God’s Amazing Grace

Ephesians 2:8-9
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.

John 1:17
For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.

Romans 11:6
And if by grace, then it cannot be based on works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace.

Tonight, I need to be reminded of God’s amazing grace. As I was listening to different versions of Amazing Grace being performed, I remembered this video that I first saw several years ago by Wintley Phipps. I hope that it uplifts your spirit as much as it encouraged mine.

God’s Unfailing Love

Psalm 143:8-10 (NIV)

Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I entrust my life. Rescue me from my enemies, Lord, for I hide myself in you. Teach me to do your will, for you are my God; may your good Spirit lead me on level ground.

Do you awake most mornings already feeling anxious about what the day ahead holds? Do you try to plan out your day hoping that if everything will simply go the right way, you just might survive the day? If you begin most days like this, you are not alone. Many believers start their day out in this same fashion. We try to accomplish whatever it is that we want by our own power. As Christians, we must believe that we serve a God who can ordain our day according to His plans so that His “unfailing love” can guide us through the many difficulties and joys of the day ahead. “Trust”, as the psalmist writes, is the vital ingredient so often missing from our walk with God: “For I have put my trust in you.” Do you trust yourself more than you trust God?

If this is the way you begin your day, then I want you to try something different. Instead of coming up with your own plans for the day ahead, ask God to guide you in the way you should go. Let go of your desire to control everything and allow God to direct your plans for the day ahead. It’s not easy for us to give up control, because even though we tend to make an absolute mess of our lives, we continue to trust in ourselves more than we trust God.

We must admit to God that we don’t really know what we are doing, even though he has given us free will. Ask God to “teach” you to follow His will for your life. Whether you believe it or not, God does have a plan and a purpose for each one of us. And He is ready to help us realize His purposefulness for us. He is waiting on you to take that first step of faith and trust Him. Psalm 139:16: Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.

The psalmist asks for God to lead him on “level ground” and I suppose that each one of us would pray that prayer as well. And while we all need to spend some time on “level ground” it is on those paths less traveled that we grow and develop into the Christian men and women that God created us to be. We learn how to more fully trust in God through the many trials and setbacks that we endure. No matter what we encounter in this world, we know that God can take a difficult and seemingly hopeless situation and turn it into something good so that His glorious power can be displayed.

Life In The Spirit

John 14:16-17: And I will ask the Father and He will give you another Counselor, that He may abide with you forever—the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him or knows him. But you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you.

Romans 8:5-6: Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace.

I preached a sermon on the Holy Spirit this past week and for me it was a Spirit led sermon. Let me explain that further because it sounds like I am boasting. Having thought about this sermon for several weeks, I had an idea of just how I wanted the sermon to go. However, somewhere along the way, the Spirit moved me in another direction. The sermon that I wanted to preach was changed into a sermon that the Spirit led me to preach. And before I fully realized it, I was led to give more of a testimony about how the Holy Spirit of God has moved in my life since I gave my life to Christ at the age of twelve.

I gave three examples of my life when the Holy Spirit moved powerfully within me. The first was when I was twelve years old and struggling with the decision to give my life to Christ. The Holy Spirit was drawing me to God and guiding me to accept Christ as my Lord and Savior. I remember that powerful and irresistible feeling within me that was calling me to publically confess my belief in Christ. I compared this impression to the feeling that the two disciples had on the road to Emmaus when Jesus came up and walked alongside them on Resurrection Sunday. The two men were kept from recognizing Jesus at first but they both had this response after Jesus revealed himself to them: They said, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?” (Luke 24:32).

The second example of the Spirit’s work in my life was during a time of deep personal distress. I felt the overwhelming peaceful presence of the Spirit come over me and engulf me, giving me assurance that God, through His Holy Spirit, would guide me through this difficult period in my life. It was a feeling of complete peace and calm that overcame me and it gave me an unquestionable belief that everything would work itself out in the way that God intended.

The third example of the Holy Spirit moving powerfully in my life was about eight years ago when God was calling me to ministry. I had been struggling with my calling into ministry, mainly because I was convinced that God could not – and would not – use someone like me to minister to others. I didn’t have great speaking skills, I felt as if I didn’t know the Bible as well as I should, and I looked at myself in terms of my sinful nature, instead of as someone being led by the Spirit. I came up with every excuse possible to deny my calling, but God would not let me go. Every time I tried to convince myself that God was not really calling me, God put someone in my path that steered me back to God’s will for my life.

One night as I went to sleep, I remember praying to God for guidance. I continued to put off this decision to answer God’s calling because it just didn’t make sense to me. Sometime during the night, I had a vivid dream in which I was “floating” above the clouds. It didn’t seem like a dream – I felt as if I was literally flying or floating above the clouds.

Then the clouds began to part and I saw what appeared to be a town below. It was not a modern town but it appeared to be a town that looked like it belonged in the early 1900’s. I saw many plain white buildings below and I remember seeing a white church with a large steeple. As I drew closer, I saw a group of men standing in front of the church and all of them wore dark pants, with a dark jacket and a white shirt without a tie.

At this point, I was getting close to the earth below and this group of men that were assembled in front of the church. I remember descending very quickly upon this group of men and I remember thinking that I was actually going to “collide” into them. Then very suddenly as I came upon the men, one of them turned around and was face to face with me, and he said, “You are going to be a pastor.”

And immediately, I realized that the man speaking to me was my grandfather, who passed away in 1981, when I was 17 years old. In that short time span of 17 years, he had a profound impact on my life of faith. He demonstrated for me a life that loved and honored God.

I woke up immediately and was so shaken that I could not go back to sleep. I remember getting up in that early morning hour and reading my Bible and praying to God for several hours. During that time, I decided that I was going to obey God and serve Him for the rest of my life. And I also knew that I had to tell my wife about my decision that we both had wrestled with for almost a year.

I didn’t say anything to her that morning because I was still in a state of shock. When I got home that afternoon, we sat down and I told her about my dream and my decision to dedicate my life to serving God. She agreed, we hugged, and I began to cry like I have never cried in my entire life.

For the third time in my life, I felt a sensation come over me that was so peaceful and comforting – that I cannot fully describe it. The Holy Spirit spoke to my heart and my mind and told me that I had made the right decision. And God – through His Holy Spirit – has been with me every step of the way since. There have been many joys and disappointments in my calling – but God, through His Holy Spirit, has used all of these circumstances to mold and shape me into who I am today.

I cannot do what I do in ministry without the guidance and power of the Holy Spirit. I continue to rely and call upon The Holy Spirit to guide me in my calling and in my ministry.

Ephesians 1:13: And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit.

Trusting in God Through Trials

 

Romans 15:13 (NIV): May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

There are many people today that are overcome with worry and doubt. Some of you may be worrying about the health of a friend or even your own health. There are those that are in doubt of how to handle conflict and tension at home, at work, or both. Many of you are worrying about how to make ends meet and you worry about bills that seem to be accumulating with little relief in sight. And there are some who feel that God has abandoned them as they live a life of torment.

Do you believe that God is there with you – present with you- in the midst of your struggles? Or do you sometimes wonder if God has forgotten you and left you alone as you try to find your way back to Him? Many people talk about silence from God or a kind of spiritual exile in which it seems that God has stopped communicating with them. They view this as a kind of punishment that God is inflicting upon them for some supposed disobedience in their lives. I believe that we serve a God of hope and a God of peace who longs to give His children “good and perfect gifts from above.” I believe that God never abandons his children. James 1:17 (NIV): “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights”.

The Apostle Paul, in our scripture reading today, reminds us that our God is a God of hope that stands ready to fill us with all joy and peace, if we will only place our trust in Him alone. And God can powerfully guarantee this because we have been given the gift of the Holy Spirit to accomplish this promise from God.  This hope or trust in God can only come about and be realized through the third person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit. God has not left us alone; He is with us and has given us His Holy Spirit to guide us into truth and out of worry and doubt.

Have you ever felt that God has somehow forgotten you because of difficult circumstances? Sometimes we must face and endure things that God can use to draw us closer to Him. I don’t believe that God necessarily sends trouble or suffering our way, but He can always use those circumstances to bring us closer to his unfailing love in which we can experience true joy and peace. It’s important to remember that God is always true to His word and He promises that He will never leave us or forsake us if we remain faithful to God and his word (Hebrews 13:5).

So if you are struggling with worry and doubt today, and you are wondering just where God is in the midst of your troubles, remember these words of the Apostle Paul from the book of Romans. Romans 8:28: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose”.

Prayer: God, we acknowledge that we find it difficult to do life on our own. Life throws so many trials and heartache our way and we struggle in our many attempts to place our complete faith and trust in you and you alone. This world that we live in seems to take great delight to use these times of testing and trials to turn our focus away from you. We are told to trust in the things of this world instead of an invisible God that has stopped caring for His people. But we know that this is a lie that Satan wants us to believe, because we know that we serve you God, who not only created the universe but was also intimately involved in creating each of us as well. Help us God to place our faith and trust in you. Help us to remember your promise that you will be always be with us, that you are with us through all of our worries and doubts, especially the times when we fail to place our faith and trust in you. Amen.

 

Revival in America

The following is a blog post that was originally written last July. Some of you may have read it before but I felt the need to repost again.

Proverbs 14:34 (NIV): Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin condemns any people.

Proverbs 14:34 (NLT): Godliness makes a nation great, but sin is a disgrace to any people.

The more I pray and read the Bible; I am absolutely convinced that the United States is in need of a revival. However in many congregations today, the mere mention of a revival makes those who belong to the body of Christ uneasy. Churches, like our society today, are afraid that they will offend someone whose beliefs or opinions don’t correspond with their own. We are sometimes very cautious to present our beliefs in a manner that won’t upset or insult anyone.

The Apostle Peter writes about how to be an effective witness to others in 1 Peter 3:15: But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect. In other words we are to be respectful of others and should be careful not to degrade or humiliate them. We must not be afraid to speak the truth but we must do it in a way that brings ultimate glory to our Lord Jesus Christ. As followers of Christ we are to model our ministry after the ministry of Jesus. Jesus showed compassion and mercy to everyone he encountered but He was not afraid to speak the truth of God’s word, even if that truth could make someone uncomfortable.

We are a nation that is turning away from God in many different areas of our lives. God is being pushed aside or away from many public places. As our country becomes more secular, we become less dependent upon God and more dependent upon ourselves and our systems of government. We deny that God is active in our world today and we fail to recognize that God could ultimately punish us because of our disobedience.

 Many Christians today don’t like to talk about God and punishment. We all want God’s blessings instead of God’s discipline. While I prefer to focus on God’s love and mercy as well, we can’t expect God to continue to bless us if we continue to deny who He is to the fallen world that we live in. God loved the nation of Israel, who was His chosen people, but He had to get their attention when they turned away from Him and began to conform to the society that they lived in. They had to endure the loss of their homeland and many hardships until they were ready to confess once again, their belief and trust in God, who would then restore them.

The great British Particular Baptist preacher C.H Spurgeon said this about revival: “The word “revive” wears its meaning upon its forehead; it is from the Latin, and may be interpreted thus—to live again, to receive again a life which has almost expired; to rekindle into a flame the vital spark which was nearly extinguished.”[1]

Spurgeon in his December 1866 writing, Sword and Trowel says: “If an ungodly man steps into a congregation where all the saints are revived he does not go to sleep under the sermon. The minister will not let him do that, for the hearer perceives that the preacher feels what he is preaching, and has a right to be heard. This is a clear gain, for now the man listens with deep emotion; and above all, the Holy Spirit’s power, which the preacher has received in answer to prayer comes upon the hearer’s mind; he is convinced of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment to come, and Christians who are on the watch around him hasten to tell him of the Savior, and point him to the redeeming blood, so that though the revival, strictly speaking, is with the people of God, yet the result of it no man can limit. Brethren, let us seek a revival during the present month, that the year may close with showers of blessing and that the New Year may open with abundant benediction. Let us pledge ourselves to form a prayer-union, a sacred band of suppliants, and may God do unto us according to our faith.”[2]

The body of Christ must be rekindled today so that we can carry the word of God to a lost and faithless nation and to the world. As the Apostle John reminds us in 1 John 2:17: The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever.

 

 

[1] http://www.spurgeon.org/s_and_t/wir1866.htm

[2] http://www.spurgeon.org/s_and_t/wir1866.htm