‘Do you want to go away as well?’

This post was originally published on November 27, 2013.

Loaves and Fishes mosaic_0912 by hoyasmeg

Was reading John 6 just now

John 6 is about the feeding of the 5000 and the conversation Jesus had with the crowd the next day.

The day after the miracle of the loaves and fishes, the crowd followed Jesus across the lake, as it turned out, to get more bread.

Jesus pointed out to them that they weren’t following because of the SIGN the miracle was designed to be, but simply because they wanted more bread.

And as he talked to them about more important things than bread—who he was and what he offered them—they scoffed, demanding a sign.

A sign.

Which he’d just provided them.

Everything he said to them after that was incomprehensible—even offensive—to them.

And many who’d been following him took that opportunity to leave.

Many people you and I encounter today are interested only in bread.

No matter how carefully and prayerfully we explain great things, they’re fixated on bread and will leave and look somewhere else to get it.

It’s important that we trust God with these folks and not give into frustration at our inability to explain well enough to gain their trust for God.

Because that’s his job:

And he [Jesus] said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.”

After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. So Jesus said to the Twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?” Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.”

—John 6:65-69

Photo Credit: Loaves and Fishes mosaic_0912, a photo by hoyasmeg on Flickr.

Game-Changers: The Lady on the Bridge

Part of the series, Game-Changers

 

There must have been something in her manner…

820 and mccart

…some peculiar way she moved on the bridge, or the way she looked down at the traffic below.

It was too dark to see her face. And no time, really, to study and analyze the situation. I was driving and Carol was the first to see her there on the McCart Avenue overpass. I stopped the car at the corner and jumped out. Carol drove to the other side of the bridge, in the direction of our house, and waited. I ran up to the young woman and grabbed her as she leaned precariously over the edge of the overpass.

I told her it wasn’t time yet for her to go and that God had the answers she needed. She told me she couldn’t go on. There was no hope anymore. We took her home with us, got her something to eat and listened to her story, which was long and very sad. By the end of the evening, Carol had found her a place to stay—a shelter for battered women—and taken her to that place of safety.

Stranger Magnet

I have a long history of talking with strangers.

Correction

I have a long history of strangers talking to me.

To this day I really don’t have a clue why.

Every time I flew home from school (or back) whoever was sitting next to me would be transformed into Chatty Cathy, no matter what I was doing or what mood I was in—which was more often than not a profound state of panic.

I’m embarrassed to admit I often didn’t even try to disguise the rolling of my eyes as this stranger verbally—and often physically—invaded my awkwardly introverted personal space.

There was no joy for me in this constant interaction with strangers.

And it showed.

Until the lady on the bridge.

The stories behind the stories

This poor, sweet lady finally got through that barrier I’d put between the outside world and the inside of me.

Every person who shares our part of this world has a story, whether they reveal it to us or not.

And a story behind the story even they may not be aware of.

And we all need to tell our stories and to be understood.

Risky business

A thought has often struck me in the decades since I met the lady on the bridge.

What if I’d been wrong?

What if she hadn’t been about to jump?

What if I’d touched her arm and she’d panicked at this stranger invading her personal space?

The fact that I was right doesn’t eliminate the very real possibility that, next time, I may not be right.

I guess that’s the risk we take when we agree to be God’s instruments of grace to the people who share our world.

The lady on the bridge…

…helped me to see that the danger of not acting is often greater than the danger of pretending to be safe.

She’s the reason I’m not afraid to “have the conversation.”

She, helped along by thousands of other, less intense, encounters with strangers, has helped me discover and experience the power of connecting with a human being who is desperate to connect.

Twenty-seven years have passed since that evening and we have never seen the woman again. I confess I can’t even remember her name. But I know I’ll see her again, in heaven, because she came to the One that night who had all the answers she would need, and all the hope, and all the love.

It’s risky business, this engaging with strangers.

And sometimes messy.

But sometimes there’s simply no way around it.

You don’t always have time to analyze.

When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.

—Matthew 9:36

 

‘ALL IN’

ALL IN croppedToday’s my Day Off/Working on my Own Stuff Day.

I just put on an old LifeChurch.tv T-shirt.

It has a picture of stacks of poker chips on the front. And the words “ALL IN” on the back.

Brings back old memories every time I put it on. Which is probably why on most Wednesdays it’s the shirt I choose to wear.

They gave it to us several years ago to promote a teaching series at LifeChurch. I remember how pumped all of us on the Host Team were as we wore the shirts and talked about what it meant to be “ALL IN.” It meant we weren’t just Christ followers on Sundays, but every day. Not just at the church facility, but everywhere we went. Not just with each other, but with everyone who came across our path. Not just as we were engaging in “religious” activities, but in every task of every day.

And not only when we’re in need, but in helping those around us who need Jesus just as much as we do.

We’re in a different city now, in a different state.

And we’re taking this part of the LifeChurch DNA with us.

Even though there’s no LifeChurch campus here, and—frankly—no church we know of with LifeChurch’s balance of passion for nonbelievers and vision for equipping them to reach their world, our little family remains ALL IN.

We simply cannot rest while so many folks don’t yet know Christ and what he wants to do for them, in them—and through them.

When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” —Matthew 9:36-38

 

3 Stories & 2 Lessons on Lost Things

The problem of purpose (revisited)…

In an earlier post, I wrote about the problem of purpose, asking a few questions (which I only partially answered):

Why are we here? To what end did God create us? More than that, why—after he saved us from our old life and made us new—why didn’t he just take us home to be with him? Why did he leave us here? What is his point?

In that post I looked at these questions from the standpoint of our own personal growth toward Christlikeness. But that’s only part of the answer. The complete answer, I think, is found in answering another question:

Why did the Son of God come into this world and do what he did?

In answering that question, we’ll find our own—overriding—life purpose. Here is one of several explicit statements Jesus made about his own life purpose:

“For the Son of Man came to seek and save those who are lost.

When challenged by the religious authorities in his world to justify his friendships with what they thought of as spiritual and moral riff-raff, Jesus told three stories that tell us a lot about his heart. As you read them, remember who he’s talking to and what he’s trying to explain. I think his critics are represented by one of the characters in the stories. Can you tell which one?

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Bread & Butter pickles - Packed jars by grongar

Getting ‘The Conversation’ Started

Bread & Butter pickles - Packed jars by grongar

Bread & Butter pickles – Packed jars by grongar on Flickr

The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.) —John 4:9

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about this conversation Jesus had with the Samaritan woman at the well. I think there’s a lot there about communication in general (I have a business interest in marketing, on multiple levels) and in sharing my faith in particular.

A lot of times it’s difficult to know how to begin to “have that conversation.”

Do you see here that “the conversation” didn’t begin with something Jesus said at all?

It began with Jesus not fitting the expectation the woman had of him, based on his social identity and standing, combined with what she’s been taught and experienced.

He busted the stereotype.

For me, there are two takeaways:

  1. Jesus was identifiable as a Jewish male. This is important. He wore the label, so to speak. I don’t know how she knew he was Jewish, but she did. As a Christ-follower, it’s important that I be identifiable as one, or takeaway 2 is useless. Jim Petersen calls this planting the flag and it needs to take place early in a relationship (basically, you let it be known who you belong to and then you drop the subject).
  2. Jesus didn’t fit the stereotype of a Jewish male (he wasn’t concerned with being seen in public with a Samaritan woman). This is also important. This is what made her sit up and take notice. Enough notice to initiate conversation with him.

You can have a jar labeled Pickles. If the only pickles you’ve ever had were dill pickles, you’d naturally assume that a jar labeled Pickles would have dill pickles in it.

Imagine your surprise when you open the lid and get your first sweet smell of bread and butter pickles. Mmmm. You can’t wait to taste them.

That’s what happens when you and I, believer, are readily identifiable as Christ-followers, but bust the stereotype.

When we don’t live down to the caricature society has of us, but live out the transformed life Christ lives in and through us.

THEN “the conversation” will get started and the adventure begins!

But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him. —2 Corinthians 2:14

Persuasion

Most of us aren’t bound by stout ropes and strong chains. There is no mighty argument that will win the day and set us free. No magic logic key. No instant rhetoric that will simply make the ropes and chains fall off.

Most of us are bound by Gulliver threads. A thousand tiny strands of deception and misunderstanding wrapped around our hearts and minds, with thousands of tiny knots and thousands of untraceable random weavings. In and out and through. Thousands of tangles growing tighter and more untraceable with time.These tiny threads must be cut one strand at a time—they cannot simply be untied. One thought. One misperception. One distortion at a time.

It takes time and patience and persistence.

And a whole lot of gentleness.

Most of all it takes truthful, wise compassion.

And genuine, committed friendship.

And it takes SHOWING truth at least as much as TELLING it.

Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. —Ephesians 4:15