Sunday, September 18, 2011

THINK ON THESE THINGS - SUNDAY MESSAGE


UNEARNED...(it's all about Grace)!
In baseball or softball, an unearned run means the base runner got on base (or scored) due to an error and the pitcher is not charged with the run. In the dictionary sense of the word, it is something which a person was not qualified to receive, but was given anyway.

This past June 3, Coach Josh Maxwell’s Shelbyville (IL.)  Rams Girls High School softball team was playing the Alton Marquette team in the Illinois Class 2A state semifinals at Eastside Centre (East Peoria, Illinois). Coach Maxwell’s mother had just died one hour before game time. It was the top of the 3rd inning when Marquette’s all-star pitcher Alexis Silkwood blew an easy throw off a bunt to second base. This led to the only run of the entire game later on, due to a wild pitch by Silkwood, who had just an awful game that day. It was an unearned run.

Two things to note about this win for Coach, just hours after his dear mother passed away – it was an error in throwing….add this to a wild pitch by Marquette’s ace pitcher caused advanced the Rams’ base runners to score.  Secondly, they did nothing to earn it. They only showed up to play.


You know, there are so many we can say about Grace (like this real-life example)! It is said the old traditional hymns have more much more theology than the new worship songs, and they are correct! The ones about Grace have not only stood the test of time, but speak to us powerfully, even today!

The Praise and Worship music of Chris Tomlin or the Gateway Worship band of Texas or Hillsong of Australia is amazing.  However, the centuries old standards have not just tradition with them, but each carries a story of unbridled faith in the     face of fear and storms.


     TWO STORIES, TWO SONGS

We all know the old standard “IT IS WELL WITH MY SOUL” and like the story behind Amazing Grace, its origins are stunning!  Horatio G. Spafford was the father of four daughters, and was a loyal friend and supporter of D. L. Moody. Moody and his song leader, Ira Sankey, had left for Great Britain for an evangelistic crusade and Spafford decided to lift the spirits of his family by taking them on a vacation to Europe.  He was planning to join them later.
In November, 1873, Spafford was detained by his business, but he sent his wife and four daughters, as scheduled, on the S.S. Ville du Harve, planning to join them soon. Somewhere in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, the ship was struck by another ship, and sank in 12 minutes. All four of the Spafford daughters were among the 226 who drowned.

Spafford’s wife was among the few who were miraculously survived. On the way to Cardiff, Wales – in extreme sorrow – he was shown the approximate spot where the ship had gone down. In the midst of his grief, the words to this old favorite were poured into his spirit, by a comforting God:
When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say,
It is well; it is well, with my soul.

Or how about this one. We all know Patrick of Ireland is credited with chasing all the snakes out of that country. But the real story of this great saint of the Faith is much more than this! His loyalty and dedicated to the Lord Jesus Christ is unparalleled in Irish history! His battle was literally against the princes and powers of the air, which the Apostle Paul warns us of in Ephesians 6:12. 

More than 400 years after St. Patrick (385-461 AD) an 8th Century Monk, Dallan Forgaill wrote “BE THOU MY VISION” as a tribute to this fearless man of God, who took on the druids and pagans of Ireland, defeated them, and took the land for Jesus:
Be Thou my Vision, O Lord of my heart;
Naught be all else to me, save that Thou art.
Thou my best Thought, by day or by night,
Waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light.






So what does this have to do with anything? Well, dearly beloved, it’s to show God’s goodness to His people manifests and inhabits itself in the Praises of His people!
For such a time as this, when fear; panic; hate and turmoil abound…when we hear the hounds of heresy nipping at our feet and former “sacred cows” are going down to defeat….for such a time as this, we turn to the Eternal Word of God first and then His Spirit leads us to some of these great messages in music to find the Comfort of His Grace.
By the way, it is time anything called a “sacred cow” goes down to the dust. The term “sacred cow” comes from the Hindu worship of an animal in their religion which is so extreme; they will drink its milk and wear leather shoes, but not eat beef. Also you will remember Moses destroyed Aaron’s Golden Calf after the former came off Mt. Sinai and the just liberated Israelites where conducting pagan orgies/worship around the golden metal cow!
One great old hymn of the Faith contains all the characteristics of the Grace of God and should be examined closely because every word of it can be located and identified with our Great God of Heaven – Abba Father!
You would not believe what the word God uses for “Grace” in the New Testament actually means! The word in the Original Biblical Manuscript is “CHARIS”.  Charis” means (in the Greek Lexicon) “that which affords joy, pleasure, delight, sweetness, charm and loveliness or grace of speech”. It is also blessing; concession; credit; favor; gift; grace; gracious; gracious work; gratitude and thankfulness.
Charis” also means “the merciful kindness by which God; or the Favor which exerts His holy influence upon souls and turns them to Christ. It is that which keeps, strengthens, increases them (and us) in Christian faith, knowledge, affection, and kindles them to the exercise of the Christian virtues”!!! Can you believe this!
ALSO ….as if this were not enough…the spiritual condition of one governed by the power of divine grace is bountiful!

The original word in the Bible for GRACE – “Charis” means all of this! THE THING TO REMEMBER ABOUT ALL OF THIS BEAUTY AND GOODNESS IS THIS – IT IS ALL UNEARNED! We did not work for it. We did not deserve it. We got it anyway!
Unearned Grace – the unmerited Favor of God to His people!

APPLIED
The following are the words to an old country hymn which really speaks volumes to our troubled times….and anyone can find comfort in them.
CAVEAT: The one qualification is this – you and I HAVE TO BE a child and servant of God. For while He gives freely, He gives only certain things to His own. The Bible says “the rain falls on the just and the unjust alike” (Matthew 5:45).  This means that you will see the unbeliever prospering and even winning most of the time, in this life.

You will see his children with nice cars, clothes and careers. You may even see the opposite for you and yours. But let not your heart be troubled. Persevere. The saint of God is meant to persevere and stick it out because our eternal citizenship is not in the United States or wherever this is read, across the world.
Only those who are saved by the Lord Jesus Christ by Grace through Faith will know the true Grace of which I speak in this essay! We call these the “Five Solas”….to wit:
Sola Scriptura - Scripture Alone
Solus Christus - Christ Alone
Sola Gratia - Grace Alone
Sola Fide - Faith Alone
Soli Deo Gloria - The Glory of God Alone

The 1996 Cambridge Declaration confirmed these “Solas” (which is Latin for “alone”).  Part of this Declaration says God’s grace in Christ is not merely necessary but is the sole efficient cause of salvation. We confess that human beings are born spiritually dead and are incapable even of cooperating with regenerating grace. We reaffirm that in salvation we are rescued from God's wrath by His grace alone. It is the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit that brings us to Christ by releasing us from our bondage to sin and raising us from spiritual death to spiritual life. 
GRACE FOR YOUR EVERY NEED IN LIFE!
VERSE:
I will now go through every line of this hymn, with an exhortation, grounded in Biblical Truth. My comment is in bright BOLD blue
Song lyric in Italics.

There is joy divine that is ever mine since the Lord has forgiven me....pardoned me. (If the bills, the high cost of living or bad health has stolen your smile; remember they can never steal your joy because YOU ARE CHILD OF GOD AND YOUR SINS ARE FORGIVEN).

And I work and sing for my blessed King who by grace now is keeping me. (All the aforementioned and your gratitude have led you to serve our great God and King. You may not be a preacher, a teacher or a worship song leader. However you teach 4-5 year old songs read bible stories to them and teach them to pray. In light of this, all the daily struggles are put into perspective because His Grace has covered you and is His Reward for your faithfulness…see previous definition of Grace for ALL the meanings of the word).

CHORUS:
There is grace for every need, grace for you, grace for me, keeping true, keeping free (Lamentations 3:22-23 (NLT) says “The faithful love of the Lord never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is His faithfulness; His mercies begin afresh each morning”….meaning, there is nothing you actually need, which God will NOT provide for you! Read Matthew 6 by clicking HERE.)
Precious saving grace indeed, flowing from the throne above. (This one is self-explanatory. It is only through the Grace of God – SEALED at the Cross of Christ the King – we are saved.)

VERSE:
Grace to cover all my sins. Grace to all who believe, oh this grace now receive full forgiveness, all may win (A lot of people, even those who are called and saved have trouble with this one. We believe our sins are forgiven…but we struggle at times…with doubt….! For instance, “am I TRULY forgiven?” or…”why I do these things from the past keep coming up as a reminder of my past”…or the list can go on….

My friends – this is called Spiritual Warfare! Believe it or not…and more and more Christians are being defeated by NOT believing we are in a war…believe it or not…we are in a war and the enemy, the devil, is out to steal, kill and destroy our joy!  JUST DO NOT ALLOW HIM TO DO IT!! Fight back with not just a “positive attitude”…but Fight back with Worship and the Word! More in Worship in future essays on this site.)

Yes there's grace in the Lord’s precious love (That’s it! Because God is Love….just as when we love someone – we give FREELY to them…Abba loves us…hence…Praise God from Whom all blessings flow!)

He will ever keep when the tempests sweeps, and hath grace for each trying hour....every hour. (Life’s storms are increasingly horrible, saints and dearly beloved!  We have all experienced horrible, and in the case of a fellow co-worker of mine, fatal snow blizzards….mile-wide tornadoes in Tuscaloosa, Alabama and more devastation in Joplin, Missouri with floods off the Mississippi River added in for good measure. All of this happened within 3-4 months of each other. 

We see Life’s storms in the government and our finances running low or out. We see Life’s storms in the worry for how to make the next car payment or send a kid to college to graduate with no job and owing a national debt of over $100,000 for HIS grandkid – BEFORE THAT CHILD IS EVEN BORN! In troubles like these….GOD’s Grace….that’s all we can rely on! )

So I go in love to this Friend above ever trusting His grace and pow'r. (Because our Father is all powerful, we can trust not just His Word, but His Might! He can take down the greatest foe while saving a child. He can and DOES go before us like a Mighty Warrior and wins our battles. He is the God Who can be depended on.)

VERSE:
O this wondrous grace is for all the race. It is boundless and full and free.
...full and free (When we get saved, we get the FULL PACKAGE. This means not just salvation from the Fires of Hell. This means, we are adopted into the Eternal Kingdom and Family of God from eternity past to eternity future. We are currently living in the eternals - more on that in the future as well. 

Therefore, because of this Adoption as sons and daughters of Abba Father and Christ, we have His Spirit in us directing, guiding and EMPOWERING AND EQUIPPING us to finish the course. We want to have the Apostle Paul’s famous last exhortation as ours, because this is not a sprint to the finish, but a Marathon…and what matters is how you finish. Paul said in 2 Timothy 4:7 “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful. AMEN!)

And I trust and cling to my blessed king Who by grace now is keeping me. (In light of all the words of this great hymn and speaking for myself, I plan to be like Jacob as He wrestled the Angel of God – Jesus-  except I am not letting go! His Grace is sufficient for me. I am a son of my Father in Heaven; Jesus is my Savior, I shall not be moved and He will keep me by His wonderful Grace and mercy, because His Loving kindness endureth forever!!!) AMEN!

IN CONCLUSION:
Finally, regardless of what the world throws at us this week, next week, next month or five hours from now, adopt this attitude from Paul in 2 Corinthians 4:8-18 8 We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. 9 We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed. 10 Through suffering, our bodies continue to share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies.
 11 Yes, we live under constant danger of death because we serve Jesus, so that the life of Jesus will be evident in our dying bodies. 12 So we live in the face of death, but this has resulted in eternal life for you.
 13 But we continue to preach because we have the same kind of faith the psalmist had when he said, “I believed in God, so I spoke.” 14 We know that God, who raised the Lord Jesus, will also raise us with Jesus and present us to himself together with you. 15 All of this is for your benefit. And as God’s grace reaches more and more people, there will be great thanksgiving, and God will receive more and more glory.
 16 That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day. 17 For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! 18 So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever”

Images courtesy BING images
Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

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