Something We Will Never Lose

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

18Feb  Have you ever said, “Honey, have you seen my car keys?”  “Kids, do you know where I put my wallet?”  Sorry dear, I forgot to get the milk at the grocery store.”  What are some of your favorite, “Have you seen” or I’m sorry I forgot” moments?  To echo the late Jimmy Durante, “I’ve got a million of them,” and they are often followed by the statement, “I must be losing my mind!”

If you can identify with this even a little bit, I have a word of comfort for you today.  As he was nearing the end of his life, John Newton told a friend,

“My memory is nearly gone, but I remember two things:

That I am a great sinner

And

That Christ is a great Savior.”

WOW!

There really is nothing as important

As these two truths to remember, is there?

Even after we are saved,

We are still great sinners in need

Of an even greater Savior,

Who continually covers

And

Cleanses us with His blood.

John Newton wrote the great hymn “Amazing Grace” with this in view.

What would keeping these truths in view do for you?

Perhaps you won’t write a great song,

But you will write a great story,

Where Jesus is the All-knowing Savior

And you are the one

He is rescuing from danger, moment by moment.

There is another thing to remember that will be a source of unimaginable comfort, especially if you are as forgetful as I am at times.

Even if you do lose your mind, you can never lose your Master!

God declares in Hebrews 13:5, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”

What a wonderful truth!

There is so much we can lose

On this side of the grave . . .

Except the One whom

We cannot afford to lose: Jesus.

And if we can’t lose Jesus,

It really doesn’t matter what we might lose,

Including our minds . . .  even our lives!

To know that nothing can separate us from the love of God that is ours in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:38-39) is to know enough to keep us going when facing any kind of loss.

So . . . do you wonder if you’re losing your mind?  No worries!  Just remember Newton’s two truths… “I am a great sinner and Christ is a great 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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God’s Cost Analysis – Getting The Most Our Of Life

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

15Feb For more than two thousand years, a question Jesus asked has haunted and hounded the human race . . . Our Lord said in Matthew 16:26, “What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?”

When you take a really think about this question and consider what it is asking, it turns out to be as comforting as it is challenging.   Never in the history of mankind has this question been more relevant and more demanding of a carefully and prayerfully thought-out response than it is today in the 21st century.

What good would it do you to gain the whole world

If you were to forfeit your very soul in the process?

This profound question is rooted in a single word: “contentment.”  In our Western society, contentment seems to be as far away from many of us as the east is from the west.  Everyone is seeking contentment, but few find it.  From Madison Avenue to Hollywood, we are bombarded daily with advertising in print, movies, television, and the Internet – messages designed to manipulate us from the inside out, causing us to crave all sorts of stuff we don’t need, buy it with money we don’t have, in order to impress people we don’t even care about.

But this is not what God wants from us!

Our Master’s words stand in stark contrast

To the messages we receive through the media.

Jesus knows exactly what we need

And

What is best for us

In every given set of circumstances.

Can you think of any moment in your life, right up to this moment, when our Lord did not give you exactly what you needed?

Notice I did not say “what you wanted” in the previous sentence, because “needs” and “wants” are not the same thing.  Every one of us gets caught up in the latest fads and trends; we want stuff we don’t need . . .

Which pulls us away

From “the godly life”

In order to chase

After what the world tells us

Is “the good life.”

Yet experience has taught us well that . . .

The only truly good life we will find

On this side of the grave

IS the godly life,

Which is rooted

In a right relationship

With our Lord Jesus Christ.

 It is not sinful to desire some of the “stuff” of life, and our God graciously gives us many of those things.  But . . .

When the desire for stuff dominates our lives,

We are in danger of being drawn away

From the only One who truly matter

In both life and death:

The Lord Jesus Christ.

So let me close with this question: What is the deepest desire of your heart today?  If it is anything other than Jesus, it is too small to pursue and will leave you on the wrong side of the life’s cost-benefit analysis.

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 Most Unlikely Valentine In The World!

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

14Feb  Today is Valentine’s Day.  When our girls were young, they exchanged Valentines cards with their classmates and friends.  Kay and I would sit down with them at the end of the day and go through the cards and candy they were given.  Every time we helped them sort through the candy and cards, we would come across the ever-popular little candy heart bearing the words “Be Mine.”  It always got me thinking about the most unlikely Valentine in the world.  Do you know who it is?  It is you . . . and me . . . along with everyone who has been set apart by faith to be a member of the bride of Christ.

Jesus said “Be Mine” on the day He saved you,

And He is still saying that to you today.

How are you responding to the heart’s cry of Christ?

Far too many of us respond with what others call “leftover Christianity.”  That is . . .

We do not give

The One who gave us His best

Our best.

We give Jesus what is left over after we have taken good care of ourselves first.  We meet our needs and satisfy our desires first, and then we give Jesus our leftovers: what is left over from our time . . . what is left over from our talent . . . and what is left over from our treasure.

Let me hit you

With a harsher word

For “leftover” Christianity:

Idolatry.

The Bible declares in Jonah 2:8-9, “Those who regard (cling to) worthless idols forsake their own mercy (forfeit the lovingkindness and grace that could be theirs).  But I will sacrifice to You with the voice of thanksgiving; I will pay what I have vowed.   Salvation is of the LORD.”

If I were to write a book on the life and ministry of Jonah, I would call it Surprised By Grace.”  Jonah didn’t even want to give God his leftovers!  He wanted nothing to do with God’s plan for his life . . . until God introduced Jonah to a fish named Grace.  It was grace that swallowed up Jonah for three days, so that he could come to his senses and follow God’s plan for his life.

I want to emphasize . . .

That the grace that we forfeit

When we cling to worthless idols

Is not saving grace.

Once we are His we are always His,

No matter what we do;

That is the good news of the Gospel.

What we forfeit

When we turn our hearts away from God

Is the abundant and overwhelmingly rich

Experience of His daily grace in our lives.

When we love anything above God, our experience of His grace shrinks down to the size of whatever it is we are loving.  At this level of living . . .

We don’t sense the richness of His pleasure,

The satisfaction of His purpose,

And

The power of His passion.

Yet, in spite of all the times we turn away from God, He still calls out to us “Be Mine!”

This is a love that is hard to comprehend.

This is a love that sent Jesus to the cross to pay for our sins.

This is a love that can never fade away

. . . That will never be taken away!

This is a love that is

Unconditional, unwavering,

Unmatched, and unimaginable.

So how will you respond to the greatest Valentine gift you have ever been given?  Have you accepted Jesus as your Savior so that you can enjoy fully His love, His life, and His liberty?  Where in your life is God calling you to leave your worthless idols and return to Him?  I encourage you to let His “Be Mine” be the number one priority in your life.

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

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

 Pastor Terry

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

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

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Discerning God’s Will

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

13Feb

One of the questions most asked of me is something along the lines of, “Pastor, how do I know God’s will?”  Many people seem to think God’s will is elusive or they’re not really meant to find it.  That is not true.  God doesn’t hide His will from us or play games we can’t win when trying to discover it.  He want us to know what His will is!  He wants us to be in the middle of His will for us because that is where our purpose is, that is where we thrive, and that is where He gets the most glory.

There are places in the Bible that tell us point blank what God’s will is in a general sense for all of us.  Jesus tells us in John 6:40, “And this is the will of Him that sent Me, that everyone which sees the Son, and believes in Him, may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day.”  Another example is found in 1 Thessalonians 5:18, “Give thanks in all circumstances for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”  Whenever you find the words “this is God’s will” written in scripture, pay close attention as God is about to tell you outright what He wants.

The Bible also tells us in Romans 12:2 that to discover God’s good, pleasing, and perfect will, we must “not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”  As long as we are chasing after the world and have that mindset, we will never discover God’s will for us.

Assuming you’re familiar with those pre-requisites, here are some other things to consider as you discern if something is God’s will for your life.

  1. Pray – Do this with a genuine searching and attitude of acceptance.
  2. Listen – Remove the clutter of activity and even your own speech.  You’ll find it nearly impossible to discern the will of God if your life is a chaos of noise, activity, and lacks quality, quiet time with the Lord.
  3. Search the Scriptures – God will never contradicts His Word.  Never.  If something is forbidden in Scripture, God is not telling you to do it.  Consider that He may already be teaching you what He wants you to know.
  4. Seek Godly counsel – If you are married, bring your spouse in on the decision. Whether married or single, seek counsel from someone who will be objective and isn’t afraid to tell you something you might not want to hear.
  5. Consider Jesus – If what you’re thinking about is not something He would do from a moral position, do not do it!
  6. Seek glory for God – Will this end up bringing Him glory?
  7. Consider others – Philippians 2:3-4 says, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.”  Remember, you are not an island.  Your actions and decisions affect those around you. Always.
  8. Follow faith – Hebrews 11 is full of people commended for their faith, even when circumstances didn’t make sense and living for God was difficult.
  9. Embrace sacrifice – Many times God’s will requires some form of sacrifice.  The greatest example to us in all things is Jesus and that is certainly true of the above verses in Hebrews 5.  Jesus was in the middle of God’s will when He hung on the cross.  It was a great sacrifice.  Don’t shy away from something solely because you have to sacrifice something, because you’re scared, or because it’s hard.

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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Glory Not In Grace

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

12Feb  From one who testifies and teaches the Biblical truths of the doctrines of grace, the title of today’s blog might seem strange.  What is strange, however, is to see believers who have appropriated and appreciate these truths being led to glory in grace.  But as strange as this idea might seem, it is all too common in the church today.  How easily we lose sight of the grace Giver and focus only on what He has graciously given!

The Bible says in Psalm 84:11, “For the LORD God is a sun and shield; the LORD will give grace and glory; no good thing will He withhold from those who walk uprightly.”  Did you notice the one thing that David rejoiced in?

He rejoiced in what the Lord had done for Him!

The reason for his rejoicing is not the gifts but the Giver of the gifts found in this verse.

There are, of course, many more gifts that God gives to His children, but this verse lists a few.  The first gift is that God will be “a sun and shield.”   He will be our light and protection.  The world is in darkness and without protection.  And no amount of education, money, or power can give it to you.  So this is something that we have which the world does not.

The word “shield” can also be a reference to shade.  So when you feel cold and without life and distant from God, he will be like the sun, to warm you up and give light to your path.  But when you feel burnt out and overwhelmed with the trials and burdens or work of life, God will be like shade to you, to give you a place to rest, relax and gather your strength.

The second gift the psalmist mentions is that God “gives grace and glory.”  “Grace” has the idea of God smiling upon us, ready to give us all the benefits of being His child.  “Glory” is the ironic one. The world is seeking after glory and honor, but these things are only given to those who serve God.

Finally, the psalmist says that God will “withhold no good thing from those who walk uprightly.”  This is a promise only to those who are walking uprightly.  This doesn’t mean that you have to be perfect, but that your heart is right with God.  Many of the promises for blessing, fellowship, reward, joy, intimacy with God, answers to prayer, and many other good things in life are contingent upon walking uprightly; upon obedience to God and His Word.

In spite of all the things that the psalmist received from the LORD, he wants everyone to see and focus not on the gifts He has given but on the greatness and goodness of the One who gives the them.

Countless Christians have lost their way

By disconnecting themselves from the Way.

  • They glory in the grace given rather than glorifying the One who has bestowed it.
  • They glory in their great faith;
  • They glory in their growing commitment to their calling;
  • They glory in their generous portion and place in God’s kingdom.

But they glory in the wrong things!

Every grace is simply a gift from God,

And if we are to glory in it at all,

It must be focused on

The One who has given the gift.

We need to be reminded daily of what the Bible declares . . .

“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights . . .” (James 1:17)

“For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever! Amen.” (Romans 11:36)

This is driven home in verses like 1 Corinthians 10:12 which says, “Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall.”

You see . . .

It is not the grace given that keeps us standing firm,

But rather the Giver of the grace.

The only thing keeping us from falling flat on our faces is Jesus’ faithfulness to us, not our faithfulness to Him.

The Christian must never glory in any grace given.

Our glory is to be in God alone

Because our strength is only found

In our Savior alone.

Again, the Bible reminds us, “What do you have that you did not receive?” (1 Corinthians 4:7).  And the more you have, the more you are indebted to the One who has given it.

We must fix our eyes on

The Giver of the gift

And

Never on the gift itself.

Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith (Hebrews 12:2) is the fount from which all our blessings flow, and we must continually drink from this fount if we are to grow in the grace we have been given.

Sip continually from the streams of strength that flow from your Savior and you will find yourself standing on a Rock that will never crumble, topple or tip you over.

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

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

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

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

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A Man After God’s Own Heart, Part 2

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

Feb8  In the Old Testament, there are three characters that stand out from all the others.  They are spiritual giants who cast a long shadow of influence.  One is Abraham, one is Moses, and the third is King David.  It is on David that I want to concentrate in today’s blog morning.

David plays a key role in the Bible.  Did you know that his name actually occurs in the Bible more often than the name “Jesus?”  There are 59 chapters devoted to his story.  Over half of the Psalms are attributed to his authorship.  King David represented the benchmark of Israel’s monarchy.  He was the king by whom every subsequent king was evaluated: Each king was described as being either “like David” or “not like David.”

Why is he given such an elevated place?

Why does he still find his way into our

Hearts as our “favorite Bible character”?

There is a particular phrase that is used to describe David, which I think gives the answer to that question.  It is found in 1 Samuel 13:14, which says, “But now your kingdom will not endure; the LORD has sought out a man after His own heart and appointed him lead of His people …”  There is the phrase: “the LORD has sought out a man after his own heart.”

What does that phrase mean?

What is a “man after God’s own heart”?

When God went looking for such a man to be king,

What was he looking for?

The first clue is found in 1 Samuel 16:7.  Before we look at this verse, let me set the context.  Samuel has gone to Bethlehem, to the home of a man named Jesse.  He has been told that he will find the man there whom he will anoint as the next king of Israel. Jesse had a number of sons, and he assembled them in front of Samuel.  When Samuel came to the first one, named Eliab, he was so impressed with him that he thought to himself, “Surely the LORD’s anointed stands before me.” But look at what God said in verse 7: “But the LORD said to Samuel, ‘Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.’”

So we know that being a man or woman after God’s own heart

Is not related to the externals of appearance or height

Or good looks or anything on the outside.

The things that are so important in man’s eyes,

In man’s evaluations are irrelevant here.

God is looking at our hearts, the condition of our inner lives.

But that still leaves us with the question: When God looks at our hearts, what kinds of qualities is He looking for?  What did He find in David that caused him to identify him as a man after His own heart?

I have known the stories of David since I was child. I have read and studied his life and words.  I have even preached a sermon series on his life and preached from many of his psalms.  And always I have had the question in the back of my mind: What made David a man after God’s own heart?  This blog represents a culmination of that search.  I have narrowed it down to six heart qualities.

1. A HEART INFLAMED BY LOVE FOR GOD.

As I studied the life of David, this one quality stood out: that David really loved God.  I cannot think of any person in the Old or New Testament who more perfectly represents the Biblical mandate: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength.”

Look at some of the phrases David wrote in some of his Psalms . . .

“I love you, O Lord, my strength” – Psalm 18:1.

O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek You.  My soul thirsts for You, my body longs for You in a dry and weary land where there is no water” – Psalm 63:1.

Even as a boy, watching his sheep on the Judean hillside, his fingers would fly over the strings of his harp and he would sing.  The songs he sang expressed his love for God. This love continued throughout his life.  We find the same theme in his closing admonition to his son Solomon at the end of his life in 1 Chronicles 28:9, “And you, my son Solomon, acknowledge the God of your father and serve Him with wholehearted devotion and with a willing mind. The phrase “Wholehearted devotion” comes from a heart full of love for God.  This is the first thing God looks for when he searches for a man or woman after his own heart – A heart inflamed by love for God!

2. A HEART BENT ON OBEDIENCE TO GOD.

The Bible says in Acts 13:22, “After removing Saul, he made David their king. He testified concerning him: “I have found David son of Jesse a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do.”

This quality of obedience especially set David apart as different from his predecessor, King Saul.  Back in 1 Samuel 13:14, Samuel announces to Saul: “But now your kingdom will not endure; the Lord has sought out a man after his own heart” … “because you have not kept the Lord’s command.”

I think it is important to keep in mind that in many ways Saul was not that bad a king.  In fact, compared to many of the kings who followed him, he was a good king.  But on several significant occasions, he offered God only partial obedience.  When he was told to wait for Samuel to come to offer the sacrifice, he waited – but not long enough.  When he was instructed to destroy all the Amalekites, he killed most of them, but not all. He gave God only partial obedience.  Do you know what God calls partial obedience?  He calls it disobedience. When God says He is looking for a man after His own heart, He says “I am looking for someone who will do all I want him to do.”

In his closing words to Solomon, he also picks up on this theme in 1 Kings 2:2-3 where he says, ”I am about to go the way of all the earth, so be strong, show yourself a man and observe what the Lord your God requires: Walk in His ways and keep His decrees and commands, His laws and requirements, as written in the Law of Moses, so that you may prosper in all you do and wherever you go.”

That brings us to the third heart quality God is looking for.

3. A HEART SHAPED BY THE WORD OF GOD.

David’s relationship with the Word of God is probably best expressed in one of his wonderful psalms.  Look at what his passionate heart for God leads Him to write in Psalm 19:7-11, “The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul.  The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple.  The precepts of the Lord are right, giving joy to the heart.  The commands of the Lord are radiant, giving light to the eyes.   The fear of the Lord is pure, enduring forever.  The ordinances of the Lord are sure and altogether righteous.   They are more precious than gold, than much pure gold; they are sweeter than honey, than honey from the comb.   By them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward.”

Our relationship with God’s Word is one of the clearest indicators of what is in our hearts.  Are you in love with God’s Word?  David was.  Have you learned God’s Word and lived by the truth of God’s Word so that your life is a testimony of the truthfulness of it.  It was one of the qualities God was looking for when he went to choose a new king.  It is one of the qualities he is looking for today in the man or woman he wants to use.

4. A HEART SUSTAINED BY TRUST IN GOD.

This was another hallmark of David’s life.  We see it early in his life in the great story of his battle with Goliath, the giant.  All the rest of Israel’s army, including King Saul, were cowering in their tents at the giant’s challenge.  But David went fearlessly to face him. Why?  His own words tell us in 1 Samuel 17:37, “The LORD who delivered me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of the Philistine.”

We see this same trust in God in another crisis of David’s life.  He and his men had been away at battle, and when they returned, they found their village of Ziklag looted and empty, their wives and families taken captive.  David’s own men soon turned their despair and anger against David, blaming him for what had happened.  In fact, they were so angry they talked of stoning David.  But there is a poignant and powerful little phrase, tucked away in 1 Samuel 30:6: “But David found strength in the LORD his God.” In the most desperate of circumstances, David always seemed to turn toward God and find strength in Him.

One of David’s most famous psalms is Psalm 23.  This psalm is above all a psalm of trust: of the sheep’s confidence and trust in the Shepherd’s care.

We find David’s trust in God in his last words to Solomon in 1 Chronicles 28:20, where he says, “Be strong and courageous, and do the work.  Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the LORD God, my God is with you.  He will not fail you or forsake you.”

Where do we find strength?  In what or in whom are we trusting?  One of the greatest compliments we can give to God is to trust Him.  Conversely, one of the greatest insults or acts of disrespect we can display is to fail to trust Him, or to put our trust in other people or other things!  The man or woman after God’s own heart has a heart sustained by trust in God.

5. A HEART BROKEN BY ITS OWN SINFULNESS

As I have studied David’s life, I find it much like a roller coaster ride.  There were some exhilarating highs, but there were also some sickening plunges.  But here is where I found another quality of the man after God’s own heart.  When confronted with his own sinfulness, he fell before the Lord in broken-hearted repentance.  We clearly see that in Psalm 51:3 and 7, “For I know my transgressions and my sin is always before me. Against You, You only, have I sinned and done what is evil in Your sight” . . . “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, You will not despise.”

Here again, we find this is a marked contrast to his predecessor.  When Saul was confronted with his sin, he offered only excuses.  David’s heart was broken.  How do we respond to sin in our lives?

6. A HEART LIFTED IN PRAISE TO GOD.

The beautiful psalms of praise, we owe to David.  He was a man who frequently lifted his heart in praise.  When they brought the ark of God into the tabernacle in Jerusalem, he danced before the Lord.  Obviously we could go just about anywhere in the Psalms to illustrate this trait of David.  I have chosen to go once again to David’s closing words. In his last recorded, official act as king, he led his nation in worship.

Look at what God has recorded in 1 Chronicles 29:10-13, “ David praised the Lord in the presence of the whole assembly, saying, “Praise be to you, O Lord, God of our father Israel, from everlasting to everlasting.  Yours, O Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the majesty and the splendor, for everything in heaven and earth is yours.  Yours, O Lord, is the kingdom; you are exalted as head over all.   Wealth and honor come from you; you are the ruler of all things.  In your hands are strength and power to exalt and give strength to all.   Now, our God, we give you thanks, and praise your glorious name.”

From his days as a young shepherd boy, to his final official act as an aged king, David never lost the joy of lifting his heart and his voice in praise to the God he loved.

These are the six qualities that I believe set David apart, and that caused God himself to identify him as “a man after His own heart.”

Do you aspire to these same qualities?  Do you long to be a man or woman after God’s own heart?

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

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

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

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

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A Heart for God, Part 1

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

For the next several blogs, I want to cover the topic, “A Heart For God.”  If there is one thing that every child of God should want and ask God for is a humble heart that genuinely loves Him, wants to know all about Him,a nd wants to give Him our all.

The Bible declares in Isaiah 29:13, “Inasmuch as these people draw near with their mouths and honor Me with the lips, but have removed their hearts far from Me, and their fear toward Me is taught by the commandment of men.”

This verse may sound familiar to us because Jesus quotes this verse to the Pharisees of His day (Matthew 15:8-9). They were much like the people of Judah and Jesus pronounces woe upon them as well.

At the time Isaiah proclaimed this message, God’s people were going through the motions of religion.  They were doing what they are supposed to do, such as give tithes to the priests and making a sacrifice for their sins, but in their religious acts, they are not  loving God. Their heart is far from God.

Our Heart And Our Affections Reveal What We Love

The Bible never talks about the human heart as being the organ which pumps blood in the body.  In the Bible, the heart is the control-center of our affections.  From our heart flows love, desire, fondness, cravings, and passion.  Our feelings have varying degrees of intensity.  The more intense our affection, the more valuable the object and the more we are willing to sacrifice to have it.  Jesus pinpoints the issue in Matthew 6:12, where He says, “where our treasure is, that is where our heart is” (Matthew 6:21).  In other words, the things we value and treasure, we love.

Our love of things and our affections direct our life.  We make continual choices based on what we love.  For example, we may hate the cold, snowy, icy winter weather of the Midwest, but we may live here because we love being near family.  Our affection for our family is greater than our affection for a warmer climate.  We may love to sleep in on Saturdays, but, we may wake up early during hunting season.  We may hate shelling out a lot of money for a newer car, but our love for a different vehicle is greater than our dislike for the price.

We make choices depending upon our affections.  Which of these is a greater affection:

  • A bath or shower?
  • A blockbuster movie or a walk in the park?
  • A McDonalds hamburger or a giant Snickers bar?
  • The Boston Red Sox? Or the New York Yankees?

We make choices every hour, and our choices are always guided by our heart.

King David is an example of someone who has affection for God.  King David had a great love  for God.  God even said that David is a man after His own heart (1 Samuel 13:14).  God sees David’s heart and affection for Him.  We know of David’s heart because of what he says in several of his psalms . . .

Psalm 16:2, I said to the LORD, ‘You are my Lord; my goodness is nothing apart from You.’”  If we were to walk y David and he is talking to someone, and we hear him say, “I have no good apart from you.” 

Psalm 63:3, “Because Your lovingkindness is better than life, my lips will praise You.”

When our affections for God exceed life, then our affections for God are at the highest peak of passion.  God’s lovingkindness is of greater value to David than anything in this world.  David would rather have God’s lovingkindness than gold or silver, his family, his position as king, or his health. David loves God.

We know what is in David’s heart because his lips give evidence to it.  David’s heart is filled with affection for God and his lips spill out words of praise.  This underscores the truth Jesus declares in Matthew 12:34, “Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks.”

The Greatest Commandment Reminds Us What We Are To Love

One more important thought on the topic of affections.  The reason the people of Judah fell short and why God will punish them is because they fail to love God.

It is not acceptable to have a heart with no affection for God.  The greatest commandment in Scripture is to love God with all our heart, mind, and strength (Matthew 12:30).  The people of Judah were guilty of breaking the greatest commandment.

What does it mean to love God with all our heart, mind, and strength?

If the people of Judah love God with all their heart, then everything in their heart will be governed by God.  They will love what God loves.  God loves holiness, so they should love holiness.  God hates idols, and they should hate idols.  God desires justice, so they should desire justice.  The people of Judah are guilty of not loving what God loves.

If the people of Judah love God with all their mind, they will study the arts and sciences to promote God’s glory.   Their intellectual endeavors are to be born out of their love for  discovering what God has made, what its purpose is, and how we are to use it for His glory.  They are to banish from their understanding and memory every useless, foolish, and dangerous thought and every idea which defiles the soul and causes them to be drawn away from God.  If they love God with their mind, they will never think of entertaining evil thoughts or evil ideas.  Their mind will be fixed continually upon how they may please God.  The people of Judah did not love God with their mind.

If the people of Judah love God with all their strength, they will exercise and eat to the glory of God.  They will use their God-given muscles, talents, skills, and influence to advance their relationship with God.  Their hands and feet belong to Him.  Their sweat and labor are joyfully spent for Him.  Their lives and their homes are built for God’s glory and fame.

God is not pleased.  The people of Judah do not love God with all their heart, mind, or strength. He pronounces woe to Jerusalem because their heart is far from God.  Their visits to the temple are only out of tradition and obligation, not out of love for Him and to give Him glory.  They enjoy eating the feasts of the covenant, but do not enjoy the knowing and serving the God of the feasts.

God is to be our all in all; He is to be our everything.  It is not an option.  God commands that we have a heart full of affection for Him.  We must not have a divided heart; half for this world and for God.

In Monday’s blog we will continue this discussion.

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.”

It’s Not What You Possess…It’s What Possesses You

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

5Feb  In Luke 18 we read about the Rich Young Ruler who came to Jesus asking, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”  After a brief discourse, Jesus took the man to the heart of the matter in verse 22, where He says, “One thing you still lack.  Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.”

The man could not do what Jesus had asked,

Not because of what he possessed,

But because of what possessed him.

Worldly wealth ruled this man’s heart and ultimately shaped his life . . .

And the shape

Was a dollar sign,

Not a cross!

Many misinterpret the words of Jesus in verse 23, “How difficult it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!  For it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.”

They think that money is the root problem.

Money is not the problem.

The love of money is the problem.

The Bible states in 1 Timothy 6:10, “For the love of money is the root of all of evil . . .”  Jesus is not telling every rich man to sell all his possessions.  The Bible tells us that God makes men rich (see Deuteronomy 8:18).  God tells us in the later part of 1 Timothy 6:10 that there are some rich men, however, who make themselves poor by looking to their riches as their source of significance, meaning, and purpose in life.  Other rich men make themselves richer by looking to Jesus as the source of true wealth and using their riches for the advancement of the kingdom of God.  Zacchaeus had great wealth, and there were others who had wealth and used it to support Jesus and His ministry.

So regardless of where this finds you today . . .

The amount of stuff

You have is never the issue.

The issue is . . .

Whether or not your stuff has you!

Pascal rightly observed, “There is a God-shaped vacuum inside of every heart,” and trying to fill it with anything other than God will never work.

The Rich Young Ruler had everything a man could want,

But he did not have the one thing every man needs:

Jesus.

He filled his life up with the stuff of life and left no room in his heart for the Savior.  He trusted in his riches as the source of his salvation.

What will you fill your God-shaped vacuum with?  Will it be a new car, new address, new job, new relationship, or new you?

These are all good gifts

From our great God,

But they enslave us

When they become

Ultimate things in our lives.

Jesus said in John 15:4, “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, except it abide in the vine, no more can you, except you abide in Me.”

In this life there is only one possession

That should possess us

And His name is Jesus Christ!

When Jesus has control of our lives,

We don’t need to look to anything

Other than Him to give us

The joy, happiness, satisfaction, and freedom we crave.

  • Only the Gospel frees us to find everything we want in the only thing we need.
  • Only the Gospel frees us from our bondage to every idol that would keep us locked up in the prison of performing, producing, and pretending.
  • Only the Gospel convinces us that everything we have is a gift of God (1 Corinthians 4:7), and the more we have the more we are in debt to the One who has given it.

With this understanding, it is never a matter of what we possess, but rather, what possesses us!  When it is Jesus who possesses us, we never find ourselves in the position of “one thing we lack.”

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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How Through Why

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

4feb  Everyone wants to know the secret to making lasting change.

Most people believe that the secret is willpower . . .

Until they discover that their “will”

Really has no lasting power!

The Bible makes it crystal clear

That the “how” of lasting change

Will only come through

The “why” of lasting change.

In other words,

The why is the how!

Oh sure, our willpower can initiate change, but it is only temporary.  Most of us have discovered this truth by watching our new years’ resolutions – “This year I’m going to eat right, exercise more, read the Bible more, stop this or that bad habit, pray more, serve more” and so on – falter and fade away.

The reason, of course,

Is that only when the Spirit of God

Changes the hearts of Christian believers

That we will ever realize lasting change.

It all comes down to the difference

Between temporary behavior modification

And lasting heart transformation.

The Bible says in 2 Corinthians 5:14, “For the love of Christ compels us ….” 

Lasting change will only come through

A compelling love for the Lord Jesus Christ.

Love for Christ, not personal power,

Will propel us into a changed life.

When a compelling love for God inspires us to engage in spiritual warfare against the forces that want to defeat us, or keep us down, God’s power to change perseveres and becomes lasting change.  We resist the temptations to sin simply because the love of Christ compels us to turn toward God and away from sin.

  • Why forgive completely?  Because the love of Christ compels us!
  • Why serve faithfully?  Because the love of Christ compels us!
  • Why give generously?  Because the love of Christ compels us!
  • Why love unconditionally?  Because the love of Christ compels us!

Bryan Chapell wrote in Holiness By Grace, “A love for God made vital and vigorous by sensing deeply His compassion toward us is the primary means that enables believers to resist Satan.”

The love, mercy, and compassion of Christ

Is always and in every way

The only compelling why

Behind every lasting how.

So . . . how is Christ’s love compelling you lately?  If you candidly answered, “Not as much as I’d like,” perhaps you need a clearer vision of Mount Calvary, where the Son of God took your place on the old rugged cross.  If there is no greater love than to lay your life down for someone else, then we need look no further than the cross to keep before us the only WHY we will ever need to be what God is calling us to be.

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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Coming To Christ . . . Going For Christ

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

1feb  I am sure you have heard the phrase “Coming to Christ.”  Rightly understood, we realize that it is the enabling grace of God that calls us to come to Christ.  Jesus stated in John 6:44, “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him.  And I will raise him up on the last day.”

By nature, we will always choose

Our own way of salvation

And not the way

Of salvation through Christ.

Our minds are too fickle,

Our hearts are too depraved,

And our wills too stubborn.

It is only by a supernatural work of God’s grace

That anyone comes to Christ

And receives the gift of eternal life.

Salvation is all of grace, from beginning to end.

I am also sure you have heard the phrase “Going for Christ.”  Rightly understood, we must realize that this too is possible through the enabling grace of God.

Without the same enabling grace

That raised us from death to life,

We would always choose

To go our own way.

We would go where we want to go, when we want to go, and get there in the way we think best.  Without grace, we would be going only for ourselves and for the advancement of our agenda and kingdom.  Without God’s work of grace we consider ourselves to be the sovereign ruler, lawgiver, judge, and jury.  So . . .

Whether we are coming to Christ

Or going for the glory of Christ,

It is because of God’s grace

That is at work within us.

The Bible affirms this in the following verses:

COMING TO CHRIST:   “To which He called you by our gospel, for the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ” . . . “Now may our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, and our God and Father who has loved us and given us everlasting consolation and good hope by grace, comfort your hearts and establish you in very good word and work.” (2 Thessalonians 2:14, 16-17).

GOING TO CHRIST: “For it is God who works in you, both to will and to do for His good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13).

As Christians,

We should be every bit as comforted

As we are challenged

To grow into the person God is calling us to be,

Knowing that it is all of grace.

Yes, we choose, but we choose in response to His conviction and convincing work on our hearts.  Yes, we work, but we work through His ability and in His wisdom.  Yes, we participate, but we participate through His power.  In His strength, His wisdom, and His power we are able to live the life of Christ and engage in the advancement of His kingdom with all joy and confidence.

If God began this work in our coming to Christ, and it is all of grace even after we are saved, we can rest assured that God will complete His work in our lives, providing all the grace we need in our “going” for Christ wherever He sends us.  We can rest in the what the Bible says in Philippians 1:6, “Being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.”

It is important to understand that “going” for Christ is not synonymous with foreign missionary work – as important as that work is in advancing the cause of Christ.  Think mission right where you are:  mission in marriage; mission in the marketplace; mission in the everyday activities of life; mission in every ministry you have been called to serve in – right where you are!

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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