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.”

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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

2018BlogTheme

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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The Gender Rebellion: Trans, Cis, Bi, Gay, Fluid, and Everything in Between

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

7NovIt is no secret that there is a massive revolution taking place in Western culture.

It’s known as the Identity Revolution.

Namely, a revolution that

Is seeking to redefine

The self in ways never

Imagined in human history.

And like all revolutions, the language within the revolution is also changing.  Make no mistake, we are in the middle of a language war in Western culture.  Whomever controls the narrative, will control the culture.

The self is now largely an experiment in Western culture.  It is an individual project. We’re told that our identity is a personal and private choice made only by us.  We’re told that the self is fluid; and that it cannot be defined by anyone outside of our own sphere – and most certainly not by God!

It took a long time for this radical notion of the self to develop in history.  Numerous cultural and historical factors have given birth to this new concept of identity.  You have . . .

  • The rise of Darwin’s theory of evolution,
  • The emergence of existentialism,
  • And the rise of modern psychology and psychiatry.

You can’t have the modern notion of the individual and of the self without the looming influence of figures such as Sigmund Freud, Friedrich Nietzsche, or Jean Paul Sartre. You also have the arrival of the sexual revolution which has redefined virtually everything.

Today we are being confronted more and more with the following occurrences:

Hannah Holloway says, “I never really thought to myself, yes, I am a girl.  Or, yes, I am a guy.  I’m Hannah.”  Hannah’s story along with several others was reported in a recent edition of the Kansas City Star in the Arts and Culture section.  The Star devoted three full pages to the issue of gender identity.  Hannah and others want to be classified as nonbinary.  So, she doesn’t want to be called by the pronoun “she” but the pronoun “they.”

Another article discusses how the definition of transgender has continued to evolve.  Kasimir Hazelwood thinks “normal” is a meaningless word.  Hazelwood identifies as androgyne, someone masculine with feminine qualities.

Rogers claims to be “genderfluid.”  That means sometimes Rogers feels like a male and other times a female.  V is open to any sexual orientation and dates both men and women.  “I like the label queer,” says V, “because it is not clear cut.”

So, now the new controversy in our culture is gender identity.  This minority group is clamoring for gender neutral public restrooms, unisex locker rooms, and the right to identify however they choose on legal forms.  Some applications provide the choice “Male,” “Female” and “Other.”  Facebook now allows you to choose, “him,” “her,” or “their.”

How many others are there, you ask?  According to an ABC report they have identified at least 58 gender options.  They include bigender, pangender, transgender, Agender, intersex, Cis, Trans, and something called two spirit.  Don’t you miss the days when life was simple?  When there were just boys and girls.

All of this has led to a new definition of the word “safe.”  The word safe used to refer primarily to physical safety.  But the landscape has changed.  If you look at modern uses of the word safe – especially in education at every level – what you discover is that safe now means something very different.  Safe now has a meaning related to emotional safety or psychological safety.  The kind of emotional well-being that is now considered a fundamental human right.

SO … What do we make of all this?

I don’t claim to understand this confusion.  I’m not a psychologist or psychiatrist.  I’m a pastor/preacher.  So, but I do have the only reliable source to go to – I will offer a simple Bible explanation.

In a word, the Identity Revolution

Is rebellion against what

God has said in His Word.

The Bible teaches – a very unpopular thing to say for sure – that identity is not something that we manufacture on our own.  Identity is something that God defines.

We are

Who our Creator

Says we are,

And here

The Bible is very clear.

It tells us that every human being is born with a two-fold identity:

1) They are precious, being created in the image of God – either as male or female.
2) They are born into corruption and sin due to Adam’s rebellion.

Gender crisis and confusion exists because people have strayed away from God.  They have lost their spiritual identity.  And they have denied the Creator and His purpose for their lives.

Our society is on the fast track to becoming like the pagan culture Paul described in Romans chapter one. “…They knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened.  Professing to be wise, they became fools,  and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man — and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things” (Rom. 1:21-25)

The Bible says that in the beginning God created the first pair “male and female.”  He pronounced a blessing upon them and said, “Be fruitful and multiply.” (Genesis 1:27-28).  Later when Jesus was asked by the Pharisees a question relating to marriage,Hhe responded this way.

“Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.” (Matthew 19:4-6)

The Bible does not give us free rein to choose

Our sexual preferences and gender identity.

Our culture has taken something simple, and obvious, and made it so complex and complicated that it goes beyond the absurd!  Yet, “enlightened” educators, politicians, journalists and sadly some church leaders, nod with some kind of knowing empathy that everyone is entitled to their own beliefs, feelings, behavior and sexual identity or preference.

Our culture has lost its way.  The real crisis today is a crisis of values.  G. K. Chesterton was right when he wrote, “The danger when men stop believing in God is not that they’ll believe nothing; but that they will believe in anything.”

The solution is not to seek our gender identity, but to seek God.  To desire spiritual communion with Him.  And to accept who He created us to be.  These are undisputed facts according to God Himself.   What the gospel offers is a chance to have a new identity in Christ.  This is available to anyone who will own up to their sin (repentance),  humble themselves before God and admit their need, and receive God’s gift of life (abundant and eternal) by asking Jesus to be their Savior and Lord.  The gospel says that the only way to find peace with God, self, and others is to admit and confess that He was right after all when it comes to who you are.

Parents, preachers and Bible teachers must now emphasize to a new generation influenced by the confusion of their culture, that God created us.  He made us male and female.  He gave us distinct gender roles.  And that our body does not belong to us, it belongs to the Lord.

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

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

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

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

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The Desired Life – Dead And Alive!

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

6Nov  If you were a notorious criminal in the days of the old west, someone like Billy the Kid or Jessie James, your name and picture might be printed on “Wanted” posters offering a reward for your capture . . . whether you were DEAD or ALIVE.  The law didn’t care if you were brought to the courthouse sitting upright on your horse or lying face down across the saddle.  The proclamation meant that anyone who chose to shoot you in the back without warning, as Robert Ford did to Jesse James in 1882, was entitled to a cash reward for doing so.  This was one poster you did not want to see your name on!

Today there is a similar “poster” that you DO want to see your name on – posted not by the law but by our Lord:

WANTED DEAD AND ALIVE.

Jesus wants you . . .

He wants you both dead and alive!

The irony of the Christian life – the first shall be last and the last shall be first; you must lose your life in order to find your life – is profoundly proclaimed in this peculiar saying: WANTED DEAD AND ALIVE.  The Christian life is to be marked by the following:

  • Dead to sin . . . alive to righteousness
  • Dead to evil . . . alive to good
  • Dead to self . . . alive to the Savior
  • Dead to worldly wisdom . . . alive to God’s wisdom
  • Dead to selfish ambition . . . alive to sacrificial service

What a remarkable condition

For the blood-bought child of God,

To be both dead and alive

At the same time!

The Bible instructs Christians to “consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus” (Romans 6:11).  Please understand that this does not mean that believers no longer sin.  To the contrary, 1 John, which was written to those who believe in the name of the Son of God, asserts that “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (1 John 1:8).  The only Christians who no longer sin are those who are already in glory with Jesus.

Paul’s instruction to the Roman Christians meant that we are to be dying daily to our old, sinful self and becoming increasingly more alive to our new, Savior-led self.  We are slowly being conformed to the likeness of Christ (Romans 8:29).  We should desire less and less of what this world offers and more and more of what Christ offers.

So . . . does this describe your life today?

To be sure,

Sin remains in the life of the Christian,

But it no longer reigns.

Jesus has taken over the throne of your life; He calls you to die daily to yourself and to live for Him.  When you are living for Jesus, you are able to live above and beyond your little kingdom, the one marked by self-protection, self-absorption, and self-reliance.  The grace of the Gospel frees you to expand the borders of your life past the narrow boundaries of physical comfort and personal concerns.  You begin living in a place where His goals are your goals . . . His plans are your plans . . . His desires are your desires . . . His purposes are your purposes.

This is living for the Kingdom of God; and this is the only place where life is worth living.

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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Making A Eternal Difference

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

5Nov  The Bible says in Galatians 1:10, “Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ.”

Because we have been made in the image and likeness of God, we have been made to make a eternal difference in the world around us.  So . . .

The question before you and me today is this:

Are we truly making a difference that is eternal?

To be sure, there are many things that get in the way of making an eternal difference in the world around us.  One of those things is our tendency to be more focused on pleasing men than on pleasing God.  Make no mistake, people pleasers do not make a durable difference in the world!  They find their deepest satisfaction when others are pleased and accepting of them.  But this was not the life for the apostle Paul all about.  He writes under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit in Acts 20:24, “I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.”

These are the sentiments of a man who made an eternal difference in the world.  Now . . .

It was not that the apostle

Despaired of life itself;

Rather, he despised the thought

Of living life without Christ

t the center and circumference of it.

And he was willing to set all other things aside – indeed, he considered them “rubbish” (Philippians 3:8) – in order to pursue the faithful and fruitful service of his Lord.  Paul made no account of his life apart from the life that the Lord Jesus had called him to live when He appeared to Paul on the road to Damascus.

Paul’s goal was to accomplish

Or finish his course or race.

He knew am eternal difference

Would only be made when

He crossed the finish line of life

Having given all he had

And all he was as

A testimony to the Gospel

Of the grace of God.

Paul purposed to live a life for something bigger than just his life; he lived for His Savior. He refused to shrink the size of his life down to the size of his life.  Paul lived to please God, not man, and in doing so, he made am eternal difference as a disciple of Jesus.

Can the same be said of you today?  Are you making an eternal difference by the life you are living?  Your answer can be a resounding “Yes!” . . . if you are living your life for the glory of God and the good of others.

It matters not what your station in life is;

What matters is who you are living for

In your current station.

When you are living for Jesus and pouring yourself out for the advancement of His kingdom, you can know in no uncertain terms that the life you are living is making an eternal difference – in the world around 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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The Gospel Garden

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

04Nov  God must really like gardens, because they find great importance in His sacred Word.  On the night He was betrayed, Jesus agonized over His coming death, to the point of sweating drops of blood, in the Garden of Gethsemane.  You will, of course, remember that it all got started for the human family in the Garden of Eden, where our first two parents were placed to care for and have dominion over their new home.

The Bible says in Genesis 2:15,22, “The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it . . . Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man.”

The paradise of the Garden of Eden was man’s first home.  But that quickly changed when Adam and Eve turned toward the self and away from God.  But God did not leave them to wallow in their dreadful rebellion.  He pursued them and promised to send His Savior to save them from their sins.  And in His grand salvation project, God has promised something very special for all His people:

The Bible says in Isaiah 58:11, “The LORD will guide you continually, and satisfy your soul in drought, and strengthen your bones; you shall be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail.”

Did you notice the last portion of that verse?  God says, “You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail?”

Here is a garden better

Than the Garden of Eden!

Here is a “Gospel-Garden,”

Where the water never runs dry.

In other words, God will forever be on the throne of our lives; sin and death will be no more.  To be like a well-watered garden is to be full of the life that can only come from the truths of the Gospel.  We are liberated to live lives of freedom, joy, and faithfulness to Jesus, because we live under the banner of His finished work.

The Bible says in John 7:37-39, “In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, ‘If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink.  He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.  But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing I Him would receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.””

To be a well-watered garden is to be saturated with the super-abundant power, life and blessings that flow freely from the Spirit of God.  And they will flow forever . . .

  • The blessing of total forgiveness
  • The blessing of unconditional love
  • The blessing of unbroken fellowship with God
  • The blessing of complete approval
  • The blessing of unimaginable joy
  • The blessing of unmerited favor
  • The blessing of unending life

Jesus is the caretaker of God’s Gospel-Gardner and we will be wonderfully taken care of in His Gospel-garden.  Nothing can ever come between us (Romans 8:38-39).  Our sins cannot separate us from the caretaker or the Gospel-garden.  Neither Satan nor his demons can separate us from the caretaker or the Gospel-garden.  Not even death can separate us from the caretaker and the Gospel-garden.

God has promised to complete the good work He has begun in us (Philippians 1:6), and what He has promised He will do.  How?  Through what He promised in Isaiah 14:27, “For the Lord Almighty has purposed, and who can thwart it?  His hand is stretched out, and who can turn it back?”

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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