Before I begin, I want to explain my recent silence. There are so many things going on in the world right now, serious issues, that I’ve felt like anything I write is trivial in comparison. Nothing parallels life and death, and thus I almost started believing that anything other than those issues were not as important.
Well, that is true – to a point. Many of us do not live in life or death situations every day of our lives. But, we do live with peaks and valleys, good times and suffering, gain and loss, sickness and health, and all of the array of emotions that accompany such times of life. There are seasons and purposes to everything under heaven (Ecclesiastes) and this blog’s purpose is to walk through these seasons, hopefully offering encouragement to others who paths may look different, but share some of the same feelings about our journeys. So with that, I have found a revived excitement about writing. One person cannot solve the world’s problems, but if this blog brings a smile, offers a perspective, or lightens the load of our fellow sojourners, then God will continue to work His message through this one, simple blog that has traversed 25+ countries across the world.
What better way to prove this than with my friend. Lately, I’ve been overwhelmed with a new found love for my church. I’m not talking about only where my membership resides, but Christ’s church that spans from the book of Acts to all over the world today. We will camp on this for a few days. Why? Because the church has taken many hits over time. It’s not perfect by any stretch, but God has ignited in my heart a renewing of the joy of being part of His church. With that, there’s someone I’d like you to meet.
I met this friend a while ago. For a long time, I didn’t know his story of how he became a Christian or found our church. I only knew I was glad this man’s life intersected ours. He makes good points in discussion. He is tender, humble and very funny. He has a huge, bright smile and likes to laugh. He is considerate, helpful and smart. He never misses a Sunday (unless work schedules conflict) and worships with his whole being. He loves God with all his heart; loves his church; and loves people. I recall a recent Sunday when he stood at the door, greeting people as they came in the building. He smiled and said kind words to me. He ushered the offering plate on our row with a servant’s heart. Sounds like a great guy, huh?
Did I also mention that he used to be (until he asked Christ into his heart) a drug dealer? He had every dealer’s name in the city on his speed dial, and used to use “physical intimidation” to get money due him. He wasn’t a nice guy.
Ya know what? I can’t see it. What I see when I look at him (as does everyone at our church who knows his story), is a transformed man. Extreme Makeover has nothing on this guy. This man is teachable, gentle and kind. I liken him to a teddy bear.
My husband and I talked fondly about him just yesterday, and we just sit in amazement over the new life this friend has in Christ. The bondage of old sin is broken, and he is new.
Is his life perfect? Nope. Is anyone’s?
Does his old lifestyle still have consequences? Sure. Anyone’s does.
If accepting Christ as Savior meant a free ride with a perfect life, being Christian would be a lot more popular! One thing it does mean is that we are free to live the abundant life Jesus spoke of in John 10:10.
There are many people in the Bible who underwent the same transformation on their own personal level. Take Paul. He was Saul, a perfect Pharisee. He relentlessly persecuted the church without discrimination against men, women, old and young. He was present, and approved, Stephen’s stoning – which was the first martyrdom for Christ (Acts 7:54-60; Acts 8:1).
But, then he encountered Christ. He was changed. Transformed. New. (Acts 9:319)
Were Christians wary of Paul? Oh yes! When he came to Damascus, they knew he was coming for them. After all, he made that message very clear (Acts 9:1-2). But along the way, the love of Christ broke through some very tough skin and a hardened heart. Paul went on to become the most impactful missionary in history for the cause of Christ. If God could reach Saul, now Paul, how capable is He of giving any of us a new start?
Regardless of our past, God offers a new future. He replaces shame with dignity; heals scars; replaces despair with hope; and sets our feet on a new path made exclusively for us. No one is beyond saving. Christ died for one and all. He is the only God who sacrificed Himself for people so we, who accept Him, don’t ever have to experience the eternal penalty for our sins.
My friend experienced God’s love in such an irresistible way that he forsook his entire lifestyle and livelihood to follow Christ. He asked for forgiveness and turned from his ways. He surrendered his finances to God and asked Him to give him a job he can be proud of. He seeks God. Becoming a Christian didn’t satisfy his appetite. He wants more. He wants to know more about God and draw closer to Him. That is change!
If I weren’t a part of the body of Christ, I never would have met this man that I look forward to seeing on Sundays. His story never would have challenged my heart to embrace miraculous change for anyone who earnestly wants it.
If I weren’t part of the body of Christ, I never would have realized how similar my friend and I are. I may not have his story as my own, but we both share a need for God’s love, forgiveness, and grace. We both rest in the peace that only Christ can bring. We both want to run our races strong for Christ – no matter the cost. We are both sinners who found a life of hope and joy in God who is trustworthy and faithful.
We are equally loved by God who created us. My friend’s story reaffirms a favorite quote by Dr. Bruce Frank, You can run from God, but you can’t outrun God.
Whether I see my friend at church, or look in the mirror, I am reminded of Lamentations 3:22-23, Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I am thankful to be a part of the body of Christ.
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away, and look, new things have come. 2 Corinthians 5:17
But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect…
1 Corinthians 15:10
Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. Romans 8:1-2
…To Him who loves us and has set us free from our sins by His blood, and made us a kingdom, priests to His God and Father—the glory and dominion are His forever and ever. Amen. Revelation 1:5