I keep on meaning to post about the latest happenings with where I’m thinking about doing my internship, what opportunities keep opening up for me, and what my thoughts are on all of this. BUT, since new stuff keeps coming up on an almost regular (often daily) basis, whatever I posted right now would probably be out-of-date by Tuesday. So, I’ll just say for now that I’m busy. Busy receiving communication from different missionary organizations–some of which I am somewhat hesitant about, some of which I am eager to see where things go with them. Busy going through online assessments (e.g. see picture above) so that these organizations can look at me from a 360 degree perspective, making sure that I’m fit in both mind, body, and spirit to do mission work in a different country. Lately, I’ve actually been spending more time emailing missionaries/organizations and taking assessments and such than I have been actually doing schoolwork!
So, please keep me in your prayers:
That I would have clarity and discernment in all of this.
That I would have time to actually keep up with all of my other obligations/responsibilities.
That I would still have time right now to be used by God to share the Gospel (and you could pray the same for yourself, too!)
That, wherever I am called to go, God would be preparing me for that service, and that he would be preparing the hearts and minds of all the people that will be touched by his work through me.
Imagine that you were put into a situation in which you were trying to share with someone the good news (the gospel) about Jesus Christ and how he has freed us from our sins by his death and resurrection, but you cannot mention Jesus or sin. You would probably think this is impossible (after all, isn’t the Gospel all about Jesus?), or at the very least incredibly difficult. Well, it turns out that I’ve been put in that predicament before, and that experience has given me a whole new meaning to 1 Peter 3:15 (it’s a good verse–you should check it out).
So, the week after Thanksgiving break this past year, I was walking through one of the academic buildings at my school toward one of my classes (Spiritual Disciplines II), when my professor for that class, who was standing outside of a different professor’s office, saw me and frantically started waving at me. “There you are! I’ve been trying to get a hold of you! Quick, go in!”
I swiftly glided into the other professor’s (one of my religious education professor’s) office, and he explained to me, while holding his hand over the speaker on his office phone, the following: a young man from somewhere in New England (he didn’t tell us that he was from there–we knew it only be his caller ID) was just that day witnessed to by some middle school boys, and he wanted to learn more about Christianity. He had called my university hoping to talk to a pastor-type person, and he ended up being forwarded to my religious education professor. However, he only wanted to talk to male students about the same age as him. This young man had been waiting on hold for about half an hour while my profs had tried to hunt for me and some other ministry students.
Sounds like a piece of cake, right? Nope! I picked up the office phone and began talking with this young man (we’ll call him Richard to keep his name secret). He had explained (as he had to my professor) that some middle school boys had just recently witnessed to him, and he was scared because they had told him about hell, and he didn’t want to go there. Lights went off in my brain, and I quickly recognized that Richard needed to hear about what those boys had forgotten to tell him: That’s there’s grace (the undeserved love and forgiveness that we can get from God). Hearing that he had an NIV Bible (same as me!) I had him go with me to Ephesians 2 (classic passage about grace). This passage is all about how we were all dead in sin, but how we can be made alive through Jesus. Richard hesitantly and anxiously read through the first few verses, was super-scared about the sin part, and then froze up when we got to the words Christ Jesus in verse 6.
“Do I have to say that name? I don’t like that name. It makes me scared.”
“Why does that name make you scared?”
“Because those boys that I talked to told me how…he…is mad at me because of the bad things I’ve done. Do you think that is true?”
Like I said, the boys who had witnessed to Richard had been super-courageous and bold to share with Richard about how God is angry with sinners and sends them to hell, and I applaud them for their bravery. However, they also had done a “wonderful” job of connecting Jesus only with that part of theology, but had failed to actually tell Richard about what Jesus is really all about: Grace. As my conversation with Richard progressed, I began to realize that if I wanted to be able to share the Gospel with this young man, I would have to do it without mentioning Jesus or sin, since both of those words made Richard freeze up and get too scared to talk.
Richard continued calling back at least five or six more times that semester (we probably were on the phone with him for a total of 17-20 hours throughout those couple of weeks), and I managed to find some of my Christian friends who were also be willing to talk with him. As this progressed, I began to see more and more how to talk to him as we eased him into talking about Jesus. We had to talk to him about what our hope really is.
Think about it for a second. What’s the number one go-to Bible verse of all time? That’s a no-brainer! John 3:16! And have you ever seen the words Jesus or sin in the verse? For God so love the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life (NIV). Yes, this verse does mention God’s Son (Jesus), of whom Richard definitely did not want to talk about. And forgiveness of sins is implied in this world. But the point is that our hope isn’t specifically that Jesus forgave us. Our hope as Christians is that because Jesus forgave us, we can now have eternal life with God. Our hope is that we can live with God for forever in a place (the New Creation) where all things are new. In a place where there is “no more death or mourning or crying or pain” (Revelation 21:4). That is our hope. Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross to pay for our sins is what opens the door so that we can have that hope.
So, as I and my friends talked with Richard and shared with him many things about God, faith, the Bible, etc., the idea that I tried to always bring the conversation back around to is that, although this world is broken (hence, why there is death, mourning, crying, and pain), God wants to be in a relationship (a friendship) with us, and he wants to make us and our world new.
My last conversation with Richard was less than two weeks before Christmas, at which time he said that he would call back in about a month. That would have been back in January. It’s now February, and he still hasn’t called. I do not know if he will ever call again. But I keep on praying for him.
So what can you do? You can definitely pray for Richard, that, even if he never reconnects with me and my friends, somewhere, somehow, with someone, he will continue asking questions about faith and eventually come to have an actual relationship with God (a.k.a faith). You don’t even have to know his actual name to pray for him–God knows who he is.
The other thing that you can do (better put: let God do through you) is share with others about your faith in Jesus, and about what your hope really is. Hopefully, this post has opened your eyes to what the Christian faith is all about. Like it says in 1 Peter 3:15 (NIV): Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for this hope that you have.