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WALKING IN GOD’S GRACE – A JOURNEY OF TRANSFIGURED LIVING

This has been a very special weekend and I’m sure many of you don’t want it to end.  But today the weekend will end and all of us will return to where we came from before we walked through those doors.  I wish I could tell you that the joy will automatically continue with you when you return to your world, but I can’t.

What I can tell you that is that what you have experienced this weekend is just another part of a journey that began long before you were born.  That’s right, before you were born.

In Jeremiah 1:5 God says:

Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you.  Before you were born, I set you apart.

So, it was and is God’s intention to grace you, or sanctify you to be the man you were created to be.  To be set aside for God’s work.  And because God is doing a new thing in your life, He has prepared you and will continue to prepare you for this life’s journey to make a difference in the life of the community you are returning back into.

Jesus talks about this very thing.  Let me share a story with you.

One day Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother, led them up on a high mountain to be by themselves; and then something amazing happened, Jesus was transfigured or changed before them.  Now I’m not talking about a small change, but a change where Our Lord’s face shone like the sun, and His clothes became as white as the brightest light you can imagine.  And if that wasn’t enough, the three disciples saw before them Moses and Elijah talking with Jesus.  Peter being Peter says to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here; if You wish, let us make three shelters, one for You, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”  And while he was still speaking, mid-sentence a bright cloud surrounded them and suddenly a voice came out of the cloud saying, “This is my Beloved Son, In whom I am well pleased.  Listen to Him!’  Well that sealed the deal for them.  They wanted to stay on top of that Mountain, but Jesus told them they had to go back down the Mountain to face the world.

If you have ever heard that story before please raise your hands.  Have you ever wondered why Jesus chose only Peter, James and John to go up with Him to the top of the Mountain?  Well, the answer is simple – they were set aside by grace for this great moment and for greater moments to come.

As the disciples were called to go down the mountain we too must go into the valley where the mud and muck are.  Farmers will tell you that where mud and muck are, there is the most fertile place for growth – your and my growth.  Growth for what?  To do what God created us for.  To be made ready for valley duty.

When you leave here, you will meet other people who are experiencing their own struggles with little or no guidance.  This is where you come in.  Armed with God’s wisdom and grace, you become an example of God’s mercy and grace to others.

So how does one experience the fullness of God’s grace after you leave this place of joy and never-ending cookies to return to the compound? Here are some tips I believe will help.

First of all it’s important to know that more than anything else, Jesus wishes to have a relationship with you.   And in order for you to have a relationship or friendship with Him three factors need to be in place.   SPIRITUALITY, DISCOVERY THROUGH STUDY, and CHRISTIAN ACTION

Think about a three-legged stool.  If we name each of these legs, Spirituality, Study, and Christian action, it reminds us that if we are going to have a life in Christ each one of these legs are important and needs to be firmly in place to withstand what life throws at us. Take away one leg, what happens?  You’ll hit the deck fast, I guarantee it!

The First Leg:  SPIRITUALITY

Spirituality is about our personal journey to become Christ-like.  We will never become perfect as Christ is, but we can become holy in our daily walk.

For it is written, be holy because I am holy.  1 Peter 1:16

I feel it’s important for you to understand that you found favor with God, better said, you were graced by God.

You see God takes the initiative in all things.  He gave you the seed of grace before you born because He loves you.  We only have the capability to love because He loved us first! 1 John 4:19

God doesn’t play games with us.  You might have understood love as having strings attached and you may have a poor concept of what true love is because your love was broken by lies, but true love is sacrificial. If it’s true it gives without any conditions.

Here’s the full measure of God’s love – God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son for us.  That everyone who believes in Him will not die, but have everlasting life.  John 3:16

But wait a minute, you might be thinking.  I’ve done some pretty terrible things in my life; how could God love me and forgive me for what I have become? 

We always concentrate on John 3:16, but rarely do we get to the next verse which is just as important as the first in understanding the extent of God’s love for you.

For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. John 3:17

Remember, you are the highly favored of God.  If this wasn’t true then He would not have undone your sins by giving His Son up on the Cross for us.  He paid the price so you wouldn’t have to.

If you want to experience the full measure of your SPIRITUAL growth in Christ here are some things that are working for me and I want to share them with you:

  1. Pray Daily
  2. Read a daily devotion to God
  3. When you pray do so with a spirit of self-examination
  4. Be in community with other Christians
  5. Spend quiet time to listen to the Holy Spirit speak to your heart
  6. Stay diligent in your faith
  7. Go to chapel services and worship
  8. If you don’t have a bible, then ask the chaplain for one.  And when you have your bible, READ it!

Like any garden, you have to attend to it daily if you hope to have a good harvest.  When you pray, have a conversation with God as if He is your friend, your brother.  Remember, if love is not given and received daily it will fade away.  If a child is not picked up and nurtured, he or she will suffer a failure to thrive.

The Second Leg, DISCOVERY THROUGH STUDY

Study is the gateway to understanding

Think about discovery this way, if you look at a drop of water, you are going to see a clear liquid, but if you looked at the same drop of water with a microscope, you’ll discover there is a world there that you wouldn’t have otherwise imagined.

The same thing is true with reading God’s word.  Every time you read His word, you’ll discover something new about yourself and the world around you.  The Holy Spirit never rests in teaching you.

The Third Leg, CHRISTIAN ACTION

Look around you and what do you see? Pure, unselfish, sacrificial Agape love.  Every man in this Holy Place is here because they wanted to be here.  These men could have been with their family, their work, any place but at the Price-Daniel Unit.  And would you believe these men paid to be here.

You don’t act in love because you are a nice person.  Even a non-Christian can do that.  You act in love because Jesus acted in your heart first through His Holy Spirit.

God wants us to care for each other.  We are human beings and we need to receive love and give love.  To forgive and to be forgiven.

We are called to be out there to share what we have in Christ.  How could we not?  The truth be told, If I didn’t come down from my mountaintop experience to walk in God’s grace in the valley I wouldn’t be with you today because I probably would have died.

Years ago when I was in the Air Force I experienced trauma not only to my body, but also to my soul and nearly lost everything I held dear to my heart: my wife, children, a stellar career and last but not least, my sanity.  There are some wounds that are visible to the eye, but there are others that are not.  Wounds of the soul that cannot be seen but are violently punishing so much so that in my case I couldn’t see much use in living any longer.  The fear and physical pain that wrecked my body was so complete that I slipped into the fog of alcohol and pill addiction to numb it all.  Just when I had given up and believed my life was over, I was rescued in ways I can only describe as miraculous.  It was just in time, God’s time, that I began my sobriety.   It was a long and painful struggle to climb out of the valley, but in 2012 I earned my graduate degree in marriage and family therapy and became a licensed chemical dependency counselor.  I truly wanted to understand what happened to me and felt that going back to school would help provide the answers.  Not only that, I had a strong calling to help people through their valley moments.

Now, I shared my story with you because I know deeply what it means to feel like you’re on top of the world and how good it is to stay right there and not return to a place you may not want to be.  But if I didn’t go down into the valley, I wouldn’t have lived out the life that God set me apart to live, right here, right now with you.

So how are you going to thrive in Christ after this weekend has concluded?

Let me just share with you one last story:

Alexander Solzhenitsyn was a prisoner in a Soviet prison in Siberia. He became so weak and discouraged that he wished he would die. The guards would beat and usually kill anyone that stopped working. He decided to stop working so that the guards would kill him. As soon as he did so, another Christian drew a cross where Alexander could see it.

Alexander said that he was encouraged by remembering that God gives hope and courage. He decided to continue working because of a Christian who cared too much to let him give up.

Paul in his letter to the Romans in Chapter 8:38 says,

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

 

That’s not my truth, that’s not your truth, that’s not Catholic or Anglican truth, not Methodist truth, not Baptist truth.  What it is is divine truth.  And if it’s divine truth, it’s God’s truth.  And if it is God’s truth, then it is The Truth.  Amen?

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