Being Refined…

This past weekend, Trisha and I had the opportunity to partner with two churches. SunCrest Christian Church and Fox Valley Christian Church. We spent Friday night and all day Saturday teaching our Refine Our Marriage material at a marriage retreat for SunCrest. It was such an honor to share life with such great couples. God showed up in some very cool ways!

On Sunday, we had the honor of returning to a church where I served as youth pastor in 1997. They invited us back and we shared our story and journey over the past five years. As we were driving home on Sunday, I realized that in the context of teaching 10 different times throughout the weekend…God reminded me of some life-changing truths:

1. Everyone Has a Story

I was reminded as I listened to the couples we spent the weekend with and talked with couples after the service on Sunday that everyone has a story. Everyone has brokenness. Everyone has problems. Everyone is on a journey. So often, I assume that people are as healthy as they appear to be. So often I assume I’m as healthy as I appear to be. I can never know what someone might be going through by just looking at them. They have a story. We can get so used to our superficial Christian relationships that we fail to see the journey that others around us are on. This weekend was a vivid reminder that no matter where we are, no matter where we’ve been, we are all trying to find our way back to God.

2. Everyone Needs Hope

Both Trisha and I were blown away at how many people said that our story gave them hope. What I hear in that is how much God’s redemptive power gives hope.  My friend Pete said a couple of weeks ago in a message that “Hope is oxygen for our souls.” What I am reminded of is that no matter what you’ve done…there is hope. No matter how bad life is right now…there is hope. No matter how many mistakes you’ve made…there is hope. No matter how hopeless you might feel…there is hope. God often does his best work in what appear to be hopeless situations. There is hope.

3. Only GRACE has the power to change us

For years I tried to change. For years, I changed as much as I humanly could. What I discovered was my desire to change was always greater than my ability to change. Until I encountered grace. Not just the grace that gets me to heaven, but the grace that prepares me for heaven. When I hit rock bottom, and my only hope was grace…Jesus offered it.  A response of love is always greater than a response of obligation. Jesus said it like this, “He who has been forgiven of much, loves much.” When a person surrenders to grace, the Holy Spirit has the freedom to bring about change. I was reminded of that this weekend.

My encouragement to you today:

God is writing a story with your life. Don’t lose hope. Cling to grace.

Not just the grace to get you to heaven…but the grace to sustain you as you allow Christ to refine you.

11 Responses to Being Refined…

  1. Stories like yours and Trish’s were like balm to my soul when church counsel only left me feeling like a big fat condemned sinner who ‘chose’ not to forgive. I knew there was more and God revealed the stories you speak of at just the right time. The counselors meant well, but the love that is demonstrated by another’s willingness to show how God humbled them and not just the restored version is simply powerful to someone who is coming out from under the rubble.

  2. tam

    yes. everyone has a story.

    though, i’ve met several people who feel if they don’t have this big “ugly” hiding in their pasts, then they don’t have story. as far as i’m concerned…not having a “story” IS having a story. if that makes sense.

    anyway…i read 1997 as 1977 and started celebrating thinking you were older than me.


    • Every person’s story is a story of redemption. There are no such things to God as “ugly” or not…we are all fallen. Equally. It totally makes sense! Thanks for sharing Tam!

      No…I am not older than you 🙂

  3. Pete Vischer

    Great post Justin, I’ve been pondering a lot lately about that “respondance of love and not obliation”. I’ve been questioning whether all my life if I have been taught to truly love Christ or have been taught to just be truly thankful to Him for his sacrifice for me. Much like I would be so thankful to a man who saved my child from choking or some life threatening situation, I would do anything for them but that doesn’t equate to “love” in my opinion. I’ve begun praying to have God teach me to love Him the way I should, I figured that’s as good a place to start as any, because love at first sight without further building and working on a relationship fizzles out pretty quick and I’m sick of fizzling out with my spiritual life. I want to be at the place that if I’m away from the word or constant prayer for a day or two that I MISS being with Him just like I would miss my wife if I was away from her for a day or two. But like you said my desire and ability are on different levels, but with God’s ability to transform me, and my desire to be trasnformed, there is no limit. Thanks for all you guys do!

  4. That first one, everyone has a story. That fascinates me so much. It drives me to want to hear peoples stories. Its so fascinating talking to a complete stranger and hearing their story. Most of the time I think I view people as just well people that are in my world. But really they have just as a unique or awesome story as anyone else. And I want to hear it.

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