Saturday, March 21, 2015

Growing in Grace

2_peter_3_18--white-800x800It is rapidly approaching the fourth anniversary of the official launch of Acres of Hope Christian Fellowship!  Looking back, I can honestly say that it has been an exciting journey, not without its challenges, but the blessings have far outweighed the burdens.

I can still remember the raw emotions that drove me in those early days – sorrow and anger over the destruction the devil had inflicted upon the church I had served for eighteen years in such a short time, and unbridled joy and exhilaration over the “new thing” that the Lord was doing in our midst even as we sat among the ashes.  For those first few months, NOTHING could go wrong.

However, as is the norm in any other aspect of life, once the initial honeymoon phase wore off, we soon discovered that there was so much more to leading and serving a new church body.  People, after all, are imperfect and broken at best, and even the best of intentions can sometimes cause misunderstandings and offense.  Some came and left, wanting something different than the “same old, same old.”  Some were upset because we weren’t enough like our former church; others accused us of trying too hard to recreate our former church. 

In came those who had been previously damaged by churches; in also came those who had never been to church before.  In came families in crisis, crumbling marriages, people dealing with serious and chronic health conditions, people dealing with significant loss and loneliness, and so much more.

It wasn’t always pretty, and it certainly wasn’t always easy.  But it was exactly what the Lord had called us to.  Time and again, we had opportunities to live out our stated purpose – “loving God, loving others.”  It wouldn’t matter how dynamic the worship was, how powerful or relevant the sermon was, how delicious the fellowship meal was, if authentic love for our fellow man was not at the core of everything we set ourselves to do, it would be all for naught.

2 Peter 3:18 exhorts us to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” It is never a one-time destination to be reached, but an ongoing spiritual evolution.  We are bound to make mistakes from time to time, but we are not *bound* to them. 

You may have fallen.  You may have drifted.  You may have forsaken your first love for Jesus Christ.

Grace says, “Get back up.  Keep moving forward.  Follow Me.”

This Easter season, I would like to invite you to remember the first love you had for Jesus, and to realize that love that He has for you is just as strong as it ever was.   No matter where you and I are in your spiritual journey, He is always there calling us inward and onward, higher and deeper, ever intimately closer.

If you don’t already have a church family, please consider visiting us at Acres of Hope Christian Fellowship on Easter Sunday, April 5th, 2015, at 11 AM as we celebrate this most blessed of days!

Love in Christ,
Pastor Joe