But when that anger turns into hatred, it becomes a venom that poisons the one who has it.  So, what should you do?

Verse 23 tells us: Therefore, if you are offering your gift on the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.

If you’re getting ready to put your offering envelop in the collection plate or go online and make a gift to some ministry, but you remember you’ve got a angry heart toward another person, then your gift to God isn’t going to do much good.  The Bible tells us, before we can worship properly, we need to get our heart right toward that other person.

Verse 25 says: “Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court. Do it while you are still together on the way, or your adversary may hand you over to the officer, and you may be thrown into prison. Truly I tell you, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny.”

In other words, if you pursue your anger, hated, and bitterness toward somebody, it will double back and cost you more than you want to pay.  Try to avoid lawsuits and taking your neighbor to court.

We live in a complicated world, and Jesus is speaking in simple terms.  It’s not easy to navigate every particular situation, but in general He is telling us that it’s not enough to refrain from murder.  The heart of a righteous person has Teflon as it relates to hatred and bitterness.  Those attitudes just cannot stick to us, because we have the coating of the love of Christ within us.

I don’t know about you, but for me this is not an easy process. I remember once when someone who was a very good friend betrayed me and did something that hurt me deeply.  I felt an incredible amount of anger. I felt rage, and tremendous hurt.  Some of you know that kind of feeling.  I am glad to say that, today, I feel no anger, no rage, and no bitterness toward that person.  How did that happened?

  • First, I had to pray my way through it.  I was so upset I’d go for long walks, thinking through it, praying through it, and asking God to help me with my emotions.
  • Second, I had to come to a point of truly putting it in God’s hands.  Now, I’ll be very honest with you.  This is one of the hardest things I ever have to do – When I have a painful situation, to bring it and give it the Lord.  But I cannot turn the corner in my own emotions until I do that.
  • Thirdly, I needed to forgive that person whether or not he asked me to or deserved it.  It is not a matter of feelings or fairness; it is a matter of obedience – Matthew 6:14-15.
  • Fourth, I had to give it time.  Healing takes time.
  • And then I had to seek reconciliation with that person (Matthew 18:15).  This might not always be possible, for it depends on the other person.  If they are unrepentant or unwilling to change, sometimes you just have to walk away.  But if there is humility there, you need to seek to restore your friendship.

And as that happened with me, I know it happens with a lot of people.

  1. It’s Not Enough to Avoid Immorality on the Outside … You Must Maintain Purity on the Inside – Matthew 5:27-31.

The second area Jesus brings us is sexual purity.  Look at verse 27: “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’  But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”

In other words . . .

Righteousness is not just a matter

Of the way you act on the outside;

It’s what’s going on

In your mind and heart.

The truly righteous person is righteous from the inside out.  Jesus said, “It’s not enough to keep yourself from premarital or extramarital sex.  You’ve got to train your mind and heart and eyes to maintain purity.”

In fact, Jesus teaches you have to go to great lengths to do that.  Look at verse 29: “If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut if off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.”

Let me paraphrase . . . You’ll notice that all the way through the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus uses hyperbole to make His point.  Here is what I think He is saying – If your smartphone or computer keeps getting you into moral trouble, give it up.  People lived for thousands of years without them, and it’s better to be without your smartphone or computer than to have your whole life, mind, and eyes constantly corrupted.

  1. It’s Not Enough to Avoid Divorce On the Outside … You Must Nurture Your Marriage on the Inside – Matthew 5:31-33.

In the Old Testament, people could get divorced easily.  This led God to declare how this is contrary to what He wants in Malachi 2:11, “… For Judah has profaned the LORD’s holy institution which He loves …” and in Malachi 2:16, “For the LORD God of Israel says that He hates divorce …”  Sexual immorality will damage and destroy your marriage.  God wants you to have a happy home, a happy marriage.  It’s not enough to avoid divorce on the outside; you’ve got to nurture your marriage from the inside out.

In other words, it’s not enough just to seek to have biblical, moral, and legal justification for divorce.  You’ve got to learn to love one another from the heart, and, never think about divorce.

The other day, I read the story of a man named Warren Rausch, who lives near Minneapolis, and his story illustrates this perfectly:

“I’d like to share about my near divorce experience. I remember the day my wife and kids left our apartment.  I remember not caring if I ever saw them again or if they came back. The week goes by and I’m denying that there is anything wrong, that pornography or selfishness is a problem for me and causing this division and darkness, not understanding why she and the kids had left me.  I wondered how I could pay the rent bills, and give them money. And then I would think of leaving it all behind and moving out of the country so that I wouldn’t have to pay child support if we got divorced.

There was such a spiritual battle going on,

I claimed Christianity, but wasn’t living it.

There was a pull of wanting to be single and live the single lifestyle. Going to the strip club and the pornography did nothing to fill the void I was feeling. My pregnant wife and two kids weren’t even filling that void that I had had. I had this overwhelming sense of hopelessness and despair. I was really depressed, I wondered why God was doing this to me, why He let sex and porn have such a strong pull on me, why He had let my wife and kids leave. A few months after my family had left me, and after so much emotional rollercoaster of feelings I decided I wanted to end it all.  I think I had sent my wife an email to the sort of me wanting to take my life. That night I sat in the living room with a 9mm handgun in my hand asking God to take my life, to end this despair and hopelessness I felt.  I cried for what seemed like forever, exhausted and emotionally drained I ended up putting the gun away, and falling asleep.  I woke up the next morning, with a new sense of hope.  I knew it was Jesus who had taken away the desire to pull the trigger that night.  I felt like God had heard me, like he cared for and about me.  I decided to dedicate my life to Him, not knowing if I had really done it before.  I had a new sense of appreciation and understanding of God’s love, mercy, and grace.  

I had head knowledge of this,

But had never experienced it

On the emotional and spiritual level

Like I had through this.

So, combined with a rededication to Christ, and a determination to restore our broken, deteriorating marriage, I started reading books on defeating pornography, I got hooked up with an accountability partner, and started going to counseling, going by myself, and then as a couple.  I took the initiative to ask forgiveness from my wife and her family for how I had treated her, I took full responsibility for my actions.  Prayer was huge in helping restore our relationship.  A couple months later and after lots of Godly counseling my wife and kids moved back in, and we continue to grow as a couple, with Christ leading our family.”

It isn’t enough to avoid divorce on the outside; you have to nurture your marriage from the inside out.

Now, in the remainder of the chapter, Jesus goes on to describe area after area in which this true.

  • In verses 33-37, He said it’s not enough just to tell the truth when you’re under oath; you must practice integrity from the inside out.
  • In verses 38-42, He said, it’s not enough to go the first mile; you have to be willing to go the second mile from the inside out.
  • In verses 43-48, He said, it’s not enough to love your neighbors, you have to love your enemies from the inside out.

This is righteousness.  It’s not a Christmas tree with external ornaments; it’s a fruit tree planted by the river, rooted in Christ, and bearing the fruit of the Spirit.  This is true righteousness; this is the life that Jesus came to demonstrate; and this is the life He wants to replicate in us.

As I studied all this, my mind kept going to a phrase that I want to end with from the Galatians 4:19. “… until Christ is formed in you.

The apostle Paul was worried about the Christians in Galatia because they had a lot of external ornaments and a lot of internal confusion.  And he said that he was suffering pain like a woman in childbirth “until Christ is formed in you.”  

That is the best and only definition of righteous living that I know  . . .

Christ must be formed in us.

That involves a process.

Trees don’t grow to maturity overnight.

We have to abide in Christ

And let God form

His life and character within us

– And that’s a lifelong effort.

God wants us to be righteous . . . not only being right with Him and living in the right way.  The coming year demands that we live from the inside out.

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.”



The Greatest Gift At Christmas

Grace For The Journey


26Dec  This past Sunday our Praise Choir ministered to us with the Christmas musical, “There Is A Bethlehem – A Journey Of Faith.”  They did a marvelous job of leading us to worship Jesus!  This was what we gathered to do because He is worthy of wonder, celebration, awe, adoration, and ultimately, everything.

Why should worship be such a big part of Christmas?  Christmas is all about Jesus Christ and the salvation He brings. The only correct response to Jesus is worship.  This is also true about living in the new year.

One of the most familiar Christmas stories helps us to understand this.  The wise men, the magi, who come from the east, are looking to worship Jesus.  These men had studied the Old Testament, and they were aware that God was going to send the “King of the Jews,” the Messiah.  At the same time, they were studying the stars and saw something there that convinced them the King of the Jews had been born.

It’s impossible to know exactly what the wise men saw or how they knew the star was pointing to Jesus.

What we do know is

That God graciously worked

Through their study

To lead them to Jesus.

The star in the sky led them to the Star Who come forth from Jacob, the scepter risen from Israel (Numbers 24:17).  So, they left their homes in Babylon or Persia and began the long journey to see Jesus.  We don’t know exactly how many miles it was, but from Baghdad to Bethlehem is 547 miles of extremely inhospitable desert terrain.  Even if it wasn’t that far, why would anyone do that?  Why would you put your life on hold, and walk or ride a camel for months, knowing with each passing mile that the return trip would be just as long?  Why would you leave your wife and children, your friends and family, your home, for most likely a year or even two?

For the wise men, that kind of trip was worth it.  They knew they needed to find Jesus.

It is only in coming to Jesus

To worship Him,

Falling before Him,

Giving Him our everything,

That we find everything

We have been looking for,

That we find life.

This is why we call them wise men today.  Wise men, women, and children come from wherever they are, no matter what the journey might look like, to worship the King of Kings.

As we look at living in the coming New Year, in light of God’s indescribable gift, may each one of us offer ourselves in worship, as a “living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship” (Romans 12:2).  May we search the Scripture daily to know Christ more so He can live through us more fully.

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.”



The Perfect Gift At Christmas

Grace For The Journey


25Dec  Today, is Christmas Day!  A very merry and blessed Christmas to your and your family.  When you’re a child, Christmas is all about receiving gifts.  In December, your head is swimming with nothing but images of your favorite toys.

But . . .

The true message of Christmas

Is not the presents we

Give to one another.

The true meaning is

The gift that God gave to us,

His Son Jesus Christ.

The first thing we need to realize about God’s gift to us is that it came in simple wrapping.  Some people will go to great lengths to wrap presents beautifully.  But God’s gift came to us not in beautiful, ornate wrapping, but in a dirty manger found in a cold cave in a little-known town called Bethlehem.

That’s the beauty of Christmas.  Jesus took His place in a manger so that we might have a home in heaven.  The Savior was not wrapped in satin sheets, but in common rags.  There in a manger rested the greatest gift in the plainest of wrapping.

The second thing I want to point out about God’s gift to us is that we don’t deserve it.  Consider this . . .

God gave us

The ultimate gift

Of His Son Jesus Christ

While we were

Still sinning against Him

(see Romans 5:8).

We did nothing whatsoever to merit or deserve His gift.

That is the amazing truth of Christmas.

Despite who we are, God sent His Son so “that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).

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.”


Joy at Christmas, Part Three

Grace For The Journey


24Dec  The “official” start of the Christmas season is the day after Thanksgiving.  As soon as we finish eating the Thanksgiving turkey, the world rushes right into Christmas.  Of course, there’s nothing wrong with starting the celebration of our Savior’s birth a little early!  But, does businesses pushing up the Christmas “shopping season” every year make it feel like a celebration?

For many the Christmas season is not one filled with celebration and joy.  Instead, it’s often a season of unmet expectations, sadness, disappointments, and way too much busyness.  In the hustle and bustle of the Christmas season, we tend to lose sight of what’s important.

Today’s blog is a reminder of why we celebrate Christmas.

Here’s a quick hint . . .

Joy to the world!

The Lord has come!

The first topic of advent focuses on the prophets and how their message created hope in God fulfilling His promise through the birth of Jesus Christ.  The second topic focuses on God’s love being displayed through humble and simple mean in the events surrounding Bethlehem.  In today’s blog we will look at the shepherds who first heard the good news and learn about the joy that Christ’s coming brings.

The Bible says in Luke 2:8-10,

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.”

Can you imagine what the shepherds felt on that glorious evening?  Shock, fear, excitement, …?

Even though they were fearful at the angels’ arrival, their fear dissipated when they heard the good news – a Savior has been born!

Their joy and excitement caused them to want to confirm this wonderful news.  The Bible tells us about that in Luke 2:15-16,

“When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.’ So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger.”

When they heard the news, “They hurried off!”

As we inch closer to the celebration of Jesus’ birth, I pray that . . .

You are filled with

The same joyful

Anticipation that will

Cause you to

“Search the Scripture daily”

To confirm the wonderful

Truths about Jesus.

You’ve probably grown up knowing there were shepherds who visited the manger.  In fact, they appear in most nativity sets, but there is more to this story.

What you may not have realized is God chose to announce the birth of the Savior to shepherds for a good reason.

You see, shepherds were not “anything special” during these times.  They were poor, dirty, and not respected. Yet, God chose to announce the arrival of the Messiah to them first!  Plus, the shepherds were among the first to share the good news of Jesus’ arrival with the rest of the world!

This is good news for the rest of us.  We don’t have to be “anything special” by the world’s standards to receive the gift of Jesus either.  The Bible affirms this in 1 Corinthians 1:26-27,

Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.”

Jesus brought great joy for all people.  The angel announced in Luke 2:10-12,

But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

The good news was

The Savior of the world.

He came to rescue us from the penalty of sin’s death. Through Jesus, God has given all people a chance to be forgiven and loved eternally.  This alone is why Christians experience joy no matter what’s happening in their lives.

The famous Christmas hymn “Joy to the World” begins with these words, “Joy to the world! The Lord has come! Let earth receive her King! Let every heart prepare Him room.”  Have you ever given thought to those words as you sing them?

Since this time of the year is a season for anticipating the coming of the Savior, this song is a wonderful reminder of what we should be doing during this time of anticipation.

We should

Prepare our hearts

For the Savior!

If you have never given your heart to Jesus, let this time of the year be the most important one of your life by preparing room in your heart for Christ.

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.”


Love at Christmas, Part Two

Grace For The Journey

Christmas is a season filled with excitement, busyness, and noise.  Greens and reds fill the stores, and twinkling lights adorn our homes.  It’s become a big and bright holiday – not at all associated with quiet, peace, or love.

We save the love stuff for Valentine’s Day.  But …

Love came down

On Christmas Day!

At the birth of Jesus,

Our world received

The greatest demonstration

Of love ever.

Imagine reframing and returning the Christmas season back to the season of love.  Our calendars might still be full, but our hearts and attitudes would shift.  Our homes may still be bright, but they will be filled with a better light.

As we move into my second blog on preparing for Christmas, we are focusing on how much God loved the world to send Jesus to be born in the tiny, insignificant town of Bethlehem to fulfill the hope the ancient prophets foretold.

The theme of today’s blog is love.  On the Second Sunday of Advent, some churches light what is known as the Bethlehem candle.  This candle symbolizes the journey to Bethlehem, where love entered the world.

As we spend time reflecting on Mary and Joseph’s journey, I challenge you to join in their anticipation.  As someone has said:

“In a moment everything changed,

On a silent night

Came the promised Child.

In a stable so humble and poor,

Unto us was born

The Savior of the world.

Love came down,

Hope was found.”

God could have chosen any way for His Son to come into the world, but He chose to send Him as a helpless baby born like the rest of us through a young, humble girl.

Mary was not anyone special, but God knew her heart and willingness to serve.  In Luke 1:38 the Bible reminds us of Mary’s humble answer to the angel’s message. “I am the Lord’s servant. May your word to me be fulfilled.”

Then, Mary carried the baby in her womb, gave birth to the Savior of the world, watched Him grow, and wept as He was crucified.

In addition to carefully selecting a humble, unknown girl to be the mother of Jesus, God also chose a tiny, insignificant town for the birthplace of our Savior.

Bethlehem was a fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies. God orchestrated miracle after miracle as Mary and Joseph obeyed Caesar’s edict.  God says in Micha 5:2,4,

“But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times. He will stand and shepherd His flock in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lord His God. And they will live securely, for then His greatness will reach to the ends of the earth.”

As poet Mark Schultz penned,

Bethlehem, through your small door,
Came the hope we’ve waited for.
The world was changed forevermore,
When love was born. Hallelujah!

We can’t celebrate Christmas without looking toward Easter.  It’s why the song “Mary, Did You Know?” is popular.

Mary, did you know that your baby boy
is Lord of all creation?
Mary did you know that your baby boy
would one day rule the nations?
Did you know that your baby boy
is heaven’s perfect lamb?
That sleeping child you’re holding
is the great I Am.

The reason we say “love was born in Bethlehem” is because we are celebrating the birth of the Savior of the world.  The baby would grow up to be “heaven’s perfect lamb” and die on the cross for our sins so we may have eternal life and the right to be children of God.

We celebrate His birth

Because He met

Our greatest need

With everlasting love.

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 at Christmas: Advent Series, Part One

Grace For The Journey


 It seems we anticipate Christmas earlier and earlier every year.  Some stores set up Christmas displays during the summer!  Pretty soon, they will be up all year around.  We can argue about the right time to start playing Christmas carols, but for Christian churches, the focus on Christmas begins the fourth Sunday prior to Christmas Day with the emphasis of Advent.

Unlike commercial Christmas anticipation, this emphasis is one way to set aside a special time of spiritual preparation to remember the birth of Jesus Christ on Christmas as well as anticipating His future coming.  In many churches, a wreath and candles are lit each Sunday during this time.  Generally, each week focuses on a different theme.

For this blog series, we will move through the four popular themes of hope, love, joy, and peace.

Today, we are talking about hope at Christmas.

On the first Sunday of Advent, some churches light one of the candles on the Advent wreath known as the prophecy candle.  Whether or not your church uses this model, it is a good way to begin to understand the idea of Advent.

Advent comes from the Latin word adventus, which means “coming.”  Throughout the Old Testament, prophets spoke about the coming of a Messiah.  Imagine a world without a Savior. Think about living in a time when you had only the hope that one day a Savior would come!

As we think about hope at Christmas, reflect on the hope of the Savior coming to our desperate, broken world.

The Bible says in Acts 3:18, “But this is how God fulfilled what he had foretold through all the prophets, saying that his Messiah would suffer.”

The Old Testament prophets not only predicted Jesus would suffer, but they also predicted His birth, His family line, His birthplace, and His virgin birth (Micah 5:2; Isaiah 7:14).  The most direct and specific prophecy regarding the coming Messiah is found In Isaiah 9:6-7 where the Bible says,

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever.”

The prophecies about the Messiah were not a bunch of scattered predictions randomly placed throughout the Old Testament.  They form . . .

A unified promise-plan of God,

Where each promise is interrelated

And connected into a grand series

Comprising one continuous plan of God.

The prophets eagerly anticipated

The coming of the Messiah.

We live in the world after the prophecies were fulfilled.  We get to experience the hope they foretold!  That is an amazing privilege!  Advent is a tremendous reminder of the before and after.

It’s hard for many of us to imagine a world without a Savior, but the prophets lived in times when they could only look forward to the fulfillment of God’s promise to send the Savior.  We live in times where we look back to the fulfillment of God’s promise to send the Savior occurred.

As we reflect on the hope Jesus brought on the first Christmas day, take a few moments to read the lyrics of the popular Christmas hymn “O Holy Night:”

“O holy night, the stars are brightly shining.
It is the night of our dear Savior’s birth.
Long lay the world. in sin and error pining.
Till He appeared, and the soul felt its worth.
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices …”

Jesus is the thrill of hope the weary world needed – and still needs!  When you celebrate His birthday, praise His continued presence in your life and the hope He gives the world.

Moreover, since Advent is a season of anticipation, it is also gives meaning to His second coming.

For those who have placed their faith in Christ, this world is not your home.  We eagerly anticipate the day our Savior will return and take us to be with Him.

Advent provides an opportunity to reflect on the prophets who waited years and many never lived to see His arrival but remained hopeful.  May the same be said of us.

I pray that this Advent season draws you closer to your Heavenly Father as you anticipate the arrival of Jesus on earth at His birth and His Second Coming.

In the hustle and bustle of the Christmas season, it can be easy to lose sight of what you are celebrating – the birth of Jesus!  Set aside time each day for a quiet time of prayer and reflection.

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.”


Who Is This Child Born At Christmas?

Grace For The Journey


19Dec Because of the commercialism and secularism of Christmas it is easy to miss the real announcement at Christmas – “For unto you is born this day in the city of David, as Savior Who is Christ the Lord.”  To miss this message is to miss what Christmas is all about.  When Jesus is older, He gives us insight into Who He really is and what He came to do.  In John 14:6 He says, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.  No one comes to the Father except through Me.”

In addressing that question, in today’s blog, I want to ask some questions and look at the answer from the Word of God.

Who Does God The Father Say He Is?

After Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden, plunging all of humanity and creation into ruin, God did not abandon them.  He did not leave them as rebels ruined, guilty and ashamed in their sin.  He pursued them; and in their presence, He made this promise to the serpent who had deceived the woman:

“I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; He will crush your head, and you will strike His heel.” (Genesis 3:15)

God promised Adam and Eve that He would send a Savior who would redeem them from the penalty of sin, the power of sin, and ultimately the very presence of sin.

At in Matthew 3:16-17, God the Father announced that this promise was fulfilled in His Son, Jesus: “When He had been baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting upon Him.   And suddenly a voice came from heaven, saying, ‘This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”

Who Does Jesus Say He Is?

In John 4:25-26 records this account, “Then the woman said to Him, ‘I know that Messiah is coming (Who is called Christ), when He comes, He will tell us all things.’ Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am He.”

When the Samaritan woman at the well used the term “Messiah,” she was speaking of the expected King of the Jewish people, who had been promised by God and anticipated by the nation of Israel for hundreds of years. There are many Old Testament prophecies of a promised descendant of David who would come down from heaven and save His people. Those promises are fulfilled in Jesus Christ.

The verse I quoted at the beginning of my blog today reveals the importance of knowing Who this child born at Bethlehem is, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life, no one comes to the Father but through Me.” (John 14:6)

Who Do You Say He Is?

The Bible teaches that throughout the ages men have various ideas and opinions about Who Jesus is.  One such account is in Matthew 16:13-17, where the Bible says, “When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked His disciples, ‘Who do people say the Son of Man is?’ They replied, ‘Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.’ ‘But what about you?’ He asked. ‘Who do you say I am?’  Simon Peter answered, ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.’ Jesus replied, ‘Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven.’”

Jesus made it crystal clear that only God can open the eyes of our hearts to know Jesus.

This knowledge does not come

Through human reason;

It does not come

Through the witness of miracles;

It will not come through

A burning bush or

A Damascus Road experience.

It will only come through

The revelation of God,

Which makes the blind see,

The deaf hear,

And the dead rise

To new life in Christ.

So . . . as Christmas Day approaches . . . what will you do with this Jesus, who is called the Christ?  Who do you say this Jesus is?  This is the most important question you will ever answer.

It is my prayer that today’s blog . . .

Serves to sharpen your focus

On the Reason for this season . . .

The One and Only King of kings

And Lord of lords,

The Savior of the world:

Jesus Christ.

He laid aside the glories of heaven to be born in a stable . . . and ultimately to die and rise again from the grave . . . so that by believing in Him you may be forgiven and have eternal 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.”



The Secret of Contentment

Grace For The Journey


17Dec  Many people want to be “content” in all circumstances, but they don’t know how. Some people don’t even believe it’s possible.  If you think about it, there are probably people in your life who seem to be on a never-ending search for contentment.  Do you know someone who is always looking for more or searching for inner peace?

This is a popular concept today, but none of the self-help trends really help us to get there.  As you read Paul’s letter to the Church of Philippi, it is clear he learned the secret of true contentment, and like Paul, we too can have true contentment and joy in all circumstances.

In today’s blog I am focusing on Philippians 4:10-23.  In these verses we will discover two power, eternal truths:

1) The Difference Between Contentment and Complacency

First, don’t make the mistake of confusing contentment with complacency.  Someone who is complacent is satisfied but often lacks awareness.

Contentment is not complacency,

Nor is it a false peace

Based on ignorance.

Contentment is not

Escape from the battle,

But rather an abiding

Peace and confidence

In the midst of the battle.

Contentment is awareness of what is happening and the ability to remain at peace no matter the circumstances.

The word “content” actually means “contained.”  It is a description of the man whose resources are given to him so that he does not have to depend on substitutes from other sources.

This is what Paul means when he “learned to be content.”

He discovered through experience

That he has everything He needed

Because Christ lives within him.

That is what led him to write in Philippians 4:11-12,

“I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.”

How often does someone think “If I only had this, I would be content?”  Far too often!

Ask anyone who has ever thought they would be content if they achieved some status or purchased a new item how long that feeling of contentment lasted, and they will tell you, “Not long enough.”

Paul, on the other hand, shares with us how he has the secret for being content no matter the circumstances.

It is important to note the following in the above verses, Learned to be content whatever the circumstances.”  It did not happen as soon as he became a Christian.  It was something he learned over time, much like how Christians learn God is faithful as they experience His faithfulness repeatedly.

Because Paul had Christ within,

he had peace  and contentment within.

2) In the conclusion of this letter, Paul identifies some of the reasons our faith in God leads to contentment.

The Providence of God

When we rest in the knowledge of God’s providence, we experience contentment.

God’s providence simply means

That God sees to it beforehand.

It is the working of God

In advance to arrange circumstances

And situations for the fulfilling of His purposes.”

Paul saw God’s hand in his ministry and the church of Philippi’s involvement in his life when he needed it the most.

By recognizing life is not a series of accidents;

It is a series of appointments,

We can experience heavenly contentment.

The Power of God

One of the most popular Bible verses appears in this section of Paul’s discussion of contentment.  Paul essentially made this his motto . . . “I can do all this through him who gives me strength.”  – Philippians 4:13

Paul wrote this letter while he was in prison.  Think about that for a moment – while he was in prison, he was joyful and content.  His life experiences taught him how Christ within gives him all he needs – including strength.

The most important part

Of the Christian’s life

Is the part that

Only God sees.

Unless we draw

On the deep resources

Of God by faith,

We fail against

The pressures of life.

We must learn to rely on the power of Christ rather than attempting to be self-sufficient.

The Promise of God

Finally, those who put their faith in Christ can find contentment through believing in His promises.

In this final send-off in Philippians 4:18-19, Paul discusses how the church of Philippi supported him and how God will meet their needs as well.

“I have received full payment and have more than enough. I am amply supplied, now that I have received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent. They are a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God. And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.”

We could summarize these verses this way:

“God used you to meet my need, and God is going to meet your need.  God used you to meet one need that I have, but my God will meet all your needs.  You gave out of your poverty, but God will supply your needs out of His riches in glory.”

By trusting in God’s promises, God’s power, and God’s providence, you, too, can learn to be content whatever the circumstances.  I pray you come to experience that during this Christmas season.

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.”