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Saint Kitts, 2 March 2016

A warm hello from Basseterre, capital of Saint Kitts and Nevis, a Caribbean nation of 55,000 souls. I've just arrived from San Juan, Puerto Rico (where Monday we enjoyed a terrific evening of Apologetics and fellowship). Here I'm teaching on Elijah ("When You're Up, and When You're Down"). The primary destination of the trip, however, is Trinidad.

There I will join up with Tyrone Marcus (Port of Spain) and Joey Harris (Augusta) for a session of the Caribbean School of Ministry (E). After we've taught Old Testament Survey, the students will be halfway through the two-year curriculum. As we travel, please keep us in your prayers.

The photos are all from St. Kitts. Quinton & Andrea Morton are a mature, terrific couple who give direction and stability to the church. I took the panorama shot overlooking Frigate Bay. The next two were taken in Basseterre, capital of St. Kitts and Nevis. (It's a safe country; the police are only standing guard as a large sum of money is being moved.) Next are remains of tracks used in the old sugar industry and a cannon at the old English for. Click for (many) more photos.


He Restores My Soul

Today is the third in a series of three articles on "falling away," wandering away, and "restoration."

Some have been taught that everyone who quits the faith -- or even leaves one church for another -- has "fallen away." As we've seen in the last two articles, this is not biblically correct. Falling away is an irreversible process, yet there is still hope for those who have wandered (James 5:19). Similar to the confused use of terminology for lapsed Christians is the use of a word for those who are returning to church: restoration

What does the Bible say about restoration? Please read the following scriptures and ask how they would have been understood by the original hearers of the psalms and letters:
  • He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul... (Psalm 23:2-3)
  • Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit. (Psalm 51:11-12).
  • For we are glad when we are weak and you are strong. Your restoration is what we pray for... (2 Cor 13:9; see also v.11)
  • Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ (Gal 6:1-2).
  • For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance... (Heb 6:4-6).
The first three instances of "restoration" refer to the people of God. We have all experienced how the Lord restores our souls -- certainly restoration does not require that we have abandoned God. The fourth passage describes the care disciples should provide for "one another." Perhaps the person has left the fellowship, though I tend to think not; the struggler seems to be an insider. The last passage speaks of the impossibility of restoration for those who have been truly converted and then rejected the faith (apostasy -- beyond the point of no return).

Bringing back the stray
True, anyone who's been drifting spiritually certainly needs some kind of "restoration," yet this is not the most biblical sense of the word. Restoration is strengthening those who are following God, not those who aren't. For this reason, and to be in line with terminology in both testaments, I would suggest we use the word "restore" only for those in the family of God, not for those who have departed. For these persons, the phrase "bringing back the wanderer (or stray, or drifter)" is more appropriate biblically. Restoration isn't so much in view as rescue, since they've been captured by the enemy. The wanderer is retrieved and reconnected.

Practicals
  • It is up to us as Christians to let the Lord restore our souls. From time to time we will benefit from making time for meditation; reevaluating priorities; a personal spiritual retreat; reading spiritual biography; setting goals for Bible study; and prayer -- even when we don't feel like it. I most appreciate spiritual refreshment of restoration at times when I feel flat, or I'm in "the Valley of the Shadow of Death" (Psalm 23).
  • When a brother or sister is caught in a sin, the apostle suggests that only those equipped to help get involved. Not everyone has the spirituality or experience necessary to restore a disciple entangled in negative thinking, habitual sin, emotional baggage, etc.
  • For practicals on bringing someone who is wandering spiritually back into the fellowship, see Bringing Back the Stray. We must reach these individuals to “save their souls from death and cover over multitude of sins.” 
Conclusion
Let's be proactive and preemptive in our ministry. Build solidly and carefully. There will always be some who are lured back to the world (Luke 8:13-14; John 6:60-67), but the number will be reduced when we shepherd well. It is better to rescue them before they wander off, not just when things have reached a critical point.

Upcoming

After four days in Trinidad, I return to Atlanta for two weeks. The next mini-series will explore what the Bible says about church, and the following one will probe the kingdom. This should clear things up for those who mistake the church for the kingdom. Stay tuned.

Yours in Him,
Douglas Jacoby
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