What Do You Fear? Part 2

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

9Dec  Yesterday we began a blog about “what do you fear.”  Today we will continue to look into God’s Word on this subject.  Theologian Richard Halverson is quoted as saying, “Men who fear God face life fearlessly. Men who do not fear God end up fearing everything.”  

To put it another way,

Fear can be broken down

Into two broad categories:

The fear of God

And

The fear of everything else.

If we fear God,

We will not need

To fear anything else.

We know that God is sovereign.  We know that He promises to provide for us and that He will not withhold any good thing from us.  We know that He will not test us beyond what we can bear and that He is unwaveringly committed to bringing us into His Kingdom.  Therefore . . .

If we truly fear God,

We know we have

Nothing else to fear.

The problem often arises from not fully understanding what it means to fear God.  A simple definition of “fearing God” is . . .

“Recognizing Who God is

And giving Him the

Respect and regard

Due Him in every facet of our lives.”

The “respect and regard” could range from a reverence all the way up to sheer terror and dread such as Moses, the Israelites, and Isaiah felt when in God’s presence (see Exodus 19:16-20; Hebrews 12:18-21; Isaiah 6:1-5).  The fact that it is in “every facet of our lives” means there is not a single area in which we do not take God into account.

The fear of God, then,

Becomes the dominant influence

Over our actions.

The Bible states in Proverbs 8:13, “The fear of the LORD is to hate evil,” suggesting that what we do demonstrates whether or not we fear God.

Our respect and regard for God

Will influence us to rid our lives

Of evil, of sin, and replace it with

What is godly and glorifying to God.

Immediately after God delivered the Ten Commandments to Israel, the Israelites were so filled with fear that they begged Moses to be their representative so they would not have to deal with this awesome Being (Exodus 20:19).  Their fear at the time was based on hearing His voice and witnessing Mount Sinai quake and burn from God’s immediate presence (verse 18).

Moses tried to turn their attention away

From their terror-based fear

And to redirect it toward

A more useful fear.

He tells them: “Do not fear; for God has come to test you, and that His fear may be before you, so that you may not sin” (Exodus 20:20).  Moses – and God – intended that Israel’s fear of Him would result in their obedience and refraining from sin.

So it is with us.  If we have the proper fear of God – if the reality of God is continually at the forefront of our minds – we find it easier to resist sin and rest in His sufficiency.  If we fear God, we will be departing from sin and dependence upon self.

The Bible presents another angle on fear in Proverbs 19:25, “The fear of man brings a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD shall be safe.”  In the Bible, a snare is used figuratively to convey the idea of destruction through deception.  The snare itself does not destroy – it is merely a trap of some sort – but it leads to destruction.

As the proverb says, fearing other human beings, as opposed to trusting and fearing God, is a snare.  The “bait: is that fearing other people comes easily to us – fearing not only what people may do to us, but also what others may think of us or how they may react to our obedience of God.  This reaction is based on false reasoning, however, because the very worst that men can do to us, whether through violence or contrary viewpoint, cannot begin to compare to what Jesus tells us that God can do to us (Matthew 10:28)!

As we saw in yesterday’s blog, the fearful or cowardly of Revelation 21:8 fear other things more than they fear God.  Not only will their fear limit their usefulness to God, but it will also frequently cause them to embrace some form of sin.  The flipside of Proverbs 8:13 – “The fear of the LORD is to hate evil” – is that, if a person does not have the proper fear of God, he will not hate evil.  He will, in effect, embrace it.

In 2 Timothy 1:6-7, the Bible shows how we can conquer our fears.  The Bible says in those verses, “Therefore I remind you to stir up the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands.  For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”

In verse 7, we see fear contrasted to “power, love, and a sound mind.”  Earlier in the chapter, Paul discusses another opposite of fear: “faith.”  To create a mental image of these elements, think of a pair of scales.  On one side is fear, and on the other side are faith, power, love, and sound-mindedness.  If a person allows fear to lead him – other than a proper fear of God – then his faith, power, love, and sound-mindedness will all decrease.  Fear will undermine these qualities and keep him from maturing spiritually. Fear will inhibit the action of God’s Spirit within an individual, keeping him from being effective for God’s purposes.  But if the faithful person fears God instead, the fear on the other side will decrease.

Notice that these antidotes to fear are derived from one of God’s gifts to us.  The world tells us that in order to overcome fear, we just need more self-esteem or more self-confidence.  But the Bible teaches . . .

That boldness and fearlessness

Are products of God’s Spirit,

Not virtues we work up within ourselves.

Courage is not a matter of pulling ourselves up by our own bootstraps, or working it up by strength of our will.  Our confidence and esteem should not be in the self but in God because we are, by definition, mortal and corrupt.  By contrast, God is eternal and perfect, and everything He does always produces the best result.  We can make no such claim, not by a long shot!  We can be confident knowing that He always gives us what is necessary to carry out His purpose. But we still have to put it to use—to stir it up, as the Bible says in verse 6.

Some Greek manuscripts use the words “servitude” or “bondage” instead of “fear.”  This change of terminology helps to clarify what sort of “power” is being discussed in verse 7.  We have not been given a spirit of “bondage” – something that restrains us and limits our range of usefulness – but of “power.”  The Spirit of God gives us power to break the shackles of what formerly enslaved us and held us back.  We have been enabled by it to do whatever God would have us do.

We have already received

The ability,

The might,

The strength,

And

The abundance

To carry out God’s will.

Sadly,

Our fears and lack of faith

limit the use of these gifts within us.

In tomorrow’s blog, we will continue probing Paul’s fear-conquering instruction in 2 Timothy 1:6-7.

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.”

 

What Do You Fear? Part 1

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

9Dec  According to The National Institute of Mental Health, about 12.5& of Americans have at least one phobia.  They report that “phobias are the most common mental illness among women of all ages, and they are the second most common mental illness among men older than 25.”  “Phobia” is a term that refers to a group of symptoms brought on by feared objects or situations.  People can develop phobic reactions to animals (such as snakes or spiders), activities (such as getting on an airplane), or social situations (like eating in public or simply being out in public at all).  Phobias can interfere with a person’s ability to work, socialize, and go about a daily routine.  They may focus on something as common as bacteria, or they may arise whenever a person ventures from home.

Phobias can range from the very common “acrophobia,” which is the fear of heights, “claustrophobia,” the fear of confining spaces, or the bizarre “xanthophobia,” the fear of the color yellow.  As strange as it might sound, some people actually suffer from this.

Psychologists have identified hundreds, perhaps even thousands, of phobias.  As further examples, people have been known to fear darkness (“achluophobia”), insects (“entomophobia”), riding in cars (“amaxophobia”), thunder and lightning (“astrapophoba”), moving to a new house (“tropophobia”), snow (“chionophobia”), clowns (“coulrophobia”), bicycles (“cyclophobia”), having definite plans (“teleophobia”), and some fear their relatives (“syngenesophobia”). There is even one phobia called “arachibutyrophoba,” which is the fear of peanut butter sticking to the roof of one’s mouth.

People with these various phobias have more than just a slight aversion to the object or situation.  They experience feelings of panic, dread, or terror.  Their symptoms often include a rapid heartbeat, shortness of breath, trembling, and an overwhelming desire to flee the situation.

At the core of these reactions

Is an irrational fear

That causes a debilitating response.

I certainly do not intended to make light of these conditions, because, as the saying has it, “There but for the grace of God go I.”  However, even if we do not have extreme phobias, most of us still have to deal with other fears, insecurities, and anxieties. Because of Satan’s influence on the world, fear plays a significant part in the human condition.

While we may not have difficulty breathing

Or an increased heart rate when we encounter certain situations,

Our fears and insecurities still evoke reactions within us.

Consider the fate of those that God considers to be fearful.  The Bible says in Revelation 21:8, “But the fearful, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.”  This subject of fear is significant enough that God consigns the fearful to the Lake of Fire!  The word translated as “fearful,” means “timid,” and by implication, “faithless.”

To understand why fear would prohibit entrance into God’s Kingdom, first, notice the word “but” at the beginning of Revelation 21:8, which connects this thought with the one before it by way of contrast.  Verse 7 reads in part, “He who overcomes will inherit all things.”  This contrast shows that fearfulness is in opposition to overcoming – and all Christians should be well aware of how vital overcoming is to their spiritual lives.

Fear keeps a Christian from overcoming,

And as verse 7 shows,

Only those who overcome will inherit all things.

Why does fear inhibit overcoming?  Recall the phobias mentioned above.  If a man has a fear of water (hydrophobia), he will not be inclined to go to the beach or the pool.  If a woman has a fear of flying in an airplane (aviophobia), she is forever consigned to making long trips by car or train.  If an individual has a fear of public places (agoraphobia), one will never catch him or her at a crowded park, a busy mall, or any other large, social gathering.

These examples demonstrate

That fear limits us.

Since our fears, anxieties, and insecurities influence our decisions, they end up limiting our behaviors.  Just as the proper fear of God will limit sinful actions, our irrational fears will limit our actions too – but the effect will not be good.

The phobias mentioned earlier are significant because of the debilitating effects they have on a person’s ability to live his or her life.

Even more damaging to those that God has called

Are the fears that inhibit their spiritual lives.

These fears may not leave a person sweating or short of breath, but they negatively influence his or her actions just the same.

Our fears may limit our usefulness to God.

For example, if we are overly concerned about what other people think of us, we may not be inclined to reach out to others and allow God to use us.

Out of fear, we may bury our spiritual gifts.

If we are terrified of strangers, we may have a difficult time being an effective witness to those outside our comfort zones.  If we fear the opinions of others, we may let that overshadow our decisions to do the right things.

Perhaps we fear losing control of some aspect of our lives.  Maybe we fear not being provided for or not receiving what we feel we deserve.  We may fear unknown people or situations, or anything we do not understand can seem like a threat.  We may fear not receiving love or attention, or be anxious about not being accepted.

We may fear sacrificing ourselves or something else we need to give up to follow Christ completely.  Perhaps we fear giving up parts of our lives or personality to put off the “old man” (Ephesians 4:22; Colossians 3:8-9).  We may fear what we will find if we truly look inside and examine our own hearts.  We may fear appearing foolish or wrong.

All of these fears will inhibit our overcoming.

They all indicate that on some level we

Fear people, situations, or personal change

More than we fear God.

More significantly, if a fear becomes larger than God, in practical fact, it will replace God – and that is a form of idolatry.

Tomorrow, we will look at the biblical concept of fearing God or the fear of the Lord.

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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Strength To Overcome

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

8Dec

Let me begin this blog by asking you this: “What mountain – what problem, obstacle, challenge, or difficulty – are you facing today in your personal and/or professional life that you must climb and ultimately overcome?  Whatever it is, stand on the indestructible foundation of the Word of God that declares – God will graciously provide for you.  The Bible says in 2 Corinthians 9:8, “And God is able to make all grace about toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work.”  Whatever this mountain might be, know this . . .

Because God is for you and not against you (Romans 8:31),

Every hill you face is an opportunity

For God to show His strength

And ability to see you through.

The Bible says in Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”  Sadly, many have misinterpreted this verse.  They have taken it to mean they can do absolutely anything, regardless of what that “anything” might be.  Well, this is simply not true.  If you want to fly, you’ll do well to take a plane, because no matter how determined and trusting in God you might be, if you jump from the roof of your house to soar into the heavens, you flight will be short-lived and your crash landing painful!

Philippians 4:13 must be kept in its context.

What Paul was telling us is

That we are empowered to do

Anything God is calling us to do,

Because God never calls

Without equipping.

In Pilgrim’s Progress, John Bunyan’s classic allegory of the Christian life, the character named Christian came to the base of a steep climb called “the hill Difficulty.”  At the bottom of the hill was a spring of water, and Christian paused to drink of it.  Now, refreshed and recharged, he was ready to take on the challenge set before him and he began his climb up the hill, singing as he went.

Regardless of the “hill Difficulty” you are facing today, pause before you begin your ascent and refresh and empower yourself from the spring of your Savior.

When you do, you will discover the biblical truth declared in Psalm 1:3, “He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in its season and its leaf does not wither, and in whatever he does, he prosper.”

This passage provides the key that unlocks the door to every hill we face.

Every child of God has this life-giving power through the Holy Spirit (John 7:37-39); Jesus, and the life He gives, is the source of our power that allows us to prosper in all we do for the glory of God.  From problems in your relationships to a prodigal child, from challenges in the classroom to major health issues, before you start your climb, drink from the springs of life of your Savior and He will give you all you need to climb all the way to the top.

Remember . . .

God not only knows everything you are going through,

He has ordained it all.  He created the hill!

And ultimately He will use that difficulty

For your good and His glory.

Drink deeply from the springs of life of your Savior (soaking up His Word, maintaining your prayer life, seeking out the communion of the saints, living obediently before Him), and know you will be strengthened, as Christian was, to face every “hill Difficulty,” knowing God will get you to the top.  And you should sing songs of praise as you climb!

The Bible says in Isaiah 12:3, “You will joyously draw water from the springs of salvation.”  May that be the confession of all our lives as we refresh ourselves in our Savior.

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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No Slumbering Savior

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

6Dec  The Bible says in Psalm 74:16, “The day is Yours, the night also is Yours . . .”  These words from the psalmist should be as comforting to us as they are challenging. God is in complete control of every aspect of our lives, both day and night, which should strengthen our resolve to live lives that are sold out for our Savior.  The Lord God Almighty does not slumber at night (Psalm 121:3-4), leaving you to fend for yourself . . . not for one instant!  Even during the darkest night of the soul, the Lord is in complete control, and He has promised you a morning light.  Look at what else God says in His word – “For you who revere My name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings.  And you will go out and leap like calves released from the stall.” (Malachi 4:2)

From dusk until dawn, Jesus is sovereignly overruling all things, just as He does from dawn until dusk.  No detail is left unattended.  Not a sparrow falls to the ground apart from His sovereign will, nor does one hair fall from your head apart from His perfect knowledge.  No force in this universe is beyond His control, for all things serve Him (Psalm 119:91).

God will tolerate no rivals, and that includes those principalities and powers that contend against His good.  To be sure, evil forces exist in this world, but they are the servants of our Savior, doing His bidding to expand His kingdom.  From the first watch of the night until the first light of the day, nothing happens to you that doesn’t first pass through His nail-scarred hands.  There is great comfort in knowing our God has said, “I form the light and create darkness. . . . I, the Lord, do all these things” (Isaiah 45:7).

In the Bible “night” and “darkness” are used as a metaphor for a variety of things, including evil, adversity, affliction, and ignorance.  But there is another idea that I want to set before you, which is that darkness can also symbolize disappointment, despair, disillusionment, and defeat.

Where light symbolizes God in all His goodness, mercy, and grace,

Darkness connotes all that is anti-God.

We do not see as well in the darkness, but darkness is absolutely transparent to Him. The remedy for us when we are in the middle of our darkness is to trust in our God even when we cannot see Him.

There is much we will miss seeing in the darkness,

Which is why we must keep our focus

On the One who sees all at all times.

And therein lays the challenge in today’s verse.  There is no thought we ponder and no action we take that is concealed from our Lord’s eyes.  As the God says in Psalm139:11-12,

“If I say, ‘Surely the darkness will hide me

And the light become night around me,’

Even the darkness will not be dark to You;

The night will shine like the day,

For darkness is as light to You.”

Those “secret sins” you are tempted to indulge in?  Those acts you believe that darkness and a drawn shade will conceal from a watching world?  There is One who is watching, One who discerns your every thought, who knows the words you are about to speak before your lips even form them (Psalm 139:2-4), One for whom there is no such thing as a locked door or “secret place.”  Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of Him to whom we must all give account (Hebrews 4:13).

Jesus tells us in Luke 8:17-18, “There is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open.

Therefore, since our every action is known to our Lord and Savior, we are challenged and commanded to walk in the light of His love and His Word, seeking daily to be filled with His Spirit, and following in the path of right thoughts and deeds.

Because Jesus is in control of both the day and the night, we can advance confidently down that road of righteousness and good works He has called us travel, regardless of how difficult or desperate it may seem at times.  Moses compared the brevity of time to “a watch in the night” (Psalm 90:4); in light of this truth, let us not waste a single moment fretting over whatever “night” we are currently experiencing. Remember, there is a time coming when there will be no more night, when darkness will be totally vanquished, because the kingdom of God will be fully established and the true Light of this world will shine brightly in the new heavens and the new earth and in every aspect of our existence forever and ever.

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 Blessing of Belonging

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

5Dec  Ever feel like you don’t belong?  I will never forget the day in middle school when I was picked last to be on the sandlot basketball team; the team captain grumbled, “I guess we’ll have to take Terry.”  Wow!  Did I feel like I didn’t belong!  For all of you who have experienced that awful sense of rejection and isolation, I have a word of ineffable comfort for you today!

The Bible says in Romans 1:6, “You also are among those Gentiles who are called to belong to Jesus Christ.”

Think about that for a moment!

You have been called to belong to Jesus Christ.

From the moment we are born we belong to our family.  As we grow up, we belong to a number of different groups: neighborhood, school, team, work, church, organizations.

The problem is we often don’t feel like we fit in very well.

We pursue acceptance, attention, and the applause of man

In a desperate attempt to feel like we belong.

It is a restless, relentless, and recurring theme in all our lives.

The problem is, when we look for acceptance and approval in anything other than Jesus, it never measures up . . . never satisfies . . . and never delivers on its promises.

Only belonging to Jesus can do all that – and so much more!

When you belong to Jesus, you belong to the One who paid for your sins with His precious blood.  Jesus wanted you so much that He was willing to die to make you His!

And the best thing about belonging to Jesus

Is you don’t have to keep pursuing

Acceptance, attention, and the applause of man;

You already have all the acceptance and attention

You could ever imagine!

God loves you with an eternal love . . .

Even when others are not particularly fond of you.

Jesus not only desires you, He delights in you!

Belonging to Jesus means your relationship with Him is unbroken, unbreakable, and unparalleled.  Nothing compares to belonging to Jesus, because nothing and no one compares to Jesus.  To be sure, it is a good gift from God to belong to our families, schools, churches, businesses, and communities; but at their best these provide only a shadow of what it means to belong to Jesus.

The apostle Paul understood that belonging at the deepest level.  He frequently introduced himself as he did In Romans 1:1, as “Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus.” In the original Greek the word would be rendered “slave”, rather than “servant,” but most readers in today’s world find the word “slave” repugnant.  The last thing someone wants to be is another’s slave.  But for the Christian whose Master is Jesus, the word slave is exactly what we want to be.

Jesus said that He had come to set the captives free from their bondage to Satan and to sin.

To be a slave of Christ is the sweetest of all stations to occupy in this life,

Because it is in our relationship with Him that we are to find our identity –

Not in our family . . . not in our work . . . not in our ministry . . . not in our finances.

Being called to belong to Jesus means our identity is forever to be found in Him.

Before I finish my blog today, let me offer one more magnificent blessing of belonging to Jesus and that is . . .

He belongs to you!

In His great High Priestly prayer, Jesus lifted us up to His father:  The Bible records His words in John 17:20-23, “(I ask) for those who will believe in Me through their word, that they may all be one, just as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that You have sent Me.  The glory that You have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one even as We are one, I in them and You in Me . . .” (Emphasis added).

This transcends even the blessings we receive from belonging to Jesus.  Yes, we receive . .

  • His pardon,
  • His imputed righteousness,
  • His forgiveness,
  • His victory over sin and death.

We are . . .

  • His bride,
  • Adopted into His family of faith,
  • And so much more.

But above all of that, we receive Him.

Jesus is our possession and our portion, and nothing in either life or death can separate us from Him.  Oh, the blessing of belonging to Jesus and Jesus belonging to me!

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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Wanting You … Not What Is Yours

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

Female hands holding gift on wooden table.  The Bible says in 2 Corinthians 12:14, “Now for the third time I am ready to come to you.  And I will be burdensome to you; for I do not seek yours, but you …”

When Jesus came into this world, He turned it upside down.

  • The first became last and the last became first.
  • The up were down and the down were up.
  • It was far better to give than to receive.
  • And the Bible tells us in John 13 that, Jesus Himself, the Creator and Controller of the universe and the Lord of Lord and King of kings, wrapped a towel around His waist, took a basin of water, and began to wash His disciples’ feet.
  • The King of kings had taken on the role of a lowly servant.

These are just a few examples of the radical transformation that our Lord wrought.

And yet, in a little over 2,000 years, far too many in the church of Jesus Christ have turned the world back in the other direction . . . and that direction is not the one we ought to be going in!

When I am sharing this concept with people in the church, they often ask how they can know for sure if they are living in the world that Jesus turned upside down . . . or if they are inhabiting the world that men have turned back the other way.  It really is simple.

Answer this question:

What do you seek after most in life?

God . . . Or the good gifts He gives you?

Now, I am not talking about what we all do from time to time – shifting our focus from our Savior to the stuff of life.

What I am talking about is identifying the driving force in our lives.

What is it that gets us up early and keeps us up late?

Is it time we can spend with God and deepening our understanding of Him?

Or is it time we can spend with the good gifts He has given us?

Read again 2 Corinthians 12:14, our verse for today.  The apostle Paul was making his third missionary journey to Corinth . . . Look where his focus was . . .

The love that Paul had for Jesus Christ

Poured out into the lives of those he ministered to . . .

And because of this Paul could say,

“What I want is not your possessions but you!”

Clearly this is a reflection of the heart of the great apostle.  His world had been turned upside down by Jesus on the road to Damascus, and he chose to live in that upside-down world from that day forward.

Never was he only focused on the many good gifts God had given to him;

Paul was always and in every way focused solely on God.

He wanted more and more of his relationship with God;

Because of this burning desire deep within his heart,

He focused more on people than he did on their possessions.

May that be the confession of our lives as we live in the upside-down world where we become servant to all and slave to our Savior.  At this level of living, we will be able to say to God each day what Paul was able to say:

THAT I MAY KNOW HIM AND THE POWER OF HIS RESURRECTION!

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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UNEXPLAINED BUT NOT UNLOVED!

Grace For Journey

2018BlogTheme

3Dec

The Bible says in Job 42:12, “The Lord blessed the latter part of Job’s life more than the former part.”  If I asked you, “Was Job loved by God?” . . .  How would you respond?  The opening of the book of Job tells us that he was both blessed and blameless; the Lord God Almighty referred to Job as “my servant” and said “There is no one on earth like him” (Job 1:8).  If we stopped right there, no doubt we would unhesitatingly answer, “Yes! Of course Job was loved by God!”

Yet, the biblical account tells us that God allowed Satan to take away Job’s health, his wealth, and all of his children.  Job was left utterly destitute, to the point where his own wife suggested that he “Curse God and die” (Job 2:9).  And in a book that spans 42 chapters, God did not begin to dialogue with Job until the 38th chapter, and even then God never explained why He put Job through one of the most unimaginable storms that any of us could imagine.

As children of God,

We must learn to understand God’s silences,

No matter how difficult or painful

The circumstances we are facing in life.

Our God is God;

He owes us no explanation for anything.

Much of life is unexplained.  But if you are a Christian, I make this emphatic statement to you:

Never equate the unexplained with God being unloved.

Hold close these comforting words that our Lord spoke in the Upper Room when He began to wash His disciples’ feet: “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand” (John 13:7).  Some events in this life come with a clear understanding of what God is doing in our lives . . . others do not.

We don’t need to know everything

We just need to know the One

Works all things together for our good and His glory.

But . . .

We must never think that a life experience

Left unexplained means we are left unloved.

The natural man who walks by sight demands to know everything about everything that goes on in life.  In his blindness and sinful pride, he thinks his reason can raise him to that level of understanding, but that is just not possible, for the Bible says in 1 Corinthians 2:14, “The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned.”

Without knowledge of the things of God,

The natural man is like a child

Stumbling around in a room without light.

The spiritual man who walks by faith knows that some things in this life go unexplained because God has the right to be silent, regardless of the circumstances we encounter. The landowner in the parable of the laborers in the vineyard (who clearly represents God the Father) gently rebukes the disgruntled workers by asking rhetorically, “Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me?” (Matthew 20:15).

Think back over your life for just a moment.  Do you not recall that many of your life experiences could not be understood until after you went through them . . . sometimes long after?  And perhaps, like Job, you find that some are still left unexplained.

Regardless of where this message finds you today and no matter what it is you have experienced or are currently enduring . . .

Please remember that unexplained does not equal unloved.

Heaven may be silent and the storm winds may be howling,

But look to Jesus and you will know beyond a shadow of any doubt

That you are not unloved . . . it is just not possible that you are unloved!

As our Lord hung on Calvary’s cruel cross in unimaginable agony, enduring fresh stabs of pain as He struggled to take each tortured breath, the people passing by mocked Him, calling out, “You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself! Come down from the cross, if you are the Son of God!” (Matthew 27:40).

And do you know what?

He could have done just that!

He could have come down from that cross in the blink of an eye and called on twelve legions of angels to come and slaughter everything that drew breath atop that rocky hill.

But He didn’t do that;

Instead He stayed there and endured the full measure of God’s righteous fury against your sins and mine so that we might have eternal life and so that we need never experience the terror of God’s wrath because God’s Son experienced it in our place.  And at the end, Jesus cried out, “It is finished” – a cry of victory so majestic that the earth shook and the rocks split apart (Matthew 27:51)!

Beloved Christian . . .

Jesus wasn’t held to that cross by nails, not for an instant!

He was held there by His eternal love for you.

And in the midst of your deepest trial and sorrow He says to you, “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness” (Jeremiah 31:3).

As we close, may these words from Job comfort you this day:

“He knows the way that I take; when He has tested me, I will come forth as gold.”
(Job 23:10)

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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Understanding The Bible’s Teaching About Knowledge and Wisdom (Part 3)

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

30Nov  After distinguishing godly knowledge from wisdom in Parts one and two, and realizing our need for both, in today’s blog we will look more closely at a detail in Proverbs 2:4, “If you seek her [wisdom] as silver, and search for her as for hidden treasures . . .”  The detail we will concentrate on is the “hidden treasures.”  This two-word phrase is a literal translation of the Hebrew noun mǎţmônîm, which means “a cache, reserve, stockpile, secret storehouse, buried valuables, hidden riches or treasures, things of hidden value.”

Solomon urges us to seek wisdom as we would seek for something valuable like a hidden stockpile of silver; as we would search for buried treasure.  There is something about hunting for treasure that has excited people from the beginning of time.  For some, it might be greed or necessity, and for others, it is the thrill of the hunt.  Everyone would love to find a hidden cache of valuables because, they believe, it would change their lives so much for the better.

In recent years, the Fenn Treasure has frequently garnered national media attention.  In 1988, Forrest Fenn, a wealthy art and antiques dealer in Santa Fe, New Mexico, was diagnosed with terminal cancer.  In order to give others hope, he claims to have hidden a small, ornate, antique bronze chest filled with gold coins and rare artifacts somewhere in the western part of the United States.  He asserts that he stuffed 265 American Gold Eagles and Double Eagles into this chest, as well as precious jewels, Middle Eastern gold coins, gold nuggets (two of them as big as a hen’s egg), and a jar of gold dust.  Due to the fluctuating price of gold, this treasure has been estimated to be worth anywhere from one to five million dollars.

Mr. Fenn is now 87 and in good health.  He estimates that 350,000 people have gone searching for this treasure based on clues in a poem he wrote.  The 24-line poem features nine clues, to which he has added a handful of hints.  For instance, it could be hidden anywhere from New Mexico to Montana, on mountainous land between 5,000 and 10,200 feet in elevation.

Some people have spent large amounts of time and money on attempts to find the Fenn Treasure.  A man from Washington state, Dal Nietzel, has made upwards of seventy search trips since 2011.  His blog, “Thrill of the Chase,” documents his quests and those of others.  It receives over a million new visitors every year from all over the world.  Another treasure hunter, Cynthia Meacham, found out about the treasure chest in 2013 and has now made more than a hundred trips to search for it.

The area where the treasure is supposedly buried is wild country.  Most of it is rough terrain; have bears, snakes, scorching heat, and few roads.  At least three people have died trying to find it.  In 2016, authorities found the remains of Randy Bilyeu along the Rio Grande River north of Cochiti Lake.  Last June, New Mexico authorities recovered the body of a Colorado pastor, Paris Wallace.  Also last summer, Eric Ashby was swept away in a rafting accident on the Arkansas River and is presumed dead.  According to their families and friends, each of these was on the trail of the Fenn Treasure.

The New Mexico State Police chief has asked Fenn to call off the hunt for his treasure. Yellowstone Park rangers have responded to a dozen or more treasure-related calls in the last five years, and they have said they would prefer treasure hunters to stay away from the park.  An episode of the “Longmire” television series (Season 6, Episode 2), set in Absaroka County, Wyoming, featured treasure hunters competing for the Fenn Treasure, though it was called by a different name.  In the episode, Sheriff Longmire investigates the murder of a man who owns land that is a favorite site of treasure hunters.

In an interview he gave to ABC News, Mr. Fenn admitted, “I didn’t anticipate that people would die searching for my treasure.  But in the back of my mind, it had to be logical that that could happen because there’s so many things that can happen to a person when he’s out in the wilderness.  I mean, the grizzly bears alone are something to think about.”

Other than repeating his previously published clues, Mr. Fenn persists in his silence on the location of the treasure.  People often tell him where they have searched, hoping to get even a hint of an additional clue from him, maybe a “You’re getting warmer . . .,” but he has so far held his tongue.  One person, he claims, nearly found it, standing just 200 feet from the hiding place.

This story is just one example

Of humanity’s dogged search for buried treasure.

For thousands of years, people have walked away from their day-to-day lives, from family and friends, to scour the earth for hidden riches.  They have endured hardship, starvation, brutal weather, living in tents (or less), and some have even died, all in the hopes of finding their “pot of gold.”  And once they find it, they guard it with their lives! They will not let it out of their sight!

Solomon writes in Proverbs 8:1 for us to “listen,” wisdom is calling out.  It is in our best in our best interest to hear what is being said here; it only makes sense.  Later, in verses 10-11, he advises the reader “to receive my instruction, and not silver, and knowledge rather than choice gold; for wisdom is better than rubies, and all the things one may desire cannot be compared with her.”

Solomon is declaring that wisdom is worth

Much more than precious jewels

Or anything else you desire.”

Wisdom, common sense, skill in living, is more valuable than any physical treasure chest full of gold Eagles!

Rather than risk our lives searching for “gold that perishes,”

We need to listen to God and seek His wisdom,

Which has as its reward eternal life in God’s Kingdom.

That is the declaration of God in Proverbs 9:10-11, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding. For by me your days will be multiplied, and years of life will be added unto 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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Understanding What The Bible Teaches About Knowledge and Wisdom (Part 2)

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

29Nov  In yesterday’s blog, we noted the difference between knowledge (having information, knowing facts, possessing skills acquired through experience or education) and wisdom (knowledge of what is true or right that leads to proper judgment and ability as to live by that truth).  We found that Solomon uses the Hebrew word for “wisdom,” ḥokmāh, in the sense of “skill in living and in relationships with others.”  However, we noted that people who should be displaying wisdom – the aged, the expert, the influential – too often show little evidence of having any.

Solomon writes in Proverbs 7:1, “My son, keep my words, and treasure my commands within you.”  This word “treasure,” is a Hebrew verb meaning “to hide, to conceal, to secrete, to store up, to treasure.”

God’s Word is to be a special treasure

That we keep close to us,

A most special possession!

The English verb “treasure” is similar – it means, “to keep a valuable or valued item carefully; cherish, hold dear, prize or value greatly.”   Some things mean a great deal to us … certainly our spouses, children, and other family members … but consider something we more often think of as “treasure.”  Usually, a treasure is something physical, maybe one’s wedding ring, 1960s muscle car, or classic Fender Stratocaster.

Whatever it is,

It is something we keep close

And do not want to lose.

How we deal with such treasured items

Is how we are to deal with God’s commands.

I have seen my wife take her wedding ring off when she is cleaning or doing something rough with her hands.  She sets it to the side so she will know where it is and can keep an eye on it.  She would be heartbroken to lose it.  God, through Solomon, says “Treasure my commands within you.”  Notice Proverbs 2:1-5:My son, if you receive my words, and treasure [şāṗăn] my commands within you, so that you incline your ear to wisdom [ḥokmāh], and apply your heart to understanding; yes if you cry out for discernment, and lift up your voice for understanding, if you seek her as silver, and search for her as for hidden treasures; then you will understand the fear of the LORD, and find the knowledge of God.”

Within these verses are four sets of parallel couplets with four sets of significant words: receive/treasure; incline/apply; cry out/lift up; and seek/search.

  1. My son, if you receive [follow, accept, learn, seize] My words,
    And treasure [hide, lay up, never forget] My commands within you,
  2. So that you incline [listen, be attentive, tune in, focus] your ear to wisdom,
    And apply [work to understand, think on, meditate, pray, study] your heart to understanding;
  3. Yes, if you cry out [beg; plead] for discernment, And lift up [hold before you; give over] your voice for understanding
  4. If you seek her as silver, And search for her as for hidden treasures [we must look for wisdom every bit as hard as we would search for buried treasure!];

In verse 5, God shows us what will happen: “Then you will understand the fear of the LORD, which is the beginning  [a building block toward] of wisdon” (Proverbs 1:7).

Solomon writes something similar in Proverbs 8:17-21, another passage in which wisdom is personified as a woman: “I love those who love me, and those who seek me diligently will find me [we seek wisdom, a metaphor here for God, through prayer, Bible study, meditation, fasting, obedience, etc.]. Riches and honor are with me, enduring riches and righteousness. My fruit is better than gold, yes, than fine gold, and my revenue [income] than choice silver. I traverse [walk] the way of righteousness, in the midst of the paths of justice, that I may cause those who love me to inherit wealth, that I may fill their treasuries.”

That great wealth … those riches … God’s fruit … is His knowledge (verse 10), which leads to wisdom – and nothing compares to wisdom: “For wisdom is better than rubies, and all the things one may desire cannot be compared with her” (verse 11).

The so-called wise of this world may be found in academia; maybe they are in government (this is doubtful) or entertainment (also doubtful).  The wise of this world do not realize how foolish they are.

Some people seek fame and fortune with every waking hour.  They are also foolish because their priorities are wrong.  What they are looking for has no value beyond the grave.

God has given us far more than them all,

But we must guard it.

We must be vigilant, not resting on yesterday’s efforts, but each day building on our knowledge gained from living this way of life.  And from that, if we are diligent, comes wisdom.

In tomorrow’s blog, we will consider those who seek for “hidden treasures.”

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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Understanding What The Bible Teaches About Knowledge and Wisdom (Part 1)

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

28Nov  One author writes,

Never mistake knowledge for wisdom.

One helps you make a living;

The other helps you make a life.”

Put another way, knowledge is knowing that a tomato is a fruit; wisdom is knowing not to put it in a fruit salad!

Knowledge is having information, knowing facts, possessing skills acquired through experience or education.  Wisdom, however, is knowledge of what is true or right that leads us to be able to do what God desires.  We can also think of it as the ability to think, act, or discern what is best or applying common sense and experience at the right time, at the right place, in the right way.

We assume that wisdom comes with age, which is partly true but not a given.  We all know someone of a certain advanced age who still does dumb things – and on the flipside, we have all seen a young person make excellent decisions.  Knowledge and understanding form the basis of wisdom, and over time, a person gains experience.  On a physical level, this experience combines with knowledge to give us insight, leading to wisdom.

Plenty of learned individuals with extensive life-experience understand little to nothing about the Bible and the wisdom it contains.  Most people can memorize and recite the Ten Commandments, but do they understand them?  Can they expand them to apply their principles to various situations?  Without God’s Holy Spirit working in them, they are merely repeating words.  Their wisdom is merely “on a human level.”

The primary Hebrew word for “wisdom” is ḥokmāh, a feminine noun used 145 times in the Old Testament.  It means “skillful, wisdom, acting wisely.”  Solomon uses this word 41 times in Proverbs and 28 times in Ecclesiastes, meaning that just under half of its biblical appearances come from one writer.  Ḥokmāh indicates “wisdom” but can also refer to “technical skills or special abilities,” such as the artisans in Exodus possessed whom God used to make things for the Tabernacle (Exodus 31:1-6).

Solomon uses the word in the sense of “the right use of knowledge; using common sense; or skill in living for God and in our relationship with God and others.”  This kind of wisdom accrues over time. We naturally become wise, or skilled in living, as we age, right?  Solomon himself possessed great wisdom, but he did some stupid things in his dealings with women and foreign gods.  He began with great wisdom, but toward the end of his life, at a time when his wisdom should have been at its peak, he seems to have lost it.

In today’s blog, we will look into the seeking and keeping of wisdom, beginning in Proverbs 1:1-7 where the Bible says, “The proverbs of Solomon the son of David, king of Israel: To know wisdom and instruction, to perceive the words of understanding, to receive the instruction of wisdom, justice, judgment, and equity; to give prudence to the simple, to the young man knowledge and discretion—a wise man will hear and increase learning, and a man of understanding will attain wise counsel, to understand a proverb and an enigma, the words of the wise and their riddles. The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.

Notice in verse 2 that wisdom and instruction go together.  The wise man listens and learns more.  Verse 3 again pairs wisdom and instruction.  Verse 4 tells us that these proverbs will give a young man knowledge, something not always easy to accomplish. When a young person reaches the late teenage years, he knows so much.  God’s desire is not just that he has gained an education but that he knows how to live for Him.  What Solomon is led by the Holy Spirit to tell us is that from the truths of God’s Word, an ordinary person can learn not just to be smart, but can learn how to live with God, himself, and others.

Even though Solomon lived 3,000 years ago,

This wisdom is timeless.

Verses 5 and 6 tells us that the wise will continue to learn!  They will not stop learning, seeking understanding, and growing.  With the young mentioned in the previous verse, the reader may assume that Solomon implies a contrast here, that the “wise” are older. This may well be the case, but it does not mean that wisdom is confined to senior adults.  Typically, it does but not always.  Anyone, of any age, with the gift of God’s Holy Spirit, through Bible study, prayer, and living by God’s Word can gain wisdom . . . that “skill in living” that we all need and want.

Verse 7 teaches us that  the very beginning of knowledge, which we must possess to gain wisdom, is the “fear of the LORD.”  This shows us that before we can have knowledge, we must first have a proper reverence for, and relationship with, the LORD.

An article appears in the news just about every week of yet another professor somewhere spouting off learnedly on some subject but sounding like a complete moron! The professor sounds this way to us because we process his words through the knowledge and wisdom filter that God has given us.

This filter, which has developed

In us over time spent in His Word,

Governs our thoughts and actions.

The professor may be quite knowledgeable in his field of study and even in the wisdom of the world, but God and His Word play no role in his life.  So, by the biblical standard, he is a “fool” and not “wise” in God’s eyes.

In tomorrow’s blog we will pursue the idea of how valuable Godly wisdom should be to us.

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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