Does Your Hope Disappoint?

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

6Nov  Since the beginning of time, mankind has been wrapped up in a hope that disappoints.  Do you know what it is?  It is hope in finding fulfillment, meaning, and significance apart from God.

It started with Adam and Eve when they decided

They wanted to live autonomous lives,

Apart from the grace, goodness, and glory of God.

And men and women have been doing the same thing ever since.

When your hope is in anything other than God is will always disappoint.

Self-sufficiency makes a poor savior.  So what is the hope that does not disappoint?  The Bible tells us in Romans 5:1-5, “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”

Make no mistake; if what you have been hoping in is disappointing you, it is the wrong hope.

Nothing in this world can do for you what only Jesus can do.

  • If your hope is in your career, you have the wrong hope.
  • If your hope is in your education, you have the wrong hope.
  • If your hope is in your network, you have the wrong hope.
  • If your hope is in your next business deal, you have the wrong hope.
  • If your hope is in your gifting, you have the wrong hope.
  • If your hope is in the applause of man, you have the wrong hope.
  • If your hope is in your marriage, you have the wrong hope.
  • If your hope is in your children, you have the wrong hope.

Hope that created things will do for you

What only the Creator can provide

Is utterly hopeless!

The Bible makes it crystal clear that

When we hope in God

We are never disappointed.

You see, when you place your hope in something you are connecting your identity to it.  What you place your hope in provides you with your meaning, significance, purpose, and ultimate identity in life.

Your hope becomes your savior,

Regardless of what you are hoping in.

That is why hope in anything other than God will always disappoint you.  Only God is big enough to satisfy your deepest needs, meet you in the middle of your darkest night, and deliver you from a meaningless existence from the time you were born until the time you die.

To hope is to be human.

We all need hope

And

We all place our hope in something.

Therefore, we all need to make sure

We are hoping in the right thing!

So what have you been hoping in lately?  Has your hope been unable to deliver?  Has your hope been unable to meet you in your place of deepest need?

The Bible tells us that when our hope is in God, something counterintuitive happens.   Our hope does not disappoint us, even in the middle of a season of suffering.  Most people think hope is connected to painless providences.  Not so.  The apostle Paul shows us that.  He knew firsthand that his hope would not disappoint, even in the middle of suffering.  Why?  Because His Savior was his hope and his Savior was in the middle of his suffering.  Paul did not need blue skies and sunshiny days to have hope, because his hope was in the only One who is worth hoping in: Jesus Christ.

The Bible drives this truth home over and over again.  Read the following passages of Scripture to get a glimpse . . .

Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the thought i have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘thought of peace and not evil, ti get you a future and a hope.'”

Romans 8:24-25, “For we are saved in this hope, but hope that is seen is not hope, for why does one still hope for what he sees?  But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance.”

Romans 15:3, “Now may the Gd of hope fill you will all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

Colossians 1:27, “To them God will to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.”

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

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

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

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

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The Result Of Living A Sacrificial And Surrendered Life

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

5NovIn today’s blog, I want to continue the through of living a sacrificial and surrendered life.  I want to look at what the Bible teaches about the place of “frankincense” in the offerings.

The Bible says in Leviticus 2:2, “He shall bring it to Aaron’s sons, the priests, one of whom shall take from it his handful of fine flour and oil with all the frankincense.  And the priest shall burn it as a memorial on the altar, an offering made by fire, a sweet aroma to the LORD.”

Nearly forty times in the Old Testament, God declares how pleasing the aroma of a burnt offering is.

This positive imagery of scent represents

God’s satisfaction in experiencing

The proper worship of Him.

In the meal offering, frankincense contributes to His satisfaction because it always accompanies the burnt offering.

Frankincense has a sweet fragrance, and honey a sweet taste, but the effect of heat – representing the pressure of trials – on them is vastly different.  Heat corrupts, breaks down, and eventually destroys honey.  This characteristic is probably why God did not permit its use in the sacrifices (Leviticus 2:11).  However, frankincense does not release its greatest fragrance until heat is applied.

Incense has a long history of use in offerings to God.  The priests used it daily on the incense altar, which stood directly in front of the curtain that separated the Holy Place from the Holies of Holies where the Ark of the Covenant, representing God’s throne, stood.  The incense billowed up in a smoky cloud, filling the rooms with a fragrant odor. On the Day of Atonement, the High Priest burned incense in the Holy of Holies itself before the Ark.

Isaiah 6:1, 4 describes the vision Isaiah saw of God’s heavenly dwelling place: “In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lifted up, and the train of His robe filled the temple. . . . And the posts of the door were shaken by the voice of him who cried out, and the house was filled with smoke.”

The imagery of the smoke of incense and its fragrance, representing the prayers of the saints is well known.  For instance, the Bible says in Psalm 141:2, “Let my prayer be set before You as incense, the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice.”  And the Bible says in Revelation 5:8, “Now when He had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each having a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.”

However, in the context of the meal offering, incense carries additional significance because of its overall meaning of dedication in service to man.  Notice Jesus’ words in Matthew 13:20-21, “But he who received the seed on stony places, this is he who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet he has no root in himself, but endures only for a while.  For when tribulation of persecution arises because of the word, immediately he stumbles.”

Incense portrays a person’s attitude during his trials endured in service to fellow man.  A person might be all sweetness and light until the hardship of service hits him, and he grows bitter and turns aside.

Frequently, a Christian’s trials involve people, often those close to him: relatives, business coworkers, or social acquaintances.  Nothing is more consistently difficult than interpersonal relationships.  The Bible says in Philippians 2:14-15, “Do all things without murmuring and disputing, that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world.”  Again, the Bible says in 1 Corinthians 10:10, “. . . nor murmur, as some of them also murmured, and were destroyed by the destroyer” (1 Corinthians 10:10).  Finally, the Bible says in 1 Peter 4:9, “Be hospitable to one another without grumbling” (1 Peter 4:9).

Frankincense represents the pleasant satisfaction God experiences when His children endure without grumbling the hardships of sacrificial, and surrendered service, especially to their brethren.

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

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

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

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

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How To Live A Life Of Surrender And Sacrifice

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

2Nov In today’s blog I want to look at the Old Testament teaching of the burnt offering taught in Leviticus 1 and 2 and see how Romans 12:1-2 helps the Christian apply this biblical truth to their lives.  I encourage you to read and become familiar with both passages.

The burnt offering is a picture of our offering ourselves totally to God.  The burnt offering had to be first cut into pieces to ensure that there was no defect in any part of it and then it was offered.  People could offer a bull, a sheep, a goat, or even a dove or a pigeon, according to their financial ability.  But each offering had to be without any blemish or defect.

The burnt offering is a picture of the way Jesus presented

His body throughout His earthly life to His Father

And then finally on the cross as well.

All through His earthly life, He kept His body perfectly pure in every temptation before He presented Himself to His Father as a sacrifice on the cross.

God would not have accepted Jesus’

Offering up of Himself on the cross

If there was a single spot of sin in His earthly life

During the previous thirty-three years.

This was why when He was hungry; He did not turn the stones into bread.  That would have been a sin, because the Father had not told Him to do it.  His life was one of total dependence and total obedience.  Jesus never did anything without the Father’s permission, even if it appeared to be a harmless thing like turning stones into bread to satisfy one’s hunger!

That is the standard of obedience to which God calls us.

And that is why Jesus’ life was so triumphant.

And why the Father was so delighted with Him.

Consider yet another example: In Luke 4:38-42, we read of a great revival in a town. The next morning the multitude pressed Him to stay.  But Jesus said, “No.”  Why? Because, before He met the people that morning, He had met with His Father in the wilderness and He had heard the voice of His Father telling Him to go elsewhere.  So He would not yield to the pressure of the multitudes but went where the Father told Him to go.  If He had yielded to the multitudes and conducted revival meetings, He would have sinned!

Have you got such an understanding of sin yet?

How many of us believe that conducting revival meetings could be sinful!!  That was the level of sensitivity to sin at which Jesus lived.  We normally think of sins as things like getting angry, having dirty thoughts, being jealous or bitter etc. These definitely are sins; but Jesus understood sin on a deeper level that we do.  When we get to understanding of the Bible’s teaching of sin as laid out in Romans 7:7-13, we will discover that a lot of things we never considered as sin earlier, now become sin for us.  When “sin becomes utterly sinful” (Romans 7:13), we can be certain that we are growing biblically and spiritually as we ought!

So when we look at Jesus’ life we shouldn’t think only of His death at Calvary, but also of His whole life where He presented Himself to the Father fully saying, “A body Thou hast prepared for Me…..and I have come to do Thy will O God.” (Hebrews 10:5,7).

Jesus never once did His own will in his body but only the Father’s.

This is what it means to offer oneself as a burnt offering to God.

This is what Paul exhorts us also to do in Romans 12:1-2, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.  And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”

This is the burnt offering.  It was presented to God and burnt completely.  The Bible says this was “a soothing aroma to the Lord” (Leviticus 1:17) – meaning something that God was very pleased with.  Paul said that his life’s ambition too was to “be well-pleasing the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:9).

When we present our bodies to the Lord, it is very easy to say, “Lord, I give my body totally to You.”  But we don’t know whether we have offered it all, until we “cut it up.”  We could be deceiving ourselves.

What does it mean to cut it up

And offer it piece by piece

As was done with the burnt offering?

It means that we offer our bodily parts

Piece by piece to God.

We say . . .

  • “Lord, here are my eyes. I have used them for the devil and for myself for the past many years, looking at and reading many things that offend You.  But I am laying my eyes on the altar now.  Never again do I want to use these eyes to look at or read anything that Jesus would not look at or read.  They are Yours from this moment onward – totally and completely.”
  • We go next to the tongue and say, “Lord, here is my tongue. I have used this tongue for the devil and for myself for so many years, speaking whatever I liked, telling lies for my own gain, getting angry at people and gossiping and backbiting against others and accusing them. But I never want to do all that any more. Here is my tongue Lord. It is Yours from this moment onwards – totally and completely.”
  • We go next to our hands and our feet and our bodily passions, one by one, and say the same thing: “Lord, here are the members of my body and my natural desires, with which I have sinned and hurt You. Never again do I want to use these to please myself or to satisfy my lusts.  They are all Yours, They are Yours from this moment onwards – totally and completely.”

 It is only as we cut each piece and

Lay them on the altar one by one,

That we discover whether we really are

Offering our body totally to God or not.”

When the offering is cut into pieces and laid out on the altar fully, then you can say, “Now, Lord, let Your fire fall on the sacrifice and consume it.” The Bible tells us in Leviticus 9:24, “And fire came out from before the LORD and consumed the burnt offering and the fat on the altar.  When all the people saw it, they shouted and fell on their faces.”  That fire is a picture of the Holy Spirit and fire that comes to consume our sacrifice and to set our bodies on fire for God.  But the fire never fell until every last piece of the burnt offering was placed on the altar.

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

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

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

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

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First Promise To Fallen People!

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

1Nov  Everything was good and going well in the Garden of Eden.  It was Paradise!  Until that fateful day.  Adam and Eve were made in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27) . . . but they weren’t satisfied with that most noble status, above and beyond all other created things (Psalm 8:4-8).  Our first parents grasped for more – they wanted to be God!  Their rebellion plunged all of creation into dishevel and corruption.

But God did not leave them there!

He made a promise to reverse the curse:

The Bible tells us in Genesis 3:15 that after Adam and Eve sinned God gave them this wonderful promise, ‘I will put enmity between you [Satan] and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; He (Jesus) will crush your head, and you shall bruise His heel.’”

 Here we find the Gospel proclaimed in Genesis . . .

God’s first promise was to

Send a Savior for sinners.

But notice that this is a two-part promise.

First, God said He will put enmity between the devil and the woman.  Why?  Because in the midst of a great relationship, Adam and Eve rejected God’s Word and accepted the evil insinuations of Satan as truth.  They were now on the run from God and in relationship with the devil.

 But secondly, God, in His infinite love, grace and mercy, refused to let the tragic story end there.  He promised to separate Adam and Eve from the serpent and to drive a wedge between them . . . and He would do it through a promised Messiah whose name is Jesus Christ.  The promised Messiah was on the way, and He would ultimately crush the head of the serpent on Mt. Calvary.

God would cause the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent to do battle.  And along the way to glory, the promise given to the Messiah about the striking of His heel is to be received by us too.  The powers of evil attack us and strike our “heel” often.

But we must remember that only our heel is struck, not our head.

The serpent’s strike will hurt, but it will not kill us,

Because Jesus took our death on the Cross.

How often we learn this second part of the Gospel promise by way of painful providence!   We are tempted.  We are tried.  We are tested.  And we fail those tests all too frequently!  The waves of challenge seem to crash over us day and night.  But through it all, we have a power in us that is far greater than any power that comes up against us.  The Bible says in 1 John 4;4, “Greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world.”  You and I shall be bruised . . . but never beaten.

To be sure, every time the devil strikes our heel we cry out and we limp a bit.  But in those times of pain and defeat, let us never forget the Bible’s first Gospel promise:

Victory is assured through our conquering King, Jesus Christ,

The young Prince whose final, triumphant victory cry from the Cross

Caused the earth to shake and the rocks to split open!

Are you limping today?  Then limp all the way into glory, knowing the whole truth of God’s promise to fallen man.

Our Lord was victorious in conquering every last one of our enemies,

Including Satan and even the ultimate enemy: death itself.

Let that truth strengthen your walk with Christ this day.

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

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

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

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

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How Should Christian Believers Respond To Halloween?

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

31Oct  Halloween is rooted in and remains a pagan holiday.  The ancient Catholic holiday of All Saints Day was November 1st, a day designated for the dead saints of the Catholic Church to be remembered and honored. And if the religious crowd was going to have a day for their dead saints, the pagans were going to have a special day, a holiday for “all things dead.”  The night before All Saints Day, All Hallows Eve (Halloween) was designated the time for goblins, ghouls, ghosts, and gore to be proclaimed, praised, and venerated.

When I was young, Halloween meant little more than a nighttime walk through our neighborhood in a simple home-made costume, “trick-or-treating” at our neighbors’ homes.  Today, however, Halloween has become a multi-billion dollar industry.  I read one estimate that total spending on Halloween could reach $7 billion!  Television networks and movie theaters feature horror movies throughout the month leading up to the “big” day.  Entertainment opportunities are endless, from haunted houses to elaborate Halloween parties in homes and businesses.

So how should Christian believers respond to Halloween?  By seeing the following . . .

1) The Gospel has set us free from superstition so that we can rest on revelation.

We are enlightened by the truths of the Gospel and empowered to live in its light.  One of these truths is that the principalities and powers of darkness are no more active on Halloween than any other day of the year.  Every day is a day that evil seeks to invade.

God says in Genesis 4:7, “Sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it.”

And the Bible says in 1 Peter 5:8, “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”

The Bible makes it clear that we Christians have a target on our backs that the devil is aiming at every day of the year.  We need not be any more concerned on Halloween than we are on any other day of the year; we should be sober-minded and watchful 365 days a year!

2) We need to remember that the devil is a defeated foe.

The Bible teaches that the devil is a defeated foe.  The Bible says in Colossians 2:15, “Having disarmed the powers and authorities, [God] made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.”

The devil is disarmed and defeated, but He is still doing everything he can to destroy, disrupt, and defeat what God is doing and wants done in His people’s lives.  The Good News is that the Bible reveals God is actually using Satan’s evil to advance the cause of the Kingdom of God.  This keeps us from locking ourselves behind our doors on Halloween for fear of the devil and his minions.  Police statistics make it clear that incidents of satanic-associated crime remain about the same throughout the year.

Another danger of Halloween is from the social problems that attend sinful behavior – parties with inappropriate behavior, pranksters, drunk driving, vandals, and sadly, something that is on the rise in this culture: unsupervised children.  And this is where the Gospel comes in.

3) The Christian community is to respond to Halloween with Gospel-saturated compassion and concern for the unbelieving, Christ-rejecting world.

Opportunities for evangelism are endless!  Some churches hold “Harvest Festivals” as alternatives to the traditional Halloween activities.  They invite neighborhood families and share the love of Christ.  Costumes are friendly and the only ghost is Holy.

Certainly, churches and individual Christians are not focus in any way on Satan, death, occultism, divination, and the portraying of spirits returning to haunt the living with grotesque costumes or appearance, displays, or activities.

Some Christians adopt a “no participation policy” when it comes to Halloween.  Entire families shun the evening: they don’t allow their children to trick-or-treat; they don’t give out candy; they don’t attend an alternative Christian event.  While some Christians judge this “abstinence” with raised eyebrows, this posture has also opened doors for evangelism, as parents explain their Christian motivation to curious unbelievers.

The Good News of the Gospel is that our dark, superstitious, and pagan world, God mercifully shines the light of the gospel.  Christian parents should be teaching their children (age appropriately) that:

  • There is a spiritual world filled with goodness from God and evil from Satan (Ephesians 2:1-10);
  • Life in Christ has power over darkness (1 John 4:4); and
  • Those who celebrate Halloween either are unaware of its roots, or are intentionally promoting a world where evil is lauded and viewed as an ultimate power.

To counter the evil influence of Halloween, we need to join together and celebrate the reality of the heroic efforts of Christian saints over the evil in their day.  Many leaders in the past and present have fulfilled the mandate of destroying the works of the devil through their sacrificial commitment to Christ and His Kingdom.

Rather than “hide” in the face of evil, we should unabashedly and boldly create an alternative that is positive and uplifting; that celebrates good over evil and the triumph of God over Satan. We need to provide an environment that also makes room for heaps of fun while using the day as a “teachable moment” to celebrate God’s protection, provision and purpose for our lives.

We are called to make a difference in this world by being different from this world, and one great vehicle for showcasing our love for Christ is how we choose to engage with the world during Halloween.  As Christians you and I are placed in this world to be a light in a world of darkness.  There is no lasting benefit to ignore a holiday that exists around us, but it also does harm to celebrate Halloween as it has originated and grown over the centuries.

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

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

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

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

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Faith Verses Fear!

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

25Oct  Science tells us that all babies have two inborn fears incorporated into their human DNA and their immature nervous systems:

The fear of loud noises

And

The fear of falling.

Other than these two fears, every fear we experience throughout life is acquired . . .  this includes . . .

  • The fear of closed spaces to fear of open spaces.
  • The fear of being abandoned.
  • The fear of public speaking.
  • The fear of darkness.
  • The fear of death.

Some of these fears protect us and others paralyze us.

So . . . how do we effectively deal with those fears that can paralyze us and prevent us from growing into the person God is calling us to be?  Here are two steps you can take toward victory in the ongoing battle between faith and fear.

Step #1: Remember the promises of God

An important aspect of this is,

We cannot remember the promises of God

If we don’t know the promises of God

And the only way to know the promises of God

Is to immerse ourselves in the Word of God.

How much time have you been spending God’s Word every day?  How many promises have you committed to memory?  Look at just three of the numerous promises in God’s Word . . .

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

“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?”  (Psalm 27:1)

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”  (2 Timothy 1:7)

There simply is no substitute for spending time in the Word of God if we are ever going to conquer our fears by faith in Jesus Christ.

Step #2: Keep your focus on Christ, not your circumstances

I know this is easier said than done, which is why Step #1 is so critical in this process. The single common denominator for those who focus more on Christ than on their circumstances is their knowledge and understanding of the Word of God.  Like the psalmist, they know that the best defense against fear is a good offense.  Listen to what the Bible says . . .

“I sought the LORD, and He heard me, and delivered me from all my fears.  They looked to Him and were radiant, and their faces were not ashamed.”  (Psalm 34:4-5)

Whenever I am afraid, I will trust in You.  In God (I will praise His word), in God I have put my trust, I will not fear; what can flesh do to me?”   (Psalm 56:3-4)

“I called on the LORD in distress; the LORD answered me and set me in a broad place.  The LORD is on my side; I will not fear.  What can man do to me?”   (Psalm 118:5-6)

Alexander MacLaren, an English minister of the late 1800s, put it this way . . .

“Faith, which is trust, and fear are opposite poles. If a man has the one, he can scarcely have the other in vigorous operation. He that has his trust set upon God does not need to dread anything except the weakening or the paralyzing of that trust.”

With a mind and heart filled with the Word of God, and with our focus fixed firmly on Christ (rather than our circumstances), faith will conquer any fear we face.

We have His Word on 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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The Way To Ultimate Victory, Part 2

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

29Oct Does your life seem like a constant battle between your will and God’s will?  Every child of God feels this way, because that is exactly what goes on inside us each day!

The Bible says in Galatians 5:17, “For the flesh (sinful nature) lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary the one to the other, so that you cannot do the things that you would do.”

To be sure, we are delivered from the dominion and reign of sin in our lives when we are united to Christ by grace through faith.  But sin remains in us all, and we all experience the tension Paul described to the Galatian Christians.

And this is an internal conflict between flesh and spirit – between the old and new nature.  And the strange thing is, that in this conflict the power and faculties of the Christian seem to be occupied at one time by the one, and at another time by the other.  The same intellect, will, and affections come under different influences, each seeking to control and direct our heart.

A tug-of-war seems to be the best way to describe the battle within for every child of God born of grace.  How often we feel like there are two opposing teams inside of us, pulling in opposite directions on the same rope!  Sometimes the good team wins and sometimes the bad team wins.  But in the end – for the one who has acknowledged that he is a sinner, that he cannot save himself, and have asked Jesus to forgive him of his sin and give him the gift of eternal life – we know that our victory has been assured, and the new, spiritual nature will prevail – not because there is anything special about you or me, but because of the work on the cross and empty tomb which Christ accomplished.

If we refuse to acknowledge the truth that we are in a daily, ongoing struggle against sin, we will not make any progress against it.  It is only by affirming the truth that there is such a battle that we are set free to take sword to our enemies.

As we look to Jesus as the One who is fighting on our behalf,

We rest in the truth that the Bible declares in Romans 6:14,

“Sin shall not be your master,

Because you are not under law,

But under grace.”

We are not to be mastered by sin,

Because sin is not our master.

Jesus is our Master . . .

But sin will seek to entangle us along the way to heaven.

However, enabled by the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit, we can claim the promise of Romans 6:12; 5:17-21; 6:6,12, “For if by one man’s offense death reigned by one, much more they who receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ.  Therefore, as by the offense of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation, even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life.  For as by on man’s disobedience many were made sinner, so by the obedience of One shall many be made righteous.  Moreover, the law enter, that the offense might abound.  But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound; that as sin has reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ” … “Knowing this that our old man is crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin” …  “Let not sin, therefore, reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts.”

We must remember that willpower will not win the battle for us;

We must always acknowledge and depend upon the power

That God has given to us in Christ to fight the good fight of faith,

Knowing that ultimate victory has been assured.

These words from the Bible should be a constant reminder of the tug-of-war we are called to each day we are on this side of the grave: “Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul.” (1 Peter 2:11)

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

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

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

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

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Are You Trusting In Your Might, Or Your Mighty One? Part 1

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

29Oct  A big part of a pastor’s job involves sitting at a table, coaching and counseling others.  I am continually confronted by situations where it becomes painfully clear that the root cause of a person’s distress is what he or she is trusting in – and I’ve found that far too many people are trusting in their own personal might.  The result is less than what we’d hoped for at best . . . and a train wreck at worst.

You see, we always have two choices in life: we can trust in our own might . . . or we can trust in the Mighty One!

The Bible says in Psalm 50:1-6, “The Mighty One, God, the LORD, speaks and summons the earth from the rising of the sun to the place where it sets.  From Zion, perfect in beauty, God shines forth.  Our God comes and will not be silent; a fire devours before Him, and around him a tempest rages. He summons the heavens above, and the earth, that He may judge his people: ‘Gather to me my consecrated ones, who made a covenant with me by sacrifice.’ And the heavens proclaim his righteousness, for God himself is judge.”

After reading a passage like that, it seems kind of silly to trust in our own might, doesn’t it?  The psalmist began his exaltation with three splendid divine names: Mighty One, God, and Lord.  How mighty is this Mighty One?  First, we see that from east to west, God rules over the whole earth. Next we see that our Mighty One has fire at His disposal, a fire of righteous judgment that devours before Him, while a tempest rages around Him.

We know from the Book of Psalms that none of these things are random or beyond God’s sovereign hand; lightning and hail, snow and clouds, stormy winds, all these do His bidding (Psalm 148:8).  He makes flames of fire His servants and rides on the wings of the wind (Psalm 104:3-4).  He, and He alone, can command the lightning bolt precisely where it should strike (Job 36:32).  Indeed, He is a Mighty One!

God is in control of all things, and uses all things for His glory and to accomplish His purposes.  But there is more!  We learn from the Bible that this Mighty One has made a covenant with His people.  A covenant is a solemn agreement between persons; when one of those persons is the Mighty One, you can count on it to be fulfilled and you can trust that it will come about.  So . . . we should never trust in our own might but always trust in our Mighty One!

  • In your weakness He is your strength.
  • In your brokenness He is your healing.
  • In your restlessness He is your peace.
  • In your pain He is your comfort.
  • In your doubt He is your truth.
  • In your fear He is your faith.
  • In your darkness He is your light.
  • In your uncertainty He is your hope.
  • And in your death He is your life.

Your Mighty One is your everything!

He is the answer to every question,

The solution to every problem.

As a father of four children, I can tell you that there is nothing that blesses me more than when they come to me for advice, help, or simply just to talk.  It blesses me, and I hope I am able to provide a blessing for them.  But how much MORE is our mighty, heavenly Father able to bless us when we come to Him!  And yet . . . all too often we trust in our own might and neglect coming to our Mighty One.  Or we think of coming to Him as the last resort, when all else has failed, rather than coming to Him right at the outset and then waiting confidently for His promised deliverance.

I pray that today’s message will remind you – and me – to reach out to the only true Source of might: our Mighty One.  Because God is a covenant-keeping God, you can trust in every promise He has made, including the one to never leave nor forsake you (Hebrews 13:5).

Now, that is a “might” worth trusting in!

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

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

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

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

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A God Near at Hand, Part 3

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

23Oct In Tuesday’s and Wednesday’s blog, we examined examples of the great God of heaven and earth interacting with His creation, interacting with, and participating in the lives of Adam and Eve, Noah, Abraham, Hagar, and Jacob.  Today, I want to continue looking at this great biblical truth.

The Old Testament contains many other examples.  For instance, God intervened in Gideon’s life, speaking with him several times over an extended period (see Judges 6 and 7), and He also appeared and spoke to Samson’s parents (Judges 13:2-21).  In both accounts it is apparent that they knew to whom they were talking, and their responses to this interaction with God is similar to those of Hagar and Jacob.

Since it is obvious that God was involved in the activities of people in Old Testament times, if He does not change (Malachi 3:6), should He not interact with people in the New Testament era?  The answer to that is obvious.  A survey of the New Testament makes clear that He has appeared many times to His people.  Of course, He lived for 33 years in the flesh and interacted with many thousands of people.  After His resurrection, He appeared to His disciples and to as many as five hundred at once (I Corinthians 15:4-7). Later, He spoke personally with Peter (Acts 10:10-16; 11:5-10), several times with Paul (Acts 9:3-6; 18:9-10; 23:11; II Corinthians 12:2-9; and to John (Revelation 1:9-19, etc.).

Beyond these recorded instances, The Bible makes a great comforting statement in Jeremiah 23:23-24, “’Am I a God near at hand,’ says the LORD, ‘and not a God afar off? Can anyone hide himself in secret places, so I shall not see him?’ says the LORD; ‘Do I not fill heaven and earth?’ says the LORD.”

To us, there should be no question about whether God is present with us.  He is not only watching what is happening in the world today as He ushers His plan to a decisive and awesome conclusion, but He is also intimately concerned about each of our lives. The Bible declares in Luke 12:7, “But the very hairs of your head are all numbered.” God is indeed aware, informed, moving within His creation – especially with us.

From what is recorded in the Old Testament, in these encounters God was physically present in a human-like form.  He was close at hand and worked with His people throughout that time.  But what about during the church era?  Have any of us in this age been contacted by God through a burning bush?  How many of us have physically wrestled with God at some point in our lives?  We have never heard of such things happening in our time, since it appears that God has ceased using such wondrous means to communicate with us – at least for now.

How do we know that He is still around and interested in us?  Is He still a God that is near?  Of course, He is!  Hebrews 13:8 is an echo of Malachi 3:6 on the subject of God’s unchanging nature: “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.”  He is still just as involved in His creation as always.

So, how close is He?  Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, all capture in words that God become flesh and lived a sinless life, healed the sick, taught His disciples, and give His life so that it would be possible for us to be reconciled with God.  Why would anyone ever think that God has left us when He has shown throughout history that He is right here, intimately involved, sacrificing Himself to bring about His purpose?

What the Bible says in 1 Corinthians 3:16-17 helps us to dial in on just how near He is: “Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him. For the temple of God is holy, which temple you are.”

1Corinthians 6:19-20 repeats and expands the thought: “Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.”

Jesus’ sinless life and subsequent death upon the cross enabled those who would be convicted of their sin, convinced of the need to accept Christ, to repent of their sins and received God’s gift of forgiveness and eternal life.  This justifying work and the gift of the Holy Spirit allows us to approach His very throne and enter His presence at any time through the covering blood of Jesus Christ our Savior (Hebrews 2:17; 4:16).

Throughout human history, God has preserved His Word, the Bible.  We now have access, not only to the written Word of God through which He most definitely speaks to us, but we also have access to His Spirit and to a merciful and faithful High Priest (Hebrews 2:17), the Forerunner who paved the way that we might be brought into this wonderful relationship with God.  In addition, Jesus tells us in John 14:19-24 that He and the Father are not just with us but in us.  God cannot be any more involved in our lives than that!  The God we worship is not a distant, remote Deity but intimately involved in His creation and especially in the lives of His people.

We can take comfort in knowing that God will never leave us nor forsake us (Hebrews 13:5).  He is present and working with His creation, working with and in us (Philippians 1:6.  And how long will He be doing this?  The Bible tells us in Ephesians 4:13, “Till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.”  By His nature, we know He is omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent.  His Holy Spirit resides in us, and He is ready and able to intervene.  Truly, our God is near at hand!

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

 

A God Near at Hand, Part 2

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

23Oct  As we saw yesterday, people have different ideas about God’s involvement in their lives and in His creation.  Deists believe that a Creator God exists but that He is disinterested in humanity and does not intervene in its affairs.  Of course, most professing Christians reject the deistic creed, holding that, conversely, God is intimately involved in His creation and especially with those whom He has called into His church.

In the early chapters of the book of Genesis, we see a pattern of God’s involvement with humanity, which we will continue to develop.  Yesterday we began by looking at Genesis 1:27-28 where the Bible begins to teach us a about God’s direct involvement with man and His creation.  Today we will look at additional passages of Scripture that reveal this truth.

2) In Genesis 6:13-24, God intervenes directly in human affairs, informing Noah about the violent state of mankind and instructing him to build the ark to save his family and the animals He would bring to him.  God proceeds to execute righteous judgment by causing water to flood the earth so that only the eight people that He had chosen are saved to live into the new era of human life.

3) Genesis 11:1-9 relates the story of the Tower of Babel, in which God’s sees the activities of man.  He is not idly standing back in the vastness of space just letting time tick on.  On the contrary, He is involved in observing the advancements of humanity, judging its deeds and intentions, and in this case, intervening decisively so that His plan would continue to move forward as He designed and at the pace He desired.

4) As we move forward in time, we see God speaking to Abram in Genesis 12:1.  We should not gloss over this.  Sometimes we read a biblical account but fail to grasp its full import.  But note in this verse that God spoke to Abram.  Their conversation was probably similar to what Adam and Eve experienced in the Garden of Eden.  God was present, talking with Abram, instructing him on where to go and what to do.  They had a personal, intimate relationship; God and Abram were friends (James 2:23).

5) Later in Genesis, the Angel of Lord appears and speaks to Hagar, telling her that He would make a great nation from her child (Genesis 16:7-16).  Keep in mind that God stood before Hagar, appearing as a mighty angel and directly addressing her.  Notice what she says in verse 13 once He has finished speaking, “Then she called the name of the LORD who spoke to her, You-Are-the-God-Who-Sees; for she said, ‘Have I also here seen Him who sees me?’ Therefore the well was called Beer Lahai Roi; observe, it is between Kadesh and Bered.”

Notice her response is, “You are the God Who sees me!”  She is amazed that God was interested in, and would make something of an insignificant Egyptian maidservant.

6) In Genesis 17, the Lord appears again to Abram, who falls on his face as God tells him more about the covenant that He is making with him and instructs him on how he should conduct his life from then on.  The Lord changes his name to Abraham, letting him know that many nations will descend from him and make him exceedingly fruitful.  The Lord is not a God who stands back and lets things happen!   He is not passive in the least; when He wills to do something, He takes direct and personal action.

7) In Genesis 18:1-15, He appears yet again to Abraham, this time accompanied by two angels, and He does not speak and quickly disappear.  He stays and talks with Abraham for hours – long enough for a fine meal to be prepared for Him from scratch and eaten!  This is not a God who is far away or for some reason has avoided interacting or intervening in His creation!

There are many other examples of this kind,

And

We have not yet exhausted the book of Genesis!

We will note one other example because it is helpful to demonstrate, not only that God personally interacted with many people, but also that their responses to their encounters with Deity can be instructive and inspiring.

8) This particular example of God interacting with an individual is found in Genesis 32:27-30, the account of God meeting Jacob as he returns to Canaan and begins wrestling with him.  We see that this encounter and response from Jacob is similar to what we saw from Hagar.

Those verses say, “So He said to him, ‘What is your name?’ He said, ‘Jacob.  And He said, ‘Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel; for you have struggled with God and with men, and have prevailed.’  Then Jacob asked, saying, ‘Tell me Your name, I pray.’ And He said, ‘Why is it that you ask about My name?’ And He blessed him there.  So Jacob called the name of the place Peniel: ‘For I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved.’”

Hagar’s response is more rhetorical – “Have I also here seen Him who sees me?” – but in the form of a question nonetheless, as if she could not believe her own eyes.  Jacob’s response, on the other hand, is matter-of-fact: “For I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved.”  He knew he had just had a personal, face-to-face, encounter with God – a long wrestling match and conversation.  That is awesome!

We will look at this truth further in the near future.  We will see that God’s interaction with human beings did not end with the close of the book of Genesis.

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.”