Each Thursday, LTN will be featuring a blog written by an Alumni during their time of service. This week’s feature comes from 2011/2012 Alumni Josh Smith. This post was originally written in November 2011.
COMMUNITY & GRACE
Living in community you begin to find family.“He replied to him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” Pointing to his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.” (Matthew 12:48-50)
Living in community you begin to find family. I have a family-like community that has gone through hardships: their 19 year old son murdered, not having any relationship with their son, a run-away brother and families who have abandoned their children. I find myself wondering what God was doing during those times. How is he working through these situations? Then I think about my life and the ways I have seen God’s grace work through the times when I thought my world was crashing down. The problem is we think it’s our world, not God’s.
“He gave us a place; sin distorts that and tries to ruin it.”Daniel MontgomeryFor a long time I believed that I was never going to be good enough to amount to much of anything. Growing up I was under the impression that I was not smart enough or talented enough. I felt this way, not due to any one specific person or person’s behavior, but from multiple days of hearing that I was worthless and allowing Satan to work it into my thoughts. What I did not understand is that God made us for a purpose, as one of my pastors, Daniel Montgomery put it, “He gave us a place; sin distorts that and tries to ruin it”. I figured I was going to go through life not being much of anything. I knew that God was a good God and a loving God, but there is a difference in knowing truth in your head and knowing truth in your heart. Lewis Smedes has probably put it the closest as to how I have felt for the majority of my life…
Guilt was not my problem as I felt it. What I felt was a glob of unworthiness that I could not tie down to any concrete sins I was guilty of. What I needed more than a pardon was a sense that God accepted me, owned me, held me, affirmed me,and would never let go of me even if he was not too impressed with what he had on his hands.Lewis Smedes
GRACE FOR ALL
Recently I have had the privilege to get to know some of the residents at the rescue mission where I am serving. A couple of the guys and I have built some really strong relationships, and I look forward to them building to be even greater. One of the guys, Mark and I have really been able to connect and have good conversations. He has been in the program before, however since he has been back in the program he has talked of how he abused and manipulated friends, family, and God, those of whom had granted grace to him. He is really trying to fix some of what has happened with his family and his relationship with Christ. The amount of love he has for his kids and the drive that he has to make amends with his wife is incredible. For a while the church that he has been involved with put some heavy rules down for him to abide by, which at first he did not care for, nor did he see reason to follow. However, after talking about it and praying about it he has begun writing letters to his kids, something that is more tangible for them to be able to remember the sacrifice their dad made. I see God working on Mark’s life every day through our conversations and through the conversations I see him have with others.
The hardest thing to understand in this world is grace.
The hardest thing to understand in this world is grace. The love that Mark has for his family and the understanding of God’s grace has allowed him to accept the responsibility to try to mend some of the brokenness that has been created. He has been able to look at his life through the eyes of Christ and know that God loves him regardless of his sins; just like I have been shown that God has a purpose for each and every individual that he created in his image.[Tweet “God does not look at our sins to decide whether He loves or not! He loves us regardless!”]
How blessed is God! And what a blessing he is! He’s the Father of our Master, Jesus Christ, and takes us to the high places of blessing in him. Long before he laid down earth’s foundations, he had us in mind, had settled on us as the focus of his love, to be made whole and holy by his love. Long, long ago he decided to adopt us into his family through Jesus Christ. (What pleasure he took in planning this!) He wanted us to enter into the celebration of his lavish gift-giving by the hand of his beloved Son. Because of the sacrifice of the Messiah, his blood poured out on the altar of the Cross, we’re a free people—free of penalties and punishments chalked up by all our misdeeds. And not just barely free, either. Abundantly free! – Ephesians 1:3-7 (MSG)