One of the greatest privileges I’ve ever had is to be involved with CedarCreek’s baptism team. There is nothing like the experience of watching someone go public with their faith and actually see the Holy Spirit working in their life. When someone gets baptized at CedarCreek, we ask them to write a little bit of their story, what brought them to God, and why they want to get baptized. I have read some of the most incredible life change stories, and I feel so grateful to be able to get to know people and see what God has done to change their hearts.
Maybe the reason I am so affected by them is because my journey was long and hard, and my story is a lot like many of theirs. For a long time, I stayed far away from the church and God because I was hurt by a church as a kid. I thought that God would never accept me. And if that was how his people behaved, I didn’t want anything to do with them anyway.
The love and acceptance that I have felt at CedarCreek has definitely changed the way I feel about church in general and God as well. When I came here, people started telling me that God loves me no matter what, and that although people aren’t perfect, my church family loves me, too.
For so long, I felt like I had to get myself together before God would love and accept me. I had some major abandonment issues, and my idea of God was based on an absent father. My church family helped me realize that God is so much bigger than that! When I began to understand that God loves me even though I sin, that he sent his Son to die for those sins, and that he gave me the Holy Spirit to help guide me through this broken world, it helped me to love the way God loves.
When I think about that perfect love, I love God even more. When I love God, it’s easier for me to obey his commands (like loving my neighbor and my enemy). God tells us not to judge other people, especially those outside the church. We are to be kind and understanding toward them in order to make our faith attractive to them. I know when I was judged by my church as a teenager, I didn’t go back. We must make everyone feel welcomed and loved. We must show the love of God to everyone we encounter. I don’t know about you, but I certainly have no room to judge. Jesus says “let him who has no sin cast the first stone,” and I am definitely not picking up any rocks!
When I read those stories of life change, or when I talk to someone during weekend services who has had an encounter with God that has changed their heart, I celebrate! I rejoice, just as I know God and the angels are rejoicing in heaven.
3 So Jesus told them this story: 4 “If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them gets lost, what will he do? Won’t he leave the ninety-nine others in the wilderness and go to search for the one that is lost until he finds it? 5 And when he has found it, he will joyfully carry it home on his shoulders. 6 When he arrives, he will call together his friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me because I have found my lost sheep.’ 7 In the same way, there is more joy in heaven over one lost sinner who repents and returns to God than over ninety-nine others who are righteous and haven’t strayed away!
This passage points to the importance of celebrating and rejoicing when the lost is found. In verse six the shepherd says to his friends, “Rejoice with me” and in verse seven, we see that all of heaven rejoices when one lost sinner returns to God. It can be easy for us to focus on the negative or to focus on the ways that the newly found still don’t think, talk and act like us. Instead we should place our focus on what God has done and rejoice in the life change that has happened.
How can you take a step back when you find yourself judging others and, instead, find something good to celebrate about that person?
Think about the ways that your life has changed since accepting Jesus. Did you ever consider the fact that we celebrate with you as your church family? Did you ever think about God and the angels rejoicing in heaven?
Heavenly Father, thank you for your mercy and grace, for loving me while I was still a sinner, and for sending your Son and Holy Spirit to me. Help me to remember to show love wherever I go and to accept the guidance of your spirit to help me in this world. Help me bring honor and glory to you in all that I do. Amen.
This post was written by Kelda Strasbourg, Kelda is a grateful member of the LivingItOut writing team. She has a love for Jesus and the desire to help others find that same love. She has her own business and a border collie named Emily.
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