CHAPTER 1 GOD’S THERMALS #33

“The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes.  So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” John 3:8

          When I was a boy in rural Kansas I liked to watch the hawks flying high above me.  I would lie in the green alfalfa field near our house and watch those great birds riding the thermals, gentle winds that lifted them higher and higher into the sky.  It is true that they were merely looking for prey creeping across the fields below them.  But I liked to think of those giant birds as just enjoying the way those upward currents of wind supported them in their gliding flight. Yes, they needed to catch an animal for dinner now and then, but the sheer delight of soaring through the skies had to be a happy distraction even though they were only chicken hawks.  Even chicken hawks need a little fun now and then.

I believe that I was born into one of God’s thermals.   My parents loved God and that is because God loved them.  The grace of God was the “wind of the Spirit” (John 3:8) lifting my Father and Mother into a saving relationship with our Lord through the New Birth and sustaining me also by His amazing grace from the moment of my birth. God’s love for our family was a powerful “breath of God” that lifted my parents up in habitual worship of God.  Of course they were sinners like all the rest of the human race, but they were redeemed sinners, sinners who had become saints by the grace of God. Like the saints in Isaiah 40:31 my parents could “soar on wings like eagles”.  And by the grace of God I was born into a “soaring” family, a family so captivated by the majesty and love of God that we were daily lifted into the true joy of knowing him as our Lord and Savior.

In our home, family worship was a habit which my parents followed on a daily basis – usually after our evening meal (which we called “supper”).  Dad and/or Mom would lead us in scripture reading, the singing of hymns and scripture songs and prayer.  It is also true that our “supper” meal had something of the aura of the Lord’s Supper because my parents were skilled in leading us into topics which focused on our Savior and his Love for us.  Thus we enjoyed “Holy Meals” together (Exodus 24) and closed the meal with that quiet and joyful celebration we called “family worship”.  How I thank God for this wonderful blessing, which God used in my life to bring me into eternal communion with our Lord.  Thank you, Dad and Mom, for your faithfulness in this practice.

Family Worship is just one beautiful manifestation of what the Bible calls the COVENANT OF GRACE.  Please don’t let that somewhat “theological term” put you off.  It is a shorthand term for God’s love for us, one of the most wonderful realities in the Bible and in Creation, and it is what this book is all about.  I will give this wonderful reality fuller Biblical definition in the third chapter, but first I want to tell you another story.  I want to tell you about how I saw the COVENANT OF GRACE affecting life in another country.

The Covenant of Grace at Work in Another Land

While serving as a missionary in Ukraine, I was occasionally asked to teach seminary in another nation which will go unnamed in order to protect our labors there.  In November of 2005 I was teaching about 25 students in that other nation on this very theme, the COVENANT OF GRACE.  During one class I asked a student in our class, to tell us how he had personally discovered God’s grace in his own life.  I will call that student Pasha (again, not his real name as his son below).  He told us the following story:

“I was raised in another faith but always allowed my children to associate with friends of their own choosing, whatever their faith.  My 11 year old son Sergei began attending a back yard Bible class taught by an American Christian missionary.  I was not aware of this.   I was totally surprised and deeply offended, however, when Sergei came to our evening meal one night and announced to the family ‘I have just received Jesus as my Savior.’

My reaction was sudden and violent. I slapped him so hard that I knocked him off his chair and I warned him never to call ‘Jesus’ his Savior in our presence again.  He was silent and seemed to comply with my demands at first, but then I found him reading a Bible and discovered that he was periodically in contact with those missionaries and other Christians who had forsaken the Muslim Faith.  I struck him again when I discovered this, and was deeply distressed when he continued to resist my will and maintain his Christian faith.  To my consternation this conflict continued for 3 full years.

Then one day, in the middle of one of our unhappy confrontations, Sergei surprised me again with a statement that seemed unbelievably strange.  He simply said to me through his tears, ‘Jesus loves you, Daddy, even when you treat me this way.’

I was absolutely dumbfounded by such an idea and immediately stopped my attack on him.   Then, when he left the house, I found his Bible and began reading it.  At first I was utterly skeptical but began finding passages which I discussed with my wife.  Then I became absolutely captivated as I read the gospels.  I became convinced that I was one of those sinners for whom Jesus died and I began attending the little church with my son.  Very soon my heart was wonderfully transformed. I realized that I was saved by grace and had become a new creature in Christ.”

Pasha’s story held me and the whole class spellbound even though I had to listen through a translator.   Then it was my turn to be surprised when he told us the end of the story.  Only six months after his conversion, the members of the church confronted him with the amazing news that they had just made him their pastor.

They had done this because his diligent study of the Bible had made him the most knowledgeable student of scripture in their native ranks.  That is why he had traveled quite a distance from his home city in another country to attend our little underground seminary.  He was dedicated to learning more about the Savior and how to preach the wonderful gospel of God’s love for lost sinners.

Now, that, dear friends, is another example of God’s love at work through the COVENANT OF GRACE. Like God’s Thermals lifting me up in the wonderful love of God in my own native United States, so our great God is lifting sinners up into the worship of our Savior in every land.   “The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes.  So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

The Wind of the Spirit in Your Own Life

I have given here two simple examples of the way our Lord works in human hearts through His COVENANT OF GRACE.  To me this is an unspeakably wonderful display of God’s love for people who are hopelessly lost in sin.  At the same time it is God’s means of sustaining Christians in their daily walk with our Lord.

How are you responding to God’s display of his love for you in His COVENANT OF GRACE?  May even this preliminary glimpse of the Covenant bless your heart and create in you a desire for deepening discovery of our Savior and his great love for us.

Moving Toward Definition of the Covenant, and God’s Love for Us

In chapter 2 I am going to tell you a brief story about myself and my family.  This is my own personal story about how God’s infinite love, His Covenant love, helped me through a serious problem that threatened to overwhelm me and our whole family.  I need to tell you about this crucial event so that you can see how highly I value God’s Covenant love and why it is so important to me to define it carefully and fully.  Then in chapter 3 I will invite you to think with me as we pursue a definition of God’s Covenant and God’s Love for us.

 

 

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