Posted by: Emily Shemwell | April 26, 2010

April Newsletter

He rode into the city on a colt. Branches and coats were placed on the ground before Him. The crowds shouted in celebration, “‘Hosanna, Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!'” He received the welcoming of a King – for He was a King. He was greater than any King that had come before Him. Yet, three days later He would receive the death of a criminal. The celebratory shouts of the crowds would turn to murderous cries of “‘Crucify him! Crucify him!'”  He would be mocked and spat upon.  He would be nailed to a cross and put on display for all of Jerusalem to see. He would cry out in pain as he experienced the weight of being forsaken from the Father. He would breathe His last breath and die a horrendous death for crimes He did not commit. He endured all of this without protesting or speaking a harsh word. He obeyed God’s plan for Him despite knowing the agony He would suffer.

He was murdered. He was beaten. He was mocked. He was forsaken. And, it was I who did this to him. It is I whose sins He bore. It is I who shout exclamations of praise one day, but mock and hurt him with my thoughts, words and actions the next. It is I who nailed Him to the cross. Yet, it is I who He bled and died for. Despite my sinfulness and my tendency to pursue my fleshly desires instead of the ways of my Father, Jesus sacrificed His life for mine. All because of the Father’s love for me.
The love of God is unimaginable. When I attempt to fathom it, I’m left in awe. I’m astounded by His goodness. I’m humbled that such a God continues to love a sinner like me. I see the frequency at which I return to my self-seeking habits and wonder why God continues to show me grace. I recognize the ways in which I continue to hurt Him with my lack of faith and ponder how He can still love me.

I fail. I pursue other gods instead of Him. I seek to control my life instead of trusting Him. I give Him an ungrateful attitude and bitter heart. But, He still loves. He still shows grace. He still gives mercy. He still offers forgiveness. He reaches out for me when I wander again, and again, and again. He never gives up. He never lets go.

This Easter season I’m reminded of Christ’s compassion for me. I’m reminded of the shame and mercy poured out for me, and you, on the Cross. I’m reminded of the power of the Gospel: a power so strong that it conquers death; a power so mighty that it can transform any heart.

It transformed the heart of Jack, a friend, current resident and recent graduate of the Fresh Start Program. With no home and an outcast in society, Jack turned to alcohol. He wanted nothing to do with Christians or the Church they represented. As a frequent homeless guest of JSBC, Jack soon met the two male Hope missionaries from last year and started attending Sojourn Community Church with them. The Lord changed his hardened heart and weary soul. Jack entered our recovery program this summer, desiring to turn from his old ways. I’m blessed to see firsthand the transforming change the Gospel’s had in Jack’s life. His once hardened heart has softened. Jack now bears many characteristics of our Savior. He was quick to forgive and pray for the young men who mugged him in November. He is humble, thinking of others better than himself. He never gives up or looses hope as displayed by his persistence in his pursuit to get affordable government housing. He is quick to listen and slow to speak and offers words of encouragement when I tell him of a struggle or concern.

The Gospel transforms, and is transforming, lives. This month I’m reminded of the change God did, and is daily doing, in my life. I’m reminded of the change He is doing in the lives of those around me. How is the Gospel changing your life?

May you be humbled by the compassion and love of our Savior, Jesus Christ. May you daily walk in the grace and joy found only in the power of the Gospel.
“How deep the Father’s love for us,
How vast beyond all measure.
That He should give His only Son
To make a wretch His treasure.

How great the pain of searing loss,
The Father turns His face away.
As wounds which mar the chosen One,
Bring many sons to glory.

Behold the Man upon the cross,
My sin upon His shoulders.
Ashamed I hear my mocking voice,
Call out among the scoffers.

It was my sin that held Him there
Until it was accomplished.
His dying breath has brought me life
I know that it is finished.

I will not boast in anything
No gifts, no power, no wisdom.
But I will boast in Jesus Christ
His death and resurrection.

Why should I gain from His reward?
I cannot give an answer.
But this I know with all my heart
His wounds have paid my ransom.”

Blessings and Love,

Emily

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