It has been a while since I have had time to write. The church that I serve has been growing steadily, with new people added each week. It is thrilling time, I have been spending time getting to know new people and have had a heavy social calendar. As I ponder the season we are in two realities become clear to me. The first is that circumstance is not the measure of God's favor, as I have been meeting new people and hearing their stories I am stirred by the faithfulness of God. I have been hearing real stories of blessing, of disappointment and loss. I visited with one man over lunch, and he shared how he lost his career through a dishonest boss, as he shared the details of how this individual tried to destroy his reputation, I found myself getting angry on his behalf. As our conversation progressed I was struck by his lack of bitterness. There was pain, but there was also real hope in his heart. You could sense it, it was real faith. The reality is that Jesus is with him, strengthening him in the inner man was evident. His friends stood by him, the love and grace of God is working on his behalf. I found that I want to get to know this man better.
The lesson is this; God's Spirit is straining to help us. God manifests His love in the good and bad times, we only have to stop and look through the challenges and draw upon our relationship with him. As I thought about the season that Journey Church is in I have to ask myself is God more pleased with us now that we are growing, is it because of some secret key that we stumbled on by accident? The reality is that He is always for us, and seasons of blessing are to be enjoyed, but they are not the proof of God's favor. The cross is the only proof we need. The apostle Paul wrote "what can separate us from the love of Christ" and then lists half dozen extremely difficult situations and then concludes that "we are more than conquers in Christ Jesus." My new friend is living proof!!
The second reality is that Jesus loves people, no, that’s not strong enough, He adores people. He gave so much so that we could have real life. A life blessed with real relationships, real confidence and hope. Margi and I have become friends with young man that we have come to love. He has been involved in ministry and has experienced a major failure in his life. He has felt the pain of being cast aside, friends distancing themselves and being left to sort it all out for himself. Even when he seemed to have hardened his heart, again real pain, real regret, yet Jesus pursued him and the love of God broke through. There was genuine repentance. God loves to takes the solitary and put them in to families, where the healing grace of God reveled through the love of God’s people. I'm thankful that I am a part of church that lives it.
The scripture is full of stories of people who failed in some area, and God brings restoration. I am convinced that it is time we stop treating those who have had problems as traitors. A mentor of mine who is now advanced in years said pragmatically “sin happens, that’s why we need a savior”. It is so easy when we see someone we respect stumble, to dump all our disappointment on that person. Sometimes we react if their failure is a deliberate personal insult to us. How different was Paul’s approach, “Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” He would warn them not to fall in to the legalistic trap of comparing themselves. “Each one should test his own actions. Then he can take pride in himself, without comparing himself to somebody else…” (Galatians 6:1,2,4 from New International Version)
Let us be determined to be an agent of restoration.