Has the Lord captured your heart with His love? He captured Gary Rhode’s heart as he listened to Henry Blackaby share from his heart. Gary and Claire Cloninger took Dr. Blackaby’s teaching on the will of God and created a musical and Bible Study called, Experiencing God. My church family recently finished the study and presents the musical Sunday night, April 29th, at 7 p.m. A hearty welcome is extended to everyone to join us at First Baptist Church, 408 College St., for this life-changing musical.
Jean, our choir director, leads with passion much like is expressed by those who wrote the musical. Gary says, “May eyes be open to see how deeply God loves us — to bring us each to a point where our only response to Him would be, ’Lord, you have captured my heart with Your love. I say ‘yes’, Lord! I will follow You! Use me, send me” His hope is that God will use the musical to bring people into His presence, that each person would know they are face to face with the living God. Claire believes the musical inspires people to rise up from the pews and do extraordinary things for the Lord.
Experiencing God helps believers look closely at seven truths from His Word and from experiencing His presence. The seven realities remind us…”God is always at work around us, He pursues a continuing love relationship that is real and personal. God invites you to become involved with Him in His work. God speaks by the Holy Spirit through the Bible, prayer, circumstances, and the church to reveal Himself, His purposes, and His ways. God’s invitation to work with Him always leads to a crisis of belief that requires faith and action. You must make major adjustments in your life to join God in what He is doing. You come to know God by experience as you obey Him and He accomplishes His work through you.”
The week before Easter, we practiced long and hard on two of my favorite songs. As we sang, My Abba’s Child, I read the worship leader’s part while Jean worked with the bass section, “Because we are God’s children, He has sent the Spirit of His Son, Jesus, into our hearts, so that now we have the right to talk about God as our Father, our Abba…our Dad.” Galatians 4:6
I soaked up His sweet spirit like a sponge, thinking of how much I love my daddy, how much my sons love their dad, and how much we love God, our Dad. All of them live in heaven and in our hearts. My eyes filled with tears, my heart with joy. I sobbed silently, touched by my Father’s presence and the words from the song… ‘When I fall, you restore me, and when I fail, You lead me in Your way. When the race is too tough, You run beside me, You’re there to guide me every day.’
The thoughts a Dad who created, restores, leads, looks after, uplifts, guides, gives, sacrificed His Son, and loves us unconditionally kept me quiet for the last verse too. Reading the worship leader’s part kept me on one page and in tune with my Lord. “Sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words. At the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona, spectators saw a living picture of God’s love for His children. That year, Derek Redmond of Great Britain was reaching for his lifelong dream of winning a gold medal in the four-hundred-meter run. As the gun sounded for the semi-finals, Derek knew without a doubt he was running the race of his life. Then, tragically, a torn right hamstring sent him sprawling face down on the hard surface of the track. By a sheer act of will, he struggled to his feet and began crazily hopping toward the finish line. Suddenly a large man in a T-shirt bounded out of the stands, flinging security guards aside. Making his way toward the wounded runner, Jim Redmond threw his arms around his son.
“Son, you don’t have to do this,” he said.
Yes, Dad, I do,” Derek answered.
All right then, let’s finish this thing together,” said the older man. And that’s exactly what they did. Staying in Derek’s land the whole way, the son’s head frequently buried in his father’s shoulder, they made it to the end of the race as the crowd rose to its feet, weeping and cheering.
Derek Redmond did not win the gold medal that day. But he walked away from the race with the memory of a father who loved him too much to stay in the stands watching him suffer- a father who came down and entered the race. This is the kind of heavenly Father we have, One who loves us too much to look down from heaven watching us fall and fail, but who is willing to come into our race, running it beside us and within us every step of the way until we are safely home.”
Practice was over, it was time for prayer requests, and I was sure my friends felt I needed prayer. After all, who cries at choir practice? My tears were happy ones, understood only by those who experience God personally and passionately. Jean asked me to pray. Before I began, I shared the story of my seventeen year old niece, Katy, who battles physical disabilities and pain to the point she is ready to stop the race and give up. I could not hold back tears that told how painful it is to watch those you love with handicaps struggle through life’s race, facing hurdles most of us will never understand. I thought of our Father who loves us and carries us when we are down. Katy’s own father went to be with Jesus last April. She knows the sting of death and the taste of defeat when every time she tries to stand up and move forward, another physical ailment knocks her down. I asked my choir family to pray for Katy, then I prayed for all the names mentioned, thanking God for being a Dad who is willing to come into our race and run beside us and within us every step of the way until we are safely home.
I took my book home; a stirring inside my heart whispered, ‘write about Experiencing God.’ Turning to the finale, I read words that seem fitting to end this story. “I will never be the same again. I can never return. I’ve closed the door. I will walk the path, I’ll run the race and I will never be the same again. To know You, Lord – to hear Your voice- This is our hope, This is our joy! To follow You, to run the race! To worship You and to sing Your praise.
May this message strengthen you to run life’s race and come closer to Christ with every step you take. You will never be the same again when you truly ‘Experience God’.