FACTS OR FABLES?

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

16Aug  One of the most common objections I hear from skeptics regarding the truth claims of Christianity is, “The stories in the Bible are no different from Aesop’s Fables.”  The skeptic insists that the stories in the Bible developed over time, based on myths which were passed along orally over the years until the New Testament was completed.  They believe the stories of Jesus and His miraculous healings’ simply evolved over time into what we read today.

How would you respond to a claim like that?

As usual, the Bible is not silent on this subject.

The Bible says in 2 Peter 1:16 . . .

“For we did not follow cleverly devised fables when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of His majesty.”

Even secular skeptical historians acknowledge that the Christian church began the year Jesus was crucified (AD 30) in Jerusalem, because the apostles (who were eyewitnesses) were preaching both the crucifixion and the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.  This message did not develop over time.  This was not a “legend” that grew and became more fantastic as the years passed by.  Peter states that he and the other apostles saw both the crucifixion and Resurrection of Jesus Christ.  T

These were not fables that the apostles were repeating;

They were recording factual accounts of actual events

That occurred right in front of their own eyes.

Here is how John explains it in 1 John 1:1, 3 . . .

“That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of life” … That which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ” . . .  “

One of the most compelling proofs of the truthfulness of the New Testament is the fact that all of the disciples refused to change their stories about the risen Savior.  Their unwavering witness caused them to endure great persecution and suffering.  While historians debate how many of the original apostles were executed for their faith, we can be certain that Peter, Paul, and James, the brother of Jesus, died as martyrs. Church tradition tells us that of the 11 original apostles (Judas Iscariot, the betrayer of Jesus, is not counted among that group), all but John died for their faith.  If these men knew that what they were preaching and teaching was a lie, would not at least some of them recanted their “story” in order to save their own skin?  Yet, not one of them did. Not one.

Most readers are familiar with the Prison Fellowship ministry.  Many Christians, however, are unaware that Charles (“Chuck”) Colson, Prison Fellowship’s founder, came to faith in Christ at age 42.  Prior to his conversion, Colson was known as President Richard Nixon’s “hatchet man,” who once famously boasted that he would “run over my own grandmother” to help the president.  Colson pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice as part of the infamous Watergate scandal and served 7 months in federal prison.  It was during this time that Chuck Colson placed his trust in Jesus Christ.  The old Colson died; he was Born Again (the title of his most famous book).  Chuck Colson spoke of how the Resurrection profoundly affected his thinking:

“I know the Resurrection is a fact, and Watergate proved it to me. How? Because twelve men testified they had seen Jesus raised from the dead, then they proclaimed that truth for 40 years, never once denying it. Everyone was beaten, tortured, stoned and put in prison. They would not have endured that if it weren’t true. Watergate embroiled twelve of the most powerful men in the world – and they couldn’t keep a lie for three weeks. You’re telling me twelve apostles could keep a lie for 40 years? Absolutely impossible.”  – Chuck Colson

Christianity is not a myth, legend, or fable.

It is a fact as certain as any fact in history!

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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Living Each Moment Of Life With The Lord and Living For His Glory!

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

15Aug  How have you been spending your time lately?  When you have time to do whatever you want to do (as infrequent as that may be), how do you spend it?  Now, let me quickly assure you that this is not an article about time management and three steps to effectively managing your time.  It’s about prayerfully considering how you are investing the 168 hours the Lord gives you each week.

Studies tell us that the average American Christian spends less than ten minutes per day alone with God, while spending more than four hours each day on their computer, smart phones, and watching television.  Ten minutes with Truth . . . four hours with mostly trash.  It’s no surprise that the church in the United States is having very little effect on the surrounding culture and failing to impact the world for Christ.

Before you think you’re “off the hook” because you don’t spend that more time on your computer, smart phone, or watching television, give some thought to the other things you do with your free time.  Is there a hobby or recreation that consumes that time?  Does a sports team consume that time?  Your job?  Is there a relationship that consumes your time?  Anything other than God that consumes our time is simply a waste of time!  And we need to remember . . .

That for every hour we spend,

We have one less hour to spend!

Jesus spent every hour centered on the will of His Father in heaven.  His meat and drink was to do the will of the Father (John 4:34).  In one of His darkest moments, just hours before His crucifixion, sweating drops of blood in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus said, “Not My will, but Your will be done.”  Jesus knew what He was here to do, and He refused to let anything distract Him from it – not the devil, not even the religious leaders who dogged His every step.

Every confrontation He had with them

Was another opportunity to do the will of God

By teaching those who had ears to hear

What was wrong with the world

And what God was doing about it.

I recognize that none of us will never use all our time as wisely as Jesus did.  But I believe a little self-examination will go a long way in helping us use the precious, un-repeatable time we have been given more wisely.  It’s important to note that . . .

Jesus never wasted a single moment,

And yet we often find Him retreating from the crowds

– Retreating even from His disciples –

To spend time alone with His heavenly Father.

So time well spent is time invested in setting before our Lord and in service to our Lord.  You remember the story of Martha and Mary in Luke 40:39,42, don’t you?  Mary, “who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to His teaching,” was commended by our Lord for choosing “the good portion, which will not be taken away from her” (Luke 40:39, 42).

The only way to begin maximizing our time investments in the things that really matter in life is by keeping the Gospel before us each day.

Remembering what Jesus has done for us

Is the key that unlocks the door

Leading to a life of

Meaning, significance and purpose.

Like Lazarus lying dead in the tomb, we could not see, hear, smell, taste, talk, or walk in the spiritual realm.  We were dead.  But at the call of Christ, like the one He spoke that day – “Lazarus, come forth!” – we too were raised from death to life, a life that is to be lived with the Lord and for His glory.

Remember, when you spend an hour you have one less hour to spend . . . so spend it wisely!

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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Storms and Our Savior

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

14Aug  Storms are a fact of life on this side of glory.  As long as we live we will encounter – sickness and disease . . . suffering and disappointment . . . loss of employment . . . financial reversal . . . loneliness . . . wayward children . . . marriage difficulties . . . shattered dreams . . . death.  And these are just a few of the storms we may face!

So how have you been doing at weathering the storms of life that you’ve been facing lately?  When was the last time you thought, “WHERE IS GOD?!” as the waves of challenge were crashing over you?

The Bible says in Matthew 8:23-27, “Now when He (Jesus) got into a boat, His disciples followed Him.  And suddenly a great emptiest arose on the sea, so that the boat was covered with the waves.  But He was asleep.  Then His disciples came to Him and awoke Him, saying, [Lord, save us!  We are perishing!’  But He said to them, ‘Why are you fearful, O you of little faith?’ Then He arose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm.  So the men marveled, saying, ‘Who can this be, that even the winds and the sea obey Him?’”

Many of the disciples were professional fishermen; the Sea of Galilee was their workplace, and this certainly was not their first encounter with a sudden storm.  The Sea of Galilee was notorious for unexpected, violent storms, as winds swept down from the mountain elevations over the waters of the sea.  Yet, the disciples were filled with great fear – that had to be a bad storm! And all the while, our Lord, exhausted from His works of ministry and the press of the crowds, lay sound asleep.

And what did the disciples do with their fear during this serious storm?

It is the most important lesson we need to learn in this life:

They went to Jesus.

This is the first thing we should do as children of the Most High God.  When the storm winds begin to blow, we must turn to Jesus.  We cry out to Jesus, just as the disciples did: “Lord! Save us! We are perishing!”  Indeed, the Lord invites us to, “Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you will honor Me.” (Psalm 50:15).

It should be a great comfort to read that the disciples had to wake Jesus.

Our Lord was not stressed out, startled, or surprised

By the storm that was blowing.

He was sound asleep, resting with complete confidence

In His relationship with His Father in heaven.

To know that God never slumbers nor sleeps (Psalm 121:3-4) is a tremendous source for giving us “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding” (Philippians 4:7).  It is important for us to remember this when we find ourselves in the storms of life!

I want to point out something else that might easily be overlooked . . .

Jesus was with His disciples in the middle of the storm.

He is with us too.  Regardless of whatever storm winds may be blowing, Jesus is with us.  Jesus is not some “fair-weather” friend, found only when the sky is blue and the clouds are fleecy.  He is right there with us in the middle of every storm.  He has promised us, “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you” (John 14:18).

Oh, what a friend we have in Jesus!

Jesus has been with you in every storm you have ever faced.  Every storm is used by God for His glory and for your good.  And yet we live in a fallen and broken world where some storms never fully pass.  Do you remember the story of the apostle Paul and his “thorn” storm? The Holy Spirit led him to write about it in 2 Corinthians 12:8-10, “Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me.  But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.’  Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.  For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

God does not calm every storm,

But

He is in control of all of them.

God knew the thorn was best for Paul, and He knows what storms are best left blowing in our lives too.  And one day we will face the inevitable storm that comes to us all in the valley of the shadow of death.  And in this final storm we will ever face, Jesus will be with us and will deliver us from it.  When we breathe our last and are absent from this body, we will be present with our Lord.

“When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: ‘Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?’ . . . “Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Corinthians 15:54-56, 58)

The Good News of the Gospel tells us that we are not only washed clean by the blood of the Lamb, but we have been purchased with that same precious blood.  Because we are His, we can face any storm wind that blows with the confident assurance that He is with us every step of the way.

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

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

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

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

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WHAT WELL DO YOU DRINK FROM?

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

13Aug  When Jesus spoke with the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well, He made it clear that there are two different “wells” we can drink from:

One will sustain everyday life . . .

The other will sustain eternal life.

Jesus was returning to Galilee from Judea, and John’s gospel tells us our Lord “had to go through Samaria,” which means He had a divine appointment with the woman at the well.   Around noon, the woman came to the well to draw water to meet her physical needs.  But Jesus engaged her in a conversation about a different kind of water than what she had come looking for, a “living water.”  And after Jesus reviewed her past for her, she realized that Jesus was the long-awaited Messiah.  Notice what she did next:

“Leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town and said to the people, ‘Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Christ?’”  (John 4:28-29)

After her encounter with the Lord Jesus Christ, the woman abandoned the very reason she came to the well in the first place!  She forgot all about her water jar and ran back to town to tell everyone about the Messiah.

For the very first time in her life, this sinful woman knew the truth

That there was something greater than meeting physical needs.

Everything this woman had been looking to

In order to meet her in her deepest place of need

Was now met in her Messiah.

So . . . the question we must ask ourselves is this: What water jar are we willing to abandon in order to embrace Jesus and drink from His well of living water?

  • Climbing the ladder of success
  • Applause of man
  • Acceptance of others
  • Financial security
  • Physical pleasure

The list could go on and on.  When we are looking to meet our needs in anything other than Jesus, we are looking to fill our “water jar.”  Like the Samaritan woman at the well, we must be willing to leave it behind in order to have the deep thirst of our soul quenched by the living water that only our Savior can offer.

Some readers may be worrying about the jar the woman left behind at the well.  You might well ask, “She does need the physical water to sustain life, doesn’t she?”  Don’t worry about that; Jesus has promised to meet all of our physical needs too!

Jesus says in Matthew 6;31-33, “’So do not worry,’ He tells us, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.’”

Our loving Lord promises to meet us

At our every point of need,

In this world and the next.

Truly, when we drink from His well, we will never grow thirsty again!

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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Preparation and Persistence . . . Not Perfection!

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

10Aug  When was the last time you read through the seventh chapter of Romans?  I hope you don’t have to blow the dust off in order to read it!  For the committed Christian, this is one of the most comforting chapters in all of the Bible.

The Bible says in Romans 7:22-23, “In my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members.”

Before we get into Paul’s ongoing struggle with sin, make sure you pause and reflect on the opening words of this passage.  Paul’s delighted in God’s Law in his inner being. The “inner being” Paul is describing is the new nature that was changed when he was confronted by the Lord Jesus Christ on the road to Damascus.

The inner being is the core of his changed heart

That was changed by the grace of God.

When Paul goes on to talk about the “members of my body,” he is speaking about his old corrupt nature that is still alive and kicking.  What Paul is saying is there is an ongoing struggle, a war if you will, raging inside of him.

The new nature desires what is good and pleasing to God.

The old nature desires what is pleasing to the sinful self.

The Bible says in Galatians 5:17, “The sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature.  They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want.”

The key here is to see that . . .

When Paul says that his delight is in God’s law,

He is telling us there is nothing more he desires to do than to please God.

Yet there are times when fails to do so.

This chapter and this truth is to be a comfort to every committed Christian.  The Christian life on this side of the grave is not about perfection.  Paul was not perfect, yet his heart desired nothing more than to be perfect.  But he realized that until he reached the other side of the grave, he would be in a battle for control of his heart.

To be sure, this chapter is not about a Christian lying in the ashes of continual defeat. But it is about a Christian not living in continual victory.  However, the victory is ultimately assured.

God led Paul to end this seventh chapter with these words, “Thanks be to God – through Jesus Christ our Lord!”

To be sure, the war was won on the cross.  Jesus nailed sin and death to the old rugged cross, and they no longer reign in our lives.  But make no mistake, sin still remains and it will do everything it can to make life miserable.  Because we will deal with our ongoing struggle with sin the rest of our lives, we never graduate beyond our need of the Gospel.

The Gospel is for sinners, and we are still sinners after we have been saved!  We are sinners, by nature and sinners by habit, slowly and progressively being conformed into the image of Christ.

Like the apostle Paul, we must be disciplined in preparing for the war we face and persistent in the battles we engage in daily.  But we should never be surprised or overcome by our lack of perfection.  That day of perfection will come.  The One who began the good work in us promised to finish it (Philippians 1:6), but that won’t happen until we enter into our promised rest.

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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A Personal Disciple-Making Plan

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

09Aug  As we follow Christ, He transforms our minds, our desires, our wills, our relationships, and our ultimate reason for living.  Every disciple of Jesus exists to make disciples of Jesus.  There are no spectators.  We are all born-again to reproduce the life of Christ in others.

So how are you going to reproduce?

The purpose in asking this question is to spur you on to consider

How

The life of Christ in you

Might be

Multiplied through you in the world.

That’s what the Personal Disciple-Making Plan below is all about.  Don’t feel like you need to come up with new and creative things to do in response to each of the questions.  It is helpful with many questions simply to identify normal patterns of Christian obedience that may already be present in your life.

In the end, these questions are not exhaustive,

But they are essential.

My hope and prayer is that they will be helpful to you as you consider what it means to be disciples of Jesus and make disciples of Jesus.

The Personal Disciple-Making Plan below involves answering six biblically rooted questions . . .

  1. How Will I Fill My Mind with Truth?

The life of the disciple is the life of a learner.  We are to constantly attune our ears to the words of our Master.

As He teaches us through His Word,

He transforms us in the world.

Consider a plan for reading, memorizing, and learning God’s Word, but don’t forget that disciples do these things not merely for information, but for transformation.

Our goal as disciples is never just to believe God’s Word;

Our goal is to obey God’s Word.

As you plan to fill your mind with truth, purpose to follow the One Who is Truth.

  • How will I read God’s Word?
  • How will I memorize God’s Word?
  • How will I learn God’s Word from others?
  1. How Will I Fuel My Affections for God?

There is a dangerous tendency for discipline in the disciple’s life to become mechanical and routine.

Our aim is not simply to know God;

Our aim is to love and surrender to God,

And the more we read His Word,

The more we delight in His glory.

Our aim in other spiritual disciplines is the same.

As we worship, pray, fast, and give, these disciplines should fuel our affection for God.

It is impossible to separate true faith in Christ

From profound feelings for Christ.

As disciples of Jesus Christ, we need to intentionally worship, study, pray, fast, and give in order to fuel affection for God.

  • How will I worship?
  • How will I study?
  • How will I pray?
  • How will I fast?
  • How will I give?
  1. How Will I Share God’s Love as a Witness in the World?

God’s will in the world and for our lives is to spread His gospel, grace, and glory to the whole world.

Instead of asking what God’s will is for our lives, disciples of Jesus ask,

How can my life align with His will for me to be His witness in the world?”

Every person that God has graciously put around you is a sinner eternally in need of a Savior.  You were once that person, yet God intentionally brought someone into your life someone to share the Gospel with you.  And now this is the purpose for which God has graciously created, saved, and blessed you.  So, with the Word of God in your mind, and the Spirit of God in your heart, end your quest to find God’s will by deciding today to follow it.

  • Who is God bringing into my daily path?
  • How can I build a relationship with them and share with them the gift of eternal life?
  • When are there opportunities in my schedule that would allow me do to that?
  1. How Will I Show God’s Love as a Member of a Church?

The Bible flies in the face of American individualism and church consumerism, prompting followers of Christ to ask the question,

“Am I committed to a local church

Where I am sharing life with other followers of Christ

In mutual accountability under biblical

Leadership for the glory of God?”

To follow Christ is to love and be involved in His church.  It is biblically, spiritually, and practically impossible to be a disciple of Christ (much less make disciples of Christ) apart from total devotion to a family of Christians.

  • Who in my local church family does God want me to pour my life into and disciple?
  • What principles, passions, and priorities can I share with others to help them grow in the walk with Christ?
  1. How Will I Spread God’s Glory among All Peoples?

The eternal purpose of God is to save people through Christ.  The clear commission of Christ for every single disciple is to make disciples not just generally, but of all nations. So, regardless of where you live, how is your life going to impact every nation, tribe, tongue, and people in the world?

This is not a question for extraordinary missionaries;

This is a question for ordinary disciples.

God wants His will to be accomplished through us more than we do.  And as we follow Him, He will lead us to the people, places, and positions where we can most effectively make disciples of all nations for the glory of His name.

  • How will I pray for the nations?
  • How will I give to the nations?
  • How will I go to the nations?
  1. How Will I Make Disciple-Makers among a Few People?

Jesus spent His life investing in a few people.

His strategy for reaching all people was clear:

Make disciple-makers among a few people.

God will lead us to live in all kinds of different places in the world.  Yet, regardless of where we live, the task we have is the same.

No Christian is excused from the command to make disciples,

And

No Christian would want to escape this command.

Every one of us needs to look around and asks, “How will I make disciple-makers among a few people?”

  • How will I bring them in?
  • How will I teach them to obey?
  • How will I model obedience?
  • How will I send them out?

No child of God is intended by God to be on the sidelines as a spectator in the Great Commission.

Every child of God has been invited by God

To be on the front lines

Of the supreme mission in all of history.

Every disciple of Jesus has been created, called, saved, and empowered to make disciples of Jesus who make disciples of Jesus who make disciples of Jesus . . .

Until the grace of God is enjoyed

And

The glory of God is exalted

Among every people group on the earth.

Making a personal plan for how we are going to join God in His mission is a huge step in joyfully experiencing the fullness of His grace in our lives as we join Him in His mission for the world.  May God bring you to that decision and bless you as you embark upon this tremendous journey.

This is God Word … This is Grace for your Journey

… Rest And Rejoice In The Wonderful 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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From Good News…To Bad News…To The Best News!

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

7Aug  A long time ago in a place far, far away . . .

We are all familiar with this timeworn opening line from many fairy tale stories.  In today’s blog we will look at another story – not a fairy tale – but an historical fact.  It started off well, went terribly wrong, and is now in the process of becoming the greatest story ever told.

In the beginning, God created all things, including our first parents, Adam and Eve.  They were special and valued above all other created things because they were created in the image of God.  God loved our first parents with all His heart and placed them in the Garden of Eden, the paradise He had prepared for them.  They were made by God for God, and God was the One who would meet their every need and satisfy their every desire.

Before Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden, there were no mixed motives, selfish ambitions, or sinful self-centered or pride.  They lived in a posture of loving God and serving Him, and everything they did was done for the glory of the One who sat upon the throne of their lives.  Then, in one staggering act of rebellion, Adam and Eve turned all of creation in on itself by looking for an identity outside of their relationship with God.

They no longer lived for the glory of God,

Because they were too busy living for their own glory.

They demanded that they occupy the throne of their lives, not God.

Everything they did was done

To meet their own needs,

Accomplish their own agendas,

And satisfy their own preferences.

They reduced their existence to a sin-saturated satisfaction of the self, losing all consciousness of God Himself, except for a fearful expectation of judgment.

We are no different . . . Because of what Adam and Eve did, this is the existence we all live before we accept what Jesus did for us.

The only antidote for a sin-saturated life is the Gospel.

Only the Gospel has the power to incapacitate the snare of self-satisfaction and the seduction of sin.  Only the Gospel can put Christ back into what has become a Christ-less Christianity for far too many.

The Gospel, in all its glory, puts Christ where He belongs:

At the center of our very existence;

Our Savior, Who is both our Source and our Hope.

HE IS OUR SOURCE

The Bible teaches us that every good gift is from the hands of God (James 1:17).

Every gift, talent, and ability is rooted in our relationship with Jesus.

The source of our opportunities and possibilities is Jesus.  We are able to do what we do, not because of our strength, but because of His strength at work in us (Philippians 2:13).

When we want more out of life, we should want more of Jesus!

We will then invest our time in things that move us further in and further up into our salvation.

HE IS OUR HOPE

The Bible also teaches us that Jesus is our hope (1 Timothy 1:1).

Because of this, nothing in life is hopeless.

  • Jesus brings light to our darkness.
  • Jesus brings peace to our anxiety.
  • Jesus brings order to our chaos.
  • Jesus brings life to our death.

When Jesus is our hope,

We can trust in His promises

And count on His presence.

He will meet us in our place of deepest need and bring us to our place of greatest joy.

When Jesus is your Source and Hope, He is at the center of your very existence.  This is the place where you live beyond the borders of your goals, your dreams, your desires, your needs, and your preferences.  All that you have, you give over for the glory of God and the expansion of His kingdom.  Your time is His.  Your talent is His.  Your treasure is His.  At this level of living, personal advancement and self-satisfaction are as far from your center as the east is from the west.  Just as Jesus did, you lay down your life and pour yourself out God and for others.

We need to remember

That

What rules our hearts

Shapes our lives.

For Jesus, the love of the Father ruled His heart and ultimately shaped His life into the shape of a cross.  The vertical love He had for His Father spread out horizontally for a multitude of redeemed souls that no man can number.  This is the life we have been called to live.

So is Jesus your source and your hope?  If He is, you will know it, and so will everyone who comes in contact with 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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Can We Still Believe in Romans 8:28?

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

2AugWe have been looking at Romans 8:28 this week and learning how to apply the powerful truths of this verse to our lives.  In wrapping up our study, we are looking answering the question, “Do all things really work together for good?  Can we still believe in Romans 8:28?”  To answer that question we need to look at four biblical perspectives.  Thursday we saw the first Biblical truth: we must begin with God.  Friday, we will look at the second principle: we need a long-term perspective.  Today, we will look at the third and fourth biblical principles . . .

3) We Must Define the word “Good.”

This is the crux of the matter. Paul says that “all things work together for good.”  But what is the “good” he is talking about?  For most of us, “good” equals things like health, hap­piness, solid relationships, long life, money, food on the table, meaningful work, and a nice place to live.  In general, we think the “good” life means a better set of circumstances.

Once again, that’s not necessarily the biblical viewpoint.  In this case we don’t have to wonder what Paul means.  He defines it for us in the very next verse: “For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the like­ness of his Son” (8:29).  That makes it very clear.  God has predestined you and me to a certain end.  That certain end is the “good” of Romans 8:28.  It is that we might be conformed to the likeness of Jesus Christ.

God’s good and our good are not the same thing.

Let me put it plainly. God is at work in your life making you like Jesus Christ.  He has predestined you to that end.  He is at work in your life making that happen.  Therefore, anything that makes you more like Jesus Christ is good.  Anything that pulls you away from Jesus Christ is bad.  When Paul says that all things work together for good, he is not saying that the tragedies and heartaches of life will always produce a better set of circumstances.  Sometimes they do, sometimes they don’t.

But God is not committed to making you happy and successful.

He is committed to mak­ing you like his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.

And whatever it takes to make you more like Jesus is good.

So it is in the providence of God that we learn more in the darkness than we do in the light.  We gain more from sickness than we do from health.  We pray more when we are scared than when we are confident.  And everything that happens to you – the tragedies, the unexplained circumstances, even the stupid choices you make – all of it is grist for the mill of God’s loving purpose.  He will not give up even when we do.

Anything that makes us like Jesus is good for us.

I walked a mile with Pleasure,

She chattered all the way.

But I was none the wiser,

For all she had to say.

Then I walked a mile with Sorrow,

And ne’er a word said she.

But, oh, the lessons I did learn

When Sorrow walked with me.

God is at work in your life.  Right now, you are rough and uncut, and God is patiently chipping away at you.  But remember this: He will never intentionally hurt you.  In the end, you will look like the Lord Jesus Christ.

This, I think, is our greatest problem with Romans 8:28.  Our good and God’s good are not the same.  We want happi­ness and fulfillment and peace and long life.  Meanwhile, God is at work in us and through us and by everything that happens to us to transform us into the image of his Son.

Does that include the worst that happens to us? Yes.

Does that include the things that hurt us deeply? Yes.

Does that include the times when we are heartbroken? Yes.

Does that include the times when we sin? Yes.

Does that include the times when we doubt God? Yes.

Does that include the times when we are angry with Him? Yes.

He is always at work. He is never deterred by us.  Noth­ing happens to us outside His control.  There are no mistakes and no surprises.

God can do that even when we can’t.

God does it even when we don’t believe it.

God can do it even when we don’t believe it.

That is what Paul means when he says, “We know.”  We know it because we know God, and He has said it.  His word is trustworthy, and that guarantees it.  Indeed, His character rests upon it.

We know it not by looking at the events of life, but by knowing God.  We know it not by studying the pattern of the cloth, but by knowing the designer of the fabric.  We know it not by listening to the notes of the symphony but by know­ing the composer of the music.

There are many things we don’t know.  We don’t know why babies die or why cars wreck or why planes crash or why families break up or why good people get sick and suddenly die.  But this we do know-God is at work, and he has not forgotten us.

Can we still believe in Romans 8:28? Yes, but we must properly define what “good” means.

4. We Must Understand the Limitation of This Verse.

Notice the last phrase of Romans 8:28. It is a promise to “those who love God, who have been called according to His purpose.”  That is an all-important limitation.  This verse is true of Christians and only of Christians.  It is not a blanket promise to the whole human race.  Why?  Because God’s pur­pose is to make His children one day like His Son.

Therefore we may truly say that Romans 8:28 is an evangelistic verse.  And we can must two simple questions:

  1. Have you ever responded to God’s call?
  2. Are you part of God’s saving purpose?

You either answer “Yes” or “No” to those questions.  There is no middle ground.  Until you can answer “Yes”, this verse does not apply to you.

Two Important Qualifications

And so we come back to the basic question: Can we still believe in Romans 8:28?  It sounds good.  We want to believe it.  I say that we can believe in Romans 8:28 as long as we keep two things in mind.

1. We must not try to explain the unexplainable.

Sometimes in our zeal to protect God, we try to explain why bad things happen to good people. That’s almost always a bad idea. We are like little children looking into the face of an infinitely wise Father. It is not possible that we should understand all he does. It is enough that we love him and know that he is there.

We don’t need to “protect” God.

He can take are of himself.

Let us be honest and confess that it is right at this point that so much damage has been done. In the end, it is not this verse that has lost its credibility, but rather our feeble attempts to justify the mysterious ways of God. Better to say nothing than to speak of things we know nothing about.

2. We must understand that God’s values and our values are not the same.

This is really like saying, “We must understand that we will often not understand at all.” Let’s be clear on this point. We are not called to praise God for evil, sin, and death. But we can praise God for the good he can work in the dark­est days of life. Romans 8:28 is not teaching us to call evil good or simply to smile through the tears and pretend everything is OK. But it is teaching us that no matter what happens to us-no matter how terrible, no matter how unfair-our God is there. He has not left us. His purposes are being worked out as much in the darkness as they are in the light.

The story is told of a father whose son was killed in a terrible accident. He came to his pastor and in great anger said, “Where was God when my son died?” The pastor thought for a moment and replied, “The same place he was when his Son died.” That’s the final piece of the puzzle. He knows what we are going through for he, too, has been there. He watched his own Son die.

God knows what it is like to lose a Son.

Therefore, we can say with the apostle Paul, “We know.” Not because we see the answer, but because we know him, and he knows what it is like to lose a Son. He knows, and we know him.

Can we still believe in Romans 8:28? Let me answer that question with another. What is your alternative? If you don’t believe in Romans 8:28, what do you believe in? Fate? Chance? The impersonal forces of nature?

Yes, we can-and must-believe in Romans 8:28. It is teaching us one great truth: All things ultimately contribute to the ultimate good of those who love God.

That does not answer every question. But it does answer the big question: Does God know what he is doing? Yes, he does, and we know him, and that is enough.

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

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

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

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

GraceForTheJourneyBottomOfPagePicture

Can We Still Believe in Romans 8:28?

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

2AugWe have been looking at Romans 8:28 this week and learning how to apply the powerful truths of this verse to our lives.  In wrapping up our study, we are looking answering the question, “Do all things really work together for good?  Can we still believe in Romans 8:28?”  To answer that question we need to look at four biblical perspectives.  Yesterday we saw the first Biblical truth: we must begin with God.  Today, we will look at the second principle . . .

 2) We Need a Long-Term Perspective

So many things in life seem unexplainable.  Why does a tornado destroy one house and leave another untouched?  Why does one brother excel while another struggles all his life?  Why does a tumor come back when the doctor said he thought he got it all?  The list of such questions is endless.

Seen in isolation, they make no sense whatsoever.

If there is a purpose behind such tragedy, we cannot see it.

Our danger is that we will judge the end by the begin­ning.  Or, to be more exact, we judge what we cannot see by what we can see. When tragedy strikes, if we can’t see a purpose, we assume there isn’t one.

We must not judge the end by the beginning.

But the very opposite is true.

We ought to judge the begin­ning by the end.

Here is where Romans 8:28 gives us some real help. The Bible says, “And we know that all things work together for good.”  The phrase “work together” is really one word – “sunergon – in Greek.  We get our English word synergy from it.

And what is synergy?

It is what happens

When you put two or more elements

Together to form something brand new

That neither could form separately.

It’s what happens when my wife goes into the kitchen and makes a big pot of vegetable soup.  She puts in the potatoes, the carrots, the celery, the tomatoes, the onion, the green beans, and several other vegetables, the spices, the meat, and a few other secret ingredients I know nothing about.  What comes out is the best soup I’ve ever had.  I don’t know what happens, but the combination of all those ingredients results in a really delightful dish!

That’s synergy . . .

The combination of many elements

To produce a positive result.

That’s what Paul means when he says that God causes all things to “work together.” Many of the things that make no sense when seen in isolation are in fact working together to produce something good in my life.

There is a divine syn­ergy even in the darkest moments,

A synergy that produces something positive.

And the “good” that is ultimately pro­duced

Could not happen any other way.

I read recently that Toyota opened a huge new automobile plant outside of Tupelo, Mississippi.  The article was accompanied with an aerial view of the plant.  What you see are two vast buildings that cover many acres. The article explained that day and night the trucks bring in the raw mate­rials and various component parts of an automobile – the engine parts, the wheels, the chassis, the frame, the outer body, the windshield, the instrument panel, the seats, the carpeting, and so on.  All of that goes into the plant and becomes part of the assembly line.  At the end of the line a new Toyota Corolla rolls out.

Now suppose you decided to watch the process from the road.  You would see the trucks arriving with the component parts, and you would see the new cars rolling out the door.  What happens in between?  From the outside you can­not tell. You hear the noise from within, but you cannot see the process.  But you know this much: That new car did not happen by chance.  Inside the building intelligent minds and capable hands take the raw material and the component parts and from them fashion a car.

What by itself seems to have no purpose is in the end indispensable.

Over time something beautiful is created.

Paul is saying that our experience is like that. God begins with the raw materials of life, including some parts that seem to serve no good purpose.  Those materials are acted upon by pressure and heat and then are bent and shaped and joined together. Over time something beautiful is created.  Not by accident, but by a divine design.  And nothing is wasted in the process.

That is how we must look at life.

We must not judge the end by the beginning,

But rather the beginning by the end.

Can we still believe in Romans 8:28? Yes, we can.  But we need a long-term perspective.

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

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

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

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

GraceForTheJourneyBottomOfPagePicture

 

 

Can We Still Believe in Romans 8:28?

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

2AugWe have been looking at Romans 8:28 this week and seeking to understand and apply the powerful truths to our lives.  In wrapping up our study, I want to answer the question that is the title of today’s – Do all things really work together for good?  Can we still believe in Romans 8:28?

Let us be honest and admit that we have at least two problems with these words inspired by the Holy Spirit.

1.They promise something we have trouble believing.

Our text says, “And we know that all things work together for good.” Here is where our difficulty in accepting this truth begins.  How can you be so sure about that?  Most of us are not as sure as Paul was. We hope all things work together for good; we believe they do.  But do we really know that to be true?

2. They include things that we think ought to be left out.

When Paul says “All things work together for good,” that seems too definite for us. All things?  We might go far as to say that “some things” work together for good.  We understand that out of dif­ficulty we learn great lessons of faith that cannot come any other way.  Yes, some things clearly work together for good.  But, can we be sure it includes things?  Perhaps these words are true in the theoretical sense or perhaps as a statement of faith.  But are they true in every part of life?

I do not have to tell you that Romans 8:28

Is one of the most beloved verses in the Bible.

You know that.  Many of you could give testimony to that fact.  You were sick, and this verse was like medicine to your soul.  You lost a loved one, and these words somehow carried you through.  You were crushed and beaten by the winds of ill-fortune, and this verse gave you hope to go on.

Therefore, it shocks us to know that there are many who secretly doubt it.  They hear this verse quoted, and instead of a balm to the soul, it seems like a mocking, cruel joke.

They say, “What do you mean by good?”

– Sickness is not good.

– Murder is not good.

– Divorce is not good.

– Suicide is not good.

– The death of a child is not good.

This verse is sometimes misused by well-meaning Chris­tians who throw it in the face of those who are suffering as if it could answer every question of life.  When it is misused that way, it produces an effect opposite to that intended by Paul.

But like it or not, it’s in the Bible.

And it won’t go away.

Which brings us back to the basic question: Can we still believe in Romans 8:28?

Four considerations will help us answer that question. These are four perspectives we need to keep in mind as we read this verse.

1) We Must Start With God.

Let’s look at the first phrase in three different versions:

 King James Version: “All things work together for good to them that love God.”

New American Standard Bible: “God causes all things to work together for good.”

New International Version: “In all things God works for the good of those who love him.”

Did you catch the difference?  In the King James version God is way down at the end of the phrase.  In the other two versions God is at the beginning.  It is partly a question of text and partly a question of grammar.  There is nothing wrong with the traditional version, but the modern transla­tions bring out a proper emphasis.

We will never properly understand this verse

As long as we put God at the end

And not at the beginning.

But some people look at life that way.  They believe that life is like a roll of the dice – sometimes you win and sometimes you lose.  And they believe that after a tragedy, God shows up to make everything come out right.  But that is not the biblical view at all.

God is at work. Not luck, or chance, or blind fate.

 In reality, God is there at the beginning

 . . .He is there at the end

 . . . He is there at every point in between.

 And that answers the great question, “Where is God when it hurts? Is He there at the beginning, or is He there only at the end?”

The answer is that Romans 8:28 begins with God.

He was there before it all happened

. . . He is there when it happens

. . . He is still there after it is all over.

That forever puts an end to the happy-ever-afterism that says, “No matter what happens, God will turn a tragedy into a blessing.”  That’s fine for fairy tales, but not for real life.

What do you say when a little child dies?  Or when a cop is killed by a drug dealer?  Or when a man dies on the mission field?  Or when a woman is cheated out of her inheritance?  Or when a friend dies of AIDS?  Or when your marriage falls apart after thirty-eight years?  It is hard to see how these things are good.

When we look at these situations, we must at all costs resist the cheap explanation.  It’s too quick, too easy.  Sometimes tragedies happen and well-meaning people say, “That’s not a tragedy.  It only looks that way.  Just have faith.”  If you believe that tragedy is not really tragedy, you will probably lose your faith altogether.

Suppose I have an accident and wreck my car.  And sup­pose when I take it into the body shop, the man says, “Friend, you haven’t had an accident. Your car has just been rearranged.”  So I turn and look at the cracked grille, the crumpled fender, the twisted bumper, and the shattered windshield.  I would probably feel like responding to him, “Buddy, you’re crazy. This car isn’t rearranged.  It’s wrecked.”

The Bible never asks us to pretend that tragedy isn’t tragedy or to pretend that our pain isn’t real.

 The point is . . .

 We must see the active involvement of God.

What happens to you and to me is not the mechanical turning of some impersonal wheel.  It is not fate, or karma, or luck.

God is actively at work in your life!

Is Paul saying, “Whatever happens is good”?  No.

Is he saying that suffering and evil and tragedy are good?  No.

Is he saying everything will work out if we just have enough faith?  No.

Is he saying that we will understand why God allowed tragedy to come?  No.

What, then, is he saying?

He is erecting a sign over the unexplainable mysteries of life,

A sign that reads, “Quiet; God at work.”

How?  We’re not always sure.  To what end?  Good, and not evil.  That’s what Romans 8:28 is saying.

Little children will often be afraid at night.  They are scared because they can’t see in the darkness.  They cry out until at last mommy and daddy come.  When they sit on the bed and take them in their arms and hold them and says, “Don’t be afraid. I’m right here with you.”  The fear goes away when mommy and daddy come.  So it is even with God’s children.  The darkness of life frightens us until we dis­cover that our heavenly Father is there.

The darkness is still dark, but He is there, and that makes all the difference.

Can we still believe in Romans 8:28?

Yes, but we need to start with God.

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

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

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

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

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