I am currently in Ohio for the 328 mile bike ride for the American Cancer Society. This ride is to raise money to help families going through the difficulties of cancer as well as to raise awareness about cancer.
I will have very limited access to email until 7-30-13. As a special treat while I am away, I would like to send out some message my sixteen year old daughter, Sarah, has recently written. Sarah is passionate about the Gospel and I believe you will enjoy her thoughts about this all-important part of the Christian faith. Please try to read all the messages in the order they are sent.
The Gospel, Part 4 – Before My Nose
I am standing on my church stage on youth Sunday, a day when the youth lead worship and share what God has been doing in their lives. I’m looking out at my covenant family, and telling them how even though I doubt God every time I ask Him for something in faith, He really does show up in my life in obvious ways.
I began the summer of 2012 very bitter because it was the one year I have been hindered from going on the youth mission trip. It was my family’s fault. We were going on a long houseboat trip on some Canadian lakes with cousins and second cousins and such. How horrible! I thought. Yes, how horrible to be surrounded by miles and miles of Canadian wilderness and wildlife on the crystal clear water with the summer-defying cool breeze on my neck and not a care in the world. And all the while with people who cared about me.
Even with my rancorous attitude, there was still a part of me that had let the Holy Spirit in. I was reading Matthew 21:21-22;
[Then Jesus told them, “I tell you the truth, if you have faith and don’t doubt, you can do things like this and much more. You can even say to this mountain, ‘May you be lifted up and thrown into the sea,’ and it will happen. You can pray for anything, and if you have faith, you will receive it.”]
I knew that this passage didn’t stand if we had sinful motives and desires for personal gain in our prayers to God, but I had never actually taken the passage quite seriously. After some contemplation about my summer, I was lead to pray one of the strongest and most intense prayers I have ever prayed.
“God, this summer I have to miss the time when my body of believers makes one of their best efforts to tell others about you, but I know that the one week of the mission trip is not the only time you work. I beg of you, and I have faith without doubt that you will answer, please give me a clear and obvious opportunity this summer to share the Gospel. Please make it blatant and right before my nose, so that I don’t have to go looking for it. My motives are only to glorify you. And did I mention that you should make it clear and obvious?”
What do you think God did?
A few months later, I was sitting on the roof of a houseboat, trying so hard to simply love my 15-year-old relative (we’ll call him Jack), when he asks, “Why are you and your family so religious?”
He had not asked any questions like that for the four days we had been together.
“I actually don’t think we are very religious. We do follow Jesus Christ though and he…”
“I consider myself and atheist,” he interrupted proudly.
“Really? You believe there is definitely no God?”
“No, there might be I mean, I just don’t believe in anything, and I definitely don’t like going to church.”
“I think what you would call yourself is an agnostic then.”
“Why do you believe in God?”
Ten minutes of my own tripping and circling around and stumbling followed. Finally, when I was ready to throw in the towel, I took a deep breath and asked, “Do you want to know the biggest reason I believe in God? It’s because I have a relationship with Him, and I couldn’t have had this deep of a relationship all these years with someone who didn’t exist. It’s because I spoke with Him this morning. It’s because daily He fills me with this overwhelming love that I know is real and must come from a source higher than myself.” My voice started to crack, “All the arguments and scientific refutations in the world can’t compete with the love I receive from Him.”
I always feel like a failure when someone I’m talking to gets up and leaves without even responding to whatever I’ve said. And I hadn’t even shared the Gospel with him yet.
My younger cousin Ryan had been silently observing the whole ordeal from a distance. He reminds me of a fox. Ryan had only fully understood the Gospel and chosen to follow Christ two weeks before this, but I sat on the white roofing next to him and asked if we could each pray for Jack. The wisdom in this two-week-year-old Christian’s prayer astonished me. We were literally in mid-sentence of prayer, when I heard my name being called, and heard someone else saying “Jack’s calling you,” and saw him sitting on a huge raft-tube out in the water. The moment I pulled myself up beside him, he asked, “So say someone did believe in God, how would he actually go about starting a relationship with Him?”
I tell him why he can’t, why it’s impossible, and then I tell him who changed that and made it possible by His death. Jack isn’t sure he deserves that. He opens up and tells me a million reasons why he is not good enough for God, and how he would never be able to change those habits. He says he wouldn’t like all that “becoming religious” would entail, like going to church and using stuffy sounding words when he spoke. I ask him one question, “Ignoring all the other implications you think apply to ‘becoming a Christian’, do you plainly and simply want a relationship with God?”
“I really do.”
“Then there is someone who has made that possible for you.”
“Wait, one more question. When you have a relationship with God and, you know, follow Jesus, does it make your life… I don’t know…more…I guess, like…joyful?”
I light up, 100%, absolutely, yes! Now it won’t always be ‘happy’, like there will be difficulties. But Christ in my life has made it SO much more joyful!”
Jack’s question revealed to me something about him. No matter how much cool-dude persona he put on, no matter how much he tried to make other people think his social endeavors satisfied him, there was still a part of him that longed for more, for joy.
We then prayed.
As we lay face down with our noses touching the raft tarp, I was also having my own internal conversation with God. Why did I ever doubt you? You say you will answer and you do, and here it is. You even put it right before my nose, just like I asked.
God has really blessed me with some amazing kids. Several time in the last twenty years of my Christian walk, God has used one of my children to move me toward a closer relationship with Him. This is another one of those times. Dear God, allow me to be guided by Your Spirit in the same powerful way that You are clearly guiding Sarah. And, did I mention, could You please make it clear and obvious?
Have a Christ Centered Day!
God’s Daily Word Ministries
**** Reading Plan ****
Jul 26 2 Chronicles 17:1-18:34; Romans 9:25-10:12; Psalm 20:1-9; Proverbs 20:2-3
Jul 27 2 Chronicles 19:1-20:37; Romans 10:13-11:12; Psalm 21:1-13; Proverbs 20:4-6
Jul 28 2 Chronicles 21:1-23:21; Romans 11:13-36; Psalm 22:1-18; Proverbs 20:7
757.98 Run Miles in 2013 : Goal 1509 miles
1244.13 Bike Miles in 2013 : Goal 3000 miles