“Love Moved First”

2 Chronicles 7:14

 

If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.

 

This is the story of a runaway
With no way home and no way out
I threw the best of me away
I had my chance, it's too late now
Too far gone and too ashamed
To think that you'd still know my name
But love refused to let my story end that way

 

You didn't wait for me to find my way to You
I couldn't cross that distance even if I wanted to
You came running after me
When anybody else would've turned and left me at my worst
Love moved first

 

What kind of grace, relentless grace
Would chase this rebel down
Crawl into this prisoners cage
Take my hand and pull me out
You knew I couldn't make the change
So You became the change in me
And now I live to tell the story
Of the God who rescues

 

You didn't wait for me to find my way to You
I couldn't cross that distance even if I wanted to
You came running after me
When anybody else would've turned and left me at my worst
Love moved first

 

From the throne to the manger
From a manger to the grave
Your cross is the proof
Love made the first move
From a grave meant to keep You
To a stone rolled away
Your cross is the proof
Love made the first move

 

I remember where You found me
I'm amazed by where I stand
Your cross is the proof
That love made the first move

 

You didn't wait for me to find my way to You
I couldn't cross that distance even if I wanted to
You came running after me
When anybody else would've turned and left me at my worst
Love moved first

 

You didn't wait for me to find my way to You
I couldn't cross that distance even if I wanted to
You came running after me
When anybody else would've turned and left me at my worst
Love moved first

 

Oh-oh, oh-oh
Love moved first

 

You have probably heard the story of conversions to Christ. This song by Casting Crowns refers to a God who pursues not waiting for me to change my ways, believing all along that love comes first. What Wondrous Love Is; this chases us down, and we are not able to turn away from the God who pursues. 

 

You may remember your own conversion. Depending on your situation, God has to pursue one more than another. I grew up in the church and was raised by a Godly mother and father. They made sure we were in church every week. They made sure we were active in church events – youth groups, Bible studies, our well-known handbell choir. Love Moved First.

 

I had always wanted to follow my grandfather into the ministry. He was such a success professionally. I couldn’t imagine a richer career. I made my confession of faith on Palm Sunday of 1976 and was baptized the next week on Easter. I believed. It didn’t seem like God had to pursue me that far. Love moved first. I was raised well – away from drinking and drugs – wild living, etc.. 

 

I even attended a Christian college – Texas Christian University and majored in Religion. But as I studied and became more proficient in the Bible and Theology, something was missing. My heart was not into it. I studied the Bible academically but that was it. It never sunk in. It never really changed my life. Love Moved First.

 

In 1989, my Senior year in college after having been mentored by staff and students from Campus Crusade for Christ, I was given a brief book entitled More than a Carpenter by Josh McDowell. It changed my life. After reading that book, I came to the conclusion that I was a sinner in need of a Savior. I prayed for God to forgive me and to take up residence in my heart. Love Moved First.

 

The academic study of the Bible wasn’t enough for me. I needed a small book to change my life. Was I perfect? No. Did I falter? Yes. Did I sin? Yes. But I have always believed in the eternal security of the believer, Once you come to Christ and profess your belief you are eternally secure. I did not finish Seminary. I tried many times. 

 

Then God led me to smaller churches like Burkburnett and Iowa Park. I found that I had a place there. After all, small churches need Pastors too. But before that let me tell you something. I lost my mother to suicide in 1996. That will rip your guts out. There seem to be no answers. Everyone means well but I asked God, Why? Love Moved First.

 

I became mad at God. I wanted to know why she had done it and why he didn’t stop her. She had been such a strong Christian. Couldn’t He heal her mental illness like he had so many physical illnesses? I was blessed to be able to give sermons once a month beginning in 1996 at First Christian Church of Burkburnett. The Pastor there had been my Pastor when I grew up in Wichita Falls.

 

I guess he saw potential there. I preached some angry and depressing sermons at first. Then God began to bring me around and I was able to begin to let go. You never completely let go when such tragedy comes into your life. But I eventually became Pastor of that church in 1999. I had four good years there until I moved to the Presbyterian Church where my wife worked to worship with her. Love Moved First. Then 2005 happened. My dad had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 1999, but my Pastor had lived twenty years with Parkinson’s. But little did my sisters and I know he had an aggressive form of Parkinson’s. He went from independence to assisted living to nursing facility, He was 67 when he died in 2005.

 

I got really mad at God this time. I felt like an orphan. My dad had taken the place of two parents since my mother’s death. This hit me like a brick wall. I quit going to church and would visit the cemetery on Sundays where my parents were buried. You don’t understand how lucky you are if you have your parents into their 70’s and 80’s. Love Moved First.

 

I just wanted to talk to my mom and dad. My mom dead at 54 and my dad dead at 67. How do you make sense of all of this? I almost left God. I almost stopped believing. I almost threw in the towel in reference to my faith. Ask Ann. She will tell you how I missed church and worshipping with her. She stood by me during this difficult time.

 

You know what got me through the tragedy of my parent’s death? As I would come home from the cemetery, I would play a song written and sung by Michael W Smith entitled “All is Well.” Through hell and fury of those times – above it all – All Was Well with God at the helm. Love Moved First. God moves strangely yet predictably through other people in our lives. Jesus would call his first disciples in a text from being just fishermen to fishers of men. These men had no guarantees that they would flourish following this man. What faith it must have taken to put down their nets. God pursuing them. They felt the call of God. They knew it was true. Love Moved First.

 

I have had that same feeling in regard to other people in my life. My Pastor at First Christian Church helped mold my life; those friends and leaders with Campus Crusade for Christ helped me along the path. My wife of 22 years Ann – she stuck with me thick and thin -sometimes very hard to live with but always believing in my potential and having my back when others gave up. Love Moved First.

 

And then here. John Mason and Sammy Henderson who invited me to preach some 9 years ago - who issued a call from this church where I have served 8 years. John has been like a second father to me. God chased me and chases me when I get down. When I think I can’t make it any further, God is there. Love Moved First.

 

And no matter what you have done or where you have been and no matter how far you feel your life has taken you – believe me like the Prodigal Son’s father, God stands on the porch with the light on waiting for you to come home. You cannot avoid him – you cannot get away from him. He will stop you in your tracks. Regardless of your past – your present – your future is as a child of God in His mind. He will never give up on you. Love Moved First.

 

Yes, some people will – they are human – but this God is eternal and pursues whatever you have done or direction your life has gone. Maybe you have been away from the church for a time – God will be there when you make up your mind like those early disciples. Love Moved First.

 

Don’t listen to the negative preachers who constantly scare people into giving their lives to Christ. God will never scare you. He may let circumstances happen that make you fear, but right around the corner He is there to embrace and suddenly the fear melts from your hearts. 

You are a sinner no more…you are His. Believe me, God loves you. Believe it this day. Live like it matters to you. Become fishers of men. And you will forever be changed. Love Moved First. Amen.

2021, FIRST CHRISTIAN CHURCH, Iowa Park