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The Worst of Sinners ~ The Best of Grace and Mercy
by Steven Ray Bragg
9/09/2014 / Testimonies
And the grace of our Lord was more than abundant, with the faith and love which are found in Christ Jesus.
It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all. Yet for this reason I found mercy, so that in me as the foremost, Jesus Christ might demonstrate His perfect patience as an example for those who would believe in Him for eternal life
(1 Timothy 1:14-16 NASB).
At seven years of age, my grandmother took me to see The Ten Commandments movie by Cecil B DeMille. I was spellbound by Moses standing on a cliff, ready to open the Red Sea. My continued prayer each night for many years was God; use my life like you did Moses.
My grandmother was an ordained Four Square Preacher. However, Grandma had a drinking problem that overtook her life and ministry. She fell from ministry and left our lives at the request of my mother. Grandma came to see me late one night at my bedroom window. I believe I was aged ten at that time. She gave me a Bible and said this book would be my life. She talked about the dedication to the Lord of the first-born male child. I am the first-born. She prayed for me with power and conviction that I would serve the Lord. I never saw my grandmother again.
My grandmother, mother, father, and stepfather all drank heavily and had morality issues. As I grew with no guidance in faith, I was lost to the world of drinking, drugs, and immorality.
The Lord had heard my prayer as a young child to serve Him, and I believe He honored the dedication prayer of my grandmother. At age twenty-seven, I found the Lord and immediately entered Bible College. In college I learned the Bible well, but had not understood how the power of God could transform my life. I was able to keep the drinking, drugs, and immorality at bay during college. Soon after graduation, while in my first preaching ministry, the strongholds of these sins overtook my life once again. I had learned the theology of Gods Word, but missed its life. I was still dead in my trespasses and sin. Like my grandmother, I fell from the ministry. I lost everything including family, ministry, reputation, and church.
In my fallen state, I embraced the darkness. Flames of lustful desires burned in my heart and could not be quenched. Indeed, I became one of the worst of all sinners. There was not much that I did not experience.
After thirteen years of wondering in darkness, sin had destroyed me. All that was left of my life was in ruins. There was only heartache and the pain of an empty, unfulfilled life. I had longed to serve the Lord I still longed to serve the Lord but had thrown that away. I concluded that my sins were too great for Him to restore my life into His service.
Finally, in desperation, I fell to my knees and asked God if He could forgive me. My only hope was His forgiveness. I asked, if possible, if I could have a little happiness in this life.
But to my amazement, God took the broken pieces of my life and not only forgave me, but restored me into a powerful ministry that I could never have imagined. My heart was broken, but God would use my broken heart to save me from the ravages of sin. I was to discover the depths of not only His forgiveness, but also His grace and mercy. Like the apostle Paul, I was to declare that if God could forgive and use the worst of sinners, me, He can forgive and restore you as well (1Timothy 1:15-16).
One night, I went to a church service. It was a church that did not know about my past. I sat in the back, ready to make a quick exit after the service. I did not want to answer the probing questions that would embarrass me by revealing I was once a pastor, but had fallen from the ministry.
At the end of the service, the pastor started talking about Communion. He talked about our Lords sacrifice of His blood and life for my sins. He spoke of the resurrection and the hope of eternal life. I wanted to run out the door, but I was glued to the chair. Tears were shooting from my eyes as the Communion symbols of the bread and juice came to me. Never did our Lords Supper mean so much to me as then. When I arrived home, I said to the Lord, You arranged that just for me, thank you!
I wanted to go to church regularly now. The Lord had blessed me with a new wife, also a Christian. I found a church and met up with the pastor over a coffee. I wanted to tell him who I was: a fallen pastor. Part way through my story he stopped me and said he also fell, but God had restored his life and ministry. His words to me changed my life: God loves you, Steve! Oh, these words were like cool water to a man dying of thirst.
For several years, this pastor and other mentors taught me how to live with God. They helped me back onto the path of life in our Lord! My restoration into His service was slow. First I led a Bible study, then a life group, then I became a board member, and finally an elder. Just a few years ago, my restoration was completed as I was ordained a pastor.
In 2005, to illustrate the Parable of the Talents (Matt. 25:14-30), I was given a $100 and asked to invest it in the Kingdom of God. I prayed that God would show me how to use the money, and if I could be a part of whatever blessing it became. At that same time, my wifes sister in the Philippines was praying for a church in her remote community. I enlisted the help of others, and soon that $100 became Grace Chapel. We attended its dedication in 2006.
For the next few years, my Lord continued to draw me into a deeper relationship with Him. In 2011, my family and I moved to the Philippines as missionaries. Now, in 2014, we have twenty-three new churches in remote areas of the Philippines. We have many care programs in the name of our Lord Jesus. These ministries of love provide regular feedings for malnourished children, school scholarships for less fortunate children, health programs, support for pastors, clothing programs, and, most of all, the hope of our Lord Jesus and His saving mercy and grace. Many lives and communities are being transformed with the loving care of our Lord.
Today, my life is fulfilled and overflowing as my prayer as a seven-year-old boy is being answered. For each day, I see the proof in my life that "The Lord will fight for you while you keep silent"(Exodus 14:14 NASB). Amen!
I'm a missionary serving in the Philippines as a church planter. To date we have started 28 new churches in the remote areas. My story is one of grace. Thank you LORD! You can follow our amazing ministry here: http://www.riverrockchurchphilippines.com/
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