transforming community...

There is something quite exciting about being in a community of faith where God is alive and well. This last week we had our Celebration Service. This is a service we have at the end of every series to celebrate communion, baptisms and stories of God's transforming power. I have yet to walk away from one of these without feeling stimulated to leverage the whole of my life toward the Kingdom of God and His righteousness.

The first story and baptism was of a woman who had lost her job in 2003 at Steelcase. She didn't have a church background growing up, so the option of leaning into a faith community was not in her mind. So she leaned into the bottle and started drowning her fears and frustrations with alchohol. About a year ago, she started coming to Impact and decided to kick the addiction. When she stopped drinking, her body violently reacted to the void of alchohol throwing her vital organs into a war against her choice to pursue freedom. She had a seizure and was bedridden in a hospital for 8 days trying to stay alive. Her liver was shutting down and her body was filling with fluid. She cried out in the hospital bed for God to help her so that she could live with purpose and help people. Over the last year, she has stayed sober and has volunteered in the offices of Impact packing bulletins and making phone calls. She is such a tender heart. The whole time she was sharing her story in church...tears were cascading down her cheeks like a waterfall and dripping to the floor. I thought to myself, "I want the floors of the church soaked with the tears of broken people who have met the Healer." After she shared, I had the privilege of baptizing her. (and she didn't even have a baptism class...can you believe it?) What a story of redemption!

Then we heard stories from three young adults who are from our college/singles ministry that meets on Monday nights called Plug*d. The first shared how he was depressed and searching for something to fill his void of relationships after going to a year of college. He started playing online role playing games and eventually it took over his life. He would sometimes playing 9-10 hours and day and even pulled all-nighters addicted to the pursuit of this mock world of adventure and battle and conquest. His heart was shriveling up and dying and he almost went on anti-depressants because of his reclusive and isolated lifestyle. His heart was filled with dark thoughts and hopelessness. He shared how he came to our church and God started to awaken his heart again. A girl asked him to lead worship for the college group and he wasn't sure he "had the time" what with all the hours spent playing this video game! He started to anyway and found his time crowed with ministry which started to make his habit of video games hard to maintain. Early this year, he was asked to lead the ministry with a group of other students and they challenged him to evaluate his time with his computer. He decided to uninstall the program and to kick this habit. Since, the group has grown from 10 to about 25 or 30 that gather each week and God is really bringing his heart to life. You wouldn't guess by looking at him that this ever had a stranglehold on his heart. He is just impacting so many lifes through his surrender to Christ. What a story of redemption!

The next guy that shared has attended the church for a couple years, but has been experiencing inner battles that few knew about until recently. His parents are getting a divorce and his heart has been journeying through alot of emotions and stresses. Satan is always good at giving us cheap escapes to dull the pain temporarily and he shared how the computer started becoming a conduit of temptation. He really desired to stay pure and so he decided to take his computer out of his house and bring it to the church offices so that he removed the opportunity until his heart grew stronger. I love it when I hear stories of radical amputation as it relates to sin....someone who takes extreme measures to overcome a stronghold. This guy gives himself to ministry around here like there's no tomorrow and his heart is so valuable to the ongoing movement of God at Impact. It's so awesome when someone can step up in front of a body of people and crack open the can of crap so that healing and accountability and conviction can set into the community. You wouldn't believe how people were listening with bated breath as he shared his story of the pursuit of purity in his walk with Christ. I wonder how many were encouraged to address there own battles with deeper diligence. Honesty in church breeds a spirit of truth in a body...and his story certainly unleashed a bit of that! What a story of redemption!

The last testimony was given my a girl who is fresh out of college. She described herself as a person who "denounced Christianity and God" prior to coming to know him personally early this year. It was a story of parties and all that comes with that lifestyle. God was the farthest thing from her mind...or so she thought. She described how much she fought against the Bible and anyone who mentioned their belief in God. She came to see that her fighting against it showed how drawn she was to it. She met a guy from our church who is on fire for God and at first she couldn't stand him. But over time she grew intrigued by his heart for life and God and started asking more questions and seeking the truth. She eventually came to Plug*d and met a bunch of other young adults her age pursuing truth. Her first time attending, she mentioned to Dave (the guy in the former paragraph) that she wasn't much into the Bible and so Dave said, "Then lets go buy you one so you can read it for yourself." They took off to go Bible shopping. As she's continued reading and exploring the claims of Christ and the life of following his heart, she continues to grow in her knowledge and love for Jesus. I love how much she craves the truth, she seeks it with her whole heart. Her smile refreshed our church and makes the life of God so attractive to those in search just as she was only 7 months ago. Instead of filling her life with sex and beer and hollywoods lie of womanhood, she is starting to renew her mind, heart, soul and spirit with God's refreshing words of truth. In her relationship with Lee (the guy who led her to Jesus), she is desiring, along with him, to pursue purity in thier relationship until marriage. There was a whole row of young girls crying as she shared her heart's desire. I know God used her to impact many this weekend. My wife, Heidi, baptized her following the third service. How sweet was the sound of people applauding when she came out of the water soaked in the symbolic waters of renewal and restoration. What a story of redemption!

I met scores of new guests that were coming for the first time this weekend. A man starting a business in Lowell, a family looking to plug into an alive setting that will energize their teenagers, a young couple invited by their friends exporing this community of faith, a women who has a burden for her husband to be restored from a hurtful experience in their former church, a man who come up to me and said, "I want to be a warrior for God", a girl who said that she desires to be pure in the world...and the lives go on and on.

Like I said, what a privilege it is to be a part of the moving heart of God. He is still hanging around.

We concluded with communion whereby we celebrating the death and life of Jesus and it's transforming power. "He was torn apart so we could be put back together." That is the story of the gospel in a nutshell. That is the hope of the world. We concluded singing a song that I wrote a while back. It was beautiful to hear people (Christians and pre-Christians) united around these words as we headed back into our week...

"Beautiful Bread, Wonderful Wine
The Shadow of Death
the Symbol of Life
We hold in our hands
The body and blood of Christ…

Remembering when Your life fell apart
As the Light of the World
hung alone in the dark
like a Lamb You were slain
to remove every stain in my heart…

In remembrance of all of the blood that You bled,
In remembrance of every tear that You shed,
In remembrance of when Your flesh tore apart,
In remembrance of every break of Your heart..
I remember You…
I'll always remember You.

I remember when the sky grew dark,
As nature wept and watched You die.

I remember when You breathed Your last,
As time stood still and Heaven cried, and Heaven cried…"

It's a great day to be alive, is it not?


caleb said…
How often are these celebrations cause i'm comin' to the next one?!
Pokey said…
I think I missed something special this weekend.

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