Peace Amid Covid-19

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

24MarThe Bible says in Psalm 119:165, “Great peace have those who love your law, and nothing causes them stumble.”  Inasmuch as my blog has been designed to provide varied and meaningful words of encouragement to you over the years, at this time I want to be very intentional about speaking to this unprecedented and wildly uncertain time we are currently facing due to the Corona-virus pandemic and the anxiety we are all feeling while we are amid Covid-19.

In just a few short weeks, the daily routines of our lives have been turned upside down and inside out.  To be sure, this caught all of us by complete surprise.  But we can take comfort in the fact that it did not catch our God by surprise.  Some 2,700 years ago, God spoke to the prophet Isaiah, saying, “Surely, as I have planned, so it will be, and as I have purposed, so it will stand.  This is the plan determined for the whole world; this is the hand stretched out over all nations” (Isaiah 14:24, 26).  He also told Isaiah, “I form the light and create darkness, I bring prosperity and create disaster; I, the Lord, do all these things” (Isaiah 45:7).  Jesus told us that not a bird falls to the ground apart from the will of God (Matthew 10:29).

While you and I are feeling uncertain

About the days that lie ahead of us,

There is absolutely no doubt or confusion

In the mind of the Sovereign Lord.

In light of all the instructions issued by national, state and local governments, we as a church have cancelled our services and activities but we have not cancelled church.  We now engage in our Lord’s Day worship via live stream at 10:15 a.m. with a trimmed down worship team of less that 10 people.  We are also seeking to remain in “contact with our church family members through deacon family member ministry and our Bible Study Class care ministry.  We are doing the best we can to minister and watch out for one another.

We are navigating through uncharted waters.  We, the people of America, have never seen anything like this.  So, the question that has been on my mind and in my heart as a pastor is this:

How can we have a Godly peace

When we are amid Coronavirus pandemic?

The answer, of course, is to look past the pandemic to see our Prince of Peace, who gave us these very encouraging words: “Peace I leave you; my peace I give to you.  I do not give to you as the world gives.  Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. (John 14:27)

The peace the world offers to us is based on circumstances.  When things are going well, we have peace; when things are going badly, we are troubled.  But . . .

The peace that the Word of God offers us

Is not based on circumstances, but on Christ,

Who changes not and whose compassions never fail.

Our God is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

True peace, a godly peace, is built on the sure,

Solid foundation of the Word –

Both the written Word and the incarnate Word.

When we look to the Lord, “The peace of God, which passes all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7).

Now more than ever, let me encourage you to stay in the Word and pray to the living Word, knowing that “He himself is our peace” (Ephesians 2:14).  Let’s stand in that peace and share it with others.

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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God’s Greatest Provision

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

23Mar ‘What’s in it for me?’ is a question we often hear.  What can I gain if I enter this business arrangement?  What advantage is it for me to embark on this journey.  Very likely, you ask yourself every Sunday when you go to worship, ‘What am I to gain from attending worship today?  If I go to the trouble of cleaning myself up, if I drive to the church, and if I subject myself to a room that is full of people but devoid of air-conditioning – if I do all of this – can I expect to actually gain something?

If we are honest when inspecting our motives for decision-making we will find we are asking this very question, ‘What’s in it for me?’.

I recall reading one preaching manual that instructs preachers to make use of this principle. The author explains, ‘Nobody sleeps while he expects to hear something to his advantage . . . Never have I heard of a person going to sleep while a will was being read in which he expected a legacy, neither have I heard of a prisoner going to sleep while the judge was announcing his verdict. Self-interest quickens attention. Preach (therefore) . . . on pressing, present, personal matters, and you will secure an earnest hearing’

In Psalm 27 there is instruction that is pressing for us to hear, and there is application that is immediate for us to apply.  My aim is to convince you of this. The text appears to you as a plain looking suitcase and my job is to open the suitcase, and to unpack for you the beautiful garments folded inside.

Unfortunately, this is where many have come to believe that the Bible is boring and irrelevant.  Parishioners come to worship looking to be clothed with a garment designed by the Almighty only to have a locked suitcase thrown at them from the pulpit. Admittedly, the failure of the average parishioner to experience gains from Sunday worship has often been the result of poor preaching.

Commenting on this, Spurgeon wrote, “I heard one say that a certain preacher had no more gifts for the ministry than an oyster. And, in my own judgment, this was a slander on the oyster; for (the oyster) shows great discretion in his openings, and knows when to close.”

I readily confess that substandard preaching is often the cause of parishioners leaving worship devoid of the spiritual nourishment. What should also be confessed, however, is that . . .’’

Some parishioners attend worship

Seeking the wrong thing.

Or, at the very least,

Some parishioners come to worship

Seeking something less than

What God intends to provide.

Surely, our reasons for coming to worship are many, and varied. And some of these reasons are more noble than others.  Many enjoy the music; many appreciate the children’s and youth ministries, and many get something out of the sermons and that is a good thing.

In Psalm 27 . . .

King David raises the bar for us.

David’s example challenges us to seek more from Sunday morning.  In Psalm 27 . . .

David lays before us

What should be

The primary objective

For our Sunday worship.

In verse 4, David declares, “One thing I have asked from the Lord, that I shall seek: That I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to meditate in His temple.”  We should notice that David did not literally ask for “one thing”, as the text reads, but quite a few things.

  • David asks that he might “dwell in the house of the Lord” – Verse 4.
  • He asks the Lord to be “gracious” to him – Verse 7.
  • David asks to be taught the “way” of the Lord – Verse 11.
  • And finally, he asks that he not be delivered “over to the desire of (his) adversaries” – verses 12.

Since David is clearly asking for many things, why does he say, “One thing I have asked from the Lord“?

When David uses the word “one

He is not talking

About quantity, but priority.

David is praying

For a great many things,

But the “one thing”

He must have is

The presence of God,

And so this is what

David seeks most earnestly

(Verse 8).

May I ask you, is fellowship with the Triune God your deepest desire?  It is then we can be joyful even if we are denied every earthly comfort.  If our reputation suffers, if our material resources dwindle, if our health deteriorates, if we walk through the valley of the shadow of death, we can still exclaim that we fear no evil because God promises to be with us.

Notice also that this is not a prayer for heaven.  Unlike the prayer for heaven we see at the conclusion of Psalm 23, David says in Psalm 27 that he desires to “dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of his life” (verse 4).  David wants to “behold the beauty of the Lord” today, tomorrow, and every day of his life.

The fact that David desires God above everything, and that he desires God every day is significant.

The power of David’s statement, “one thing I seek” would be diffused if David only wanted fellowship with God some of the time.

The implications for us are clear.

  • Our desire for fellowship with God must not simply be a Sunday desire.
  • Our desire for communion with God must not simply manifest itself at a Bible study or a prayer meeting.
  • Our desire for communion with God must not be limited to when things are going well.

We, too, should desire to “dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of (our) life.”

Does this describe you?  Is fellowship with Christ the primary thing that you want from God?  Perhaps you’re not sure.

Based on what I see in Psalm 27, three things will be evident if you are earnestly seeking the presence of God.  The order of these evidences is dictated by the text.

The first evidence, praise, is clearly seen in, not only the first 3 verses, but also in verse 6, “I will offer in His tent sacrifices with shouts of joy, I will sing, yes, I will sing praises to the Lord.”

Those who desire God above all else will have an irresistible urge to sing His praises.  You will sing His praises in the car; you will sing His praises in the shower just as readily as you sing them in a church pew.

If constant praise is evidence of one who is earnestly seeking God, what is the counter-evidence of this desire?  I once heard a minister observe that “when you look at the average Christian congregation, they look like an audience of bulldogs baptized in lemon juice.”  I can tell you from experience that this minister is not being unduly harsh.  As a student minister I got to visit many churches and I’m afraid I have come across more Christians then I would like to admit who resemble bulldogs baptized in lemon juice. By contrast, Christians who desire fellowship with God above all else will be marked by joyful praise.

The second evidence of a person who desires God above all else is prayer.  This comes to us in verses 7 through 12.  This evidence should not surprise us – if fellowship with God is our top priority, it logically follows that we will spend a great deal of time conversing with Him.  Who would believe me if I said Kay, my wife was the most important person in my life if I never spoke to her or spent time with her?  You see then, the time we invest in prayer is an indication of just how serious our commitment to God is.

The third evidence of the primacy of God in our lives is patience. We see this in verse 13, but even more explicitly in verse 14, “Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; yes, wait for the Lord.”

Admittedly, the connection here may be less obvious than the other two evidences. It is easy to see that, if God is the priority in our lives, our lives will be marked by praise and prayer – but also by patience?  What does “waiting for the Lord” have to do with having single-minded devotion to Him?

Beloved, is it not true that our ability, or inability, to wait for something reveals the extent of our competing loyalties?  The fact that we are impatient at the checkout that we would rather be at home with our family or somewhere else entirely.  The fact that we are impatient in the bank lineup reveals that we have something left to do of greater importance.  We lead busy lives, and, in our busy lives, we find it difficult to be patient when encumbered by less important activities.

What then does it say about the level of our Christian commitment if we are unable to wait for the Lord?  The commandment to “Wait for the Lord” tests our single-minded devotion to Him.  Do we treat worship as something to get through as quickly as possible so we can get on to more important things?  Or, when we are worshipping the Lord, do we act as if this is what we were made for?

More simply put, are you too busy for fellowship with the Lord?  I think back to when I was an older child and my dad would take me and my brother to the minor league baseball game and I in our town.  My habit was to run ahead, as I was eager to get to my seat, but I could only go so far because my dad was the keeper of the tickets.  I would then drop back to ask for my ticket and, upon his refusal, I would run ahead once more.  But there I was again, unable to get to my seat . . . so back to my dad I went.  My priority was to watch a baseball game.  My dad’s priority, however, was to spend time with me.

Is this not an accurate description of our relationship with our Heavenly Father?  We want to run ahead and enjoy the things God has made available to us.  But our Heavenly Father means to give Himself along with His gifts.

God’s great desire is to have communion with us.  Our focus, however, is often misplaced.  Instead of loving the Lord with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, we find ourselves desiring the things the Lord has made available to us.

We run ahead to get the things, but David calls us back, “Wait for the Lord,” he says. There is something better to be gained than things.

God’s greatest provision

For His creation is Himself.

Obtaining lasting joy depends on our union with God; genuine happiness depends on having an ongoing relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ.

This is what we were made for. We were made – not for things – we were made to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.

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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Hope In The Midst Of Your Crisis

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

20MarToday, we will look at Psalm 27 as we continue to seek God’s wisdom, direction, and comfort during this coronavirus pandemic.  As we read the words of this psalm, we pick up on the imagery of a battle being portrayed in these verses.  Words like “enemies” and “foes” in verse 2; “host” in verse 3; “war” in verse 3; and “enemies” in verse 6 all speak of warfare.  Phrases like “though an host encamp against me” and “though war should rise against me” in verse 3 speak of a battle being waged against David.

It appears that he is in a difficult situation.

There are a lot of things he is facing

That he does not understand;

There are a lot of things he is facing

That are overwhelming and very concerning to him;

There are a lot of things that are uncertain

About his present and future situation.

Yet, it is also very clear from reading these verses

That even in the midst of the frightening

And unsettling news and events

That he is hearing about and facing,

David still has hope.

Hope is a powerful thing.  G. K. Chesterton said, “There is no medicine like hope, no incentive so great, and no tonic so powerful as expectation of something better tomorrow.”  Emily Dickinson, in one of her poems said, “Hope is a thing with feathers, / That perches in the soul.”  O. S. Marden said, “There is no medicine like hope . . .”  Martin Luther said, “Everything that is done in the world is done by hope.”

Here is how the dictionary describes hope, “to have a wish to get or do something or for something to happen or be true, especially something that seems possible or likely.”  Hope from the world’s viewpoint is just what that definition describes.  The world sees hope as a wish or a desire.  Hope, for the world, is a longing for something that may or may not take place.

The Bible teaches us

A vastly different

Definition of hope.

Listen to the words of Jeremiah 17:7, “Blessed is the man that trusts in the LORD, and whose hope the LORD is.”  Hear also Paul in 1 Corinthians 13:13, “And now abides faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.”  The world says that hope is merely a fond wish or desire.  But . . .

The words used for hope

In the Bible

Tell a different story.

They teach us

That hope is

A deep settled confidence

That God will

Keep His promises!

Now, I know you have battles; but do you have hope?  Are you resting in the sure confidence that God will do just as He has promised He would?  That is the essence of hope and hope is a possession we all need to be sure we own in large quantities.

I want to look into these verses today and show you, from God’s Word . . .

Why you and I have

a reason to hope

In the Lord.

Notice where our hope comes from and what hope will accomplish in our lives:

Our Confidence In The Lord Provides Hope.

David begins his psalm of hope by declaring his personal faith in the Lord.  Notice the three-fold use of the word “my” in verse 1.  David has a personal relationship with God.  This is the basic foundation for hope.

Verse 1 tells us that . . .

David has confidence in the person of the Lord.

David tells us that God is his “light”, his “salvation,” and his “strength.”  There is a tremendous blessing in these three titles attributed to our God.

As light, God delivers His people from darkness.

The Bible says the greatest way God has done this is through the redemptive work of Christ.  Colossians 1:13 says, “Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of His dear Son.”  Not understanding what is happening in our world right:  Wish you know more so you could be more at ease?  Hope in God – As Light, He guides our steps – (See Psalm 37:23; 119:105; John 16:13).

As salvation, God delivers His people from damnation.

Jesus says in John 5:24, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that hears My word, and believes on Him that sent Me, has everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life.”  Wondering what might happen to you or your loved ones?  As we face the unknown, the most important issue everyone must face is, “What have you done with Jesus?”   Jesus tells us in Luke 12:4-5, “And I say to you, My friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do.  But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear Him who, after He has killed, has power to cast into hell!”  Wish you could be rescued  from danger and death?  Hope in God – As Salvation, He secures our Souls – (John 10:28; 1 Pet. 1:5; John 6:37)

As strength. God delivers His people from defeat,

The Bible says in 1 Corinthians 15:57, “But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ;” and in 2 Timothy 4:18, “And the Lord will deliver me from every evil work and preserve me for His heavenly kingdom.   To Him be glory forever and ever. Amen!”  This should cause us to proclaim with David in Psalm 23:4, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow fo death, I will fear no evil; for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.” Is your heart fearful and overly anxious?  Hope in God – As strength, God guarantees our success – (Isaiah 54:17; Romans 8:37; 2 Corinthians 2:14)

These three great characteristics of God serve to give us hope even in the midst of every struggle or battle!  Because of Who our God is, we need not fear any enemy that should arise against us.  Satan himself is no match for our sovereign God!

Verses 2-3 tell us that  . . .

David has confidence in the performance of the Lord.

David declares that his present hope in the Lord rests upon that which the Lord has done for him in the past.  God did not fail him then, and He will not fail His child today.

That same confidence is ours today!   The God we serve is unchangeable (Malachi 3:6; Hebrews 13:8).  He is the same God with the same power that He has always had.  He has never, and He will never change.  Because He has been faithful in the past, we can count on His being faithful now.

Think of all the things He has done:

  • The victories He has won; the enemies He has vanquished;
  • The mountains He has moved;
  • The victories He has won.

Think on these things and remember that the God who performed countless wonders in the past is still that same God today!   That should give His people hope!

Verse 4 tells us that . . .

David’s commitment to the Lord provides hope.

Not only does living by faith give us hope; but also living faithful to the Lord provides a measure of hope that cannot otherwise exist.  David mentions three goals in this verse.  These three goals all arise from a single commitment to serve the Lord faithfully from a heart of love.  Notice how David’s commitment to the Lord manifests itself.

He is committed to lingering near the Lord.

David wants to spend his entire life in the house of the Lord.  He wants to be in that place where the Lord dwells and where the Lord’s presence is real.  This is a theme David repeated in Psalm 84:1-4.  There, David envies the little birds that make their nests around the tabernacle.  They can be near the house of God all the time, while David cannot.  He has a desire to be where God is; to be in that place where God is worshiped and honored.  That is his heartbeat.

That ought to be our desire as well.  We need that same passion to be where the Lord is honored and where He is worshiped.  Of course, we have the church and we are commanded to be in attendance, Hebrews 10:25.  But, I think this is talking more about that there ought to be a desire to find that place of closeness and intimacy with the Lord.  We can have that place where we can linger in His presence all the days of our lives.

If there is a genuine desire to be near Him, it will manifest itself in clear action.  There will be a commitment to prayer and to the study of the Word of God.  There will be a commitment to public and private worship.  Those who want to linger near the Lord will find a way.  And, when we make a move toward Him, He will make a move toward us (James 4:8).

He is committed to loving the Lord.

David wants to “behold the beauty of the Lord.”  That is, he wants to “seek His face.”  You see, not only is David committed to being where the Lord is; but he is also committed to knowing and worshiping the Lord.  That is a worthy goal for life!

This should be the goal of every believer as well.  If we are going to worship the Lord, we are going to have to do it His way.  Jesus told us how to worship in John 4:24.  As we yield to the Spirit of God and worship God for Who He is as He is revealed in the Word of God, we will be engaged in the business of loving Him.  How long has it been since you just loved on the Lord?

He is committed to leaning on the Lord.

David also expresses his desire to call upon the Lord; to commune with God; and to make requests of God.  This is another image of worship.  David here declares his utter dependence upon the Lord for the necessities of life.  David looks beyond his own abilities and sees the limitless provisions of the Lord.  Therefore, he wants nothing more than to be able to call upon the Lord

What a limitless resource we have been given in prayer!  We are invited to pray (Jeremiah 33:3; Matthew 11:28).  We are promised that God will hear and answer our prayers (Isaiah 65:24; John 14:13-14; John 16:23-24).  Therefore, let us also learn to lean upon Him!  Instead of worry and fear, let us learn to turn to the Lord.  He will see to our needs (Philippians 4:6-7; 19).  He will never fail us nor will He ever turn us away empty-handed (Matthew 7:7-11).

Our commitment to Him provides hope in the day of our battles.  As we linger near Him; love on Him and lean on Him, we can have the absolute confidence that He will see to our needs and to the things that would cause us to worry.

Verses 5-6 tell us that . . .

David’s comfort in the Lord provides hope.

David discovered that God has a sheltered place for His people.

David tells us that the Lord will hide him in His pavilion.  A king’s pavilion was a tent that was erected in the middle of the army’s encampment.  The tent was then surrounded by an army of brave soldiers.  With all the host of the army camped about, the king’s pavilion was the safest place on the battlefield.  Those who were fortunate enough to be allowed to enter the king’s pavilion were protected by the soldiers and entertained by the king during the battle!  (Note: The word “hide” means “to treasure away.”)

As the battles of life rage about us, we are safely tucked away in our King’s pavilion.  The Bible tells us in Colossians 3:3 that “your life is hid with Christ in God!”  Could there be a safer place in all the universe?  Of course not!  Those who have entered God’s pavilion are protected by Him and, even while the battles rage around them, they are entertained with the peace and joy of the King Himself.  This is promise to those who will abide in that close place!  No enemy can penetrate the defenses and enter this private place.  It is protected from the enemy!

The assurance of His sheltering place allows us to weather the storms of life with hope.  This was what allowed David to face Goliath.  This was the confidence that kept Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego.  This was the assurance that gripped the heart of Daniel!  This was the knowledge that allowed Paul to continue, even when he suffered greatly (2 Corinthians 12:7-11).

David discovered that God has a secret place for His people.

The word “tabernacle” brings to mind the place of worship.  The “secret place” refers to the “holy of holies.”  That place which was off limits to all but the High Priest, and he could only enter there one day per year, and the only with the blood of an innocent sacrifice.  It was a place that other men entered under the penalty of death.

Yet, it is that secret place, to which God takes His precious children.  The Holy of Holies was a place where the very presence of God dwelt and the glory of God could be seen.  It was there that God took David during the battles of his life.  It was there David found himself shut up with God and shut off from the world around him.

In a king’s home, this place referred to the private apartment of the king.  It was a place no one could enter unless they did so at his bidding. To do otherwise invited instant death.  (Note: The word “hide” means “to conceal”.)

It is amazing that there is a place of solitude in a world filled with people.  There is a place that you and I can flee to during the crushing battles that rage about us.  A place that affords us quiet, peace and the profound presence of God.  Those who have learned to abide in Him have been to that place and know the glory of it.  It is a place where the enemy dares not follow.  It is a place reserved for those who love the Lord their God. Have you ever been to that place?  That place where God meets with you and you alone.  That place where all else falls away and you are left with Him and Him alone?  That is the place He invites those who abide to enter!

Stephen was in that place at the moment of his death (Acts 7:55-56)!  Paul was in that place during his life (Acts 27:23; 2 Corinthians 12:1-4).  It is possible for us to enter that sacred, secret place where the world dims away and God becomes larger than everything else!

David discovered that God has a secure place.

David has the assurance that even when life threatens to overflow him, the Lord will set him on a rock, a place that is unchangeable, powerful and immovable.  Of course, this Rock he refers to is none other than the Lord Himself (Psa. 40:1-2).  The rock referred to in these verses is a “great craggy rock.”  It is a rock that juts far above the battles going on at its feet.  It allows those who ride its heights to rise far above the tumult beneath!

This is the gift to all those who know Him!  We are promised that we have a place of refuge that will lift us far above the stormy seas that would threaten to drown us.  Like the eagle, who takes refuge above the storm until it has passed; those who abide in Him are given grace that bears them higher than the storms and keeps them safe until danger has passed (Isaiah 40:31). Those who wish to rise above there circumstances are given wings to do so!

Notice the passive nature of all the things mentioned in verse 5.

All of these things David mentions

Are not things he does to himself;

But they are things done

To him by the Lord.

The believer is required

To do nothing

But be in

A close relationship

To the Lord.

These things are done

By the Lord for His child.

David discovered that God has a special place for His people.

David says that he will worship the Lord; he will praise the Lord; because of the things the Lord has done for him.  Because the Lord has lifted him above the battles; because the Lord has hidden him away in the secret place; because the Lord sheltered him away from the terrors all around him; he will praise His name!

What a lesson to us!  When hope has turned to reality in our lives; when the Lord has come through for us again and delivered us from the enemy; we should be quick to praise Him and offer to Him the worship and adoration He deserves.  When He brings us through our battles, He will put us in a special place from which we can exalt His lovely Name (Hebrews 13:15)!

Are you fatigued and fearful from what is going on in the world today?  Of course you are!  But, in the midst of your battles, do you have hope?  Do you have the deep settled confidence that everything is going to be alright?  If you do praise the Lord, for He has already brought to that special place of blessing from which you can offer praise to His name.

But, if you lack that hope this evening, it can be obtained.  How?  You can do this by . . .

  • Reaffirming your confidence in the Lord;
  • Renewing your commitment to the Lord;
  • Resting in your comfort in the Lord.

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

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

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

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

 

God’s Faithfulness And The Coronavirus

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

19MarMany, if not most, of us have been monitoring the situation concerning the spread of the Novel Coronavirus.  As pastor of a local church I have been keeping a close watch on developments.  We have asked our church family and guests to follow the precautions recommended by the medical experts.

At such a time as this, it is natural to be worried and scared.  It is normal to be anxious about our health, as well as the well-being of our loved ones.  As a husband, father of four girls, and a grandfather, I get apprehensive about my family’s health and safety.

We also become fearful because the situation can make us feel helpless and not in control.  Yes . . .

We can be diligent about taking care;

Buhere is so much that

We either do not know of or cannot help.

It is tempting to give in

To discouragement, fear, and anxiety.

Therefore, along with protecting our physical health, we should also reflect on the state of our spiritual health.  Specifically, what is our spiritual response to the coronavirus?  May faith, not fear, fuel the way we respond to the uncertain circumstances!

What should we respond to God’s faithfulness?

1. We can trust God with our worries and anxieties

We can be honest and humble before God.  He knows us; He remains absolutely sovereign; He knows what we are going through.  This is the reason why we can cast our anxieties on Him.  Yes, we can cry out to God in prayer, but we also must keep our hearts fixed on Him.

Not only does God care for us,

But He is also in

Complete control

Of all situations,

Contingencies, and circumstances.

God has not been caught off guard

By this virus outbreak.

The Bible says in Psalm 91:1-2, 5-6, “He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.  I will say to the LORD, ‘My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.’… You will not fear the terror of the night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in darkness, nor the destruction that wastes at noonday.” 

During this time when

We just don’t know

The outcome of what

We are facing,

It is important

To concentrate on

And deepen

Our personal relationship

With the Lord.

In Psalm 27:1, and 4-6 the Psalmist sums up what we need to be doing during this and every crisis, “The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?  The LORD is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? … One thing I have desired of the LORD, that will I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD, and to inquire in His temple.  For in the time of trouble He shall hide me in His pavilion; in the secret place of His tabernacle He shall hide me; He shall set me high upon a rock.  And now my head shall be lifted up above my enemies all around me; therefore I will offer sacrifices of joy in His tabernacle, I will sing, yes, I will sing praises to the LORD.”

There are many who are telling us not to be overly worried or afraid.

The greatest way to do that

Is to strengthen and deepen

Your daily relationship with

Your Savior and Lord.

The Bible tells us in Proverbs 3:5-8, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.  Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD and depart from evil.  It will be health to your flesh, and strength to your bones.”

2. We rejoice and hope in Jesus’ victory over death

Remember and rejoice in the truth that our Lord has conquered the grave!  Because of what Jesus has done through His life, death, and resurrection, death has lost its sting.  In Christ, we have the sure hope of glory.  If we have been united with Him in a death like His, we shall certainly be united with Him in a resurrection like His.  Thus, we no longer need to fear disease and death.

So, don’t lose sight of God’s great salvation.  If God did not spare His own Son but gave Him up for us, how will He not also with Him graciously give us all things?

God has nour trialAnd should God call us to walk through the fire and flood, we can be certain that nothing can ever separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Viruses will not have the last word.  In an open letter calling for prayer from Christians around the world, an anonymous Wuhan pastor wrote: “Christ has already given us His peace, but His peace is not to remove us from disaster and death, but rather to have peace in the midst of disaster and death, because Christ has already overcome these things.”

3. We serve others and encourage them to also trust God

Fear, like a virus, can be contagious.  We must avoid fear mongering and spreading fake news that will only stoke further anxiety.  Instead . . .

As God’s people,

Should we not

Hold forth

The Word of life

To a fearful world

With even greater

Clarity and compassion?

We have a responsibility to take wise and necessary precautions to safeguard the health of ourselves and our loved ones.  But let’s also be mindful of our calling . . .

To be salt and light in the world.

Our self-protection should

Not become selfishness.

We should not be reckless,

But we should not be unfaithful either.

We have an opportunity as well as a stewardship from God to be His witnesses in the world, and to be His channels of grace and encouragement to others.

In the 16th century, the German reformer Martin Luther ministered during a time when a deadly plague emerged in his town.  He wrote that those in ministry “must remain steadfast before the peril of death.”  Even as Luther urged his readers not to recklessly expose themselves to danger, he also challenged Christians to take up opportunities to serve Christ.

The Bible tells us in Matthew 25:36-40 that at the last judgment, Jesus will say to His people, “I was sick and you visited Me.”  To which, believers will ask, “When did we see You sick…and visit You?”  And the King will answer, “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these My brothers, you did it to Me.”

Let us therefore display the love of Christ by serving and encouraging others, for we can be sure that in the Lord our labor is not in vain.

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.”

GraceForTheJourneyBottomOfPagePicture

 

 

 

Our Sufficient Savior, Part 2

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

17Mar  In yesterday’s blog we talked about how there are times in the Christian’s life when we feel utterly inadequate.  There are times when trouble comes and we simply can’t cope, we are in too deep, but we learned that “My God will meet all your needs out of his glorious riches in Christ.”  But there are other times when our inadequacies show through in different ways, other than just being inadequate to face trouble.

  • The times we had an opportunity to share the gospel and we didn’t know what to say, or how to answer them.
  • When we are asked to speak or teach and we know our presentation and words weren’t great or even incomplete.
  • When we have a conversation with a friend and we want to point to God’s help and hope but we stumble and stutter because we feel so inadequate.

If we let this sense of inadequacy get to us, then the devil will have been successful, and we will be driven to despair, and not attempt anything again.

It’s refreshing to hear the apostle Paul, and man immensely gifted, and experienced – he was trained as well as anyone could be trained, and yet, he asked, “And who is sufficient for these things?” (2 Corinthians 2:16).

The verses we will look at today deal with times when our efforts are marred by our mistakes, and when our labor is insufficient due to our shortcomings.  And in both cases, we see a wonderful truth that Paul lays down in 2 Corinthians 4:7, “But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.”

Gods provision extends

To our inadequacies

As well as our needs.

Yesterday we looked at, and began to learn from, 2 Kings 4:38-44, how God provides two Old Testament miracles that help us see two powerful truths.  We dealt with the first truths brought out in this passage: 1) Christ Can Overrule Our Mistakes.

Today we will look at the second encouraging truth:

2) Christ Can Supply Our Inadequacies.

There are other times when we haven’t made mistakes, and we aren’t in trouble, but we are overwhelmed with a feeling of our utter inadequacy.

  • Perhaps you are talking to someone, and as they pour out their heart to you and tell you of what they are going through or have come through, you feel, “Lord what have I got that can help this person?” And if they aren’t a Christian, and you listen to all their troubles, you find yourself thinking, “Lord, all I have is the gospel” and it seems very small and very inadequate. Their problems seem to swamp your experience.
  • Or perhaps you get an opportunity to speak to someone about Christ, and as you talk they have more questions than you have answers and you find yourself wishing you knew more, and thinking “I’m so inadequate.”

In verses 38-41 the Bible shows us . . .

There is hope and encouragement

For us because

God is at work

In all our circumstances.

A man comes from Baal-Shalisha.  It used to be called Shalisha, but it had become a place of Baal worship, a pagan town.  Yet, even in this pagan, godless town there was a godly man.  And this godly man is out harvesting his grain, and the way the two miracles are joined together here it would seem still to be the time of famine. Yet as he harvests his grain, and as he grinds the corn to make flour, he is reminded that the first-fruits belong to God. And because he is a godly man he is determined to obey.  Now God had said that the first-fruits were to be taken to the temple, and given to the priests.  Yet, the land was now following Baal, and the king was sponsoring the priests of Baal, and had forbidden the worship of the Lord.  So, what is he to do?  He decides that since he can’t obey the letter of the law, he will obey the spirit of the law.  And he takes some bread and some grain and treks quite a distance to the servants of God at Gilgal.  And there he presents it to Elisha.

That is faithful service.  And here . . .

We see sometimes

How God provides –

Help can arrive to

God’s beleaguered people

From unexpected source.

There was a famine, food was hard to come by, although over at Baal-Shalisha things seem to have been a bit easier, and from the place where there is food, God sends to the place where there isn’t.  And here we see also . . .

The duty of believers

Who are experiencing plenty

To look out for those

Who are in need,

Not just nearby,

But far off.

Here is faithful and thoughtful service.  He has already made some of his grain offering into bread, so that it is of immediate use to the prophets.  And he has left some as corn so that they will be able to make bread as the days go on, because if he made it all now, it might have become stale.  Here is a thoughtful believer.

And yet when he arrives, he finds that his thoughtfulness in serving God has backfired a bit.  Perhaps he should have made all the grain into bread after all.  Perhaps even then it wouldn’t have been enough.

But he is about to learn a marvelous lesson:

What looks impossible to us,

Is not impossible to God.

Where our resources

Are at their end,

God’s haven’t even begun

To be exhausted.

Elisha heard God say. “There is enough.”  And the impossible met God’s Word, and the servants, the man from Baal Shalisha, and the prophets found out that God’s Word is more certain than what is before our eyes.  God supplied.  God provided.  The inadequacy of the man’s offering was overruled.

From this . . .

  • We learn that when we give to God, or when we seek to serve God with what little we have, we just don’t know what sort of a miracle we will end up being involved in.
  • We learn that when we labor for God and we are disheartened by our inadequacies, our insufficiencies, our shortfall, and our complete lack, that our God is able to supply what is lacking.

When we stand before someone whose life is falling apart and the gospel seems such a paltry thing to be telling them, we learn that God can take that gospel and use it to fill all their needs.

When we bring our 20 loaves of Bible knowledge to a person who has 100 deep and searching questions, we learn that God is able to take our answer and make them sufficient.  Go ahead and speak . . .

  • God can take what you say and use it to start someone thinking.
  • He can take it and apply it to their conscience and their conscience awakes and starts to accuse them
  • He can take what you say and bring to mind things they heard long ago.

Christ can supply our inadequacies.

Oh, how we need to learn this lesson!  When we are weak then God is strong.  The Bible tells us in 2 Corinthians 12:9, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.  Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.

When we are insufficient

Then we are in an ideal situation

To find that God is sufficient.

But how?  By calling on God,

By acknowledging our

Weakness and our inability.

At almost every turn we see that our Savior is much greater.

Elisha fed 100 men                                      Jesus fed 5000

Elisha had 20 loaves.                                  Jesus had 5.

Elisha had some left over                           Jesus had 12 basketfuls

Elisha did it by God’s power                       Jesus did it by His own power.

God is God.  And He is the same yesterday today and forever. And when we are in need, or inadequate, or mistaken He will provide.

And we see here also in these two miracles a picture of the gospel.  A man whose deadly mistake is covered over by God, and a man whose offering was utterly inadequate and God provides what is needed.

Some of you reading this blog need to hear this.  How you are living your life at present is like this man in the first miracle.  You think you are doing good, but in fact you are in grave danger.  You think you are gathering up treasure for yourself in Heaven, when in fact all the good that you do will condemn you to Hell. You need God to work a miracle.  You wouldn’t be foolish enough to eat poisonous plants, but you are gobbling the poisonous leaves of the tree of good works.  You are badly mistaken.  And the poison will kill you forever.  You need Christ to transform what is poisonous into what will give life.  You need to go to Him like the prophets did and ask Christ to change you, save you, and rescue you from this spiritual death.  Let God cover your mistakes, your errors, your faults, and your sins with His blood.

Like the man in the second miracle bring your life’s efforts to God. and say, “Lord, here are all my decent works that I have done with my life.  They will never be sufficient to please God.  Had I a hundred lives to live and fine tune each one of them, I could never get it right.  I need You to provide the righteousness that I have failed so badly at.  I ask Your forgiveness; give me Your life and power; provide for me too!”  And if you do, you will find that God will provide, and Christ will cover your sins with His blood, and will replace your good works with His perfect righteousness and you will be able to stand accepted before God .

We learn here that our daily needs, whether its bread, or stew matter to God.  And we learn that God will need all our needs “according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus.”  We learn that he will not always do it in the same way.

These miracles that we have looked at in this chapter point us forward to the day when we will see the wonderful richness of God’s provision in all its glory!

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.”

GraceForTheJourneyBottomOfPagePicture

 

Our All-Sufficient Savior, Part 1

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

17Mar  Gladys Aylward, missionary to China more than fifty years ago, was forced to flee when the Japanese invaded Yangcheng.  But she could not leave her work behind.  With only one assistant, she led more than a hundred orphans over the mountains toward Free China.  During Glady’s harrowing journey out of war-torn Yangcheng … she grappled with despair as never before.  After passing a sleepless night, she faced the morning with no hope of reaching safety.  A 13-year-old girl in the group reminded her of their much-loved story of Moses and the Israelites crossing the Red Sea.  “But I am not Moses,” Gladys cried in desperation.  “Of course you aren’t,” the girl said, “but Jehovah is still God.”

When Gladys and the orphans made it through, they proved once again that no matter how inadequate we feel, God is still God, and we can trust in him.

There are times in the Christian’s life when we feel utterly inadequate.  There are times when trouble comes and we simply can’t cope, we are in too deep, but we learned that “My God will meet all your needs out of his glorious riches in Christ.”

But there are other times when our inadequacies show through in different ways, other than just being inadequate to face trouble.

  • The times we had an opportunity to share the gospel and we didn’t know what to say, or how to answer them.
  • When we are asked to speak or teach and we know our presentation and words weren’t great or even incomplete.
  • When we have a conversation with a friend and we want to point to God’s help and hope but we stumble and stutter because we feel so inadequate.

If we let this sense of inadequacy get to us, then the devil will have been successful, and we will be driven to despair, and not attempt anything again.

It’s refreshing to hear the apostle Paul, and man immensely gifted, and experienced – he was trained as well as anyone could be trained, and yet, he asked, “And who is sufficient for these things?” (2 Corinthians 2:16).

The verses we will look at today deal with times when our efforts are marred by our mistakes, and when our labor is insufficient due to our shortcomings.  And in both cases, we see a wonderful truth that Paul lays down in 2 Corinthians 4:7, “But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.”

Gods provision extends

To our inadequacies

As well as our needs.

In 2 Kings 4:38-44, God provides two Old Testament miracles that help us see two powerful truths.

1) Christ Can Overrule Our Mistakes.

In Verses 38-41, the Bible describes a time when there was a famine in the land.  Famine was God’s judgment on the wicked nation of Israel.  Is famine always God’s judgment on any nation? No.  But in Israel’s case it was part of Israel’s national constitution – the covenant.  In His covenant with Israel, God had decreed blessings for obedience and curses for abandoning God’s ways. Famine was one such sign of God’s wrath.  And so, there was famine in unbelieving Israel.  We read in these verses that the godly prophets also experienced the famine

Elisha arrives and is teaching the prophets and he instructs his servant to put on a big pot of stew.  One of the prophets heads out into the fields looking for extra herbs to put in to bulk it up a bit, and to add some flavor.  He finds a wild vine, gathers several gourds from it, and hurries back to the kitchen.  He doesn’t take the effort to find out what kind of fruit it is.  He chops them up and dumps them into the stew.

Then the rest of the prophets come in, and the meal is served out. It is not hard to imagine the pleasure on the face of the prophet as they get a little extra in their bowls.  But then a shout goes up, “There’s death in the pot!!”  Whether someone recognized the poisonous vegetable, or whether they had taken a taste we don’t know.  But in an instant, they go from having a great meal to eat to not having anything to eat.

That doesn’t sound too serious to us.  Normally they could just prepare another one.  But these are days of famine.  Food is scarce.  Providing food isn’t a matter of spending a few moments in a supermarket and additional minutes in front of the stove or oven.  It may take a large part of the day to gather enough food together to make a meal.  All that effort has been wasted, but more important, precious food has been spoiled.

How do you think that young prophet feels now?  I am sure he might have had thoughts like, “I should just have stayed in bed today.  I can do nothing right.  Now everyone’s upset with me. I always get it wrong.”

And then Elisha stands up.  He asks for flour.  He dumps the flour into the pot and then stirs it in.  I am sure the young prophets are wondering, “What difference will that make?”   The vegetables are still in the pot.

We shouldn’t think of this

As some sort of magic,

Nor should we think of Elisha

As some sort of early scientist

Who has figured out that

The properties of this flour

Can neutralize the effects of this poison.

It is just another visual symbol

That it wasn’t Elisha that changed the stew,

It was from miracle-working hand of God.

It was a symbol that the men would remember all their life, as they ground the corn to make flour, as they used flour to bake bread, you can almost hear them saying, “Do you remember the time Elisha threw the flour into the stew, isn’t God great?”  And then the man of God, to whom they have cried out for help, speaks again, “Serve it to the people to eat.”  And as they start to eat, perhaps somewhat cautiously, they find that there is nothing harmful in the pot!

I wonder how the young prophet feels now?  The meal was no longer wasted – it had been redeemed, rescued from the rubbish pile.  Can you feel his relief and gratefulness?  His labor had been marred, ruined, it had been a sincere, but dangerous mistake.  And yet, God overruled his error.

Have you ever found that?  You have sought to act in a Christian manner towards someone, and you have only succeeded in alienating them.  You thought you were doing something right, and you have only succeeded in hurting them all the more.  And you think to yourself, “I should just have stayed in bed, I can do nothing right.”

  • Perhaps as you have tried to live out the Christian life as a witness in front of family, friends, or work associates, you have made mistakes, and you feel, “I’ve blown it, I’ve ruined it.”
  • Perhaps you have tried to set an example to other Christians, and now you realize that you were wrong in what you did. And it’s too late to undo it.
  • Perhaps someone has come to you for advice, and you have sincerely given them advice, and when you check with another Christian you find that you have told them the wrong thing. And you feel so discouraged.
  • Or perhaps you have dealt with your children in a certain way – you thought it was the right way at the time, but now with hindsight you see that it was detrimental.

Is there anything you can do in these circumstances?

Do exactly what the prophets did – In verse 40 they cried out to God’s official representative.  We are to do the same – Cry out to our great prophet, the one who intercedes for us before God – Cry out to Jesus.

It seems awfully ineffective doesn’t it?  You’ve been talking to someone and trying to explain the gospel and you are so nervous that you mess up on several points, and it’s all topsy-turvy and you stumbled in places, and you left out bits you shouldn’t have, and I say to you, “Go home and call out to Jesus.”
What’s the point?  Surely what has been said has been ineffective?  What good will praying do?  It’s about as ineffective as throwing flour into a pot of stew.  The vegetables are still there. But . . .

We have a God who is powerful,

And Who delights to show

His power through our weakness.

And you can pray to him, “Lord, take what I said and make them remember the bits that are important, and make them forget the bits that aren’t.  Take what I did and bring good out of my mistake Lord.  Take what I said and use the good.  Lord you know I was only trying to serve You, I thought I was doing what was best, but now I see how wrong it was.  Please overrule my mistake.”

And here is the wonder of having Christ as our Savior . . .

“God works all things for the good of those who love Him.”

Romans 8:28

This isn’t to say that we can be careless or even sin with abandon, and God will follow around after us and clean up.  But . . .

When we have sincerely

Sought to serve Him,

And in our weakness,

Or ignorance,

Have got it wrong,

We can come to God

And the power of God

Can overcome our mistakes

As surely as He

Overcame this cooks blunder.

What an encouragement it is to see that the Lord does not allow our errors to derail His kingdom or destroy His people.  How many times does Christ cushion our folly, redeem our errors, and neutralize our stupidity?”

And there is a wider application here.  Even the mistakes that we have made in sinfulness, perhaps before we became Christians, or even when we were Christians, Christ can overrule them and turn them for good.  Some of you may have made wrong decisions in your past and you have to live with the consequences of those decisions, but you have a Savior who doesn’t undo the past, but who overrules the past, and can turn these things for good.  So don’t despair, get on your knees and seek His intervention.

We will look at the second powerful truth in tomorrow’s blog.

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.”

GraceForTheJourneyBottomOfPagePicture

Dangerous Amazing Grace

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

16Mar  The Bible tells an amazing story in 2 Kings 5:20-27 about Elisha’s servant, Gehazi; after seeing Elisha tell Naaman , commander of the army of the king of Syria, how to be cleansed and forgiven and then refuse to take anything from Naaman; Gehazi says, “Look, my master has spared Naaman this Syrian, while not receiving from his hands what he brought; but as the LORD lives, I will run after him and take something from him.”   I want us to look at this passage of Scripture today

Before we get into the truths of this passage, let me introduce to you 4 men . . .

  • Fritz Saukel – Nazi Head of Labor and Supply, described as the greatest and cruelest slave driver since Pharaoh, who worked millions of slave labourers to death without mercy; 2) Field Marshall Wilhelm Keitel – Chief of the Supreme Command of the Armed forces. His unquestioning obedience to Hitler led to his being responsible for more deaths than anyone could count.
  • Wilhelm Frick – Minister of the Interior, a vicious hard-line Nazi who title covered up his reign of terror.
  • Joachim von Ribbentrop – Hitler’s Foreign Minister, who had greeted King George VI with a “Heil Hitler”.

Each man was on trial at the Nuremberg War Crimes Tribunal. Each man was found guilty of the most horrendous crimes against mankind.  Each man was sentenced to be hanged.  As Ribbentrop was asked for his last words by the executioner, he said, “I place all my confidence in the Lamb who made atonement for my sins.” And he turned to the Christian who had been assigned to be chaplain to the condemned men and said, “I’ll see you again.”

Saukel the slave driver, and Keitel the head of armed forces made similar statements, and Frick the man who terrorized hundreds of thousands informed the chaplain that he too had come to faith in Christ.

The chaplain was a man called Henry Gerecke, who wrote, “I have had many years experience as a prison chaplain and I do not believe that I am easily deluded by phony reformations at the eleventh hour.”

It would seem that these conversions were genuine.  And these men, despite their hands being red with the blood of millions are going to be in Heaven . . . and your very nice neighbor who would do anything to help you, and who is the picture of decency and moral integrity is going to Hell because he does not admit his sin and receive forgiveness and eternal life from “the Lamb who made atonement for (his) sins.”

That is the shocking nature of the gospel.  It cuts both ways . . .

It is so wonderful and powerful that

If a mass murderer accepts it,

They will be saved.

But . . .

It is so important and precious

That the most decent person

Cannot get to Heaven without it.

The Gospel is a sword that cuts both ways.  It cut Naaman free from his idolatry and pride, but it also cut Gehazi out of the people of God.

With Naaman we see

The transforming power

Of the gospel,

But now with Gehazi

We see the exposing power

Of the gospel.

It is amazing grace,

But it is dangerous amazing grace.

And from 2 Kings 5:20-25, we learn a great truth and two very important warnings.

The great truth is: God IS too easy on us!

Gehazi was right in verse 20.  Let me remind you of the story… Naaman had his sins forgiven and his leprosy washed away, Elisha wouldn’t allow him to give him anything.  Gehazi is outraged because it is outrageous!  And although Gehazi is a wicked and greedy man he still makes a profound statement here.  Of course, he doesn’t react in a right way to what he says, but nevertheless it is still true.

Think about it for a moment. God is far too easy on us.  Every day for all of your life you have disappointed and disobeyed God.  One sin is enough to see you cast out of His presence.  But we haven’t just sinned once, we have sinned many times each day in what we have thought, in what we haven’t thought that we should have thought, in what we have said and what we haven’t said, in what we have done and what we haven’t done.  So, there’s an absolute bear minimum of 6 sins per day.  That’s over 2000 per year.  Take your age and multiply it by 2 and add the word “Thousand” at the end.  If you are 10 that’s 20,000 sins, if you’re 25 that’s 50,000, if you’re 40 that’s 80,000, if you’re 75 that’s 150,000.  And those numbers are based on the ridiculous idea that we only sin once in each of these areas each day.  They’re far too small.  So . . . before the perfect holy God is the vast mountain of your personal sin.

And we need to remember that each sin is a personal offence against God.  It is a personal insult to Him.  And what does he do when you come seeking forgiveness for this vast mountain of wrong? What does he require of you?

To come and repent.

To admit your sin

And be sorry enough

To turn from it.

And to believe

What He says

About himself

And for that . . .

God removes all the guilt

And all the punishment

That was waiting for us.

Gehazi was right!

God is far

Too easy on us!

It was His complaint . . . It should be a source of unending wonder for us.

Think of what we get – we get eternal life.  At most we follow Him for a few short years, and He gives us eternal life!  The reward is vastly out of proportion to the service.  And all the more, when we realize that those who turn to Christ at the end of their lives receive the same eternal life!  So, it’s not as if we earn the eternal life by following.

We who are dust get to live in eternity forever – we who are an offence and a stench to the nostrils of God – that’s ridiculous, wonderfully ridiculous.

Gehazi spoke the truth,

But

He didn’t see

The wonder of it.

Those of us who are Christians need to take this opportunity and stop to wonder at the greatness of God’s grace.  It is utterly amazing.  God could ask the world of us, and it still wouldn’t be enough to pay for one sin.  Yet, all He asks of us is that we repent and receive . . . Turn away from our sin, look to Him, and accept what He has done in Christ.

God has been far too easy on us.

 It is a magnificent, wonderful,

Soul-enriching truth.

And that explains what happens in this passage.  But let’s consider the rest of the truth conveyed in this passage.  Since His grace is such a magnificent and amazing act . . . there are two very important warnings to consider . . .

1) God will not tolerate his grace being distorted

That’s main thrust of this section.

Elisha has worked with Naaman

To make the point that

God’s salvation costs nothing.

It is just as free to Naaman

As it is to any Israelite.

That’s the whole point of him refusing Naaman grateful reward. He knows that when Naaman arrives in Damascus, people will ask . . .

The obvious questions,

“What happened to you?”

He wants Naaman’s answer to be,

“The God of Israel saved me,

He made me clean.”

“How much did it cost?”

“Nothing

The God of Israel

 Saves people for free.”

 Gehazi is livid that Elisha has taken nothing from Naaman. Gehazi is determined to make Naaman pay.  It doesn’t matter to him that Elisha has been trying to teach Naaman a very important biblical truth.

So he goes off after Naaman with this made up story about two prophets arriving in great need.  And of course Naaman gives him the money and the clothing . . .

Naaman is so thankful

For his new life,

And his new salvation

That he’d do anything for God,

And for God’s people.

And in a moment Gehazi undoes all that Elisha had taught in verse 16.  In a moment he distorts the grace of God.

Now we may think that we would never do that.  But . . . what was you first thought when you hear about the Nazi war criminals earlier in this blog?  Did you not think?  “That’s not fair, they should be made to pay.”   If you did . . . you are in danger of making the mistake Gehazi made.

The grace that is amazing

Is also dangerous.

It is dangerous if we forget

That we didn’t deserve it either.

The simple truth is none of us deserves anything from God.  The Gospel is monumentally unfair.  It is unfair to God – in that He should have to pay for something He didn’t do so that we could get something that was never ours.

We distort God’s grace every time we add anything to the gospel.

  • You’ve got to be a Christian and wear the right clothes.
  • You’ve got to be a Christian and come from the same background as us.
  • You’ve got to be a Christian and be the same color of skin as us.
  • You’ve got to be a Christian and not done anything really terrible in your past.

Have you ever done that – assigned someone to a second class Christianity because you find out that they did something awful before they became a Christian?  Or because they have been divorced?  Or because they married someone who isn’t a Christian?  Or because they don’t have the same theology as you?  Or because they don’t have the same pedigree in the church that you have?

No matter what background a person has – all God requires is to recognize our sin, repent of that sin, and receive the pardon and life that God offers.  When anyone does that, they are a child of God, equal with every other child of God.  There are no second-class citizens of Heaven.  And pride has no place in the believers life. The only thing a Christian can say is “That could have been me.”

But, here is another important truth to consider . . .

Just as we must not

Distort God’s grace

With regard to others,

So we must not distort

It with regard to ourselves.

There are some Christians who are immensely hard on themselves – they look at who they are and they feel that they couldn’t possibly be accepted by God.  They feel that they are some sort of second-class Christian.  We’re not to do that to ourselves.  God has said that we are His children, and we must not distort that grace.

God’s grace is utterly amazing.  We are all undeserving, and He makes any repentant sinner a son or daughter with all the rights and privileges of a child of God.  We must not distort something so wonderful.

And the second warning is this:

2) God will not tolerate those who ignore His grace

In this chapter we see that you can be amongst the godly and be ungodly yourself.  You can have experienced all sorts of blessings, like Gehazi –

  • He had seen countless miracles,
  • He had heard countless sermons,
  • He had lived in close proximity to a very godly man.
  • He had been a part of many blessing from God.

Yet he was far from God.

And that is a solemn truth.  You can be far from God while at the same time being very close to God’s people.  You can attend church; live in a home with other Christians; your closest friends can be Christians; and you still be far from God.  You can have the opportunity to see and hear about God’s grace and ignore it.

And you may even fool many people. I ‘m sure the other prophets didn’t suspect Gehazi of being anything other than a full-bodied believer.  I’m sure that the woman at Shunem, or the widow thought Gehazi was a was a believer.

But God was not fooled.  And we see that He made it clear to Elisha that Gehazi was a deceiver (verse 26).  It is important that we notice what Elisha said to him, “Was not my spirit with you when the man got down from his chariot to meet you?  Is this the time to take money, or to accept clothes, olive groves, vineyards, flocks, herds, or menservants and maidservants?  Not only did God see what Gehazi had done when no-one was looking, but He knew exactly what he planned to spend the money on.  And he revealed all of this to Elisha.

This is a great Bible warning – Look how close you can be to the kingdom of God and yet not be in it.  Do you see what has happened in this chapter?  We started with Naaman the Syrian, the leper, and Gehazi the Israelite.  We end with Naaman, the true Israelite, and Gehazi with his heart set on the things of Syria, the leper.  There has been a complete reversal.  The Israelite receives the curse, and the pagan receives the blessing.  And the story that started with an unconverted pagan and a professing believer, ends with the roles changed, and Naaman professing faith, and Gehazi condemned.

Some of us need to look into our hearts today and marvel that God has dealt so easy with us.  Some of us need to repent of wrong attitudes and superior feelings.  Some of us need to need repent of ignoring God’s grace.  God’s grace is amazing, but the grace that is amazing is also dangerous if we distort or ignore it.

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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Holding Fasts To The Gospel

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

13MarSome things are so central to a product that if they were removed or eliminated it would cause a major disruption among its patrons.  For example . . .

  • Imagine an Oreo without cream filling.
  • Imagine McDonalds without calories.
  • Imagine basketball without Michael Jordon, Koby Bryant, or Labron James.
  • Imagine the Patriots without Tom Brady or Patrick MaHomes.
  • Imagine Washington without corruption.

I think you catch my drift.

This past year, however, some companies and corporations have been making changes to things central to their identity.  As a result of changing long-standing tradition, major ripple effects have been felt through their consumer base.  Consider the following:

  • Miss America without a swimsuit contest.  In July 2018 it was reported that the Miss America pageant was eliminating the swimsuit competition. No matter what one thinks of these ladies parading on stage in limited clothing, there is little question that the swimsuit has been a key component of the contest since 1921. As a result of eliminating an almost 100-year tradition of the pageant, the report said that “nearly half of Miss America’s board has quit or been forced to resign.” Wow. It appears that messing with tradition can cause a revolution.
  • Dunkin without Donuts. Dunkin Donuts shocked the market last year when they rebranded themselves, dropping “Donuts” from their name.  From now on they shall ever be named “Dunkin.”  An article called “Dunkin’ Fans Say Losing the Donut Leaves a Hole,” reported that people around the nation were outraged by the change.  Robert from Pennsylvania said, “I’ll call them Dunkin’ Donuts until I die.” Ariel from Massachusetts said, “What are you Dunkin’ if there’s no Donut? Many agree with these two customers.  The Donut is so fundamental to the brand that no matter what they call themselves, a lot of people will forever call them by their original name.
  • Valentine’s Day without Candy Hearts.  Who can forget those colorful, heart-shaped candies which always sweetened Valentine’s Day – “Be Mine.” “Love Me.” “Dear One.” “Kiss Me.” “True Love.” “My Baby.”  Well, I have really sad news for all you sweethearts.  A recent news report said: “For the first time in over a century, the original conversation hearts aren’t rolling off conveyor belts.” The disruption in production of heart candies was caused by the candy-maker Necco going out of business.  News of Valentine’s Day without Candy Hearts crushed consumers around the nation.  Jamie from California said, “My childhood is dying little by little.” Olivia from Virginia spoke of the “raw emotion of losing something that’s a bedrock to society.”

Far more disturbing than Valentine’s Day without heart-shaped candies is . . .

The existence of a local church

Without the gospel of Jesus Christ.

The gospel, which is the clear teaching

Of the life, death, resurrection,

And exaltation of Christ

Is central to the

Identity of the Church.

In fact, any institution that calls themselves a “church” but does not hold fast to the gospel, stops being a church.  They have simply become a religious institution that meets occasionally and encourages their people to model good behavior.

That is not the Church that Jesus gave His life to redeem.

Of central importance to the identity of the local church is their commitment and dedication to announce and live out the gospel of the Lord Jesus.  That is the cream of the Oreo.  That is what makes a church, the Church.

Over the years, entire denominations that once held firm to the gospel have departed from the central claims of Christ and have removed the very thing that makes them the Church.  In January of this year, it was reported that leaders of the United Methodist denomination is expected to split.  According to the report, church leaders agreed to spin off a “traditional Methodist” denomination, and allow the reminder of the denomination to permit same-sex marriage and LGBT clergy for the first time in its history.

This issue is simple – The future of the third largest denomination in the United States will be determined by their commitment or departure from the teaching of the Word of God and the gospel of Jesus Christ.  In fact, any church or denomination that removes the centrality of the gospel removes the very thing that makes a church, the Church.

Many Miss America fans are saying, “Put the swimsuit back into the pageant.”  Many donut lovers are saying, “Put the Donut back in the Dunkin’.”  Many romantics are saying, “Put the heart-shaped candies back in Valentine’s Day.”  And those of us who love God and are following His Word should be saying, “Put the gospel back in the church.”

May it be our prayer that every church holds fast to the gospel and that members of every local churches clearly display a commitment to Jesus Christ with their lives.

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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Where Has Civility Gone? Concern For A Culture Of Outrage

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

12Mar When I was younger, the trend of the day was a large picture book called Where’s Waldo?  Every page displayed an assortment of pictures that overstimulated the eyes with colored objects and chaotic disorder.  But hidden somewhere on the page was a little man named Waldo, wearing his rimmed glasses and a red and white beanie hat.  The game, of course, was to find Waldo in the midst of the chaos.

As I look at our culture today, I am overstimulated by all of the disrespect, name-calling, and unrestrained expressions of emotions.  In the midst of all the blogs, tweets, Instagrams, social media blasts, and political rancor I am left wondering, “Where’s civility?”  Civility has been lost in the midst of all the partisan rhetoric and name shaming.

We live in a culture

That seems to value outrage,

Intolerance, and disrespect.

The louder and bolder one shouts their message, the more “likes” they get on social media.

As the political contests heat up during this election year, I think it is important and imperative that we ask, “Where is civility?”  Even the word seems to be outdated and antiquated.  Think of it: when was the last time you used the word “civility” in a sentence?  Its synonyms include words like “politeness, courtesy, respect, graciousness, and good manners.”

Where are these important and needed traits in culture?

  • Where are the good manners from one human being to another?
  • Where is the graciousness of speech that treats others with respect even if there is disagreement?
  • Where is the courtesy where people of opposing sides at least have a posture of politeness to their common man?

I wonder how long we would have to look at culture before we begin to see civility emerge.

A recent Wall Street Journal article was written about civility in American history.  The article examined where good manners have gone in America, citing a work from 1899 by Isaac Peebles called, “Politeness on Railroads.”  In that work, Peebles was aiming to “help Americans navigate a new mode of transport that had suddenly thrust people into close proximity – and to correct the evil of too great laxity of true politeness.”  In other words . . .

With Americans now rubbing shoulders

With strangers on a regular basis,

What rules should govern their interactions?

What standards of conduct should

People display toward other?

For Peebles, the starting point in 1899 was to “give special attention to the ladies, aged, feeble and the cripple.”  The primary posture of cultural interaction for Peebles was this: “Let all look after the interest of one another, assisting one another when necessary.”  In other words, Peebles called Americans to a standard of civility that would govern our social conduct.  That is good advice, but where is the power to be able to live in this way.  There are highly educated and cultured people who know better but have given in to the climate of the day.

The last two years the political discourse in our country has been push to new extremes of disrespect, intolerance, and outrage.  There is so little evidence of politeness and courtesy, it makes one wonder if it even exists anymore.

We may not be able to influence all of American culture, but we can influence our workplaces, homes, and neighborhoods with a spirit of civility towards one another.  God calls us to such attitudes and actions and the Bible teaches us that what God requires He provides.  I offer just a sampling . . .

Philippians 4:5, “Let your gentleness be known to all men.  The Lord is at hand.”

Colossians 4:6, “Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one.”

Titus 2:7-6, “Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us.”

That is what civility looks like in a culture of outrage.

  • It looks like our speech being “gracious.”
  • It looks like a life that models “good words and works.”
  • It looks like people who are “reasonable and respectful” in social interactions and on social media.

America needs a course correction for 2020.

This is one course correction that

We can implement in everyday life.

It is time to sort through the cultural outrage and reclaim civility, politeness, courtesy, repect, graciousness and good manners.  For Christians seeking to live by biblical principles, politeness “means more than graceful manners, courtly conversation, and rules of fashion. It was an inner disposition, a heartfelt sentiment that grows out of our personal walk with God and leads to a constant consideration for the honor and edification of others.”  What we need to reclaim is a heart and mind change that leads to attitudes and appraisals that honor and glorify God and has a constant aim for the uplifting and edifying of others.

As Christians . . .

We do this not as an end in itself,

But to display the glorious riches

Of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

We seek to show civility

Because the One who has redeemed

And changed us gives us the power

To love, respect, and seek to honor others

Who might think differently than us.

We seek to show civility because

We are children who represent

The most gracious God

Man has ever known.

We aim to be polite and reasonable

Because in doing so we stand

In sharp contrast with

A world of chaos and disorder.

Where’s civility in America?  If it is anywhere, may it be found in the people of God.

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

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

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

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

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The Tears Of Jesus, Part 3

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

9Mar  This is the third in my series of blogs on Jesus’ tears, and these tears are perhaps even more wondrous than the previous ones.  We read of these tears in Matthew 26:37ff.

The hour is late.  Christ has left Jerusalem with His disciples. They leave the warmth of the house and make their way out into the cold night, down into the Kidron valley and start to ascend the Mount of Olives.  At its foot lies a small grove of olive trees with a press for crushing the olives.  Here close by was the Garden of Gethsemane, a peaceful place where Jesus had spent many a time in prayer.

Jesus takes Peter, James and John with Him into the garden.  He begins to pray and soon His face is marked once more with tears. Why is He weeping?

In these tears Jesus

Displays for us

The agony He went through

To win our salvation.

Although we are not told of the tears in any of the gospel accounts, the Bible makes it clear for us in Hebrews 5:7, “During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, He offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the One who could save Him from death, and He was heard because of His reverent submission.”

And these perhaps are the most precious tears . .

Because in these tears we see

What we have been spared from.

We see the depths of

Jesus’ love for us,

And we see the awful price

He paid that we might be forgiven.

It is easy to lose sight of the immense personal cost that Jesus paid in winning our salvation.  It is easy to stand in the garden on the resurrection morning and gaze at Him standing majestically, but we also need to stand in the garden of Gethsemane and see Him struggle in agony at the thought of the cost He was going to have to pay.

What do these tears tells us?

These Tears Speak Of The Intense Sorrow Jesus Felt.

This was no usual sorrow.  Jesus was a man of sorrows.  The holy Son of God lived amongst sinful men and women.  He saw behind their masks of decency.  He lived a lifetime amongst the suffering caused by the fall.  He was a man of sorrows.  But this is unusually real and deep.

He was overwhelmed to the point of death, surrounded by grief and drowning in pain.  Mark in his account says Jesus was “greatly distressed.”  This word describes the sudden and horrifying alarm as some great terror approaches.  Like a man seeing a colossal tidal wave just about to hit him.  Luke calls it an “agony.”  So intense is His sorrow that He feels just inches away from death.  It wrings from Him great drops of blood-soaked sweat in the chill of the evening.

Never before, and never again

Was there a man so utterly

Immersed in misery,

Sorrow, and agony.

Just for us.

These Tears Speak Of The Awful Suffering Jesus Would Bear.

It was not the physical pain of the cross, immense though that was, which troubled Jesus.  In the Garden of Gethsemane an awful prospect was set before Him in a fresh light. What was it?

He is going to take the sins of His people on Himself.  In this moment it is as if all the sins He will have to bear crowd into his vision in the most glaring light.  Is it any wonder that He looks on this and shudders in utter abhorrence?  The awfulness of it swamps Him.  It sweeps over Him like a relentless tide of raw sewage that keeps on coming and coming and coming.  And He hasn’t got to Calvary yet where it actually happens, but this is just (if I can say just) the realization of the awfulness of it.

And that was not all . . .

Not only is there our sin to bear,

But there is something much worse

– The wrath of His Father.

The gracious smile of the Father was to be lost . . . Replaced with a face of holy judgement.  Here in the garden we see Christ is deep and terrible distress. The awfulness of what awaits Him crushes Him and the thought of facing His beloved Father and seeing the face He loved filled with holy anger against Him squeezes rivers of silent tears from Him.  It is pictured in Matthew 26:39 as a cup full to the brim with the undiluted wrath of God against evil.  This cup of unspeakable suffering is placed in Christ’s hands.  The anguish it brings causes tears to run in rivers down His cheeks.

So then, these tears speak to us of the unspeakable agony that our Savior faced on our behalf.

These Tears Speak To Us Of The Thanks Our Savior Deserves.

In verse 39, Christ prays, as He lies prostrate on the ground, “Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from Me. Yet not as I will, but as You will.”

Was He having second thoughts?  Far from it.  So awful was the prospect that in His sinless human nature He recoiled from the cup of wrath, from bearing the sin with every fiber of His being.  As one would do if approached with a red-hot poker.  But there was no weakening of His obedience.  In just a few moments He will say to the sword wielding Peter, “Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given Me?”

And here is the grounds for our thanks.

Although death and Hell

Were in that cup,

Although the prospect of it

Overwhelms him and leaves him

Gasping as the full brunt of it hits Him,

He will take that cup and

Drink it down to the last drop.

In this moment we see Christ enduring our Hell so that we might be set free to enter His heaven.  At unspeakable cost He will drink all of the cup.

These tears tell us how much

We owe our Savior,

How much we must love him.

There was a cup at our place, but He sat in our seat and drank our cup and turned and gave up His life for us.  He drank the cup of sin so that we could drink the cup of salvation.  He drank the cup of wrath so we could drink the cup of love and grace.

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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