Garland Of Grace – 07.19.15

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The Smitten Rock; An Old Testament Picture of Christ

“For I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that our fathers were all under the cloud and all passed through the sea; and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea; and all ate the same spiritual food; And all drank the same spiritual drink, for they were drinking from a spiritual rock which followed them; and the rock was Christ.” – 1 Corinthians 10: 1-4

One of the most striking Old Testament pictures of Christ is found in the story of Moses striking the rock at Horeb (Exodus 17:1-7). The people of God had been wandering in the wilderness, and God had intentionally brought them to a desolate place called Rephidim (Exodus 17:1). There, the people of God were filled with the fear of death by dehydration. Yet as Moses struck the rock with his staff, God provided water for the people to drink. Let us ponder together this beautiful Old Testament snapshot of our Savior.

To begin with, striking the rock met a need for the people of God. They were in need of water, and God graciously met their need. They certainly did not deserve this free gift of water; for they had been grumbling against Moses for leading them to such a dry and parched place. Yet as an act of grace, God provided the much needed water. And so it is with Jesus Christ the Rock. Even in the midst of our sinfulness, God graciously gives us His Son, meeting the greatest need we will ever have; the need for a Savior. We certainly do not deserve salvation, yet like the water from the rock, it is a free and unmerited gift from God.

Secondly, as Moses struck the rock at Horeb, he did so with his staff. Throughout the Old Testament, Moses’ staff was an instrument of judgment. It was used in striking the Nile River (Exodus 7:20, Exodus 17:5). It was also used in the plague of frogs (Exodus 8:5), the plague of insects (Exodus 8:16), the plague of hail (Exodus 9:23) and the plague of locusts (Exodus 10:13). Likewise, when God the Father struck Christ the Rock at Calvary, it was an act of an act of judgment against sin (Isaiah 53:5). And as Moses smote the rock, it was God who stood before him, reminding us that it was God the Father who smote God the Son (Exodus 17:6, Isaiah 53:10).

Finally, the rock only had to be struck once (Exodus 17:6). Moses did not have to keep striking it to bring forth water. It was not as if he was priming a pump. Multiple strikes were not needed. One strike was sufficient. And so it is with Christ the Rock. Christ was smitten of God only once (Hebrews 10:14). In Romans 6:9-10 the Apostle Paul wrote, “Knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, is never to die again; death no longer is master over Him. For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God.” Likewise, Christ does not have to die all over again every time we sin. His death was sufficient. He only had to die once, just as the rock at Horeb only had to be struck once. This truth is magnified all the more by an event that took place at the same rock forty years later. In Numbers 20, Moses struck the rock twice, but did so out of anger. It was an unnecessary action; for in that particular instance, all Moses had to do to bring forth water from the rock was simply speak the word (Numbers 20:8).

We know the smitten rock is an Old Testament picture of Christ because the apostle Paul said so in 1 Corinthians 10:1-4. Oh what beautiful New Testament truths burst forth from the pages of the Old Testament! My dear Christian friend, as you drink from God’s fountain of grace, find comfort in knowing that your thirst will be satisfied completely. Confidently hold on to the promise our Lord made to the woman at the well when He said, “Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again; but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life” (John 4:13).

 – Pastor Eric

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Garland Of Grace – 07.06.15

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Peter and the Two Fires; Flames of Flight and Faith

“But go, tell His disciples…and Peter…” – Mark 16:7A

When I think about the Apostle Peter, I think about of his love for the Lord. His unbridled zeal for Jesus is unmatched in the Scriptures; for it was a zeal that can only be likened unto hot burning coals. Undoubtedly, he was truly a man on fire for the Lord. Yet there were other times when his testimony appears singed and scorched by the flames of failure. These two extremes in Peter’s life can be clearly seen by contrasting two events, both of which were literally marked by fire. Let us take a moment and circle around these fires and have a little campfire chat about our friend Peter.

If there was ever a disciple that many of us feel a kindred spirit with, it is our dear friend Peter. His verbal blunders and spiritual inconsistencies reflect many of our Christian pilgrimages. Just like Peter, we all can testify to moments of great victory, and moments of defeat. The first fireside gathering found within Peter’s biography was stoked during one of the darkest chapters of his life. It is what I refer to as the flame of flight. In Luke’s gospel we read, “After they had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and had sat down together, Peter was sitting among them. And a servant-girl, seeing him as he sat in the firelight and looking intently at him, said, “This man was with Him too” (Luke 22:55-56). This passage records a particular event that happened soon after Jesus had been betrayed by Judas and delivered into the hands of Roman officials. And in the midst of all the chaos and confusion, the disciples had quickly scattered. Peter lurked in the shadows of the night following Jesus from a distance (Mark 14:54). But after going as far as he could, he found himself around a community fire pit. Peter was quickly recognized as a follower of Jesus Christ. And in the heat of the moment, Peter denied his Lord.

The second blaze that left a mark upon Peter’s life is found is the closing verses of the gospel of John. I refer to it as the flame of faith. The Bible says that when the disciples “got out on the land, they saw a charcoal fire already laid and fish placed on it, and bread. Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish which you have now caught” (John 21:9-10). This passage records the third post-resurrection appearance of our Lord to the disciples. The disciples had been fishing all night, but had come up empty handed. Jesus called out to them from the shoreline and asked if they had caught any fish (John 21:5). The disciples were initially unsure who had called out to them because it was early in the morning, and it was difficult to see the shoreline. (John 21:4). Jesus then instructed the disciples to cast their nets on the right side of the boat. Immediately their nets were overflowing with fish and the disciples had difficulty hauling all of them to the shore (John 21:6).  But as this miraculous event unfolded, Peter recognized Jesus. In a leap of faith, he leaped out of the boat into the water and swam to shore in effort to be with His Master and Lord. He was not concerned with what the others might say, nor was he concerned about swimming the distance to the shoreline. He simply knew that he could get to Jesus quicker by swimming than riding in the sluggish, dragging, fish-filled boat.  On the shore, Jesus had built a charcoal fire and was grilling bread and fish for breakfast (John 21:12-13). And it was while circled around this fire that Jesus poked at Peter’s heart with the piercing question, “Peter, do you love me?”

Our lives can be marked by the flame of flight when we try to follow Jesus at a distance and live in such a way that we deny Him as our Lord. Yet our lives can be marked by the flame of faith when we passionately follow Jesus. May these two fires remind us of how frail and fickle we really are, just like our friend Peter. Oh that we would be about the business of fanning the flame of faith and snuffing out the flame of flight!

 – Pastor Eric

Garland Of Grace – 06.30.15

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Change Is Thrilling, Not Threatening; The Joy of Being A New Creation In Christ Jesus

“Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.” – 2 Corinthians 5:17

Sanctification is the daily work of the Holy Spirit of God, setting you apart for His service. The moment you become a Christian, the sanctification process begins.  This means that God will begin to show you your sins of commission (things that you do that you should not do) along with sins of omission (things that are not in your life that ought to be present).  You are a work in progress (Philippians 1:6), and each day you should be making spiritual strides to be more like Christ.  The moment you give your heart to Christ, this transformational process begins. You will begin to walk differently, talk differently, think differently and act differently.  You will be delightfully different for Jesus!  Why; because you are a new creation in Christ Jesus. Because of this, you are to daily yield to God, die to self by exchanging old habits for new habits (Philippians 1:21), and put off the old so you can put on the new (Ephesians 4:22-24).

But this is not to say that when a person trusts Christ, they no longer wrestle with old and sinful ways. We will always fight our fleshly desires as long as we are on this side of heaven. For the battle we fight is not against flesh and blood, but the spiritual forces of the devil (Ephesians 6:12).  Our sin nature will be in opposition to this spiritual transformation, and we will not always submissively yield to the sanctifying hand of our Lord.  But there should still be spiritual progress.  Sure, you will occasionally take a step back spiritually, but in the overall grand spectrum of your life journey, there ought to be a forward progress in your growth with the Lord. You should be closer to God and more like Jesus right now than you were this time last year.  And the same thing ought to be said about the year prior year as well.

On two separate occasions, the apostle Peter addressed this need for individual spiritual growth.  He said that just like newborn babies, we are to yearn and long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it we may grow in respect to salvation (I Peter2:2). He also wrote that we are to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:18).  On a more corporate level, the apostle Paul in Ephesians 4:14-16 had the growth and development of the church in mind when he told believers that they were to “no longer be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; but speaking the truth in love, they were to grow up in all aspects into Christ who is the head of the Church.”

Christians are designed to grow spiritually. God did not design His children to be stagnant. We are to be moving forward in our spiritual pilgrimage.  We should grow in godliness, and it is something that should be seen as thrilling rather than threatening. But unfortunately for some, change is threatening. It is a threat because it ventures into the unknown. The familiarity of sin serves as a comfort, and the thought of abandoning sin can be uncomfortable.  Change can be hard for some people to accept, because it requires doing something new or omitting something old.

But this is where our faith in God must enter the picture.  We must submissively yield to the good and sanctifying hand of God, knowing that He has our best interests in mind (Romans 8:28) as we are changed for His glory (2 Corinthians 3:18). May this be our prayer; that we be a changed people, and see this transformation something that is thrilling rather than threatening!

 – Pastor Eric

Garland Of Grace – 06.22.15

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Embracing the Lordship of Christ

“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” – Matthew 11:28-29

As bizarre as this may sound to you, there has been a move in recent years in which theologians and pastors have been teaching that it is okay for someone to only accept Jesus Christ as Savior without submitting to Jesus as Lord.  The people that teach this see the need for a person to trust in Christ to save them from their sins, but that is where it ends for them. They see no reason to submit to His lordship and make Jesus Lord of their life.  It is a school of thought that is built around the idea that conversion only involves faith in Christ and not repentance from sin and submission to the Lord.  They base this upon the fact that there are some verses of scripture that only mention “faith” in the salvation experience such as John 3:16 and Acts 16:31.  But what these people tend to overlook is the fact that there are also verses that only mention “repentance” in relation to the conversion experience such as Acts 2:37-38, and Acts 3:19.  The reason why some verses only mention faith and others only mention repentance is because the writers of the New Testament did not separate the two issues.  Faith and repentance were viewed as one issue.  If one was mentioned, the other was automatically assumed.

To believe that one could be forgiven of sin (trusting Christ as Savior) but not have to forsake sin (submitting to His Lordship) is what is called “easy beliefism.”  It is a “gospel” presentation that involves nothing more than asking Christ for salvation from sins.  Repentance is left out of the equation.  I guess you can see how terrible this teaching really is.  There is no doubt that this concept of salvation is a very disturbing trend, and I wholeheartedly speak out against it; for genuine conversion involves faith and repentance.  It involves receiving Jesus Christ as Savior, and submitting to Him as the Lord over your life.  Salvation is not an either/or situation, it is a both/and, for it involves faith and repentance.  You cannot separate the two.  Both ingredients are involved when we are genuinely saved.

Jesus taught faith and repentance as well.  Consider our verse above.  Jesus invites sinners to come to Him by saying, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest” but then He immediately adds, “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me.”  You see, to come to Him involves taking His yoke upon us, and being placed under His guidance.  It means that we are subject to His direction, being obedient to Him and learning from Him, and that’s what it means to make Jesus Lord of your life.  I am truly convinced that if someone thinks that they can simply receive Jesus a Savior, and refuse to submit to His Lordship, then they are not genuinely saved in the first place.

Sure, this teaching would seem attractive to people in this culture that we live in that hates all forms of authority.  It’s attractive to think that one could be forgiven of sins and yet have no personal responsibility to repent of sin and submit to Jesus as Lord over their life. As Wayne Grudem puts it, “it is clearly contrary to the New Testament evidence to speak about the possibility of having true saving faith without having repentance for sin.”

Be careful and do not buy into this muckity muck involving a gospel message with no repentance. Satan would love for you to believe that.  Instead, come to Christ for salvation, and immediately strap on His yoke and submit to Him as Lord of your life. By putting on His yoke, you will indeed find that your wearisome soul will find rest.

 – Pastor Eric

Garland Of Grace – 06.16.15

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Nobility, Ability, And Authority

“Now Jesus started on His way with them; and when He was not far from the house, the centurion sent friends, saying to Him, “Lord, do not trouble Yourself further, for I am not worthy for You to come under my roof; for this reason I did not even consider myself worthy to come to You, but just say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I also am a man placed under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to this one, ‘Go!’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come!’ and he comes, and to my slave, ‘Do this!’ and he does it.” – Luke 7:6-8

We are all familiar with the healing of the Roman Centurion’s servant.  But what is fascinating to me is the fact that the centurion even sought after Jesus’ help in the first place.  To understand what I mean by that you have to consider the culture of that day, along with the surrounding circumstances. For instance, the centurion was a soldier trained to fight.  Jesus was a man of peace. He was a Gentile.  Jesus was a Jew. With that being said, the beauty of this miracle is the fact that the centurion overcame any existing social barriers and recognized three things in relation to Jesus.

To begin with, he recognized Jesus’ nobility.  This is evident in the fact that He referred to Jesus as “Lord.” The word Lord is the Greek word “kurios” meaning “Lord over heaven and earth.”  He went on to further articulate that Jesus was Lord by saying,  “I am not worthy for You to come under my roof; for this reason I did not even consider myself worthy to come to You.”  It was not that He thought that he was too good to meet Jesus; rather he thought that he was not good enough.  Thank about that!  A Roman officer, telling a poor Jewish rabbi that he felt unworthy to have Him enter his house!   This statement of humility carries great significance in light of the arrogance Roman soldiers of that day were known for.

But secondly, he recognized Jesus’ ability.  The centurion says, “Just say the word, & he will be healed.”  It is obvious that this man does not doubt the power of the very words of God.  He acknowledges Jesus’ ability to do anything.  What great faith this man has!  With his faith and with his words he recognized Jesus as possessing great spiritual power and was convinced that he would be able to heal his servant simply by speaking the word. This is a lesson for us today as well.  We ought to know the power of God’s words.  His word never returns empty or void.  His word is described as a two edged sword. With His words, God spoke into existence the entire universe.  And God in His sovereignty created everything simply by speaking it all into being.

Thirdly, he recognized Jesus’ authority.  He said, “I also am a man placed under authority.” You see, this Roman centurion was a man placed in a position of authority.  Because of this, it was easier for him to recognize the authority of Jesus.  Jerry Depoy said it best.  He said that “Although the centurion was a man of authority, he was also a man under authority. He had power of many men, but he did not have power over sickness, disease, and death. He believed Jesus had that power. He was willing to yield to the Lordship of Christ.” I am truly convinced that it was the humility of the Roman centurion that helped him submit to Jesus’ authority.  The centurion believed that diseases had to submit to Christ just as he had to obey his superior officer’s and those under his authority had to obey him. He believed that Jesus could command anything in creation, and that it would obey.

Take time out this morning and examine your life to see if you are reflecting the attitude of the Roman Centurion by recognizing Jesus’ nobility, ability, and authority!

 – Pastor Eric

Garland Of Grace – 06.08.15

Possessions

Stuffed With Stuff

“Then He said to them, “Beware, and be on your guard against every form of greed; for not even when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions.” – Luke 12:15

My wife Sarah is a school teacher, and every fall she recruits me to help her at the “fall-fest” carnival at her school.  One year, I ran the “dart and balloon” game.  Another year I did some sort of “bean bag basketball” game or something.  She has yet to do it, but I am waiting for her to try to recruit me for the dunking booth!  Such school festivals and carnivals have always intrigued me, for I find that they reveal what ridiculous creatures we humans really are.  For instance, I find it very fascinating how much money is wasted by the children on useless junk.  Maybe it is a ticket raffle or a game that calls for them to pay a fee, but they will do that activity over and over again until they finally win some cheap useless toy that is intended to be some sort of a prize.  And the irony of it all is the fact that the toy was in all probability purchased at a bulk rate at some dollar store.

Think about that; at such events children spend their every penny to obtain some cheap prize, a prize that will probably break before they even get home with it.  And if it does not break, the item will probably find itself in a garage sale within a year. It was a prize that only cost a dollar, but purchased by some naïve child for five dollars.

Now you might feel that I am being a little rough and possibly a little condescending towards children.  But it might be good for us to all look in the mirror.  May I suggest to you that we adults are not that different?  When adults shop, they oftentimes behave like children at a carnival and spend way too much on junk that they do not need in the first place, and they usually pay a lot more than what something is worth.  There is no doubt that one of the attributes of man’s sinful nature is the lustful desire for possessions.  Value matters not; we simply like to obtain things.  We like children, will blow money simply to accumulate more stuff.   Now obviously most adults do not see their purchasing habits from this perspective, but it might be good to start seeing things from this light.  Oftentimes I will joke with Sarah as we make a purchase of some sort.  I’ll say something like, “Yeah, this will be a great dollar item for our summer of 2018 garage sale!” My point is that we buy stuff we really do not need, and stuff that we do not plan to keep.

Do you have too much stuff? If you do, are you aware of the spiritual problems that it can cause? Jesus warned against greed along with any inclination to accumulate possessions. He goes on to say that the value of life is not based in material things.  We do live in a material world, and our society is stuffed with stuff, but we do not have to do the same. We are purposefully positioned in the world, but we are positioned in this world to be different than the world, not identical to the world.

Take inventory of your belongings, and see the truth that material possessions have no value whatsoever.  Adjust your purchasing habits, and make wise investments.  Don’t waste the money God has entrusted you with on needless junk.  This life is not to be treated like a game at a carnival.  Rather your life is to be an investment in kingdom things.

 – Pastor Eric

Garland Of Grace – 06.01.15

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The Fire Ants and the Hill of Fire; Poking and Prodding at Mounds of Sin

“A wise man is cautious…But a fool is careless.” – Proverbs 14:16

To every action, there is a reaction; at least that is what I learned in Physics back in high school. To put it another way, “to every action, there is a consequence to that action.” With this life principle in mind, I suppose we have all had moments in our life where we have acted without thinking of the consequences. The following story happened to me as a teen.

One fall afternoon while walking in my backyard, I found an ant hill crawling with fire ants that was bulging out of the soil of a particular flowerbed. It was the flowerbed positioned under the kitchen window. From simple observation, I quickly determined the mound of ants would be fun to disturb and disrupt. On that particular afternoon, I happened to be the only one at home, which provided me the freedom to destroy this heaping mound of fire ants any method my heart so desired. I considered all of the methods of torture at my disposal. After a quick inventory of all the contents in the garage, I determined gasoline to be my best option. I eagerly saturated the ants with gas in an attempt to snuff them out of their dirt mound home. They scurried around somewhat, and a few of them died, but I was still not satisfied. So I then considered lighting a match and setting the ant hill on fire, but feared that I might get burned since I had just poured about a gallon of gas on the mound. After all, “fire” would certainly be an appropriate method of torture for “fire” ants. It was at that moment, that another clever idea came to mind. I thought of a way to set the ants on fire, but be far enough away that I would not get hurt. Above the kitchen was a short platform roof where an upstairs guest bedroom opened up to. I thought to myself, “I’ll just go run upstairs and climb onto the platform, distancing myself from any harm, light a match, and drop it down to the gasoline saturated hill of ants.” So I did. I paused and lit one match. Everything was silent. Then I dropped the match down towards the ground on the ant hill. “Whoosh!” The small campfire that I had initially envisioned was instead an aggressive inferno pressing up against the side of the house. I panicked in disbelief, and quickly left the roof platform, crawling back into the house by way of the guest bedroom window. I bolted my way down the stairs, and headed towards the backyard. It took about five minutes to put out the fire. Let me just say that I am very thankful that there was a garden hose nearby.

An unbridled curiosity for sin can be a very dangerous thing. If not reined in, it can lead the believer to carelessly and haphazardly poke and prod at the mounds of sin the world has to offer. Instead, just as the proverb states in our text above, we are to live our lives cautiously and not carelessly. This principle would also apply to even the way we handle the temptation to sin. We all face the temptation to sin, and we will be tempted to do so as long as we are on this side of eternity. But we must aggressively put up a fight so that we do not give way to the temptation. As depraved individuals, we are naturally drawn to sin, just like a curious teenage boy is drawn to a mound of ants. Yet the believer must fight that temptation to tamper and flirt with sin. This means that we are not to recklessly play with sin as if it were some toy. Remember, I chose to play around with that ant hill, and almost set the house on fire. The best thing to do with sin is avoid it at all costs. Leave it alone. Don’t agitate it; just deal with it, and be done with it. Finally, make sure that the soil of your heart does not provide favorable conditions for mounds of sin to develop in the first place.

 – Pastor Eric

Garland Of Grace – 05.26.15

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Shining the Glory of God in the Campsite of the World

“It came about when Moses was coming down from Mount Sinai (and the two tablets of the testimony were in Moses’ hand as he was coming down from the mountain), that Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone because of his speaking with Him.” – Exodus 34:29 

I never want to be guilty of misrepresenting or misinterpreting a passage of scripture. I understand that Moses’ personal encounter with God on Mount Sinai recorded in our passage above was an unprecedented event; for he had been in the physical presence of God (Exodus 33:17-23) and had received the Ten Commandments (Exodus 34:27-28). For forty days, Moses met with God just as two friends would meet together. And it was this unique encounter with the true and living God that caused Moses’ face to shine. Therefore, I understand that this exclusive meeting was an isolated event recorded within the pages of God’s Word. Yet with that being said, I still believe that Moses’ appearance as he came down from Mount Sinai offers every believer a great lesson about the value and beauty of spending quality time with the Lord.

As Moses made his way down the mountain and returned to the Israelite camp, Aaron and the people of God were filled with fear because they had never seen anything like it before (Exodus 34:30). The face of their leader had changed and radiated with an indescribable brightness.  Moses had been communing with the Lord, and the meeting had left its mark upon His life.

Spiritually speaking, the same ought to be said about us after we have spent time alone with the Lord. It should be obvious to those around us when we have been alone with God.  Our lives should radiate the glory of God to all of the people that come our way. Just as in Moses’ story, our daily quiet time with the Lord can be likened to the mountaintop. This means that our life in the world is comparable to the campground located in the valley. And as we come down from our “mountaintop” experience with the Lord, the people residing in the “campsite” ought to be able to tell that we have met alone with God.

Arthur Pink said it best when he wrote, “We cannot keep company with the Holy One, without His impress being left upon us. The man who is thoroughly devoted to the Lord needeth not to wear some badge or button in his coat lapel, nor proclaim with his lips that he is living a life of victory.” Pastor Pink was right. When it comes to living out the Christian life, you should not need a badge or a button to signify your allegiance to the Lord. Rather, your personal countenance as you radiate the glory of God should be enough evidence. Just like a fire branding, God will leave His mark of holiness upon those who spend quality time with Him.

This means the believer’s life should be lived out as a beautiful praise song to the Lord.  It is to be lived out like a burnt offering to God, giving off the sweet aroma of His presence to others. And, as we see in our story, the believer’s’ life should reflect the Light of God. When people are in your presence, it will be obvious to them that you truly have been in the presence of the Lord (Acts 4:13). Charles Spurgeon accurately wrote that, “God is Light and they that look upon Him are enlightened and reflect Light around them.”

This reflection of the glorious Light of God calls for you to intentionally seek and treasure your personal time alone with God. And in these daily meetings with Him, soak up his holiness like a sponge so you can return to the campsite glowing with the glory of God. And while on the mountain, boldly pray as Moses’ prayed when He asked the Lord to show him His glory (Exodus 33:18). Let us pray together that those in the campsite of the world will see the holiness and glory of God shining from our lives!

 – Pastor Eric

Garland Of Grace – 05.19.15

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Isolation Is Not The Answer

“So that you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world.” – Philippians 2:15

I once heard a comical story about a shipwrecked sailor who had spent roughly three years trapped on a deserted island.  He was elated and overjoyed one day when he saw a ship drop anchor in the bay. As a small boat came ashore, an officer stepped off and handed the sailor a bunch of newspapers.  “The captain suggests,” he told the sailor, “that you read what is going on in the world and then let us know if you really want to be rescued!”

The apostle Paul reminds the early church at Philippi that they are called to light up the world, and are to do so even while living within the confines of a crooked and perverted society. Certainly these words of instruction apply to us as well.  I believe we would all admit that this world we live in is a very vile and vicious place.  Around every corner there is an underlying stream of sin flowing freely within the cisterns of society.  Sin has permeated our culture in such a way that values are no longer considered valuable.  The temptations of this world entice us like billboards on the highway of life.  Our world has become so sin sick that for many Christians, the suggestion of getting away from everything and living on a deserted island actually seems somewhat attractive. At least by living in such a remote environment, sin could be avoided with greater ease, and one could be shielded a little bit more from the ills of society.

But as inviting as such an arrangement might be, it is undoubtedly contrary to what the Lord would have us do. Instead, we are to be messengers of the gospel, illuminating the message of Christ as an active resident of this dark world. Just like a salt solution penetrates the ice on a road, we too are called to penetrate this cold hard world.  We are to be in the world, but not of the world. And God has strategically positioned every believer for the sole purpose of giving off His light. Admittedly, living out the Christian life would be easier if we were not faced with the temptations of this world.  It would be less difficult for Christian families to protect their homes from the wiles of the devil if they lived in isolation on a deserted island removed from the rest of society.  Even the church would be somewhat free from the constant pressure to emulate the world, a temptation that seems to be persistently pressing upon the doors of the church. But again, this is not how God has designed His children.  We are not called to be lights under bushels (Matthew 5:15). The truth is we have been intentionally positioned in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation for a specific purpose, and have been meticulously placed here by the good hand of God.

So the question that I pose to you today is simply this; what are you personally doing to publically illuminate the gospel message of Jesus Christ? You see, lighting up the world requires active participation in this world, for neither the disciples nor the early church lived the life of a hermit or a recluse. To the contrary; they scattered abroad to share the light of Christ, dispelling darkness as they did so.  Paul reminds all of us that being an effective light for Christ will call for us to work out our faith daily (vs. 12) by displaying the right attitude (vs.13) and will require upright living (vs. 15).  But, we must remember that attempting to remove ourselves from this crooked and perverse society that we live in will only diminish our wattage for God.

 – Pastor Eric

Garland Of Grace – 05.11.15

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Before the Face of God; Sweeping the Floor with Francis Schaeffer

”Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” -1 Corinthians 10:31

Whether we want to admit it or not, Christians have a tendency to mentally compartmentalize their lives. We divide our activities into categories. Certain actions are seen as “spiritual” such as church attendance, prayer, discipleship, evangelism, Bible study, and worship. On the other hand, other actions are labeled as the “non-spiritual.” They can be simple, every day, run of the mill activities such as sweeping a floor, painting a fence, having a conversation, purchasing bread at the bakery, texting a friend, going to school, driving a car, hanging a screen door, walking the dog, taking a bath, mowing the yard, watching a ball game, or even eating a good meal. But to divide our daily activities into two separate categories labeled “spiritual” and “non-spiritual” is a dangerous approach to take within the Christian life. Why; because the truth is, every activity we do is a spiritual activity. In our passage above, the apostle Paul instructed the early church at Corinth to see everything they did, no matter what it was, through spiritual lenses. No matter the activity, it was to be seen as a spiritual activity done for the glory of God.  He stressed this same truth to the early church at Colossae when he wrote, “Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father” (Colossians 3:17).

The great twentieth century theologian Francis Schaeffer expressed this great spiritual truth by teaching a Latin principle known as “Coram Deo.” It simply means “before the face of God.” Schaeffer taught the importance of seeing every activity done as being done “before the face of God.” It is a phrase that reminds us that every activity done is done before a perpetual audience of one, namely God, and that every activity should be done for the sole purpose of glorifying Him and Him only.

It means that church attendance and sweeping a floor are both spiritual activities.  When you sweep a floor, you should do so wholeheartedly for the glory of God. It means that hanging a screen door and praising the Lord through song are both spiritual events. It means that when you eat a meal, you should do so with the same zeal that you would when feasting upon the Word of God. This might sound a little strange to you, but God wants you to eat each and every meal for the glory of God.

But seeing every activity you do through spiritual lenses calls for personal discipline. And if you are not used to doing so, it will some time and practice. But know this; the benefits of this spiritual discipline are limitless! It will help you weed out things in your life that ought not to be there. Test each activity by asking yourself, “Can it be done for the Lord?” If it fails the test, then it needs to be purged from your life. Also this discipline will enhance certain activities that you are already doing. It will cause you to turn up the intensity and passion, and do those things for the Lord with a higher level of sincerity.

Have you incorporated the Latin principle “Coram Deo” into your life?  If not, then I challenge you to begin doing so today. One thing is for sure; it will change the way that you view and approach your daily life. And when you fully embrace this mindset and incorporate it into your life, there will no longer be a need to compartmentalize your daily activities. Everything you do and say will be viewed as a spiritual matter, because your life is a spiritual matter. I encourage you to take time out this week and take inventory on your daily activities and start doing every activity for the glory of God. Take down any mental partitions you have set up, and kick the bad habit of compartmentalizing your life into the spiritual and the non-spiritual; for everything is a spiritual issue to God!

 – Pastor Eric