Sunday, February 07, 2010

My Story As A Sermon

My Story – Grace at Work

Intro.:  Each of us have a story that has brought us together as we worship today.
  1. I want to hear your story.  God works in so many different ways, I know that your story will also teach me about you and about God.
  2. Today I want to share my story.  By the grace of God, I have been brought to Fowlerville to serve as Pastor – it is only fair that you know something about this man who will stand in front of  you week by week.


Trans:  As I grew up, my mother used to describe life as a long hallway – a hallway with many doors.
  1. Some of those doors had good experiences, some I would rather forget.
  2. In the next few minutes, I want to discuss four milestones that have defined my life. 

I.  First Milestone -  not really a milestone, but a (headstone, a dead weight, a burden I had to carry, millstone powered by donkey power)

  1. My parents would describe me as the “good” kid – but they would be wrong.  You see, however they saw me, only God saw the real me.  You see,  He saw a broken person.  A person who was trying to solve his own problems, his own way.  
  2. Paul put it this way in Romans 3:23, “For all have sinned, and fallen short of the glory of God.
  3. And brokenness comes in many forms.
  4. For some of us, it means being physically broken – illness, disease, aging.  Physically – I am not all God would want me to be.  For me, it came in the form of a diagnosis of MS 10 years ago.  
  5. But as I saw this, it is important to note that physical illness is not sin – but if there had been no sin, there would be no illness or disease.  As Christians we believe in a doctrine called total depravity- total depravity does not mean that we are as bad as we could be, it does mean that every area of our lives has been touched by sin that is part of the human race. 

(Ill.)  Let me illustrate it this way, I have here a glass of water.  It starts out pure, clear.  But when I add even a drop of food color into the water, soon that whole glass is tainted.  Some parts have more colors than others, but the whole glass is shares some hint of that same color.  Sin is similar – every part of our world, of our lives, has been effected by sin.  Physical illness, discease, pain, do not mean that we have sinned – but it is the consequence of sin upon the world.  Isaiah wrote, “

  1. In a similar way, many of us, including our family, have struggled with mental illness in one way or another.  Again, the presence of mental illness does not mean you have sinned – but it is a consequence of sin for the human race.
  2. For many of us, when we think of brokenness, our first thought is sin. Moral failure.  And as Paul wrote, I found myself a sinner – in need of God's grace
II. Milestone #2:  Coming to faith in Christ
  1. It was not as I had not heard the gospel.  Our family attended church faithfully every Sunday, including Sunday School.  We watched Billy Graham on TV, we were sent to confirmation class.  But somehow, I missed the point.
  2. In was in high school that I came to understand what faith was all about.  It was given to me in the form of a transistor radio – on which I stumbled onto the local Christian Radio station.  It was there, that the ministry of Billy Graham, Focus on the Family, and Chuck Swindoll, finally hit home.  But it was not easy. 
  3. The night before I came to Christ, I gave serious thought to taking my own life.  But the aspirin bottle only had three pills – and, I learned later, probably would have made me sick, but not hurt me permanently.  
  4. It was the next night that I knelt beside my bed and asked to receive Christ.  No one was there to tell me to remember the date (I don't), but I did take my Bible and wrote a little prayer on the inside front flap.  I held onto the Bible for many years – though I have lost track of it now.  John wrote, “But to all who did receive Him,   He gave them the right to be children of God, to those who believe in His name, who were born, not of blood, or of the will of the flesh, or of the will of man, but of God.”  That night I became a child of God.
  5. Later that year, in school, I met a few Christians.  I stayed close, to them.  Listened, learned, and without knowing it, began to grow in my faith.
  6. A year or two later, as I started college, I became part of Campus Crusades for Christ.  I never sought, but was assigned leadership roles that I never expected.  I was privileged to make serveral trips to Arrowhead Springs, the headquarters for Campus Crusades for Christ. Later, I became part of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship – where I was elected, by my fellow students, President.  One of the people who served on my leadership team was a young lady named Sandra Courson – the very young lady later consented to be my wife and is with me today.
  7. It was from those leadership experiences that God called me into ministry.
III. Milestone #3:  Understanding the grace I had received
  1. I was a believer, but that did not make life easy.
  2. Following seminary, I spent 4-1/2 years in ministry – never quite finishing my ordination requirements.  That was followed by 24 years of college teaching.
  3. And some difficult times in my spiritual life.  As my wife and I moved through those years, we both came to the point where we wanted the other one to leave, but we were too weak to do so. 
  4. We had moved to New York – I was teaching at the University of Nebraska at the time and attending a very small Free Methodist Church.  Though hurting, I was placed into every leadership position that church except for Pastor and Sunday School Superintendent – pulpit supply, treasurer, worship leader,  you get the picture.  I was in leadership, but I was not spiritually ready for it.
  5. The change occurred the second summer we were in Nebraska. A local church advertised a summer camping program – I knew the church, but did not know the camp.  As a family we decided to attend family camp that memorial day – and it was there that God began the process of transforming me, transforming my family.  The first worship service started on Friday evening – by the end of that service, I was in tears.  Later that evening, I sat on the stairs of the cabin we had rented for the weekend, crying.  I turned to Sandra and asked her forgiveness for all that I had contributed to our mixed up lives.  For the first time, I began to understand that grace is not a measuring stick – not one that God makes, or one that I can make.  We'll come back to that thought – grace is not a measuring stick
  6. One of the defining points of John Wesley's theology was his belief in not only a saving work of grace, but also a sanctifying work of grace.  That was both Wesley's experience and his theology.  I am convinced that as I met God that Friday night, I experienced a work of grace – a sanctifying work of grace.
  7. There was much to come – we spent much of the next 1-1/2 years in counseling.  One friend said she had never seen a couple work so hard on their marriage.  We did work hard – we cried, we were angry, we talked, and we healed.  It was that experience that convinced me to begin working on a degree in counseling … and to consider re-entering the ministry.  It was 7-1/2 years ago that God opened that door – it was door that I did not expect to open, but it did.    
  8. And today, God has opened another door here in Fowlerville.  
IV.  Milestone #4:  The day that I will meet Christ in eternity
  1. Three points in my life.  A time before I followed Jesus.  God's saving work of grace in my life, and God's sanctifying work of grace.
  2. But I truly expect one more milestone to occur – a milestone where I will meet Jesus in eternity.  I will stand before him and welcomed home.  Jesus once said, "Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.  And you know the way to where I am going.”  Then Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?”  Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
  3. I am waiting for the day I come home.
Conclusion:  Join me as we share the Lord's Supper together – as we each prepare to one day come home.

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