June 28, 2020
Pastor Jenny Lee, Ph.D.
Upper St. Croix Parish UMC
“The Transforming Grace of God”
One of the amazing graces is that God gave us various parts of our bodies. God made us exist on the earth by letting the eyes see, the nose smell, mouth speak and eat, the ears hear, and the hands and feet act individually. We are curious why we have only one mouth, while we have two for the other parts. Do you ever think about it?
We have two eyes, two nostrils, two ears, two hands, and two feet. But we have one mouth. Eating and speaking are important. But, we are wondering why God gave us just one mouth. It is perhaps because we have to be careful about how we speak. Proverbs says that “The tongue has the power of life and death” (18:21, NIV). Our tongues have the power to kill or save a life.
I bless your tongues to save a life, not take one. May your tongues be the blessings for many lives! Here is the good news. The transforming grace of God works through us, through practicing the Word of God.
One of God’s graces is that we, Christians, have the power to bless many lives. When God called Abraham at first, God promised him, “I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; all people on earth will be blessed through you” (Genesis 12:3). Abraham left his hometown, and his father’s house because God promised him these blessings. What amazing grace it is! We, who believe in God, inherited this blessing of Abraham. Whoever you bless, God blesses them. God wants to bless the whole universe through us. God wants to restore the whole world as God made it first through us. It is the transforming grace of God.
How many times do you use your tongue to bless people, animals, or plants? Please use your tongue to bless yourself and others as much as you can. You may know a Korean Pastor David Cho, the retired pastor at Yeuido Full Gospel Church, the biggest church in the world. The church membership is over 600,000. He was poor and weak physically with an illness when he was a seminarian. He lived in a tent and ate sweet potatoes for meals because he was very poor. A female pastor, who was his mother-in-law, encouraged him and blessed him, “you will be the great pastor in the world.” He blessed by himself every day in front of a mirror, looking at himself through a mirror, “I’ll be the great pastor in the world.” I hope that you may bless yourself and your family members every day. Hug yourself and bless yourself every day. You are the masterpiece of God! Your most painful child is also the masterpiece of God, in the image of God. You may bless your children every day, and God blesses them through you.
The important thing is that you have to speak up to bless yourself and others. If you just think of it, nothing happens until you speak up. That’s why the saying, “the tongue has the power of life and death.” The Word of God may not belong to you if you do not speak up, saying, “Amen.” The Apostle Paul says, “For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “yes” in Christ. And so through him, the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God” (2 Corinthians 1:20). When the Word of God was preached, you may say, “Amen” or “yes” to receive the blessing of the Word. By faith, we may say, “Amen.” By faith, we may speak up to bless ourselves and others so that God blesses you and those who you bless.
In the scripture reading for today, Abraham receives the test from God. Verse 1 says, “God tested Abraham.” The test of God for Abraham is to scarify his only son Isaac as a burnt offering. Think of Abraham! He did not expect his son in his old age. But God gave him his son at the age of 100. When he suffered between Ishmael and Isaac, God said to him, “Send Ishmael out. I will make a great nation through Isaac.” And, he sent Ishmael out to the wilderness. Now, Isaac grew up as a teenager. God said, “Scarify your only son Isaac as a burnt offering.” If you were in Abraham’s shoes, what would you do?
As you see in the Scripture, Abraham did not grumble to God. He did not complain at all. He did it immediately, as God said. He is perhaps matured his faith by several tests. The Letter of James 1:2-3 says, “My brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of any kind, consider it nothing but joy because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance.” Faith is matured through the experience of stressful testing, like our muscles are strengthened through exercise. Faith operates in the tensions of life and often demonstrates itself as practicing it in our life. James says, “Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do” (James 2:18). Faith has to perform visibly. Otherwise, it is dead. James also says, “If it is not accompanied by action, faith by itself is dead” (James 2:17). So, Abraham obeys God by faith.
But, we are still curious, how could it happen? How does God ask a burnt offering for his son? How does Abraham obey God with a burnt offering of his son? Here is the key. When Abraham climbs up to the mountain of Moriah with Isaac, we may get a sense through their conversation. At 22:5, Abraham said to his young men, “stay here with the donkey; the boy and I will go over there; we will worship, and then we will come back to you.” See, Abraham believes that he will be back with his son Isaac. And listen to the other conversation between Abraham and Isaac in verse 7. “Isaac said to his father Abraham, “Father!” And he said, “Here I am, my son.” He said, “The fire and the wood are here, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” Wow, if you were in his shoes, what would you say to your son? Listen to one more sentence in verse 8, “Abraham said, God, himself will provide the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.” That’s the key. Abraham speaks up to his men and his son what he believes. When Abraham speaks up by faith, God prepares for a lamb by himself. When Abraham and Isaac walk on together toward the mountaintop for worship, God might walk on the other side of the mountain, bringing a lamb. While Abraham speaks up by faith, the transforming grace of God works for him also.
However, God’s test is real. So, when we face the test, we suffer from it. We want to know when it could be done. But nobody knows. Therefore, we should believe in God with patience, and God never goes against his promise. The Letter of Hebrews says, Abraham offered his only son by faith. Even though Isaac dies, God will raise him from the dead because he believed that Isaac is the promised son by God (Hebrews 11:7-9).
Sometimes we have to wait for that God’s transforming grace works after we speak up by faith. See Abraham’s case. Abraham spoke up by faith that we will be back together after worship. God will provide it by himself. However, nothing happens yet. He came to the place that God had shown him. He built an altar there. He laid the wood in order. It is not yet, for God. He bound his son Isaac and put him on the altar. It is not yet for God. Abraham took the knife and about to kill his son. Yes, right there. An Angel called him, “Abraham, Abraham.” It is at the perfect time. Abraham said, “Here I am.” He answered immediately. “Do not do anything to the boy. For now, I know you fear God.” In other words, “Okay, you have passed it now.”
So, even though you are in the middle of the test, ‘whenever you face trials of any kind, consider it nothing but joy,’ because the transforming grace will be there soon. God’s time is coming soon. It is a time that matters, but God’s time is perfect. If you are nervous when your test would be done, just speak up a positive word of faith again and again. Your tongue has the power of life. Bless yourself and others around you as much as you face tests, and God’s time is coming to you. When I speak positive words and bless people, God transforms their circumstances. I hope that we may experience the transforming grace by faith. Bless you, all! You are deserving of the transforming grace of God. You deserve God’s blessings because you are the masterpiece of God.
Thanks be to God, Amen.