The Mission You’re On Makes You A Missionary

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

08Nov  What comes to mind when you think of the word “missionary”?  How would you define it?  Here is a sampling of dictionary definitions:

A person sent by a church into an area to carry on evangelism or other activities, as educational or hospital work.

A person strongly in favor of a program, set of principles, etc., who attempts to persuade or convert others.

A person who is sent on a mission, especially one sent to do religious or charitable work in a territory or foreign country.

These are solid textbook definitions for a missionary.  But the Bible details what makes a missionary in more specific ways.

What does the Bible teach a Christian missionary does?

A Christian missionary proclaims Jesus as Savior and Lord. Whom do they tell? Jesus made it clear that Christians are to reach out to “all the nations” (Matthew 28:19), especially those ethnic groups without a Gospel witness.  Unreached people groups are still waiting for the way, truth, and life found in Christ (Romans 15:20).  But Christians at home should be missionaries in their own communities, doing personal evangelism (Acts 1:8).

Missionaries do more than evangelism. The commission was to make disciples, not immature believers.  Thus, a Christian missionary’s outreach involves evangelism, discipleship, and church planting.  These main goals are accomplished in a variety of ways: street preaching, tract hand-outs, church building, Bible studies, teaching English as a second language, relief projects, children’s clubs, mountain trekking, literacy teaching, radio broadcasting, etc.

Why does a Christian missionary go?

Christian missionaries go in obedience to God’s call.  God called the apostle Paul.  Acts 26:16-18 says, ”But arise and stand on your feet; for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to make you a minister and a witness both of the things which you have seen and of the things which I will yet reveal to you.  I will deliver you from the Jewish people, as well as from the Gentiles, to whom I now seen you, to open their eyes, in order to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who are sanctified by faith in Me.”

Christian missionaries of this sort are both vital and valuable to expanding the cause of the kingdom.  They are a very special breed of Christian, who have been called and equipped for kingdom work, often in some of the most remote places and harsh environments.  They embody our Lord’s Great Commission to “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations.”  Every member of the church of Jesus Christ should be committed to supporting these mighty warriors of the Word.

But they are not the only ones

In the church

Who are called to be missionaries!

Far too many in the church today regard a missionary as someone else who has received special gifts and has been sent off into some distant land to reach out to a particular people.  When we think this way . . .

We remove ourselves from

The front lines of faithful living

Under the Lordship of Christ

And mistakenly assume it is

Someone else’s job to reach out

To the lost and broken people of this world.

This results in sleepiness of the soul

And a woefully weakened witness.

I would like to expand on the job description of “missionary” just a bit, so we can see that we are all missionaries who have been called by God into the mission fields – right where we currently are!  Make no mistake, you are a missionary, no matter what your gifting, your education, or your vocation.

So . . . what mission are you currently on?  Is it a mission of expanding the kingdom of your Savior?  Or the kingdom of yourself?  Below are two primary marks of the Christian who is living for the Savior and not the self.

  1. “Other” Orientation – Living for the kingdom of your Savior is marked by being oriented toward others.  You put others first.  You consider others better than yourself.  You want to serve others rather than being served by others.
  2. Self-Sacrificing – Living for the kingdom of your Savior is marked by self-sacrifice, rather than self-protection.  Being inconvenienced is not an inconvenience.  Being discomforted is not discomforting.  Being troubled is not troubling.  A day well spent is a day spent in sacrificial service to others.

Putting others first and serving them sacrificially is the way we act out practically what we already are positionally.  When we locate our identity in Christ and not in the things of this world, we rightly see ourselves as missionaries, privileged to be serving our Lord wherever we are and in whatever way we have been equipped to do it.

We have been called to be the aroma of Christ to the world (2 Corinthians 2:15-16)—whether that part of the world be darkest Africa . . . or your local grocery store.  Every child of God is commissioned by God.  The Bible clearly tells us in Matthew 28:19-20, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have  commanded you …”

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

 

The Gender Rebellion: Trans, Cis, Bi, Gay, Fluid, and Everything in Between

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

7NovIt is no secret that there is a massive revolution taking place in Western culture.

It’s known as the Identity Revolution.

Namely, a revolution that

Is seeking to redefine

The self in ways never

Imagined in human history.

And like all revolutions, the language within the revolution is also changing.  Make no mistake, we are in the middle of a language war in Western culture.  Whomever controls the narrative, will control the culture.

The self is now largely an experiment in Western culture.  It is an individual project. We’re told that our identity is a personal and private choice made only by us.  We’re told that the self is fluid; and that it cannot be defined by anyone outside of our own sphere – and most certainly not by God!

It took a long time for this radical notion of the self to develop in history.  Numerous cultural and historical factors have given birth to this new concept of identity.  You have . . .

  • The rise of Darwin’s theory of evolution,
  • The emergence of existentialism,
  • And the rise of modern psychology and psychiatry.

You can’t have the modern notion of the individual and of the self without the looming influence of figures such as Sigmund Freud, Friedrich Nietzsche, or Jean Paul Sartre. You also have the arrival of the sexual revolution which has redefined virtually everything.

Today we are being confronted more and more with the following occurrences:

Hannah Holloway says, “I never really thought to myself, yes, I am a girl.  Or, yes, I am a guy.  I’m Hannah.”  Hannah’s story along with several others was reported in a recent edition of the Kansas City Star in the Arts and Culture section.  The Star devoted three full pages to the issue of gender identity.  Hannah and others want to be classified as nonbinary.  So, she doesn’t want to be called by the pronoun “she” but the pronoun “they.”

Another article discusses how the definition of transgender has continued to evolve.  Kasimir Hazelwood thinks “normal” is a meaningless word.  Hazelwood identifies as androgyne, someone masculine with feminine qualities.

Rogers claims to be “genderfluid.”  That means sometimes Rogers feels like a male and other times a female.  V is open to any sexual orientation and dates both men and women.  “I like the label queer,” says V, “because it is not clear cut.”

So, now the new controversy in our culture is gender identity.  This minority group is clamoring for gender neutral public restrooms, unisex locker rooms, and the right to identify however they choose on legal forms.  Some applications provide the choice “Male,” “Female” and “Other.”  Facebook now allows you to choose, “him,” “her,” or “their.”

How many others are there, you ask?  According to an ABC report they have identified at least 58 gender options.  They include bigender, pangender, transgender, Agender, intersex, Cis, Trans, and something called two spirit.  Don’t you miss the days when life was simple?  When there were just boys and girls.

All of this has led to a new definition of the word “safe.”  The word safe used to refer primarily to physical safety.  But the landscape has changed.  If you look at modern uses of the word safe – especially in education at every level – what you discover is that safe now means something very different.  Safe now has a meaning related to emotional safety or psychological safety.  The kind of emotional well-being that is now considered a fundamental human right.

SO … What do we make of all this?

I don’t claim to understand this confusion.  I’m not a psychologist or psychiatrist.  I’m a pastor/preacher.  So, but I do have the only reliable source to go to – I will offer a simple Bible explanation.

In a word, the Identity Revolution

Is rebellion against what

God has said in His Word.

The Bible teaches – a very unpopular thing to say for sure – that identity is not something that we manufacture on our own.  Identity is something that God defines.

We are

Who our Creator

Says we are,

And here

The Bible is very clear.

It tells us that every human being is born with a two-fold identity:

1) They are precious, being created in the image of God – either as male or female.
2) They are born into corruption and sin due to Adam’s rebellion.

Gender crisis and confusion exists because people have strayed away from God.  They have lost their spiritual identity.  And they have denied the Creator and His purpose for their lives.

Our society is on the fast track to becoming like the pagan culture Paul described in Romans chapter one. “…They knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened.  Professing to be wise, they became fools,  and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man — and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things” (Rom. 1:21-25)

The Bible says that in the beginning God created the first pair “male and female.”  He pronounced a blessing upon them and said, “Be fruitful and multiply.” (Genesis 1:27-28).  Later when Jesus was asked by the Pharisees a question relating to marriage,Hhe responded this way.

“Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.” (Matthew 19:4-6)

The Bible does not give us free rein to choose

Our sexual preferences and gender identity.

Our culture has taken something simple, and obvious, and made it so complex and complicated that it goes beyond the absurd!  Yet, “enlightened” educators, politicians, journalists and sadly some church leaders, nod with some kind of knowing empathy that everyone is entitled to their own beliefs, feelings, behavior and sexual identity or preference.

Our culture has lost its way.  The real crisis today is a crisis of values.  G. K. Chesterton was right when he wrote, “The danger when men stop believing in God is not that they’ll believe nothing; but that they will believe in anything.”

The solution is not to seek our gender identity, but to seek God.  To desire spiritual communion with Him.  And to accept who He created us to be.  These are undisputed facts according to God Himself.   What the gospel offers is a chance to have a new identity in Christ.  This is available to anyone who will own up to their sin (repentance),  humble themselves before God and admit their need, and receive God’s gift of life (abundant and eternal) by asking Jesus to be their Savior and Lord.  The gospel says that the only way to find peace with God, self, and others is to admit and confess that He was right after all when it comes to who you are.

Parents, preachers and Bible teachers must now emphasize to a new generation influenced by the confusion of their culture, that God created us.  He made us male and female.  He gave us distinct gender roles.  And that our body does not belong to us, it belongs to 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.”

GraceForTheJourneyBottomOfPagePicture

 

 

 

The Desired Life – Dead And Alive!

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

6Nov  If you were a notorious criminal in the days of the old west, someone like Billy the Kid or Jessie James, your name and picture might be printed on “Wanted” posters offering a reward for your capture . . . whether you were DEAD or ALIVE.  The law didn’t care if you were brought to the courthouse sitting upright on your horse or lying face down across the saddle.  The proclamation meant that anyone who chose to shoot you in the back without warning, as Robert Ford did to Jesse James in 1882, was entitled to a cash reward for doing so.  This was one poster you did not want to see your name on!

Today there is a similar “poster” that you DO want to see your name on – posted not by the law but by our Lord:

WANTED DEAD AND ALIVE.

Jesus wants you . . .

He wants you both dead and alive!

The irony of the Christian life – the first shall be last and the last shall be first; you must lose your life in order to find your life – is profoundly proclaimed in this peculiar saying: WANTED DEAD AND ALIVE.  The Christian life is to be marked by the following:

  • Dead to sin . . . alive to righteousness
  • Dead to evil . . . alive to good
  • Dead to self . . . alive to the Savior
  • Dead to worldly wisdom . . . alive to God’s wisdom
  • Dead to selfish ambition . . . alive to sacrificial service

What a remarkable condition

For the blood-bought child of God,

To be both dead and alive

At the same time!

The Bible instructs Christians to “consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus” (Romans 6:11).  Please understand that this does not mean that believers no longer sin.  To the contrary, 1 John, which was written to those who believe in the name of the Son of God, asserts that “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (1 John 1:8).  The only Christians who no longer sin are those who are already in glory with Jesus.

Paul’s instruction to the Roman Christians meant that we are to be dying daily to our old, sinful self and becoming increasingly more alive to our new, Savior-led self.  We are slowly being conformed to the likeness of Christ (Romans 8:29).  We should desire less and less of what this world offers and more and more of what Christ offers.

So . . . does this describe your life today?

To be sure,

Sin remains in the life of the Christian,

But it no longer reigns.

Jesus has taken over the throne of your life; He calls you to die daily to yourself and to live for Him.  When you are living for Jesus, you are able to live above and beyond your little kingdom, the one marked by self-protection, self-absorption, and self-reliance.  The grace of the Gospel frees you to expand the borders of your life past the narrow boundaries of physical comfort and personal concerns.  You begin living in a place where His goals are your goals . . . His plans are your plans . . . His desires are your desires . . . His purposes are your purposes.

This is living for the Kingdom of God; and this is the only place where life is worth living.

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

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

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

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

GraceForTheJourneyBottomOfPagePicture

Making A Eternal Difference

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

5Nov  The Bible says in Galatians 1:10, “Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ.”

Because we have been made in the image and likeness of God, we have been made to make a eternal difference in the world around us.  So . . .

The question before you and me today is this:

Are we truly making a difference that is eternal?

To be sure, there are many things that get in the way of making an eternal difference in the world around us.  One of those things is our tendency to be more focused on pleasing men than on pleasing God.  Make no mistake, people pleasers do not make a durable difference in the world!  They find their deepest satisfaction when others are pleased and accepting of them.  But this was not the life for the apostle Paul all about.  He writes under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit in Acts 20:24, “I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.”

These are the sentiments of a man who made an eternal difference in the world.  Now . . .

It was not that the apostle

Despaired of life itself;

Rather, he despised the thought

Of living life without Christ

t the center and circumference of it.

And he was willing to set all other things aside – indeed, he considered them “rubbish” (Philippians 3:8) – in order to pursue the faithful and fruitful service of his Lord.  Paul made no account of his life apart from the life that the Lord Jesus had called him to live when He appeared to Paul on the road to Damascus.

Paul’s goal was to accomplish

Or finish his course or race.

He knew am eternal difference

Would only be made when

He crossed the finish line of life

Having given all he had

And all he was as

A testimony to the Gospel

Of the grace of God.

Paul purposed to live a life for something bigger than just his life; he lived for His Savior. He refused to shrink the size of his life down to the size of his life.  Paul lived to please God, not man, and in doing so, he made am eternal difference as a disciple of Jesus.

Can the same be said of you today?  Are you making an eternal difference by the life you are living?  Your answer can be a resounding “Yes!” . . . if you are living your life for the glory of God and the good of others.

It matters not what your station in life is;

What matters is who you are living for

In your current station.

When you are living for Jesus and pouring yourself out for the advancement of His kingdom, you can know in no uncertain terms that the life you are living is making an eternal difference – in the world around you.

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

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

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

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

GraceForTheJourneyBottomOfPagePicture

The Gospel Garden

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

04Nov  God must really like gardens, because they find great importance in His sacred Word.  On the night He was betrayed, Jesus agonized over His coming death, to the point of sweating drops of blood, in the Garden of Gethsemane.  You will, of course, remember that it all got started for the human family in the Garden of Eden, where our first two parents were placed to care for and have dominion over their new home.

The Bible says in Genesis 2:15,22, “The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it . . . Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man.”

The paradise of the Garden of Eden was man’s first home.  But that quickly changed when Adam and Eve turned toward the self and away from God.  But God did not leave them to wallow in their dreadful rebellion.  He pursued them and promised to send His Savior to save them from their sins.  And in His grand salvation project, God has promised something very special for all His people:

The Bible says in Isaiah 58:11, “The LORD will guide you continually, and satisfy your soul in drought, and strengthen your bones; you shall be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail.”

Did you notice the last portion of that verse?  God says, “You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail?”

Here is a garden better

Than the Garden of Eden!

Here is a “Gospel-Garden,”

Where the water never runs dry.

In other words, God will forever be on the throne of our lives; sin and death will be no more.  To be like a well-watered garden is to be full of the life that can only come from the truths of the Gospel.  We are liberated to live lives of freedom, joy, and faithfulness to Jesus, because we live under the banner of His finished work.

The Bible says in John 7:37-39, “In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, ‘If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink.  He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.  But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing I Him would receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.””

To be a well-watered garden is to be saturated with the super-abundant power, life and blessings that flow freely from the Spirit of God.  And they will flow forever . . .

  • The blessing of total forgiveness
  • The blessing of unconditional love
  • The blessing of unbroken fellowship with God
  • The blessing of complete approval
  • The blessing of unimaginable joy
  • The blessing of unmerited favor
  • The blessing of unending life

Jesus is the caretaker of God’s Gospel-Gardner and we will be wonderfully taken care of in His Gospel-garden.  Nothing can ever come between us (Romans 8:38-39).  Our sins cannot separate us from the caretaker or the Gospel-garden.  Neither Satan nor his demons can separate us from the caretaker or the Gospel-garden.  Not even death can separate us from the caretaker and the Gospel-garden.

God has promised to complete the good work He has begun in us (Philippians 1:6), and what He has promised He will do.  How?  Through what He promised in Isaiah 14:27, “For the Lord Almighty has purposed, and who can thwart it?  His hand is stretched out, and who can turn it back?”

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

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

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

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

GraceForTheJourneyBottomOfPagePicture

Living A Sacrificial Life

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

01Nov

Do you think that sacrificial living is reserved only for those great saints we read about in the Bible and the annals of history?  Not true!   Everyone lives a sacrificial life.

The question that must be asked

And answered is this:

For what are we sacrificing?

Each day is made up of countless personal sacrifices, from getting up early to staying up late and pouring ourselves out all day long.  We sacrifice for whatever has captured and taken control of our heart.  And remember . . . What rules the heart shapes the life.

  • We sacrifice on the job.
  • We sacrifice for our families.
  • We sacrifice to build our retirement.
  • We sacrifice to buy that special outfit.
  • We sacrifice to be able to fit into it.
  • We sacrifice to go on that dream vacation.
  • We sacrifice to get an education.

So . . . what are you sacrificing for right now?  What is the shape of your life?  Each of us could create a lengthy list of the things we willingly sacrifice for.  So . . .

The issue is not whether we are willing to sacrifice,

But rather,

For what are we willing to sacrifice?

Our first priority in living a sacrificial life should be found in our desire to sacrifice for the One who willingly sacrificed Himself for us.

The Bible tells us in Matthew 27:27-31, “The soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the governor’s headquarters, and they gathered the whole battalion before Him.  And they stripped Him and put a scarlet robe on Him, and twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on His head and put a reed in His right hand.  And kneeling before Him, they mocked Him, saying, ‘Hail, King of the Jews!’  And they spit on Him and took the reed and struck Him on the head.  And when they had mocked Him, they stripped Him of the robe and put His own clothes on Him and led Him away to crucify Him.”

The sacrifice of our Savior was as radical as it was scandalous.  There was no worse way to die than to be nailed to a cross; we get our English word “excruciating” from the Latin word for “crucify.”  In the Roman Empire, crucifixion was reserved for the vilest of criminals – and never for Roman citizens, who by law could not be executed by crucifixion.  As Jesus hung on the cross; beaten, bleeding, and gasping for each agonized breath, the soldiers laughed, the crowd jeered, and His disciples hid.

Christ’s sacrifice on Mt. Calvary –

Which is the singular punctuation

Point in all of history –

Serves to inform, inspire,

And ignite every sacrifice

We make as His followers.

The Bible says in 2 Corinthians 5:14-15, “For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died; and He died for all, that those who  live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again.”

Jesus has called every Christian

To live a cross-driven life.

When we do, we are no longer controlled by those things that were never designed by God to control us.  We fix our eyes on things above rather than earthly things (Colossians 3:2).  We live for the advancement of His kingdom rather than our kingdom (Matthew 6:33).  We lay our lives down for our Savior, pursuing His purposes – rather than for ourselves, pursuing our passions.

When we sacrifice for the Savior, we live lives that echo in eternity . . . lives that will receive the ultimate acclamation: “Well done, good and faithful servant!”

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

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

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

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

GraceForTheJourneyBottomOfPagePicture

What Costume Will You Wear Today?

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

31Oct  I am not a supporter of “celebrating” Halloween.  This observance is firmly rooted in pagan tradition and continues to rise in popularity as a festival of the occult.  Our church has offered an alternative, called “HarvestFest.”  We invited the community to come and celebrate Jesus through games, contests, and candy that included biblical character costumes.  More recently we are participating through the outreach ministry of “TrunkNTreat” by providing treats including Gospel tracts and other items for the children.  We plan on using signs in the trunk that say, “Tis So Sweet To Trust In Jesus;” “Jesus, Sweetest Name I Know” or “Are You Fall – O – Ween Jesus?”

Back in my childhood, Halloween was little more than carving out pumpkins and a night out trick-or-treating with the neighborhood kids.  Today it is big business for adults and kids alike, including horror movies, haunted houses, and Halloween parties and celebrations of all shapes and sizes.

Because today is Halloween and likely we will have young, costumed visitors coming to our homes looking for candy, I thought I would write about the “costumes” we adults like to wear year-round.  And I’m not talking about the store-bought ones!

The Bible tells us in Genesis 3:1-13 that after they disobeyed God, Adam and Even constructed the first-ever “costumes in the Garden of Eden.  When their consciences were seared by their sin, they sewed fig leaves together to cover their nakedness and shame.  And when they heard the sound of God walking in the Garden in the cool of the day, they ran and hid.  This is the primary reason we wear our costumes.  We like to hide ourselves from the view of others.  We don’t want anyone to see what we are really like . . . as if our blemishes are unique to us.

God confronted Adam and Eve in love and not in anger, but instead of confessing their sin and seeking God’s forgiveness, they attempted to shift blame.  Adam blamed Eve and God Himself (“The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit . . .”); Eve blamed the serpent; and we all have been blaming-shifting ever since.

We wear costumes,

Seeking to cover our

Mistakes, shortcomings, and sins

– Which makes it easier

For us to blame others and God

For the predicaments

We find ourselves in.

Wearing costumes allows us

To keep from confronting

The real person

Underneath the mask.

This, of course, is a great comfort for all those who willing seek after satisfying the desires of the flesh rather than the Spirit.

So . . . what costumes have you been wearing lately?  What would happen if you took yours off?

The Gospel frees us to step out of our costumes, because – regardless of what others think of us – God’s love is as unchanging as it is unconditional.

Costumes enslave us;

The Gospel frees us.

Costumes blind to the glories of His kingdom;

The Gospel opens our eyes to see with the eyes of faith.

The Gospel liberates us from the need to hide

And when we are found out It rids us of the need to blame.

Jesus died to set the captives free, and in Christ we are free indeed to be exactly what we are: great sinners in need of an even greater Savior.

As fallen, sinful people

Living in a broken, sin-filled world,

We can step out of every costume

We wear for creaturely comfort,

Because the only true source of comfort

Is found in Christ.

What costume will you wear today?  Why not rest is the reality of being clothed in the righteousness of Christ?  With His robe of righteousness wrapped tightly around you, what else could you possibly need?

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

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

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

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

GraceForTheJourneyBottomOfPagePicture

500+ Years And Still Reforming

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

30Oct  Five centuries ago, an unknown Augustinian monk named Martin Luther rocked the world with his Reformation theology and preaching.  What started out as an attempt to engage in a debate turned into the greatest awakening in human history since the explosion that occurred at Pentecost.  It was the goal of Luther, John Calvin, and the other Reformers to reconnect Christianity to the original message of our Lord Jesus Christ and His Gospel . . . summarized in five Latin phrases, often called “The Five Solas,” which emerged out of the Reformation:

  1. Sola Scriptura – Scripture alone
  2. Sola Fide – Faith alone
  3. Sola Gratia – Grace alone
  4. Solus ChristusChrist alone
  5. Soli Deo Gloria – To the glory of God alone

In 1517, the front of the Castle Church’s door served as a large social media outlet in primitive form.  Long before the social media platforms of our day with smartphones and apps at our fingertips, Luther, and his colleagues would enter into friendly and passionate discussions by nailing documents containing their ideas on specific matters to the front of the Castle Church’s door.

Little did Luther know that God would have other plans for his Ninety-Five Theses.  Rather than a localized debate in the city of Wittenberg, Germany – those statements would spark a world-wide debate that would end in the unleashing of the Protestant movement.

Not long before Luther’s spark, a Roman Catholic named Johannas Guttenberg converted an old wine press into a printing press with moveable type. This invention would revolutionize the world of literature.  Little did Guttenberg know, but God would take a Roman Catholic’s invention and use it as a weapon against the Roman Catholic Church.  When Luther’s Ninety-Five Theses were printed on the moveable type press and distributed all around Europe it would spark a massive wildfire of controversy.

What began as an inner debate was now moving on toward a collision of two worlds.  As Luther saw it . . .

It was the gospel of Christ

In contrast to the false gospel of works

– Clearly seen in the selling of indulgences.

In 1521, Luther was summoned to stand before the imperial Diet in the city of Worms. Although his friends cautioned him against appearing, based on the fact that anti-Reformation protests had been taking place where Luther’s books were being burned in the streets.  Luther’s friends feared he would be burned too.  Nevertheless, he insisted that they travel to Worms and, in Luther’s mind, even if they must go through the gates of hell, he would appear there to defend the gospel.

When he walked into the room to stand before the royal assembly which included representatives from as far away as Spain, Italy, and various other places throughout Europe – the emperor Charles V was also present.

In front of the room was a table that contained all of Luther’s books.  The spokesman of the emperor demanded that Luther not speak until he was called upon.  Finally, pointing to a pile of books on the table, he asked, “Are these your books? If so, will you recant?”

After given a day to consider his answer, Luther stated emphatically that he would not retract anything he had written in the books and anything that he had said in his public attacks.  As Luther reasoned, the Emperor shouted “NO!” to Luther’s comments, but the poised Reformer continued to speak.  He insisted that if he is wrong, he must be refuted with Scripture – and he would be the first to burn his books.  Finally, one last time the spokesman of the emperor demanded an answer from the zealous monk, “Will you recant?”  It’s at this point that Luther said the following: “I am bound by the Scriptures I have quoted and my conscience is captive to the Word of God.  I cannot and I will not recant of anything since it is neither safe nor right to go against the Bible and conscience.  I cannot do otherwise.  Here I stand – may God help me. AMEN.”

Later he would tell a friend, “If I had a thousand heads I would rather have them all lopped off than to abandon my gospel.”

If the Ninety-Five Theses in 1517

Was the spark of the Reformation,

Luther’s stand at Worms

Was the explosion of the Reformation.

As Luther made his stand, we too must continue to stand in our day.  Recent findings from a new Pew Research Survey clearly demonstrate that American Protestants are distancing themselves from the fundamental biblical beliefs that undergirded the Reformation.  At the very least, American Protestants completely misunderstand what those beliefs actually are.

According to the research taken of professing American Protestants . . .

  • 52% believe faith and works are needed to get into heaven
  • 52% believe church teaching and traditions are also needed
  • Only 46% believe faith alone in Jesus is required for salvation (sola fide)
  • Only 46% believe that the Scriptures are sufficient for faith and practice

How far we have fallen in 502 years!

More than half of all professing Christians in America

Stated that faith in Jesus Christ alone

Is not enough for salvation;

They believe that faith in Jesus plus their good works

(Church attendance, acts of mercy and service, giving, etc.)

Are required for eternal life.

And more than half of all professing Christians in America

Believe the Bible plus the teachings and traditions of man or a religion

Are necessary for living a Christian life

That is pleasing and acceptable to God,

Rather than trusting in the clear assertion of 2 Peter 1:3

That the teachings of God’s Word

Has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness.”

And of 2 Timothy 3:17,

“That the man of god may be complete, thoroughly equipped”

for everything he needs in this life and the life to come.

Such an understanding, of course, is entirely unbiblical, running counter to the doctrines Sola Gratia (By Grace alone) and Sola Fide (By faith alone) – which are expressed in Ephesians 2:8-9, Romans 11:5-6, Titus 2:5-7 and elsewhere.

What has brought us to this sad station?  How did the wheels come off “The Truth Track?”  To be sure, there are many factors, including our sinful nature, a stubborn belief in universalism, an increasing desire for things below rather than things above, spiritual sluggishness, and biblical ignorance and conviction.

I am convinced that the men

Who stand in pulpits

All across our country

Bear the greatest weight

Of responsibility for our drift

Away from Reformation truths.

When pastors find it more important

To preach messages that meet people

At the level of “felt needs,”

Rather than true needs,

We have begun our return

To the Dark Ages.

The whole counsel of God is the light that must be directed into this dark and depraved world, not “gospel-lite” messages.

When the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth

Of God’s Word is no longer preached from our pulpits,

We allow the lies of the world, the flesh, and the devil

To infiltrate and infect our congregations.

And thus, it is no surprise to see survey results like these in a “cultural church” context that sees the average professing Christian attending church once or twice a month, abandoning any thought of attending Bible studies which would add another hour at church, and little or no time for family devotions and personal Bible Study.

And what starts as an infection that is barely visible festers and becomes an insidious disease that is emptying out our churches.  Why?  Because motivational messages, inspirational insights, and secular stories will not hold up when the storm winds begin to blow and the waves of challenge come crashing down on you.  And those storms come with great regularity!  As I frequently remind our church family, there are only three stages in life on this side of the grave.  Either you are . . .

In the midst of a storm,

Heading out of a storm,

Or heading back into a storm!

So, what is the way forward?  I would insist that, even after 502 years, . . .

The Protestant church must keep reforming!

We must reclaim the pulpit

For its intended purpose:

Preaching the wisdom

Of the whole counsel of God,

Not the wisdom of the world.

As we think about the need of Luther’s hour, we must look to our present day and consider the need of this present hour.

Today, we have far too much laziness in our American evangelical culture.  Too many Christians have capitulated on the idea of pragmatic church growth schemes in order to see their churches increase and become successful.

Today’s church is spiritually weak and superficial.

In many circles, it’s as if the mind

Has no place in worship.

Everything is driven

By feelings, emotions, and

Shallow theological clichés.

Jesus, in an answer to a scribe who asked about the greatest commandment, said the following, “And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength” (Mark 12:30).  God desires for His people to think.  Luther understood this point as a part of the discipleship commission (Matthew 28:19-20).  That’s why, when you travel all throughout Europe, you discover that as the Reformation spread – universities were setup to teach people more than economics and world history.  They were used to instruct people with the gospel of Christ.

That same thing is true with our first universities here in America.  Harvard was instituted to train ministers of the gospel.  Today, such institutions have been overtaken by liberals who deny the gospel of Christ and the teaching of the Word of God.  As we consider the fact that God is interested in our minds, we must not approach our worship with a mindless approach to Christianity.

We Need Courageous Preachers

Why was Luther’s preaching so relentless and bold?  Luther believed that preaching was a noble and serious task.  According to Luther, “The pulpit is the throne for the Word of God.”  Luther ascended the pulpit with the Word of God in complete confidence.  He pointed to the Scriptures and asserted at one point, “The Holy Spirit is the Author of this book.  They are God’s Scriptures and God’s Word.”

Luther was not approaching the weekly preaching of God’s Word

With a slapstick approach, in hopes to grow his following.

Luther had a following and it was based on

His unwillingness to compromise the true gospel.

Today’s evangelical church has a reversed trend.

Many popular preachers have a following,

And lead mega-churches, sadly because

They refuse to preach the gospel boldly.

The need of the hour is for bold preachers to confront the shallow and man-centered theology of our day with the true gospel of King Jesus.  No genuine reformation will happen without bold and courageous people who continue to uphold the true gospel of Christ to a lost and dying world.

John Huss understood the cost and he gave his life for the cause.  Luther would come 100 years later and put his neck on the line.  Tyndale would read Luther’s works and eventually become a believer.  He would dedicate his life to the translation of the Bible into English and as a result, he would suffer the flames of the infamous stake.  The Reformers were bold, their preaching was courageous, and their sacrifice was based on the true gospel of Christ.  They were not puppeteers or comedians.  They were preachers, Bible translators, and faithful Christians who obeyed God.

The health and strength of our local churches depends on a serious approach to worship, preaching, and missions.  Reformations don’t happen by accident. The need of the hour is for bold preaching to thunder from pulpits around the world by men who have great confidence that God’s Word will always accomplish God’s purpose and will never return void.

When we preach messages designed to tickle ears, meet felt needs, and fill seats, we forsake souls; God will call those who hold the privileged position of preaching His Word to account for their empty messages.

On the eve of the 502th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, it is my prayer that . . .

Every pulpit will become aflame

With the Spirit of God

And proclaim the inspired

Truth of Scripture alone,

Preaching salvation by grace alone,

Through faith alone

In Jesus Christ alone,

And to the glory of God alone.

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

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

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

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

GraceForTheJourneyBottomOfPagePicture

X-Ray Vision

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

29Oct  The Bible says in Hebrews 11:1, “Now faith is being substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”  There are many ways to define worldliness – from seeking all things below to being possessed by your possessions.  But here is one of my favorite definitions of worldliness: “a lack of the vision.”  What does that mean? Let’s take a look . . .

When I speak of a lack of vision, I am speaking about the ability to see the invisible.  We get so caught up in what is right in front of us . . . what we can see, hear, taste, touch, smell, and possess.  We often forget about the invisible world because the visible, temporal world all around us has gained our focus.  When we are focused on the visible, we eventually find ourselves afflicted by fear, anxiety, and doubts.  Yet, everything in the visible world is passing away; it is all in the process of decay (1 John 2:17).

The cure for this type of myopia

Is to have X-Ray Vision –

To be able to see through

That which is visible

To the invisible all around us.

It is to have the vision of Elisha.  When Elisha’s servant looked out in the early morning hours, he saw the city surrounded by the Syrian army of horses, chariots, and soldiers, and was stricken with fear.  Why?  Because he could see only the visible . . . and the visible said they were in deep trouble!

The Bible tells us in 2 Kings 6:16-17a that Elisha saw the invisible, “’Don’t be afraid,’ the prophet answered. ‘Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.’ And Elisha prayed, ‘Open his eyes, Lord, so that he may see.’  Then the Lord opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha. (2 Kings 6:17b)

Notice the prayer of Elisha for his servant.  He prayed that God would give him X-Ray Vision.  And when God answered His petition, Elisha’s servant saw what was previously invisible: the heavenly armies that vastly outnumbered the Syrian army, standing ready to do battle for the people of God.

This must be our prayer each day,

That we would be able to see

All that God has given to us

In the invisible realm.

Some of the greatest saints in all of sacred Scripture had X-Ray Vision, and followed the way of the invisible.

  • Elisha saw the invisible armies of heaven (2 Kings 6)
  • Abraham saw the invisible city of heaven (Hebrews 11)
  • Moses saw the invisible God of heaven (Hebrews 11)

To the extent that we can see that which is invisible, we will be able to rise above the visible and live and walk in the ways of our Lord!

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

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

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

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

GraceForTheJourneyBottomOfPagePicture

More Than A Feeling

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

28Oct

The Bible says in Psalm 51:6, “You desired faithfulness even in the womb; you taught me wisdom in that secret place.”  When you are walking out of corporate worship, how often do you hear someone say something like, “I was really moved today” . . . “The tears were really flowing”? . . . “My emotions were deeply touched today””

That can be a good thing,

But if our response to

The preaching of the Word of God

Stops at a feeling and does not

Move us on to faithfulness,

It is less than a good thing.

The goal of the Christian life

Is to go beyond feelings

And stop at nothing short

Of all-out faithfulness.

When we are truly stirred by the Holy Spirit, our emotions do not simply come and go. They come and go with the hands and feet of Christ.  Our emotions manifest themselves by extending the mercy of our Master to mend a broken heart.  The emotions go forth and express themselves by pouring out the grace of our God in delivering God’s grace and goodness to others.

Emotions that become the fuel

That ignites the fire of our faithfulness

Are emotions that have been delivered

To us from on high . . .

And for two reasons only:

For God’s Glory

&

The Good of All Others!

The Old Testament prophets were quick to condemn the emptiness of emotions that were not accompanied by an outward expression of good works.  It is very emotional to tear the clothing . . . to put on sackcloth . . . to heap ashes upon the head . . . and to sacrifice the fatted ram.  But when all of these outward expressions of emotion are not followed up with the faithful obedience of the heart, they are empty, shallow, and utterly devoid of meaning that would give glory to God.

May God give us the grace

To live out this profound truth

From the inspired pen

Of the prophet Joel,

“Rend your heart and

Not your garments” (Joel 2:13).

So . . . how emotional have you been lately in your worship of your God?  Have you walked out of church emotionally moved, but with no corresponding movement of obedience and faithfulness?

Let me close today with a word of great encouragement from Ephesians 3:16-17, “I pray that out of His glorious riches [the Father] may strengthen you with power through His Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.”

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

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

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

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

GraceForTheJourneyBottomOfPagePicture