Saturday, July 9, 2011

Turning Points


Every day is filled with opportunities and we all have turning points in life … moments when we see things from a new perspective; encounters which change us and send us down a new road. Today’s message will give you just such an opportunity – but first, turn with me to the book of Hebrews, chapter 6, for the reading of God’s Word. This morning I will be reading from “The New Living Translation”.

Hebrews 6

16 Now when people take an oath, they call on someone greater than themselves to hold them to it. And without any question that oath is binding.

17 God also bound Himself with an oath, so that those who received the promise could be perfectly sure that He would never change His mind.

18 So God has given both His promise and His oath. These two things are unchangeable because it is impossible for God to lie. Therefore, we who have fled to Him for refuge can have great confidence as we hold to the hope that lies before us.

19 This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls. It leads us through the curtain into God’s inner sanctuary. (NLT)

Brenda and I got married in January of 1973. I had been 18 years old for only a month while she was 19 and had already graduated from High School. The first few years of our marriage were typical of many young couples learning to live together. About the time we decided to separate, God had different plans. Our lives and marriage began to change the day that Brenda heard the witness of a missionary and prayed to accept Jesus as her personal Lord and Savior.

Within about three weeks of Brenda’s new life change, I repented of my sin and recommitted my life to Christ. We asked each other’s forgiveness and together we began a new chapter learning to serve the Lord. Soon we were building a healthy relationship, reading the Bible, attending Church and growing in our Christian faith.

In 1980 Brenda and I experienced what is commonly called the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. This, more than anything else in our lives as Believers, forever changed us, empowered us, inspired us and gave us a vision and passion for the things of God. This was a turning point in our life. Along with the Holy Spirit came an intense hunger to learn the Word of God and apply its truth to our everyday lives. Those days were the most exciting days we had ever encountered as we watched ourselves and those to whom we witnessed grow in the grace of God.

There were two additional turning points in our early Christian faith which were significant in keeping us on the right road. Today, more than 30 years later, I can still look back on those moments and see how they served to shape my life and perspective. I clearly remember the first one as though it happened last week.

Even though Brenda and I were born again and were truly trying to make a happy marriage, there were still times when we would have disagreements. These disagreements often went unsolved because we were both people of strong opinions and usually each of us felt like we were right. Therefore at times we saw no clear resolution to our conflict.

One day we were talking about our differences and our need to be in greater unity. That day we decided to make a commitment regarding our future together as man and wife. We agreed that we would each live a life submitted to the Word of God. And, that no matter if the other one did or not keep the commitment, we would be personally responsible for our own proper response to God’s Word.

So, we committed to each other that without regard as to who, what, when, where or why the Word of God was spoken, we would immediately and joyfully drop our guard, submit to the truth of that Word as God intended and change our response to line up with that Word.

From that day until today, I can confidently say that neither my wife nor I have failed to open our ears to God’s Word and bring our lives into line with its truth each time the Word has been spoken. Although this resolve has been tested and at times in the face of difficult and stressful moments of life, the commitment we made has held each of us firm and steady on course.

The next turning point in our lives came when we decided to begin learning the foundational truths contained in scripture. I remember our first lesson was on the integrity of God’s Word. Together we began searching for scriptures which testified to God’s faithfulness so we could memorize them for later meditation and use.

Nothing has the power to change a life more than a Word from God.

One Word from God can change a life; a mind; a situation; a heart; a relationship, forever.

One Word from God changes everything!

The first scripture Brenda and I memorized together during this season of our lives back in 1980 was Numbers 23:19.

Numbers 23:19 God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent: hath he said, and shall he not do it? or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good?

We memorized it in the King James Version which is a translation into the King’s English using “thee”, “thou”, and “hath”, instead of “you”, “your”, and “has”. However even with a more modern English translation the meaning is still the same. For example, “The New Living Translation” says:

Numbers 23:19 God is not a man, so He does not lie. He is not human, so He does not change His mind. Has He ever spoken and failed to act? Has He ever promised and not carried it through? (NLT)

One cannot be known by the promises they make but only by the promises they have kept. We know others only by their past performance and when we judge God according to this standard, we find Him faithful. What cause of doubt do we have towards God and His Word?

Even though we may judge others by what they do, we ourselves are not judged by this measure but rather we are judged only through the loving eyes of grace. God has faith in us!

God did not save you, call you or choose you because you were perfect. But He chose you because He loved you! God’s love covers imperfection.

When Brenda and I learned that God was different than anyone we had ever met; different than anyone who had ever disappointed us; different than our parents, our friends, our spouses, even different than we were ourselves … when we realized this, we found another turning point in life.

Perhaps one of the greatest turning points comes when we first realize that we can trust God.

While searching for scriptures to support what we were learning back in 1980, Brenda and I found a Psalms 89. While you turn allow me to catch us up on the background of this particular Psalm. By the way, this Psalm is not one which was written by David, but rather by a man named Ethan. In fact, the Psalm is entitled:

Maschil of Ethan the Ezrahite


Instruction of Ethan the Ezrahite

Maschil is found in the title of 13 of the Psalms and is added in hopes that the songs will be re-sung with understanding as to the instructions the Psalm bears.

I don’t wish to bore those of you who cannot abide details, however for the sake of those who love them, allow me to dabble a little.

Spurgeon called Psalm 89:

“ … the majestic Covenant Psalm, which, according to the Jewish arrangement closes the third book of the Psalms. It is the utterance of a believer, in presence of great national disaster, pleading with his God, urging the grand argument of covenant engagements, and expecting deliverance and help, because of the faithfulness of Jehovah. “

It contains 52 verses of which 37 verses are testimony to the praise and promises of God and what God will do through David and his seed, 14 verses are plaintive in nature asking questions as to why everything has gone wrong with the Kingdom, and one single verse stating that God is to be blessed forever with a double Amen!

Basically, Psalm 89 teaches three things:

1. Here are the promises of God

2. Here are the problems we face

3. Yet God is greater than the paradox

Why? Because God can be trusted – and believe me, it’s not over yet!

In other words:

Your problem does not signal the failure of God’s promise.

When Brenda and I first realized this truth, it was a major turning point in our lives. This truth alone has kept me from throwing in the towel in the midnight hours of my life.

Unless and until we understand that our relationship and service to God is not based upon what we do or don’t do, but rather upon His grace and His grace alone, we may never come to the place where we truly trust God. Our faith must be in His grace.

Before God ever chose you to be His child He already knew how you were and what you did. Before He ever decided to give His Son for your salvation, He knew not only what you would do before you got saved, but he also knew all of the things you would do after you got saved, both the good and the bad decisions you would make – your successes and your failures … and He loved you anyway; and He decided to give His Only Son in exchange for you anyway!

This is why passages of scriptures like Psalms 89 are so powerful … they show us God!

Psalms 89:34 No, I will not break My covenant; I will not take back a single word I said. (NLT)

God is faithful even in our times of distress. His covenant with us is not based on our situations of life anymore than it is based on our capacity to be perfect. God’s love and promises are based only upon God and we have been included in His love by grace.

If you want to have faith, great faith, have faith in His grace.

And in times of troubles, distress, worry or battle – remember the promises of God. This is what the Apostle Paul instructed Timothy to do:

1 Timothy 1

18 Timothy, my son, here are my instructions for you, based on the prophetic words spoken about you earlier. May they help you fight well in the Lord’s battles.

19 Cling to your faith in Christ, and keep your conscience clear. For some people have deliberately violated their consciences; as a result, their faith has been shipwrecked. (NLT)

I encourage you to use the words God has spoken about you to fight a good fight of faith. Trust in God and His grace over your life and not in your own works.

Find your tuning point today as you decide that:

You can trust God!

His grace is sufficient …

By grace are you saved through faith …

Both life and eternal life are gifts of God, not of works …

Turn your life around today!