Being The Church In A “Follow Your Heart” Age

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

10July  Not long ago, relativism defined the cultural conversation. Truth was “unknowable.” Perhaps it was somewhere “out there,” but anyone’s guess as to where one could find it was as good as the next.

This is no longer the case.

Today, we’re in a new cultural moment – one marked not by relativism, but by a new phenomenon known as expressive individualism.

While relativism

May label an

Assertion of external

And objective truth

As arrogant,

Expressive individualism

Calls it oppressive.

The relativist asks,

“Who’s to say what’s true?”

The expressive individualist replies, “Me.”

Look across the landscape of cultural artifacts, and you’ll find the same motif time and again:

Power and freedom are found in self-discovery.

As Tim Keller notes, “The only heroic narrative we’ve got left in our culture is the individual looking inside, seeing who they want to be, and asserting that over and against everyone else in society.”

So we really have moved on from relativism:

Truth is now not only knowable,

It’s been found.

All you have to do

Is look inside yourself.

Many in the church can identify, and to some degree even refute, relativism.

We’ve been handed enough apologetic tools and basic reasoning skills to dismantle the notion that truth is subjective.

Expressive individualism, however, is more insidious.

It allows us to appear as if we’re worshiping God, when in reality we are bowing to the god of self.  It acknowledges the power of Jesus but convinces us that He intends to use His power to further our own self-centered goals and aspirations.  It agrees we can be certain about truth, but points to our own hearts as the source.

When we center everything,

From Sunday worship to small groups,

On the individual experience,

We stoke the fire of self-worship.

It’s sobering to think about the church’s collusion with this mentality.  Rather than pushing back against individualism, congregations often subtly encourage it.

If we’re not careful,

We can betray the message

That “Christ is king”

With a method that says,

“Actually, you are.”

Biblically speaking, it’s difficult to find two terms more antithetical than self and church. And it’s not as though we must wade through cloaked language to discover this antithesis.

When Jesus calls us into His church,

His charge is not

That we discover

But deny ourselves (Matthew 16:24-25).

Further, when Jesus enumerates

The things that spring from our hearts,

Truth doesn’t make the list.

Only false testimony and evil thoughts do.

Or look to any teaching in the rest of the New Testament, and you’ll find it connected to a call to pursue humble unity and consider others more significant than yourself.

Simply put . . .

A biblical understanding of what it means

To believe in Jesus and belong to His church

Is incompatible

With expressive individualism.

Truth is neither relative nor self-generated; it is knowable.  In fact, it’s touchable.

Ultimate truth exists in

The form of a man, the God-man –

The One who died for our sinful hearts

So that we could die to them.

The fruit-desiring, lie-believing, wilderness-wandering self is the very thing we bury as we are buried with Christ.

His death for us

Becomes our death to self,

And His new life

Becomes our new life –

A life in which we deny ourselves

Instead of listening to ourselves,

In which we take up our cross

Instead of taking up our dreams,

And in which we follow Him

Instead of following our hearts.

Being a member of a local body of believers requires a radical commitment to a unified, corporate identity.  This commitment naturally undermines expressive individualism, since it simply won’t allow us to place ourselves – our beliefs, our preferences, our desires – at the center of the church’s reason for existence.

At a time when the church is, sadly, one of the first places to capitulate in the age of expressive individualism . . .

Growing in our relationship and walk with Christ

Through the local church gives Christ’s followers

A chance to regularly exercise the much-needed practice

Of leading our hearts rather than following them.

It takes whatever “truth” we think we’ve found within and subverts it with the pre-eminence of Christ and the truth of the gospel.  And the more we keep that truth – the truth – at the forefront, the quicker the so-called truth we find “within” gets exposed for the counterfeit that it is.

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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Christians Today Need Gospel Fever

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

9July  I recently read about mission work being done in a Muslim country.  The article was about an indigenous Christian who preached with passion at a church in the capital city. The author described the sense of spiritual energy and urgency that the believers had and about how the church was growing rapidly.  This being evidenced even in the midst of great opposition.  The week before Easter, some of the Christians were arrested for their faith.  Many prayed for them.  The next Sunday, Easter Sunday, they were released.  You can imagine the elation and joy that vibrated through that church.  But that wasn’t all –  Having been arrested, thrown in jail, and persecuted for their faith, these Christians had witnessed to the other prisoners.  And . . . they had brought some of the prisoners with them to the service.

As I read this marvelous account of what God is doing, I couldn’t help but think . . .

“Such is the way of the Lord.”

Just as in Paul’s day,

A prison is no barrier to the gospel.

And around the world faithful Christians are either at risk of prison or are preaching the gospel in one.

I also thought about us in the Western Hemisphere, who have not been persecuted for our faith.  Yet, in the current climate we often live in some understandable fear of what the culture will do if we stand up for – or speak too loudly about – Jesus Christ.

As I read the article, I became fascinated by the evangelistic technique of these believers.  I was eager to learn something from how they were doing evangelism.  The young pastor of the church gave a rather simple response when he was asked what his method wasThis is what he replied:

“I’ll tell you our method.

We tell them they are sinners

Until they believe it.

And then we tell them

That Christ died for sinners.”

Simple yes …

But extremely powerful

In the hands

Of our Sovereign Lord!

One of the best books on evangelism is Michael Green’s classic, Evangelism in the Early Church.  It is an excellent read from a good scholar and gifted evangelist who is now in glory. At one point, he comments on an apocryphal story about the martyrdom of the apostle Peter.  This is how he wraps the story up: “Although this story is specifically concerned with martyrdom rather than evangelism, the two cannot be easily separated.  Peter was tempted to save his life at the cost of disloyalty to his commission from Christ; but the vision of the Lord suffering crucifixion for him was the compelling factor which drove him back onto the path of complete and utter dedication, even to death itself.  That reflection upon the cross as the supreme impulse to costly service for others in the name of the gospel and was unquestionably the greatest single element in keeping the zeal of Christians at fever pitch.”

It’s been a while since I’ve heard those words, “the zeal of Christians at fever pitch” attributed to Christians in the West.

I don’t know about you, but I want this kind of fever pitch … the kind of audacity, boasting in weakness, preaching about Christ crucified, and zeal that is biblical.  It is this sort of genuine passion and zeal that has a kind of appeal and attraction to it.  It is not something that  results in people not only seeing it our faces but will sensing it in our hearts.

So then . . .

The question seems to be:

Can we have that kind of zeal – again –

In America, Europe, the West?

And if so, how?

What is the right way for us to be boldly,

Even audaciously, evangelize in our current cultural situation?

How do we do it in a way that is missional and culturally engaged

– And yet rigorously and unashamedly biblical,

Christocentric, and oriented to the glory of God?

It happens as we follow what the early church did to promote evangelistic passion:

Reflect on the cross

Refer to why Jesus went to the cross

Relay what Jesus happened as a result of going to the cross.

Require acceptance of that Gospel truth.

Let’s pray that God would give us this kind of zeal – even at fever pitch.

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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From Imperfection To Perfection!

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

8July  Do you remember the story of the thief on the cross who entered into heaven moments after his conversion?  He went instantly from imperfection to perfection.  God has done this great work of salvation countless times in the lives of His saints; some folks have used the phrase “deathbed conversion” to describe it.  But our loving Lord did not do this for us.  Why?  Why would God keep us out of His heaven when heaven is what we all long for?

Charles Spurgeon profoundly asked, “Would God keep His children out of paradise a single moment longer than was necessary?  Why is the army of the living God still on the battlefield when one charge might give them the victory?  Why are His children still wandering hither and thither through a maze, when a solitary word from His lips would bring them into the center of their hopes in heaven?”

The answer to the great preacher’s question

Is found in the oft-repeated refrain,

“We’re on a mission from God!”

If God did not have work for us to be doing, we would have already entered into our eternal rest alongside the saints who have gone before us.

We remain here on earth as ambassadors for Christ

(See 2 Corinthians 5:20),

Tasked with expanding the cause of His kingdom.

We are here to be both salt and light.  Our Lord commands in Matthew 5:13-16, “You are the salt of the earth.  But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again?  It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men.  You are the light of the world.  A city on a hill cannot be hidden.  Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl.  Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.  In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.”

Jesus used the metaphors of salt and light to tell us something very important about our mission.

Salt in ancient times was used both to

Enhance flavor and to act as a preservative.

As salt, we are to bring Gospel flavor to all we do, as well as preserve and enhance life with the truths of the Gospel in our fallen and broken world.

As light . . .

We are to be visible as living epistles of Christ,

Shining the light of His truth

Into every dark place,

So that God would be glorified.

So don’t fret about the length of time God takes to complete your transformation from imperfection to perfection.  There is work to be done!  You’re on a mission from God!  And the mission He has given you is Kingdom work, in which you live beyond your personal wants, needs, and desires, and live instead for the glory of the King and the good of others!

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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Why Do You Do What You Do?

Grace For The Journey

5JulyIn a culture consumed by the concept of instant gratification, we must be careful not to bring that sort of “I want it now!” thinking into the service of our Lord.  We must not expect (nor will we receive) immediate reward for the good we do in the name of Jesus for the glory of God.

Hear the inspired message from the Wise Preacher in Ecclesiastes 11:1, “Cast your bread on the waters: for you shall find it after many days.”

For the servant of God, the good received is to be found in the service itself.  To be sure . . .

God is gracious and often returns

A harvest to His workers;

But the real harvest is reaped

In the service alone,

Not in the hope of what

It may one day yield.

We have been commanded to simply “Cast our bread on the water” and leave it up to the good Lord to fulfill the promise He has made . . . in His time and in His way.

When we understand this truth,

We find it far easier to serve all those

Whom God sends our way,

Giving no thought to what

We will receive in return.

No labor is in vain

When we labor for our Lord!

So . . . why do you do what you do?  Reflect on that question for a moment and prayerfully consider your response.

Why do you do what you do?

Is it because of what you

Hope to receive in return?

Or is it simply because

You are grateful

To be serving your Savior?

Notice a very important truth contained in this verse from Ecclesiastes:

We have all been given bread

From the hand of our God,

Not to hoard and store,

But to cast upon the waters.

  • We have been blessed to be a blessing.
  • We have been helped to help others.
  • We have been served to serve others.
  • We have been loved to love others.

Jesus Christ died for us so that we might die to self and live for others. God has given to us that we might give to others.

Often we find ourselves serving people who are indifferent and ungrateful.  But that gives us no excuse to shrink from our service, because it is the Lord we are truly serving when we are serving others . . . all others.

Do you remember what Jesus said to His disciples in Matthew 25:34-?  In describing the Final Judgment, Jesus described a scene when . . . “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you blessed by my Father; inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was hungry and you gave Me food, I was thirsty and you gave Me drink, I was a stranger and you took me in, I was naked and you clothed Me, I was sick and you visited Me, I was in prison and you came to Me.’  Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink?  When did we see you a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? Or when did we see you sick or in prison and come to You?’  And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Verily, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it ot one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’”

Often we find ourselves serving

Where we are unlikely to receive

A recompense for our labors,

And this is a good thing.

In God’s economy,

He has ordained it to be this way

So that we would look to Him

And Him alone

For the reason

Why we do what we do.

True servants of God, who understand what it means to cast their bread upon the waters, look for opportunities to serve those who cannot pay them back.  Often they serve in the shadows, where nobody knows who has brought them the blessing.  They do not seek the applause of man, only the acclaim of their God.  In so doing, they find their harvest . . . not after so many days, but moment-by-moment.

Who in your life needs your service today?  Who has God laid on your heart to pray for or give to?  What are you waiting for?  Cast your bread on the waters through your faithful witness, and receive the blessings God pours out on those who serve for the sake of serving.

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

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

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

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

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Our Allegiance – To God And Country

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

4July   Today is the Fourth of July . . .

A time for food, fellowship, and fireworks.

But for the Christian,

It is a time for so much more!

Today is a day to reflect

On the fact that we are

A nation that was founded, rooted,

And established on Christian principles.

Don’t take my word for it; read the words of our founding fathers.

George Washington, “Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports.  In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism, who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of men and citizens.”

John Adams, “The general principles on which the fathers achieved independence were the general principles of Christianity.  I will avow that I then believed, and now believe, that those general principles of Christianity are as eternal and immutable as the existence and attributes of God.”

Samuel Adams, “May every citizen . . . have a proper sense of the Deity upon his mind and an impression of the declaration recorded in the Bible, “Him that honoreth Me I will honor, but he that despiseth Me shall be lightly esteemed.”

Thomas Jefferson, “The 1st Amendment has created a wall of separation between church and state, but that wall is a one directional wall, it keeps the government from running the church, but it makes sure that Christian principles will always stay in government.”

Thomas Jefferson, And can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are the gift of God?  That they are not to be violated but with his wrath?  Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just: that his justice cannot sleep forever.”

John Quincy Adams, “Why is it that, next to the birthday of the Savior of the World, your most joyous and most venerated festival returns on this day [July 4th]? . . . Is it not that, in the chain of human events, the birthday of the nation is indissolubly linked with the birthday of the Savior?  That it forms a leading event in the progress of the gospel dispensation?  Is it not that the Declaration of Independence first organized the social compact on the foundation of the Redeemer’s mission upon earth?  That it laid the corner stone of human government upon the first precepts of Christianity . . . ?”

Regardless of what we hear from politicians, liberal media, historical revisionists, or local, state, or national courts our great nation was founded on Christian principles and religious freedom – not to worship whatever god we want, but rather, the God who is: the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

Our founding fathers not only pledged allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, they first and foremost pledged allegiance to their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.  They echoed the inspired and infallible words of the apostle Paul in Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.  The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me.”

Our founders’ ultimate allegiance was to the Almighty.  They were devoted to Him.  They were dedicated to Him.  They were committed to Him.  Their entire existence was rooted in their right relationship with their Redeemer.  Patrick Henry, the fiery “Give me liberty or give me death!” orator of the Revolution, said simply, “This is all the inheritance I can give to my dear family. The religion of Christ can give them one which will make them rich indeed.”  And that, beloved, should be the confession of the lives of all those Christians who pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America . . . and every other Christian around the world, regardless of the flag that flies over their land.

The greatest gift we possess,

And the greatest gift we can pass

On to our posterity,

Is faith in Jesus Christ

As our Savior and Lord.

On the day that we Americans commemorate the adoption of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, declaring independence from the Kingdom of Great Britain, let us meditate on our declaration of dependence upon our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, and His sovereign rule in our lives.

Jesus is to be our first priority in both life and death.

He is to be our safety in the storm.

He is to be our peace in times of trouble.

He is to be our portion in times of need.

He is to be our All in all.

There is no greater declaration for the Christian to make and honor than the one made to the King of kings and Lord of lords.

When we declare to be His,

We declare that we are no longer our own.

We have been bought at a price

No man can measure.

The very Son of God was crucified and nailed to the old rugged cross to pay our penalty for every our sins.  We are His – we belong to no other – and He will tolerate no rival.

So today, as you enjoy your Independence Day celebration, pause to remember and give thanks to the One who purchased your freedom from the kingdom of the prince of this world.  Jesus has brought you out of darkness and into His marvelous light to remain with Him forever and ever, world without end.  By God’s grace, may we live lives that confess both our pledge of allegiance to the republic for which our American flag stands . . . and to our triune God in heaven – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

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 Child Of God … Never Alone

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

3July  When was the last time you felt alone . . . really felt all alone? Well, the next time you’re experiencing one of those “dark nights of the soul,” let me encourage you to hold tight to this promise from God:

The Bible says in Psalm 23:4, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.”

I have shared these profound words of comfort with many men and women who were preparing to pass from this life to the next; as well as with families who have had loved ones depart this life.

Sweet are the sounds of absolute assurance

That our Lord Jesus Christ will be our companion

As we pass through the valley of the shadow of death.

But sweet, too, are the sounds

Of absolute assurance that our Lord Jesus Christ

Will be our companion through the common circumstances of life!

If He is with us in our death, make no mistake, He is with us in our life too.  Remember, as servants of the Most High God, we, like the great apostle Paul, “face death every day” (1 Corinthians 15:31), and we find great comfort in knowing we do not face it alone. You’ll recall Paul’s glorious assurance in Romans 8:38-39 . . . “I am persuaded that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Think back to some of the difficult times you have endured in this life.  Perhaps you were struggling mightily in a personal relationship.  Did Jesus not get you through it? Maybe you can remember a particularly perilous storm wind that blew through your professional life.  Did Jesus not get you to the other side safely?

Dear Christian, there was never a time

When you were you without Christ, your companion.

Never were you alone in anything you ever faced.

And never will you be alone in this life or in the next.

He has promised – and it is impossible for God to lie – “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you” (Hebrews 13:8).

I’m sure you can remember a time when the Great Shepherd of your soul used His rod and His staff to comfort you.  We all have a tendency, due to our sinful nature, to wander away from the Truth and into trouble.  And yet our great Shepherd-Savior will do everything He must to make sure we get through the trouble and back to green pastures and still waters.

Do you remember when the disciples were fearful for their lives in the boat that was buffeted by the storm winds . . . yet their Lord lay sound asleep on a cushion?  The terrified disciples woke Him, crying, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?” (Mark 4:38). They totally missed the point!

Storms do not shake our Savior . . .

And neither should they shake us,

Because He is with us always.

So . . . how does this truth speak to you today?  Who do you know in your life who would benefit from hearing this truth from you right now?  The Lord Jesus Christ is a companion to all who are His, by grace through faith, and He sticks closer than any other companion we have.

He will never leave us;

He will never forsake us.

He is our eternal Friend

Who sticks closer than a brother.

The One who created you

Also sustains you and

He will continue to sustain you,

Whether you are down in a dark, stormy valley

Or basking in the sunlight atop a mountain peak.

Christ is our companion always and that, beloved, should encourage, empower, and equip you to walk by faith, not by sight, all the way into glory!

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 Blushing Believers

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme2July  The dictionary definition of the word “blush” is as follows: “to develop a pink tinge in the face from embarrassment or shame.”  When was the last time you had a “pink tinge” on your face and embarrassment in your heart?  I pray that today’s word will bring you great comfort and encouragement!

The Bible says in Isaiah 54:4, “Do not be afraid; you will not be put to shame.  Do not fear disgrace; you will not be humiliated.  You will forget the shame of your youth.”

Every one of us can think back to times we would rather forget.  We have all done some things that have caused us great embarrassment, even shame.  But . . .

When it comes to our relationship with Jesus,

We have been given the sure and certain promise

That we will not be put to shame.

Our Savior will shelter us from all shame.

We have no cause to blush

When we have put our trust in Jesus Christ

As our Lord and our Savior.

The world ties to shame us for believing the Bible.  They say, “You don’t really believe in a talking snake, Noah’s ark, or Jonah’s whale of a tale do you?”  Such comments are, of course, designed to shame us by implying that we are simpleminded Neanderthals who believe in myths and legends.  But the prophet Isaiah says we will not be put to shame and we are not to fear disgrace.

The Bible reassures us that . . .

The truth is on our side and

The truth will ultimately set us free.

It gives us the faith that looks

To no other than Jesus Christ,

A faith that will not be shamed or shaken.

The world knows nothing

Of the truths of Scripture

And does everything in its power

To shame us for believing it.

We need not fear the slings and arrows of this world, because Christ has overcome it all (John 16:33).

Remember, the world laughed at our Lord Jesus and mocked Him.  They condemned Him for being a madman, crucified Him for claiming to be God and having the authority to forgive sin.  They spat on Him, beat Him until He was unrecognizable (Isaiah 52:14), crowned Him with thorns, and nailed Him to the old rugged cross.

Should those who are His

Expect anything less?

Should we expect a crown of glory

From this world when they were happy

To give to our Lord a crown of thorns?

Believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, do not blush as the world belittles you for your faith! Learn the truth Moses knew, that the treasures of Egypt (the world) are not to be desired when they stand in direct opposition to the treasures of the Truth (Hebrews 11:26).

When Jesus said He was “the way and the truth and the life” (John 14:6), He meant what He said!  And one day soon, every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is indeed Lord (Philippians 2:10-11).  Until that day, choose the way of the reproach of Christ and do not blush as you reach out with the Good News of the Gospel.  Tell all those you come in contact with that you are not ashamed of the Gospel, which is the power of God unto salvation!

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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Trust In God’s Design … Lean On God’s Power

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

1July  I read something interesting the other day.  In 1306, while Scotland was at war with England, Robert the Bruce became king of Scotland.  Legend says there was a time when Robert took refuge in a cave to hide from the armies of England, and while in the cave he saw a spider trying to attach its web to a ceiling beam.  Over and over, the spider tried and failed.  Eventually, however, the creature succeeded in its task.

After a number of battles, Robert the Bruce led his men in the Battle of Bannock-burn in 1314. It was there where Scotland won its independence.  This story of the spider is captured in the very familiar maxim . . . “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.”

Now, that phrase sounds like it came out of the current “positive-thinking” movement.  Christian believer, I want you to carefully consider this – there is a biblical truth here:

Your life is to be defined by

Not by how many times you get up

It is defined by what you

Let God do with Your life.

Or, put another way . . .

Trust In God’s Design

And

Lean On His Power!

It’s as simple as that!  To be sure, God has called you into His perfect plan for your life, but make no mistake, along the way – perhaps even today – you will get knocked down.  During the years I was playing sports, I heard this maxim over and over from my coaches: “falling isn’t failing unless you fail to get up!”

The Bible exhorts us in Proverbs 24:16, “Though a righteous man falls seven times, he rises again.”

So, regardless of the personal, professional, or relational difficulties you may be facing today – perhaps, like Robert the Bruce, you find yourself in a proverbial “cave” of conflict or confusion – remember the story of the spider.  God has called you to be a spider-saint. Never give up and never give in!

The Bible is chock-full of examples of those who did not succeed at first … or on the second attempt … or even the third time.  You do remember Peter denying his Lord in the courtyard, don’t you?  Yet, our Lord would not let him stay down.  God helped Peter back up and set him right back into kingdom work by causing Peter to take his focus off his failure and put it back where it belonged – on Jesus.

God says in Isaiah 41:13, “I am the LORD, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, ‘Do not fear; I will help you.’”

Look today to the only One

Who can bring you both

The encouragement and

The power you need,

No matter what “cave”

Is currently enclosing you.

Remember . . .

“If at first … or second … or third … you don’t make it,

Look to God and He will help you up!”

God has given you everything you need to be a spider-saint,

So keep trusting in God’s design for you and His power in Christ!  In the end, you will be glad you did and God will get the glory.

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 Does God Think About Us . . . What God Remembers That We Forget, Part 2

Grace For The Journey

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27June  We are looking at Psalm 103 and learning the wonderful truths about what God really thinks about us.  Yesterday we looked at three principles that powerfully teach us about how wonderful God is. If you have ever wondered what God thinks about you, join us on our journey through Psalm 103 and discover the liberating truths about God’s heart.

In yesterday’s blog, we saw

  1. God Loves to Help the Needy – Verses 6-7.
  2. He Shows Mercy to Those Who Don’t Deserve It – Verse 8.
  3. He Tempers His Wrath – Verses 9-10.

I want to use today’s blog to look at four more of the powerful principles that Psalm 103 teaches us about God.

  1. He Forgives All Our Sins.

Verses 11-12 says, “For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is His love for those who fear Him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.”

Consider the greatness of God’s love.  Astronomers tell us that the farthest known light source from the earth is ten billion light years away.  That means that light starting from that source (a quasar) would take ten billion years traveling at the speed to light to arrive at the earth.  By contrast the nearest star is “only” four light years away from us.  That’s four years traveling at the speed of light, which is 186,000 miles per second.  Light from the sun reaches the earth in a little over eight minutes. So even the nearest star is a vast distance from the earth.  And using ion drive propulsion, you could reach the nearest star in a modern spaceship in “only” 81,000 years.  You can turn it around any way you like and we are left with two inescapable realities.  First, we live in a tiny corner of the universe, and second, the universe is vast beyond our comprehension.  But God’s love is greater, vaster, larger, deeper, longer, broader, and bigger in all dimensions than the universe itself.  Get in a rocket equipped with any sort of sci-fi system you can imagine.  Fly at warp speed if you like.  Go as far as you can go, to the end of the known universe and beyond.  And when you have gone as far as you can go, look up and smile because God’s love is still going.  You will never reach the end of it.

Consider the magnitude of God’s love.  Let’s suppose you want to go east until you finally reach the west.  You take off from Baltimore in a hot air balloon.  When you land in Lisbon, you get in a Honda Civic and drive across Europe until you come to Varna, Bulgaria.  There you hop on a freighter that takes you through the Black Sea, the Aegean Sea, the Mediterranean Sea, the Suez Canal, the Red Sea, and on to the Gulf of Aden, and on into the Indian Ocean where you finally put ashore in Colombo, Sri Lanka.  From there you catch a flight to Singapore and then down south to Perth, Australia.  There you hitchhike across the Outback, eventually arriving in Sydney where you join a passenger ship heading for Easter Island.  You then fly to Santiago, Chile where you rent a Jeep and start driving north.  It’s a long way but you eventually make it all the way to Nome, Alaska where you hire a dogsled team so that you can run the Iditarod Race in reverse, ending up in Anchorage where you hop on a cruise ship to Vancouver, BC, where you take the Trans-Canada Railway, ending up in Halifax, Nova Scotia. And there you buy a high-end road bike and ride through New Brunswick, Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey and Delaware.  Finally, you make it back to Baltimore.  Besides having circumnavigated the globe, what have you proved? Among other things, you have proved that no matter how far east you go, you will never find the west.

If we have accepted God’s forgiveness through Jesus.

Our sins can never come back to haunt us again.

Never the twain shall meet.

The farther east you go,

The farther you are from the west.

That’s the magnitude of God’s love.

Here is great good news for all the sinners of the world.

 When God forgives, he removes our sins,

He lifts them up, He takes them away,

And He puts them so far away from us

That we could never find them

If we searched for them for a thousand years.

They are gone forever.

My sins can never come back to haunt me again.

Even Satan can’t bring them back.

In his sermon on these verses Jim Nicodem says that God has . . .

A long fuse – “slow to anger” (verse 8),
A short memory – “does not harbor His anger forever” (verse 9),
A thick skin – “does not treat us as our sins deserve” (verse 10), and
A great heart – “so great is His love, so far has He removed our sins” (verses 11-12).

I’m glad we have a God like that because that exactly the kind of God we need.

  1. He Understands Our Weakness.

“As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him” (verse 13).

I never understood that verse until I had children.  When our girls were very young and sometimes they would have trouble going to sleep, and when Kay was tired and needed to sleep herself, I would carry the girls in my arms.  Sometimes I would sing to them, sometimes (often) I would make up a song.  I remember when Cathy was very young, I would sing Scripture verses to her such as “Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised.  In the city of our God, in the mountain of His holiness; Beautiful situation, the joy of the whole earth; Is Mount Zion on the sides of the noth, the city of the great King.” (Psalm 48:1-2)

I would sing it over and over again until she finally fell asleep in my arms.

Earthly fathers – however imperfect – point us upward to our Heavenly Father.  Someone has said, “When an earthly father has done his job well, he makes it easy for his children to believe in their Heavenly Father.”  Our children learn that we do not worship a god of stone, or an empty idol, or a remote deity, or an impersonal machine in the sky.  We serve a Father God who knows our weakness and loves us anyway.

When I was a young child, I developed a persistent ear infection that would not go away. A fter trying antibiotics for a time, our family physician told us we needed to see a specialist so he referred us to one.  After examining me carefully, he announced that I needed to have tubes put in my ears to prevent further scarring from the infection.  Even though the operation is quick and fairly simple, the doctor could see that I was scared.  So he picked me up and carried me piggy-back to surgery.  That was the last image we saw – the great physician carrying our son on his back so he wouldn’t be afraid.  So, it is with our Heavenly Father.  The Great Physician knows our weakness and understands our fears.  And when we can’t go on, He carries us on His back.

6. He Remembers That We Are Dust.

“For He knows how we are formed, He remembers that we are dust.  As for man, his days are like grass, he flourishes like a flower of the field; the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more” (Verses 14-16).

Here is a truth we all understand . . .

Yesterday’s green leaves soon turn brown.

Why do the leaves lose their green?  There is a scientific explanation having to do with the loss of green chlorophyll, but that simply means the leaves are slowly dying.

Their beauty comes from their death.

Who remembers each leaf?  Not the tree.  One by one the leaves fall to the ground where they disintegrate and return to the soil from which they came.  No one names them or numbers them or even thinks about them.  It is the way God has arranged the changing of the seasons.

If that’s all there is, if we are here today and gone tomorrow, if that’s the end of the story, then there isn’t much hope.

But let me share something with you.

If you don’t have anything else

To be thankful for this year,

Here’s something you can hang your hat on.

Our hope is not in man or in anything man can do.

Our hope is in the everlasting God!

7. He Links Us With Eternity By Linking Us With Himself.

“But from everlasting to everlasting the Lord’s love is with those who fear Him, and His righteousness  with their children’s children – with those who keep His covenant and remember to obey His precepts” (verses 17-18).

Our hope is in the everlasting God!

There is nothing we can do about our frailty.  We come from the hand of our Creator stamped, “Fragile: Handle with care.”  We are like the dust devils that blow across the desert.  We make a big scene and then suddenly we disappear.  Try as we might . . .

We can’t cancel our humanity.

Nothing can change what we are.

Vitamins and exercise and clean living may slow down the process.  Positive thinking may improve our mood.  But for all of us, the end is the same: Ashes to ashes, Dust to dust.

Psalm 103 offers us . . .

One strong ground of comfort

That lifts us up above

The transitory nature of this life.

It is the “but” of verse 17, the blessed “but” that changes everything.  That one word offers an eternal contrast between . . .

The fading flower and the everlasting God,

Our mortality and God’s eternity.

That one word -that little “but” – stands at the demarcation between this life and the next.

Here is our real hope of life

That never ends.

God’s tender mercy.

His unfailing love.

His abounding grace.

Someone has said that, “Life without Christ is a hopeless end, but life with Christ is an endless hope. And this endless hope is not only to us but to our children’s children.  What will we leave our children? A vast estate?  A large inheritance?  A huge life insurance policy?  Whatever we may say about earthly possessions, they pale next to the privilege of passing down a godly heritage, a tapestry of truth, and a pattern of believing that our children and grandchildren can claim as their own.

We are richer than we think,

We are more blessed than we know,

And

We have more than we realize.

In a transient and passing world where everything fades away, we have the promise that we are linked to the future even after we are gone by the faithfulness of God to our children to our children’s children.  This, too, is the mercy of God.

What is Psalm 103 telling us?

We frail, mortal sinners

Are rich in the mercy of God.

And we have found that mercy

– Or rather, that mercy has found us

– In the cross of Jesus Christ.

During one of his sermons Billy Graham told the story of a patrolman on night duty in a town in northern England.  As he walked the streets, he heard a quivering sob. Shining his flashlight into the darkness, he saw a little boy in the shadows sitting on a doorstep and tears were running down his cheek.  The child said, “I’m lost.  Please take me home.”  And the policeman began naming street after street, trying to help the boy remember where he lived.  He named the shops and the hotels in the area but the little boy could give him no clue.  Then he remembered that at the center of the town there was a church with a large white cross that towered above the rest of the city.  The policeman pointed to the cross and said, “Do you live anywhere near that place?”  The little boy’s face immediately brightened up.  He said, “Yes, sir. Take me to the cross and I can find my way home.”

Go to the cross

And

You will find

Your way home to God.

All that we believe, all that we have, all that we hope for is found in the cross of Christ.

Are you weak? So am I.
Are you needy? So am I.
Are you guilty? So am I.
Are you frail? So am I.
Are you like dust? So am I.

And God says to us, his weak, needy, guilty, frail, children of dust, “I know you through and through, and I love you anyway. Come to me. Rest in me. Make me your Rock.”  God’s mercy in Christ is more than enough for all of 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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What Does God Think About Us . . . What God Remembers That We Forget, Part 1

Grace For The Journey

  The Bible says this about God in Psalm 103:14, “He remembers that we are dust.”  Have you wondered what God really thinks about you?

Our greatest barrier to knowing God better

May be how much we know

About how much God knows about us.

We struggle with God because we feel so bad about ourselves, and if we know the truth about ourselves, think of how much more God knows us!

We can’t fool Him.  Sometimes we don’t want to pray, or read the Bible, or think about God because of our view of ourselves.  When we look in the mirror, a lot of times we feel like saying, “You’re a big disappointment” or “You ought to be a lot better by now.”

We’ve all felt that way from time to time, and I imagine that many people reading these words feel that way right now.  It’s been a hard week, or a bad month, and it seems like a time of waste or failure.  Someone has captured the truth in one simple sentence:

“I think we run from God

Rather than to Him

Because we know

Our own hearts

All too well

And His barely at all.”

I probably don’t need to spend any time convincing you that you are a sinner.  You probably know that truth about yourself all too well.  But . . .

It’s the other truth that we need to talk about.

We don’t know God’s heart very well.

That’s where Psalm 103 can help us tremendously.  We will take the next two blogs to discover the valuable truths in the wonderful passage from God’s Word.

Perhaps no other

Chapter in the Bible

So clearly reveals

God’s compassion

For His people.

If you’re wondering what God thinks about you, take a journey through Psalm 103 and discover the liberating truths about God’s heart.  I want to use today’s blog to focus briefly on these powerful principles.

  1. God Loves to Help the Needy.

Verses 6-7 say, “The Lord works righteousness and justice for all the oppressed.  He made known His ways to Moses, His deeds to the people of Israel.”

The “oppressed” are those who can’t help themselves.  In the Old Testament the word especially referred to widows, orphans, foreigners, and the poor.  When we are tempted to take advantage of others because we are strong and they are weak, God says, “Think about this first.”  He takes the side of the weak.  Our God keeps His eyes on the helpless, and when others hurt them, He moves to balance the scales of justice.  Someone has said, “The arm of the universe is long but it bends toward justice.”  There are days and times when this is hard to believe, but this truth stands like a solid rock for the believer.  We know this much . . .

Eventually God will bring everything to light,

And He will judge with impartiality.

In that day there will be no hiding,

No excuse-making, no bribes,

And no way of escape.

All those who labor for a better world and a more just society and those who stretch out a helping hand – you have to believe this or you can’t go on. The words of James Russell Lowell come to mind:

“Truth forever on the scaffold, Wrong forever on the throne –

Yet that scaffold sways the future, and, behind the dim unknown,

Standeth God within the shadow, keeping watch above his own.”

Are you needy? The answer is yes whether you know it or not.  You are needy and God is on your side. That’s a great place to start.

  1. He Shows Mercy to Those Who Don’t Deserve It.

Verse 8 declares, “The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love.”

Don’t miss the four great attributes of God that are declared in this verse:

1)      The Lord is compassionate – He pardons us.
2)      The Lord is gracious – He gives us what we don’t deserve.
3)      The Lord is slow to anger – He is patient with us when we fall.
4)      The Lord abounds in love – He loves us more than we can imagine.

  • There’s no fishing like fishing in the sea.
  • There’s no eating like eating at the king’s table.
  • There’s no love like God’s love.

 

  • When He saves, He saves completely.
  • When He forgives, He forgives all my sins.
  • When We sets free, We are free forever.

The King James Version translates the last phrase of verse 8 by saying that God is “plenteous in mercy.”  Charles Spurgeon (in The Treasury of David) takes that phrase and offers this application:

All the world tastes of His sparing mercy,

Those who hear the gospel partake of His inviting mercy,

The saints live by His saving mercy,

Are preserved by His upholding mercy,

Are cheered by His consoling mercy, and

Will enter heaven through His infinite and everlasting mercy.

I like that!  Six kinds of mercy in just one sentence!  That’s plenteous mercy for anyone who needs it.

  1. He Tempers His Wrath.

Verses 9-10 say, “He will not always accuse, nor will He harbor His anger forever.  He does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities.”

Have you ever known anyone who loved to argue?  We all know people who love to keep a quarrel going because they are so angry.  God is not like that . . .

He is willing to end the quarrel

And welcome us back home.

Sometimes the real problem is

That we want to keep fighting him.

He’s more ready to forgive

Than we are to be forgiven!

  • When we forget to pray, He remembers to feed us.
  • When we forge to give thanks, He sends us restful sleep.
  • When we idle in sin, he sends His Holy Spirit to convict us.
  • When we refuse to give, He keeps on giving still.
  • When we fall, He lifts us up.
  • When we disappoint ourselves and others, He still calls us his children.

God even blesses those who don’t believe in Him.

An unbeliever like Christopher Hitchens writes a book called God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything, and merrily debates every religious-type person he can find.  He is clever, witty, a gifted wordsmith, widely read, quick with a comeback, and completely committed to debunking religion of every type and even more committed to the concept that God is simply not necessary.  But, in spite of his attitude and actions, the mercy of God is very vividly seen in his life.  Instead of crushing him like an empty eggshell, the Lord feeds him and nourishes him and gives him health, life, and love.  It is the longsuffering of God that allows Christopher Hitchens to deny Him.  And why would God show such kindness to someone utterly dedicated to eradicating His influence in the world?  Because God is not in the least intimidated by Christopher Hitchens. or Richard Dawkins, or Sam Harris.  They are part of the atheist crowd . . . they shout their unbelief at God on ground He provides from them, with the breath the He provides for them, with words that He has enabled them to speak.

The fact that God withholds

Punishment to His enemies,

Is evidence of His mercy.

And why does God do this?

The Bible tells us in Romans 2:4, “Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance?”

What are the verses we have looked at in Psalm 103 telling us?

We are richer than we think,

We are more blessed than we know,

And

We have more than we realize.

We frail, mortal sinners

Are rich

In the mercy of God.

And we have found that mercy – or rather, that mercy has found us, in the cross of Jesus Christ. During one of his sermons Billy Graham told the story of a patrolman on night duty in a town in northern England.  As he walked the streets, he heard a quivering sob.  Shining his flashlight into the darkness, he saw a little boy in the shadows sitting on a doorstep and tears were running down his cheek.  The child said, “I’m lost. Please take me home.”  The policeman began naming street after street, trying to help the boy remember where he lived.  He named the shops and the hotels in the area but the little boy could give him no clue.  Then he remembered that at the center of the town there was a church with a large white cross that towered above the rest of the city. The policeman pointed to the cross and said, “Do you live anywhere near that place?”  The little boy’s face immediately brightened up. He said, “Yes, sir. Take me to the cross and I can find my way home.”

Oh!  That is God’s Word for us today!

Go to the cross

And you will find

Your way home to God.

All that we believe, all that we have, all that we hope for is found in the cross of Christ.

  • Are you weak? So am I.
  • Are you needy? So am I.
  • Are you guilty? So am I.
  • Are you frail? So am I.
  • Are you like dust? So am I.

And God says to us, his weak, needy, guilty, frail, children of dust, “I know you through and through, and I love you anyway.  Come to me.  Rest in me.  Make me your Rock.”  

God’s mercy in Christ

Is more than enough

For all of us!

We will finish looking at the truths in Psalm 103 in tomorrow’s blog.

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.”