If you’ve ever done a home improvement project of any scale, you’ve probably noticed that preparing for the project often takes just as long, if not longer, than actually doing the work. Purchasing supplies, examining plans and schematics, cleaning out areas that need space, ensuring all tools are available and at the ready - the list of preparations can be immense and often stall the beginning of the project, much less its completion. Yes, a project usually begins with a great deal of preparation.
The same could be said of spiritual transformation. God is constantly working on our hearts. Sometimes He uses blessings and victories to encourage us. Sometimes He allows brokenness and defeat to shape us. But whatever He sends us, it is with His express purpose of making us more like Him, teaching our hearts to beat with His, and gifting us with the tools we will need to do His work of redeeming things that are sad and ugly in our present reality. Whatever circumstances He uses, it often takes time. And we almost never understand why He’s putting us through the moments of shaping until they're past.
The apostle Paul encourages us in Romans 12, "Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God” (vs. 2, CSB). God is at work transforming us, making us into something different, not “just because” (even though…let’s face it…that reason would be enough!). He’s transforming us so that we can discern His will. And we know that God’s desire, and what would please Him most, is for "everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth (1 Timothy 2:4, CSB). Yes, God’s plans, and the changes He is constantly making to us are never willy-nilly, purposeless, or unintentional. He has a plan to save the world, and He wants to prepare you and me to play a part in that mission. There is not a greater calling or purpose in this life.
I believe that Immanuel is in the midst of a transformation. God’s been working on our hearts for some time, preparing us for what’s next. And with that transformation comes a variety of outward evidence. It may feel like a boost in the openness or friendliness of the atmosphere of our gatherings. It may look like a new vitality and liveliness in our social gatherings and studies of God’s Word. It may look like new building projects getting underway (after a LONG period of preparation). And it may look like an influx of new people (or people who are coming back to our family after a long absence) who are curious to discover what God is up to here.
So my encouragement and charge to you is this: ask God to work internal, spiritual transformation in your life, so your life looks more like Jesus, who laid down His life for you. Enjoy the external evidence of His work that He gives you eyes to see, both in your own life and walk with God, and also in the midst of our congregation. But never neglect to listen to the voice of God, calling you to deeper relationship with Him, and deeper relationship with the people around you, people who are different than you…people Jesus died to save. Transformation is never easy, but God is a tireless worker, and promises complete, final transformation for all those who trust Him. May you find unexpected blessings pouring into your life from extraordinary places as you follow in the Master’s footsteps.
Adventure is out there! Pastor Aaron