Friday, March 21, 2008

1 Peter 3:15 (NKJV)

1 Peter 3:15 (NKJV)-“But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear…”

First of all, I’m sorry I didn’t write anything last week. My wife and I have both been sick, and it’s been miserable. I didn’t feel like doing anything last weekend. I only say this because I get questions about it, some erroneously thinking that their e-mail ate my verse or something like that. I appreciate the fact that you care.

So, we’re here to another Easter weekend. I don’t mean to make light of the sanctity and holiness of this particular weekend, but for a Christian, EVERY day should be Easter. Every day should be a celebration of our Savior and what He did for us on Calvary.

I’ve been thinking about this all week while I was at work (both days-heehee!) I got an urge yesterday to just start questioning the guy I was partnered with about what he was doing this weekend. I was going to see if he was going to be in town and tell him that he needed to come to the church for the Easter play and everything.

I really felt the need to get at him. The voice was adamant that I take him to task, and not give him any relief until I had made my point. Then I heard another, less shrill voice. It talked to me about the fact that, yes, my partner did need to go to church. But, I needed to be careful because I had already been in trouble on the job for proselytizing (talking about my faith) before.

See, there doesn’t seem to be room in the workplace anymore to talk with people openly about Jesus. If they ask, I consider it fair game, but you can’t just bring it up because you are being perceived as forcing your views on your co-workers. So, as I said, I already have a letter in my file for answering questions I was asked, which I am going to do.

Anyway, as I sat there with my co-worker, I wrestled with what I was going to do. I was embarrassed about even having had this discussion inside myself. What would be the worst he could do? Get me written up again quite possibly, with some additional unpaid time off.

So, I didn’t say anything to him about the Easter play.

Then, I remembered that I had already taken in some of the tickets into work with the show-times for the play on them. One of my other co-workers had already asked about it, and wanted to see about getting his family back into church. He thought this would be a good time, and he knew about my faith, so he talked to me.

I also remembered that they all considered me a Bible thumper. I didn’t have to advertise my faith, they all knew about it from the way I talked when they asked me questions. I didn’t preach to anyone, they knew what they wanted to of the gospel story. I just tried to live my life and they drew conclusions based on that.

Okay, I know, I know. You’re wondering where all this is going. As I said, I’ve been sick, so I’m not sure my thought processes are back up to snuff yet.

What it means to me is that we, as Christians, need to just be there for people. In this day and age, it’s hard for me to fathom someone in the United States of America not knowing something about the gospel story. I know that might seem like a cop-out, but hold on. I think we need to concentrate more on having our defense ready for the hope that is in us, than our club ready to beat the living heck out of people who don’t know Jesus.

Our pastor has been doing a series in church called “Just walk across the room.” It means, ultimately, to just try and be a friend to unsaved people; to be someone that reaches out to them. Get to know someone and show them you care; be a friend to someone who needs one. Then, let the Spirit guide you. If you are to broach the subject of salvation to them, you will know.

How many times has something happened in your life that you were really glad you had Jesus on your side? Now, imagine that person you took the time talking to, even once, seeing that time in your life and seeing the hope that you have.

Then, imagine the bottom falling out of their life. My God being who He is, I don’t think He’s gonna waste a hurt. It may be you that they come to, asking a simple question that blossoms into the gospel story. It may be the next person they meet.

I think we get too enamored with being the person who has to plant the seed in everyone. The Bible says that some plant, some water, some tend, but Jesus gets the crop. We are too worried about notching our belts with salvations to care about PEOPLE.

I want to care about the people I meet; everyone I meet, including the guy who is obnoxious to me and pretends to be a know-it-all. I want to be care about the guy who doesn’t seem to be able to put a coherent sentence together without cementing it with profanity at the beginning, middle, and end.

I want to care about the people I meet who have wronged me for no reason, other than we just don’t seem to get along, even though they have no idea why we don’t just get along. I’m not talking about tossing aside my beliefs; I’m talking about living them in life so visibly that no one has a question that I am a child of God.

So when they come to me, at that crucial moment in their life when they are really open to God, that I will be ready to talk to them and give them a reason for my hope. I’ve got my testimony down and my reasoning ready. I can proudly tell them how my new relationship with Jesus has given me faith and courage and strength in this world of uncertainty, pain, and death.

We’re all Jesus farmers. Some of us till the soil, helping to break up the huge clods of dirt. Some of us dig the small hole for the seed; some of us plant the seed. Some of us water and tend the crop as it grows. Sometimes we are different things at different times. We need to be ready at whatever stage of planting we find ourselves in with a particular situation.

We can’t make the crop grow, however. We can only help it along. Be there for someone next week. Remember in your life, God met you just where you were at and brought you home. He may have used someone else physically, or you may have just been prayed for by someone else you will never meet.

Don’t stutter; have your reason ready in your heart and secure in your mind. So when the question comes up about the faith of your life, you can be passionate about it. It’s not about you changing everyone you meet; it’s about everyone you meet seeing the change that has been made in you and wanting it for themselves.

Don’t put so much pressure on your shoulders. God doesn’t; He trusts you to speak for Him in due time and due season. Be ready.

Be blessed in the Lord today,

Bo J.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Numbers 24:12-13 (NKJV)

Numbers 24:12-13 (NKJV)-“So Balaam said to Balak, ‘Did I not also speak to your messengers whom you sent to me saying, “If Balak were to give me his house full of silver and gold, I could not go beyond the word of the LORD, to do good or bad of my own will. What the LORD says, that I must speak”?’”

Be patient with me this morning. This is one of those ones were I kind of tell on myself. If it runs a little long, I’m sorry. I really didn’t know what I was going to write about today. I was floundering. That is until I took my youngest daughter down to the bus stop this morning….

My wife had made mention that there were some new kids at the stop this week, and they were very quiet children. She said that she, and another mother who walk down during the week spoke to them, but all they got in return were nodding heads. No words, nothing.

So, I walked Sammy down today. I gave her the option of getting a ride with me in the truck, since it was pouring down rain. I didn’t really want to walk her down, and I thought if I offered her a ride she’d take it. At the last minute, she decided to catch the bus instead.

So, we saddled up and walked down to the stop. We got there and were being silly, when the two new kids were dropped off. Now, remember, I’ve been told all morning how these kids didn’t respond when my wife talked to them, and she is a small white woman. I had no intention, being a large black guy, of pushing them or trying to engage them at all. I didn’t think they’d take to me.

Yes, some of you can already see where this is going.

It’s raining, remember? The new kids get out of the car, and run across the street to the bus stop. They come up on the curb and don’t say anything to either me or Sammy. Then I hear, “Say good morning.”

Oh, hi God. Were you not listening to Becky this morning telling me about her experiences with these kids? They didn’t speak to her. I’m liable to just scare them.

“I didn’t ask you all that. I just asked you to say good morning.”

I’ve been hit over the head with the spiritual 2x4 enough times in my life to realize, sometimes, it’s better just to do it and not argue. So, I looked at the new kids, took a deep breath, and gave my best “Good morning!” to them.

The floodgates opened.

I learned more in that 5 minutes with those kids than my wife had all week. I even coaxed them under the umbrella with Sammy, so they wouldn’t be standing there getting wet. I learned that the little girl has another brother besides the one at the bus stop, and both of them are autistic. And it’s a form of autism that my wife, in her job as a teaching assistant, deals with each and every day. She found that VERY interesting.

I learned that the person who invented the Pokémon card game was autistic as well; and he had the same form as her brother at the bus stop, and as the kids that my wife deals with.

But most of all, I learned that God can use you in any capacity He likes, as long as you speak what He says. I learned that I can be what God wants me to be, not what I see in the mirror. This morning, I was a friend to two kids, who I figured would be too scared to even stand with me at a bus stop.

I got back to the house, and told the story of what happened at the bus stop. My wife and my two other daughters were amazed. My wife was shocked, especially when I told her about the brothers. She’s already refining how she can deal with them come Monday; I could tell by the way she was looking. Then Kaitlyn, my 11 year old, said something that really jolted me. She said, “Gee, I bet that was a smack in the back of the head, wasn’t it Dad?”

Time stopped for me. I’m starting to cry again. I’m sorry. She had no idea why she said that; but I did.

See, I’m supposed to be performing in our church’s kid’s program this weekend. I got the script on Thursday. The director wants me to do a different part than I normally do, and it has a lot longer script. I didn’t think I could memorize it all by Saturday.

Then, I started thinking about how this was just getting tougher to do. And that, come summer time, I was probably going to back out for a while to get my bearings and do something else. I was really trying to do too much, and that script wasn’t helping. It was too long; and what if she wanted me to do something else? It was getting to be real time consuming.

Once again, God showed me that He has me in His hands, right where He wants me. It’s not the most glamorous or most sought out position in the church; but it’s where He wants ME right now. I can’t go beyond where God has me right now.

I feel like I’ve met those kids somewhere before. I don’t know where, and I don’t know when, I just feel it inside me. And from what Kaitlyn said, it could have been church. It could have been Kid K’nex. It could have been one time.

And I could have missed it all.

God stretches us. Sometimes, He uses you, and sometimes He uses someone around you because you’re too wrapped up in yourself at that time. Then, He reminds you through that other person He had to grab that you can hear His voice as well. You’re just choosing to ignore it.

So, here, in no particular order, is the other part of the spiritual clearing I’ve been instructed to do today.

J-Lo (aka Jen Loveday)-I’ll do the Storyteller part, if that’s what you want. If God tells you, then you tell me. Don’t worry about the rest, just do what God puts on your heart, and leave the rest to Him. He’ll hit whoever He needs to, including me, to get His kids.

-I’m sorry if I seemed like I was making a big deal out of this today. I didn’t mean to come across like that. I was shocked and stunned because of the differences in the reactions we received. I will need your help in dealing with the brother, especially if he still doesn’t respond to you. I’m glad God gave you the experience.

Kaitlyn-I know you don’t know why you said it. It’s okay. God made you. Don’t try and say something else smart though, and blame it on Him. We’ll know the difference. But you spoke truth today, even though you don’t know it.

Sammy-I thank you for not wanting to take the easy way out. If I had driven you to school, we would have missed this morning entirely. I was annoyed at first, but the “whoosh” of the 2x4 at the bus stop made that go away completely.

Mom-you’re nowhere mentioned in this. However, you asked Becky and me to do some stuff at your mission house this summer. I’ll do what I can, when I can. I haven’t talked to you yet, but I’m scared if I think about it too much, I’ll just try and back out. I don’t want to know how painful that lesson will be for me. Just keep the plans going and we’ll see how God works it out.

To the rest of you, what are you doing right now? Is church the place you occasionally go to on the weekend to salve your conscience? Are you doing anything to help in the local fellowship you belong, or are you just there to take, take, and take some more?

Oh, and let me tell you something else-not everyone can do something glorious and wonderful that puts them in front of the congregation for everyone to see. Sometimes, it’s the stuff in the background that makes all the difference.

How are you putting your talents and abilities toward God? Are you speaking what the Lord says, or just talking out the side of your own mouth? God has placed something on your heart; so just go and do it. Don’t be too scared because you don’t think you’ll like kids or too proud because it’s not a big fancy “church” job. Just do it.

It may be someone’s season to sit underneath the pastor’s tutelage and learn so they can grow in their walk. But they may not be able to, because they can’t get out of the position they’re serving in, since you won’t get off your duff and go out and serve.

Sometimes, God uses a whisper. I read one that said sometimes He also has to use a brick; but in my case, He has to use a 2x4. I’d hate for Him to have to move up to a 2x6.

Wouldn’t you?

Be blessed in the Lord today,

Bo J.