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Paradise Lost and Paradise Regained

Loughborough Church Sunderland New Springs - Paradise Lost, Paradise RegainedHappy days – springtime is on the way. As one season has come to its end, another season emerges before our very eyes. And in the same way, one season at New Springs City Church has drawn to a close and we now stand on the brink of another. Our first forty day campaign, the ‘Breaking up the Fallow Ground’ prayer season has reached its conclusion. Now, our next forty day phase has arrived and is all about ‘Sowing and Preparing’. We have been ploughing up the hard ground through our prayers and through waiting upon the Lord, it is now time to prepare and equip ourselves to enable us to go into the fields of our city and sow the seed of the powerful gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.

As we are aware, Jesus came for ‘the least’, ‘the last’ and ‘the lost’ – and the city in which we live is burgeoning with such folk – and yet Jesus loves every single one.

This month then will see us delivering at least 20,000 specifically written and designed brochures entitled ‘Insight’ to all the homes within our communities.

The theme for this edition is ‘Lost and Found!’ It includes articles about Jesus along with some fantastic personal testimonies and information about some of the exciting events that are happening over the next three or four months at New Springs.

The words ‘Lost’ and ‘Found’ are interesting words; they have so many different nuances attached to them.

American author, academic and ecumenical leader Douglas Horton once wrote this,

‘When all is lost, ask the Inland Revenue – they’ll find something.’

You know, in truth, he may well have a point!

Another author, London based novelist Lucy Foley wrote in her debut novel entitled, ‘The Book of Lost and Found’, “In many ways my life has been rather like a record of lost and found. Perhaps all our lives are like that.”

In fairness, she might have a point as well!

The word ‘lost’ of course has several different meanings. It’s one of those words that can imply a number of things, as can the word ‘found’.

‘Lost’ can mean ‘you’ve mislaid something’.

‘Lost’ can mean ‘you have wandered off the beaten track’.

‘Lost’ can mean disorientated and bewildered as in ‘I’ve lost my bearings’.

‘Lost’ can mean ‘becoming adrift’.

‘Lost’ can mean ‘not knowing which direction to take’.

‘Lost’ can mean ‘having something taken away from you’, as in your freedom

‘Lost’ could mean ‘that which can’t be saved’. As in, ‘it’s too far gone, we’ll have to scrap it’.

‘Lost’ can mean ‘that which is destroyed’, as in ‘the ship, the crew and its cargo were lost at sea’.

‘Lost’ can also mean you didn’t win – you were defeated, ‘you lost the game, the match, the race or the lead’.

‘Lost can mean there’s little or no hope, as in, ‘that’s a lost cause!’

And finally, ‘lost’ can also mean losing your cool with someone, as in ‘as soon as I saw him, I just lost it!’

And so what about the word ‘Found’, here’s another word with multiple meanings. For instance, ‘I found the book an easy read’.   As in I considered it to be.

‘They found the man in the crowd’. As in, they spotted or noticed him.

‘She found her father lying in the kitchen’. As in, she discovered him.

‘I found it difficult to keep a diary every day’. As in, I struggled to do so.

‘I found it impossible to get in contact with him’. As in, I just couldn’t do it, I was unable to.

‘He found a nice apartment for his daughter’. As in, he located.

‘I finally found the solution to the problem’. As in, having one of those eureka moments.

‘John Harvard did not actually ‘found’ the university that now bears his name’. As in, he didn’t originally bring it into being or establish it.

And of course, ‘The police found the missing boy’. As in, they recovered who they were looking for – that which was lost.

It’s fascinating, isn’t it, how many subtle shades of meaning that can stem from just one word. The words ‘Lost’ and ‘Found’ are just two great examples of this. That’s the good old English language for you.

But did you know, when it comes to the whole area of life’s lost and found, God says quite a lot about the losing and finding of valuable things.

In fact, it would seem Jesus had a particular and specific interest in finding what was lost. Luke’s gospel, chapter 19 v 10 informs us that the very reason Jesus came was to specifically search for, find and save that which was lost – or more specifically those who are lost.

Earlier on in Luke’s gospel in chapter 15 Jesus seems to highlight this point by sharing three parables, or stories, each of which describe the finding of a lost item. Each story also describes something of the relief and absolute joy of finding what had been lost. One story is about a valuable lost coin, a piece of silver. Another is about a farmer losing one of his livestock – a valued sheep from his flock. The third loss is about a Father who in effect loses a son because of debauchery and wild living.

The strong thread that is woven through all three stories is that of being ‘lost and found’.

These parables introduce the importance to Jesus of those in life who He considers to be lost. The parable’s drama is built on the tension of an attempt to find something that has been lost. Anyone who has lost anything or loses anything on a regular basis can identify with this tension. In our house it is keys and the remote control for the television that seem to go AWOL.

In the ‘Insight – Lost and Found’ magazine, I write a modern day parable. It’s about a young boy who is just 8 years old and he goes missing on a ferry boat. He and his parents were going on a well-deserved weekend break. It was a massive adventure for the lad. Halfway across the sea, his parents realise that the lad had slipped their attention and gone missing. Of course, they begin to search high and low throughout the ferry boat. But alas there was no sight or sound of him. The captain ordered the whole crew to look for the lost youngster but again to no avail. He tells the parents he fears the only thing that could have happened was he’d fallen overboard into swirling sea below. He told them he had no alternative but to call out the search and rescue helicopter crew. The father continued to frantically search the boat calling out his son’s name. The mother just crumbled onto a seat distraught and staring out into the sea whilst being comforted by a female crew member. Almost when all hope was lost, the child suddenly appeared from underneath the awning of a life boat. All his mother could do was hug him as tightly as she could – sobbing uncontrollably. His father saw this from a distance and ran as fast as he could and threw his arms around his little boy.

‘You’re safe, we’ve found you, thank God – we’ve found you son!’ he cried.

‘But Dad’ the boy replied ‘I was only playing hide and seek, I never even knew I was lost!’

Well you don’t need a PhD to understand the meaning of the parable. Our city, the place where we live is full of folk who think they are enjoying something of the adventure of life and they don’t even realise they are lost!

Jesus said ‘He came to seek and to save that which was lost’.

But how will they ever know they are lost if no one finds a way of telling them. Or, as the Apostle Paul puts it in the book of Romans 10:14 – ‘How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them and how shall they preach if they have not been sent?’

But you and I have been sent, Jesus commands each one of us to, ‘Go into all the world and preach the gospel….’ (Matthew 28).  We have been commissioned, each one of us has been sent.

So, it’s time to go and share this amazing good news message we have in Jesus Christ. And what a message it is!

In his epic poetic literary work ‘Paradise Lost’ John Milton writes about how mankind has lost its relationship with God. Then in his sequel entitled, ‘Paradise Regained’ he writes how man was able to restore his relationship with God through the Lord Jesus Christ and what He did through His work on the cross and through the resurrection.

Surely, this is the greatest news ever, how can we ever remain silent?