I have witnessed some pretty incredible things since locking arms with Journey Church in 2009. I’ve seen women by the hundreds in prison come to have a relationship with Jesus. I’ve seen countless teenagers do the same. I’ve seen the view from the top of “prayer mountain” in Arizona. I’ve prayed with and for the homeless in the streets of New York City. I’ve seen people grow spiritually, marriages saved, relationships mended, hurts healed and the chains of addiction fall off. What I saw this weekend at Journey Church, I will never forget.
We had a group of incarcerated men from Lincoln County Jail come to our church this weekend to sing and share some of their story with us. That in itself was an incredible experience. Here’s what really gripped me though; the thing I will never forget. I watched as these men with shackles around their ankles formed a single-file line to come up and receive communion. I had to sit down. I couldn’t even stand. I started breathing like I was going into labor to prevent myself from completely losing it and sobbing like a child. As I felt my eyes well-up with tears and the sting hit my nose like a jab to the face, I was in awe.
“For a limited time only. No purchase necessary. Void where prohibited. Not available in any store. No shirt, no shoes, no service. No substitutions, refunds or exchanges. The right is reserved to refuse service to any person at any time. Must be 18 to enter. Limit: one prize per family or household. Terms and conditions are subject to change without notice. Other restrictions may apply.” We’ve all read or heard some, if not all, of these statements before. They usually accompany some contest or special offer. They are conditions and restrictions.
Hurt is something we ALL experience in this life. We like to think it should be restricted to just “bad” people or somebody else; anybody else besides us. The truth is there are NO CONDITIONS OR RESTRICTIONS when it comes to the hurt, pain, discomfort, and heartache of this life. None of us are exempt. Unfortunately, no matter how “good” we try to be, “he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike.” – Matthew 5:45
The Good News is, and I believe this is what God was showing me this weekend as I was laboring through what could have been an emotional melt-down, there are no exemptions from his grace, mercy, love, and forgiveness. There is nothing we have done or could do that would make us exempt. I believe that the height, length and, depth of God’s love goes beyond what we can begin to measure. Do you have a desire to change no matter what your past may try to say? Do you believe Jesus is the answer for real change? If your answer is, “yes”, then COME ON! Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” – Matthew 11:28. We have to come to him. If we do come to him with a repentant heart and desire to change through him, he will not turn us away.