By Jennifer Barten
When Jesus got to heaven after being on earth one of the angels eagerly asked to speak to him, telling Jesus he was fascinated with the humans.
Hearing that, Jesus made time for the angel asking what he wanted to discuss.
“The humans didn’t get them,” said the angel. “They looked at you like you had two heads when you spoke in parable, didn’t understand what you were saying when you spoke on the mound and every time you performed a miracle they acted like it was something they had never seen before, even though many of them had watched you do it so many times! Then even after seeing all of this and knowing you were special, they still killed you. I just don’t get it and it makes me sad that you were down there doing all this work for nothing.”
“For nothing?!” Jesus exclaimed, “how can you say it was for nothing?!”
“Well you are gone,” said the angel. “They killed you. They obviously didn’t take you seriously enough to save you so it was all for nothing.”
“It wasn’t done for nothing,” said Jesus. “Look at the earth. Peter, Paul, Mary Magdalene and so many others are down there proclaiming my word right now. If all goes as planned they will get others to believe and in 2000 years people will still be spreading my word.”
The angel looked at Jesus confused at this and spouted “The people! The people! You expect the people to spread the word?! They didn’t understand what you were saying! They killed you and you expect them to keep you alive through your word! This is never going to work. What’s your backup plan?”
To that Jesus replied “there is none.”
When Jesus died on the cross for us, He left us to spread the word.
Before dying, Jesus called on Peter and Paul. Paul called on Timothy, who helped Paul call on many. Because of one of those many, we were eventually called on and it’s now our turn to call on others, if the Word of God is to live.
Since the Vivid Vision team has started and made it a priority for us to bring others into the church, I have heard many people say that all their friends have a church and are believers so they don’t have anyone to invite to church. I am going to disagree with this statement. It isn’t just about bringing your friends into the church, but all.
In the short story Light of the World by Evelyn Underhill, she says “It is easy for us as devout Christians to look what others are doing and think they have no religious sense at all. Think of what people must have thought of three men wondering around looking at the star and bringing a baby such odd gifts. Had that happened today people would have said, they are not the sort of people we want in our church. But remember the child who began by receiving those wondering pilgrims and odd gifts had a women of the streets for his faithful follower and two thieves for his comrades in the end. Looking at those two extremes let us try to learn a little of his love and apply that to our lives.
Since coming to church here, I have heard Steve ask more than once, if you are the only Bible someone reads, what will they learn? I think when Underhill told her story, that is what she was asking. Are we just trying to invite those to church who we want to be friends with that are like us or are we inviting everyone to church?
I think Underhill needed to add to her thoughts though and go deeper. Once inviting people to church and getting them in the door, what will they find? Will they find that Christians are people who go to church on Sunday, gossip behind each other’s back, cuss often and speak down to each other or will they find open people who love everyone and are trying to make a positive difference in the world by volunteering and helping others?
In the book God’s Country by Brad Roth he says in order to make people want to connect us to God, we must first make a connection with them on a personal level. Only after we do that can we have them connect us to the church and to God. Roth then went on to say that living the gospel is less about doing and more about becoming. Our job isn’t to go out and quote scripture telling everyone what the Bible says but to go out and live the Bible on a daily basis.
While we have all heard this before, it is usually easier said than done. I know at many points in my life I have been pushed by God to go do His work and had excuses as to why I couldn’t. I didn’t feel worthy to do what He was asking, I didn’t know the scripture well enough, I wasn’t sure I heard Him right or understood exactly what He wanted. We all can find excuses and shortcoming to prevent us from being all that He has asked.
In the book “The Broken Way” by Ann Voskamp she says “God does great things through the greatly wounded. God sees the broken as the best and he calls the best in the broken. He calls the wounded to the be the world changers.”
We see what she is saying all through the Bible. After Moses sees the burning bush he tells God to send someone who is smarter and speaks better. God didn’t listen. The women at the well who had many flaws from the outside, Jesus used her to tell so many people his story. David, Elijah and Hannah were all broken and yet God used their weaknesses to help build up his kingdom.
Through the first part of Paul’s life, he did many horrible things and yet at the end he was one of God’s most faithful servants telling others that if they wanted to know what a Christian looked like, to see how he lived.
God gave each of us many gifts and though we may see ourselves as broken and flawed, God plans to use the gift He gave us, just as he used all the people previously mentioned.
When we go out and tell people about God and share the good news, are we doing it not only when talking to them but through all our actions?
In November of this year Christianity Today posted an article about how Christians used to say media portrayed us badly and that is why we got a bad reputation. It went on to say, the media no longer pays attention to Christians and yet we still have a bad reputation, only now it is Christians faults. The article discussed how people are getting online and posting mean and negative things or posting badly about other people. We, as Christians, the article said, are no longer just saying these things to a few people but throwing it online for the whole world to see, showing everyone that we aren’t living a very Christian life and that we are often the hypocrites the outside world thought we were. The article went on to say that before we can expect others to change, we must first change ourselves by not talking about others, not posting our dirty laundry online and not judging others for their actions but by loving others, no matter their background or situation.
I have heard it said that we were born 2000 years too late to give room to Christ. I disagree with this statement. We have been given the opportunity to have faith without seeing Jesus perform the miracles firsthand, without hearing him speak on the mound and without seeing his face. Even without all of that, we have been given the chance to do what those who knew Him in the flesh did. We do it, exactly as they did. By offering a hand to those in need, a smile to a stranger and a hospitality to all we meet. For a Christian, duty shouldn’t be why we do any of these things. It is not a duty to do as Christ asked, but a privilege.
Part of the privilege is knowing that Jesus had so much faith in us, He didn’t have a backup plan for how to get His word out.
When most people don’t have a backup plan or plan b, they are confident their original plan is going to work. They trust that whatever they have planned will workout logistically and they don’t need to come up with an alternative. Which means that Jesus trusted us so much when he was on earth that he didn’t come up with a backup plan to spread the word around him.
Along with not having a backup plan for how to spread His word, God doesn’t want us to have a backup plan. He wants us to trust in Him so fully that we don’t one.
In order to do this we must put God at the center of all things we do and trust that no matter what happens He will take care of us. If we are truly doing this, others will see how we are living and we will start to fulfill what He had in store for us.
A gentleman once spoke to a group about going from Muslim to Christianity. The gentleman humbly explained to the group there is a compelling contrast between the way he was taught as a Muslim to view faith and the way he sees faith being perceived in the lives of many Christians. He drew a circle and a small dot inside the circle.
Then he told the group that since he’d become a Christian, what he sees is that the circle of the Christian seems to be his life, and the dot is his faith. The contrast is that when he was a Muslim, he was taught that the circle was to be his faith and the dot his life.
How often do we all make our lives about us and the dot about God? I know I have been struggling with this in my life. Awhile back I came to realize that I volunteer on a ton of committees, for multiple organization and events but have no idea if this is how God wants me spending my time. I always say yes, without asking God if it is really what I should be doing with my time and energy.
As I thought about it, it wasn’t just my volunteering but all of my life. I love to read but rarely ask God what he wants me to read. I don’t ask God about the little stuff in my life near enough, just the big stuff. I spend my few hours with God during devotionals and prayer times during the day, but often get caught up in my running around and don’t turn to him for everything as I should.
If we are truly trusting in God, we won’t make decisions before praying, no words will leave our mouths without thinking first and no snap judgements will be made.
In the book of Ecclesiastes, King Solomon says we are only remembered for three generations so we need to do what we can with the time we have. Even though Solomon says we are only remembered for three generations, he Jesus and others in the Bible have managed to be remembered for so much longer because Jesus’s plan worked.
In order for it to keep working though, we must take steps to keep it moving in the right direction.
Both Moses and Jonah experienced amazing things. Moses saw a burning bush and Jonah was in a whales belly. Neither of them made the Bible for those reasons though. Both made it into the Bible for what they did next. They trusted in God and did the impossible. Moses saved thousands from slavery and changed the way Egypt was ran because of it and Jonah turned the biggest city the world back to God. Will our story be one of Moses’s and Jonah’s of what we did next or will our story be forgotten in three generations because we were unwilling to take the next step?