Yes we can, Barack Obama and God’s Grace

It was just fantastic to watch Barack Obama’s historic inauguration last week. What an impacting moment for him, with great encouragement for America; for everyone in fact and meaningful hope for a better future in these uncertain times. A notable landmark occasion.

Obama’s effective opening speech inspired much encouragement, bringing tremendous responses and applause. It spoke of assurance and hope, as well as the strong theme that there is much to be done to rectify the present problems and the answers won’t come easily nor overnight. That teamwork is a mountain-levelling key to fulfilling the current catchcry of

‘Yes, we can!’

Of course there were those who afterwards just had to criticise and subtly demean that heart touching message! When you stick your neck out to achieve something meaningful, there’s always someone ready to swing the proverbial axe! On the other hand, Christian ministries that were previously against Obama’s presidential journey seem to have changed their opinions, although some are now evincing new spiritual views such as ‘what Obama must learn from scripture and do.’

Using the name of Jesus
There was much I liked about various aspects of that inauguration…Saddleback’s Pastor Rick Warren’s invocation prayer for example. Believing he would close with the traditional use of the name Jesus, critics had quickly pre-empted themselves by publicly slamming him. But Warren brilliantly closed with ‘I ask all this in the name of the one who changed my life’ then mentioned Jesus’ name in a number of ethnic languages relevant to Americans …’Yeshua, Isa, Jesus (Spanish pronunciation), Jesus who taught us to pray…’ followed by the Lord’s Prayer, then ‘Amen.’ An inspired 1 Corinthians 12:8 word of wisdom!

I also liked the Obamas using Abraham Lincoln’s Bible during the new president’s sacred oath-taking and the ‘So help me, God’, the ‘God bless you’, the ‘God bless America’ and the affirmations of the nation’s Christian values.

But I especially liked how Barack Obama brought God and scripture (‘We remain a young nation, but in the words of scripture, the time has come to set aside childish things.’) into his challenging oratory, particularly when he mentioned that classic phrase ‘God’s grace.’ It inferred that America needs it to see the ‘Yes, we can’ become ‘Yes, we did!’

God’s amazing grace
God’s grace is something amazing. Something we can’t do without. Something we need every day and in every situation. We have a God who has done so much for us because of his great love for us. We owe him so much. In a nutshell it’s GRACEGod’s Riches At Christ’s Expense.

Whenever I hear the term, ‘God’s grace’ I’m reminded of this and how condemned, helpless and hopeless I personally would be without it. I’m also reminded of the 2007 movie Amazing Grace, a great film not merely about John Newton’s famous song came about. Oh yes, Newton is featured, brilliantly and sincerely portrayed by the ever-polished Albert Finney. And his classic line – spoken with heartfelt warmth of ‘My memory is going but two things I can never forget…I am a great sinner and Christ is a great Saviour’ – will not quickly fade from many viewers’ minds for it summarises a awesome truth.

But the overall movie is an outstanding depiction of the courage, faith and passion of William Wilberforce, fondly known as Wilber. Superb acting, eye and mind-grabbing locations and touching moments, but above all portraying a strong message of self-denial for a worthy cause and the Christian principles of justice and caring for others. A movie worth seeing a number of times.

William Wilberforce believed with a passion that he could serve his Lord and his faith and break the injustice of Britain’s slave trade. But it cost him! Nearly his life, certainly his health and his sanity at times, as well as finance, personal pleasure and time. For 30 years he fought against the wealthy, ‘the system’ and Parliament. And by God’s amazing grace, strength, wisdom and power, he won through! If you like, ‘he did it!’

Making it through principles
‘Yes we can!’ means winning through, making it in difficult times, seeing a dream come about. For America and other nations, Barack Obama and Christians to ‘make it’ we all need the touch of God’s grace.

Here are ten of the many topflight winning principles that so clearly come through not only from the movie but the scriptures…
· It’s not enough just to be involved in the cause, work, church, vision; we must be committed and passionate!
· Having a godly inbuilt love for others is imperative
· We must be prepared to ‘hang in there’ no matter what
· Enemies, even ‘frenemies’ (friends who prove to be the opposite) can be most scathing and unkind
· Youth is not necessarily a hindrance
· Faith, love, caring and Christianity are verbs, not just nouns and call for action!
· God is for real and comes through when we put him and his values first!
· There’s a meaningful difference between real Christianity death bringing ‘religious rules and regulations’
· It isn’t money or power that makes the difference in life…it’s how we use them
· No one is meant to be a slave or owned by anyone…we are all meant to be free under God – knowing that we belong to him.

The superior touching the inferior
Right from Genesis the Bible speaks much about grace. It’s an amazing word in itself, referring to a superior being stooping right down to an inferior being. It depicts the depth of the love of our God, especially as it also means an action in favour of one who has no real claim to gracious treatment.

And that’s incredible! It’s like in the story Jesus told of the last labourer hired for only an hour’s work but received exactly the same wage as the one who worked all day. God’s grace – in all its various expressions and outworkings – is indeed ‘amazing grace.’

God’s grace is power! The phrase ‘by God’s grace’ is an oft-used one, indicating that with his help we can make it. The truth is that whatever God requires us to achieve for him, he has already allocated his power to help us make it. Indeed the New Testament speaks of the grace of God being a powerful tool to those seeking to fulfil God’s vision for them.

Take Acts 14:26 (Message Bible) for example. It acknowledges that despite the hard times they encountered, Paul and Barnabas had completed their God-given task by his grace: ‘They made it…back to Antioch, where it had all started – launched by God’s grace and now safely home by God’s grace. A good piece of work.’

My encouragement is this. A superior being has touched our inferior lives. Therefore the future looks good. Despite the bleak picture the world system is painting at present, we can make it. Yes, we can! Not only can America and President Obama make it but so can every Christian who fully trusts God.

Grace is something that can touch every aspect of our lives, not just our salvation. As we minister around different churches, we’ve been telling Christians who are concerned about finance and tomorrow: ‘You are not under the world’s economy, you’re under God’s economy!’

Now that’s good news! Take it on board and let God’s grace abound!

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