Broken Vessels

It is not often that I become emotional while listening to a sermon, but when I do, it’s because God is showing me something He knows I desperately need to hear and pay attention to.

Over the past several months, my pastor at FBC Belton, Andy Davis, has preached a sermon series on what every Christian should know. What God has shown me through these messages is that God can use me and every part of me. This past Sunday, Andy preached a message on what every Christian should know about temptation. Throughout my journey as a believer in Christ, like anyone else, I have faced temptation. This temptation can come in many forms, such as having a desire to gossip, use language I know I shouldn’t, or to jump to conclusions and react harshly without seeing the complete picture. These are some examples that come to mind, but it certainly is not a definitive list.

I think what really struck a chord with me as Andy was preaching was that when we repent, God is just to forgive. Throughout my life, I have struggled with the idea that God is ashamed of me when I sin. I know this is untrue, but it is something I have struggled with. God doesn’t want me to sin, and He hates it when I sin, but that doesn’t mean that He is ever ashamed of me. There have been times in my life I have felt so ashamed that I questioned why God would ever want to forgive me or love me. The truth is, He is always there. He is always with me, and when I stumble, He awaits for me to turn back to Him in repentance because of His deep and unfathomable love for me.

I was also moved by the points made that temptation comes to all and it is not sin. I have often felt guilty of being tempted. The truth is that Jesus was tempted in every way, yet He resisted all temptation. Temptation doesn’t make you weak, and temptation itself is not a sin. It becomes sin when we say yes to that temptation, and we are the ones responsible for how we react to the temptation. It was in this moment I felt the Holy Spirit convict me by encouraging me to resist temptation, but also remind me that God is just to forgive in those moments I fall short by giving into temptation.

Throughout Andy’s sermon on Sunday, I was reminded of earlier messages he preached on what every Christian should know. The concepts preached about in these series don’t happen in a vacuum. They are all connected in our continuing relationships with Christ. Another important concept in my walk with Christ is the reality of God’s grace.

The beautiful reality of God is that I will never understand why He gives grace. I most certainly don’t deserve it. I am imperfect. I am sinful. I fall to temptation on a daily basis. So why does God shower me with grace, His unmerited favor? Honestly, I don’t know. Christ gave everything for it when He gave His life for us on the cross. I most certainly didn’t give anything to deserve grace? So why does God show me grace? What I do know is that I don’t have to understand why. He gives it anyways, free of charge to me, because Jesus already paid for this grace.

In the midst of my brokenness, God shows grace. In the midst of my sinfulness, God shows grace. In the midst of my faults, God shows grace. In the midst of every weakness I see in myself, God makes me a new creation through his most AMAZING grace.

Upon driving home after Andy’s sermon about temptation, while also remembering the grace God shows me daily, I was listening to a song, Broken Vessels, by Hillsong Worship which helped reinforce that while I stumble to temptation, God grants me His grace. And because of this, God can use every part of me for His glory. I am still amazed that the same God who created everything as small as the atom to everything as large as galaxies and beyond is the same God who views me (and you) as His greatest creation. And even in the midst of all my brokenness, it is through His grace, that I can be used for His glory.

All these pieces
Broken and scattered
In mercy gathered
Mended and whole
But not forsaken
I’ve been set free
I’ve been set free

Amazing grace
How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me, oh
I once was lost
But now I’m found
Was blind but now I see

Oh, I can see it now
Oh, I can see the love in Your eyes
Laying yourself down
Raising up the broken to life

You take our failure
You take our weakness
You set Your treasure
In jars of clay
So take this heart, Lord
I’ll be Your vessel
The world to see
Your life in me, oh

Amazing grace
How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me, oh
I once was lost
But now I’m found
Was blind but now I see

I cried as I drove home as I was reminded that even when I stumble, and even when I feel empty and broken, God can use me as a testimony to His amazing grace. It is my hope and my prayer that God uses me, this broken vessel, to share His love to others.

As believers in Christ, we should remind ourselves of what the Apostle Paul wrote to the churches in Ephesus (Ephesians 2:4-10, NIV):

4 But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5 made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. 6 And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, 7 in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. 8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

Fellow believers, never forget the grace God shows us. Even when we fall to temptation, it is through our faith in Christ and the unbelievable grace given to us that we are made one with Christ. God can use us broken people to carry out His message of hope to the world around us. It is because of this that I am committed to be used by God to share His gospel with those around me. For “I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace” (Acts 20:24, NIV).

So Lord, use me this broken vessel, so that others may know of your AMAZING GRACE!

Hillsong Worship. Broken Vessels (Amazing Grace). By Joel Houston and Jonas Myrin. Google Play Lyrics. Web. 08 Oct. 2018.

New International Version. Bible Gateway. Web. 20 Nov. 2018.

Broken Vessels (Amazing Grace) by Hillsong Worship

Notes taken during Pastor Andy’s sermons:

This is the Story of Grace (A Poem)

As I sit in the cool breeze

And hear the birds sing anthems of joy

And gaze upon the beauty of the plants and small creatures

And look upon the clouds in the sky

I think of grace

What is grace?

Grace is the story of someone fully man and fully God

Grace began with God’s creation as His son watched him create the universe

Grace describes how much God favors us

Grace found its way in a manger in Bethlehem

Grace was embodied in the miracles of a Savior

Grace made the lame walk, allowed the blind to see, and raised people from death

Grace welcomed the children

Grace welcomed the poor and the downtrodden

Grace welcomed the widows and orphans

Grace welcomed the prostitutes and the tax collectors

Grace even welcomed the worst of criminals

Grace washed the feet of His disciples

And then grace was arrested

Grace was tried and convicted

Convicted of what?

Grace was convicted of loving everyone

Grace was beaten, spat upon, humiliated, and sleep deprived

Grace was crucified

Nails pierced the hands of grace

Nails pierced the feet of grace

A crown of thorns was worn by grace

Grace carried the sins of the world

This sins of you and me

Grace forgave them

Grace forgave you

Grace forgave me

After so much agony, grace died

Grace was buried

It seemed that grace was defeated

Yet three days later, the grave opened

And grace emerged from death

All the powers of sin

All the powers of darkness

All the powers of hell

Could not defeat grace

Grace won with a resounding victory

Grace bears the scars and the holes where nails pierced the hands and feet

Grace returned to the Father

Grace promised His return to carry us home

And the best part

Grace is still here

Grace never leaves us

Grace is all around us

The story of grace is the story of my Redeemer

Grace is the story of my Savior

Grace is the story of the King of Kings

Grace is the story of the Son of God

Grace is the story of The Way, The Truth, and The Life

Grace is the story of Jesus Christ

Grace is the story of Christ’s redeeming love in us

Grace is the greatest story ever told

Why am I given this grace?

I don’t deserve it

I can never measure up to the one who gives this grace

I am imperfect

I am a sinner

How can this mere mortal

How can someone who messes up every single day

Compare to this majestic Savior?

How can I possibly earn grace?

I can’t!

Nothing I say

Nothing I do

Will ever be good enough to earn His grace

Grace is simply a gift

It is the greatest gift ever given

Although I am a sinner

Although I am imperfect

Although I am unworthy of this beautiful gift

Jesus gives it anyways

Just because He loves me

Therefore I will sing the song of grace

I will shout the chant of grace

I will perform the play of grace

Because Jesus has given me this grace

The greatest gift of all

This grace gives me hope

This grace gives me assurance

This grace gives me joy

This grace gives me passion for the one who gave it

Life will take me down a road with many twists and turns

But grace will sustain me

Grace will hold me in its arms

Grace will protect me

Grace has saved me

My heart aches in pain for those who have never heard the story of grace

And for those who don’t have a relationship with grace

So much pain

So much hurting

So much despair

I couldn’t possibly live life without grace

My hear hurts for those who live this life without grace

Without grace

Life is dark

Life is without hope

Life is without joy

Life has no assurance that greater things are in store

With grace, every obstacle can be overcome

With grace, life is brand new

So let me testify to this grace

Let me share this blessed story with the world

I was lost

I was broken

I was battered

I was in shame

I was without hope

Then grace found me

Grace restored me

Grace forgave me

Grace made me brand new

This is the story of Jesus Christ

This is the story of His love

This is the story of Him living in me

This is the story of Him living in you

This is the wonderful story of GRACE!

The news I never wanted to hear: His cancer is back…

Earlier this summer, my family heard from Scott & White something we never wanted to hear. The news was that there was a possibility that Dad’s cancer had returned and they wanted to do tests as soon as possible. At that moment my mind raced, “Could it be back so soon?” I wondered. Not long after, I was joking around with Shayla when my Nana (out of the blue it seems) said, “you need to go talk to your daddy.” She quietly pulled me aside and told me, “The cancer is back.”

I didn’t know what to think or how to feel; I was simply shocked. Several years ago, I never dreamed that my Dad, someone so close to me, my best friend, would have colon cancer, much less have it twice in just a few short years.

I still remember when it all started, the summer of 2013. Dad had a colonoscopy and BigDaddy and I went with him. After the procedure was over, our gastroenterologist (we have the same one) pulled me into a small conference room to tell me why Dad was having so much pain. I went in there thinking it would be something simple and easily treatable. He then proceeded to tell me that there was a sigmoid mass. I was taken aback when hearing the word “mass.” Immediately, I pleaded with him, “Please tell me it’s not cancer?” Knowing that our doctor was outspoken about his faith, he simply stated, “If Lord willing.”

Of course he couldn’t tell me, “Nah. He’ll be fine.” A few weeks later we found out that it was indeed cancer. As common as it is for people to get cancer, in some form or another, you never imagine that it could happen to someone you care so deeply about.

After surgery to remove the cancer, he would undergo six months of chemotherapy. There were nights when I cried myself to sleep. I couldn’t wrap my brain around the fact that Dad had cancer. Yet throughout all of the chemotherapy, Dad continued to remain strong in his faith. He would constantly tell me that “God has a plan for each one of us, and that the horrible things we go through can be used for His glory and to encourage others.” Even when I felt discouraged with my Crohn’s, Dad, who was going through far worse than I could possibly imagine, would encourage me to walk boldly knowing that God always goes before us.

December 24, 2013, I received the greatest Christmas gift, second only to the birth of Jesus. God gave me a cancer-free Dad! The following Spring Break, he completed his last chemo treatment, and we had a great idea. Wearing the Superman shirt we got him for Christmas, he posed in a picture with me, and I explained all the reasons why he was my Superman. He raised me as a single parent, conquered college algebra, received his degree, beat cancer, and finished chemo with his head held high.

A picture of my Superman Dad and me!

A picture of my Superman Dad and me!

The following semester, he was once again sick with an illness he told me made him feel worse than chemo ever did. Once again, he was all I could think about. One day, as I was discouraged while having a rough day, health-wise, I received a text out of nowhere it seemed. It was from my Superman, and it read, “It came to me in my weakness that God moves strong. He’s shaping me into something awesome for His glory alone. Show me this text in a month and we’ll praise Him together. Love you boy!”

If you still wonder why I always call him my Superman, that’s why. In the midst of such sickness and pain, he has always encouraged me to stand strong in my daily walk with God, and that in God, all things are possible! Even after his surgery the year before, he continually raised up his index finger to the heavens and said, “Thank you Jesus,” even though he was still trying to wake up from surgery. He says he doesn’t remember it, but I do clear as day.

Fast forward to the day my Nana pulled me aside to tell me the news, my mind was in shock that he had it a second time. In a way to distract us for a while, we went to the movies with Jeremiah and saw Pixels with D-Box seats (it was 3D and the seats moved along with the movie). It was pretty cool and for a while, I completely forgot he had cancer again.

The ride back home, reality came back to me. The cancer is back, the cancer is back. At a loss for words, the CD player started playing, “I Still Believe” by Jeremy Camp. The song reaffirmed in my heart that nothing is too big or scary for God. It reaffirmed my confidence that Jesus has our back every step of the way.

Looking towards the stars, I listened to these words:

Scattered words and empty thoughts / seem to pour from my heart
I’ve never felt so torn before/ seems I don’t know where to start
But it’s now that I feel your grace fall like rain
From every fingertip, washing away my pain

I still believe in your faithfulness / I still believe in your truth
I still believe in your holy word / even when I don’t see, I still believe

Though the questions still fog up my mind / with promises I still seem to bear
Even when answers slowly unwind / It’s my heart I see you prepare
But it’s now that I feel your grace fall like rain
From every fingertip, washing away my pain

I still believe in your faithfulness / I still believe in your truth
I still believe in your holy word / even when I don’t see, I still believe

I felt that the song was perfect in that moment. My mind was truly scattered, yet in those trying times, it is God’s grace that gives us comfort, that washes away fear, anxiety, and frustration. In these moments, He speaks to us, saying, “Be in awe and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations. I will be exalted throughout the earth” (ISV). It is in our weaknesses that God truly moves strong. So, I still believe! I believe that He remains faithful, and that His word is true. He will be exalted among the nations. He is so powerful that nothing is bigger than Him.

While Dad will now go through six more months of chemo to knock out the cancer (thankfully they caught it very early, but the word “cancer” is still scary), he still continues to believe in the awesome mightiness of God, and that God goes before him. Dad inspires me daily and continues to show me that God moves strong. I hope he always remembers that he never fights alone. He never ceases to amaze me and make me proud to say that Ronnie Stewart is the greatest father ever. I truly believe that no form of cancer, or anything else, can stand in the way of God using us in mighty ways.

Thank you Dad for inspiring me and inspiring others. By showing me how God moves strong, you truly are MY SUPERMAN!

Camp, Jeremy. I Still Believe. By Jeremy Camp, 2002. K-Love. Web. 12 Aug. 2015.

International Standard Version. Bible Gateway. Web. 12 Aug. 2015.

I Still Believe by Jeremy Camp

How Can I Keep From Singing by Chris Tomlin

In Christ Alone

What should I write? How should I say it? These were some of the questions that crossed my mind as I thought about this week’s blog. As always, God used various things such as music to share a different aspect of His truth with me.

As many of you know, I love love love music. I frequently reference a variety of Christian music in my blog. Yesterday, as I was getting ready for church, Dad started playing songs sung by Michael English. One song stuck out to me and that was the song, “In Christ Alone,” (see video below) which made me realize that it is only through Christ that I can do anything, and when something glorious happens, I should boast only in Him. When difficult circumstances arise, the first person I should turn to is Jesus. In Christ Alone.

So before I continue with my thoughts, here are the lyrics to this song…

In Christ alone will I glory
Though I could pride myself in battles won
For I’ve been blessed beyond measure
And by His strength alone I overcome
Oh, I could stop and count successes
Like diamonds in my hand
But those trophies could not equal
To the grace by which I stand

Before I continue with the rest of the song, allow me to focus on what this first verse showed me. I could talk about all of the different things I have accomplished in life, such as good grades, various scholarships, achieved goals, but the truth is that none of that could have been possible without Christ. I could talk about all that He has blessed me with, yet I cannot overlook that is He who has given me those blessings. All these successes, and all of these blessings in life are great, but none of it could possibly compare to God’s matchless grace. None of these “trophies” could equal to the eternal relationship I have with Christ. In Christ Alone.

The chorus goes like this…

In Christ alone I place my trust
And find my glory in the power of the cross
In every victory let it be said of me
My source of strength, my source of hope
Is Christ alone

In every circumstance, good or bad, instead of trusting in the world and relying on Earthly things, I should place my every trust in Him. Only through Him, can I accomplish anything worth accomplishing. Sure, I certainly work hard, and hard work is needed to accomplish many of life’s goals, but without Christ, all that hard work would be for nothing. Christ loved us so much that He sacrificed Himself on the cross so that we could have a forever relationship with Him. So that is where I will find my glory, in the power of what He did on the cross. When I am victorious, let it be said of me that my ultimate source of strength, the biggest reason why I succeeded, the reason I had hope that it could be done, is only by the power of Christ. In Christ Alone.

The second verse is as follows:

In Christ alone will I glory
For only by His grace Am I redeemed
Only His tender mercy
Could reach beyond my weakness to my need
Now I seek no greater honor
Than just to know Him more
And to count my gains but losses
To the glory of my lord

I have come to realize that even in the bad circumstances, I should praise Him. Only through Christ, can I overcome any challenge or any trial. For truly through Him, I am REDEEMED! When I am with Christ, when my hope is placed in Him, I am not broken, scarred, bruised, ashamed, sick, or afraid. Instead I am loved, I am His, I am REDEEMED! Only His grace and mercy can pull me out of any situation. So in every circumstance, I should seek His face. Therefore I glory in trials, and I thank Him for my weaknesses, my sufferings. These circumstances allow me to fully rely on Him, and they draw me closer to Him. There is without a doubt no greater honor than to know Him more and more. Only by His love, can I live a life worth living. In Christ Alone.

So why should I fear, why should I worry? If my life is filled with Christ, if I am alive in Him, what is there to fear? In Christ alone, I can find courage, peace, and reassurance. And if am successful, how can I not give Him the credit for giving me the strength and wisdom to get the job done? It is in Christ alone, that I can truly find meaningful success. Without Him, my accomplishments would be for nothing. When life is going great, how can I not thank Him and give Him the glory? It is in Christ alone that I can truly be happy and enjoy life to the fullest.

Therefore, because of all of this truth, I will only boast in Jesus. How could I possibly boast in anything else? This reminds me of part of a song sung by Phillips, Craig & Dean called “How Deep the Father’s Love for Us.”

I will not boast in anything
No gifts, no power, no wisdom
But I will boast in Jesus Christ
His death and resurrection
Why should I gain from His reward
I cannot give an answer
But this I know with all my heart
His wounds have paid my ransom

I cannot boast in anything else! Any talent I have, any success I have is absolutely worthless without Christ. Therefore let my heart give Him all the glory, and let me boast in Him above all else. He gave His life for me (yes me!). I am so unworthy, of this sacrifice, yet He gave His life for me anyways. The very least I can do is give Him all the glory and boast in Him. In Christ alone will I boast!

As imperfect as I am, He chose me to be used for His glory. He chose me despite any weakness I have. What an honor! He chose all of us according to His purpose. He didn’t choose perfect people. He chose imperfect people. Never believe the lie that God cannot use you. Society may sometimes overlook you and tell you that you are worthless, but who cares what society thinks? God’s opinion is the only one that truly matters and He thinks you are precious and someone that can be used for His glory! It is often those society overlooks whom God uses to carry out His plan.

1 Corinthians 1:26-31 (The Message) says this:

26-31 Take a good look, friends, at who you were when you got called into this life. I don’t see many of “the brightest and the best” among you, not many influential, not many from high-society families. Isn’t it obvious that God deliberately chose men and women that the culture overlooks and exploits and abuses, chose these “nobodies” to expose the hollow pretensions of the “somebodies”? That makes it quite clear that none of you can get by with blowing your own horn before God. Everything that we have—right thinking and right living, a clean slate and a fresh start—comes from God by way of Jesus Christ. That’s why we have the saying, “If you’re going to blow a horn, blow a trumpet for God.”

Worded in another translation (NIV), the last verse says this:

31 Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.”

Society may tell you that you are a nobody. God thinks the opposite! He can use you and every part of you for His purpose. So boast in the Lord. Blow your trumpet for Him! It is in Him alone, that anything is possible.

When life is going great, when we find success, let us give Him the glory and remember that only in Him are all of these blessings and successes meaningful. When life has us “down,” let us remember to call ourselves REDEEMED and know that only in Him can we find strength and courage to overcome any challenge. When we feel worthless, feel as if we cannot be used for His glory, let us remember that we can be used for His purpose, and that it is through Christ that we find worth. So let us boast in Him and blow our trumpet for Christ.

In every situation, let us always remember these words: IN CHRIST ALONE!

English, Michael. In Christ Alone. By Donald A. Koch and Andrew Shawn Craig, 1991. Lyrics007. Web. 3 Aug. 2015.

New International Version. Bible Gateway. Web. 3 Aug. 2015.

Phillips, Craig & Dean. How Deep the Father’s Love for Us. By Stuart Townend, 1995. SongLyrics. Web. 3 Aug. 2015.

The Message. Bible Gateway. Web. 3 Aug. 2015.

In Christ Alone by Michael English

How Deep the Father’s Love for Us by Phillips, Craig & Dean